Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top 5 Movies Based on Books / 2014


The Edge of Tomorrow ...  Tom Cruises his Way to Top Gun
Originally published 6/12/2014

I left the house yesterday fully intending to combine a west side appointment with seeing The Fault in Our Stars at the Landmark. But I took a detour to see the Jacaranda trees winding down on a nearby avenue and then I got distracted by a striking blue buffet at Urban Home. By the time I got to the theatre it was 11:20 and The Fault in Our Stars started at 11:00am. Drat! I still had a couple of hours to kill so, recalling my friend Laura liked it, I bought a ticket to the 11:30  showing of Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.

I love going to the movies by myself at midday; the theatre is always nearly empty and I can relax and enjoy the film without worrying whether the person I'm with is enjoying it too. I was a little surprised to see that the audience for Edge of Tomorrow, which is being trounced by The Fault in Our Stars, was a little larger than the usual handful of folks who turn up for the bargain matinee; it ended up being me, a couple of younger women, not together, a handful of t-shirt wearing 30-something guys and some older men, who like me were probably worried they wouldn't make it through the 113 minute running time  - over two hours with previews - without a bathroom break. We all had a blast.


I headed to the movies looking forward to a good cry while watching The Fault in Our Stars but I ended up having a good laugh instead. A really good laugh. Cruise is in top gun form, back to his old adorable charismatic self as Major Cage, a non-com type forced to join a unit headed to the beaches of France to fight an alien invasion. Like D-Day, it's a massacre. Cage is completely out of his depth, Cruise has him clunking comically around in a weighty armored suit, desperate to escape. Instead Cage gets zapped by an alien but rather than die, he wakes up on the deck of the aircraft carrier at the start of the day. In a hilariously effective Groundhog Day conceit, Cage relives the same pre-battle day over and over again, getting smarter, learning a little more about defeating the alien invasion  each time. He joins forces with alien fighter par excellence, Full-Metal Bitch Rita (Emily Blunt), trying to get it right and save the world by the time the movie ends.  Hence the tag line: Live. Die. Repeat.


They were fantastic together. Cruise looked amazing, nicely aged - if he's bothering with Botox he's doing it sparingly. He was manly with a sweet sexy sunniness I haven't seen in awhile. For me he was the old Top Gun Tommy, charming, charismatic and a true movie star. His comic timing was exquisite, he and Blunt and an excellent stunt team both pulled off some incredibly physical feats, the action was non-stop and the writing was fresh and funny. The script has to be one of the best Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Jack the Giant Slayer, The Tourist) has written. Directed by Doug Liman, known for the Bourne movies, Edge of Tomorrow is based on the book All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

I don't do the star rating thing but if I had to, I'd give Edge of Tomorrow 4 Tom Cruise Couch Jumps.



2  Gone Girl:  Gone Girl, Blonde Girl
Originally published October 8

My husband and I went on what's being called 'the movie date to end all dates' last night. Yep. Finally saw Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. While I've heard the movie can make you second guess your relationship, in a couple of shocking scenes I grabbed for said husband's hand and it was there, rock solid and steady as ever, so I suppose our old married love passed some sort of test. As if the tests real life has tossed our way over the last twenty plus years weren't enough? As if we both haven't looked at our mutual shortcomings before seeing this film? Come on. 

Beware: My take on the movie assumes you've read the book or seen the movie or both.

The first thing to remember about Gone Girl is that it's a movie, one that fairly closely mirrors the book that author turned screenwriter Gillian Flynn based her screenplay on. The fact that Amy Elliot Dunne is a lying, manipulative, psychotic bitch who frames her lying, cheating husband for her murder, who falsely accuses Tommy (Skoot McNairy) of rape, and turns the old romance with the controlling Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) on its ear, isn't a veiled diatribe against all women, isn't trying to say all real world female victims of rape are weak, angry women using sex - and false allegations of rape - as a weapon. Just this one woman. So, first and foremost, to those of you who would try to make the film stand for some grand sexual political statement reinforcing negative stereotypes, lighten up. Does this particular woman do everything she can to keep her man, even twisted, dark, deeply depraved things? Yes. But the fact that her bizarre behavior and evil scheming choices ends Desi's life, ruined Tommy's life, and threatens to destroy Nick's, shouldn't be taken to mean more than it means. It's a thrilling piece of fiction, which may occasionally, mirror life. My God, if every horrible, murdering male bastard we see slashing and killing in countless books and movies were supposed to be representative of the average man then surely we'd never go to the movies; the world would be such a dark and dangerous place, we'd all stay locked safely inside our homes, never to venture out where the wild things are again.



But it was a movie and a bloody good one. Standing in the theater lobby, waiting for my husband to come out of the mens' room (turning that stereotype around) I overheard a young man tell his female companion "I wanted to strangle her". They walked out of earshot before I could hear her response but mine was "I wanted to strangle both of them!" Which pretty much sums up how I felt about the books' ending as well, so entirely frustrated and angry that Nick would make the choice he makes. The movie, contrary to what we where led to believe doesn't change that basic ending. Realistic? I don't think so. But no less realistic than sending Amy home from the hospital in a clean pair of surgical greens but still covered in a garish shade of blood I'd call 'maroon 5'. No less realistic than a group of male FBI agents and state police standing by lamely while Amy wraps them around her little finger with her monstrous lie about Desi. No less realistic than carrying on an affair in a small town and your crazy wife, instead of being the stereotypical 'last to know' being the only person in the whole wide world who does know about it. 


Director David Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn didn't invent a genre or pull off some revolutionary film archetype; they just had a great time with playing with our expectations, as the best film makers and writers have always done. Add to that the imitative imaginings that we all owe the material that's come before, inspiring and giving us ideas, and you get a whole lot of depraved movie fun. I learned from a Slate magazine article that looks at what Flynn and Fincher both borrowed from the great suspense king, Alfred Hitchcock, that Gillian Flynn's father was a film professor and that she counts Psycho as one of her biggest film influences: Cue the shower scene in Gone Girl! And you don't have to be a film geek to see that Rosamund Pike, distant and haughty (one review I read said she was too 'aristocratic') is a direct descendant of Alfred Hitchcock's icy blondes. She's even played one the play, Hitchcock Blonde where she was a body double for Janet Leigh's character.

There are a couple of nice nods to the master of suspense whether, as the article points out, it's intended as homage or just outright cinematic thievery. If you remember the scene where Tippi Hedrin transforms from brunette to her true color, an icy blonde in Marnie, Amy's opposite transformation in Gone Girl is wink-wink wonderful. As is Neil Patrick Harris as Desi, when he purchases a box of hair dye to transform Amy's now-mousey hair color back to his and Hitchcock's preferred bleached blonde. Remember how Jimmy Stewart's character makes Kim Novak dye her hair blonde to look more like his Madeleine? While the article points out the similarities between Gone Girl's opening shot, a closeup of Pike's blonde head accompanied by Ben Affleck's voice over imagining cracking open that head to unspool what's inside, and Hitchcock's closeup of Kim Novak's blonde chignon, those are details for the cinephiles to be sure. The thing is we don't need to know them, we need never to have watched a Hitchcock film or clue in to whether Gone Girl is a feminist dream or a nightmare to enjoy it for what it is: two and a half hours of delicious fun, that ends with the girl and boy living 'un'happily ever after.


                                                            GONE GIRL IMAGE GALLERY

Or do they? 

Another movie goer I heard leaving the theater asked her companions if there was another book, or if this was it. That, my friends, is an interesting question. Are any of you interested in seeing what becomes of this not-so-loving couple? Fincher and Flynn are already re-teaming on an adaptation of the British thriller Utopia for HBO; maybe if we ask pretty they'd be amenable to putting Nick and Amy and their offspring in the same house together. Can you imagine the drama of these two raising children? If that was the case, I think we'd end up like poor Margo, curled up in an almost fetal position, crying as she realizes what Amy says about Nick may be true; rather than a good little Midwest woman, Amy is a duplicitous, conniving poseur, and the worst part is he likes his wife that way.
A word about the cast; yes Affleck is amazing as the asshole husband. Even Amy makes a comment about the two of them being so annoying you want to punch them in the face. Ben, you certainly do. Pike, as noted, is pretty near perfect as the icy blond. For me the big surprises were Kim Dickens as Detective Boney and Carrie Coon as Margo, both are actors I've not given an iota of thought to before. I surely will now, as both females play real women (I guess that's why they're brunettes) with intelligence and grit. Despite Boney's being cut off at the knees at the end of the movie (calm down, just metaphorically) I was mesmerized by her ability to hold our attention with her character's strength, attention to detail and no bullshit attitude. Give me more women in movies like that please. 

Trent Reznor's much talked about score was barely noticeable - a good thing - helping to build suspense and tension. Costumes by Trish Summerville were perfect although I can see why Fincher's go-to designer had to tell Affleck to stop bulking up for Superman already as the casual dress shirts he wore over the endless t-shirts did occasionally make him look not hot, but, dare I say it, borderline fat. 

So what about you? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? What was your favorite cringe-worthy scene?




3  Inherent Vice: It was a trip, man!
Originally published November 20

Inherent Vice:  An exclusion found in most property insurance policies eliminating coverage for loss      caused by a quality in property that causes it to damage or destroy itself.

Basically, you can't get insurance that covers a built in flaw. Would that you could, eh?

In a way, I was the beneficiary of the 'inherent vice' of my son's job the other day. Even though he's  currently working as a production assistant on a television show, my husband invited him to a 7pm screening of Inherent Vice. The screening was followed by a Q&A with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the directors our son most admires. However showtime was 7pm, and when you're working as a p.a. in Hollywood, thinking you'll be anywhere but on set at 7pm is simply stinkin' thinking. It's not going to happen.

Luckily, yours truly was able to swoop in at the last minute and take his place. All in a day's work for this mom; I'm a giver.



Okay, Inherent Vice. As you know I loved the book, not so much for the plot — Doc AKA Stoner detective, is trying to find his ex-old lady, Shasta and her current old man, the wealthy real estate developer Micky Wolfman — but for the magical mystery tour that reveals life in So Cal back in the day. The day being 1970.


I think the story, full of twisty plot turns, was also secondary to Pynchon, who had a lot of fun creating a crazy cast of characters. Paul Thomas Anderson took the best of them and had himself a whole lot of fun re-imagining them for the movie and having Doc (channeled adroitly by the masterful Joaquin Phoenix)— tripping along in his stoner daze like he does — encounter them in his tribute to the author and to California, the state he loves. While Doc travels further afield in Pynchon's novel, Anderson reins in Joaquin Phoenix's Sportello a bit, both in where he gets to and how he gets there. While still the very stoned out detective, and quite the crazy, he's not quite the crazy Pynchon gives us — I was disappointed Joaquin Phoenix didn't sing.  Still he gets around, encountering wacko after wacko going from the fictional Gordita Beach to Topanga to Ojai to the Glass House AKA Parker Center, the police station in downtown L.A. and various and sundry locales in between.

Here's the thing, while Doc the stoner should be the wackiest of the wack jobs, he actually serves as the voice of sanity, pointing out the craziness of the other characters, the insanity of the world around us. Quite directly as he stares in disbelief at Josh Brolin's brilliantly funny BigFoot Bjornsen as the LAPD detective orders more pancakes in a bizarre language hybrid. Not to be outdone is Martin Short's oversexed dentist, Dr. Blatnoyd, Owen Wilson who pops up again and again as Coy Harligen, a recovering heroin addict turned temporarily brainwashed shill for the Nixon admin and Benicio del Toro as Doc's lawyer Sauncho Smilax of whom Doc asks 'whose side are you on?' Indeed! That's the question of the day. Whose side are you on? Reese Witherspoon is sensibly conservative in her role as Penny, the assistant DA; secretly dating Doc, Penny perfectly represents the two-faced straight world,  'the system', the man, all of which conspire to keep the average citizen in his or her place, so the greedy corporations and the politicians in bed with them, can keep on keeping on. In contrast to all the misdeeds of the thugs and the police, Doc Sportello is the good guy, a wise man, in a film filled with liars and fools, 'gypsies, tramps and thieves.'

Anderson expands the role of Sortilége from the book where she waxed poetic about the lost continent of Lemuria; in PTA's film, Joanna Newsom's "Lége" does the voice over as Doc's maternal, all-knowing side-kick, the teller and interpreter of Doc's wistful tale. She has a beautifully nuanced and wispy voice filled with affection for Doc, a bit of a romantic fool himself. He's clearly still head over heels in love with Shasta played by Katherine Waterston — shimmering bravely in the part that calls for a complex mix of sweetness, toughness and a flash of full frontal nudity.


Like Pynchon, Inherent Vice may not appeal to everyone; it's pretty far-out there in its meandering ways. The humor —much of it digging at Doc and his marijuana-induced haze — is much smarter than that sounds. It's sharp and comes in unexpected bursts. The comedy is also sharply critical of our culture; while the world portrayed is the top of the 70's, the ideas are contemporary as the wealthy continue to devour the rest of us, sucking up our savings as they record record profits and the number of the poor and disenfranchised continue to grow.

Did I read the book? Yes, and you can read my take on the book here. But you don't have to have read the book to see this film; my husband had not read Inherent Vice but enjoyed the film just as much as I did. You may have heard PTA changed up the ending of Thomas Pynchon's book; he did. I'm still mulling over how I feel about that: I liked Pynchon's original ending, but if I look at the two as separate beings, PTA's version worked beautifully too.

The movie comes out December 16th; why don't you see it and let me know what you think? We can compare points of view.

After the screening which received applause I'd define as warm but not wild, Paul Thomas Anderson and the moderator took to the stage for their discussion. I took notes rapidly, so much so that my handwriting is very difficult to decipher, but I will transcribe them here when I can. Overall PTA, lean and rangy with a shock of grey in his hair, was funny and passionate. Talking about his reasons for making the film he spoke about the feeling that he used to think the world was going to change, but that he still wakes up everyday, reads the paper and says "WHAT THE FUCK!?!"




4  Still Alice: Julianne Moore is Unforgettable
Originally published: November 14

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

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

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

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


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


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

Do you worry that YOU have Alzheimer's? Me too. 


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

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

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




5  Into the Woods: I went Into the Woods and found a Dark and Glorious Place!
Originally published December 25

I won't be seeing a movie Christmas Day.  Instead we'll be at my sister's for Christmas dinner, too much champagne and a few rounds of charades in which I expect the movies of the day to put in an appearance. Unbroken, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, Wild. I can see my sister flapping her arms around the room doing Birdman. I can hear the big groan coming from whoever pulls Inherent Vice from the hat. That'll be one of the hard ones. Into the Woods should be good, just the right amount of challenge.

But, if I was to try to leave the big family celebration, to slip out early to see one of the movies opening Christmas Day, it would be to see Into the Woods. We watched a screener but I enjoyed it so much, I'm looking forward to seeing it on the big screen too. I haven't had time to write up my thoughts before now; Christmas busyness and all, so I'm taking some time to do that this morning while everyone is still asleep. (Late night Christmas eve party at grandpa's house always gets our Christmas Day off to a late start)



Briefly — because it is Christmas — Into the Woods is a movie that takes you on an emotional journey and leaves you feeling joyous and uplifted. I was thrilled to see Meryl Streep once again didn't disappoint as she mastered the part of the witch; she struck all the right notes, and I'm not just talking about her singing. Streep just owned the complexity of the witch's character. The last time I saw Emily Blunt was in The Edge of Tomorrow in which she was funny and fierce; she's funny here too playing The Bakers Wife with a sharpness and a real knack of melting at the sight of the prince.

Anna Kendrick is a modern day Cinderella, perfectly cast as the young woman who realizes it's not all about finding the right man, you've got to find yourself too, know what you really want. Not overly cloying and pretty, her brain very much in evidence and she proves again here she can sing.  Christine Baranski seems born to play the wicked stepmother, and seeing Tracy Ullman again after what feels like a long absence reminded me how talented she is. Where has she been? She's Jack's mother here.

I loved Jack, in part because he was young Gavroche in Les Miz. Seeing him here — doing a great job — felt like I was reconnecting with a young nephew, watching him grow up. I resisted the urge to pinch his cheeks and say, My! How you've grown! Chris Pines was drop dead fantastic as the prince, sexy, arrogant, hilarious, as was his lesser known counterpart 'The Other Prince' played by Billy Magnuson.

James Corden delivered a complex, multilayered performance as the Baker, it was easy to see why the attractive Baker's Wife fell in love with the slightly chubby, hard working busy baker. I'll be trying to stay up late, watching Corden as he takes over the Craig Ferguson show, a very strange career choice, indeed. (I'll miss Craig too).

Johnny Depp was gloriously, purposefully over the top as the Wolf, preening and lusting after Little Red Riding Hood in a spot on performance by Lilla Crawford. Crawford is new to film but not to stage, she starred in James Lapine's production of Annie a few years back, she shines here too. Director Rob Marshall kept Depp's part short and sweet. The sets were incredible, a magical mix of reality and make-believe and the clothes, well the costume designs by  were simply perfect. James Lapine wrote the screenplay and translated it to film flawlessly. Into the Woods was everything you'd expect from this dark fairy tale. In short, seeing the movie felt like I'd gone to see the show on stage; I felt glorious and alive. Disney, despite all the worriers, allowed the filmmakers to go deep and dark and get it right. I'd go Into the Woods any day.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

5 Reasons You Should See Still Alice starring Julianne Moore


Especially if you're a woman.

A lot of you know a huge part of the reason I found the movie Still Alice so affecting is because it's the disease that took my mother. In fact I don't know that I'm able to look at the film in any way, shape or form that's not tinged by that dreadful fact. It's just not something I can be dispassionate about.

That being said, Julianne Moore is being recognized for her brilliant and nuanced performance as the college linguistics professor who gets Early Onset Alzheimer's. Presumably not all these people giving Moore a shout-out for her performance have parents who died from the disease — although I'd bet they all know someone who knows someone who did or will. Anyway, Moore is the front runner for this year's Best Actress Oscar statuette with recognition being given to her by various critics’ groups: Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC and the National Board of Review. She's also got a Golden Globe nomination (actually, she has two GG noms as the foreign press org has also nominated her for Maps to the Stars in the comedy category) and a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination. The Golden Globes are just around the corner with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler back in the hosting saddle on January 11th. The SAG awards are on the 25th.

Those that follow these things — I mean really follow these things, in the "this is my job" sense — are calling this a weak year for strong women's parts with Moore’s biggest competition being Reese Witherspoon for Wild,  Felicity Jones for The Theory Of Everything, Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl and Jennifer Aniston for Cake. Still haven't managed to see Wild or Cake yet, Pike and Jones were outstanding, that's for sure.

Outside of its Academy qualifying run in December, Still Alice opens on January 16th in NY and LA,  and then expands 'wide'. It's the first movie in my list of Books to Read Before You See the Movie/2015 and I hope you'll make an effort to see it, for so many reasons. Here are my top five:

First, it's a powerful, emotionally-charged film — it's not just me.
Second, we need more films where women, strong, powerful, wonderful women, are the leads. Otherwise we go to the movies watching only mens' stories — The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, Whiplash, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fury, Interstellar are all marvelous movies, but they're all marvelous movies that focus on men. And that doesn't even begin to factor in all those other mostly male-dominated super-hero flicks! Unless you want to go to the movies — or stay home and stream —one SpiderMan, X-Man, Super Man movie after another, we've got to support grown up films with big, meaty parts for the ladies. Movies where they do more than show off their lady parts.
Third, Alzheimer's is an awful, awful mind-robbing disease and needs all the attention it can get since increased attention generally leads to increased funding.
Fourth, ladies, you're the ones getting Alzheimer's. Oh sure, men get it too but in nowhere near the numbers that women do. According to this latest Alzheimer's study from the Alzheimer's Association two thirds of Alzheimer's patents are women. Two thirds! And who is taking care of the Alzheimer's patients? Did you guess women? Yep, you got that right! So, PLEASE support the movie. See it, share it, remember it.
And fifth—on a lighter note and because my Kristen Stewart fans will have a fit if I don't mention it — Kristen Stewart IS really good as Alice's daughter in this. In fact having seen her in the also excellent Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart IS a really good actress. Let's get over the Twilight junk, and the personal issues, and put her in the same category with other young women being recognized for their true abilities, i.e., Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley, Emma Stone, and Emma Watson.

Phew! Thanks, I needed that!

Okay, so over at IndieWire I found a new interview with Julianne Moore on playing Dr. Alice Howland in Still Alice, based on the book by Lisa Genova. The interviewer is Matt Mueller. Thought I'd share it with you here:

How did exploring early onset Alzheimer’s affect you? Did you find your research for the role disturbing?

Julianne Moore: No. This is something I didn’t have a lot of information about so it was fascinating to explore, to talk to the women that I met, the clinicians and researchers and the people at the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a big issue and it’s obviously increasing as people are living longer.

Was it difficult keeping track of Alice’s deterioration from scene to scene?

It was hard because Wash and Rich couldn’t shoot in sequence, although they did the best they could. So everything in the family’s house had to be shot in the middle of the shoot. I played the end of the movie when we were halfway through the film. Trying to keep track of exactly where she was was also difficult because of the subtlety in the decline. They’re really small things that distinguish each stage.

What are some examples?

Her clothes start to change. The colors change. She doesn’t seem to be selecting things the same way. She wants something because it’s soft, not because it looks good. The lack of control of body functions, all the different things that happen: when do they happen? When does the language go? How do you demonstrate that a decline has started without going overboard? I tried to be as accurate and precise as possible with the changes.

Did you take any of the tests for Alzheimer’s disease that Alice takes?

I took them all. They’re way harder than we depict in the movie because we don’t have time for that. They start by reading you a long story with many details in it and then you go onto another test where they give you a list of 30 words. They say, “Repeat those words” so you repeat them. Then they say, “Now repeat them again.” So you repeat them again, or what you can remember. Then they give you another list of 30 words and say, “Now repeat the first list.” Each of the tests targets a different part of the brain so they can see, if there has been a decline, where the decline has been.
(my note: my mother was never given a test like that but it was pretty evident when she failed the simple 3 item memory test something was wrong, very wrong.)

How did you do?

The doctor didn’t tell me anything! I was like, Am I okay? Did I pass? She was being so generous with her time, I didn’t want to keep bothering her. In a later email, she said, “I wanted to let you know your results were normal.” All the women I spoke with who had early onset Alzheimer’s told me how scary it was to take that test.

There’s a line in the film where Alice says, “I wish I had cancer,” which was shocking to hear. Was there a discussion about that line?

It’s in Lisa Genova’s book, and it’s not uncommon for people with early onset to feel very ashamed. A lot of the people I spoke to talked about losing friendships, losing support... Somebody they thought was their best friend never showing up again, somebody they thought was a casual friend being there for them every day. You never know how people are going to react. It used to be like that with cancer but these days, if you have cancer, everybody’s right there and people march and wear pink ribbons. But people still have a sense of shame about Alzheimer’s. I know a lot of people who have family members with Alzheimer’s disease but they didn’t tell me before they knew I was doing this movie.

How was it working with Richard and Wash, given the fact that Richard can no longer speak due to his own deteriorating health as a result of ALS?

In light of what we were doing on the movie, you think it’s going to be challenging at first and it ends up not being that challenging. Richard had his iPad and he was able to use that and sometimes you’d understand what he was saying before he was finished typing so you could kind of have a conversation. He was pretty eloquent with how he wrote and how he communicated emotionally. It forced us to think about what’s real because Richard and Wash are experiencing another form of what’s happening in this movie.


Doesn’t your son Cal appear in the film?

Yes, in that scene where Kristen [Stewart] and I are sitting on a park bench and there’s a group of kids singing in the background. That’s my son and his girlfriend. They really bailed me out, Cal and Charlotte, because I wanted to have music at the end but we couldn’t afford to buy anything. So Richard and Wash found this old song from the ’60s, a Russian folk song which was public domain. Cal and Charlie worked on an arrangement and wrote new lyrics and you get to hear them in the film, although I was hoping there would be a bigger shot of them!


Spoken like a true mother!




Monday, December 29, 2014

Gone Girl starring Laura Blanc, The Hunger Games starring Kelly Marot: The lowdown on Dubbing


If you've been reading me on Dreaming of France Mondays, you know that lately I've been sharing trailers for popular movies that have been dubbed into French. And I've become increasingly intrigued, more like obsessed, really, with the whole notion of how the process works. Apparently this whole dubbing thing is big business in France, where half the films the French watch are actually American movies. It makes sense with such a large number of American film fans that the movies would be dubbed rather than coming with subtitles. You get a much bigger audience when the actors are speaking the language the viewers speak.

It's not just about changing the words and speaking them in French. The translation is an art, the voiceover artists doing the doubling have to be pretty damn fine actors in their own right. I found a nifty article about this exacting process at medium.com, "What it takes to be the French Jennifer Lawrence" by Mac McClelland. Something I hadn't thought about was consistency. After all we expect Tom Cruise to sound like Tom Cruise, movie after movie, not George Clooney for one film, Brad Pitt for another. The same goes for the French, French Tom Cruise should have the same voice in Mission Impossible:Ghost that he does in The Edge of Tomorrow. Tom has to sound like Tom. Makes sense, ne' cest pas?

McClelland notes ...
"Because this is Art, French dubbing cultivates personae. Every time Tom Cruise opens his mouth, the same voice should come out, so that the audience can experience the same sense of intimacy and attachment that the original-language audience does with the real Tom Cruise. Sometimes changes do happen: A decade or so ago, French Tom Cruise was replaced because he smoked too much and his voice was getting too smoky. But French audiences noticed the switch, and were not pleased.
Of course they weren't pleased! Mon dieu! Tom has to sound like Tom has to sound like Tom. Which is great news for actors when they get cast as stars with long, bright futures ahead of them. Naturally, the actors playing today's stars hope their stars shine for years and years to come! Take the case of Kelly Marot.
"Kelly Marot’s breakout dubbing role was as Rachel in Glee. That got her the chance to audition for the role of Katniss in The Hunger Games, which landed her in every voice-over actor’s dream position: the designated voice of a huge American star.
If all goes well for Marot, a 28-year-old mom, she will have steady work for as long as Jennifer Lawrence does.
Not only does Marot voice JLaw's voice in the movie, she's done all the books too. She even gets blurbed on the cover for doing so!



What I didn't realize was what a complex process it is. And it begins with a French writer!

Before the dubbing begins, the script has to be translated. Like the translation of novels, writing le doublage is an art in itself. Unlike a bookish translation though, the sentences don't just have to say they same thing, they have to match up visually, so it looks like the actors are saying the same thing! Formidable!

One of the busiest writers in the world of le doublage is Deborah Perret, who also dubs the voices of Cate Blanchett, Selma Hayak, Jennifer Lopez and Holly Hunter, but makes more money consistently doing the writing. Perret makes the point that as she has aged, her voice has aged too, so she can't do the more youthful voices anymore.

Perret at work

Here, from the article ...  Perret
"who scripts big releases from The Hunger Games to The Hundred-Foot Journey, walks me through it in her home office. She explains how she goes through the English script and creates, for every sentence, a sentence that is nearly identical in meaning but also as similar as possible in length. This alone is a gargantuan task, with the way French languidly weaves its way around getting an idea across. But in addition, and to make the dub look as realistic as possible, she must also identify every instance of a character uttering a word with an m, p, or b in it in English, and find a word in French with the same consonant. And the replacement word has to fit into that sentence in exactly the same spot as where the American actor’s mouth makes the m, p, or b face. She must also figure out what to put in the place of people’s first names, which she tells me Americans incessantly address each other by in movies, and even more in TV shows, but which never happens and would sound utterly bizarre in French. She also has to find words — without adding to, or changing, the meaning of the sentence — to fill the space created by all the garbage words Americans are always using: um, uh, ah, you know, I mean. When French people open their mouths to talk, they make sentences with actual words, and have but one filler: euhhh. It’s used sparingly. It cannot be put in place of every American garbage word, because the characters would sound brain-dead. Perret also has to attend to the fact that English words create more expansive, open mouth movements — whyyyyy, thaaat — while French makes a tighter, faster mm mm mm mm bup bup bup rhythm in the face (don’t even get her started on the Chinese films she occasionally translates; it makes for rough workdays, the way Chinese mouths are always open). If there’s a TV or a radio on in the background of the scene, she has to translate that dialogue, too, and if it’s JFK or the Black Panthers talking, she better be very careful to be accurate down to every nuance. If there’s content in the film about a topic she doesn’t know much about — “For Kill the Messenger, I have to do a lot of things about drugs, and I don’t use crack, at all, so I have to learn how to make crack”—she does extensive research to get a handle on the ideas and lingo she has to convert. She has to capture the nuance of words like lingo. She has to capture the spirit of English idioms that would make no sense in French (not that they make sense in English; “going cold turkey”?). British English is even worse, because the comedy so often relies on wordplay, which is practically impossible to translate. She takes the periods out of English sentences and strings them all together with commas, because while in English there are lots of natural highs and lows in the tone, the French will only keep that high-energy animation up in a run-on. And when she’s done, she watches each line over and over and over, and then reads what she wrote for it over and over and over, out loud, seeing how everything matches up, tweaking, tweaking, going back and watching the flow of a few sentences together, or a whole scene, tweaking some more.
Perret's mother, Danielle Perret is a director of doublage. She has to get it right because it's all checked and double-checked.
"Even when Perret’s work is done, it’s all checked. “Twenty years ago, you wrote a script, and no one checked it,” she says. You as the writer were the first and last word on the translation. If you wanted to inject a little French edge into a line, that was your prerogative. And it happened, a lot. There’s a scene in Dirty Dancing, which French children of the 80s and 90s know as by-heart as their American counterparts, where the teenage heroine, Baby, is being scolded by her father after sneaking out for a mambo performance. “And take that stuff off your face,” he says, looking disdainfully at her makeup, “before your mother sees you.” In the version French children grew up with, he says, “And take that disgusting makeup off your face — you look like a whore.”
I'd been wondering whether the film's original director had any say in how the dubbing was done. It sounds like they do and they don't. The studios definitely do!
These days, though, Hollywood studios have offices and representatives in France managing this big business, and they check everything. Everything. They force the writers to tone down the language rather than turn it up — you can say fuck and show nipples on French television, but American distributors make Perret change “You’re a dick” to “You’re an idiot” in a show. During Guardians of the Galaxy’s dubbing, Karsenti (another dubbing artist) told me, there was much handwringing on the part of Disney representatives over whether to let the phrase “sticks up their butts” be translated into “sticks up their asses.”
There's a lot more interesting stuff in the article; too much for me to synthesize here. Check it out and come back and see my sometime.  Merci! But before you go ... the trailer for Gone Girl en français. Rosamund Pike is voiced by Laura Blanc via the Dubbing Bros. studio.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Actors Rountdable: Benedict Cumberbatch, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Ethan Hawkes, Michael Keaton, Timothy Spall


This Slacker Sunday brings one of those wonderful roundtables where the pros sit around talking about their work. This time it's a remarkable group of actors from this year's top films. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton in Birdman, Ethan Hawkes in Boyhood, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher and Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner.  I found each of these films extraordinary —I've seen all but Mr. Turner, which I hear is also extraordinary — with performances from these actors that just blew me away. Try not to let the moderator Stephen Gallway's irritating manner get in the way of your enjoyment!
Happy Sunday.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Costume Design: Colleen Atwood takes us "Into the Woods"


Colleen Atwood, the acclaimed costume designer for Into The Woods, is a ten-time Academy Award nominee with three wins under her beautifully designed belt. Atwood won in 2011 for her work on Alice in Wonderland directed by frequent collaborator Tim Burton. Atwood, currently in England working on the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, with Burton producing rather than directing, also worked with Burton on Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, and this year's Big Eyes. Atwood also won the Oscar twice for her work on previous Rob Marshall movies; in 2006 for Memoirs of a Geisha, and in 2003 for Chicago. She could very well win again this year for Marshall's Into the Woods, rather than Tim Burton's Big Eyes. It's easier to dazzle 'em with the kind of lavish period fairy tale fare that Into the Woods calls for vs the more grounded wardrobe choices that a film like Big Eyes, set in the 1950's USA, demandsWe've looked at some of the costumes before, at Johnny Depp's transformation from actor to The Wolf  and Meryl Streep's transition from Meryl into a witchy woman. Here's more on the Into the Woods costumes from Atwood herself, beginning with her approach to Cinderella (above), as played by Anna Kendrick.

 “Cinderella is a Cinderella that isn’t based on old fairy tales. She’s a Cinderella that’s reluctant, and doesn’t really like big, poofy dresses.


Johnny is my all-time favorite actor because I’ve worked with him so many times over the span of so many years. The wolf to me, is jazzed up, almost like a late Thirties or early Forties swing version,” Atwood said. “I took a lot of elements from the costumes and music  of that period.” Womens Wear Daily



It’s a fantasy-driven piece,” Atwood said, “so it felt more free and more of a creative challenge. I hadn’t seen it on Broadway, so it was a new thing to me.



To me, Rapunzel is sort of this invisible person in the tower, kind of ghost like of herself so, I did something really pale for her, but with bondage kind of ties on it, because I felt she always been trapped in this tower. And her prince, is the bad boy prince, that every mother doesn’t want her daughter to go out with, but it turns out that he has the best heart of all.


 “I think it’s fun to take materials and things that didn’t exist then and apply them to some of the design and shapes from another time.


There are so many beautiful textures in the woods. There’s the texture of leaves, the kind of movement that leaves have, how they’re one color on one side and one on the other. The kind of texture of the bark is definitely included in a lot in people’s costumes. It’s just the way the woods light, in one light it looks like one thing, and in another it’s another thing. I was trying to do that with the costumes.

 “I wanted it to feel like the woods, like twisted tree trunks. I created a textile that way, and made her witch costume that way. With her blue fantasy dress costume, I took the general silhouette of the first costume and amplified it and brightened it way up.

Source: DisneyStyle, Dispatch, Womens Wear Daily

Friday, December 26, 2014

Anatomy of a Scene featurette: 'No One is Alone' from Into the Woods


I get such a kick out of hearing directors talk about their films; I especially love the New York Times Anatomy of a Scene feature, though I often forget to seek it out. This one is by Into the Woods director Rob Marshall about an especially moving performance of No One is Alone.

Today, as there's plenty of post Christmas stuff to do —my living room looks like the strong L.A. winds we've been having swept right through it. Every conceivable surface littered with the remnants of the holiday: old gift tags, used up tape dispensers, bows in various stages of re-usabililty, and bags of ripped-off wrapping paper to be taken to the trash, and a clattering of dirty cups and glasses — I'll let director Rob Marshall speak for himself. The scene features Anna Kendrick / Cinderella, Lilla Crawford / Little Red Riding Hood, James Corden / The Baker and Daniel Huttlestone as Jack. The piece assumes a familiarity with the musical BUT if Into the Woods is new to you, the emotional song takes place toward the end of the film, and therefore contains spoilers. This movie left its intended mark on me; I thought it was pure magic.





Thursday, December 25, 2014

I went "Into the Woods" and found a Dark and Glorious Place! (my take on the movie)


I won't be seeing a movie Christmas Day.  Instead we'll be at my sister's for Christmas dinner, too much champagne and a few rounds of charades in which I expect the movies of the day to put in an appearance. Unbroken, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, Wild. I can see my sister flapping her arms around the room doing Birdman. I can hear the big groan coming from whoever pulls Inherent Vice from the hat. That'll be one of the hard ones. Into the Woods should be good, just the right amount of challenge. 

But, if I was to try to leave the big family celebration, to slip out early to see one of the movies opening Christmas Day, it would be to see Into the Woods. We watched a screener but I enjoyed it so much, I'm looking forward to seeing it on the big screen too. I haven't had time to write up my thoughts before now; Christmas busyness and all, so I'm taking some time to do that this morning while everyone is still asleep. (Late night Christmas eve party at grandpa's house always gets our Christmas Day off to a late start)


Briefly — because it is Christmas — Into the Woods is a movie that takes you on an emotional journey and leaves you feeling joyous and uplifted. I was thrilled to see Meryl Streep once again didn't disappoint as she mastered the part of the witch; she struck all the right notes, and I'm not just talking about her singing. Streep just owned the complexity of the witch's character. The last time I saw Emily Blunt was in The Edge of Tomorrow in which she was funny and fierce; she's funny here too playing The Bakers Wife with a sharpness and a real knack of melting at the sight of the prince.


Anna Kendrick is a modern day Cinderella, perfectly cast as the young woman who realizes it's not all about finding the right man, you've got to find yourself too, know what you really want. Not overly cloying and pretty, her brain very much in evidence and she proves again here she can sing.  Christine Baranski seems born to play the wicked stepmother, and seeing Tracy Ullman again after what feels like a long absence reminded me how talented she is. Where has she been? She's Jack's mother here.


I loved Jack, in part because he was young Gavroche in Les Miz. Seeing him here — doing a great job — felt like I was reconnecting with a young nephew, watching him grow up. I resisted the urge to pinch his cheeks and say, My! How you've grown! Chris Pines was drop dead fantastic as the prince, sexy, arrogant, hilarious, as was his lesser known counterpart 'The Other Prince' played by Billy Magnuson.

James Corden delivered a complex, multilayered performance as the Baker, it was easy to see why the attractive Baker's Wife fell in love with the slightly chubby, hard working busy baker. I'll be trying to stay up late, watching Corden as he takes over the Craig Ferguson show, a very strange career choice, indeed. (I'll miss Craig too).


Johnny Depp was gloriously, purposefully over the top as the Wolf, preening and lusting after Little Red Riding Hood in a spot on performance by Lilla Crawford. Crawford is new to film but not to stage, she starred in James Lapine's production of Annie a few years back, she shines here too. Director Rob Marshall kept Depp's part short and sweet. The sets were incredible, a magical mix of reality and make-believe and the clothes, well the costume designs by  were simply perfect. James Lapine wrote the screenplay and translated it to film flawlessly. Into the Woods was everything you'd expect from this dark fairy tale. In short, seeing the movie felt like I'd gone to see the show on stage; I felt glorious and alive. Disney, despite all the worriers, allowed the filmmakers to go deep and dark and get it right. I'd go Into the Woods any day.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Unbroken: Where the movie fell apart for me


One thing I love about this time of year is that I'll just be puttering around the house and the jangle of the doorbell announces that the guy from FedEx or the UPS man in brown is at the door. He's usually got a padded envelope in hand and I know right away from the size of it what it is. It's a movie screener; one of the dozen or two that my husband — a card carrying, dues-paying member of the DGA — gets every year.

Once upon a time I was shocked studios would spend so much money sending screeners all over the place but when it comes to Hollywood excess, this is the least of it. Believe it or not, even though we have a fairly large flat screen, we try to avoid watching the screeners and take in screenings to enjoy the film as it was meant to be seen, instead, but it's impossible. It's the holidays. Squeezing in a screening just isn't that easy; the most convenient locations, the most desirable times, they get filled up quickly. We always take comfort in the enclosed note like this one from Universal
 "While we hope you will make every effort to experience these films on the big screen as they were intended, we would like to offer you every opportunity to consider our films."

Yesterday Russell and I took that opportunity with Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed movie based on Laura Hillenbrand's book about Louis Zamperini. Russell, my cinephile, said he would have enjoyed it more if he'd seen it on the big screen, especially since Roger Deakins — the ten-time Oscar  nominated cinematographer — shot the film. Still he was clear, big screen or no, he didn't like the movie. He really and thoroughly didn'tt like the movie. Me? I thought it was okay. If I had to give you one word I'd say disappointed. The story of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic athlete and World War II fighter pilot who survives his plane being shot down by the Japanese, left to languish in the Pacific with a pair of crew mates in a rubber raft for almost 50 days and then to make it through a torturous time as a prisoner of war should have had a weeper like me moved to tears. It didn't.


I'm not sure why but it may have had something to do with misplaced focus and lost opportunities. The focus, you see, was on Louis, played by Jack O'Connell, all the time. Clearly Unbroken is his story of survival, but as told by Jolie, the other actors seemed less than supporting players and more like accessories. Domhnall Gleeson, as Phil, one of the two men Louis is adrift at sea with, is wasted in a role as bleached-out as his hair in the film. Given very little to do other than look emaciated and exhausted, the Irish actor is fine as far as he's allowed to go, barely giving his American accent a workout. Finn Wittrock, the third shipmate, has a bit more to do as they float about under the beating sun, and learn how to catch fish with their bare hands and eat it raw, but the extreme weight loss the actors underwent was barely worth the end result.

What it felt like is that Jolie was so taken with Zamperini's story and O'Connell as an actor that she thought we'd be just as fascinated as she was to stare at him for two hours and seventeen minutes, to watch him endure unrelenting hardship and beatings, and survive. O'Connell is a tremendous actor but ultimately the survival story we see just doesn't have enough payoff.


After Zamperini is finally found at sea, the men are sent to a prisoner of war camp. Here we see the unrelenting punishment, most, if not all of it directed at Zamperini. Here especially is where I thought Jolie squandered opportunities. Again we focus on O'Connell as Louis with very few scenes that help us know his fellow prisoners better, and therefore him better. While there is a brief moment of levity as a group of prisoners empty the latrines, it's mostly scene after scene of the camp commander — intensely played Takamasa Ishihura AKA Miyave, a Japanese singer/songwriter— dishing up punishment to Louis.


Jolie misses out on the chance to deliver some Great Escape camaraderie, not just to lighten things up a bit, but to enhance our emotional investment in Louis and the other men. Without being given the chance to get to know a few of the other prisoners a little bit better — Garrett Hedlund as the American commander is allowed a few lines and a wink — we're left strangely in the cold, without an emotional touch point to hang our own feelings on. Louis is brutally picked on by the camp commander yes, but without caring who the other prisoners are, we're left flinching in horror but without empathy. Watching a stranger being punched can not compare with watching someone you love, admire and respect being hit and humiliated. That for me was the biggest problem; I wanted to know who these other men were, how Louis felt about them, how they felt about him. Jolie, working from a script by the Cohen Brothers, Richard Gravenese (Beyond the Candelabra) and William Nicholson (Gladiator, Mandela, Les Miz) chose not to give us that experience, and the film suffered for it. A case of too many cooks perhaps? Even music by Alexandre Desplat didn't provide its customary uplift.


My understanding is that this experience turned Zamperini into a devout Christian who spent his life practicing forgiveness rather than seeking revenge;  there's a scene where Louis, still at sea, calls out to God that if He saves him, Louis will be forever be in his service. And that's the end of it; there is no scene of thanks, no more prayers to God for deliverance, no asking God to give him strength, no requests for understanding, mercy, forgiveness. I'm an agnostic but in my darkest moments I know that I pray for God to exist, for God to be there for me and to give me hope. That too, the acknowledgement of the answered prayer, would have made the experience richer. Without it, Louis's survival, the war's end, the return home, lacked the triumphant transcendence and feel good glow of the very best films.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Unbroken trailer en français: Joyeux Noel


Frankly friends, I'm confused. I always assumed that when brand new Hollywood movies hit foreign shores, they primarily played in English with subtitles.  I especially assumed this was the case with France, where I thought they loved les movies Americain. I assumed the French were watching them the way we prefer to watch French films; in their original language with English subtitles.

But lately,  I've been finding more and more trailers for movies Americain, not in English with French subtitles, but in Français. Last week, for the Dreaming of France meme that I like to play along with on Mondays,  I shared Cinderella. Before that, The Imitation Game. And here we are with another trailer for a big Hollywood movie, Unbroken directed by Angelina Jolie, all set to make its debut here on Christmas Day and in France on January 7th, and once again the trailer has been dubbed in French. I admit it; I love watching these French trailers — the symphonic French language curls my toes — in a good way — but I can't help but wonder, what of the actors? What of the portrayal of Louis Zamperini, the American Olympian and war hero by Jack O'Connell?  What of the performances of by the rest of the cast, the likes of Domnhall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Miyave, and Takamasa Ishihura? How do their performances translate? Does the director of the film have any control over the casting of the voice actors to do the dubbing? I don't have a clue and I'd like to know more about the process. If you do have a clue, please share with the rest of us!

Merci and in the meantime, for your enjoyment, the trailer for Unbroken, based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, en français.

And to my friends from Paulita's Dreaming of France meme (a fun weekly French celebration) ...

Joyeux Noel




Sunday, December 21, 2014

Unbroken: Alexandre Desplat Score plus New Coldplay Song "Miracles" Music Video


This last Slacker Sunday before Christmas seems like the perfect time to share a bit more of Alexandre Desplat's music. My favorite Hollywood movie composer — his score for The Imitation Game earned Desplat a Golden Globe nomination — wrote the score to Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed movie based on Laura Hillenbrand's book about the Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini. Oddly, the Golden Globes ignored Jolie's movie completely, giving it a surprising grand total of nada! Is the movie undeserving or did Jolie — or someone involved in the making of the film — snub the powers that be?


Now that the Unbroken soundtrack has been released, let's have a listen to one of the tracks; this one's called Coming Home.



And from the closing credits of the movie, this simply gorgeous song written and performed by Chris Martin and Coldplay. Instead of leaving the theatre and trying to get a head start on beating the crowd out of the parking lot, this is a pretty good reason to stick around. By the way, I think you should ALWAYS stay until the credits are over. Sometimes there's a reason —like fantastic music, or little surprises and bloopers — but mostly because there are a good 150 to 300 people involved in the making of a typical movie. They (people like my hubby) work their tushies off for 12 to 18 hours a day for months at a time, all to bring a director's creative vision to life. Most will get no notice, no mention except for their names being included on the crawl. The 'crawl' which goes speeding by. Sticking around to watch the credits is just a nice way to show your appreciation for all that hard work. It's also a great way to let your mind and its thoughts settle, readying yourself for that all important question: So, what'd you think of the movie? Lecture, complete.


Unbroken comes out Christmas Day. Enjoy!


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