Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Matinee: Goodbye, Columbus


Here's something for a Saturday afternoon; 1969's Goodbye Columbus starring Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw. The film introduced McGraw, who won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer that year;  not to be confused with fellow brunette and contemporary Katharine Ross who also won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer just two years earlier for The Graduate.  Ironically both stories featured male protagonists dealing with some major post-collegiate angst. While The Graduate is by far the more acclaimed film —who can forget that iconic scene with Dustin Hoffman pounding on the locked church door? — Goodbye Columbus can take you back to a similar time and place.

Screenwriter Arnold Schulman was nominated for his adaptation of the Phillip Roth novella which first appeared in The Paris Review, a before being published along with a collection of short stories focused on Jewish-American life. Remember the story?
Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. 
You can watch Goodbye, Columbus today on Google.play, VUDU and Amazon; double check Netflix; they're so changeable!







Originally published 4/4/15


Friday, April 29, 2016

The Catcher was a Spy: Paul Rudd catches the part


When I think of Paul Rudd, this shot is pretty typical of the image that comes to my mind. A genial guy, a bit of a goofball. Which makes it difficult for me to put Paul Rudd in the leading role of Moe Berg, a real life World War II undercover intelligence agent. 


But that’s exactly who he’ll play in The Catcher Was A Spy, based on Nicholas Dawidoff’s nonfiction bestseller about a college graduate who spoke 9 languages and spent 15 years as a professional baseball player. At the same time as Moe Berg was playing catch he was also a top secret spy for America's pre-CIA intelligence agency the OSS, helping America win the arms race against Germany.

According to Empire, the adaptation plans have been talked about for quite awhile. At one point George Clooney was being eyed for the lead. George Clooney. Paul Rudd. What’s the difference, eh? 

What do you think?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Nicholas Hoult & Zoey Deutch headline biopic Rebel in the Rye based on J.D. Salinger: A Life

J.D. Salinger/WWII 

This should excite several generations of Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger fans. Danny Strong (Selma) is adapting the  Kenneth Slawenski biography J.D. Salinger: A Life with Nicholas Hoult in the starring role as the author, just prior to the writing of Catcher in the Rye
Nicholas Hoult
The biopic— Rebel in the Rye—has just added Zoey Deutch as Oona ONeill, the daughter of playwright Eugene ONeill. ONeill was the talk of the town and had whats described as a tumultuous relationship with then unknown Salinger. Not to spoil things but it must have been an incredibly short-lived romance: she went on to marry Charlie Chaplin when she was only 18, Chaplin being 36 years her senior! The marriage obliterated an already strained relationship with her playwright father. 
Oona O’Neill 

Oona and Chaplin stayed together until he died in 1977 and raised 7 kids together. Seems to me like Oona is one of those women we ought to be making a movie about!

Zoey Deutch—a dead ringer for ONeill— is the daughter of Leah Thompson and Howard Deutch; you might have caught the young actress in Vampire Diaries, Ringer and most recently, Dirty Grandpa, which I wisely avoided. Deutch has a ton of projects coming out this year including Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some due out April 1, and a leading role in the movie adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s YA bestseller Before I Fall, kind of a teen Groundhog Day 
Kevin Spacey is onboard as Whit Burnet, the editor of STORY magazine and something of a mentor to Salinger.  The cast includes Laura Dern, Brian D’Arcy James and Hope Davis, but I know not in what context.

Update 4/28/2016 Sarah Paulson has joined the cast as Dorothy Olding, Salinger’s agent. Olding believed in “Jerry”  Salinger when she read his first short stories and stayed loyal to him throughout his career.
Does this entice you to read Slawenskis bio first?

John Boyega, James McAvoy & Nicholas Hoult coming to your TV screen in Watership Down


TV, you’ve done it again! The BBC and Netflix are joining forces to bring an A-list adaptation of the classic British novel Watership Down to your television screen. Planned as a four-part animated miniseries the show will premiere on BBC One in the UK and internationally on Netflix. 



John Boyega/Star Wars

The A-list talent includes Star Wars: The Force Awakens John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton.


 Nicholas Hoult/Equals

There seems less and less distinction between the kind of quality you find in a movie theater and your home screen. Soon a movie theater, a home viewing screen, an iPad, all will be seen as just another device.

James MacAvoy/Eleanor Rigby

Here’s the low down on the book written by Richard Adams in 1972. Don’t let the word ‘animation’ throw you. Watership Down is beloved by adults and children alike.

“Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special creatures—rabbits—on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
 Obviously, the actors are sharing their vocals talents but depending on the ambition of the animation—think Jungle Book—this could be an amazing television adventure.




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Jeremy Renner & Amy Adams talk about The Story of Your Life

It’s annoying that the biggie bigs and hot shot theater owners have seen a trailer for the adaptation of Ted Chiang’s short story Story of Your Life starring Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner. I feel like a little kid wearing one of those souvenir t-shirts grandma and grandpa brought back from their vacation.
“My grandparents went to (fill in the blank) and all I got is this lousy t-shirt” 
The theater owners went to CinemaCon and all I got are these clips! 
Actually, I was happy to see Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner talking about the film, especially to hear what Renner said about wanting to work on a story featuring such a strong female lead. The sci-fi film also stars Forrest Whitaker and is directed by hard-hitting Denis Villenueve (Sicario, Prisoners and the upcoming remake of Blade Runner!!!)
You can read the entire short story by Chiang at MathisGasser.wordpress.com (corrected)
CinemaCon - Jeremy Renner for Story of Your Life on TrailerAddict.
CinemaCon - Amy Adams for Story of Your Life on TrailerAddict.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

12 Paris Locations that Fans of the Classic "Gigi" Won't Want to Miss

Gigi and Gaston catch everyone's eyes as they enter world-famous Maxim's

Today's Dreaming of France post is a reprise of my longest and most popular Dreaming of France entry. A trip through the Parisian locations used in the classic film Gigi, based on the book by Colette, and one of my favorite film classics. Originally published 3/30/2015

"Gigli?" my son asks, wondering why I'd be at all interested in the Ben Affleck, J-Lo disaster, the epitome of a bad romance, made even worse because its epic failure has been immortalized on film.

"No! Not Gigli. Gigi. Very famous movie musical? Takes place in Paris during the Belle Epoque? Won 9 Oscars? Starred Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan? Vincent Minelli directed?"

"Hmmm" he nods, a shrugging respect for the director, meaning maybe he'll watch it with me one day especially as he's also curious about the Belle Epoque and wouldn't mind going back to Paris and getting a good look at Maxim's for himself.

So, I wager, would some of you. Or if you've just returned from Paris, I imagine you're ready to turn around and go right back to the city of lights. Recently when I shared some clips from Gigi, along with the vintage trailer, Linda, a new reader—a new voice in the comment section anyway—got to thinking about the film locations.
"One of my favourite films ever. I loved the scenes in Paris in the movie too and, even now, try to guess where they are, especially when Gaston is singing and realising that he is in love with Gigi."
I decided it would be 'fun' to try to track down some of the locations. Fun! I had no idea what I was getting myself into. First I re-watched Gigi, which is a minute shy of 2 hours, if you watch it start to finish, no bathroom breaks. Except that I watched it and paused it at every key location. And then, not to be too much of a martyr about it, I hunted down the locations using imdb info and whatever I could glean on google and found pictures to post here for you. I'm embarrassed to tell you how long it took me but it was more than a couple of hours. Here ya go, Linda—and my friends playing along at the Dreaming of France meme—this one's for you ... hold on to your hats; it's a long one.

                                                          #1: The Bois du BoulogneDo you have a picture of yourself at the Bois du Boulogne or any of the Paris locations seen in Gigi? We'd love to see them! Send your photos to me and I'll make a space just for your Gigi pix!


Let's start at the very beginning ... Gigi opens with Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) standing in the famed Bois du Boulogne watching all the girls go by. The year is 1900 and the images look like they're straight out of a painting by one of the impressionists. I'd say George Seurat except it's not Sunday, and it's the wrong park and Seurat's not actually an impressionist, he's a Neo-Impressionist. So. Still, the Bois du Boulogne, one of France's most famous parks, was a place to take a stroll or carriage ride along the gravel path, or to row a boat; it was a place to see and be seen. There is still sitting and strolling and rowing, but things look a bit more casual now. 



After Chevalier breaks out into "Thank Heavens for Little Girls" which yes, sounds absolutely creepy now, to our jaded ears, but sounded like your basic sweet old gramps back in 1958, we meet Gigi (Leslie Caron) who looks for all the world like Madeline, our favorite French schoolgirl. 

We follow the playful young filly as she runs from the park and dashes up the steps to the apartment where she lives with her grandmama, 'Mamita' Alvarez played by Hermione Gingold. 


While she is heard, but never seen, Gigi's mother lives there too, a singer with the Opera Comique. Mamita clearly regards her as a failure and hopes for a different life for Gigi. Not a lot of options, you may recall, for young women at the turn of the century. And a good man is hard to find.

Cour de Commerce St. Andre/ Photo Credit: Wikipedia Common

Where is that charming little apartment where Gigi lives? I'm taking the lead from Fodors, their guide advises to make your way to the prettiest nook on the Left Bank, the Cour de Commerce St. Andre (above).

#2:  Cour de Rohan courtyard, where Gigi lives with her grandmother and mother

Once you've made your way to the little passageway, walk just pass the 12th century turret in the wall, and you'll find a gate that leads to "Paris' most beautiful cul-de-sac, the 17th century Cour de Rohan courtyard—if the gate is open you'll recognize the setting used for Chez Mamita in Vincent Minelli's Gigi film. Linking Bd. St. Germaine and Rue St. Andres des Artes , Rue St. Germaine de Pres, 75006, Station Odeon." You're there!

#3:    29 Avenue Rapp where Aunt Alicia lives

After a visit with Grandmama, Gigi is off to see Aunt Alicia for her weekly lesson in the art of catching the right man. Emanuel Levy in his book Vincente Minelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer  tells us Aunt Alicia lives at Avenue Rapp; above is shot of Gigi going into the doorway. We barely get a glimpse but I did some deep digging and discovered that it's #29,  in the gorgeous example of Art Nouveau built in 1901 by architect Jules Lavirotte. The building features a scandalous Adam and Eve sculpture at the entry; apropos for Alicia who never married, and lives on memories of past love affairs, preparing Gigi for a life much like her own. 

The scandalous #29 Avenue Rapp in the Seventh Arrondisement, not far from the Eiffel Tower

It really is the perfect place for her! Alicia, Grandmama's sister, has the task of turning Gigi into the kind of woman that can attract the right kind of man to take care of her. To take care of her beautifully as Gaston would say. Apparently that includes picking out the perfect cigar; that's a little skill set that angers Gaston later, as he realizes the kind of woman he has helped create, out of the adorable, youthful, innocent Gigi.


In the meantime, we cut to Gaston (Louis Jordan) arriving at his home in his carriage. His home! Mon dieu! It's a museum. No, really! It is. It's the Musee Jacquemart-Andres at 158 Boulevard Haussmann. I can't find a shot of Gaston's carriage pulling up to the building but it's clear when you see the film, this is the place!

#4:  Gaston's mansion; the Musee Racquemart St. Andre on Boulevard Haussmann

If you watch the movie closely you'll see that the interior of Gaston's home looks an awful lot like the  Grand Salon of the musee. If the scene wasn't actually shot there, the space surely inspired Gigi's production designer, Cecil Beaton. 
Save this space and watch the movie, come back and tell me if you don't agree!


When his Uncle Honore picks Gaston up, they drive through the streets of Paris, including riding under the Eiffel Tower while playboy Gaston, tired of his life as a wealthy bachelor, exclaims, in song, It's A Bore.

#5:  The Eiffel Tower

Everything, is in fact a bore, except the short visits he takes to Mamita's home and his refreshing chats with Gigi. He's an old family friend and Gigi is always enthusiastic and eager to see him, curious about the life he leads, a seemingly exciting life that she reads about in the newspapers. I suppose it would be a little like a 16 year old teenage girl having a 33 year old George Clooney as a family friend. How could she not have a crush on him? 

Meanwhile Gigi rebels from her lesson in the art of love, still looking for all the world like Madeline, escapes to Parc Monseau and sings about how much she hates The Parisians. Later we'll see Gaston at the same Park Monseau as he contemplates his feelings for the little girl who, while never an 'ugly duckling' is changing into a beautiful swan.



#6:  Parc Monseau 35 Boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris 

Meanwhile, Gaston ditches Honore and goes to Mamita's but Gigi, who always cheers him up isn't there so he doesn't stay long. When he leaves he runs into her near the park and—rather forcibly— takes her for an ice cream at the Ice Palace where he's meeting his girlfriend of the moment, Liane (Eva Gabor). For awhile he watches with Gigi as she stares in fascination. "She's pretty, isn't she?" Gaston asks, but Gigi says she thinks Liane is common, which gets Gaston thinking.



Besides Liane is very busy having a great time skating and Gaston is furious and jealous as he watches her flirt with her skating instructor.

#7:     Theatre du Rond (Palais du Glace) 2bis Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008 

Sadly, the Ice Palace, the Palais du Glace, no longer exists as a skating rink; built in 1894, the Palais du Glace became the Theatre du Rond Point in 1980. Truthfully, we see very little of it in Minelli's movie anyway. It's not a stop I'd necessarily make if you're on a search for Gigi's Parision film locations.  Maxim's is a whole other story. And it's the next place we see in the film.

#8:   Maxim's, #3 Rue Royale, Paris

As you can imagine most of the movie's interior scenes were shot on a soundstage at MGM. But not all. Not Maxim's. Maxim's could only be Maxim's. Director Vincente Minelli wanted to capture the flavor of the original with its iconic Art Nouveau decor and insisted on shooting inside the real restaurant, which first opened in 1893, during the Belle Epoque. How fantastique that Maxim's is still up and running! If I'm honest, I wish Minelli had captured even more of the amazing looking locale.


We first see Maxim's when Gaston takes Liane to the de rigeur Paris night spot. At this point he's convinced Liane has been cheating on him with her handsome skating instructor and sings "She is Not Thinking of Me" as he watches his very flirtatious girlfriend gad about with one and all.

Look at that gorgeous Art Nouveau mirror behind them. The shoot was reportedly a nightmare as the large mirrors reflected not just the actors, but all the equipment and the crew. While his crew wanted to cover the mirrors, Minelli refused to lose the iconic look of Maxim's and insisted they figure it out. At that point I'm sure the gaffer pouted and sang a little "He is not thinking of me" tune himself. But the mirrors stayed.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris was also shot at Maxim's

Later, after Gaston has broken things off with Liane, he takes Gigi and Grandmama/Mamita to the coastal resort town of Treauville. The scenes at the beach were shot right here in Los Angeles at Venice Beach so you can stop looking for the Pacific Ocean in France; it's not there! 

It's after the trip that everything changes. Aunt Alicia decides they must seize the opportunity to get Gigi ready to take up Liane's spot. At first Grandmama is shocked but then sees it could be Gigi's best chance so Gigi's training goes into overdrive.


The next time Gaston comes to visit, he finds a very different Gigi. An excited 16 year old eager to see what Gaston thinks of her new dress. Gaston, expecting to see the young girl he's grown fond of over the years, isn't unlike a father who sees his daughter dressed up for a date for the very first time. It's a shock. Gaston reacts badly, telling her she looks like an organ-grinders monkey and Gigi tells him to take a hike. He doesn't get very far, rethinks things and comes back saying he wants to take her out.


Mamita says no and sends Gigi to her room, telling Gaston that Gigi can no longer just be friends with him. If he wants to continue to keep company with her, they must make some arrangement because otherwise Gigi's reputation will be compromised by being seen with him, with nothing for her to gain from it. 

It's then that he storms out of the apartment thinking the whole thing is absurd. She's a little girl! And so we come to the sequence Linda asked about, the sequence where he sings the title song and realizes he is in love with Gigi.

#9:  Place Furstenberg.  Gaston rushes out of Mamita's house into pretty plaza

Linda's big question isn't such an easy one to pin down. Minelli used 'creative geography' s technique created by Jean Cocteau to make a variety of Parisian locations seem as though they were next door to each other. Filmmakers do it all the time. It's cheating in the strictest sense of the word, but filmmaking isn't about reproducing reality, it's about making magic, and the sequence is definitely that. When he leaves the apartment we first see him in Place Furstenberg, a beautiful little plaza which artists from Hockney (below) to Delacroix —Michel, not Eugene—have immortalized on canvas. Eugene Delacroix did however have his studio there, you can visit the museum AND follow in Gaston's footsteps at the same time! You'll find the link with directions and hours etc below.





Place Furstenberg by David Hockney

Storming out of Mamita's apartment, Gaston crosses the square and makes his way to the Pont Alexandre III bridge, pretty identifiable through its classic symbols.

#10:   Pont Alexandre III


It's ridiculous, Gaston thinks. Gigi is just a child. Isn't she?

"She's a child, just a child. She's a scamp and a brat... But I must confess... in that brand new little dress, she looked surprisingly mature."


#11:  Park Monseau (where Gigi sang The Parisians)

And then suddenly he begins to see what he's been too blind to see before. That his feelings for Gigi, have been growing from friendly affection into something more.


"Oh No!" he sings "But but there's sweeter music when she speaks, isn't there?
A different bloom about her cheeks, isn't there?"
Could I be wrong? Could it be so? 
Oh, where, oh were did Gigi go?
Gigi!
 Am I a fool without a mind?
Or have I merely been too blind to realize? 
Oh Gigi! 
While you've been growing up before my eyes. 
Gigi! 
You're not at all that funny awkward little girl I knew. 
Oh no, Overnight there's been a breathless change in you. 
Oh Gigi! 
While you were trembling on the brink 
was I out yonder somewhere blinking at the stars?
Oh Gigi! 
Have I been standing up too close or back too far?
When did your sparkle turn to fire? And your warmth become desire?
Oh what miracle has made you the way you are?
Gigi! Oh, Gigi."

Arising quickly from the bench Gaston takes a couple of steps and through the magic of the movies, he's back at the Pont Alexandre III bridge.


Gigi!
Gigi!

He's absolutely overcome with his realization and begins racing back to Gigi's home. 


#12:    The Luxembourg Gardens (above and below)  just happen to be en route. 

The Fountain of the Observatory at the Jardin du Luxembourg  Photo Credit: Tennis Tousan


Oh no! I was mad not to have seen the change in you.
Oh Gigi, 
What miracle has made you the way you are?


And Gaston arrives back at the Place Furstenberg ready to make a deal with Mamita. And he's still singing.


While you were trembling at the brink 
Was I out yonder somewhere blinking at a star.
Oh Gigi!
 Have I been standing up too close or back too far?
When did your sparkle turn to fire, and your warmth become desire?
What miracle has made you the way you are?


It's decided then. Or almost. While Gaston and Mamita strike up a business deal, Gigi doesn't want to. She doesn't like the arrangement and wishes everything could stay as they are. Then she changes her mind. She tells Gaston she'd rather be unhappy with him than miserable without him.

That's when Gaston takes Gigi to Maxim's (above). The whole Parisian scene stops and stares as Gigi tries to pass herself off as one of them, another demimondaine. But of course one look at Gigi, with her new grown-up clothing and we see nothing but classic elegance. Compare the garish colors the other women wear while Leslie Caron is dressed stunningly and simply in pure white. Get the message Gaston? Of course he does! Except that he's angry that she's acting like a courtesan, lighting his cigars, treating him the way a high-classed whore would. So once again, the deal is off. He drags Gigi out of Maxim's and delivers her sobbing to Mamita. The truth is he can't bear the thought of what he's caused to be done to her.


Gaston takes a walk along the streets we've walked before, only it's moonlight now, very dark and blue and beautiful. Place Furstenberg (above) and the fountain at the Jardin de Luxembourg (below)
It doesn't take long for him to make his big decision. And I expect you know the rest of the story.
It goes a little something like ... and they lived happily ever after. 



Don't forget. We'd love to see your photos. Well, I would anyway! Planning a trip to Paris? Take some pictures of yourself at these iconic locations from the movie and I'll share them here.





How to Get there and  More Info:
Bois de Boulogne — ParisInfo.com
Maxim's — Maxim's de Paris
Place Furstenberg/Delacroix museum —Musee Delacroix
#29 Avenue Rapp—TravelFranceOnline.com
Musee Jacqemart-Andre —158 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 8
Parc Monseau—35 Boulevard Courcelles
Jardin du Luxembourg — ParisInfo.com
Pont Alexandre III — Discover Walks
Cour du Rohan — EyePreferParis

MGM/SONY
Most of what remains of MGM — besides the luxe hotel in Vegas—is part of what is now Sony Studios. It's no Universal — where I was a tour guide in the mid 1980's — but you can take a fairly intimate 2 hour walking tour of the studio where they shot the interior scenes for Gigi plus The Wizard of Oz and more recently Spiderman. Check out SonyPicturesStudiosTours.com Want to see Alex Trebec? Get tix to Jeopardy, also shot at Sony, here.

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