Sunday, February 18, 2018

Anne Hathaway. Joan Didion. Dee Rees. This ain't your grandmother's women's movie. #book2movies

Anne Hathaway is in talks to star. The script is based on a book by the legendary Joan Didion. The screen adaptation will be directed by Dee Rees, the fabulous female director who gave us 2017’s gorgeous Mudbound based on the book by Hilary Jordan. Of course I’m in. I’m betting you are too.

Hathaway would star as journalist Elena McMahon, “a woman alone and unrelenting in a race against time.’’ 

Here’s how the publisher sums up the book. 
Joan Didion trains her eye on the far frontiers of the Monroe Doctrine, where history dissolves into conspiracy (Dallas in 1963, Iran Contra in 1984), and fashions a moral thriller as hypnotic and provacative as any by Joseph Conrad or Graham Greene.
In that latter year Elena McMahon walks off the presidential campaign she has been covering for a major newspaper to do a favor for her father. Elena's father does deals. And it is while acting as his agent in one such deal—a deal that shortly goes spectacularly wrong—that she finds herself on an island where tourism has been superseded by arms dealing, covert action, and assassination. The Last Thing He Wanted is a tour de force—persuasive in its detail, dazzling in its ambiguities, enchanting in its style.
Written in 1996, Didion’s book is well worth reading now. Take a look at this snippet from Slate's review:
In short, The Last Thing He Wanted looks like proof of what you may have suspected for some time: that for all its restlessness about form, Joan Didion's fiction is formulaic--even contrived. The exhilarating surprise of her new novel is that in it, she masters one of the most contrived forms of all, the thriller. Followers of Didion's studiously anticlimactic, fragmented fiction will find it hard to believe, but her fifth novel has perfect pitch and pace, and is hauntingly hard to put down.
I’ll put book on my TBR list. Plenty of time to read it, the film is in preproduction now. Once Anne Hathaway agrees I imagine things will speed up. We’ll see Hathaway next in Oceans 8 inspired by characters originally created by George Clayton Johnson. They’ve come a long way from the male characters Johnson created in his book!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Hidden Figures: Book VS Movie #SaturdayMatinee #book2movies

Today’s Saturday Matinee is Hidden Figures, currently airing on HBO as part of its’ Black History Month celebration here in the US. The film was nominated for three Oscars when it came out in 2016: Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer who plays Dorothy Vaughn, one of the so called computers—what NASA called the females doing the advanced mathematical computations—and Best Adapted Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi. Their screenplay was based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. THAT title would never fit on the marquee! 

I shared my take on the movie back in February 2017. Now I’d like to share an excellent Book VS Movie post from Tina at Novel Meals. Tina did what I’m always talking about. She both read the book AND saw the movie. Kudos, Tina. Thanks for letting me share your viewpoint:

‘What an amazing story. The book was very detailed and while it didn’t exactly drag at places, it was slow sometimes.   The movie was excellent and did a good job of combining facts and took few liberties with actual scenarios.  (In my opinion)

 An accuracy portrayed in the movie, from the book, was Katherine Johnson’s great ability and intellect with mathematics. Since blacks did not attend school after 8th grade unless their parents could afford to send them, Katherine’s father made sure she could continue her education. He went to great lengths and expense to be sure all his children could attend school.

 If you’ve seen the movie you may remember that scene where Katherine is called to the blackboard to explain a problem. Doug and I just watched as she solved this crazy equation and then said, “It’s all pretty straight forward from here.” We just looked at each other, as the older students in the classroom did after she said this. Impressive intellect. Katherine graduated high school at the age of 14. Just wow.

In the movie it appeared there were a handful of people doing the work, the actual computations, and it was cliquish. The reality was there were hundreds of people working together and mostly in harmony. It wouldn’t be realistic to include so many in the movie version.

Katherine Johnson played by Teraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures

The segregation issue at NASA wasn’t as intense as the movie depicted, at least according to Katherine Johnson. She stated, “Everybody there was doing research, you had a mission and you worked on it, and it was important to you to do your job…and play bridge at lunch. I didn’t feel any segregation. I knew it was there, but I didn’t feel it.”

In real life she was treated as peer even though state laws regarding the use of separate bathrooms and buses was real.

The women of all races were called Computers. Black “computers” were put in the segregated west section of the Langley campus. These women calculated trajectories and results of wind tunnel tests. This was before electronic computers but even after their arrival, Johnson calculated by hand and verified the results of their electronic counterparts.

Overall the movie was very interesting and it will make you mad sometimes, the way the black computers were treated. I would recommend this movie and book.

Thanks again, Tina! 

Novel Meals: Reading, Food and Life

Do you have a book vs movie post you’d like to share? I’d love to share your point of view too. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Jennifer Lawrence Explains her Character in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence, stars in Red Sparrow as the Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova, recruited to the Russian Intelligance service ‘Sparrow School’ where she is forced to use her body to seduce enemy agents. Her first mission, targeting a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton), could upend security and do real damage to both their countries.

All you J-Law fans out there should enjoy the actor talking about the character Domenika in her own words in the video below.

“She's forced into a program against her will and trained in espionage,’’ the Oscar-winning actress explains. “She turns the tables, her mind is fascinating.”

She continues: “She's ten steps ahead of everybody who’s trying to use her.’’

Red Sparrow
 is based on the novel of the same name, the first in a trilogy by Jason Matthews.  As Emily notes in the comment section below, the author is well worth reading.

Red Sparrow, directed by The Hunger Games Francis Lawrence, opens on 1 March. I’m not usually a J-Law fan but I’m actually getting excited about this one. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I’m sorry. I just can’t write a post about the whole book to movie thing today. Like you, I’m too upset about what happened yesterday in Parkland, Florida.

I shared my feelings on where I share my more personal writing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hey Girl! It's me, Ryan Gosling, wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day

Now that I’ve got your attention, what gets your vote for the most romantic movie of all time? These are my picks but if I had to choose just one ... I couldn’t. How about you? What’s the romantic movie you’ll watch over and over and over again.

Is it The Notebook starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams?

An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr?

Love Actually? With Colin Firth et al?

Notting Hill?

Sleepless in Seattle with Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks?

Titanic with Kate & Leo?

Pride and Prejudice? Colin again.

Or none of the above? 

Cast your vote—or your write-in candidate— in the comment section below and have a ...

Happy Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guernsey starring Lily James: Watch the first trailer #book2movies

It’s been a long time coming—I’ve been waiting for the screen adaptation of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society since 2012. My mother, who lived through WWII Britain as a teenager, died the month I read the book—my review below—maybe that’s why I always think of her when I picture Juliet.

My mum, my ideal Juliet

 Back then Kate Winslet was in talks to play Juliet with Kenneth Branagh directing. That didn’t happen, obviously. Then in 2015 it was back on again, with a new shorter title—Guernsey—and Mike Newell directing with Rebecca Ferguson starring as Juliet. There was talk of Michelle Dockery playing the part as well but again,it didn’t happen.

Now, at long last, the movie is a reality. We have our Juliet (Lily James) We have our Dawsey (Michael Huisman/Game of Thrones) We have a Downton Abbey reunion with the addition of Matthew Goode as Sidney Stark, Jessica Brown Findlay as Elizabeth McKenna, Penelope Wilton as Amelia Maugery and of course Lily. Katherine Parkinson who I loved as the receptionist in Doc Marten and am loving in In the Club is Isola Pribby.

We have a trailer. We have a few pictures. What we don’t seem to have is a US air date! Details, details!

Here are the release dates we have so far:
Australia            19 April 
UK                         20 April 
New Zealand 25 April
Germany             16 August 

Watch the trailer:

As Sidney Stark (Matthew Goode) says in the trailer, the original title is quite a mouthful! 

Alicia Vikander to Star in The Marsh King's Daughter #book2movies

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander, one of the strong female actors who has taken a proactive approach to her career, forming her own production company, is teaming up The Imitation Game’s director, Morten Tyldum, to star in the upcoming psychological thriller The Marsh King’s Daughter.

Based on the best-selling novel by Karen Dionne, Vikander will play Helena—an everyday woman living an ordinary existence on the surface but underneath keeping the secret of her father’s identity: that of the infamous “Marsh King,” who imprisoned Helena and her mother for years. When her father escapes from prison, Helena has to face the demons that have haunted her. 

Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) and Elle Smith have written the screenplay adaptation. 

Not entirely sure when this one gets rolling, but I’m putting the book, published last June, on my TBR list. 

I’m sure many of you have read The Marsh King’s Daughter  but for those of you who missed it like me, here’s how the publisher—Penguin/RandomHouse— sums it up:
The Marsh King’s Daughter is the mesmerizing tale of a woman who must risk everything to hunt down the dangerous man who shaped her past and threatens to steal her future: her father.  
Helena Pelletier has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a business that fills her days. But she also has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature, and despite her father’s sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too…until she learned precisely how savage he could be. 
More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marsh. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King—because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.

Have you read The Marsh King’s Daughter? Is Alicia Vikander perfect for the part of Helena? Who would you cast as The Marsh King himself? 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Peter Rabbit starring James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson & Rose Byrne: My take on the movie [Review] #book2movies

I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about seeing Peter Rabbit, the modern day twist based on Beatrix Potter’s classic characters. Watching the trailer, seeing the rabbits trying to get the better of Farmer McGregor—bits like Domhnall Gleeson repeatedly treading on and hitting himself in the face with a rake Peter has strategically placed—reminded me of a Home Alone ripoff. All that frenetic running around; it looked exhausting. And obviously, it’s a kids movie so what, really, could it offer someone like me?

I’ll let the tweet I posted just after seeing the film sum it up.

Yes, we loved it. James Corden is so dynamic as the voice of Peter, his voice so able to run the scale of manic crazy rabbit to tender wounded bunny that your heart runs right along with him. The CGI is masterful, the wild action, the bunnies all believable. But when it comes to the rabbits, it really is all about Corden and while  big name actresses Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley and Elizabeth Debicki voice Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton Tail, I had no idea which was which and who was who. And it mattered not a bit. 

Sorry, ladies but it’s all about Peter and the humans who fall in love; Domhnall Gleeson, who inherits his Uncle McGregor’s farm, and Rosemary Byrne as Bea, the girl next door. Much to Peter Rabbit’s chagrin. Peter wants not just McGregor’s farm produce to himself, he wants the affection and attention of Bea as well. 

Rose Byrne as Bea with all the bunnies

Director Will Gluck and co-writer Rob Lieber have created an irreverent iteration of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, full of fresh, sassy characters for today’s sophisticated kids. The script is full of multi-generational laughs and the message of love and kindness at its core, so gently delivered, even the most jaded of 8 year olds will be touched. As will the parental types who tag along. 

I think Beatrix Potter would be pleased.
5 out 5 carrots folks.

Here’s the trailer. The movie is better.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

War and Peace: #SaturdayMatinee #book2movies

“ Man or woman, we have to be in love with Natasha, because she is life” 
Clive James, The Guardian

Updated 2/10/2018

My twitter friend Maisie @Yahyah56 shared Clive James review of War and Peace in the Guardian. I thought youd love this she tweeted me. And she was right. Clive James touched me with his thorough love and appreciation for the magic of Toltstoy’s classic. And his shout out for how the most recent BBC version got much of it right.
Since I owe you a review of that same BBC version starring Lily James, Paul Dano & James Norton, I’ll steal his words to give you a feel for what I felt reading the book and watching the series. Clive James is an acclaimed journalist, known for his prolific writings on culture and the arts. Maisie tells me that James, who is also a memoirist (note to self, check out Unreliable Memoirs) is quite ill with cancer. Which makes his statement that he probably won’t be alive to see another adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic, all the more touching.

James Norton as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky

I also want to share today’s Saturday Matinee: The 1972 BBC version of War and Peace. The 20 episode long series is available on YouTube and, while perhaps as overly long as Tolstoy’s manuscript, is certainly faithful to it. One of the reviews I’ve read, said something about watching ‘paint dry’ but still it boasts Anthony Hopkins as a bumbling Pierre so how can one resist it especially, in that what it does, in its fidelity to Tolstoy’s words, is reveal the inner workings of the minds of those characters, in ways that any abbreviated telling just can’t.
Here, from the pen (computer, laptop, device, God knows what he writes on) of Clive James in The Guardian:
“The BBC’s lavish, sexy, heart-rending, head-spinning and generally not-half-bad adaptation of Tolstoy’s vast novel War And Peace finished last weekend, so this weekend there is nothing to do except discuss whether Natasha was credible when she fell so suddenly for the odious Anatole Kuragin, and to start waiting until someone adapts it again. At my age, I doubt that I’ll live to see the next attempt, but I’m definitely thinking about reading the book one more time. It really is that good: good enough to get involved with again, even if it’s the last thing you do.
On a shelf near where I sit writing this, there are half a dozen different editions of the book, and I’ve been reading one or other of them for half my life. Despite the heaps of evidence that Tolstoy was in reality half crackers, you would swear from the pages of War And Peace that he was God’s stenographer. As Isaac Babel said, if the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy. So why bother with the screen adaptations at all? Well, there’s the sheer fun of watching thousands of clever people pouring millions into doing the impossible. And sometimes they can add a dimension to the studies of character, even though they always subtract a dimension from the battlefield spectacle, no matter how much they spend.” 
Unlike some reviewers, this is a man who has read his Tolstoy. He sees the beauty of his words, the look at the world and the inner workings of the minds of the characters that Tolstoy shares with us. 

“ Tolstoy’s gift is to draw upon what’s already in your head. But in your head there might be no Pierre Bezhukov except the dolt you see in the mirror, and over him you will always cast a gloss, usually by imagining you are really the broodingly taciturn Andrei Bolkonsky. On the page, Tolstoy’s limitation is you. On screen, the writer and director can get you into less restricted territory.”  
“After Pierre (played in the BBC adaptation by the American actor Paul Dano, with a faultless mastery of the whole range of dithering) came into his gigantic inheritance and set off to inspect his holdings with a view to spreading justice and thereby improving the world, there was one little scene that perfectly sums up his character. Noticing a woodpile stacked against a hut, and two or three bits of wood still lying around the chopping block, Pierre picks up the two or three bits and adds them to the pile. Then he dusts his hands and lies down, plainly to dream about the sanctity of honest labour.

In half a minute you have had it proved to you that Pierre’s ineffectual sensitivity will always sabotage his ideals. From both the adapter, Andrew Davies, and the director, Tom Harper, this is sterling work: I marvelled at it, and forgave Davies his earlier, almost fatal boldness in making Pierre’s bad choice of wife, Hélène (Tuppence Middleton), a livelier character than Natasha (Lily James). Besides, Natasha revved up nicely in the later stages, and I quite saw how her impatience to get her sex life started might have impelled her to seek initiation elsewhere when Andrei (James Norton) so strangely obeyed his mad father and put off the marriage for a year.”  

 “It was quite believable that Natasha thought a year was an eternity. Harder to believe was that she found Anatole an acceptable substitute as an object for her hot-blooded longings. From certain angles, he might have had a facial bone structure not notably inferior to that of the current Duke of Cambridge, but his general demeanour was of some well-connected lout who had failed the intelligence test for entry to the Bullingdon club.”  
Indeed! Who would throw over the dark, deep and deeply gorgeous Bolokonski for Anatole, who in pure Americana, is nothing more than a frat boy?

“Whichever gender we may be, we have to be in love with Natasha ourselves, because she is life, about whose fleeting nature Tolstoy had been preoccupied since he first dodged bullets among the bastions at Sebastopol. So not only must Natasha be a knockout, she must have the imaginative hunger of, well, of a novelist.”  

“People who accuse Davies of being too interested in sex, however, should remember that Tolstoy himself was capable of conceiving a whole epic in the form of a beauty contest. That, partly, is what War And Peace is: and although it is often more, it is never less. Tolstoy, to paint his Veronese-sized picture of the dvoriantsvo (the Russian upper class), was looking back to a time when he was not yet born; but when he was writing the book, the noble marriage market was still going on all around him and he knew all about it. Above all, he knew that it wasn’t just a stock market, it was a meat market. Female beauty was a currency.

In his text he was ruthless about having old Bolkonsky tell his daughter Marya that she was no looker and that nobody would want to marry her. (The new screen version was less ruthless in casting Jessie Buckley as a Cinderella who gradually blossomed into one of the loveliest women on the screen.) Finally, Tolstoy says, personality counts most; but initially, he admits, sexual attraction rules.” 

 Read the rest of Clive James review at The Guardian 

You can stream War and Peace starring lovely James Norton and the equally lovely Lily James and Paul Dano on Amazon, Hulu, iTunes and Vudu.  War and Peace is available on dvd at Netflix.

Compare that with Episode One of the 1972 BBC version where everyone, while dutifully parroting lines straight from the book, seems quite a bit older than Tolstoy’s characters as written. It’s really a study in contrast between the rather speeded up version that we saw on television (the BBC without commercials in the UK, Lifetime with plenty of, here in the states) these last few weeks. The BBC has learned, that modern viewers with our 140 character twitter attention spans, couldn’t possibly hang in for the slow and steady duration. Like Tolstoy’s novel, really appreciating War and Peace, takes a whole lot of time. Time, my friends, most of us just don’t seem to have anymore.

Friday, February 9, 2018

"It Starts with the Script" The Writer's Panel at the Santa Barbara Film Festival

It starts on the page. Whether it’s an original script or a script based on a book, somewhere a writer sat down in front of a blank page and began. “Once upon a time’’  “On a dark and stormy night.’’ 

IndieWire’s Anne Thompson gathered some of this year’s Oscar-nominated writers at the Santa Barbara Film Festival—the gorgeous seaside city is probably the closest thing we have to Cannes—for a nice long chat about their work. Love writers? You’re going to love this panel.

Her “It Starts with the Script” panel featured director Edgar Wright, who attached a music file to his music-driven screenplay for Baby Driver,Virgil Williams whose script for Mudbound was based on the book by Hilary Jordan, Michael H. Weber (absent his writing partner Scott Neustadter) who talks about taking notes from Tommy Wiseau on The Disaster Artist, Vanessa Taylor, who co-wrote The Shape of Water with Guillermo del Toro, Adrian Molina, who made the transition from storyboard artist to screenwriter on the animated feature Coco, rookie Liz Hannah who sold her spec screenplay The Post before she landed an agent, and Emily V. Gordon, who wrote about her real life relationship with her husband actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani on The Big Sick.

As I said, it’s a nice long one—almost an hour and a half—so you may want to bookmark this page and come back to watch at your leisure.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable: The Actors 2018

Yesterday I shared the Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable. Today, let’s hear it for the guys. Although, to be honest, maybe our problems begin right there, with that separation of the sexes, which seems to cement in our differences. I’m all for having separate categories for male and female actors but I’m not sure when it comes to talking about the craft if that’s necessary or even helpful. I just don’t know. 

Anyway, we’ve got Tom Hanks who industry types thought could get a nod for The Post—and the nicest guy in town, not a whiff of sexual harassment here—James Franco who was ignored in the Best Actor category for Disaster Artist because when it comes to Franco there is that taint, [nope, they didn’t edit him out] Best Actor Oscar-nominated Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour, Best Supporting Actor Nominee Willem Dafoe for Florida Project, Best Supporting Actor Nominee Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and John Boyega who is there because of the huge popularity of the Star Wars franchise.

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