Tuesday, June 30, 2015

23 men, 3 women directors invited to join the Academy. This is the most diverse group in history?

A couple of days ago the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released its list of this year's invitees to join the Academy's membership. The org. has been slammed in past years for lacking diversity in both gender and race. Under the leadership of Cheryl Boone-Isaacs who is both black and a woman, the Academy hopes to address some of the inequities. The basic rules of membership, and how that membership comes to be though, hasn't changed. With the exception of Academy Award winners, members can only be nominated and it takes two current members to do so. Even then, the board has to approve the invitation. Call me crazy, but it seems to me change will come very slowly as long as you have the old boy network doing the inviting. 

According to Boone, this year's list of 322 is the largest number of people ever invited, and supposedly the most diverse group ever. 
"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 322 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.  Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2015.
“It’s gratifying to acknowledge the extraordinary range of talent in our industry,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.  “This year, our branches have recognized a more diverse and inclusive list of filmmakers and artists than ever before, and we look forward to adding their creativity, ideas and experience to our organization.”
There's a link at the bottom of the post if you want to check out the full list. First, let's have a look:

The actors branch, the face of the Academy, and mostly what we go to the movies for:

The Ladies First (7)

Elizabeth Banks – “Love & Mercy,” “The Hunger Games”       

Heather Graham – “The Hangover,” “Boogie Nights”                                                   

Felicity Jones – “The Theory of Everything,” “Like Crazy”                                         

Gugu Mbatha-Raw – “Beyond the Lights,” “Belle”                                               

Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl,” “Pride & Prejudice”                                                 

Emma Stone – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” “The Help” 

Jodi Long – “A Picture of You,” “Beginners”

                                                                                                                                           

The Men (18)

Choi Min-sik– “Lucy,” “Oldboy”

Benedict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”

Martin Freeman – “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Hot Fuzz”

Tom Hardy – “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Inception”

Kevin Hart – “The Wedding Ringer,” “Ride Along”

Stephen Lang – “Avatar,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats”

John Carroll Lynch – “Shutter Island,” “Zodiac”

Denis O’Hare – “Milk,” “Michael Clayton”

Michael O’Neill – “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Transformers”

David Oyelowo – “Selma,” “A Most Violent Year”

Dev Patel – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Slumdog Millionaire”

Chris Pine – “Into the Woods,” “Star Trek”

Daniel Radcliffe – “Kill Your Darlings,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2”

Eddie Redmayne – “The Theory of Everything,” “Les Misérables”

Jason Segel – “The Five-Year Engagement,” “The Muppets”

J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash,” “Juno”

Sonny Skyhawk – “Geronimo: An American Legend,” “Young Guns II”

Song Kang-ho – “Snowpiercer,” “The Host”


How do you like those odds? But wait, they get worse. 

With all due respect to Jodi Long, her nomination seems a stretch as Long is primarily a television actress. She is however an actress of Asian descent which I suspect had a little something to do with her invitation. That's great but surely there are more where she came from? I'd love to know who makes up the current membership in its entirety. As past Academy Award winners, Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore have all been 'invited' to become members. Did they join? And if so have who have they sponsored? Come on ladies, let's pull together and create a voting body that looks more like the world we live in. If you had the power to nominate a woman, whether she's a composer, a writer, an actor, or any one of the Oscar categories, who would you pick?

I'm listing the female invitees in other categories and their projects below so you can support these notable women working in film. You want to know who the men are, you'll have to look 'em up yourself. I'm feeling grumpy. 



Of 26 directors, 3 are women.

François Girard – “Silk,” “The Red Violin”

Kelly Reichardt – “Meek’s Cutoff,” “Wendy and Lucy”

Lynn Shelton – “Laggies,” “Your Sister’s Sister”


Of 21 writers,  2 are women

Maya Forbes – “Infinitely Polar Bear,” “Monsters vs Aliens”

Rita Hsiao – “Toy Story 2,” “Mulan”

Of 25 editors, 4 are women. 

Nadia Ben Rachid – “Timbuktu,” “Bamako” 

Kristina Boden – “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Cake” 

Mathilde Bonnefoy* – “CitizenFour,” “Run Lola Run”

Tara Timpone – “Friends with Kids,” “Bad Teacher” 


Of 11 cinematographers, just 1 is a woman

Rachel Morrison – “Cake,” “Fruitvale Station”


Of 16 production designers, 6 are women 

Gae Buckley – “The Book of Eli,” “He’s Just Not That into You” 

Suzie Davies – “Mr. Turner,” “The Children”

Bryn Imagire – “Cars 2,” “Up”

Dina Lipton – “Baggage Claim,” “Love Hurts”

Tatiana Macdonald – “The Imitation Game,” “The Invisible Woman” 

Charlotte Watts – “Mr. Holmes,” “Mr. Turner”

While all 3 costume designers are women...

Kasia Walicka Maimone – “Foxcatcher,” “Moonrise Kingdom”

Francesca Livia Sartori – “Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy,” “When the Night”

Jany Temime – “Gravity,” “Skyfall”

AND

8 out of 10 casting directors are women

Only 4 of the 19 invitees in the music category are women

Just half of the 10 hair & makeup invitees are women

Three out of the 11 'executives' invited are female.

Of the 26 invitees in the sound category, just four are women.

Of 23 visual effects artists, only 1 is a woman.

But there's also some good news. Of the 12 producers, 7 are women. Seven! Just over half.  Check out the entire list here.



The Academy’s membership process is by sponsorship, not application.  Candidates must be sponsored by two Academy members from the branch to which the candidate seeks admission. 
Additionally, Academy Award nominees are automatically considered for membership and do not require sponsors. 
Nominees and sponsored candidates are reviewed by branch committees and recommendations for membership are considered by the Academy’s Board of Governors.  The Board decides which individuals will receive invitations.
Membership Reviews take place ONCE a year, in the spring. Our current DEADLINE for ALL proposals is Thursday, March 24, 2016 

Put yourself in Reese Witherspoon's shoes. Or Nicole Kidman's. Tell me. Who would you sponsor? 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Poldark and His Women [Episode Two]

Poor Verity! Poldark's cousin, she's one of my favorite of Poldark's female characters. I can't quite see where her brother Francis got the cojones to do what he did last night in Episode 2 of the BBC series currently running on PBS. A duel! How very swash-bucklery and dramatic. But seemingly out of character for Francis (Kyle Soller) who earlier in the episode erred so much on the side of being the nice guy that finishes last that he seemed to push Elizabeth and Poldark together at the dance. This is a guy who watches his own wife flirt and frolic with her old love and remains mum, yet when an allegedly murderous man 'makes love' (in the old-fashioned courtship sense of the word) to his sister Verity, Francis is so outraged he challenges him to a duel. 
Poor, poor Verity, my heart breaks for her. Not only does she lose a suitor but I'm betting it's not the first time her thoughts, her feelings are brushed aside. Not only because she's a woman and her father and brother need her at home to look after them, but as her father says, she's a plain woman who he feels has been taken advantage of. Poor Ruby Bentall, the actor who plays Verity. Don't you always wonder how actors who play the fat friend or the plain sister feel about being cast in that light? An actor has to be realistic about their type, but ugh, it must be tough on the ego. 

Elizabeth. Poldark still has it bad and that ain't good. And Elizabeth (Heida Reed) clearly doesn't know her own mind. Money and her meddling mother aside, one has to wonder how she came to settle for Francis in the first place. Sure, she thought Poldark was dead but Francis and Poldark are such very different types of men: how could she go from one to the other? 



But back then everyone's choices were much more limited, and a woman's especially. You went from your father's house to your husband's house. Which is why women like Ruth Teague (Harriet Ballard) threw themselves so desperately at Poldark's feet. Never mind there are literally hundreds of other men in the surrounding area, apparently Poldark is the only man in town worth having!


Barring that—the appearance of a husband—you stayed home and became the spinster aunt, like Aunt Agatha played by Caroline Blakiston. No woman wants to end up like that. 


Women of a lower social rank had a bit more freedom, they could marry or go be a governess. A position a bit lower down the ladder had you serving brews at the local pub or possibly, like the dark-haired Margaret (Crystal Laity) you can serve yourself up as the local pro at the local pub. Because a boy's gotta let off steam, eh?
Or you could always work in someone else's home. Or not work as the case seems to be with the slovenly Prudie (Beatie Edney)above.    Why did Poldark's father keep Prudie and her husband on? Heaven knows but they serve as a great contrast to our hardworking heroine Demelza. 




Meanwhile, Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) is beginning to burst out of her cocoon with beautiful butterfly wings. She's never had a cloak before, she tells the smoldering, dark-eyed, hunkalicous Poldark (star, Aidan Turner) as they set off for town; he to get backers for the copper mine he wants to re-open, Demelza to do a little household marketiing. Naturally he buys her, not just your average little dun-colored number, but a beautiful deep rose cape that she can flourish and swirl about her. It's a very Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle moment, the sophisticated man rescuing the poor ignorant girl trope we never seem to tire of. My inner feminist winces but this is Poldark, and it's 18th century England, if anything Poldark would have been seen as a very modern, female enabler. He's not the one keeping Verity and Demelza in their place, what the world would at that time would see as at home, looking after their fathers and brothers. With his kindness, his friendship, he's helping to set them free.

Catch Up with Poldark Episode One

Looking for my usual Monday morning Dreaming of France post? It's over here at Past Tense: Perfect/Imperfect. I'll be back with my thoughts on this week's episode of Poldark later this morning.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Clint Eastwood & Meryl Streep Ooze Chemistry in The Bridges Of Madison County: Let's Go Behind the Scenes

There's no way Clint Eastwood approved this heavily retouched promotional photo for The Bridges of Madison County. Clint looked much older in the actual film, the wrinkles folding down onto his neck. And yet still sexy. Go figure!

My husband walked in while I was watching this week's Saturday Matinee, 1995's The Bridges of Madison County. It was a coolish, foggy Saturday so I only felt faintly guilty that I actually was watching a movie in the middle of the afternoon. A movie I didn't clear ahead of time. Didn't bother asking anyone, do you mind if I—? I don't know what came over me. I figured if I was interrupted, the Amazon rental is good for 30 days, I could always go back to it later. But I also knew he was doing a little prep work for some reshoots he's doing next week, chances were pretty good I'd be able to watch the whole thing.



And then he walked in, stood watching the screen for a few moments. Already hooked, I felt a little guilty about hoping he was still tied up with his work project. I really wanted to finish the movie.
"What are you watching?"
"A Clint Eastwood movie."
"That is not a Clint Eastwood movie."
"Yeah, it is. Directed it and stars in it."
"A Clint Eastwood movie if he was making 'em for Lifetime!"
 I had to laugh.
"It's that Bridges movie isn't it?"
"Yep. Bridges of Madison County. With Meryl Streep." 
I could hear his eyes roll.
"Like I said. Not a Clint Eastwood movie."
He came over, gave me a kiss on the top of my head. "Enjoy" he said and left the room. I put a pillow on the coffee table and put my feet up. Before he went back to his iPad, I could hear him in the kitchen, pouring himself a glass of ice tea.

There's a fair amount of ice tea drinking in The Bridges of Madison County. Iced tea and cold beer and hot weather which is always sexy. And dancing. I was right yesterday when I said Clint still had it at 65. 


In this scene Francesca, lying in the tub, is thinking of Robert who has just had a shower. Staring at the dripping shower head she realizes the water would have poured right over his skin. She reaches out with her hand as though by feeling the water, she can feel him. She says she finds this thought very erotic, that she finds everything about Robert erotic. As do we Meryl, as do we. 

Meryl herself, is stunning. I love the way she moves her arms, the way the back of her hand flutters to her face, her mouth. Her resistance to her own thoughts, her weakening, giving in. She's brilliant, but then she always is. Nominated for best actress, she lost to Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking

It's definitely a love story for grown-ups; an old-fashioned romance about a couple of older people, people who've lived a little, or a lot, and had their share of disappointments and dreams that didn't quite come true. People who know where this will go too. Meryl was forty-five, the same age her character Francesca was supposed to be but the studio thought she was too old. They wanted to go with a younger woman. Schmucks. Our man Clint said no way, insisting she get the part. Thank God, because I can't imagine anyone else playing her. The resulting movie is unapologetically romantic, dripping with chemistry, and an ending to make you weep. 

Seeing that it's Slacker Sunday and I've already gone on too long, I'll wind it up with my hope that the romantics among you had a chance to get reacquainted with The Bridges of Madison County. If you enjoyed it, I think you'll also love this behind the scenes video featuring Clint, Meryl, Clint's longtime cinematographer Jack N. Green and his editor, Joel Cox, along with screenwriter Richard LaGravenese talking about the making of the movie. 

Enjoy!  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kristin Hannah's Best-Selling World War II novel The Nightingale getting the adaptation treatment


Here's one for the ladies. By that I mean the film is being scripted by a woman, based on a book written by a woman, with not one but two women as primary characters. The producer for TriStar is also a woman. Put the right woman in the director's chair and I'll be tickled pick. Cuz that's what ladies are, right? 

I have yet to read The Nightingale but it's been on the New York Times best seller list since it was published in February. The author is the very prolific Kristin Hannah who has over 20 books to her name. I picture them on a shelf in her home office, title after title lined up neatly, one after the other: "The Things We Do for Love" "Between Sisters" "Firefly" "Home Front" "Night Road" "Home Again." Hannah is clearly not a person who sits around saying "I wish I could write a novel"or "maybe I'll write a novel one day." Instead she sits at her desk and produces so she can point them out, spine by spine, "And I wrote that, and I wrote that, and I wrote that." 



I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but just between us, some of her covers, most of her covers actually, look pretty sappy. The Nightingale is definitely an exception. Obviously she writes and sells a ton of books. She's a favorite with book clubs so I know the stories have to deliver more than the covers seem to promise; simplistic and weepy stories regardless of whether they end happily or tragically. So what's the deal with these romance novel cover designs? Clue me in!



On the other hand, reading what Hannah herself has to say on the subject, is reassuring. And The Nightingale, the story of two sisters living in France during WWII, following their lives as one becomes a prisoner in her own home and the other fights for the resistance, sounds both important and riveting
“Sometimes a story sneaks up on you, hits you hard, and dares you to look away. That was the case with The Nightingale. In truth, I did everything I could not to write this novel. But when research on World War II led me to the story of a nineteen-year-old Belgian woman who had created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France, I was hooked. I had read endless books on World War II, and still I didn’t know this story; I didn’t know that downed airmen had hiked over the frozen peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains in shoes that didn’t fit, in clothes that weren’t warm enough, with both the Germans and the Spanish patrols searching for them. The entire journey out of France and over the mountains was fraught with risk. As the war progressed and the Nazis learned of the escapes, the consequences to anyone caught aiding the escapees became deadly. 

The woman who led them was named Andrée De Jongh and her story — one of heroism and peril and unbridled courage — became the starting point for my novel. I simply couldn’t turn away. When I had read everything I could about Andrée, I dove into the stories of women who joined the Resistance in France. I found literally dozens of memoirs written by women who had become spies and couriers and helped to create the escape network. 
 
These women were the action-star heroes of the time, but there were others, women with stories that were told in a quieter voice: women who hid Jewish children in their homes. These courageous women put themselves directly in harm’s way to save others. Too many of them paid a terrible, unimaginable price for their heroism. They were, like so many women in wartime, largely forgotten after the war’s end. There were no parades for them, very few medals, and almost no mention in the history books. It felt like an oversight to me, something that needed to be corrected. These women had risked their lives in a time when the smallest mistake could get one killed. They deserved to be understood and remembered. 
Once the idea took root, I began as I always do: with research. It’s really the research — in any novel — that informs the story. First I find out what has happened, and then I begin to extrapolate what could happen, and then I create a world that makes sense to me, an imaginary world firmly planted in truth. In this story, of course, the research was a daunting task. There was simply so much to know and understand. I started with the historical background of the war in Europe and then began to narrow my focus. My best information always comes from memoirs — in this case, memoirs of women in the Resistance, downed airman who had escaped, and women who hid and rescued Jewish children. 
Of course I took a few liberties — it’s fiction, after all — but I did it all with an eye toward telling a story that felt as true as possible. I really felt a heavy burden to tell these stories well and honestly. Too many of them have been forgotten. 
More and more, as I read about these brave women, I found myself consumed with a single, overwhelming question, as relevant today as it was seventy years ago: When would I, as a wife and mother, risk my life — and more important, my child’s life — to save a stranger?
That question is at the very heart of The Nightingale.
A question that haunts me still.”
TriStar, the studio that optioned the title, hired Ann Peacock to write the adaptation. Peacock, who like Hannah, holds a law degree, penned the scripts for A Lesson Before Dying, The Chronicles of Narnia, Kit Kitteridge: An American Girl and Nights in Rodanthe. To be frank, that last one is not what I'd call a good omen. Disagree? Talk to me.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Clint Eastwood stars in this week's #ThrowbackThursday movie: Escape from Alcatraz


My son has a t-shirt that we bought at least a dozen years ago on a family trip to San Francisco. It's black with an illustration of Alcatraz on it. He used to wear it all the time, hanging down big and baggy, almost covering the tips of his shorts, the way the young boys used to do. At twenty two he still wears it from time to time, except now it actually fits. 


There is something mythical about the idea of the island of Alcatraz and the escape-proof prison, the prison that housed Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Micky Cohen and Whitey Bulger. Seeing the title pop up on Netflix, and having those escaped convicts back east on my mind,  I decided to plug Escape from Alcatraz in as this week's #ThrowbackThurday movie. I also confess to a pro-Eastwood bias. Not for his empty chair politics but the other stuff; the movie guy, that's our Clint. While it didn't win any awards, and there are times you wonder how can the guards be so clueless, I loved it and if you've never seen or haven't watched it in awhile, I hope you do too.


Made in 1979—and who doesn't especially love a 1970's Clint Eastwood movie—Escape from Alcatraz details a prison break in 1962,  just one year before they closed the doors of Alcatraz to everyone but the tourists. Take a trip down Lombard Street, ride the cable cars, pick up some pork buns in Chinatown and visit a maximum security prison. Make sure you volunteer to get locked in the solitary confinement cell with the lights off. Good times!

The movie is an exercise in nerve-control as it lays out the process of planning and executing in painstaking detail by Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers, the only escape ever from Alcatraz prison. The only possible escape, that is, prison officials were adamant that Morris (Clint Eastwood) and the other men John Anglin (Fred Ward) and his brother Clarence (Jack Thibeau) could never have survived the journey from the island across the San Francisco Bay. Chilly waters and all. 


Just one of the stories told by J. Campbell Bruce in the nonfiction book Escape from Alcatraz, the movie bets on our fascination with  the concept of escape. The way Tim Robbins hides his escape route behind the sexy posters of Rita Haworth, Marilyn MOnroe and Raquel Welch in Shawshank Redemption, the way the men carried the soil they dug out of the tunnel and carried out in their pant legs, releasing it with each step on the yard, in The Great Escape, the way Clint Eastwood painstakingly forges a digging tool from a spoon and nail clipper: they're all gripping and absorbing examples of the you could hear a pin drop variety of building tension. 


We especially like it when we think the cons are innocent, or at least not cold-blooded killers. None of us would be rooting for those guys from the Clinton Correctional Facility even if they did charm the pants off of that idiotic female prison employee. No, we wouldn't like that. Prison breaks are better left to the movies and to actors with faces like Clint Eastwood. Watchable, mesmerizing faces and strong, no-nonsense do you feel lucky, punk attitudes. Well, do ya?

The film was directed by Don Siegel who helmed a handful of Clint Eastwood movies including Two Mules for Sister Sarah and the iconic Dirty Harry. The screenplay was written by Richard Tuggle who would go on to write and direct Tightrope again starring Clint Eastwood in 1984. He also happens to have co-written one of the Tales from the Crypt episodes that I actually worked on: The Switch, directed by none other than The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in 1990. It's about a man who will do anything for a younger face. It's pretty creepy, just as Arnold turned out to be. 

We watched Escape from Alcatraz on Netflix but it's available to stream on Google-Play, Vudu and Amazon Instant.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Which famous Scotsman is playing Lumiere? Beauty & the Beast Casting Update


Time to do a little casting catch-up. There's still no news on who'll play the all important role of the whisk in Beauty & the Beast—that's the part my son played back when he was a freshman in his high school's production—but I do have some more trivial casting bits to share. Last we talked B&B, Luke Evans was going to flex his muscles as Gaston, Emma Watson (her again!) was Beauty, Dan Stevens was all set as the Beast and Emma Thompson was rumored to play Mrs. Potts.



So, let's catch up. Good news for all my fellow Thompson fans; she's in. As is Ian McCellan as Cogsworth and Josh Gad is Le Fou. 
Stanley Tucci plays the Cadenza. Honestly I don't remember Cadenza from my kid's play. And I don't know what a cadenza is. I know what a credenza is but not a cadenza. Okay, I do now because I looked it up. A cadenza is 'a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end.'  Hmmm, speaking of virtuoso's, Audra McDonald, the acclaimed singer/actor we saw last as Mother Abess in that NBC live production of Sound of Music. plays the Garderobe, not to be confused with a chifferobe. And in diversity news, at least it won't be a completely white cast.



The famous Scotsman in the question at the top of this post is Ewan McGregor of course. McGregor shared some thoughts on playing Lumiere with IndieWire at the Edinburgh Film Festival—
It’s fourteen years since McGregor starred and sang in Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!”, and he found the process this time around terrifying. “I’d forgotten how scary it is. You’re standing alone, and behind this glass there’s forty people. That was quite tricky. After that I went away and really got to work on my French accent.” 
Remember his performance in Moulin Rouge?  Regardez ...



I'm pretty sure he can handle Be Our Guest in Beauty and the Beast!



Hey everyone, a quick question if you have a mo. Do you have any suggestions to help me improve the overall appeal of the site? Is there a template design you'd recommend? And would you enjoy my blog more if it were dark ink on a light background? I use the dark background to emphasize the visuals but are the white letters too difficult to read?

Thanks for the feedback!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dark Places: Dark, gritty trailer for Charlize Theron movie based on Gillian Flynn's book.


It's only been a couple of years but it feels like forever since I first heard about Charlize Theron making Dark Places, the new thriller based on Gillian Flynn's novel. I first posted the news here in February of 2013 and I've been sharing bits and pieces—my take on the book, the first still, the French trailer—ever since. Part of what makes the waiting for Dark Places hard, is the success of Gone Girl. It's a bit of a nail biter; will another movie based on a Gillian Flynn's book be as good? Like everyone who got wrapped up in wondering how season two was going to compare to season one of True Detective, both written by Nick Pizolatto, we're left asking, will this one measure up to the first one? Will Dark Places live up to Gone Girl? If you've got DirecTV you can see for yourself right now; come August 7th we all can see for ourselves when the film finally gets released here in the US. 



My expectations are fairly low. As I've been saying about the book, it's trashier, sort of nasty-good. Pulp fiction vs the slightly more literary air of Gone Girl.

Here's part of what I said in my post last year:
Flynn really knows how to write flawed characters doesn't she?  No one is innocent in a Flynn book. The author excels at revealing humanity with all our ugly failings; self-serving, weak and disreputable. There were no heroes living at the Day house. Libby herself, the protagonist, is a self-proclaimed liar and a thief, with a penchant for palming miscellaneous trinkets. I found myself feeling very much like I did when I read Flynn's Gone Girl; I hated everyone but there's no way I could stop reading!


In the end, I found the book as flawed as the characters but enjoyed the read anyway. I'm hoping that holds true for the film. Plenty of time for you to read Gillian Flynn's book before you see the movie.
It's a perfect beach read. Fast and fun to read but not so precious you mind getting some sand and suntan oil on your copy.



Dark Places stars Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan and Chloe Grace Moretz.
Here's the trailer, will you be watching the movie?



Monday, June 22, 2015

Poldark starring Aidan Turner: I'd wait for him [Episode 1]


From Poldark's opening moments, where a group of English soldiers in the Revolutionary War are almost swallowed up by the green grandeur of the Virginia woods, their scarlet red coats just drops of color against the verdancy of the trees, the striking visuals —vivid, intense, dramatic—offer the only possible backdrop to the sweeping human drama of the show. Beautifully shot by Cinders Foreshaw, that opening scene was lush, majestic, like a painting, and the show's title credits are equally promising. Gilded clouds sweep across the blue sky, huge waves pound the rocky Cornwall shoreline, sending up a fury of smoke as they crash and thrash, that pastel sky turns grey and ominous. Here, they promise, is something to see. 



And Poldark himself? Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) is Ross Poldark, the British soldier who returns home to Cornwall after a three year absence fighting the Revolutionary War with little to show for it but a sexy scar. England has lost the war and Poldark's friends and family thought he was dead, killed in battle. He returns home to find his father dead, his estate in ruins, and his love, Elizabeth (Heida Reed) on the verge of marrying his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller). 



Turner's Poldark has been compared to both Heathcliff and Darcy, and by all the smoldering, pent-up passion buried in my soul, that he be. Oops. Sorry, got a little carried away there. As I expect to, each and every Sunday night for the next eight weeks. 

When we first see Poldark in that gorgeous opening scene, he's sitting around playing cards with his fellow enlisted men. "Why did you enlist?" one of the officers asks, disgusted at their gambling in the midst of war, and his response "To escape the gallows" full of wise assery, barely escaping insubordination, tells us he's full of entitlement, a bit of a jerk with little respect for authority. On the other hand we can't help but understand (and the Americans among us, respect) his disagreement with the fight, but still, Poldark, if you're in it, you're in it. In the next moment, the camp is attacked and he turns everything around. Taking charge, he grabs his gun, orders the other men up. "Do you want to live here or die here?" From smart ass to bad ass leader in a blink of an eye. 

That kind of authentic human behavior, when the stakes are higher than high, life or death, is what Debbie Horsfield so beautifully delivers in her screen adaptation of the books by Winston Graham. 


George Warlaggan (Jack Farthing) a young money-lender who knew Poldark in his youth, tells his uncle
"At school I rather admired him. He said what he thought. Did what he liked."
"And what's that got him?"
"It got him a following." 
It's definitely got me following him. Poldark also stars Warren Clarke as his uncle Charles. Clarke, after a very long and illustrious career, mainly in British television, died this past November at sixty-seven. Ruby Bentall is Poldark's sweet and aptly name cousin Verity (The Paradise), sweet and supportive and Robin Ellis, who starred as Poldark in the original 1975 series, appears as Reverend Halse.



Eleanor Tomlinson—Georgiana Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley (which for some reason keeps putting me to sleep) is Demelza, the young woman, beaten and abused by her father, rescued and taken in by Poldark as a kitchen maid. At first glance, on the run, dressed in her brother's clothing, she looks like a boy, but wouldn't you know, underneath the tatters, she's gorgeous. Lots of lustrous red hair. Will she help Poldark get over Elizabeth? I'm betting she will. 




Poldark. Every Sunday night. 9 pm. Be there or if you're juggling True Detective, watch it during the week on the PBS/Masterpiece Theatre rebroadcast. It's only the beginning; I'm in it for the long run.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Smoke Signals: Forgiving Your Father


I picked this up from Jamie Ford's twitter stream.  Ford is the fabulous writer of one of my favorite books I'd love to see as a movie, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. He also happens to be a funny and sensitive guy-guy. Like the best writers. Today being Father's Day, he shared this youtube clip from Smoke Signals, the 1998 film written by Sherman Alexie based on his book of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven. It's a beautiful look at forgiveness, especially for the guys out there seeking ways to forgive their fathers.


I couldn't think of a better video to share on this particular Slacker Sunday.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Saturday Matinee: The Bourne Identity



Bourne Again? ReBourne? I'm brainstorming titles for the 5th Bourne movie, set to bring back Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Natural Bourne Killer?


There's a lot of chatter among fans of the franchise about who else will join the production. Julia Stiles just signed on to come back as Nicky Parsons, the CIA analyst who ultimately helps Bourne out but she's relatively small potatoes; will Joan Allen be back as CIA operative Pam Landy? Will Jeremy Renner bring his Aaron Cross character to the film? When will Alicia Vikander, who supposedly dropped Tom Hanks and The Circle because she's heavily rumored to be doing the Bourne movie, actually commit?
Questions, so many questions.



My question is will it be any good without Tony Gilroy? Gilroy is the guy who wrote all the other Bourne movies, yep, even Bourne Legacy, the one that starred not Matt Damon, but Jeremy Renner.  Gilroy is not going to be back for Bourne #5; that's being written and directed by Paul Greengrass. Greengrass is a terrific director. Matt Damon thinks he's such a good director that he refused to make another Bourne movie without him. Greengrass helmed both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum to high praise he doesn't have a list of great writing credits. He just doesn't. I'll repeat myself, all the other Bourne movies were written by Tony Gilroy. For my money, that's the key to Bourne's success. 

For today's Saturday Matinee, let's zero in on The Bourne Identity, the 2002 film that started it all. As I said Tony Gilroy wrote the screenplay based on Robert Ludlum's novel. Doug Limon directed. Limon also helmed one of my all-time favorite action films, Edge of Tomorrow starring the weird but wonderful Tom Cruise.



You know what The Bourne Identitiy is about. A man gets picked up by a fishing boat, he's been shot but has no memory of who shot him, or why, or even who he is. We know who he is. He's Jason Bourne. The Operation Treadstone contract assassin. 

Part of what I love about The Bourne Identity is that while I know it's an action movie, it's also a love story. As was the Limon-directed Edge of Tomorrow.  In The Bourne Identity Bourne finds love with Marie (Franka Potente), the woman he pays to chauffeur him across Europe in a thrilling flight for his life. Oh, wait, could it be you haven't seen The Bourne Identity? Am I actually spoiling something for you here? If that's the case I  better not tell you what happens in The Bourne Supremacy, the 2nd movie in the series. 



The Bourne Identity boasts some great performances from Damon and Potente but also Joan Allen, Chris Cooper, Ronnie Cox and Clive Owens as the robotic Professor, a killing machine. 

Let's just watch the trailer and then if you want, you can watch the whole movie this afternoon via the usual places: Amazon, VUDU, Google-play and M-Go. You'll have to check your Netflix account to see if it's available to stream there. 


Are you up for the fifth Bourne movie? Got a good title for the reboot? Talk to me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

It's Emma Watson's turn to form The Circle with Tom Hanks

Will The Circle be unbroken? Dang! I know just how the Collider interviewer in the video snippet below, feels. I was all set to see Alicia Vikander opposite Tom Hanks in the screen adaptation of the bestselling Dave Eggers thriller. Remember we talked about the James Ponsoldt directed film set in California's googley tech world up north here? I created a whole beautiful post all about Alicia and her many projects going back to my own personal discovery of Vikander in Anna Karenina. I was feeling all proud and motherly that she was in a relationship with Ponsoldt and Hanks but now Vikander has up and dumped Ponsoldt and his indie ways for a couple of big spenders: she'll likely star with beau Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed as well as Matt Damon in the next Bourne movie. Pooh!


So what's a director to do? Ponsoldt says they're moving ahead, they'll start filming, here in my drought ridden state of California in the fall, but with Emma Watson instead of Alicia. 

Watson, currently shooting Beauty & the Beast with Luke Evans and Dan Stevens, will likely make a wonderful Mae, the young woman who lands what she thinks is a dream job at The Circle, a cutting edge tech company. I know my son has both actors on his list of women he'd like to, er, get to know better.

So, all you Dave Eggers fans out there, what do you think of Emma Watson as eager and naive Mae? Watch what director James Ponsoldt has to say on the subject.



Ex Machina's Alicia Vikander leaves Tom Hanks in 'The Circle'

Originally published April, 1015
While Alicia Vikander hasn't quite achieved household name status yet, she soon will. She might even eclipse Jennifer Lawrence as the 'it girl'. Now there's a term no one uses anymore but you get my drift; things tend to go in waves in Hollywood, new stars are discovered, raised up to be adored, written about, photographed, adulated, ad nauseum, and then, depending on their talent, left to carry on or wither when the next big thing comes along. Vikander is the next big thing and seems to have the talent to carry on when the wafting wanes. She's remarkable as AVA, the AI in Ex Machina currently playing in theaters—I saw the movie this past weekend and was blown away by her performance as well as that of Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac in Alex Garland's intriguing but ultimately terrifying story about a man who must decide if a robot has achieved sentience—and she was so good I'm eager to see her upcoming projects. 



First up, we have Vikander in Testament of Youth opposite Game of
 Throne's Kit Harington. Based on the World War I memoir by Vera Brittain; I shared the trailer last October, the movie is finally getting a limited release here in the US on June 5th. And due out this fall is The Light Between Oceans based on the deeply moving M.L. Stedman novel. I've just finished the book, the story of a lighthouse keeper, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his young wife Isabel (Vikander) who take in a baby that washes up on their coast, and the ripple effects of that decision. I'll try to get my thoughts on the book into some sort of shape for you soon but it's one of those haunting stories that stays with you, nagging and painful like a sore tooth. 



Also due out sometime this year, again most likely in the fall, is Tulip Fever based on the Deborah Moggach book about a beautiful young woman, her much older husband (Christoph Waltz) and the attraction that develops between the young wife and the young artist (Dane DeHaan) hired to paint their portrait. It's set in the 17th century with the crazy tulip market as a backdrop; I read the book back in the spring of 2012 and wrote about it here. I was fairly meh about Moggach's novel but the movie sounds great. 


Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl

Vikander has also wrapped production on Adam Jones with an A-list cast that includes J'Law's leading man, Bradley Cooper, plus Jamie Dornan, Emma Thompson, Sienna Miller, and Lily James, slated for October 2. Then there's The Danish Girl where she's an artist married to Lili Elba (Eddie Redmayne) one of the first transgender people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. I shared the first picture of Redmayne as Elba back in February. Vikander also has the highly anticipated The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with Hugh Grant and possibly David Beckham in the hopper. See what I mean? Some of you may not know her name yet but after this year it will be impossible not to. 



Now, with all that in mind, Vikander has just signed on to costar opposite Tom Hanks in the James Ponsoldt-helmed adaptation of Dave Eggers The Circle. This is the second time Hanks is teaming with Eggers by the way; he also stars in the upcoming adaptation of Egger's Hologram for the King, directed by Tom Twyker.  I've not read The Circle yet but Deadline reports the novel "focuses on a young woman who is hired for a big job in an Internet monopoly called the Circle, which links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. The book turns into contemporary thriller about the perils of life in a digital age where personal data is collected, sifted and monetized and used for surveillance, rendering privacy obsolete."

Sounds like a terrifying reminder about our rapidly-changing world. Shooting on The Circle will start in August here in California. 

UPDATED: 6/19/2016 
Vikander has officially dropped out of the project, and is in talks to join beau Fassbender on Assassin's Creed as well as Matt Damon on the next Bourne movie. Emma Watson is now in talks to join the Circle.

Talk about squaring a circle, the film combines big budget old Hollywood (Hanks), sharp indie director (Ponsoldt helmed The Spectacular Now) and the newest face in film (Vikander) who, if things go as they usually do, should be getting a cosmetic or fragrance contract soon. 




Not to be all braggy but I picked out both Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson as two of the positives in the disappointing Anna Karenina back in 2013. She clearly has a penchant for moody period pieces—although Ex Machina is anything but—so I'm curious to see what next year's schedule brings. Oh, and if her ethereal beauty and her brilliant career isn't enough, the 27 year old Swedish actress is currently attached to dishy Michael Fassbender. Love her? Hate her? You tell me.


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