Tuesday, April 30, 2013

James Franco goes to Cannes with William Faulkner

Franco as Darl Bundren and
Jim Parrack (True Blood) as Cash Bundren
VIA Entertainment Weekly
Lots of bookish movie news from busy, busy James Franco whose screen adaptation of William Faulkner's classic As I Lay Dying is headed for Cannes. The process of making the film has taken a good, long time. According to EW who spoke with him early in 2011, he initially hoped to have Michael Shannon, Paul Dano, Richard Jenkins and Joaquin Phoenix on board but that didn't pan out; Richard Jenkins is still on the imdb.com listing as 'rumored' so we'll see. 

While James Franco doesn't have an A-list cast - unless you count Franco of course -  Franco is Franco, and As I Lay Dying is being welcomed into this year's Cannes festival in the Un Certain Regard category. 
In the YouTube video below Franco talked about his plans for the film. At that point the script was 160 pages which he allowed was too long (based on the page per minute rule); he clearly found his cuts, the film the Cannes festival goers will see runs 2 hours.
EW notes how difficult the book must have been to adapt: Faulkner uses 15 different points of view to tell the story of the death of Addie Bundren (Beth Grant) and her family's quest to honor her wish to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson.
James told EW
"As I Lay Dying was a book that my father gave me and I can remember spending a weekend reading late into Friday night and Saturday night, when all of my friends were out partying…It was a difficult book back then. I just tried to understand every line of it. It stayed with me"
And if you're curious as to how he divvied up the book - he's not just credited with starring and directing; he also wrote the screenplay - Franco had this to say which seems an entirely sensible approach... 
"I don’t believe it’ll feel the same if you divide it as rigidly as the book, like titles that say ‘Cash’ and then you’re with Cash. You can slip into the characters’ heads and give them their inner voice for a while, but it has to be more fluid because movies just work differently than books. Movies, in some ways because they deal in images, are more concrete. I want to be loyal to the book — my approach is to always be loyal in a lot a ways — but in order to be loyal I will have to change some things for the movie.
The film's cast also includes Danny McBride, Logan Marshall-Green, Tim Blake Nelson and Ahna O'Reilly. That's not a typo, the name is Ahna not Anna; her imdb page lists "was formerly in a relationship with James Franco" on her trivia page. 


More bookish movie news from James Franco; he's agreed to direct and star in the adaptation of Andre Dubus III The Garden of Last Days which I read when it first came out. I found it as compelling a culture clash as Dubus III haunting House of Sand and FogThe New Yorker writes that the book was inspired by the 'rumored visit of 9/11 hijackers to a strip club shortly before their attacks. "In the fictional Puma Club, in Sarasota, Florida, a twenty-six-year-old named Bassam al-Jizani watches Spring, a stripper, undress, and finds his "hatred for these kufar rising with the knowledge of his own weakness."  According to Deadline, Franco got the OK to set the story in current day New York, which is where production starts early in July. I wonder if he's planning on playing Bassam, the Saudi Arabian fanatic, or AJ, the husband and father who is spiralling out of control. And who will play April? Hard to say since right now the project is listed simply as being in development.

Personal Connection: I don't know James Franco at all but my husband Mark worked with him pretty closely as an Assistant Director on Tristan and Isolde and couldn't speak highly enough of him. I know that Franco is a huge reader and so is Mark, better known to y'all as MLH; I'm not surprised they bonded over books. When Tristan and Isolde wrapped, Franco gifted him with a stack of his favorites including several from James Ellroy (Franco has plans to adapt Ellroy's American Tabloid), Raymond Chandler (Russell is reading my husband's Franco-signed copy of The Big Sleep right now), Dashiell Hammit and Bukowski but no Faulkner ... which MLH would NOT have read anyway. And having read Absolom, Absolom neither would I. Ok, I might. 
For the record, James didn't just sign the books of course; he penned a sweet and appreciative personal note and finished it off with his quirky signature funny face doodle. Such a thoughtful, personal gift for my hardworking MLH so you've got to know what I think of James Franco ... I'm a huge fan.


Monday, April 29, 2013

GATSBY: The French Connection

Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby 

The Great Gatsby is much on my mind - I just finished rereading F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic last night - but I wanted to connect with Accidental Blog's Dreaming of France meme so  allow me to make my French Connection. It's a tenuous thread but here me out.

There's a scene in Chapter 5 after Gatsby and Daisy have reunited over tea at Nick's cottage. Gatsby's taken them on the tour of his mansion, Daisy's seen his spectacular shirt collection, all the clippings he's saved over the years. Gatsby has a cryptic phone conversation and Daisy is standing by the window looking at the sky. 


The rain was still falling, but the darkness had parted in the west, and there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea. 
“Look at that,” she whispered, and then after a moment: “I’d like to just get one of those pink clouds and put you in it and push you around.”

Je t'aime that image and you have to wonder if Boris Viann loved it too, at least the concept of it, if not the particulars. Was the French writer inspired by the idea of floating about in the clouds when he created the cloud car depicted in Michel Gondry's screen adaptation of Mood Indigo (L'ecume Des jours)


Audry Tautou and Romain Duris in Mood Indigo (L'ecume des Jours)

While the cloud car isn't pink, this image was the first thing I thought of when I re-read those lines from The Great Gatsby. So that's my French Connection for Dreaming of France. Now that I've got you here, check out this new trailer for Mood Indigo. This one has subtitles!



 Oh, if you're interested I've got a separate spot where I house all my Great Gatsby posts.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook: Alternate Ending from the DVD

The Silver Linings Playbook comes out on Blu-ray and DVD just two days from now on April 30th. It has some nice sounding extras:                                             

  • Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became A Movement
  • Dance Rehearsal
  • Going Steadicam With Bradley Cooper
  • Learn To Dance Like Pat & Tiffany
  • Q&A Highlights
  • and Deleted Scenes.




Along those lines, here's some alternative ending footage from the Blu-Ray/DVD release. The teenager in the Viking shirt is director David O. Russell's son, Matthew; it was Matthew who inspired Russell to make the film.

I can see why this footage was discarded. There are some nice moments, - especially the bits between Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker (ie 'fajshooole' ) - but the mean 'joke' towards the end is completely counter to everything the movie is supposed to be about. I'm just dumbfounded it even made it on film (or digital?)! What do you think? Am I out of line?

Silver Linings Playbook - Alternate Ending 4:18 minutes


Saturday, April 27, 2013


A glorious day in L.A. and I'm back into What Maisie Knew.  Rough going for a bit in the beginning; James' writing is full of long sentences chockablock with clauses that you just can't skim over. As much as my heart immediately went out to the character of Maisie; I couldn't get into it so I put What Maisie Knew aside and turned to some more contemporary novels...

Neil Gordon's The Company You Keep (the film starring Robert Redford and Shia LaBoeuf is in theaters now) and Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (the film with Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong is currently filming in London). I've posted my take on both books on my About A Book page. Also read Karen Thompson Walker's Age of Miracles but haven't written up anything yet. Catherine Hardwick (Twilight, Thirteen) was brought on to direct the adaptation. I chattered a bit about the casting here.

Anyway, getting into the swing of James' language and getting to know all the players in this messy tale of divorce and a little girl caught in the middle; right now I wouldn't give you a nickel for any of them except Maisie and Mrs. Wix - although even she is after something from poor Maisie. She's the innocent pawn in the game; and her parents use her the worst of all.

Post: Saturday Snapshot hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Thanks Alyce!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

When I read they were making a live action version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, I immediately had a warm and fuzzy memory of reading the darkly funny book to my son.  But when I mentioned to Russell they were making a film with Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner as Alexander's parents; his face couldn't have looked blanker.
I googled an image of the cover like I always do to post here -  there it is on the left - and sitting right next to it was a shot of a page from the book.

I clicked to enlarge the image so I could read the text.
 Hmmm. This didn't seem to be the story I remembered about a boy named Alexander who was angry and scared about having to move; this was about a boy named Alexander who was having, well, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Duh. So what was I thinking? I googled around a bit more and found it. I'm sure you've figured out by now that I never read the original Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to my son.

The book I read - or may have read - to Russell is this one,
Alexander, Who's Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move, also by Judith Viorst. I was probably using it the way parents use The Berenstain Bears (do they still?) to help a child cope with a problem or teach a little life lesson. We must have been moving and I must have hoped the book would help.  I showed Russell the cover and the page from the book. He squinted; dug deep into the memory bank. "The cover looks familiar. Maybe?"  But I could tell he was just being kind; must be something in those Berenstain Bears books after all.

Thanks to rarestkindofbest.com where I grabbed the page images.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson; the first paragraphs

Just finished S.J. Watson's thriller Before I Go To Sleep.  I'll try to get my take posted soon but The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is technically first on my to-do list. For now I've put down some thoughts on my Currently Reading page.

I will say these first two paragraphs got me ...

Today
"The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don't know where I am, how I came to be here. I don't know how I'm going to get home.

I have spent the night here. I was woken by a woman's voice - at first I thought she was in bed with me, but then realized she was reading the news and I was hearing a radio alarm - and when I opened my eyes found myself here. In this room I do not recognize."

'In this room I do not recognize.'  An ominous beginning, yes? 

The screen adaptation is in works for release next year. Here's how the producers sum it up on imdb.com:

A woman wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.

The film stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong and is currently filming at Twickenham Studios and in and around London. I think the casting of Kidman as Christine, the woman with amnesia, and the eternal good guy Firth as her husband Ben is brilliantly spot on. If Mark Strong is playing her doctor, at 50ish, he's not as young as the Dr. Nash that Watson has written (in the novel Dr. Nash is a good deal younger than the 47 year old Christine ) but he'll do nicely, very, very nicely. I say 'if' because imdb hasn't posted their character names yet but most of the trades report Kidman was cast first, then Strong as the doctor, with Firth following as Ben. Anne-Marie Duff - Edith in Parades End -  is Christine's friend, Claire. Dean-Charles Chapman - Martyn Lannister on Game of Thrones is the son, Adam.

I actually think Strong or Colin Firth could play the more demanding role of the husband and I almost wish  it was Strong that got it; he must have wanted it. While he's well known for leading parts in Britain, we just don't see enough of him here in the states; not only is he a fine and underutilized actor, he's also sexy as hell.  IMHO and all that. Strong and Colin Firth have worked together before; they both gave beautifully nuanced performances in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spythey were also in the original British film  Fever Pitch film based on Nick Hornby's novel way back in 1997 - not the 2005 remake starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. Firth and Nicole Kidman recently wrapped The Railway Men based on Eric Lomax's eponymous memoir, which comes out later this year.

First Paragraph Tuesday at Bibliophile by the Sea

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mr. Morgan's Last Love stars Michael Caine: Can you identify the Paris locations?

There's still no word on a release date for the French/German production of Mr. Morgan's Last Love starring Michael Caine, Clemence Poesy and Gillian Anderson. Caine plays a widowed American who forms a friendship with a young French woman (Clemence Poesy). Gillian Anderson is the disapproving daughter. The film, based on the French novel, La Douceur Assassine by author, playwright and actress, Francoise Dorner is set in Paris and clearly these three shots from the film could be taken no place other than France.
But where?
Do any of you Francophiles out there recognize the street in the first shot? How about the ancient cemetery where Michael Caine stands holding the lilies? Is that Pere La Chaise Cemetery? I know the last shot could be just about anywhere in France, I included it because it's an example of the simple French farmhouse style of building that I personally adore. I'm guessing some of the people checking out Dreaming of France over at An Accidental Blog will be easily able to I.D.  the first two locations. If you do, please post in the comments section. Merci.
I'm hating the insipid poster by the way; hope advertising and marketing gets their act together.



























Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Maisie Knew : Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars (trailer)

The latest trailer for What Maisie Knew features "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" from Stars. Contemporary music for a contemporary movie. I love the idea of modern day versions of classic novels but in reality they often go awry. I'm thinking of  the version of Great Expectations where Pip (Finn) is a painter living in Manhattan with Gwyneth Paltrow as his Estella.  Pretty sexy stuff but hardly Dickens.
What Maisie Knew, an updated adapatation of the classic Henry James novel, looks to be one of the good ones. The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last week stars Julianne Moore as Maisie's slacker mom and aging rock star, Alexander Skarsgard as the step dad, and youngster, Onata Aprile as Maisie. Steve Coogan plays the girl's irresponsible dad, the art dealer Beale. Joanna Vonderham plays Margo, Maisie's nanny and, Beale's love interest
The film debuted at TIFF last September and is finally making its way to the states in limited release on April 26th.
I shared an earlier trailer here ; scroll down to see the newest version which looks awfully good to me. I honestly can't get over the little girl. She's a funny little thing and so natural and compelling. The next Dakota Fanning or Abigail Breslin? Despite what look like typically fine performances from Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgard (based on my limited look at the trailer, but still ...) it looks like Onata really lights up the screen and steals the show. Fun to watch!


In case you've forgotten the plot - or if you're so ancient (like me) you can't remember if you read it or not way back when - here's how Barnes and Noble sums up the book:
What Maisie Knew (1897) represents one of James's finest reflections on the rites of passage from wonder to knowledge, and the question of their finality. The child of violently divorced parents, Maisie Farange opens her eyes on a distinctly modern world. Mothers and fathers keep changing their partners and names, while she herself becomes the pretext for all sorts of adult sexual intrigue. In this classic tale of the death of childhood, there is a savage comedy that owes much to Dickens. But for his portrayal of the child's capacity for intelligent 'wonder', James summons all the subtlety he devotes elsewhere to his most celebrated adult protagonists. Neglected and exploited by everyone around her, Maisie inspires James to dwell with extraordinary acuteness on the things that may pass between adult and child.

The filmmakers put it a bit more cryptically on their IMDB page:
In New York City, a young girl is caught in the middle of her parents' bitter divorce.


What Maisie Knew trailer  2:14 minutes

"Your Ex-Love is Dead" by Stars



That certainly is a timeless topic. Check out the trailer. Looks good, yes? The film comes from the producers of The Kids are Alright, a film I adored, with the directors (a duo) responsible for The Bee Season.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Margaret Atwood at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

 Off to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC.  

Margaret Atwood is in the house!


Once a year Los Angelenos prove they have a bookish bent at the L.A. Times Festival of Books - a large and amazing gathering of authors and readers that always surprises with its large attendance. 
"You live in Los Angeles and you read? Wow. Shocker"
Anyway, I'm so looking forward to seeing Margaret Atwood today; it's a gorgeous spring day and I'm happy to be sharing some bookish fun with an old, old friend. Ms Atwood is first up on the schedule; I have to sign off so I can get going!
Atwood has just received the Innovators Award from the L.A. Times.  There's a wonderful piece on Atwood in the Times; here's the link to the whole piece but here's a couple of quotes I found interesting.
"I was an early website putter-upper," she jokes, "going back to the 1990's" — a decision inspired by the realization that she could connect with readers more directly by offering a virtual clearinghouse of information about her work.
A different set of issues led to her invention, in 2006, of the Long Pen, an electronic device that allows users to sign books or documents remotely and in real time, "a one-time unique signature," she says. Atwood was looking for a way to cut down on travel, and her carbon footprint, while still being able to interact with distant bookstores — and their customers.
What connects these endeavors is a sense of technology as practical, not theoretical, as a strategy rather than an end."
AND
"I'm encouraged by all this online activity," Atwood says, calling it an incubator in which writers and readers can find new pathways to each other. "Writing and reading are learned skills, and they have to be taught. You can write a wonderful masterpiece, but if no one reads it, it's an unplayed score."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist stars a brunette Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist  starring Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Keifer Sutherland and Riz Ahmed comes out on April 26th in limited distribution. The film is on my list of Movies Based on Books 2013, but I haven't heard that much about it. If you're not familiar with Riz Ahmed; he's a British actor and well-known rapper. I just learned that the 2011 film Trishna starring Ahmed and Frieda Pinto (Slum dog Millionaire) directed by Michael Winterbottom, is a screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. It's available on Amazon Prime, if you want to check it out. The trailer looks amazing ... but I digress... back to The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Reading the book's description, and watching the trailer (below) I have to say I'm officially intrigued. It looks like an important movie that will generate a lot of conversation and possibly controversy - hard to say without reading the book or seeing the movie but since it's about a Pakistani in post 9/11 America, that's a pretty good bet. Especially if it turns out that the Boston bombing was an Al-Qaeda terrorist act.
.
Read the publisher's info, then watch the trailer and see what you think.


From the publisher 
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
New York Times bestseller

“One of those achingly assured novels that makes you happy to be a reader.” —Junot Diaz

A brunette Kate Hudson and dishy Riz Ahmed
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful encounter . . .
Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite valuation firm. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his budding romance with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.
But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his relationship with Erica shifting. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist trailer 2:25 minutes 


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Divergent Casting News: Shailene Woodley joined by Tony Goldwyn


Update: 4/17/2013
Even while filming for Divergent got underway 
So long Aaron Eckhardt

in Chicago last week - the movie is slated to come out on March 21, 2014 - we get the surprising casting news that Tony Goldwyn has been cast as Andrew Prior, Prior is Tris'(Shailene Woodley) father in the Veronica Roth novel.  A bit odd since Aaron Eckhart had been set to play the role but it happens all the time. Personally I hate to say goodbye to Eckhardt - who has Divergent listed on his imdb.com page as 'Currently filming' -  but I don't suppose the Divergent fan base will miss him. Not with the slew of handsome young men that the director, Neil Burger  has lined up: Theo James as Four,  Ansel Elgort as Caleb, Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Will,  Ben Lamb as Henry,  Jai Courtney as Eric, Christian Madsen as Al and Miles Teller as Peter. Teller will also star opposite Shailene in The Spectacular Now.

Theo James / Four

Ben Lloyd-Hughes/ Will
Ansel Elgort / Caleb
Ben Lamb/Edward


Jai Courtney / Eric
Miles Teller / Peter
Christian Madsen/Al

As it stands now, here's the Divergent cast list:
“Tris” – Shailene Woodley
“Four” – Theo James
“Jeanine” – Kate Winslet
“Caleb” – Ansel Elgort
“Marcus” – Ray Stevenson
“Peter” – Miles Teller
“Christina” – Zoë Kravitz
“Al” – Christian Madsen
“Will” – Ben Lloyd-Hughes
“Molly” – Amy Newbold
“Edward” – Ben Lamb
“Eric” – Jai Courtney
“Max” – Mekhi Phifer
“Tori” – Maggie Q
“Natalie” – Ashley Judd
“Andrew” – Tony Goldwyn


Divergent Update: 3/21/2013:  This is the 3rd update I think of the Divergent casting progress, in almost as many days. Today's big news:  Kate Winslet will join Shailene Woodley (Tris) in the movie based on Veronica Roth's book. She'll play Jeanine Matthews, the most powerful member of the Erudite faction.  
Here's my original post...

A couple of days ago I posted that Jai Courtney had been cast, and now Divergent has finally found its' Four to play opposite Shailene Woodley as Tris; Theo James. The handsome almost 30 year old British actor is known for television's Golden Boy, Underworld: The Awakening and he was the very epitome of tall dark and handsome in his appearance on Downton Abbey as Kemal Pamuk, the exotic seducer of Lady Mary. 
Theo James to play Four in Divergent
With its scheduled April start date in Chicago just around the corner, the casting office has been very busy sending out offers and getting contracts signed. In addition to Theo James, details are getting nailed down for deals with Kate Winslet, Aaron Eckhart, Ray Stevenson and Miles Teller who's also costarring with Shailene in The Spectacular Now. They join Jai Courtney (Peter), Zoe Kravitz as Christina, Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior and Maggie Q.  Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless) directs. Vanessa Taylor and Evan Daugherty wrote the script based on Veronica Roth's book. The film already has a scheduled release date of March 21, 2014. 

Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, co-chairmen of Lionsgate, the studio behind the film are clearly hoping to have Divergent book fans on board with the films casting:

Theo is not only an incredibly talented actor, he is also who we envisioned as Four when reading Veronica’s novel which has taken the world by storm. As we continue to develop the film, the studio remains committed to providing fans with a movie adaptation that stays as true to the book as possible and we are confident that we have done so with our selection of Shailene and Theo in the leading roles.
We took our time to find the right actor to fill the role of Four, and Theo is definitely the perfect fit,” said Feig. “Veronica has crafted a truly iconic character in Four and we cannot wait to begin production and bring him and this story to life for millions of fans around the world.”

 Divergent fans: Does the casting of Theo James as Four in Divergent work for you?  

Oh God, not another Great Gatsby trailer

Is that what you're thinking about me posting a new Gatsby trailer?  "Oh God, not another Gatsby trailer."  Because that's what I thought when I saw it.  Not that I don't love this stuff; clearly I do. But this one has quite a bit of new footage; at this point I feel like I'm perilously close to having seen the entire movie. And this probably won't be the last as we ramp up to the May 10th opening. Just because I already know the story doesn't mean I want to see every nuance of Luhrmann's vision ahead of time.  Oh, the irony; me bitching about new bookish movie news but there it is. Don't ruin my fun. Having seen it once, I look away or switch channels when the TV version pops up.  If you haven't seen it and want to take a peek - I wouldn't - here it is. It features a new song collaboration by Fergie, Q-tip and GoonRock.  At least I know who Fergie is, I gather some of you may be familiar with the other two.

For more Gatsby movie news, visit my Gonzo for Gatsby page.



GATSBY Trailer 1:30 
'A Little Party Never Killed No Body"
 But you don't have to watch it!


Monday, April 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby: My take on the 1974 film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow

In full Gonzo for Gatsby mode, prepping myself for Baz Luhrmann's less-than-a-month-away remake of The Great Gatsby, I re-watched the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in the title roles. Luhrmann will be the fourth filmmaker to have adapted the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic; will the fourth time be the charm? The first Gatsby movie came out in 1926, the year after the book was published - you can watch the trailer for the silent film here.  The second version was made in 1949 - I know nothing about that one yet - the third is the 1974 version which I watched on Amazon Prime. I could have rented it for $2.99 but I splurged on the extra dollar for HD; not sure if that makes a difference.

I'd seen the movie years ago; presumably when it first came out. I remembered hazily that I loved how Robert Redford looked as Jay Gatsby because I'm predisposed to do so, but that the film had seemed, well, just okay. I remembered a song, sad and slow, from the soundtrack: An Irving Berlin song "What'll I do when I am all alone and feeling blue, what'll I do?" That song still trails around mournfully in my mind.

I began watching the film and was relieved that it wasn't awful from start to finish. It was easy to see what they did right: the production design and the costumes were stunning. Gatsby's mansion feels like a cold and empty, if magnificent, museum except when it's transformed for those famous parties. Lit up like an amusement park, overrun with guests and servants, at those moments it translated well as the home of the wealthy man desperate to prove himself to Daisy and the world; to impress.  But looking at the massive grey stone mansion head on, the morning after, emptied of its crowd, Gatsby's mansion looks like nothing more than a huge, and portentous,  mausoleum.

Everyone looked gorgeous, of course. Redford was delicious as Gatsby; the quasi-period pastel suits suited him to a tee. I say 'quasi' because I read somewhere that costume designer Theoni Aldredge adjusted the menswear designs so the pants were slimmer than they would have been in real life during the time period. She did that to make the men look better and they do. That's such a flashpoint for argument, reel life vs real life; I tend to prefer a stricter adherence to historical accuracy which Luhrman's iteration won't give us either. In any case Redford, was gorgeous. And Mia's clothes were gorgeous. Her clothes; not her. Nor her performance.

Mia Farrow - perpetually caught in the headlights
Mia. For me she is the biggest - most obvious, anyway - flaw in this film. Mia Farrow was so artificial - beyond the artificiality of Daisy and her weak, duplicitous nature - and barely beautiful. Certainly not beautiful enough to have entranced Gatsby and the gads of other beaus so much; remember Gatsby bemoans the fact that he couldn't get just one hour alone with her, so many other gentlemen came to call? Surely it wasn't just her wealth and all that sparkling silver that caught his eye? No he was absolutely in love, married to her in his mind; his need and ache for Daisy over-arches everything. Enough so that the woman he loves isn't really the Daisy we see.  In part it's because he's transformed her in his mind to be something she never was, isn't and can't be - better, stronger, transformed by the power of love into something rare and beautiful - but we don't see that woman, or truly feel the ache of love Redford's Gatsby feels for Mia Farrow's Daisy.

They have little chemistry together - I refuse to blame Redford so I'll just say I don't really understand why Farrow was cast at all, she's just too wispy, insubstantial and awkward looking to have inspired such passion ... but that's just my opinion; clearly her husbands, Frank Sinatra before Gatsby, and Woody Allen after, would disagree. Mia Farrow's vagueness worked in Allen's beautiful Hannah and her Sisters; not so much here.

But truly, my love for Redford aside, what does his Gatsby do - besides look deliciously cool in a suit - to charm and captivate? What does Gatsby do? Really there is nothing; no banter, no flirtation, just the stilted invocation of what used to be and the laying on of what Gatsby thinks will impress; the too-sparkling silver, the abundance of shirts, the parties created especially to lure Daisy in. This is the surface stuff that does seduce Daisy, it's offered as some sort of proof of his love ; I would prefer to see Gatsby shower her with more passion and zeal even though I know the outcome can never be altered.

There is a scene where the two kiss; their lips are locked together, their bodies frozen, the camera panning around them slowly and it just looks ridiculous; as if they are two statues clamped together somehow but stone-like, without feeling. I'm not sure if the director is trying to show their love, locked in place on that veranda eight years ago, but it didn't work.

Love Sam Waterston
as Nick
Scott Wilson was riveting as the pathetic Wilson,
the garage owner.
What I did like
Sam Waterston with his low key approach captured Nick Carraway's bemused, half-in-love admiration for Gatsby; like Nick, I can't indict Gatsby, I just feel so sorry for him and all the shattered dreams. Scott Wilson, as Myrtle's husband really surprised and moved me as the hapless husband and garage owner devastated by his wife's betrayal. Watching the film I perked right up watching him; who is that actor, I thought, knowing I'd seen his work before. Some nominal research at imdb.com delivered; a tireless character actor with longevity; you can see more of his work currently in The Walking Dead. Karen Black was a little too histrionic as Myrtle for my taste - she always is - but it's not easy to pull off sucking blood from your fingers with a crazy gleam in your eye. Lois Chiles as Jordan Baker was lovely if a little less disdainful than her origin; remembering her from The Way We Were I always wonder why she hasn't had a bigger film career.

There's one more thing I really didn't like and that's the final song over the ending credits. Even if you've never read The Great Gatsby and you don't know precisely how it ends, you probably know it doesn't end well; it's a tragedy and even a lackluster version of the story is going to stoke a sad melancholia. Why director Jack Clayton decided to end the film with Ain't We Got Fun over the credits is a mystery. I suppose he was aiming for irony, cuz' no way do we have fun, but it falls flat here, completely undercutting any emotional response you might have towards the pathos inherent in the story. I would have preferred the song Gatsby plays on his victrola, that sad mournful song that reminds him of Daisy.

Here's a montage someone made set to that Irving Berlin song, written in 1922; that's the Nelson Riddle orchestra playing it.







So that's my take on the 1974 rendition of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. What can I say; I recommend it for educational rather than entertainment purposes. I'm following Baz Luhrmann's efforts to adapt the book, as evidenced in the trailer and various articles, some of which I've shared at my GONZO for GATSBY page - and am nervously awaiting the big reveal on May 10th. Has he learned from the past; will he get it right?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

New sketches of the Museum of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...and a Saturday Snapshot :)

The current architectural rendering for The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
(©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Studio Pali Fekete architects/©A.M.P.A.S.)

As some of you know we moved into the Third and Fairfax area in Los Angeles almost a year ago.
We are blessed to live between the original Farmers Market and trendy Grove shopping area a five minute walk to the north, and the LA Brea Tar Pits and fabulous LACMA, the Los Angeles County  Museum of Art just five minutes to the south. Everything we need is a walk away; a rarity for L.A. and paradise for former suburbanites like MLH and me.

And now we're one step closer to realizing the dream of a world-class museum devoted to the cinematic arts. The project is a joint venture between LACMA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The  LA Times has a terrific article that I won't even try to paraphrase here but  visit the link if you're interested. It's going to be amazing; a theater of course but also a diy studio, workshops with seasoned pros plus props and artifacts - oh, do go to the link and read it yourself; it's going to be sensational. These architectural drawings just blow me away; especially as this amazing building is going to be just down the block!
This is a picture I took this past summer. Every Friday during the warm months LACMA hosts jazz concerts in the evening. Crowds gather with picnics, kids running around and it's dog friendly too. I love it!

See more SATURDAY SNAPSHOT pictures at At Home with Books. Thanks as always Alyce for hosting such a fun meme.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing: A pretty pair of posters.


Alliteration aside, these posters pack a powerful punch. Sorry, I'll stop, but seriously don't they? The decidedly contemporary black and white images accentuat-ed, on the left, by the tart tangerine type and cocktail and, on the right by the sharpish pink of the clean and blocky font, both tease Joss Whedon's hyper modern, Shakespeare without fear approach to  Much Ado About Nothing. Modern in all respects but the language which remains true to the original so brush up your Shakespeare and be prepared for rhyming couplets. Actually, doesn't it always amaze you how easily understood the great bard's language is in the right hands? Both the director and the actors are unabashed Shakespeare-lovin' geeks so the right hands have it; check out how fresh and funny it all reads in the trailer. (below)

Much Ado About Nothing comes out June 21st. 

Make some ado!

In an EW Q and A, Alexis Denisof, Benedick to Amy Acker's Beatrice, weighed in on the poster art and a couple of other key questions.

How does the image on this poster capture the feel of the film?
I love this poster. I think the image really captures the spirit of this movie. It’s amusing and unique and eye-catching. I think it was a good image to choose. This image of Fran [Kranz] in the pool with the snorkel mask and a martini glass just sums up the quirky, fun easiness this movie has. 

How would you describe your interpretation of Benedick?
My take on Benedick was to make him a real guy. A lot of real guys don’t know themselves as well as they think they know themselves. So he starts out thinking he’s John Wayne and then falls in love and, in so doing, becomes Jerry Lewis and when he comes to terms with being in love, that’s when he becomes a real man. So that’s the evolution I tried to find in the play with this particular character.

Denisof's description of a man in love, the notion of turning into Jerry Lewis, is so right on. Ahh, love; it makes fools of all of us doesn't it?

Read the complete piece here  

I've already shared the trailer but in case you missed it, here it is again. So worth watching again!    I dig the crazy beat of the trailer's score too -  definitely worth a Huzzah!



Beautiful Ruins screen adaptation on its way.

It's official. They're making a screen adaptation and they've already hired the director. All I have to say is if you can judge a movie by the book cover, I'm in! I know lots of you have already read this; I haven't but it looks so delicious. I can see myself sitting on a rock, the turquoise mediteranean below, my shoulder warmed by the dazzling sun. Deep sigh.

Here's the yummy lowdown from Publishers Weekly
"From the moment it opens—on a rocky patch of Italian coastline, circa 1962, when a daydreaming young innkeeper looks out over the water and spies a mysterious woman approaching him on a boat—Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to the back lots of contemporary Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins is gloriously inventive and constantly surprising—a story of flawed yet fascinating people navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams."

Todd Field will direct; (Little Children, In the Bedroom) he'll also co-write the screenplay with the novel's author Jess Walter.

Walter told the L.A. Times "This is about Italy in the 1960s, Hollywood now, Hollywood then, the Seattle music scene, the Donner party, World War II. Hollywood is like a giant mirror, I think, and I used it that way in the book, reflecting characters back to themselves."

He also said he has been "simultaneously drawn to and repelled from Hollywood for years. I wanted to explore how we're all defining ourselves now. With Facebook and Twitter, we're all our own little publicists in a way. And the thing we think of as Hollywood is this kind of studio system, this thing that is sort of fractured and not what it was. The novel is full of shots at the vacuous banalities Hollywood turns out."

And gave this example "One chapter is dedicated to "Donner!" -- a detailed movie pitch that describes a group of cannibals devouring the unfortunate hero's children.

"It's the least likely movie to ever be made," he said, "but it reads exactly like a guy pitching a movie."

Is it as dazzling as I've heard? I'm looking forward to finding out. Have you read it; are you on board?

Read the rest of the L.A. Times article here
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