Tuesday, January 31, 2017

‘‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’’ based on ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda‘ Who's watching?

I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we're ruined, Look closer…and you'll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true.We have never been what we seemed. 
I took a photograph recently—and shared it on my instagram—of the apartment building where F. Scott Fitzgerald died here in Los Angeles. At forty four, his fame and fortune diminished, he had a heart attack in the apartment of his mistress, Hollywood gossip columnist Sheila Graham, while his wife Zelda was confined to a psychiatric hospital. Karma? That story, the story of Zelda’s wildness and her ultimate descent into insanity, is one we’ve heard before. Z: The Beginning of Everything, now streaming on Amazon for Amazon prime members is Zelda's story, as Zelda might have told it. 

Christina Ricci plays Fitzgerald’s legendary lady love with David Hoflin (American Crime) as F. Scott. The series—which I won’t be watching because I don’t have Amazon Prime and I resent paying $3 a pop for each episode of a tv series— is based on Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda. Yet another book I haven’t read! Can you believe it?

About the book

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the "ungettable" Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner's, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick's Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.
What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein. 
Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby's parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott's, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda's irresistible story as she herself might have told it.


Have you read the book Z: A Novel of Zelda?
Have you seen the series Z: The Beginning of Everything?
Did you like, love, hate? I’d like to know.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A tiny bit of light: Amy Adams


Remember the phrase ‘Heavy Boots’ from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Lately, every day feels like I’m wearing heavy boots. A cross between sad, angry, and deeply disturbed at the direction things are going I trudge through the day with a lead-lined raincoat to match. While my first inclination is to dismiss my own interest in books and movies as trivial—how can I focus on such things when people across the country are protesting?—I realize these little bits of lightness brighten my day. They help alleviate the endless worry pit. Like the California sunshine that I’m enjoying after a week of rain here in Los Angeles, no on can take that away from me. 

On a light note then, I hope you enjoy this short Vanity Fair chat with Amy Adams on working with Tom Ford and creating her character Susan in Nocturnal Animals.  

I’d hoped Adams would get an Oscar nomination for her role in Arrival, if not Nocturnal Animals but it looks like Isabelle Huppert may have nabbed her spot with her performance in Elle. The other nominees are Natalie Portman for Jackie, Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins, Ruth Negga for Loving and Emma Stone for La La Land. Stone won the SAG for La La Land which I loved, but my money is on Portman, although Ruth Negga blew me away in Loving too. Once again, when actors are working at this level, judging winners and losers is an absurdity. I really do think a celebration of the top ten films and performances, no winners, no losers, would be a more appropriate way to applaud the best movies of the year. In our competitive world, ain’t gonna happen.




Who are you rooting for come Oscar time? 
Or do you think it’s all a load of nonsense?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Are you Dreaming of France? Is Elle on your Must See list?


Thinking of France we enjoy the idea of fine wine and gourmet cuisine (both French words after all), the beaches of the south of France, charming hilltop villages, the lovely lavender fields of Provence, the haute couture of Paris. As the birthplace of cinema, we also think of movies and France’s tradition of pushing the envelope from time to time. This year, the envelope has been pushed with the controversial Elle, about a woman who plots to take revenge on her rapist. 



Isabelle Huppert won the Golden Globe for her performance in Elle, she may win the Oscar too although the material may be too rough for some Academy voters. Her character Michele, is the head of a video game company. The audience for those games, some sexualized in nature, is male, as are most of her employees making Michele a sexually charged fantasy figure herself. Michele is raped at the beginning of the film, a brutal event that she takes in stride on the surface, but underneath is plotting her revenge. Is she overly zealous in her response? That remains to be seen. And I have yet to see it.

A controversial film, the movie has received a variety of responses. Read Erik Cohn’s review written after Elle’s debut at Cannes for IndieWire. Below, Isabelle Huppert, also via IndieWire.

Based on the French novel Oh! by Philippe Djian, and directed by Paul Verhoeven, Elle is in French with English subtitles. The trailer is at the bottom of the post.

Have you seen Elle? What do you think?








Love everything French? Check out this week’s Dreaming of France meme at An Accidental Blog.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Rest in Peace John Hurt: Top Ten Performances from a Lifetime of Greatness

John Hurt in 1984

I don’t know where to start today. We lost John Hurt this week but in the chaos the president has created with one executive order after another, the news about Hurt’s death came almost as just another tweet in a tweet storm of outrage. 



He wasn’t a young man but at seventy seven the actor with over 200 acting credits was still working. Hurt who appears in this year’s Jackie as a priest has several projects in post production, including Darkest Hours, a Joe Wright directed film in John Hurt plays Neville Chamberlain with Ben Mendelsohn and Gary Oldman. 



Midnight Express

While younger people know him as the wand-selling Ollivander in the Harry Potter movies, many of us are old enough to have seen him in Midnight Express back in 1979 when he was, like we were, young. Nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar—Christopher Walken in Deer Hunter won—Hurt won both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA that year. 



V for Vendetta, I Claudius, Dr. Who, Alien, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 1984, the man with the smooth as silk voice is probably most widely known for playing John Merrick in The Elephant Man. Hurt received a Best Actor Oscar nomination but “lost’’ to Robert DiNero for Raging Bull. I only mention the wins and losses as a reminder of the false importance we place on awards. Time is the only true test of greatness and John Hurt’s long career spanning over 50 years is a testament to his. 


V for Vendetta

I found a tribute video made a couple of years back by mojo.com. A look at John Hurt’s Top Ten Performances. I thought you might like to take a gander. 




The Elephant Man was nominated for 8 Oscars in all. 
No, it didn’t ‘‘win” any.

Here’s the trailer for The Elephant Man
Which movie has your vote for Saturday Matinee?


Friday, January 27, 2017

Isabelle Huppert: Best Actress Nominee for Elle


Frankly, it came as a bit of a surprise to see Isabelle Huppert’s performance in Elle rising to the top of so many lists this year. Huppert, who plays a rape victim taking revenge on her rapist, won the Golden Globe and according to IndieWire, has won more Best Actress prizes than any other actress this year! I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, Huppert is an acclaimed actress internationally and the film’s director is Paul Verhoeven of RoboCop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct fame.


Now, here she is, in a French language movie—based on the French novel Oh by Philippe Djian—on the list of contenders for a Best Actress Oscar. And that’s a regular nomination, not in the Foreign Language category, which means she’s being nominated for a movie the majority of Americans won’t even see! Will the fact that it’s a movie about rape and revenge with a dark comic streak get you into the theater? 

Huppert’s fellow nominees include Ruth Negga for LovingNatalie Portman for JackieEmma Stone for La La Land and Meryl Streep for Florence Foster Jenkins. I haven’t seen Streep’s performance but the other ladies are all magnificent.

Check out this interview via IndieWire’s Contender Conversation series. I’ll be posting additional clips from the conversation as part of my own Slacker Sunday series for Dreaming of France this Sunday, the 29th. Come back for more Huppert!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke: #ThrowbackThursday 1967

Paul Newman born on this day: 11/26/1925

Paul Newman had famously blue eyes—rumored to be the result of some special French eyedrops—and a smirk of a smile that took the place of a lot of unnecessary dialogue. That certain smile is out in force in Cool Hand Luke, the 1967 classic based on the novel by Donn Pearce. The story of a war hero who gets sent to prison after a night of getting bombed and unbolting an entire blocks' worth of parking meters; it's clear right from the start that Luke is an outsider who refuses to tow the line. Through the actor's very skillful use of that disdainful half-smile, we know Newman's Luke is his own man. Not only does he have no use for the cruel prison guards, he doesn't have much use for a fellow prisoner, played by George Kennedy, who throws his weight around either. While initially at odds, Dragline (Kennedy) and Luke ultimately bond, Luke earning Dragline's respect by refusing to give in when the much bigger man out-punches Luke in a fight.

There are so many memorable moments in Cool Hand Luke: Luke eating those fifty eggs on a bet and Newman's distended stomach looking like all those eggs really were in his belly; the iconic line "What we have here is a failure to communicate" and the blonde bombshell who teases the prisoners by washing her car and getting everything all wet. Newman was nominated for Best Actor but lost to another great actor for his performance in one of the following four masterpieces from 1967. 
Warren Beatty -- Bonnie and Clyde
Dustin Hoffman -- The Graduate
Rod Steiger -- In the Heat of the Night
Spencer Tracy -- Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
It was a very good year! #ThrowbackThursday question:Who did Paul Newman lose out to? Scroll down, way down, for the answer.  George Kennedy was also nominated for an Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor, which he ended up winning.  

You've got to love the technology that allows us to cruise through our streaming options to screen an explosive classic like Cool Hand Luke any time we want. CHL is available to stream on Amazon Instant, GooglePlay, and VUDU for less than $5 a pop. Scroll down for the trailer ... and to see who won the Best Actor Oscar. 






Q:Who won the Best Actor Oscar that year? A: Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's look at the Academy Award nominees: The Full List

It may be redundant—full lists of the Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday are everywhere— but I’m sharing it here, highlighting some of my favorites, and adding my 2 cents, where I have 2 cents. 

We talk about adaptations here, mostly books to movies, so let’s start off with the Adapted Screenplay category.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
NOMINEES

ARRIVAL
Screenplay by Eric Heisserer
No surprise Heisserer is nominated! Beautiful job on this script based on the story by Ted Chiang, I shared my thoughts in this earlier post)
FENCES
Screenplay by August Wilson
I still haven't seen this one but my son thought it was fantastic. Choked up.
HIDDEN FIGURES
Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Adored this funny, uplifting film about a trio of important but unknown black women, central to the success of America's space race!
LION
Screenplay by Luke Davies
Beautiful heart wrenching tale of a lost little boy who returns to India years later to find his family. Stunning true story had me sobbing. You know me! I'm a cryer.
MOONLIGHT
Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney
A great film but it wasn’t the big uplifting movie I've heard it touted as.  I've heard the director say he wanted to take people out of their comfort zone. He did. About a young boy living with a junkie mother in the ghetto who we see grow into manhood. Thought provoking and heavy.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
NOMINEES


HELL OR HIGH WATER
Written by Taylor Sheridan
No point of view.
LA LA LAND
Written by Damien Chazelle
My favorite movie of the year.
THE LOBSTER
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
No point of view.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Written by Kenneth Lonergan
Incredible, moving, and all too real. Right up there with La La Land although the two films are very different kinds of movies.
20TH CENTURY WOMEN
Written by Mike Mills
We didn't get a screener & what with the March, I haven't been able to get to the theater since it was released on January 20th. Set in 1979, it looks good to me! 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
NOMINEES

As much as I adore Ryan Gosling, I don't see how you can give it to anybody but Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. Affleck's nomination is not without controversy: he was accused of sexual assault about 7 years ago. My understanding is, the cases have been dismissed and/or settled. I don't know if he is guilty or not. I do know it’s dangerous to base your judgement of someone’s art based on an allegation. Acting awards are just that—acting awards. They're not a trophy handed out for being a good person. Indeed, even a decent person. Some of those we revere as great artists, musicians, writers, actors turn out to have done dark, awful things. Cary Grant was accused of beating Dyan Cannon, Sean Penn of bashing Madonna with a baseball bat, Chris Brown and Rihanna, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby etc. Those are just the men we know about. 
On the other hand, to avoid the controversy, one could give the award to Denzel Washington. I hear he is magnificent in Fences.

CASEY AFFLECK
Manchester by the Sea
ANDREW GARFIELD
Hacksaw Ridge
RYAN GOSLING
La La Land
VIGGO MORTENSEN
Captain Fantastic
DENZEL WASHINGTON
Fences

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
NOMINEES

Mahershala Ali seems destined to win this one. He's been getting nothing but rave reviews. To be honest, as much as I like Ali as an actor—he was terrific in Hidden Figures and even more so in House of Cards—I didn't think Moonlight really stretched his talents all that much. He was wonderfully gentle as a father figure but the role didn't call for a huge amount of range. To be honest this year, it's not a category that has me very excited.

MAHERSHALA ALI
Moonlight
JEFF BRIDGES
Hell or High Water
LUCAS HEDGES
Manchester by the Sea
DEV PATEL
Lion
MICHAEL SHANNON
Nocturnal Animals


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
NOMINEES

THIS is an exciting category! And I don't have a clue. Meryl Streep is looking at her 20th nomination—the most ever for any actor or actress. Obviously a favorite with everyone but I think the over the top character she plays, plays against her especially when you look at Natalie Portman's incredible channeling of Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie. I also loved Ruth Negga in Loving. She's new to me, a Brit, her portrayal of a black woman in the Jim Crow south was luminous and authentic with real presence. She has one of those faces you can't take your eyes off. Isabelle Huppert won the Golden Globe but the Academy may feel they'd rather go with an American. Or a Canadian vis a vis Emma Stone in La La Land—my favorite movie and she was fantastic, her usual quirky, oddly appealing self. Like I said, I'm clueless. Nothing would surprise me here.

ISABELLE HUPPERT
Elle
RUTH NEGGA
Loving
NATALIE PORTMAN
Jackie
EMMA STONE
La La Land
MERYL STREEP
Florence Foster Jenkins

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
NOMINEES

Another tough one. Michelle Williams must have reached into her actors bag of tricks and brought up some mammoth heartbreaking memories, her emotional portrayal in Manchester by the Sea was so incredibly moving but alas probably too small a part to be the big winner in this category. Nicole Kidman transformed into a less than glamorous type to play the adoptive Mum in Lion; as good as she was I think audiences were distracted by the outdated hairdo. Or maybe that's just me. In another transformational role, I barely recognized Naomie Harris as the drugged out mother in Twilight. She was powerful as the bottom of the barrel bad mother but like Michelle Williams, her screen time was limited. I think it will probably come down to Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures or Viola Davis for Fences. Spencer was more than adept but I've been watching Viola Davis since she made a guest appearance on Criminal Intent in 2002. We had no idea who she was but her performance as a crooked cop blew us away. She probably has the edge here. 

VIOLA DAVIS
Fences
NAOMIE HARRIS
Moonlight
NICOLE KIDMAN
Lion
OCTAVIA SPENCER
Hidden Figures
MICHELLE WILLIAMS
Manchester by the Sea

COSTUME DESIGN
NOMINEES


I'll go out on a limb and say Colleen Atwood—the Meryl Streep of costume design, Atwood has been nominated 12 times and won 3 times (Alice in Wonderland, Memoir of a Geisha, Chicago)—is the likely winner for Fantastic Beasts. I was surprised she didn't win for Into the Woods.

ALLIED
Joanna Johnston
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Colleen Atwood
FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Consolata Boyle
JACKIE
Madeline Fontaine
LA LA LAND
Mary Zophres

CINEMATOGRAPHY NOMINEES


I don't have a strong point of view here but I want to stress what a moving movie Lion is, very much worth seeing. An amazing journey revealing the impoverished side of India.

ARRIVAL
Bradford Young
LA LA LAND
Linus Sandgren
LION
Greig Fraser
MOONLIGHT
James Laxton
SILENCE
Rodrigo Prieto

DIRECTING NOMINEES

The usual debate about Best Picture and Best Director comes into play here. If LaLa Land wins—and it has been winning—Chazelle will likely get it. It's such an unusual and gutsy approach. Unless the Academy wants to divvy things up a bit and spread the love around since La La Land is a shoe in for the musical categories (song, score). Villeneuve is also high on the list, very much respected for Sicario, Prisoners and Enemies. Everyone getting all psyched for Blade Runner 2049 could give it to Villeneuve for Arrival, another of my personal favorite movies of the year, based on forward moving enthusiasm alone. Barry Jenkins has forward momentum on his side too, Moonlight growing in popularity. Or the Academy could be very forgiving and reward Mel Gibson making a so called comeback with Hacksaw Ridge. I'd forgotten what a great director Gibson is - another example of artists not necessarily being good people.  

ARRIVAL
Denis Villeneuve
HACKSAW RIDGE
Mel Gibson
LA LA LAND
Damien Chazelle
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Kenneth Lonergan
MOONLIGHT
Barry Jenkins

FILM EDITING NOMINEES

No idea
ARRIVAL
Joe Walker
HACKSAW RIDGE
John Gilbert
HELL OR HIGH WATER
Jake Roberts
LA LA LAND
Tom Cross
MOONLIGHT
Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
NOMINEES

I haven't paid much attention to this one—I'm sort of surprised Elle doesn't show up here. BUT the only movie in the category I do keep hearing about is Toni Erdmann. So I'm guessing that will be the winner. Not very scientific, I know.

LAND OF MINE
Denmark
A MAN CALLED OVE
Sweden
THE SALESMAN
Iran
TANNA
Australia
TONI ERDMANN
Germany

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
NOMINEES

I wonder why there are only three nominees in this category? And I've seen none of them!
A MAN CALLED OVE
Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
STAR TREK BEYOND
Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
SUICIDE SQUAD
Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
NOMINEES

Really? Is there a question as to who the winner in this category is?
JACKIE
Mica Levi
LA LA LAND
Justin Hurwitz
LION
Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka
MOONLIGHT
Nicholas Britell
PASSENGERS
Thomas Newman

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
NOMINEES

If it's not one of the songs from La La Land, I don't want to know. Period.

AUDITION (THE FOOLS WHO DREAM)
from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
CAN'T STOP THE FEELING
from Trolls; Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
CITY OF STARS
from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
THE EMPTY CHAIR
from Jim: The James Foley Story; Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
HOW FAR I'LL GO
from Moana; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

BEST PICTURE
NOMINEES

While I haven't seen Fences or Hell or High Water yet, the rest of them are all fantastic films. La La Land is my personal favorite followed closely by Manchester by the Sea. I'm trying not to get too invested in the winner here. The last time I got invested in a vote, I was very unhappy with the results!

ARRIVAL
Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde, Producers
FENCES
Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington and Todd Black, Producers
HACKSAW RIDGE
Bill Mechanic and David Permut, Producers
HELL OR HIGH WATER
Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn, Producers
HIDDEN FIGURES
Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi, Producers
LA LA LAND
Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt, Producers
LION
Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder, Producers
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck and Kevin J. Walsh, Producers
MOONLIGHT
Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers

PRODUCTION DESIGN
NOMINEES

ARRIVAL
Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Paul Hotte
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
HAIL, CAESAR!
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
LA LA LAND
Production Design: David Wasco; Set Decoration: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
PASSENGERS
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
NOMINEES

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
MOANA
John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer
MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI
Claude Barras and Max Karli
THE RED TURTLE
Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
ZOOTOPIA
Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer

SOUND EDITING
NOMINEES

ARRIVAL
Sylvain Bellemare
DEEPWATER HORIZON
Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli
HACKSAW RIDGE
Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
LA LA LAND
Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
SULLY
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

SOUND MIXING
NOMINEES

ARRIVAL
Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
HACKSAW RIDGE
Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
LA LA LAND
Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

VISUAL EFFECTS
NOMINEES

DEEPWATER HORIZON
Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
DOCTOR STRANGE
Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)
NOMINEES

FIRE AT SEA
Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety and Hébert Peck
LIFE, ANIMATED
Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman
O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA
Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
13TH
Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
NOMINEES

EXTREMIS
Dan Krauss
4.1 MILES
Daphne Matziaraki
JOE'S VIOLIN
Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
WATANI: MY HOMELAND
Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
THE WHITE HELMETS
Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
NOMINEES

BLIND VAYSHA
Theodore Ushev
BORROWED TIME
Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
PEAR CIDER AND CIGARETTES
Robert Valley and Cara Speller
PEARL
Patrick Osborne
PIPER
Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
NOMINEES

ENNEMIS INTÉRIEURS
Sélim Azzazi
LA FEMME ET LE TGV
Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff
SILENT NIGHTS
Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson
SING
Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy
TIMECODE
Juanjo Giménez

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dreaming of France: La Belle et la Bete


Coming in March, Disney’s newest iteration of Beauty and the Beast promises to be an extravagant production of the beloved tale with the music familiar from the Broadway stage show, extravagant costumes, and all around splashiness. 

Starring Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast with Luke Evans as Gaston, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Ewan MacGregor as Lumiere with Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Josh Gad and opera star Audra McDonald, I have no doubt it will be a walloping success.

Love can turn a man into a beast. 
Love can also make an ugly man beautiful.’’

But will it hold a candle to the 1946 black and white version by the acclaimed French writer, poet, playwright, filmmaker and designer, Jean Cocteau? A contemporary of Pablo Picasso, Modigliani, Henri Bernstein, Yul Brynner, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Édith Piaf, and actor Jean Marais who starred as the beast in La Belle et la bete and was widely known to be Cocteau’s muse. La Belle et la bete is considered Cocteau’s cinematic masterpiece.

If you’ve never seen the film, in black and white and in its original French, regardez-vous le bande-annonce. 







I love the idea of the transformational power of love, changing ugly into beautiful. Have you ever seen The Enchanted Cottage? Starring Robert Young and Dorothy Maguire, it’s another old b&w movie where love actually changes the way two people see each other. I’m hoping it gets a remake one of these days.

La Belle et la bete is available to stream on iTunes and Amazon for $2.99! 


Enjoy French films and culture? 
Check out the Dreaming of France meme at An Accidental Blog.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mudbound starring Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige: Author Hillary Jordan reads from her novel





















A few days back I shared three bookish adaptations screening at Sundance this week. Mudbound has had its day in the sun—or should I say, snow— and it looks like the reviews are going to be mostly positive. I wish there was a trailer to share but there doesn’t seem to be one yet. 


Instead, I’ve found a clip of author Hillary Jordan reading from the first chapter of the book, her debut novel from 2011. She’s telling the story in the voice of Laura, a share cropper's wife, played by Carey Mulligan in the film. The tone sounds absolutely beautiful, one to add to the TBR pile for sure. 

Speaking of TBR piles, I just cleared mine of The Handmaid’s Tale, coming away thinking about how much she said, and how much impact she created, with such a tight little book. More on that another time.


Following Jordan’s reading, I’ve got a brief video chat with the cast and director, Dee Rees, posted on THR’s site. But first enjoy Jordan’s reading from her own novel. 

It’s strange. Even though I have a podcast where I read my own work, I find I hear better when I can see the narrator! And that ain’t happening with me.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching and listening to Jordan read from the opening chapter of Mudbound and I hope you do as well. Let me know!



The THR chat

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep [1977]: #SaturdayMatinee

 Jacqueline Bisset & Nick Nolte in The Deep

Nick Nolte hasn’t always been an old codger. Looking at Nolte in A Walk in the Woods it’s hard to remember that he was once, like his co-star Robert Redford, a sexy young actor.* Or what passed for sexy back then; truthfully, it was all about the hair and mustache. The hair made up for a lot of flaws. Add a beard and even a weak chin disappeared. In his mid-30s, Nolte didn’t have a weak chin to cover up and he was sexy enough to co-star opposite Jacqueline Bisset in 1977s The Deep. Bisset was so sexy she didnt have to cover up at all.



Based on the bestselling novel by Peter Benchley—the author who gave us JawsThe Deep centers on a young vacationing couple who discover more than just precious sunken treasure off the coast of Bermuda. 



Robert Shaw plays Treece, the lighthouse keeper and treasure hunter who helps the pair figure out just how precious and how deadly their find is, while Louis Gossett, Jr., rocking a pretty decent island accent is Cloche, a local drug king pin.
The score—in the trailer the music goes from drippy romance to Jaws-esque horror flick—is by 5 time Academy Award winner John Barry, known for his Bond scores and the composer who gave us the music to our recent #ThrowbackThursday movie Out of Africa.


I wish there was a higher resolution trailer to share with you but I think youll get the picture. The Deep is beautiful to look at, besides Jacqueline Bisset’s famous wet t-shirt for the men, all of us can enjoy the gorgeous island scenery, filled with blue skies and turquoise seas, as well as thrilling underwater cinematography by Christopher Challis and his team. 


The Deep is available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, M-Go, GooglePlay and Vudu. You can rent the disc on Netflix but you won’t be able to watch it this afternoon, so you’ll have to find a different Saturday Matinee.


* okay, truth? No one is quite as sexy as Robert Redford imho. That’s why I made this birthday tribute.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

3 Book to Movies to Watch at Sundance

At the same time members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are viewing and deciding over the very best of last year’s motion pictures, Sundance is screening some indie features which may well turn up on next years roster of awardees.

Scanning the Sundance Film Festival’s calendar, I notice a few of the most promising upcoming movies just so happen to be based on books. At this point there are no release dates outside of their Sundance screenings; I’ll keep you posted and add them to this years Movies Based on Books when I hear something.

Because it’s Sundance, the king of the indie film fests, the movies embody that independent spirit and challenge the way we see things. These three are no exception, a trio that includes period film with a woman who refuses to be contained by the period’s constraints, a gay drama about first love, and a film where friendship between a black & white man in the Jim Crow south defies the norms.


Lady Macbeth


Based not on Shakespeare’s Macbeth but on the novel written by Nicolai Leskov in 1865, Lady Macbeth is setting the independent cinema world on fire. One of the blurbs promoting the film reads “Imagine Alfred Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights.’’ 


The low down on the movie

In this adaptation of Nikolai Leskov's novella "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk, a 19th century young bride is sold into marriage to a middle-aged man.

Lady Katherine, played by Florence Pugh, restricted and isolated, stuck in a loveless marriage to her mostly absent husband, has a hot n' heavy affair with a new servant. The affair awakens her desire to break free of the bonds of her stultifying marriage, no matter the cost. The ends, justifying the means, however murderous. 





Call Me By Your Name 


A romantic drama about a boy’s relationship with a friend of his father’s, the movie is based on the debut novel by Andre Aciman.  Billed as an erotic coming of age story, the novel received plenty of accolades for its luminous prose when it was published in 2007.



About the movie
The film has already been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, but except for the January 22 debut at Sundance, there’s not release date yet. Or trailer. Call Me by Your Name was written by James Ivory with the director, Luca Guadagnino. Timothée Chalamet stars as the 17 year old who pines for 24 year old Oliver, played by Armie Hammer with Michael Stuhlbarg as the boy’s father.

Mudbound


Two men, one black, one white, return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war. Based on Hillary Jordan’s prize-winning debut set in 1946, it’s the the men’s friendship that drives the story.


About the movie

Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell star as friends, Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson. The cast includes Carey Mulligan as McAllan’s sister in law, Jason Clarke as his brother and Jonathan Banks as their Pappy. Mary J. Blige plays Jackson’s wife. Written and directed by Dee Reese, a rare female director.

I’m looking forward to all three of these getting their distribution deals in place and moving on to places where they can find their audience.

Personally, I’m most looking forward to Lady MacBeth. Which one looks good to you?






Tuesday, January 17, 2017

9 Reasons Why We'll All Be Watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu

Image Credit: The Folio Society

Do you follow Margaret Atwood on twitter? Along with Joyce Carol Oates and Erica Jong she’s one of the prominent literary feminists who we loved and read as younger women and who are still writing and full engaged with the world and interacting with that world via twitter.

Today Atwood responded to a teacher who asked if the acclaimed Canadian author had seen the upcoming adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, and if so what she thought of it. 

That seems in line with the general buzz that this is going to be must watch TV. 

It’s not the first time Atwood’s dystopian novel has been adapted for the screen, of course. The Handmaid’s Tale was made into a feature length film in 1990 with Natasha Richardson as Offred (Elizabeth Moss in this iteration), and per the novel, a fifty year old Faye Dunaway as Serena Joy and a sixty-ish Robert Duvall as the Commander. The current version takes the characters to a younger place than the book does with Yvonne Strahovski in her mid 30's and Joseph Fiennes (mid 40's) playing those roles. I’m curious about the changes in those ages, wondering how it affects Offred’s character as well as our response. 



In the 1990's film, Nick was played by Aidan Quinn while the new version features Max Minghella (The Mindy Project) as Nick with Alexis Bledel as Moira, Elizabeth McGovern in the movie. The acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter wrote the script.To tell you the truth, looking at the imdb, the director of that 1990 version is the only name I’m not familiar with; German director Volker Schlöndorff. I’d love to watch it before taking in the series, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately I can’t even find a trailer and the film is so hard to find, copies go for over $100 on eBay!

Ah well, I'll content myself with the book. I’m about 1/2 way through.

Esquire ran a piece by Emma Dibdin about the upcoming Hulu series based Atwood’s book, and I’ve nabbed it for you, copied and pasted it here in its entirety:


Why The Handmaid's Tale Is Destined to Be 2017's Dystopian Hit


Escapism only gets you so far. In times like this, with the country on the precipice of a new era nobody understands, sometimes the only option is to dive headlong into that sense of mounting dread about the future. Hulu's beautiful, brutal new drama The Handmaid's Tale is here to help.

Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale took place in a dystopian near-future–now roughly our present day—in which a sharp decline in birth and fertility rates have decimated society. Following the assassination of the President and much of Congress, the United States has become the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic military dictatorship in which women's rights have been abolished, and women of childbearing age are forced into reproductive servants called "Handmaids".

At the TCA Press Tour over the weekend, showrunner Bruce Miller joined stars Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, Alexis Bledel, and O-T Fagbenle to discuss the show. Here are the nine key things to know.

1. The parallels to Trump's America are glaring and deliberate.

Though Miller noted that Atwood's book is perennially timely, "none of us could ignore what was happening" throughout production. "I worked [on the show] the day after the election," recalled Moss, who plays the show's quietly rebellious protagonist Offred, a woman forced into sexual slavery in the household of a military commander, played by Joseph Fiennes. "Joseph had a line from the book where he says 'Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.'"

"I just got chills talking about it," Moss said. "It was very difficult to stand there and have him say that to me and play my reaction to that, which is obviously horror, and not feel something more than I think I would have felt otherwise. We are fascinated and horrified by the parallels."

2. It's a parable about male privilege.

The power dynamics in Gilead are an exaggerated, but knowing take on real-life gender inequality, Fiennes said. "The lack of distribution of power, the fact that there is not a level playing field among the sexes today–it's prescient, and I hope it doesn't remain prescient. Though [my character] the commander is vastly different from me, the male psyche is something that I reflect upon a lot. What it is to be a privileged, white, middle-class guy from London, what are those privileges that have been instilled in me, my conditioning and how that affects other people. There are so many takeaways politically, but also domestically."

3. There will be changes from Atwood's book.

Though the series is overall a loyal adaptation, and everyone involved professed their Atwood fandom, a few key changes have been made. Significantly, the character of Serena Joy—the Commander's wife—is much younger than in the book, played by Dexter's Yvonne Strahovski. The fact that Serena is infertile, but still of childbearing age, changes the fraught dynamic between her and Offred, explained Miller. "It bumped me that Serena Joy was beyond childbearing years, because it felt like they weren't in direct competition, that Offred wasn't taking a role that Serena Joy wanted for herself. I thought it was a more interesting dynamic for the long term, as opposed to in the novel–a dynamic that could play out over time."


4. The cinematography is both stunning and specific.

The show's director Reed Morano has a background in cinematography, which is made very clear by the pilot's visceral deployment of primary colors. "In Margaret Atwood's novel, it's a world of color segregation, and we wanted to stay true to that. We shot the show in Alexa, so I knew that there were certain shades of blue and red that just don't work in digital color, and others that complement each other to make an image more rich, and more painterly, and almost echo a different time."

"So the color for the handmaids is red, and the wives all wear kind of a peacock blue, and that choice was very purposeful because those two colors are basically the predominant colors in technicolor. We wanted to make a show that feels like you haven't seen it before, and really play with composition and graphic colors and try to make it a visual feast."

5. The Republic of Gilead parallels Puritanism.

The biblical fundamentalism that underlies Gilead, and the specific parallels to life in Puritan times, was a defining idea for the writers. "In the first episodes, they're tearing down churches that are anything besides their sect," Miller said. "You know, this country gets a reputation for being a place where people came from religious freedom. The Puritans who came liked their religious freedom, but not anybody else's. So, certainly, there were no other churches besides the Puritan church. We're harkening back to that origin story that Margaret used for the book."

6. The Handmaid's Tale is to Elisabeth Moss as Mr Robot is to Rami Malek.

In the sense that the show takes place entirely through her POV, relies heavily on voiceover to set its psychological tone, and is filmed in extremely intimate close-ups, every micro-movement of Moss's face magnified tenfold. "I've never worked with so much voiceover, but it's such an essential part of the adaptation of the book," Moss said, "because the book is a voiceover, it's first-person telling a story in a very nonlinear way. I feel like that voiceover is my connection to the viewer to be able to hold their hand a little bit and walk them through this world. And there's also so many beautiful bits of writing from Margaret Atwood that we've been able to then use because of the voiceover."

"Lizzie has such an expressive acting style," Miller added, which has allowed close-ups to take the place of voiceover in many instances. "She has a main circuit cable connecting her heart to her face that she can't turn off even if she would like to, and so, because of that, we've had to use less voiceover because you know what she's thinking, you know what she's feeling."

7. The subject matter struck close to home for everyone involved.

Between Mad Men's Peggy Olson and Top of the Lake's Robin Griffin, Moss has had a spectacular few years of playing compelling, unique characters on the small screen. But Offred was different. "I would never be a copywriter in the 1950s, I would never be a detective in Australia—but if Gilead happened now, I would be a handmaid," she said. "That was something I latched onto from the beginning and found very affecting." Through flashbacks, we see Offred's life as an ordinary young woman in contemporary America, smoking pot with her college BFF Moira (Samira Wiley), unaware of what's coming.

"I feel like it's our responsibility as artists to reflect the time that we are living in," Wiley said. "The show reflects the social climate that we are living in, and for me personally, the issues are specifically women and their bodies and who has control of that. Do we have control of it? Does someone else have control of it?"

8. Ann Dowd plays a formidable, but complex, female villain.

Though Gilead and the forces behind that regime are the show's true "villain", the closest thing it has to an antagonist early on is Dowd's fearsome schoolmistress Aunt Lydia. Lydia is in charge of the ominous "Red Center", a re-education facility where women are sent to train as Handmaids. "At the core of her choices, she loves these girls deeply and wants them to succeed in this new world, and she is keenly aware that if she doesn't get them to get the drill immediately, they are not going to make it," Dowd explained. "The reason behind her actions is a deep concern and devotion to [women's] success in this life."

9. It's a feminist survival story.

Bleak as the first episode is, it ends on a defiantly hopeful note as Offred quietly states her intention to survive, and to see her estranged daughter again. "One of the things I found most interesting about Offred is what she does to gain power," said Moss, noting that one of the major ways in which Offred gains agency is through her gender and sexuality. "What she does to gain power and to survive is to lean into being a woman, and her sexuality, and she starts to use it to hopefully get out and hopefully find her daughter. And there are times when that's taken away from her, and then it's taken back. She will never ultimately be in power.

"I love the story of a survivor, and I love that through the principle of surviving, she becomes hugely inspirational. I love that even if you are the lowest of the low, that you may be able to eke out some power. I love that she finds power in her position of nothingness."


The Handmaid’s Tale is coming to Hulu on April 26th. I’ll be watching, will you?



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