Monday, October 31, 2016

3 Clips from Nocturnal Animals starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal


Anticipation. I’m seriously so excited to see what Tom Ford makes of Austin Wright’s Tony & Susan in the upcoming Nocturnal Animals starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal with Michael Shannon and Isla Fisher. November 17th can not come soon enough.

As we know, Nocturnal Animals is the story within the story in the original novel, so I found this piece by Graham Infrey in IndieWire of particular interest.
“Nocturnal Animals” is a film that takes place in three different worlds: present day, flashbacks, and a live-action depiction of a manuscript sent to Amy Adams’s character Susan by her ex-husband, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The second feature film from designer-turned-director Tom Ford, the movie is based on the 1993 Austin Wright novel “Tony and Susan.”

Though the manuscript in the film–also called “Nocturnal Animals–is a fictional story about a horrific crime, Ford brings the unpublished novel to life within the context of the movie by having Gyllenhaal play both Adams’ ex-husband and the main character of the manuscript.
The ex-husband and the character in the novel he’s written, Jake plays them both. Of course! For those of us that have read the book, that’s clear from the trailer. And completely in keeping with the novel as Susan keeps putting her ex “Edward’’ in the role of Tony while she’s reading. 

At the risk of inundating you with tmi, here are three clips from the film that accompanied the IndieWire piece
The first of the below clips is a flashback to Adams and Gyllenhaal’s chance encounter in New York City. It’s followed by a scene from the unpublished novel, wherein a detective played by Michael Shannon interrogates a suspect about the horrific crime mentioned above. The final clip shows Adams’ character of Susan in present day.





I’ve seen two reviews from opposite ends of the spectrum: “Superb’’ and “Just dub it a stylish exercise’’  I’ll retain my optimism. Your thoughts?

My take on the novel behind the movie Tony & Susan

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Matinee: The Political Winner of its day


No  matter which side you’re on this election season, you’re likely as fed up and disenchanted as I am with the whole election process. If reality is bringing you down, down, down, today’s Saturday Matinee may just cement your discontent and disgust with the notion of corruption in American politics. The fictional story of populist candidate, Willy Stark, is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. 




The rise and fall of a corrupt politician, who makes his friends richer and retains power by dint of a populist appeal.


The 1949 movie won three of its seven Academy Award nominations: Best Picture with Broderick Crawford taking home the Best Actor statue along with Mercedes McCambridge winning Best Supporting Actress. 



Loosely based on the rise and fall of Huey Long, All the King’s Men is available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu and GooglePlay. As always check Netflix’ ever changing database.

The movie was remade in 2006 with a tremendous cast, Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins and Mark Ruffalo. Maybe we’ll take a look at that next week.

For now, here’s the vintage trailer for All the King’s Men from 1949.




Friday, October 28, 2016

Costume Design: Dressing Certain Women


I wish I could find some info on the costume design for Certain Women. Other than the designer’s name—April Napier—and her imdb credit list, there’s nothing online about how Napier came up with the wardrobe for Certain Women. No sketches, no interviews, no featurettes. Drat the small budget indie world! Failing that, let’s take a whack at chatting about the clothes ourselves.



I mentioned in my take on the movie yesterday, that Kristen Stewart’s wardrobe seemed like clothing picked up at a thrift store, bought by someone accustomed to shopping for bargain basement clothing, which fits Kristen Stewart’s character’s past. Beth Travis doesn’t come from money, indeed as a new lawyer, having just passed the bar, she took the night class teaching job because she was afraid she wouldn’t get real work in a lawyers office. She feared she might end up selling women’s shoes, and explained that selling shoes would have been a step up in her family. 


At this stage, her character doesn’t care about the clothes she wears to teach the class and has little time for them. A look at her on-the-job wardrobe—short outdoor jacket over her conventional skirt and blouse, and sad, sensible shoes which do nothing to flatter her legs, shoes more appropriate for an older woman who worries about comfort—fill in the story. It all fits with the harried young legal eagle so concerned with finding her own way, she doesn’t quite see the young woman sitting across the table from her. 


As for Lily Gladstone who gives a breakout performance as a ranch hand infatuated by Stewart, she told the Detroit News that she bought a flannel shirt to ‘slip into the rancher’s skin’, and prepare for the role. “The way I looked at it,” Gladstone says. “I wasn’t prepping for an audition, I was getting ready to go to set. And that’s what I did.”

Is the shirt she wears in the film (above) the same shirt she bought? In director Kelly Reichardt’s low budget indie world, every little penny saved helps. Notice how it's sized too big, slouching off her shoulders, the long underwear underneath serving to flatten her chest, to de-feminize her. 


The hat, the mega-down filled clothes serve a practical purpose for the ranch hand charged with doing the cold, dirty job of looking after the horses in the early winter days of Montana. They also erase her femininity, covering her body, casting her in a more androgynous light. Is she gay, bi? Or does she just have a girl crush? It hardly matters. What counts is the pain of the missed connection with Stewart’s character.


While Stewart’s young lawyer hasn’t developed a personal style, Laura Dern’s more established lawyer dresses in keeping with her profession, the soft camel coat with pocket detailing would cost a pretty penny, way, way out of Beth Travis’ budget. Underneath she wears a rose colored cashmere sweater and a denim button up skirt. More casual than what Marcia Clarke would wear to court but fitting for the small town and the wintry weather. Accessorized with what looks like the classic Dooney & Bourke purse, large enough for Dern’s lawyer to stash all kinds of goodies. 



As regular readers know, I'm no fashionista but I do love seeing how clothes help actors become their characters. I bet some of you more fashion-savvy types out there can identify the makers of both the purse and the coat on sight. Maybe it’s not a Dooney & Bourke, don’t hesitate to clue me in.



Yesterday I noted Michelle William’s character stood out in her chic, skinny girl attire. Black leggings, a pale blue denim shirt, topped by a chunky grey sweater and a denim over-shirt. The kind of garb you wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams herself wearing. Let’s be honest, Michelle Williams can put on any old thing and look amazing. In fact, searching for info on the clothes Williams wears in Certain Women I found a nifty post on how to dress like Michelle Williams. I’ve included that link below. Unlike Lily Gladstone’s ranch hand character, Michelle William’s character would never wear simple long underwear beneath her clothes. Instead she favors a body-hugging lycra layer. 


I wish I could share the designer’s sketches with you, give you some facts rather than my amateurish speculation. If you run across any pieces that discuss April Napier’s clothing design, please give me a holler. You don’t have to scream or anything but a comment would be great. You can always tweet me @simcarter or get in touch on my Chapter1-Take1 facebook page.

How to dress like Michelle Williams

PS And if you want to dress like Kristen Stewart—not in this film—there are plenty of websites devoted to helping you do just that!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Certain Women: My take on the movie starring Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and Michelle Williams


I set off today for the ArcLight in Hollywood, intending to see a self-curated double feature of American Pastoral and Certain Women. I was sitting in the theater, alone, at about a minute to American Pastoral’s 11:20am showtime when the ArcLight usher approached me, apologizing that the theater was having projection problems. Would I like to see something else instead? I swapped my ticket for the next available showing of Certain Women, and happily accepted the comp ticket I could use any other time. At $16.25 a crack, a free ticket is nothing to turn ones’ nose up at! Thanks @ArclightCinemas Hollywood!

Just as well it turned out that way. I don’t think I could have sat through two 2 hour movies. To be fair, Certain Women is 1 hour, 47 minutes while American Pastoral clocks in at 2 hours, 6 minutes.

I’d heard Certain Women was slow, and it was, but luxuriously so. I enjoy that, a film that takes its time, setting up and reveling in its surroundings. Director Kelly Reichardt has a strong sense of how place impacts her characters and the audience in this character study. Right from the start, watching a train chug its way across the flat expanse of land, the snow-covered mountains framed in the distance, the camera work telegraphed the fact that life in wintry Montana, the cold so bitter looking it almost seeped into my seat, was a gritty, sometimes hard thing. The three stories, interwoven by the slimmest of threads, were going to be gritty, sometimes hard stories. 

While they were women’s stories in so far as women were the central figures, they weren’t of the usual women’s story ilk. They weren’t concerned with male female relationships, family, sex, or romance, at least not in any usual way.



Laura Dern’s tale starts it off with her lover (James LeGros) pulling on long johns and leaving at the end of a lunchtime liason, the train we saw heading across the flats, visible through the apartment window. That allusion to sex, Dern’s relationship with her lover has nothing to do with her story. Sex, romance, her relationship are a side note, a part of her life but not all encompassing. Her life with this man, her emotional choices in their relationship, is not her story. Her story is wrapped up in her life as a lawyer in Montana where her client has to accept the fact that the law can’t help him win his disability case against a negligent employer. Her client Jared Harris (Mad Men) is the real man in her life, emotional, bereft, unhinged, pleading while Dern is cool, calm, lawyerly. 

Michelle William’s story deals with negotiating a cache of sandstone from an elderly neighbor to build her dream house. Determined, getting the stone for the house is Gina’s top priority, while she brushes a bristling relationship with her daughter to the side. She asks her husband —the cheater we saw earlier with Dern—to speak with Albert about the stones but ultimately Williams does most of what little talking there is. Albert is elderly, not quite all there mentally, Williams wonders if he understands the negotiations but proceeds anyway. When Albert compliments her to her husband, telling him what a good worker she is, he responds with a laugh “She’s the boss’’ but it’s not the usual married joke. She is the boss, in control. Even if achieving that means she has to ignore the actual ‘life’ she’ll live within the house. Of all the women in this trio, Williams character seems like a fish out of water, her chic running garb, thin layers of high tech fabric designed to keep out the cold, her model-like skinniness mark her as an outsider, a city girl in the country, revealing her otherness in a world where most of the characters seem so solid, where layers and layers of padded fabric keep the weather, and the world at bay. 



Kristen Stewart’s story is most changed from Meloy’s Travis, B. about a young lawyer (Stewart as Beth Travis) teaching a night class and a ranch hand who develops a crush on her. In the short story, the ranch hand is a man, but Reichardt replaces the him with a her. 


The her is newcomer Lily Gladstone whose large, luminous eyes, and Mona Lisa smile betray her feelings. Watching Jamie (Gladstone) take care of the horses at the snow-swept ranch, plodding around the barn in heavy boots and fifty pounds of outerwear, doing the same thing day after day, talking to no one, it’s easy to see why she would respond to Kristen Stewart’s strange young lawyer who signed up by accident to teach a class a four hour drive away from her home. Where Williams is dressed in trendy running gear, Stewart’s character dresses in ill-fitting castoffs, dowdy mom jeans from the 80’s, outdated running shoes, items her once impoverished character might have picked up at a thrift store. Because she lingers after class, Beth turns to the ranch hand for help. When she asks Jamie where she can get something to eat, Gladstone doesn’t tell her, she shows her, joining her in the booth. Two very different women, on the surface sharing time together, snippets of their life stories, but in reality just in the same place at the same time. Those missed signals, mixed signals, become a sad statement about how we can mistake convenience for connection. 

That sense of misunderstanding is the real thread that ties Reichardt’s rendition of Meloy’s stories together. We leave all three women sensing their unease about how they’ve navigated their situations, doubting their own responses. Lacking the road map, the clearly defined paths of men working their way forward in the world, the need to achieve their goals respected and understood, here are three women who plod forward, clumsily at times, unsure of their footing, but who move along, aware of the unintended consequences of their behavior but going ahead all the same.

The end product is fashioned primarily by Reichart who wrote, directed and edited the film. The cinematography from Christopher Blauvet did nothing to romanticize the setting—deliberately, I assume, per Reichardt’s vision—painting the small town world of the Montana location with a cold, desolate swathe and I left the theater feeling an overpowering gratitude for Los Angeles’ warm days where loneliness and loss is a little harder to see under the glare of the California sun. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

American Pastoral: What VOX thinks Ewan McGregor Got Wrong

I love Ewan McGregor as an actor. Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge, Beginners, I Love You Philip Morris, the upcoming Beauty & the Beast. But I admit to being taken aback when I learned McGregor was making his directorial debut with an adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize winning American Pastoral. The book, not a favorite of mine as it dives deeply into darkness, is not just physically long at 435 pages, it is a long and winding road, encompassing such a massive amount of territory and thought that it would be a challenge for an accomplished director of the likes of Martin Scorsese to pull off. From what I hear, Ewan McGregor might have, as the old saying goes, bitten off more than he could chew. I haven’t seen it, and I mean to do just that as it’s playing in theaters now. In the meantime, I want to share this review from Alissa Wilkinson at VOX which understands both the novel and the film and weighs in on where McGregor fell short. It’s worth the read. Have you seen American Pastoral yet? Do you agree?

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is about a country mythologizing itself. The movie misses the point.

In his directorial debut, Ewan McGregor takes a crack at the Pulitzer-winning novel.


Philip Roth’s Pulitzer-winning novel American Pastoral is the story of an all-American family man who watches his family crumble during the turbulent 1960s, when his daughter is accused of bombing the local post office in their staid town of Old Rimrock, New Jersey. The book’s protagonist is Seymour "the Swede" Levov, a former high school star athlete from Newark who married Miss New Jersey. They had a daughter, Merry, and she had a stutter — and also, eventually, a grudge against everything her good-looking, comfortable suburban parents stood for.


Roth’s novel says something important about America today, and does so through a stylistic device that’s crucial to the novel’s success: Rather than being narrated by the Swede, American Pastoral is narrated by Roth’s frequent alter ego, a fictional character named Nathan Zuckerman. (Zuckerman first appeared in the 1974 My Life as a Man and most recently in Exit Ghost, published in 2007.)

But in translating the book to the screen, screenwriter John Romano and first-time director Ewan McGregor more or less omit Zuckerman, who is the novel’s key element. The character is still there, but his purpose has been stripped away. And in changing Zuckerman’s role in the novel, the film misses what American Pastoral is really about.

Roth’s novel is about nostalgia and mythmaking, but the film doesn’t get it
In the novel American Pastoral, Zuckerman has returned to his Newark high school, Weequahic High, for his 45th high school reunion when he runs into the Swede’s brother, Jerry, who tells him that his brother has died. Zuckerman, along with everyone else in the town, had idolized the Swede as the embodiment of the American dream: Jewish, but also tall and blonde (hence the nickname), a star athlete, a Marine, a college man who married a shiksa who was also Miss New Jersey, and took over his father’s ladies’ glove manufacturing business.

The rest of the book is the story of the Swede, partly pieced together from facts gathered by Zuckerman and partly, or even mostly, the product of Zuckerman’s imagination, a wild guess at how bright American promise can go so sour.

When Merry is a teenager in 1968, angry at the world and finding her focus in being angry about the war, she plants a bomb in the town’s post office, which kills a man. She goes into hiding, and the Swede frantically tries to track her down for years before locating her living in squalor in Newark. But that’s only the catalyst in the Swede’s crumbling life.


In her New York Times review of the novel in 1997, Michiko Kakutani wrote that "with the story of Seymour (Swede) Levov, Mr. Roth has chronicled the rise and fall of one man's fortunes and in doing so created a resonant parable of American innocence and disillusion."

To be sure, American Pastoral portrays America’s stagger into the late 20th century by way of one man’s tragedy. But because Roth lets Zuckerman narrate the story, the Swede’s tale gets all mixed up with Zuckerman’s nostalgia. He imagines how his childhood hero, the embodiment of everything good for him and his town, could fall into such tragedy. He fictionalizes the story by necessity.

And thus, the Swede’s life avoids becoming a strained metaphor. It also becomes about a country’s collective pining for a past that’s part factual, part mythical. Of course that was relevant in the 1990s, when the novel was published, but it's even more so today, with a major portion of the country yearning for a former golden age when America was great.

The adaptation of American Pastoral mistakes its plot for its story
So it’s unfortunate that the big-screen adaptation of American Pastoral doesn’t capture this aspect of the story. It captures the plot, insofar as we see the events of the Swede’s life unfold. McGregor plays the Swede as he marries Miss New Jersey, a.k.a. Dawn (Jennifer Connolly), and they have a daughter, Merry (played at various ages by Ocean James, Hannah Nordberg, and Dakota Fanning). They buy their house in the New Jersey countryside and the Swede runs the glove factory in Newark, aided by Vicky (Uzo Aduba), and grapples with tragedy as it comes to him.

Zuckerman is still in the story, played by David Strathairn, but now the film gives the impression that he’s merely there to bump into Jerry Levov (Rupert Evans) and listen as Jerry tells him the whole story. It’s pretty much all here, and the scenes of the Levov family’s life and slow decay are directed serviceably enough by McGregor. It’s all set against a stylized backdrop that shifts gradually from brightly lit, bucolic scenes of rural life to something much darker and frightening. By the end, even the domestic scenes feel sinister, like the rug has been ripped out from under the Swede.

And yet the movie feels flat and small, lacking the novel’s energy and expansive ambition. American Pastoral’s plot is engaging enough, but it has the quality of theater, all manners and long conversations without a clear sense of what it’s getting at. Without Zuckerman’s narrative voice, the mythmaking is gone.

Admittedly, it would be hard to make a version of American Pastoral that captures the book’s story-within-a-story structure. But American Pastoral without the overriding nostalgia is a tragedy without the lament, and the novel Roth wrote has both. The screenplay by Romano (The Lincoln Lawyer, Intolerable Cruelty) could have conceivably found a way to capture both the book’s plot and its tone, but this one is a misstep, and fundamentally doesn’t understand its source material.

This type of thinking — the idea that by accurately capturing elements of a book’s plot, you’ve adapted it to film — isn’t all that uncommon; audiences’ fixation on "not changing the book" doesn’t help. Understandably, people are attached to their favorite scenes, lines, and characters from novels. (Nobody wanted to lose Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings.) But novels are longform storytelling, with much more space to fill out a story and the flexibility to switch narrators, allow a lot of time to pass, and let readers into the inner lives of characters by listening to their thoughts from a first-person point of view.

The language of cinema is much less yielding to this: Cinematic storytelling relies on not just the plot elements but also visual and aural elements, and all in a time span that’s much shorter than the average novel. So you have to change the book to make it a movie, because books are not movies.

Books and movies are about more than their plots — which seems obvious but is easy to forget. They’re about how their plots are recounted, using the tools of the medium at hand, whether it’s prose or cinema. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a fine trot through the plot of the book but failed as a movie because it missed the dark, even frightening tone, and rendered Aslan onscreen as more of a very large lion-shaped cat rather than a giant, unsafe lion. No Country for Old Men succeeds not because it translates every one of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell’s speeches to the screen, but because it gets the spirit of the speeches and the ominous lumbering of evil personified just right.

In the case of American Pastoral, the filmmakers did change the book, recognizing the challenge of translating Zuckerman’s imaginations onto the screen. But instead of figuring out how to render that same effect cinematically — perhaps by letting Zuckerman become a more prominent onscreen character, not less — the film effectively cuts Zuckerman out altogether, and with him goes the book’s sense of our collective responsibility for how we tell and remember our history.

That American Pastoral the movie doesn’t get American Pastoral the novel is a shame: Roth’s work is as important today, in an age of American self-mythologizing, as it ever has been. As it stands, though, the film is a visual Cliffs Notes. Once you’ve watched it, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve read the book.’’

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back ... The French Trailer

You may have heard Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is getting beat here in the states by Tyler Perry and his latest Madea movie, Boo! A Madea Halloween. My husband read one review that called it a poor man’s Mission Impossible, so while we enjoyed Tom Cruise in the first Jack Reacher film, and it’s playing in theaters all over the world right now, we didn’t see it. We took a two and a half hour walk around our hood instead, marveling at the number of people out walking like we were. It was one of those beautiful still-warm California autumn days and we weren’t the only ones enjoying it. The tables at Cafe Midi were full but since we were sweaty from walking and not exactly looking French-chic in our tres casual walking clothes, we decided not to stop at the French cafe and hit Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf instead. Is it silly at my age to let a stylish French cafe intimidate me? Could I not just pull up a charming little chair under an umbrella and order a cafe au lait without worrying about being on the best dressed list? No, I could not! 

Instead I got my French fix from this trailer for Never Go Back dubbed in Français proving, as always, almost everything sounds better in French, including Tom Cruise.



Scanning review headlines here in the US, it’s hard not to say we might “Never Go Back’’ to see Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.

Boo! Cuz, you know, I’m a Tom Cruise fan. I’d still like to see it but it sounds so lackluster I’ll probably wait until it comes to cable TV.

Did you get out to see Never Go Back on opening weekend? What did you think?

Posted for Dreaming of France at An Accidental Blog

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Amy Adams: Two to watch in November

Amy Adams has been nominated for Oscars five times. Once as Best Actress for American Hustle, the other four nominations were as Best Supporting Actress for The Master, The Fighter, Doubt and Junebug. With two strong leading roles in films coming out in November, it’s possible—likely even—that Adams will be in the Best Actress conversation this year. This week’s Slacker Sunday video looks at both trailers.

Arrival is up first on November 11, and while the sci fi flick costars Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker, this is clearly Adam’s film. Based on the novella The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, Arrival was directed by Denis Villeneuve. 




Then comes Nocturnal Animals costarring Jake Gyllenhaal on November 18th. Based on the book Tony & Susan by Austin Wright, Nocturnal Animals is designer Tom Ford’s second venture into the world of film. A Single Man starring Colin Firth was his first foray. It’s clear that Ford, who also wrote the screenplay, has made some changes—in the novel Susan is a part time teacher while in the movie she has a seemingly more glamorous job in the art world. In Wright’s novel, Susan spends most of her time reading her ex-husband’s (Edward, played by Gyllenhaal) book manuscript and watching her children play, reflecting on the truth of her current husband’s unfaithful behavior. And slowly unraveling the truth of her own betrayal of Edward.

Both movies look fantastic to me. I. Can’t. Wait.  How about you?




Oh, and by the way, Amy Adams is producing and starring in the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects coming to television sometime in 2017. 

My Take on the Book Tony & Susan

Read the novella The Story of Your Life

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Robert Redford & Meryl Streep in 'Out of Africa': Best Picture 1986

All the movies we’ve never seen

It’s Oscar season. Time for all the heavyweights to come out and play. Today’s Saturday Matinee features the Academy Award winner for Best Picture thirty years ago this year. Starring my all time fave Robert Redford and the oft-nominated Meryl Streep. Out of Africa counts as one of her 19 Oscar nominations! Poor Bobby, he’s only been nominated the one time for his work as an actor. That was for The Sting and he lost.



#SaturdayMatinee

Based in part on Karen Blixen’s memoir Out of Africa published under the pseudonym Isak Dineson, the film tells the story of a Danish plantation owner (Streep) in Kenya, unhappily tethered in a marriage of convenience, who falls in love with a free-spirited big game hunter (Redford).



It’s been thirty years since the film was released in theaters. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, Out of Africa won seven of them including Best Picture. I must have see the movie when it first came out but my memory is vague at best. I can see the two of them, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford together, but they’re not entirely clear. It’s almost like I’m blinded by the glare of bright golden sunlight that bathes them. Let’s face it, these are a couple of major movie stars. And thirty years later, they’re still making movies and contributing to the world of cinema in a very big way. 




The Right Chemistry

Watching the trailer [below] it’s clear to me I never saw this movie! It’s just as clear that I need to. 

Speaking of Out of Africas stars Redford and Streep, Roger Ebert noted in his 1985 review ...
These are high-voltage stars, and when their chemistry is wrong for romances (as Streep's was for Falling in Love, and Redford’s was for The Natural), it is very wrong. This time, it is right.

Ah, yes, I remember it well

If like me, it turns out you’ve never actually seen Out of Africa either, the Sydney Pollack directed movie is available to stream on Amazon, Vudu, Google-Play, iTunes and YouTube. Watching the trailer, seeing Redford and Streep together, I can’t help but wonder about seeing them onscreen again in something wonderful. Not just a cozy old romance about long lost love but something meaningful and majestic, as well as romantic. I have no idea what, I don’t have a project in mind or a particular book I’d like them to adapt. But it’s worth thinking about. Any ideas?







parts of this post originally appeared on 9/3/2015

Friday, October 21, 2016

Anne of Green Gables Coming to Netflix


Netflix is where I turn more and more for the best new original series like the upcoming 8 episode drama based on the Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables. The eponymous Anne will be played by fourteen-year-old Irish Canadian actress Amybeth McNulty, cast after an extensive global search. 

Executive producer/showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett notes they saw almost 2000 girls and calls Amybeth “Anne for a new generation.”
“Amybeth is a wonderful and sensitive actress who embodies all of Anne’s qualities. She’s soulful and inquisitive, mercurial and passionate. Her ability to convey pain and joy is breathtaking.” 
According to the producers
Anne is a coming-of-age story about an outsider who, against all odds and numerous challenges, fights for love and acceptance and her place in the world. The series centers on a young orphaned girl in the late 1890s who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with an aging sister and brother, Marilla and Matthew Cuthber, played by Geraldine James and R.H. Thomson. Over time, 13-year-old Anne will transform their lives and eventually the entire small town in which they live with her unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination. 

About the book
As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever...but will the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she's not what they expected-a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she'll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anybody else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special-a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.

The Netflix/CBC production currently shooting in Ontario, Canada, which happens to be where I spent my formative years. I haven’t been to Prince Edward Island where the production did some shooting earlier this year but if Donald Trump wins the election maybe I’ll get the chance. P.E. I. is the Canadian island who jokingly invited Americans to come on over should the election not go their way.

Thanks Teresa Campbell for the reminder!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Big Little Lies: The Trailer for the HBO series


Did you catch the teaser trailer for Big Little Lies? The seven part series based on Liane Moriarty’s book will air on HBO sometime early in 2017. 

Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley play three very different mothers whose lives interconnect over their kids. It’s a darkly comic look at the whole elementary school dynamic, parental involvement run amok, and oh, yeah, murder.

I read the book back in May of 2015 and absolutely loved it. I was deeply disappointed to learn the film would relocate from the shores of Australia to Northern California but while we won’t be visiting the fictional Pirriwee Peninsula, the coastal California setting seen in the trailer does look fetching. Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern, Adam Scott and Zoe Kravitz. Reese Witherspoon originally optioned the novel and got the gears turning, Jean-Marc Vallée, who Witherspoon worked with on Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, directs.


Did you read Big Little Lies? Are you looking forward to the HBO series?


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

White Noise by Don DeLillo Getting a Big Screen Adaptation


Good news for Don DeLillo fans. The revered writer—the Pulitzer Prize winning author turns eighty this November and is still writing—is having his National Book Award winning White Noise adapted for the screen. The project will be scripted by Michael Almereyda who has collaborated with producer Uri Singer three times already: on “Experimenter,” “Marjorie Prime” and the forthcoming “Tesla.”

From the publisher—
Winner of the 1985 National Book Award, White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, his fourth wife, Babette, and four ultramodern offspring as they navigate the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism.

From the producer, Uri Singer—
“I think the book combines a sense of humor with a sense of menace. The book has great dialogue and features many cinematic episodes,” says Singer in a statement. “It radiates an appreciation of American life but also elements of satire. There’s a central love story between a husband and wife, but with an awareness of the secrets and fears that they keep from one another.” 

Are you a DeLillo fan? I’ve just scanned the first paragraph of White Noise and I’m loving the vibe.  

THE STATION WAGONS arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags—onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.
That’s the voice of the book’s protagonist, Jack Gladney, chairman of an east coast college’s Department of Hitler Studies.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Joe Alwyn—Star of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk—is THR's Next Big Thing


Here’s a lovely bit of fluffery for today’s Sunday Slacker video. Meet Joe Alwyn the newcomer –he was a college student in London when he was first cast—headlining Ang Lee’s highly anticipated Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The film debuted this past weekend at the NYFF to mixed reviews. While Ang Lee is pushing technological boundaries, shooting at 125 frames per second (the usual is 24) not everyone was thrilled at the results. I have seen the trailer in theaters and it took my breath away, bringing a clutch to my throat, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see the entire film to know for sure. 

One thing is for certain, Joe Alwyn IS the next big thing.


 “I think of the film and book as an anti-war, pro-soldier story. Talking to people who have served was eye-opening and left me with a huge amount of respect for what they do.”
Joe Alwyn



Anyone else surprised to see Alwyn is a Brit?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Riding in Cars with Boys: Because it's Penny Marshall's Birthday #SaturdayMatinee

Penny Marshall is  celebrating her birthday today. The actor/director with the comic bent —it must run in the family, her brother was director Gary Marshall—turns 73. In addition to being a three time Golden Globe nominee for playing Laverne on the classic Laverne & Shirley sitcom (created by her bro), Marshall is probably best known for directing A League of their Own and Big, along with today’s Saturday Matinee, Driving in Cars with Boys. I haven’t seen the movie in ages but the book, Beverly Donofrio’s memoir sounds like something I’d want to read.

Denied college, Beverly Donofrio lost interest in everything but riding around town in cars, drinking and smoking, and rebelling against authority. She got married and divorced and finally ended up in an elite New England university, books in one arm, child in the other. A book about the compromise between being your own person and fitting into society.
Riding in Town with Boys stars Drew Barrymore*, Steve Zahn*, Adam Garcia, Rosie Perez, Brittany Murphy, James Woods and Lorraine Bracco. 


Roger Ebert gave the film a three star review—
‘A film like this is refreshing and startling in the way it cuts loose from formula and shows us confused lives we recognize. Hollywood tends to reduce stories like this to simplified redemption parables in which the noble woman emerges triumphant after a lifetime of surviving loser men. This movie is closer to the truth: A lot depends on what happens to you, and then a lot depends on how you let it affect you. Life has not been kind to Beverly, and Beverly has not been kind to life. Maybe there'll be another book in a few years where she sees how, in some ways, she can blame herself.’
Riding in Cars with Boys is available to stream today on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay and on HBO Go. Think of it as a way to let Penny Marshall know you’re thinking of her.


*My husband worked with Drew Barrymore, watching over the three Charlie’s Angels as they trained in marshall arts for the movie. He loved all three of the women. Surprise, surprise! We went to the wrap party at Drew’s home, an experience I haven’t written about. He also worked with Steve Zahn in That Thing You Do in 1995. I’ve written about working background in That Thing You Do on SimCarter.com

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Save the Date: The Circle based on the book by Dave Eggers set for release April 28, 2017


If you’ve taken a peek at the tab Movies Based on Books 2016 (it’s just up there, on the right) you may have noticed the movie based on Dave Eggers The Circle stuck in dateless limbo. The movie starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and John Boyega was reportedly coming out sometime this year but the distributor recently announced the thriller will be released on April 28th of next year, 2017. So I’m regretfully pulling it from the schedule.  

If you read my take on the book you know I’m looking forward to the film.


Here’s how Variety sums up the movie written and directed by James Ponsoldt, (The End of The Tour, The Spectacular Now
Hanks plays the founder of the world’s largest tech and social media company. He encourages Watson’s character, who’s rising through the company ranks, to live her life with complete transparency — but no one is really safe when everyone is watching. The novel turns into a 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.

Watson replaced Alicia Vikander in the role last year. If you’ve read the book, what do you think of the casting change? 

Gimme a trailer guys! I can’t wait.



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Girl on the Train: My Take on the Movie starring Emily Blunt


I was a huge fan of the book. I’d been incredibly annoyed at the relocation of the film from London to NYC. Truth be told, I was somewhat concerned that Emily Blunt was too skinny, too together, to play the overweight, self-loathing, alcoholic Rachel in The Girl on the Train but tried to trust in Blunt’s high level of skill.  And then I saw the reviews, many which griped that the movie 'went off the rails’.  I collected those reviews for you here. So I guess you could say I went to see the movie with lowered expectations. And was delighted that the film more than met them.


Emily Blunt—who I first loved in The Edge of Tomorrow—is a remarkable actress. Having known a number of alcoholics in my life I was blown away by her deeply affecting and honest portrayal. She had that fuzzy, slightly off-kilter, booze-fueled desperation down. The alcoholic haze that makes Rachel a perfect unreliable narrator. 

What did she see? What did she do? Director Tate Taylor and the camera—via director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen—expertly puts us in Rachel’s shoes, allowing us to see just what Rachel sees, going back and forth from the present day to the past, slowly unraveling and revealing more clues as Rachel gains clarity. While initially we’re as turned off by Rachel’s constant state of inebriation, as disdainful and dismissive as Allison Janney as Detective Riley, Blunt’s performance works its way into our hearts. I was genuinely touched, hurt for the humiliations she seems to bring on herself. 


Blunt’s cast mates all turned in solid supporting parts. Haley Bennett and Luke Evans both perfect as the golden couple Rachel watches from the train. Bennett as Megan, with a sleepy-eyed sexuality. Luke Evans as her husband Scott, reeking masculinity, tall, looming, muscled, slightly menacing and controlling.


Justin Theroux was the essence of the patient ex-husband Tom, conventionally attractive, understandably annoyed at Rachel’s continual intrusiveness, her neediness. Rebecca Ferguson, as the woman he left Rachel for, her patience long gone, leaving only fear of what Rachel might do along with a vague sense of dissatisfaction, leaving me wondering whether life with Tom was worth the trouble it took to get there. 


Make no mistake, the book wasn’t great literature but it was a great, pulpy read. The movie isn’t Oscar material—although Emily Blunt’s acting may be—but it’s a thoroughly engrossing suspense-filled film. Moving more slowly than I expected at times, as the movie chugged along I found myself glued to the screen much as Rachel was to the window on the train—completely forgetting the book—wondering what was going to happen next.

Kudos to director Taylor and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson—I’m still mad at you for moving it to the U.S.—but as far as this reader is concerned, you brought the story home.

The Girl on the Train is playing in theaters now. Worth catching in my opinion.



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