Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time: My Take on the book plus a Behind the Scenes Featurette

I haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time since the sixties, the decade the Madeleine L’Engle classic was released, 1962 to be precise. Having re-read it now, I have a feeling I might not have actually read it then. I would have been nine or ten at the time and while I would certainly relate to Meg’s feeling of being an outsider, stupid, and ugly in my super-sized glasses—glasses so thick and high in their magnification they made me look and feel like a bug—I would not have been a fan of all that painful tessering Meg had to do. Come to think of it, maybe I did read it. I do remember writing a short story for a school assignment about a girl who slips down beneath a pool of water into another world, another dimension, one full of swaying, psychedelic colors. Not that they used the word psychedelic that early in the sixties. Once there, it was difficult for the girl to get back home. Derivative? Definitely.

It’s interesting how the book is promoted as science fiction though, when it’s most clearly about faith. In fact there are some lines that are quite heavy handed in the religion department. For a book which embraces as much science this one does, the author also endeavors to explain a fundamental question of the existence of God. If he exists, how can he let bad things happen without intervening? Mrs. Whatsit makes the point that human lives are like a sonnet with its rigid structure.
But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he? pg 219
 and later on the same page
You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.

And, of course, the overarching theme of the book is the power of love to overcome evil. In fact, only the power of love, can do that. As much as I bristle at the inherent Christianity, there is no denying the impact of the lesson of love and compassion for the young readers (nine and up) the book is intended for.

Meg, Charles and Calvin in Camazotz
“The houses in the outskirts were all exactly the same.’’

Reading A Wrinkle in Time at my ripe old age, I find I love the children, Meg and her lovely little brother Charles (before he changes), their friend Calvinthe three Mrs: Mrs. Who with her endless quotes —Mindy Kaling in the movie—Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) with her crazy looking pile of scarves and hats layered over her comforting, maternal presence and Mrs. Which (Oprah) with her imperious, all-knowing manner. Although to be honest, I found Mrs. Which’s dialogue with its repeated letters tedious. Vis a vis her first line in the book:
‘‘Alll rrightt girrllss. Thiss iss nno ttime forr bbickkerring.’’
Newcomers Storm Reid and Deric McCabe play Meg and her bright little brother Charles Wallace, with Levi Miller as Calvin. In the book, the parents bookend the kid’s adventure, not a lot more than supporting players. We’ll have to see if Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mr. and Mrs. Murry have more to do in the movie.

Take a look at this behind the scenes featurette. 

The costumes are much more fantasy sci-fi based than I pictured them in my imagination, but that’s probably more my lack than the movie’s. Have director Ava Duvernay & her cast nailed the characters?

A Wrinkle in Time opens March 9 in the US. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Helen Mirren & Donald Sutherland ride off into their sunset years together in The Leisure Seeker

I first shared the news that The Leisure Seeker was coming last May. Now the film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland set to open March 9 has a trailer so thought you'd enjoy seeing the pair up to their hijinks. That's what all old movie people have, right?

The way the movie folks put it themselves?
A runaway couple go on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call The Leisure Seeker.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Colette: Keira Knightley brings the famous French author to Sundance

The focus here is usually movies based on specific books: novels you’ve loved, gripping bios or nonfiction adventures you can’t wait to see onscreen. But when I hear a movie is being made about a writer’s life, whether it’s based on a specific book or not, I can’t resist taking a closer look.

Colette, starring Keira Knightley as the famous French novelist, makes its debut January 20th at Sundance. At this point there are no release dates but we’ll see what kind of action the film fest kicks up. The focus of the movie is the writer’s relationship with her husband, a powerful literary and theatrical critic of the day who took credit for much of the writer’s work. 

Dominic West, seen here in Testament of Youth

According to Deadline, Colette’s husband Willy, played by Dominic West “introduces Colette to hedonistic Paris, and with her creative appetite unlocked she begins to write novels; however, Willy only allows her to do so in his name. The phenomenal success of her Claudine novel series makes Willy a famous writer, yet the lack of recognition for her work sparks the breakdown of their marriage.’’ No kidding!

A timeless story which took place over a century ago but which is all too relevant today. I. Can. Not. Wait!

The screenplay was written by life partners Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glazer who cowrote and directed Still Alice. Tragically Glazer died in March of 2015, Rebecca Lenkiewicz came in afterwards to do rewrites.

Sidonie Colette (1873-1954)

Westmoreland directs the mostly British cast which also includes Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson and Game of Thrones’ Robert Pugh.

I’m on the lookout for more images from the film and a trailer. Give me a shout out if you spot them first.

One of our favorite Colette works is the fabulous Gigi

If you want to brush up on your Colette knowledge, you may want to give Judith Thurman’s Secrets of the Flesh, A Life of Colette a gander. I’m betting the screenwriters did.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Electric Dreams: Inspired by Philip K. Dick's Science Fiction, Powered by the Stars

Are you watching the new Electric Dreams anthology series? Just released on Amazon, each episode is based on a Philip K. piece of science fiction. The title is a nod to Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? brought to the screen as Blade Runner.

We’ve watched three episodes, and unlike Black Mirror, in which the stories are unified by the places technology has taken us, these episodes don’t seem to have an overall theme. Tied only by the thread of ‘dreams’ each show is free to be something entirely different from each other. Although my husband and I did note the three episodes we saw all featured some fairly sexy sizzle. Don’t know if that’s an overarching theme going forward or not.

Some of the sizzle is star power. 

Janelle Monáe plays a robot in Autofac, an episode about a dystopian post-apocalyptic world where automation carries on regardless of need, while Anna Paquin and Terence Howard appeared in Real Life which looked directly at dreams.

Bryan Cranston, executive producer of the show, also starred in Human Is, my favorite of the three episodes we saw as it centers on the tense relationship between a man and woman in a well established marriage. The fact that it features Cranston’s wife going off to some futuristic club for some old fashioned three way sex was a bit of an unexpected (and unnecessary*) jolt but it didn’t bother me enough not to enjoy the payoff of the episode. *We get it, she’s unhappy.

Other episodes feature Timothy Spall in The Commuter with Tuppence Middleton. Impossible Planet stars Jack Reynor and Geraldine Chaplin. Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, Holiday Grainger. Plenty of familiar faces.  There are ten episodes in all, instead of bingeing, we’ll parcel them out bit by bit. 

I’m looking forward to Kill All Others, for two reasons. One, because it’s directed by Dee Rees, who did such an amazing job with Mudbound. And two, it not only stars Vera Farmiga, the episode also features Mudbound star Jason Mitchell. 

The way Electric Dreams has been set up, we’ll have no idea what to expect, what places we’ll go, who will take us there. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

I’d love to know what true blue Philip K. Dick’s fans think? 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Matinee: Like Water for Chocolate

Christmas Rolls
 1 can of sardines
1/2 chorizo sausage
1 onion
1 can of chiles serranos
10 hard rolls

PREPARATION: Take care to chop the onion fine. To keep from crying when you chop it (which is so annoying!), I suggest you place a little bit on your head. The trouble with crying over an onion is that once the chopping gets you started and the tears begin to well up, the next thing you know you just can't stop. I don't know whether that's ever happened to you, but I have to confess it's happened to me, many times. Mama used to say it was because I was especially sensitive to onions, like my great-aunt, Tita. 
Tita was so sensitive to onions, any time they were being chopped, they say she would just cry and cry, when she was still in my greatgrandmother's belly her sobs were so loudthat even Nancha, the cook, who was halfdeaf, could hear them easily. Once her wailing got so violent that it brought on an early labor. And before my greatgrandmother could let out a word or even a whimper, Tita made her entrance into this world, prematurely, right there on the kitchen table amid the smells of simmering noodle soup, thyme, bay leaves, and cilantro, steamed milk, garlic, and, of course, onion.
Tita had no need for the usual slap on the bottom, because she was already crying as she emerged, maybe that was because she knew then that it would be her lot in life to be denied marriage. The way Nancha told it, Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide of tears that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen floor. That afternoon, when the uproar had subsided and the water had been dried up by the sun, Nancha swept up the residue the tears had left on the red stone floor.
There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound sack-it was used for cooking and lasted a long time. Thanks to her unusual birth, Tita felt a deep love for the kitchen, where she spent most of her life from the day she was born. 
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel

I’m not much for cooking—my hubby is the chef in our house—but I can definitely related to Tita’s extreme reaction to onions. I’ve never heard of putting a piece of onion on your head to keep your tears away; I usually chew a piece of bread which barely works. I’ll have to try that. Or leave it to my hubs which is my custom.

Anyway, so begins Esquivel’s tender tragedy, translated into English by Carol & Thomas Christensen after Esquivel had made the Spanish language movie based on her own bestselling book, Como Agua Para Chocolate. Each chapter of the novel, lauded for its magical realism, begins with a recipe for a Mexican dish which connects to the action of the narrative. 

Our heroine, Tita, is the youngest girl in her family who is not allowed to marry Pedro, the handsome young man she falls deeply in love with, because according to family tradition, she must remain at home to look after her mother until she dies. (It sounds like Tita’s mother, Mama Elena has a death wish!) 
A gifted cook, Tita devotes her passion to food.

Here’s how the publisher sums up the book:

Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance and bittersweet wit.
This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother's womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way.

I’m loving this somewhat outlandish story and the award winning film based on this novel. There are so many surprising images—the water rushing off the table after Tita’s birth, the passion enflamed by her cooking, her sister Gertrudis riding off naked with the revolutionary soldier—that come right off Esquivel’s pages, as passionate and steamy as the dishes from Tita’s kitchen. Not surprising, I suppose, Esquivel wrote the screenplay too.

I will say the subtitles are a little large and clunky but I know some people complain they can't read subtitles. That’s not a problem here.

There are no familiar names (to me) in the cast but it is beautifully made, benefitting from the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. Lubezki who shot the film in 1993 has come over the years to be known for his masterful work, having been nominated for eight Oscars, winning three in the last three years (The Revenant and Birdman, both for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Gravity for Alfonso Cuarón). Nominated for Best Foreign Film by both the Golden Globes and BAFTA, the film is a fable, often called a fairy tale of Mexican feminism, it seems to me it's a fable worth watching. 

You can watch Like Water for Chocolate on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube. I'm streaming it on Netflix.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Leonardo DiCaprio as Leonardo Da Vinci: That's a biopic I'd love to see

Reading a review of Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo Da Vinci by Emily at As the Crowe Reads and Flies, I was reminded that Paramount picked up the biography this past summer as a star vehicle for that other famous Leonardo. Paramount paid a pretty penny for it too, reportedly in the 7 figures. 

Leonardo as Leonardo sounds a little like kismet. According to Deadline, ‘‘legend has it that Leonardo DiCaprio was so named because his pregnant mother was looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in a museum in Italy when the future star kicked for the first time.’’ 

While I’d love to see DiCaprio as Da Vinci, I’ve checked Leo’s imdb and for now the actor seems all tied up with The Black Hand (based on the book by  Stephen Talty) and Killers of the Flower Moon (based on the book by David Grann) both in preproduction, along with the announced Roosevelt. I’ll keep you posted if I hear about some movement afoot.

Self portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci

The book may have to suffice for now but if art makes your little heart flutter as wildly as the furrow in DiCaprio’s brow does (resist the Botox, Leo!), that’s not so bad.

Emily’s Review 

From what Emily says, the book should fill the gap nicely.
My Simon & Schuster rep gifted me with the audio book for my birthday late last fall, which was ideal now that I have a long enough commute to make listening to audio books worthwhile. It’s read by actor Alfred Molina, who does a great job, and the audio version comes with a separate CD full of PDFs of the art described in the book (presumably the digital audio also comes with downloadable images).  However, I was only two discs into the 17-disc set before I realized that I would also want the physical book, and I was fortunate that Simon & Schuster obliged by by sending me one of those, too. The book is beautiful, printed on heavy paper with full color plates.
I’ve never read Isaacson before, so I don’t know if this is a signature style or a one-off, but rather than employing a chronologically linear narrative, he employs a style that I’d call vignette-like.  This means that occasionally the narrative circles back to an earlier period of history, but with a subject who is as far removed from our time as Leonardo is, this makes sense to me.
Did I have much of an impression about Leonardo before tackling this book?  Not a big one. I took a survey of western heritage class in college that gave an overview of his art and I think it was a class in high school where I learned more about his bent for science and engineering, but other than a general impression that the term “Renaissance Man” might have been first used with him in mind, I couldn’t tell you a lot about the guy. My only personal experience was on a college choir trip to Milan, where we were able to view his fresco of The Last Supper in small groups.
You can read the rest of Emily's review at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)
Thanks for letting me share your review Emily!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

From the vault: Sal. A tribute by James Franco

Sal Mineo would have turned 79 today. Instead he died in 1976, murdered when he was 37 years old. Not nearly as young as James Dean, the iconic actor he starred alongside in Rebel Without a Cause, roles that would come to define both men in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

For Sal Mineo, James Dean was the man for whom his conflicted feelings probably made him understand his bisexual or homosexual nature. Apparently the label is arguable, while Mineo slept with both men and women, many believe he was  homosexual, pure and simple. I would think only Mineo knows for sure and he ain’t saying.

If I’d understood back then that a guy could be in love with another one, it would have happened. But I didn’t come to that realization for a few more years and then it was too late for Jimmy and me.

Sal Mineo was the subject of the film Sal directed by James Franco in 2011, the drama focuses on the last day of Sal Mineo’s life. The movie was culled from material in the biography by Michael Gregg Michaud. 

Sal Mineo is played by Val Lauren while Franco—who famously played James Dean back in 2001—is acting coach Milton Katselas. The film is available to stream on iTunes, GooglePlay, Amazon, Vudu, etc but to be honest Sal isn’t a critically acclaimed film. Roger Ebert gave it 1.5 out of 4 stars, it has a 44% on rotten tomatoes and 4 out of 10 on imdb. But you can’t blame Franco for trying. I don’t know what’s going on in his personal life right now but one thing is certain. James Franco who just won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his work in The Disaster Artist—which he also directedis the very definition of prolific.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

BAFTA: The Adapted Screenplay Nominations

Following on the heels of the Golden Globe awards, BAFTA—the British Academy Film & Television Arts—has announced its nominations. The awards ceremony takes place on February 18th at Royal Albert Hall. The nominees for Best film are Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hours, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water and 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Montana. There’s some chatter that The Post was shut out while The Shape of Water with 12 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Montana 8are leading the pack of most nominations. I have no complaints on that score. The Post is a good movie, but it’s certainly not the best movie of the year, and while it offers solid star performances it does so from a stance of fairly conventional movie making. I would imagine that the two British period films centered on the action at Dunkirk have the British hearts and minds leaning in their direction but  both Three Billboards and Shape of Water push those award envelopes with stories and performances in new directions, stories that are otherworldly yet grounded in surprising but entirely human terms. In Three Billboards, a mother’s love and reactive response to the death of her child is extreme. They often are. I can imagine mine would be as seriously out of control. In Shape of Water we see the transformative power of love and rediscover what we already knew, monsters come in human form but see this as a beautiful reminder, a fairy tale for grownups. For a more thorough take on the film check out Ginger Henny’s review of The Shape of Water on Filmotomy.

Here at Chapter1—Take1 however, Adapted Screenplay is the category we’re most invested in, and I for one am deeply disappointed that Mudbound based on the book by Hilary Jordan is not in the running. Here’s my take on the book and the movie. And here are the films that made the cut.


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME written by James Ivory adapted from the book by André Aciman. The film is a lovely coming out and coming of age story. It’s easy to see why anyone would fall head over heels in love with the big, brash, arrogant Americano Oliver played by Armie Hammer. The young star Timothée Chalamet, one of BAFTA’s Best Actor and Rising Star nominees is incredibly natural and authentic feeling. If you saw him in Lady Bird, you know at this point in his young life he brings that same degree of openness to both roles.

THE DEATH OF STALIN written by Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider adapted from the graphic novel. Don’t read graphic novels which leaves me without a point of view on this one.

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL written by Matt Greenhalgh adapted from the memoir by Peter Turner. It was also nominated for Best British Film. I confess I haven’t seen this yet but I’m kind of dying to. A love story about an older woman, younger man. Why not? In addition to the writing nom, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool earned both its stars Jamie Bell and Annette Bening Best Actor nominations.

MOLLY’S GAME written by Aaron Sorkin adapted from the memoir by Molly Bloom. Sorkin’s fast talking style kept me feeling at a distance and despite my fanship for Jessica Chastain and her acting ability, I just didn’t care that much for Molly and her choices. Here’s what I thought of the film Molly’s Game.

PADDINGTON 2 Simon Farnaby, Paul King based on characters created by Michael Bond. You can’t really blame the Brits for the nomination since the original A Bear Called Paddington is a beloved British childrens’ book but I’m not at all sure how this falls under the guise of an adaptation. Yes there is a Paddington 2 book BUT it’s done the other way round. The book is based on the motion picture! As I say, not at all sure how this made it into the adapted category when other more deserving films did not.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jennifer Lawrence is a Russian Spy in Red Sparrow

The trailer for Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence (not usually high up on my list) Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Mary Louise Parker, Charlotte Rampling & Jeremy Irons just hit the net and I’m thinking I might finally become a JLaw fan. Her Russian accent sounds impeccable, and physically, she looks and feels like a Russian. Or at least how we have come to expect our cinematic Russian spies to look. She’s surrounded by a first class group of actors and the concept is a no-brainer.

The film, on our list of 2018’s Movies Based on Books, is written by Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, A Cure for Wellness) and based on the spy thriller by Jason Matthews. 

Here’s the basic set up for the movie
Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to 'Sparrow School' a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. But her first mission, targeting a CIA agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.
The notion of Russian spies is hot right now, the idea of Komromat, Pee tapes and Russian ‘prostitutes’ should stir this honeypot into a moneymaker. 

Have you read the book? Check out the trailer and let me know what you think. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ready? Awards Season has arrived and all the Golden Globe Winners are here.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama Jessica Chastain, Molly's Game, Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water, Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Meryl Streep, The Post, Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name, Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread,Tom Hanks, The Post, Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour, Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver James Franco, The Disaster Artist Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul Helen Mirren, The Leisure Seeker Margot Robbie, I, Tonya Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Mary J. Blige, Mudbound Hong Chau, Downsizing Allison Janney, I, Tonya Laurie Metcalfe, Lady Bird Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water Best Motion Picture, Drama Call Me by Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy The Disaster Artist, Get Out, The Greatest Showman I, Tonya, Lady Bird Best TV Movie or Limited-Series Big Little Lies, Fargo, Feud: Bette and Joan,The Sinner, Top of the Lake: China Girl Best Actor in a Limited-Series or TV Movie Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies, Jude Law, The Young Pope, Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks, Ewan McGregor, Fargo, Geoffrey Rush, Genius Best Actress in a Limited-Series or TV Movie Jessica Biel, The Sinner,  Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan, Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies
As usual the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills is hosting the Golden Globes and all the bodies are in town, which means LA streets—especially the corner of Santa Monica & Wilshire Boulevard will be extra crowded with limos, Ubers and Lyfts. I’ll be keeping a low profile, hiding from the crush of paparazzi that typically follows me, before going to the usual Golden Globe party ... the one in my living room that sees me in my best cozy pj’s, indulging in the champagne I forgot to bring to my sister’s for Christmas dinner and a shameful amount of crackers and Brie. You? Do you even give a darn? To be serious, I’m especially interested to see how the Times Up display of solidarity works—many of the women are wearing black as a protest against sexual harassment and inequality. Frankly, since black is such a glam color, I think a black armband would have been a more dramatic statement.
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