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Islands in the Stream: Based on the book by Ernest Hemingway #book2movie

George C. Scott stars in Islands in the Stream 

Gone but not forgotten. George C. Scott, born on this day—October 18, 1927—was an acting heavyweight. A four time Oscar nominee, Scott who died in 1999, won the gold for his portrayal of Patton in 1970. He refused to accept the award because he didn't feel he was in competition with other actors. His appearance in a televised version of Twelve Angry Men was also lauded, earning him an unwanted Golden Globe. 

Of all the roles Scott is known for, Islands in the Stream is likely not in the conversation. The film which came out in the summer of 1977 was based on an unfinished Ernest Hemingway manuscript—his wife put it together from various found drafts after his death—which I'd read in January of 1977 and can still recall for its extraordinary many-page long description of fishing. Outside of catching Sunfish off a big stone rock at a summer cottage on the St. Lawrence River when I was a kid, fishing isn't a subject I hold any reverence for but Hemingway’s depiction is stunning and absolutely compelling. Not just about the big catch it’s loaded with all that Hemingway stuff on manhood and a boy's pleasing and living up to his father's expectations.

 For most feminists, Hemingway, despite his status as a literary icon, is representative of toxic masculinity at its worst. But we still flock to his Key West home to see where the great papa wrote and drank and lived and thrill at his exploits. While Islands in the Stream isn't part of the legendary Hemingway’s lauded ouvre, the novel, and the movie are said to be loosely based on the author's life. Except instead of being a writer, he's a sculptor. The book might not have been that great as Roger Ebert alludes to below, but I bought it hook line and sinker.

“Islands in the Stream” is a big, strong, old-fashioned movie about that threatened species, the Hemingway Hero. It celebrates physical courage and boozing all night and the initiation of boys into manhood, and it has a fishing scene, a battle scene, a love scene and a whore with a heart of gold. Papa would have loved it, and no wonder: He wrote it, and in many ways it's about him.
This was the posthumous Hemingway novel, assembled by his widow, Mary, from various drafts and stages of the work in progress. Its reviews weren't particularly good, and there's a possibility that Hemingway, had he lived, might have decided not to publish it. But it makes good movie material: The best movies somehow seem to come from second-rate books, while great literature resists translation into other forms.

Islands in the Stream is available to stream on Amazon, Vudu and iTunes. In addition to George C. Scott as Hemingway, the films stars Claire Bloom, David Hemmings and Hart Bochner and was nominated for its cinematography. The great Jerry Goldsmith—nominated 18 times for his music—composed the score. 

Call it a Throwback Thursday piece of sentimentality but I think it's worth a rewatch.

My Brilliant Friend: Based on the book by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

HBO just keeps them coming! The adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend hits our screens on November 18 as an eight-episode series. The story of a lifelong friendship, complete with conflicts. Another one that simply passed me by, the book is on my hurryupandreadit,youidiot! list.

About the book:  

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila, who represent the story of a nation and the nature of friendship. 
The story begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets, the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow - and as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge - Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.
With My Brilliant Friend, the first in a series, Ferrante proves herself to be one of Italy's greatest storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted pause-resister, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations - a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new listeners to her work.

Presented in its original Neapolitan dialect of Italian with subtitles, with no recognizable names for North American audiences, I wonder how large an audience it will garner? If the first series goes well, there are three more books that have already been filmed. The subtitles won't be a problem for me, to be honest, I watch some British shows where the accent is quite thick—Shetland and Vera, for example—with closed captioning on as it is. And I'd rather watch subtitles than bad dubbing that's for certain. 

As for the author, she is unconcerned. According to THR, Ferrante believes that the less the author is involved in the making of an adaptation, the better. 
“As for casting, the few times I have been asked to speak up I have only complicated things. In fact, if I had to choose the two actresses, I would never have come out of it. Usually, the images I have in mind as I write are iridescent, sometimes hyper-defined, sometimes blurred, so I would have run after the most various incarnations,” she explains. “Therefore, in my opinion, it is a good thing that those who write a book do not exercise a sort of veto right: the director must build his work, set up his show in complete freedom. Whatever happens, books do not need protection: they are there, definitively fixed, patient and invulnerable." 

Watching the Great American Read: The Help starring Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis and Emma Stone #book2movies

Octavia Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this film but I remember being blown away by Viola Davis nominated in the Best Actress category and Jessica Chastain, also nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Having fallen in love with The Help as a book, I was tremendously excited they were making it into a movie.
When I heard Emma Stone was playing Jeeter, I was, er, sorry, whaaaaaat? But curiosity got the better of me and I too plonked down my $12, contributing to the $216 million the movie netted worldwide. And, yes, Stone was fine. Her funny little mouth with its slightly protruding teeth, the fair skin and freckles all helped her to portray the serious and conflicted Skeeter.

Emma Stone's performance aside, I could quibble that the movie failed to capture the dark essence of the civil liberties battle, that it stepped a tad little too lightly in its search for laughs and feel good 'dramedy', that it blithely accorded way too much power to one little white girl and not enough to the real heroes, the black men, and women themselves.

All true but despite that, there are three very good reasons to see The Help. One, Octavia Spencer. Two, Viola Davis. And three, Jessica Chastain.

This is another brilliant performance from Viola Davis,  a performance garnered the acclaimed actress her second Best Actress nomination. She got her first nom for Doubt and went on to win in 2017 for Fences opposite Denzel Washington who also directed. Of her performance in The Help, Mahnola Dargis said in the New York Times,  "Ms. Davis keeps her cool even as she warms your heart and does her job, often beautifully. She doesn't just turn Aibileen, something of a blur in the novel, into a fully dimensional character, she also helps lift up several weaker performances and invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off." 

Playing an abbreviated version of Kathryn Stockett's Celia Foote, Jessica Chastain was talked about at the time as the next Meryl Streep. She was nominated the following year in the Best Actress category for her extraordinary performance in Zero Dark Thirty. Al Pacino is said to have raved about her to Terrence Mallick who cast her in Tree of Life which also came out in 2011The New York Film Critics Circle awarded her that year's Best Supporting Actress. Chastain has continued to be hugely popular with fans and critics alike. 

And then, of course, there's Octavia Spencer, the award winner who took home the gold for playing the powerful Minny Jackson whose special pie made a lasting impact. 
Here's that remarkable scene from the movie.

The Help is available on iTunes, Amazon, Googleplay, YouTube and Vudu. I don't know about you, but I'd like to reread the book.

Portions of this post previously published on October, 2017 and December, 2011.

John LeCarré's The Little Drummer Girl TRAILER #BriFri #Book2movie

Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård star in John LeCarré's The Little Drummer Girl

Have you seen the latest production of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins as Lear? In that updated production on Amazon Prime—featuring an incredible cast including Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Jim Broadbent, Cordelia is played rising British star Florence Pugh. 

You may have seen the BAFTA Rising Star nominee in Lady Macbeth or Marcella, and next year she'll play Amy in Little Women.  Sooner than that, though, Florence Pugh is the female lead in The Little Drummer Girl. The BBC and AMC are teaming up again to bring the adaptation of John LeCarrés novel to the screen. The Little Drummer Girl is set to hit our TVs this fall with Florence Pugh starring as double agent Charlie with Alexander Skarsgård as the Israeli intelligence officer and Michael Shannon as his boss. The Little Drummer Girl arrives here in the US on October 19th, we’ll keep our eyes out for the BBC UK dates.

About the book 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; soon to be a miniseries on AMC starring Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon, and Florence Pugh.
"You want to catch the lion, first you tether the goat."
On holiday in Mykonos, Charlie wants only sunny days and a brief escape from England’s bourgeois dreariness. Then a handsome stranger lures the aspiring actress away from her pals—but his intentions are far from romantic. Joseph is an Israeli intelligence officer, and Charlie has been wooed to flush out the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of deadly bombings. Still uncertain of her own allegiances, she debuts in the role of a lifetime as a double agent in the “theatre of the real.”
 Haunting and deeply atmospheric, John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl is a virtuoso performance and a powerful examination of morality and justice.

Last week I noted there should be a trailer popping up shortly.  Here it is!

First Man: Ryan Gosling & Claire Foy Interview

First Man starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy opens Friday which means there are plenty of media interviews available online. I particularly enjoyed this one from an Australian program.

Directed by Damien Chazelle, the script by Josh Singer—who has a talent for bringing real stories to the screen (Spotlight, The Post)—is based on the biography by James R. Hansen.

Robert Redford: The Old Man & Some Parting Thoughts

I haven't made it into the theater to see The Old Man & the Gun yet, one movie-going friend said she doesn't want to see Redford as an old man. 

All I can say to that is at least he’s not Clint Eastwood who has revealed himself to be an ornery old man. To be fair, Eastwood has half a dozen years on Redford so you never know to what depths of crotchetiness Redford may sink to when his time comes. In the meantime, post-Kavanaugh’s ascension to the supreme court, Redford—who has announced that The Old Man & the Gun is his last film as an actor—has released a statement on the Sundance site about the current state of affairs.

“Tonight, for the first time I can remember, I feel out of place in the country I was born into and the citizenship I’ve loved my whole life. For weeks I’ve watched with sadness as our civil servants have failed us, turning toward bigotry, mean-spiritedness, and mockery as the now-normal tools of the trade.

“How can we expect the next generation to step up and serve, to be interested in public life, and to aspire to get involved when all we show them is how to spar, attack, and destroy each other?

“It’s hard to blame young people for calling us out, and pointing to our conflicts between the values we declare, and those we stand behind only when it’s convenient to partisanship. Many people are rightly calling it a damn mess.

“But I want to encourage you to dig deep for hope and civility right now—to try to make connections with people you disagree with, to be better than our politicians.

“We don’t have to share the same motivations to want the same outcomes. Let’s focus on each other, and strengthening our communities, and reflecting on what’s happening. Let’s live in justice and respect and let others fight it out now to the bitter ends.

“This is our country too. Every woman, man, and child in it, our American future.

“We’ve got work to do.”

Let's get to it! 

Colette starring Keira Knightley: My take #review #book2movie

Keira Knightley looks more exquisite than ever in Colette, my friend and I agreed, wondering if she is ever going to look less dazzlingly beautiful? Her beauty, as you find your eyes playing over her face, is almost distracting. That bone structure can sometimes get in the way of the true story of Colette, the famous French writer—who looked nothing like the gorgeous Knightley—and Willy, the man who ran a sort of factory of writers, publishing everyone's output under his own name. 

Keira Knightley and Dominic West star as Willy and Colette

The real Willy—a little fatter—and Colette—a little plainer.

Brash and full of male entitlement, Willy is played beautifully by Dominic West who swaggers his way through the production with full-on machismo and a protruding belly. Because a big belly has never stopped a man from feeling he should have what he wants while we women fret about our slightest imperfections on a daily basis. Not that Keira Knightley has any that I can see.

Costume Design by Andrea Flesch

Initially, Colette is the wild child who brings the famous Willy to his knees and to a marriage bed. The unconventional duo is happy, throwing traditions and norms out the window and we are equally happy to watch until somewhere in the third act when the zest goes out of life and the film. Colette and Willy vie over the same lover and ultimately part ways, Colette leaving Willy and finding another lover. What should be exciting, full of drama becomes heavyhanded, as tiresome for us as it must have been for the real couple mired in their own exhausted confusion.

Production design by Michael Carlin

It's not the fault of Keira Knightley's distracting beauty, nor anyone's acting. That's all top notch, including Eleanor Tomlinson as an American heiress who seduces both Colette and Willy. And the production values are glorious. The production design by Michael Carlin (Oscar-nominated for The Duchess) is as exquisite as the film’s star. The country house Willy buys—and Colette remodels—had me dreaming of flowered wallpaper and velvet cushions.

And don't get me started on the costume design! I’ll be devoting a future post to the authentic wardrobe design by Andrea Flesch; I wouldn't be surprised to find the androgynous clothing, emulating a liberated masculine energy, finding its way into the world of contemporary fashion. 

The fault lies not in any of the filmmaking as much as it resides in the script by the wonderful director Wash Westmoreland and his now-deceased screenwriting and life partner Richard Glatzer. The pair—who did such an amazing job on Still Alicedidn't quite bring the necessary cinematic fire to lives lived on a grand yet human scale where the death of a relationship occurs most often not in explosions but in tiny sputters and sparks.

To learn more about Colette, check out Judith Thurman’s Secrets of the Flesh, A Life of Colette.

Watching the Great American Read: Beloved based on the book by Toni Morrison #SaturdayMatinee

Beloved by Toni Morrison

‘‘To get to a place where you could love anything you chose, not to need permission for desire, well now, that was freedom.’’ Beloved, Toni Morrison

Beloved, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book from the Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison is also one of the Top 100 novels included in PBS’s Great American Reads. A complex and shocking horror story, Beloved confronts the dehumanization of slavery as well as the desperation of one woman’s version of mother-love. Could a mother commit such an atrocity? Could a mother not? 

About the book 

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past. 
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. 
Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present. 
Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.

Oprah Winfrey as Sethe with Thandie Newton (right) as Beloved and Kimberley Elise as Denver

The novel was adapted for the screen in 1998 by Jonathan Demme with Oprah Winfrey starring as Sethe with Danny Glover as Paul D., the man she loves. Beautiful Thandie Newton (Westworld) is the seductive Beloved. Kimberly Elise is the jealous Denver with Beah Richards as Baby Suggs. Richards was nominated in 1968 for Best Supporting Actress as Sidney Poitier’s mother in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. You can stream Beloved for about three bucks on Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu. Double check Netflix because you never know.

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man.
The pieces I am, she gather them and
give them back to me in all the right order.”

Danny Glover as Paul D. with Oprah Winfrey and Kimberley Elise

Rather than ‘review’ Beloved (I mean seriously? The book won the Pulitzer Prize, what more review do you need?) I found John Green’s Crash Course on the novel immensely interesting and enlightening.

Scroll down for the trailer. 

Thoughts? I’m all ears.

Interview with the Vampire: Happy Birthday Anne Rice #book2movie

‘‘Evil is a point of view. God kills indiscriminately and so shall we. For no creatures under God are as we are, none so like him as ourselves.” Lestat, Interview with a Vampire

Interview with the Vampire stars Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and a young Kirsten Dunst

What is it about vampires? Why is their bloodlust so irresistible? Beginning with Dracula, the greatest vampire of them all, that ravenous, dangerous desire has informed some megahits in the book2movie genre. Currently we have Matthew Goode as the seductive Matthew Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches and there's Robert Pattinson as Twilight's Edward, of course, but before them both, Tom Cruise brought Anne Rice's famous vampire Lestat to life onscreen. Rice, who celebrates a birthday today, October 3rd, wrote the screenplay based on her own novel which hit our movie screens way back in November of 1994. The lavish production earned an Oscar nomination for Dante Ferreti and Francesca Lo Schiavo for their art direction and set decoration while Oscar-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for Frida earned a nomination for his score. Kirsten Dunst also earned a Golden Globe nom for her supporting actress performance. 

Worth a watch? Yes. But definitely, definitely worth a read!

About the book

#1 New York Times Bestselling author – The spellbinding classic that started it all – Book I of the Vampire Chronicles

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

The book predates the film by a couple of decades, being published back in 1976. I recall devouring the novel the way these lusty vampires drink blood. The film starred Tom Cruise as Lestat, Brad Pitt as Louis and a very young Kirsten Dunst as Louis little girl. In fact, the film boasts quite the cast including Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Thandie Newton. All actors with thriving careers these twenty-five years later. Was it something they drank?

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles is available to stream on most services: Amazon, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay, Cinemax and iTunes.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: Two ways to rediscover the classic #book2movie #audiobook

Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes star in 

The End of the Affair

Graham Greene, born on this day October 2nd in 1904 was one of the world’s great authors. Our Man in Havana, The Third Man, The Quiet American and The End of the Affair some of his most lauded works. Julianne Moore, who starred with Ralph Fiennes and Stephen Rae, received both Oscar and Golden Globe Best Actress nominations for her work in the 1999 film based on The End of the Affair, as did the film’s cinematography. Neil Jordan won the BAFTA for his adaptation of Greene’s novel. The movie is available to stream on Amazon Prime, YouTube, GooglePlay, Vudu and iTunes. 

The logline:
On a rainy London night in 1946, novelist Maurice Bendrix has a chance meeting with Henry Miles, husband of his ex-mistress Sarah, who abruptly ended their affair two years before. Bendrix's obsession with Sarah is rekindled; he succumbs to his own jealousy and arranges to have her followed.

About the book:

The novel is available in many formats, hardback, paperback, e-book but for me, learning that Colin Firth recorded an audiobook in 2016—and seeing how I haven't read it—his version may be the one I add to my must-read list of classics.

"This is a record of hate far more than of love," writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair. And it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles -- a hate bred of a passion that ultimately lost out to God. Now, a year after Sarah's death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of that passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to lovehate. At the start he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. By the end of the book, Bendrix's hatred has shifted to the God he feels has broken his life but whose existence he has at last come to recognize. Originally published in 1951, The End of the Affair was acclaimed by William Faulkner as "for me one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody's language." This Graham Greene Centennial Edition includes a new introductory essay by Michael Gorra.
And just for the sheer joy of hearing Colin Firth’s voice, the actor talks about preparing to read the audiobook for The End of the Affair. 

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