Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mudbound: My take on the book by Hillary Jordan

I shared a clip of Hillary Jordan reading the first chapter of her 2011 debut novel a couple of months back. Now the movie is about to come out countrywide in November and I’ve just finished the book. I find myself awed and humbled by the grace of Jordan’s writing.

It’s not an easy subject—an ugly band of racism forms the core—and the characters she has created are so deep and complex, it makes an aspiring novelist like me want to run and hide under the floorboards. 

Here’s how the publisher describes Jordan’s novel
In Jordan's prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm -- a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not -- charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion. 
 "They called us “Eleanor Roosevelt’s nigger.’’~Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) with Jamie (Garrett Hedlund)

The key word here is inexorable. Inescapable, unstoppable. In the environment that Jordan writes about, the rules for society are set in stone. No one—not the black sharecropper family and certainly not white farmer owners—would dream of changing them. One does not cross the color bar. The two men who do, Ronsel and Jamie, have both been to Europe, fighting in the war. They’ve seen the world can work a little differently, with white women and black men dancing together, and probably more. Neither one of them believes it will ever be that way here in the states. Especially not in the Mississippi Delta. 

They are both aware of the stakes when they cross the boundaries, entering into a kind of friendship in an era when just that, friendship between the races, is an impossible dream.

“When I think of the farm, I think of mud.’’~Laura (Carey Mulligan)

Jordan writes from several character points of view in alternating chapters although it is Laura’s voice that resonates the loudest. We want what she wants, a decent home for herself and her children, a husband who appreciates her, a husband who fulfills her. Since we relate to Laura, we project our feelings, our values on to her. That’s part of the heartbreak of the book too. Like the title Mudbound infers, the characters, including Laura, are all stuck in their notions about how the world works. Its sadness lies in the fact that none of them, even those that want to, can see how to change it.

“I answered the only way I could, by starching his sheets till they was as stiff and scratchy as raw planks.’’~Florence (Mary K. Blige) 

Mudbound is a beautifully written novel about racism, about ptsd, about love, about denial and delusion. A book that makes you hurt and makes you think. From what I hear, the film will do the same.

Mudbound is set for release on November 17 on Netflix. So many good movies coming to our TVs! Plenty of time for you to read the book, if you haven’t already. 

Let’s watch the trailer...

Are you in?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Dreaming of France: The French-dubbed trailer for American Made starring Tom Hanks

Tom Cruise as Barry Seal in American Made

I had no idea that American Made starring Tom Cruise,  Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright was based on a book. A true story documented in a book. My husband and I saw the movie today and to my happy surprise it is. 

It’s a wild, improbable but yes, true story, about an American pilot enlisted by the CIA to fly drugs and weapons in and out of Central America. 

Tom Cruise is the pilot and he is out of this world,  irrepressible, charismatic and appealing as ever. You can see for yourself, Cruise looks as fit and in shape as ever. Domhnall Gleeson is fine as the straight-faced American CIA handler, as is Sarah Wright as Tom’s mostly unsuspecting wife. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Barry Seal makes so much money he and his wife don’t know what to do with it. 

The cinematography by César Charlone (The Constant Gardeneris another standout bringing a late 70’s early 80’s vibe with super saturated bright colors. The director is Doug Liman, the man behind the Bourne movies as well as Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow—one of the most popular movies with visitors to Chapter1-Take1.

Set in a world where crime and government coexist, American Made is the jaw-dropping true story of CIA pilot Barry Seal that the Hollywood movie starring Tom Cruise isn’t afraid to tell.
Barry Seal flew cocaine and weapons worth billions of dollars into and out of America in the 1980s. After he became a government informant, Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel offered a million for him alive and half a million dead. But his real trouble began after he threatened to expose the dirty dealings of George HW Bush.
American Made rips the roof off Bush and Clinton's complicity in cocaine trafficking in Mena, Arkansas.
"American Made really captures the big picture of my dad's story" - Aaron Seal, Barry Seal's son
"A conspiracy of the grandest magnitude" - Congressman Bill Alexander on the Mena affair
Shaun Attwood's WAR ON DRUGS SERIES - PABLO ESCOBAR, AMERICAN MADE, WE ARE BEING LIED TO and THE CALI CARTEL - are harrowing, action-packed and interlinked true stories that demonstrate the devastating consequences of drug prohibition.

For my friends Dreaming of France, here’s the trailer dubbed into French. You’ll notice the title has been changed.

And in english.
No holds barred, a fun movie.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Mountain Between Us starring Idris Elba & Kate Winslet: My take on the movie

 My favorite part of The Mountain Between Us
Idris Elba in this blue shirt.

While the book by Charles Martin tread very closely to the dangerous waters of saccharine by the sea—and in fact offered up a totally treacly mausoleum scene that the movie thankfully sidesteps—the film’s final scene more than makes up for it with one of the most overused tropes we see in romantic films. 

SPOILER ALERT: from the start of the movie, we know the couple is going to fall in love. They’re trapped on a mountain together. They’re basically the only people in the movie. And they are the gorgeous Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. What else are they going to do? The movie follows the standard formula, and there are no surprises. At the end of the film, after they’ve been rescued, and a few months have passed—so we know they’re serious about each other—they walk away from each other. Literally, down the street, walking in opposite directions. And just to throw us off track, they even turn a corner. The screenwriters thinking, I suppose, to take the scene out of pure cliche territory. Except they didn’t. Do I have to tell you that each of them, stop, turn around and run into each other’s arms?

As syrupy as the book was, at least we got to know and care about Ben (Idris Elba), what his needs were. In this version, which switches it up and puts Kate Winslet’s character a bit more in the driver’s seat (a feminist change that I applaud) all we see of Ben are his reactions to her. We see none of his own inner struggle to resist this beautiful but engaged woman. We see none of his deep, some might even say, morbid attachment to his dead wife, a woman he will feel he’s cheating on if he allows himself to feel for Alex (changed from Ashley in the book). 

The Kate Winslet character—Alex—is much less vulnerable & physically dependent on Ben, but the story doesn’t allow us to track their relationship or give us any insight into her relationship with the man she’s going to marry. To see how much more right for her Ben is vs the man she’s engaged to, played by poor Dermot Mulroney is a very brief onscreen outing. 

And while they give Winslet a less debilitating injury from the plane crash, the writers test our willingness to believe by giving both Alex and Ben a couple of other deeply difficult physical trials. Trials that might just have you saying ... hold on, that’s going a bit far, isn’t it?

The Mountain Between Us is beautiful to look at, thanks to cinematography by Mandy (yes! a woman) Walker. Plus visually Idris, Kate and all that snow and ice don’t disappoint, although a little weight loss after three weeks on a mountain without much food might help in the believability department. There were times when I found a score lacking. Some music right here might be nice, I said to myself. 

I don’t know where this film went awry, I really don’t, but I suspect it lies in the script. And possibly the direction. One of the best, most satisfying scenes in the film is the love scene and that, according to Winslet on the Graham Norton Show, was a scene she directed herself. Looking at the movie as a whole, the connection between the two has to be strong enough for us to overlook the implausibility of the situation. Sadly, as much as I love, and will always love, both Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, it just wasn't there.

Have you seen The Mountain Between Us yet? What’s your take?

I’m giving it 2 out of 4 snowy mountain peaks.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Matinee: What Maisie Knew is an inspired adaptation.

Updated 10/14/2017  Since Steve Coogan turns 52 today, I’m nominating What Maisie Knew as today’s Saturday Matinee. Or you could always watch the Oscar nominated Philomena. Coogan earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the screenplay.

Kudos to screenwriters Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright for extracting the essential truth of Henry James' novel What Maisie Knew and implanting it in a thoroughly modern context. Released from the dreary schoolroom, hansom cabs and grey skies of Victorian era London, 'Maisie' feels fresh, new and right at home in Manhattan's upper west side, circa now.
The directors chat with Onata over a Shirley Temple
Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel dismissed any need to be slavishly devoted to James' novel. As McGehee told Scriptlab;  "It’s really the spirit of the book that you need to preserve, not the plot points; not the character relationships even. You have to identity what it is that you love about the book and make sure you don’t lose that. It’s not a book report; you’re really trying to invent something brand new." They left the hard work to the screenwriters. Following James' lead, Doyne and Cartwright tell the story from Maisie's perspective; it took them years to get it right. Luckily the directors found a really remarkable young actress, Onata Aprile, to channel the character just as flawlessly.

Julianne Moore's character has a way with words
Julianne Moore, tatted over her freckles, plays Maisie's mother, Susanna (Ida in the novel); a self-involved rocker who loves her daughter but would rather party and bestow pricey presents like giant stuffed ponies and guitars, than be a parent. Maisie's dad, Beale, is an equally self-centered art dealer played by a younger-looking, skinnier Steve Coogan than I remember from The Trip. Don't miss Coogan in the poignant and funny Philomena with Dame Judi Dench.

Kelly McGehee nails the design concept for Susanna's Manhattan home
These two really despise each other; When Susanna locks Beale out of the apartment - an uber-cool and multi-leveled floor plan designed by production designer and McGehee's wife, Kelly McGehee - for one transgression too many, - the couple hurls F bombs at each other through the front door, the hatred escalating when he comes inside, while Maisie listens, pale and confused.

Maisie loves her daddy played by Steve Coogan
And so the battle for custody begins. Coogan catches the right cavalier note of those formerly charming 'boys will be boys' types, smirking at Maisie, making his daughter a confidant in his war against 'her' but young Maisie, like daughters everywhere, loves her daddy, despite his faults. The truth is he has no clue what to do with Maisie, no more than Susanna does.

Margo (Joanna Vanderham) and Maisie
Both would rather leave the actual care and feeding of the little girl to her nanny, Margo (Joanna Vanderham) while they pursue their more worldly and separate affairs. Ultimately - and all in an offscreen rush - Beale marries Margo, gaining a live-in babysitter for Maisie and a friend with benefits situation for himself. He treats her so thoughtlessly it's not surprising that she and Lincoln are thrown together.

Susanna /Julianne Moore + Lincoln /Alexander Skarsgard

In a desperate stab to hold onto her custody rights,  Susanna responds to Beale's marriage by taking up with the much younger, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), an awkward, overgrown puppy and hanger-on who Maisie quickly grows to adore. There's a slight turning in of the toes of Skarsgard's  Converse-clad feet that accentuates the gawky giant's sweet and uncomplicated nature. Helping Maisie open juice boxes, striding the High Line in Manhattan as Maisie dangles from his bicep, Lincoln comes off like a true manny who adores his tiny charge as much as she does him.

Alexander Skarsgard: "stepdad" or manny?

In the source material, Maisie is supposed to alternate from house to house every six months; the movie's more modern equivalent makes the proposition 10 days with mom, ten days with dad. In both instances, Maisie is likely to hear the equivalent of 'you take her - no you take her' while her parents and caretakers constantly leave her stranded.

At which point quite a few audience members might be heard to call out 'I'll take her'  'No I'll take her'; Onata Aprile is that luminous as Maisie. Onata doesn't do much really; she doesn't have to do a thing except be that hardest of things to be; natural, authentic, a real child. Clomping up and down the stairs in cowboy boots, starred leggings, assorted hats and crowns and an expensive nouveau hippie chic wardrobe that mirrors her mother's from costume designer Stacey Battat, Maisie is a soulful, watchful, utterly loveable little girl who steals this particular show. It's painful to see this impish pixie repeatedly let down, and put in sickening situations as the adults conduct themselves shamelessly.

Sarsgard + Onata Aprile color together

Credit to Ms. Moore for layering her own character so richly; in a telling scene Susanna is working on some vocals in the glass sound booth in her home studio, while Lincoln Susanna' sweet and awkward bartender boy-toy cum 'husband' hangs out listlessly and Maisie sits coloring. The more Lincoln is drawn to Maisie, engaging with her, helping her to color a tricky drawbridge, both of their faces lit up with happiness and oblivious for a few moments of Susanna and her constant needs; the more we see her face darken through the glass booth. She finally storms out and pulls Maisie into the booth with her; so jealous is she, so unused to sharing the spotlight. Selfish to be sure, but still a mother; Susanna's maternal instincts do kick in a dreadful  moment when she sees fear on Maisie's face for the first time.

Julianne Moore is heart-wrenching as Maisie's extreme
slacker mom

"Are you afraid of me?" Moore almost wails, the cry a threat in itself somehow. It's her most dramatic moment of the film; her face crumbling as she sees herself through Maisie's young eyes.

Even when they've let her down the most, Maisie still responds to the sound of her parents' voices by running and jumping into their arms, calling out mommy mommy, daddy daddy. She will always love them; they're her parents, it's in the nature of children to love their parents - even when their parents are abusive or negligent.  By the movie's end, Maisie has learned someone is supposed to be looking after her. And that that somebody may just have to be Maisie herself.

What Maisie Knew is an emotionally moving story that is as vital and alive as ever thanks to an inspired script, directors who weren't afraid to let a little child lead them, strong performances on every level and along with skilled, modern, costume and production design, a solid score from Nick Urata.

Link to music from What Maisie Knew here.  Read my take on the book here 
And enjoy the trailer here -

Friday, October 13, 2017

Victoria & Abdul: My take on the movie starring Dame Judi Dench

If the last time you saw Queen Victoria onscreen was when the lovely, little 5'2" Jenna Coleman played Victoria as a very young woman, you will be shocked to see Dame Judi Dench as the same short in stature queen at age 81*. 

Oh, what a difference a lifetime makes! Dench has no vanity here, Dench, still lovely at 82, seems to have been aged badly for the film with sagging jowls, puffy skin, a soft face ravaged with wrinkles, and a neck that has fallen. Basically me in the not so distant future, but I digress.

Very near the beginning of the movie, as she digs into course after course of a banquet, you might even feel disgusted at how piglike Dench’s Victoria is, ripping meat off the bones, stuffing her face, chewing noisily, mouth open. She is greedy and bored, a woman who falls asleep at the table only to wake up in time to shovel spoonfuls of dessert into her mouth, the whipped cream dribbling down her chin. Queen Victoria is a woman, a queen, spoiled and bored, who has been catered to, too long.

Then along comes Abdul, played by the handsome young Ali Fazal (Furious 7). When Victoria is asked what she thinks of the coin he’s delivered—a tribute from the Indian Empire—the queen comments on what a handsome man he is.

And so it begins. Lonely, constricted because of her queenly obligations, desperately missing both John Brown (another servant who has a controversial relationship with the Queen) and her Albert, Victoria takes to Abdul immediately. It’s refreshing to be spoken to as a human being and she soonraises him up to be her munshi, her spiritual teacher. No fool, he plays to her needs, making the most of his opportunity, while he also develops a genuine affection for her. 

This doesn’t play well with the whole Royal household and the British government, all of whom are in an uproar. We hear their racist outcry: he’s colored, he’s ‘a wog’ and he’s a muslim, all of which she decries and all of which makes the racism very relevant to what’s happening in our own particular world, right now.

While I expected to enjoy Victoria & Albert simply because I’ve never in my life seen Judi Dench turn in a bad performance, I did not expect the movie to be so very funny. For example, Victoria, visiting Florence and having drunk a tad too much champagne, is happy to replace the acclaimed Puccini’s overly dramatic operatic singing with her typsy rendition of I am Called Little Buttercup from H.M.S. Pinafore. Victoria & Abdul is worth seeing for that scene alone. 

But that isn’t at all the only thing we get from Victoria & Abdul. We get a lovely, heartfelt story of the longest serving queen in England’s history relationship with a young man who awoke in her a renewed interest in the world outside her tiny cloistered life. A young man who makes the end of her life a happier time.

Like the song says, along with the sun, there’s got to be a little rain sometime. Bring hankies.

 If the film sparks your interest in the real life story of Victoria & Abdul, check out the book by Sharabani Basu.

*In fact, while Coleman was 5'2", Victoria was 5'0" and Judi Dench is 5'1".  

Enjoy British films, books, travel and more? 
Connect with Joy Weese Moll for British Isles Friday

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Dance Off~Ryan Gosling VS Sidney Poitier

I haven’t given Throwback Thursday a nod in quite awhile but when I woke up this morning, a couple of dance scenes from past movies came to mind.

I’ve shared my love of  To Sir with Love before ... it’s a film I first saw in theaters in 1967 when I was an impressionable 14. For those of you too young to be there, the tagline on the original movie poster was ‘‘the story as fresh as the girls in their minis ... and as cool as their teacher had to be.’’

Why did Sidney Poitier have to be so cool? He was playing the real life Rick Braithwaite, a former British pilot turned teacher, assigned to a very tough inner city London school. If a teacher isn’t as tough as the kids but at the same time, fair, he or she won’t get the respect they need to teach.

What can be cooler than a teacher dancing with a student? There has always been a line teachers have to draw between themselves and their students, aware that the affection students feel for their favorite teachers can turn into a crush which can be dangerous territory for both. 

Usually though, those crushes are innocent, often coming along with puberty, the teacher a natural object of affection when hormones and new sensations are swirling around. It’s on the teacher to keep the boundary lines clean and clear.

Which brings me to Ryan Gosling in his Academy Award-nominated role as a teacher in an inner city school in Half Nelson. If you haven’t seen it, seek it out. 

Here, from that film are Gosling and young Shareeka Epps sharing a dance, where Gosling is so goofy, he’s cool.

The results of the Dance Off? I LOVE Ryan Gosling but even I would have to say Sidney Poitier wins it. Wouldn't you agree?

And because I love both these films, here are the trailers. 

To Sir with Love is available to stream on Vudu, Amazon, YouTube, GooglePlay & iTunes. Check Netflix at time of your desired viewing as things are always changing as to what’s available on the Netflix menu.

I’m not finding Half Nelson on a streaming service at the moment but it’s a must-see in my book. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: My take on the movie (it took me by surprise!)

I hope you’re not going to let reports of Blade Runner 2049’s sluggish opening weekend stop you from seeing the film. I can’t imagine why it opened so relatively weekly ($35million) but it could be chalked up to our fixation with Trump on twitter, news of Harvey Weinstein’s disgusting behavior, the continuing horrors of Las Vegas and Puerto Rico in the news, or, as I theorized to my husband and son who saw Blade Runner 2049 with me, a case of TMI. In a world of short attention spans, do we want to see a two hour forty five minute long movie when we’ve already seen so many gorgeous pictures, read so many articles, and watched so many videos related to the making of Blade Runner 2049, that we felt we’d already seen it, that we were over it, before it even opened?

That’s a stretch maybe, and ironic since I’m one of the thousands of people sharing that content.

The point is, see the movie. It was a surprise to me. It’s true I’m a die-hard Ryan Gosling fan, it’s hard for me to see anything to criticize about him anytime so take my blather about him with a grain of salt but—he carries the movie. Long and lean, he strikes a powerful silhouette as he strides slowly, warily through a life filled with work, little playfulness and pleasure. I’ll repeat what A.O. Scott said of him in the New York Times
He is also, in 2017, something close to what Harrison Ford was 35 years ago: the contemporary embodiment of Hollywood’s venerable ideal of masculine cool, a guy whose toughness will turn out to be the protective shell encasing a tender soul.
While I was expecting noise and futuristic mayhem punctuated with shots of empty landscapes, I was pleased to find a thoughtful, meditative film that explored the ways via technology we are losing our humanity, that we are hurtling into a world reliant on VR and holographic images in place of the real, where machines are ‘more human than human.’

Harrison Ford, who is in the film for maybe a third of the movie, is terrific, as rugged and aging handsomely as a fan of the original Blade Runner (and Star Wars and Indiana Jones) would wish. I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen him display quite the emotional range he does here.

Ana de Armas is Joi, is a hologram type being, programmed to be everything K wants in a woman, everything but real. The loving relationship she shares with K is reminiscent of Her and in a world where replicants are more humans than human beings, Ana de Armas brings a sweet desperation to her need to please. That need drives her to invite the hooker, Mackenzie Davis to K’s apartment. When it comes to needs, you need to see the movie if only for the most amazing threesome I’ve ever seen onscreen. 

Another female standout is Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, a modern day henchman henchperson for Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace, the replicant creator. The lady can kick some ass. Leto, alas, I could easily Let Go (sorry!) He seemed more a cartoonish villain ala Lex Luther in a Superman comic than an all powerful creator.

You’ve heard, you’ve seen, how extraordinary the movie looks. Visually I was mesmerized, the starkness of the landscape, the dystopian feel of the architectural details, compelling. Los Angeles, dirty, cramped, filled with litter and graffiti, and hi-rise after hi-rise clogged together, seems a more real possibility for 2049 as I see my city, building tower after tower downtown.

The plot may need another viewing to fully comprehend but the world that director Villeneuve, along with his production designer Dennis Glasner and cinematographer, Roger Deakins is a masterpiece to be seen.

With Ryan Gosling acting as tour guide, I’ll be happy to return for another viewing.

Monday, October 9, 2017

How to Dress a Queen: Costume Designing Victoria & Abdul

It’s not the first time Consolata Boyle, the costume designer behind Victoria & Abdul, has dressed a queen. Boyle earned an Oscar nomination for transforming Helen Mirren into The Queen in 2007, she was also nominated for dressing Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins in 2016. With Testament of Youth, Miss Julie, Philomena, The Iron Lady on her c.v., the designer clearly knows how to work in the world of costume dramas.

Let’s take a look at how she approached dressing Judi Dench—who she also dressed in Philomena— as Queen Victoria, the widow queen who dressed in black for most of her life. As she told Fawnia Soo Hoo at Fashionista ...

I had many conversations with mechanical and our lighting cameraman about how to make black have more depth and be less flat and less slightly light absorbing. In keeping with the fashion and facts of the time, there was a lot of heavy embellishment on the gowns and a lot of detail, a lot of embroidery, a lot of lace, a lot of layered on trim. Jet, which sparkles in light, was a very common decoration. Pleating, frilling and masses of ribbon was used in Victorian period to create texture and detail, and Victoria was a great person for adding embellishment and the use of jewelry.  

But also, in order to help us tell her story as [the Queen's] relationship developed with Abdul, I used subtle different sorts of dark tones, like very dark gray or turf brown or purples, which were a mourning color, various purples and lavenders; then, of course, the traditional white, which is a very important later stage mourning color. The lace and actual white fabrics and silks used were part of the process of the mourning, but also helped the telling of our story as things lightened, particularly during their trips to Italy when she starts to rediscover joy, interest and the closeness of her friendship with Abdul. 

Victoria & Abdul, based on the book by Shrabani Basu, is in theaters now. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling: A world divided

I’ve been a little afraid to see Blade Runner 2049. It’s getting extraordinary praise for the world director Denis Villeneuve and famed cinematographer Roger Deakins have created. 
There’s also criticism that the plot is muddy, that the film holds audiences coldly at a distance. What I’ve been worried about, as a Ryan Gosling devotee, is how the actor’s performance as K, holds up.

The delightful news is that Gosling is perfect for the part of K.

 I’ve seen this in multiple sources but A.O. Scott in the NYTimes puts it perfectly.
Speaking of avatars of alienation, K moves through his days with the unhurried shuffle and downcast baby blues of Ryan Gosling. This is impeccable casting. Mr. Gosling’s ability to elicit sympathy while seeming too distracted to want it — his knack for making boredom look like passion and vice versa — makes him a perfect warm-blooded robot for our time. He is also, in 2017, something close to what Harrison Ford was 35 years ago: the contemporary embodiment of Hollywood’s venerable ideal of masculine cool, a guy whose toughness will turn out to be the protective shell encasing a tender soul.
Nice, huh? This echoes how I feel about Gosling, not merely an attractive actor, there is always something else going on beneath the surface.

Now, watch the New York Times hosted Anatomy of a Scene. 

Blade Runner 2049 came out October 6. It’s October 8th, and I still haven’t seen it. You?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday Matinee: Howards End starring Emma Thompson & Anthony Hopkins

My father died early in the spring of 1992. By the fall I was newly married and pregnant for the first time at the ancient age of 39. Excited but also terrified at the idea of being an older mother, I think the only book I read was What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Multiple times. Movies? Not even on the radar. 

Am I suggesting you watch the movie based on THAT book? No, I am not!* Instead, I was reminded by the excellent film appreciation site Filmotomy that 1992 was in fact a wonderful year for film. The site has its own favorite (Delicatessen) but many of the movies that came out that year are classics: The Crying Game, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Last of the Mohicans, The Player, Reservoir Dogs, Scent of a Woman, Unforgiven, A Few Good Men, A River Runs Through It and today’s Saturday Matinee Howards End.

While a Best Picture win eluded Howards End (and Write’s personal list) the film garnered 9 Academy Award nominations in all. The still fabulous Emma Thomson took home the Best Actress nod—her first Oscar nomination and win—and the writer, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was awarded the prize for Best Adaptation. Based on E.M. Forster’s classic, the Merchant Ivory production of Howards End also won for Best Art Direction for recreating its early 20th century British world. 

Director James Ivory has a crew he frequently turns to including cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, composer Richard Robbins and the costume design team of Jenny Beavan and John Bright all of whom also worked on Room with a View and The Remains of the Day. Beavan and Bright have a ton of beautiful period films and costume dramas to their credit but just this past year the duo won for Mad Max: Fury Road a very different kind of film entirely. 

Vanessa Redgrave, who I’m watching for in The Secret Scripture was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Maybe you don’t care about awards—and I grant you, the Academy doesn’t always get it right—but Howards End, despite the Academy’s ignoring the always genius Anthony Hopkins (is his face not one of the best reasons to watch WestWorld?) sounds like it’s one they got right. 

In his 2005 review of the film, Roger Ebert gave the film a rare 4 out 4! 

Whether that was what you got depended on how attentive you were. "Howards End," based on the 1910 novel by Forster, is a film seething with anger, passion, greed and emotional violence. That the characters are generally well-behaved says less about their manners than their inhibitions. That's where the two conversations between Margaret and Henry come into play. Listen to them, and you have the underlying method of the film.’’

About the book ...from Barnes & Noble

Centered around the conflict between the wealthy, materialistic Wilcox family and the cultured, idealistic Schlegel sisters-and informed by Forester's famous dictum 'Only connect'-it is full of tenderness towards favorite characters. 'Howards End is a classic English novel . . . superb and wholly cherishable . . . one that admirers have no trouble reading over and over again,' said Alfred Kazin.’’

Howards End which also features Helena Bonham Carter was re-released in theaters in 2016 for a limited time, which was probably why I couldn’t find it on any of the usual streaming services at the time. Howards End is now available to stream on Netflix, YouTube, Vudu, GooglePlay, iTunes and Amazon.  Let’s drool over the trailer—

*So maybe you should watch What to Expect When You're Expecting instead? Nah. I’m sure you can find a better use for your Saturday afternoon. Make it a good day!

originally published 11/26/2016
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