Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bridget Jones Diary. On Location in London.


No matter how we felt about the sequels, we all fell in love with Bridget in Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary. Most of us saw a bit of ourselves in her, whether it was the overeating, over-imbibing misfit or the plucky lost girl who refused to give up, her honesty about her own flaws and foibles helped us laugh at ourselves. Rene Zellweger with her brave British accent channeled Bridget’s flirty spirit.


Hidden under the arches of London Bridge at the Globe Tavern in Borough Market is the flat where Bridget lived which my husband and I visited during our trip to London. I'm not sure if this young woman was waiting for Colin Firth or Hugh Grant to show up. She may be waiting still!

Notice the rubbish bins in the film set vs the plastic bags by the door in the real life image? That seems to be the trend these days. Have you noticed plastic bags of trash outside restaurants and retail shops too?






Just down the street is #5 Bedale Street, the spot where Colin Firth and Hugh Grant brawled ineffectually in the street like a couple of old women in a catfight?


Shame on me, I left my notes back at our hotel so we didn't find the location for the fight scene. Hmmm. I wonder if that's a legitimate excuse to go back to London next year?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Still Alice starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart & Alec Baldwin


Still in Europe. I'm trying to download some Paris pictures to add to my post on Gigi film locations page but the connections all seem to be incredibly, frustratingly slow. I can't seem to figure it out — I'm able to post pictures to Facebook and Instagram via my phone but my computer is not behaving! I'm sure there's a fix but I'm in Europe for the first time in almost 30 years! Who has time for that! In the meantime, today's Saturday Matinee is Still Alice. Enjoy!

Still Alice came out in 2014. Julianne Moore won all the Best Actress awards that year. The Oscar, the Golden Globes, the BAFTA, the SAG award. Everything. An little wonder. Moore was amazing as the linguistics professor struck down by Early Onset Alzheimer's in her prime. Still Alice is this week's Saturday Matinee, an emotional and important film you can screen on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu and Google Play for three bucks. 

Here's what I wrote about the film back in November 2014:

I shared a clip from the film Still Alice starring Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart last week and told you I scored a ticket to 11/13 screening at the AFI film festival.  It was the last day of the week long festival, held at the Chinese Theaters at Hollywood & Highland—not to be confused with what was formerly and famously known as Grauman's Chinese, where all the stars have their footprints in
the cement, just a few doors down. Hollywood and Highland is more like a big, garish mall, overstuffed with shiny things to buy, and places to eat. For the most part these are the exact same shiny things and places to eat that you'll find in your hometown or the nearest large city. But it's in the heart of Hollywood so there's that. I go there so rarely I always feel like a tourist anyway; it's hard to ignore the studly Superman in costume asking if I want to take a picture with him. No. I don't. Pissed he thinks I'm a tourist or a sucker. Thanks anyway.

It's a bit of a kick seeing a movie at a film festival isn't it? The over-abundance of volunteers standing around in clutches in their AFI Fest T-shirts, the plastic encased credentials hanging on lanyards around their necks. They feel special and frankly there's something about seeing a film before it officially opens that always gives me a little thrill too. Like I'm finally one of the cool kids. I'm not that cool though, otherwise I would have been at last night's screening of Still Alice, the one where the actors were there for the Q&A. Today's screening is celebrity free, just a bunch of your everyday movie fan types. The guy next to me, young, in yellow jeans and red shoes that look like Converse but I think they're trendier and more expensive, has been every day this week. He says he's exhausted but he's got his ticket for Foxcatcher, the final presentation of the fest, screening tonight. The woman on my right is a talker, she's whispering to another woman she met and made friends with while they were waiting in line as the program director introduces the film, assuring us that we are in for something special, a beautiful movie about a family's struggle with a difficult situation, filled with beautiful performances.

There's something about the tone of his voice — an almost indiscernible catch in the throat, maybe — that makes me wonder if I've made a mistake. Maybe this movie will be too hard to sit through, to see in public; I don't want to break down in wracking sobs in a crowded theater, surrounded by strangers, a boy in yellow pants and red shoes, a woman who talks too much.

When the curtain opens, the first thing I see is a promo for AFI; it's a young Sophia Loren singing and dancing in a clip from an old film I've never seen but I know the song she's singing and I forget my worries. I'm at the movies. Tucked into my purse is a wad of toilet paper I grabbed from the women's room just in case. Naturally I forgot to bring tissues. I almost always do.



I don't know what Still Alice will be like for you, whether it will be as intense and powerful and emotionally moving as I found it to be. I think if you have someone you love who's been affected by the disease, your emotions may be magnified, multiplied to the power of 10. The same probably holds true for readers of Lisa Genova's gut-wrenching book, many of whom will flock to see this film when it's released countrywide in January. Because the performances by Julianne Moore as Alice and Kristen Stewart as her daughter Lydia are both so powerful, SONY is also releasing the film for a brief Academy Award qualifying run in December.



I think I've shared in this space that my mother died a couple of years ago, that she'd been living with Alzheimer's for years. While my mother had your basic garden variety brand of Alzheimer's, Alice—played to perfection by Julianne Moore—has a much rarer form of the disease, Early Onset Alzheimer's. While my mother was in her seventies when we knew for sure, Alice is only fifty. She's still a vital, attractive, and brilliant woman, working as a professor of linguistics, giving speeches, conducting seminars. Language is her life; watching her lose it is as horrifying to her as it is to us. Part of the pain comes from Alice's awareness of the problem, her understanding of the disease and how it will progress. She uses her intellect to compensate for her memory loss, just the way many of use post it notes or our phones to remind us of appointments to keep and things to pick up from the market. But Alzheimer's is progressive and unrelenting in its gobbling up of the brain, and Alice's intellect disappears and with it her ability to have any independent control of herself. You can't use your phone to remind you of a task when you've forgotten what a phone even is. Julianne Moore tracks that decline flawlessly. From the first look of confusion on her face to where she behaves like a docile child —there's a scene where she and her husband (Alec Baldwin) stop for frozen yogurt at Pinkberry's and she orders what he orders because she can no longer remember what she likes — to the phase where we see her, vacant, checked out, living deep inside her own head — Julianne Moore reminded me over and over again of my mother.


Speaking of Still Alice: Read A Bit of a Ditz AKA Where the bleep is my phone?



How could I not cry, tears just streaming quietly down my face in recognition as Baldwin helps Alice dress, pulling on her pants as she stands there quietly like a good little girl, when I remember doing the same thing for my mother? How could I not cry as Alice doesn't know her own daughter when I remember the first time that happened to me. I was walking with my mother and my ten year old son and my mother turned to him and asked him in all seriousness 'Do I know your mother?' Of course I cried, and instead of trying to dry my tears, attracting attention, I just let them flow. They were quiet tears and it was dark, hardly anyone would know. Maybe my neighbors but it didn't matter. They were equally moved. Throughout the film the woman who talked too much couldn't stop making little quiet outbursts: Oh no! Ohhh! The boy in the yellow pants grabbed his jacket and held it to his face; I think he was crying too.

I'm glad the filmmakers didn't take it further down the line in the progression of Alzheimer's disease, to the last and worst stages, where all the money in the world won't buy you nursing care that takes away the fact that the loving, laughing, vibrant, proud person you knew is gone. They've been reduced to wearing diapers, to muttering incomprehensible nonsense sentences if they can speak at all, that there is no way to keep them looking happy and engaged, that they'll sit alone, silent, and unresponsive and their eyes will close and their heads will nod and the person you knew isn't Still Alice or Still Enid or Still Your Parent. And nothing you can do will change that.

Phew. Sorry for being so maudlin, I know this isn't exactly helpful in terms of being a 'review' but it was a tough one to watch, and it sent me to a pretty sad place. Will it be as tough for you? I don't know. I know some of you avoid going to those sad, dark places, it's not what you look for in entertainment. If that's the case then skip Still Alice. Yes, it's incredibly moving and resonant for those of us who have a personal connection to the disease, but it was so well done, the material is so affecting and the acting so stellar, I think you'd have to have a pretty hard heart not to be deeply, deeply moved. It was, as the program director said, a beautiful film full of beautiful performances. Most notably Julianne Moore's whose face and body changed just as slowly but inexorably as did her mind. She was stunning in what has to be the most important role of her career. Kristen Stewart, who I'm only just discovering having avoided the Twilight films, did a wonderful job as the daughter Lydia. Stewart was understated and believable in the role; her eyes speaking volumes. Her approach felt real to me. I know I always talked to my mother matter of factly, I made sure I kept my emotions in check when I was around her, no histrionics. Alec Baldwin was terrific, as was Kate Bosworth as Alice's older daughter but make no mistake, it's Julianne Moore's movie. Her tour de force. And first in line for an Oscar nomination.*



* Julianne Moore won the Hollywood Film Award for her performance in Still Alice. Nice way to start off the award season. (11/14/2014)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Saturday Matinee: The Descendants starring Shailene Woodley & George Clooney



The Descendants is one of the earliest book to movie adaptations I blogged about back in 2011. I loved the book so much and I was thrilled it was coming to the screen, I had to share my passion and that was that. The beginning of Chapter1-Take1. That's the backdrop for today's Saturday Matinee, one of my all time favorite screen adaptations, available to stream on Amazon, YouTube and Vudu for about $3. 


The movie earned 5 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for George Clooney (George did take home the Golden Globe), Best Editing, Best Director for Alexander Payne and Best Screenplay Adaptation for which it won the Oscar. 


Here's what I wrote about the film.

Where Kaui Hart Hemming's novel The Descendants swept me away, I found the film as rich, complicated and emotional as its literary inspiration. A surprising and refreshing mix of funny co-mingling with the sad. A grownup's movie with an R rating owing to its use, primarily of the f-word. It's always difficult to watch a film and miss the parts that didn't make it to the screen; it's that depth and richness of setting and character development filmmakers don't have time for. So while I may have shed a quick tear for Matt King's home without the quirky housekeeper, the hospital without the scene in the gift shop where Matt the buys up all the soft core postcards flouting his gorgeous 15 year old daughter Alex, in a bikini, without the scene where Scottie hops on their beach club bar stool singing for a drink like her mother used to; I shed many more for what did make it into the movie. 


I've never seen George Clooney so unattractively attractive. He wears faded cotton Hawaiian shirts tucked into dockers. Tucked in. Not cool. Kind of like a nerdy accountant. He never gets to dazzle us with his movie star smile or twinkle sardonically. He never gets to be George Clooney. Instead, he is Matt King, a man whose wild wife is in a coma caused by a boating accident, who has two daughters he has no idea how to deal with, a huge decision about what to do with a land inheritance, and the newfound knowledge that his wife was having an affair. He's a man at once confused and angry and grieving by the events taking place. Every gesture, every stunned expression, every look of resignation rang true. When he cried, I cried too.



Shailene Woodley, George Clooney, Amara Miller and Nick Krause

As in the book, his daughters shock him with their behavior and their language. The eldest daughter, Alex played by Shailene Woodley was honest and pure in her disgusted responses to her father and deserved anger with her comatose mother. She's a natural beauty too with the most amazingly expressive eyes, an actress one wants to watch. Young Amara Miller is pitch perfect as the both moody and needy Scottie. Matt Lilliard, formerly known as Shaggy and that guy in Up A Creek with Seth Green and Dax Shepherd, made the most of his small amount of screen time as did Judy Greer. I also enjoyed Nick Krause's performance, the stocky young actor played Sid the stoner with a wide and open grin, providing much of the comic relief. In a nice nod to Hemmings, she "played" King's secretary. I think she had a line, maybe two. Still, it must be sweet satisfaction for her.


Alexander Payne, the director, who is known for his interest in locales and settings, showed Hawaii perfectly. The real Hawaii; not just the postcard picture perfect place we imagine when booking vacations. Oahu with it's crowded freeways, its big city with its share of poverty, and homelessness, and ugly architecture, its beautiful beaches crowded out by hotel after condo after hotel, as well as the soft and lovely landscape where guess what, sometimes it gets a bit grey. Sometimes it rains. 
Paradise isn't all it's cracked up to be. While there are spots of breathtaking beauty - notably the thousands of acres of land fronting an idyllic bay that Matt's family has owned for generations and which he now has to decide what to do with - I don't know that I've ever seen a film that painted Hawaii as a setting so realistically.
Payne has said himself that the film is a little exposition heavy - the George Clooney voice over does come in quite a bit. But for me it was pitch perfect. Mature. Deep and velvety. At times bemused, at others the confusion, the anger, the hurt, but finally the contentment rings through.

You should see this movie. I hope you've read the book but even if you don't, you should see this movie. 

Let's watch the trailer



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

3 Movies Based on Books to Watch in May


I wouldn’t mind having Dinner with Richard Gere. Unfortunately I’ll be in London when the movie makes it debut on May 5. Ok, the truth is, I’m so excited about going to Europe, I’m glad to put The Dinner on hold until we get back.

The Dinner is the first of three films based on books opening this month.


May 5: The Dinner
The Wall Street Journal called The Dinner by Herman Koch "a European Gone Girl". Two couples meet over dinner, behind the polite surface chatter is the fact that the couples both have 15 year old sons who have committed a horrendous crime. Over the course of the evening the dinner devolves illuminating just how far parents will go to protect their own children. The film stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Chloë Sevigny, and Charlie Plummer. 




May 12: Arthur: The Legend of the Sword



The Sword in the Stone, retold, again. We love Arthur and Merlin and all that magic, don't we? Guy Ritchie is behind this iteration of the legendary tale Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. Charlie Hunnam stars as Arthur, the cast includes Jude Law, Eric Bana and Annabelle Wallis.




May 19: Everything, Everything  



Based on Nicola Yoon’s bestselling book about a young girl allergic to ... yep ... everything, everything, the movie stars Amandla Stenberg who you may remember as Rue from The Hunger Games. While Maddy has lived a sheltered life, confined to her home, her world changes when a cute boy moves in next door. Awwww. Nick Robinson plays cute boy Olly Bright, the boy next door. Here they are in a shot the author shared from the movie. Directed by Stella Meghie. 




What will you be watching while I’m gone? Keep me posted!

On a personal note, we leave for Europe the same day the US State Department has issued a travel alert for Americans traveling to Europe. 

‘‘Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets.  In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports, and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks.  U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance in these and similar locations, in particular during the upcoming summer travel season when large crowds may be common.

Terrorists persist in employing a variety of tactics, including firearms, explosives, using vehicles as ramming devices, and sharp-edged weapons that are difficult to detect prior to an attack.

If you are traveling between countries in Europe, please check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination city for any recent security messages.  Review security information from local officials, who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country. 

I want my friends and family and all you lovely readers out there to know that while we will be careful, and vigilant, we are unconcerned. Living in a large city like Los Angeles, we take our lives in our hands every day; we could just as easily die in a freeway accident, we could just as easily be a target of a random shooter. That’s the reality.

I’ve been dreaming of going to Europe again since the last time I was there in the mid-80’s. I turn the dreaded 64 this year, dammit! There is nothing that can take the pleasure of this trip away from me. That being said, I’ll be posting irregularly here and on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook. IF there is an incident, I’ll let you know we are safe and sound on one or all of those platforms. Thanks for thinking of me, now forget it and have a great day. 

On Facebook: Sim Carter , Chapter1-Take1
On Instagram: SimCarter28
On Twitter:  @SimCarter



Monday, May 1, 2017

The Circle starring Emma Watson & Tom Hanks: My take on the movie


Emma Watson’s face says it all.

I’m so disappointed. Despite a very low score of 17 on Rotten Tomatoes, we went to see The Circle yesterday. While I called the book by Dave Eggers heavy handed, I thought the sci fi premise was promising enough to make an excellent thriller. The cast was a huge plus: Oscar winning Tom Hanks as the head of the Facebook-like company gone amok, Emma Watson as Mae Holland, the earnest, hard-working millennial employee swept up in helping the company achieve its socially conscious goals of connectivity and transparency. 


The cast includes John Boyega the rising Star Wars star, respected comedian and actor Patton Oswalt as The Circle co-founder, and Ellar Coltrane, the young actor who we saw grow up onscreen in Boyhood as Mae’s ex-boyfriend Mercer. Even Bill Paxton, in one of the last roles of his career. The director, James Ponsoldt, is a respected director in the indie film world with both The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour earning praise.  

What could go wrong? 


Everything. Well, almost. Hanks is Hanks, meaning when he walks onstage in front of an audience of employees as a Steve Jobs/Zuckerberg type, he brings along a lifetime of believability in his pocket. Do we buy him as the head of a behemoth communications company spreading the good word of constant openness? Of course we do. His mantra “Knowing more is good, knowing everything is better’’ actually sounds right, coming out of Hanks’s everyman’s mouth. His employees clap wildly in agreement, and those of us watching in the theater agree. We’re excited, intrigued.


Poor Emma Watson though, is left to wander on screen, reduced to mugging reactions, the camera lingering over her pretty young face in a series of reaction shots; thrilled to get a job at the Circle, grateful to her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) who gets her the job, upset that her father (Bill Paxton) is so sick, overwhelmed by her workload, surprised her ex-boyfriend (Ellar Coltrane) isn’t as enamored by urge to reveal all in public as she is. A leading lady in search of support, she gets little to none.

Karen Gillan is an exception as Annie. Along with Hanks, Gillan is one of the few characters who don’t feel wooden. Which is more than you can say for Ellar Coltrane who is hesitant to the point of being barely there. After Boyhood where he was mostly himself, ad libbing the process of growing up, the question was but can he act? The answer, based on this performance, is no. He might have been helped by a director who picked up the pace, instead he’s stranded, stiff and unconvincing. 


John Boyega is bizarrely under-utilized. I won’t spoil it—in case you’re still as determined as I was to see the movie in spite of the bad buzz—but in the book his character is mysterious, compelling, the relationship with Mae ripe with attraction and sensuality. That’s completely missing in action here, erased. One can’t help but wonder how many scenes were written and discarded before filming or if filmed, that they must have ended up on the cutting room floor. 


One scene that should have ended up there is an early one played by two supporting players who shall remain nameless. Circle employees, they oversee Mae’s work and stop by her cubicle to admonish her for not being a better team player, for not including online social interaction. It’s their only scene and unfortunately for them, they do it with such an over the top case of appallingly bad, cartoonish acting, like a bad SNL skit that it may be their last roles, period. 


And poor Bill Paxton. He’s fine as Mae’s dad—as is her mother played by Glenne Headly—but what a sad final role to mark his career. Afflicted with MS, hand quivering as he brings spoon to mouth, in one scene, at a family party, he has an accident and soils his jeans as Mae looks on helplessly. Paxton and Watson, like most of the cast, are like the actors in Six Characters in Search of an Author. Desperate for a writer and director to give them something more, something less crappy, to do. In The Circle, writer/director Jim Ponsoldt doesn’t give it to them. 

As you know who would say... SAD! *

* with apologies to my mother, who raised me to believe if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. 




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