Monday, June 30, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey - Behind the scenes: production design


He's been nominated for his work on August: Osage CountyLife of Pi, Chocolat, Cider House Rules, Doubt, The Shipping News and Doubt. A rare home-born Los Angelino, David Gropman is the acclaimed production designer behind The Hundred-Foot Journey, the upcoming film starring Helen Mirren. 



Part of the movie was shot last summer in a tiny village in France; we were lucky enough to connect with Sally Tharpe Rowles who was lucky enough to live in that little village last summer and share some of her photographs of the location. She wrote several blogposts last year about the transformation of the village and the filming taking place, and has been generous enough to allow me to share her images here. 

Gropman, as production designer, works in conjunction with the director to create the visual direction, look and feel of the film. In this behind the scenes look at Gropman's work on Life of Pi, the production designer told his San Francisco State alma mater he always begins:
"with pencil, paper and a trip to the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection, where he pulls photos from archives to begin immersing himself in other times and distant places. He strives to be a “mini-expert,” so, he says, he can leave the photos behind and begin building a world from scratch." 
Building a mini world

And he works hand in hand with a set decorator to execute that vision. On The Hundred-Foot Journey Gropman worked with French set decorator Marie-Laure Valla; she's best known on this side of the Atlantic for Amelie.

An old cafe becomes a bookstore ... just don't look inside!
An old bistro becomes a new cafe
Every town needs a droguerie ... it's a hardware shop
And a chocolatier!
Faux leaves soften the real Café de l'Halle, changing it into the Cafe de la Place

Love France? Find more on to love at Paulita Kincer's Monday meme Dreaming of France 

Watch the Hundred Foot Journey trailer - do you see any familiar sights?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hollywood's 100 Favorite Films


Slacker Sunday calls for minimum work output; that usually means I find a video that speaks for itself. Today I'm sharing The Hollywood Reporter's new Hollywood's 100 Favorite Films, culled from the opinions of the studio heads, stars, and producers that make the films. Which is why the list is made up mainly of mainstream American movies. Besides the French film Amalie and the movie from the Japanese master, Kurasawa, The Seven Samurai, (the film was later remade as The Magnificent Seven), I don't think there's a foreign film in the batch. That built in bias aside, check out the list, see what you think. There are plenty of films based on amazing books ala Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and a family favorite in my house, The Shawshank Redemption based on the Steven King story, Rita Haworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Did your fave make the cut? What did they miss?

1 - 5 back to top

6 - 10 back to top


Saturday, June 28, 2014

New trailer for James Franco's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 'Child of God'


I pity James Franco's assistant; it must be hell trying to keep track of Franco's movements. The man is constantly on the move, involved with a boatload of projects. 

On the Franco as serious director front a new trailer for the Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God was just released. Franco cowrote the script with Vince Jolivette - a frequent collaborator - and makes an appearance in the film.  The movie which has already played a handful of festivals comes out August 1.


Scott Haze stars as Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man living in a small Tennessee town in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1960s. Deprived of parents and housing and filled with loneliness and despair, Ballard falls deeper into crime and degradation. 


Haze - one of Variety's Ten Faces to Watch in 2013 - has worked with Franco frequently as well. He was Skeet McGowan in Franco's As I Lay Dying and portrays Iris Ticket in Franco's upcoming Bukowski. I think I've mentioned Franco has been thinking about adapting Bukowski's work for a very long time, a couple of Bukowski books were in the stack he gave my husband after they met on the set of the Tristan and Isolde movie back in 2006.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Will Smith Snaps up "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" by Jenny Han


This sounds like a really fun YA adaptation - the title recalls the huge Willie Nelson/Julio Iglesias hit To All the Girls I've Loved Before from 1984 which I've included below just because it's a gorgeous song.  

The surprise for me isn't that the rights were snapped up just two months after the book hit the shelves because Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty series is quite popular, but that Will Smith's company Overbrook Entertainment was the buyer. Is there a part in Jenny Han's best selling YA novel for a member of the powerful show-bizzy family? 

Here's the story:
Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once? 
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
Annie Neal, (her script, Beauty Queen about an unhappily married woman who enters the Miss Maried America competition, made the black list last year) is writing the screenplay based on Han's book. 

Casting ideas anyone? Who would you cast to play Lara Jean Song? And speaking of songs, enjoy To All the Girls I've Loved Before.





Thursday, June 26, 2014

Josh Hutcherson is Speechless in First "Mockingjay" teaser trailer


Brainwashed Peetah has nothing to say in this dramatic teaser trailer for Mockingjay [part1] but simply stands in the corner, blank faced, curiously-coiffed and possibly wearing lipstick while President Snow calmly delivers his presidential addresss, a dire warning to the people of the districts. 

The pure white palette is in complete contrast to the darkness of Snow's oppressive rule - we all know the president only looks 'pure as the driven snow'. It sounds like this is an advertising piece which won't appear in the film; what do you think of how they play this like it's an actual presidential address from Capitol TV, no movie studio logos etc?  
At this point the film makers know we don't need a commercial to tell us who the movie stars, we know who the players are. We're acutely aware of the stakes, and I don't know about you, I think it's kind of a kick the way they've broken the fourth wall. 

President Snow warns 

IF you resist the system ... if you fight against it ... it is you who will bleed

We're also acutely aware of this being the last of Philip Seymour Hoffman's career, Hoffman's part is reportedly being completed with the aid of advanced technology. In other words they're going to recreate Hoffman in order to finish the movie, which frankly is almost as frightening as the dystopian future Collins presents. There's something deeply disturbing about crafting a performance for someone who is no longer living; I suppose it will come down to how much they had to manipulate what they already had but it feels creepy, and the consequences, down the line, may be horrific as well. How little of an actor do they need to capture on film in order to then manipulate and make into something else? Just an iota. I find that frightening.


So far fans have been thrilled with the translation of the Hunger Games to the screen. As we know, Mockingjay, the last book in Suzanne Collin's series, is being made into two movies, both being directed by Francis Lawrence who also helmed Catching Fire, which many fans claim is even better than the first film in the series.


"Panem today Panem tomorrow Panem forevever"


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

From the vault: Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench Enthrall in Notes on a Scandal


I missed this, both Zoe Heller's book What Was She Thinking[Notes on a Scandal]? which came out in 2003 and the film Notes on a Scandal which was released back in 2006. Thanks to a quiet afternoon and HBO I can tick the movie off my list; it will be very difficult to go back and read the book at this point. You tell me; is there any reason that I should?


The movie was intense. One look at the poster tells us everything we need to know. There's Cate Blanchett looking impossibly beautiful as Sheba Hart, the younger, affluent, rather out-of-place arts teacher, playing a bit of a precursor to her Oscar winning role as Jasmine in Blue Jasmine. But it's the look in Judi Dench's eyes that hints that this particular scandal might be something other than the facts of a steamy affair between Sheba and one of the teenage boys she teaches.


Both actors were nominated for Academy Awards; Blanchett was nominated as a Best Supporting Actress while Judi Dench's Barbara Covett (and yep, that's an apt name considering Barbara covets the attentions of Sheba) earned her a Best Actress nomination. 

The film was utterly absorbing. Told from Barbara's rather skewed point of view, Judi Dench's creepily intrusive character latches on to the younger woman, ostensibly mentoring Sheba in the ways of schoolroom discipline. But Sheba is lacking in self-discipline and under the watchful, jealous eye of her friend, Sheba gets more and more involved with a cocky young student (Andrew Simpson). 


At the same time Barbara imbeds herself more deeply in Sheba's home and personal life. The mighty talents of Bill Nighy are underused here as Sheba's older, scholarly husband but he so thoroughly imbues the role with grace and irresistible good humor that we never question her affection for him, their family and the life they lead together- despite the lusty trysts and regardless of what Barbara writes dismissively in her notebook.


But of course when you want an actor that can go off the rails as Sheba's husband, finally fed up with Barbara's non-stop personal invasion, does, Bill Nighy will bring it. 


But it's the women, Barbara and Sheba, Judi and Cate, that enthrall us. Poor Barbara, a sad little woman in denial about her own sexuality, has a history of wanting so much more from her friends than they can give in return. The tension that comes from that - from Sheba's unspoken awareness of Barbara's desperate affection and what she threatens to reveal if that affection isn't returned - make this a really delicious nail-biter. Directed by Richard Eyre, Notes on a Scandal is available to instant stream on Amazon. Book or no book, over half a dozen years since its release, this is definitely one to watch.




Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ansel Elgort to Play American Piano Prodigy Van Cliburn in Cold War Drama


The Fault in Our Stars Ansel Elgort has just signed on to star as Van Cliburn; the titular film role based on Howard Reich's Van Cliburn. It's likely most of Elgort's young fans will not have heard of Van Cliburn, the American piano prodigy who at age 23 came out of nowhere to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958.  


It was a huge deal at the time; Russia and the US were in the midst of the cold war, the USSR matched our nuclear arms power and had just completed the successful launch of Sputnik. It was the tensest of times and Nikita Khrushchev was seen as using the competition to flaunt Soviet superiority.


But a funny thing happened on the way to rubbing it in America's face; Van Cliburn not only won the competition with his technical virtuosity, he won the Russian hearts and minds as well. A symbol of American triumph, the pianist was given a ticker tape parade in Manhattan, thousands of people lined the streets! 

It was Van Cliburn's mother by the way - Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn - who taught Van Cliburn to play; she started when he was three, by the time the prodigy went to Juilliard he was already an accomplished concert pianist.

Elgort, lean and lanky like the 6.4 inch Cliburn, also plays piano, and has hands that will at least look like he's playing the classics perfectly.


Here's a couple of Van Cliburn clips from youtube; the first one gives you a real feel for the frenzy the young pianist created. Filmed in 1962, that's Russian premier Nikita Kruschev clapping wildly as the prodigy prepares to play Chopin's Fantasie in F Minor (Opus49) in 1962. The 14 minute piece is followed by a shorter video of Van Cliburn playing Tchaikovsky at what I believe is the same concert. 

Van Cliburn should be a challenging and exciting role for the young actor, a great history lesson wrapped up in incredible music and drama. The film will be scripted by Andrew Stern who wrote 2012's intriguing-looking Disconnect starring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis and Alexander Skarsgård.



Monday, June 23, 2014

French composer Alexandre Desplat to head Italy's iconic Venice International Film Festival Jury


Le sigh. Sexy Alexandre Desplat - the six-time Oscar nominated French composer - will head up the main competition jury at this year's 71st Venice International Film Festival running August 27 through September 6.

According to Alberto Barbera, the artistic director of the Venice fest - 
“Alexandre Desplat is not only one of the greatest composers of film scores today, but an ardent cinéphile, whose extraordinary artistic sensitivity is sustained by a profound knowledge of cinema, its history and its language.” 
What an honor for Desplat who, as the fest president teased, is "Not an actor. Not a director." It's the first time in the event's history - the world's oldest film festival - that a composer has been selected to serve as president of its main jury. Of course Desplat is no ordinary composer. 

I'm a bit of a Desplat groupie but not because of his Gallic good looks; the 52-year-old has earned Oscar nominations for his gorgeous musical scores in six films: The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King’s Speech, Argo, and Philomena.



Desplat has collaborated with some of today's most notable directors ranging from Terrence Malick and Stephen Frears to George Clooney, David Fincher, Ben Affleck, and Wes Anderson. He's composing the score for the upcoming Angelina Jolie directed movie, Unbroken, based on the book by Sea Biscuit writer, Laura Hillenbrand and composed the score for Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur Here's a look back at one of my more popular Desplat posts.  It includes a fan created playlist linking several of Desplat's compositions. 

The nine-person Venice Film Festival jury hands out eight awards on the festival’s final night, including its most prestigious honors: the Golden Lion for Best Film, the Silver Lion for Best Director, acting prizes, and two jury prizes.

Sample some Desplat now with the score for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Enjoy!

connect to Dreaming of France 


Source [The Hollywood Reporter]

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hector and the Search for Happiness: New trailer asks 'What part of Monday don't you understand?'


Talk about happiness! Best slacker Sunday ever. I woke up to find there's a new Hector and the Search for Happiness trailer out. The book was written by Francis Lelord, the real life psychiatrist who set out to find just what makes people happy. In the film version of his story the shrink is played by Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike is his current lady love left at home while he goes on his round-the-world quest to find the answer.

"We should concern ourselves not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of the pursuit."


The cast includes Toni Collette - his "unfinished business" living in Los Angeles, Christopher Plummer Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno and Veronica Ferres. The film was written and directed by Peter Chelsom.

Hector and the Search for Happiness comes out August 15th in the U.K., September 19th here in the USA.



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