> Chapter1-Take1: November 2011

In the Garden of Beasts: Tom Hanks may go back to WWII

Word has it that Universal and Tom Hanks production company, Playtone have optioned the movie rights to Erik Larson’s nonfiction best-seller In the Garden of Beasts; Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin. The book gets its name incidentally from the Tiergarten, the central park where the Dodd family had their home. The literal translation is Garden of the Beasts. According to the Hollywood Reporter Hanks is eyeing the project as a potential starring vehicle for himself. That casting would make much more sense to me than Tom Hank's playing the father in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but that's another story!
Here's how Larson himself describes his work:

Larson’s excellent The Devil and the White City is already development with Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way company.

In the Garden of Beasts would return Hank's to World War II, a time period of interest to the history buff.. His Playtone was behind the Emmy-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific.

The book was published this past May; if any of you have read it already, I'd love to hear your take on its cinematic potential.

Salem Falls : Two reviews

Quite a few of you have been checking in to see if Salem Falls will be airing again soon. I can only tell you that the Lifetime movie based on Jodi Picoult's novel and scripted by her as well is NOT on Lifetime's schedule for the next six weeks. It will not air before the end of the year for sure.

I'm posting two links for reviews for the film. One is totally pro, which you can read here. The other is exactly the opposite. You can read that one here.

Hopefully Jodi Picoult fans that didn't see the first airing will be able to see it and judge for themselves!

My Week With Marilyn: An Interview with Producer, Harvey Weinstein

I haven't been able to see My Week with Marilyn yet but I'm really looking forward to it! The film is based on two books from Colin Clark; My Week With Marilyn and The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and is about the making of The Prince and The Showgirl starring Sir Laurence Oliver and Monroe. From everything I've heard Michelle Williams does an amazing job in the film. I've posted a link to an interview that the folks at Rotten Tomatoes did with the producer, Harvey Weinstein. He was also the producer behind Blue Valentine that Williams starred in opposite Ryan Gosling.  Here's a small snippet but I found the whole thing completely enjoyable and surprising (I didn't realize it was a comedy per se!) and suggest you take a gander by clicking here.

Also, you can see the on line video from the New York Times that Weinstein references right here

So, I just saw My Week with Marilyn and I have to say, although a lot of people are rightly talking about Michelle's performance, the film as a whole is quite enjoyable.
You know, Mick LaSalle just printed a five-star review; Roger Ebert gave us three-and-a-half stars. We've been getting a lot of good reviews. Michelle is out of this world; she has to dominate the movie, it's the role of a lifetime. But on top of that the movie's really funny; we made a fairytale, an enchantment and an entertaining movie. This is not an "Oh my god"-tragedy story; this is laughs, this is musical, this is fun; it's satire, you know, with Ken Branagh's Laurence Olivier. You go and you get entertained watching this movie. And I've made many, many serious movies but this is a pure fairytale: a feel-good, great, fun movie. Even when Michelle talks about it. We took it to Detroit, where she's shooting Oz, and she came to the theater to see the movie for the first time and they were roaring -- I mean, laughing seriously. It's just a charming piece and I'm really proud of it.
It is, and everyone's quite good in it, really.
It is. And that's what I would tell some of these reviewers. Without being long-winded, I think we're like 85 per cent positive on your site, but the other 15, maybe they didn't read the press notes that the movie was intended to be a "moment in time" fairy tale. Some of these reviewers are so, you know... the ones who quite didn't get it didn't understand that we weren't making Joyce Carrol Oates' Blonde, we were making this "enchanting moment" film. [Laughs] Anyhow, once you understand that I think you go in and relax and just really enjoy the movie; you're not worried about it being a biopic because it's not a biopic.
It's a snapshot of Marilyn at a specific point.
Yeah, that's it. You got it.

Innocent on TV Tonight; Richochet on Wednesday

 Updated 11/11/2017The TNT Mystery Movie Night features crime dramas based on popular mystery novel and TNT is banking on some well-respected actors to bring in viewers. First up is Scott Turow's  Innocent with Bill Pullman, Marcia Gay Harden and Alfred Molina on November 29. The film is a sequel to Turow’s bestseller Presumed Innocent, with Pullman playing Rusty Sabich, a judge charged with the murder of his wife (Harden) — a situation that comes 20 years after he was cleared in the death of his mistress. I'm a fan of Bill's, having worked with him on The Favor years ago. I was just the production coordinator but he was such a nice guy to everyone. I'll be watching this one! UPDATE: Innocent is available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu & Google Play

On November 30th, John Corbett (Sex and the City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) stars in Ricochet based on the best selling book by Sandra Brown. Corbett appears as Det. Sgt. Duncan Hunter in story about two homicide detectives who find their careers — and lives — on the line when they get caught up in a case of murder and betrayal in high-society Savannah. Hunter, investigating a corrupt judge becomes romantically involved with his wife. John Corbett is another actor whose work I enjoy. I can't say he's ever  totally blown me away but I like  his low-key delivery. I'm curious to see what he brings to this role ... and the love scenes.

Limitless starring Bradley Cooper: Read it ... Watch it.

Limitless which did pretty well at the box office -- on a $27 million budget , the film earned a healthy $79 million  plus and additional $82.6 million overseas -- is now available on Netflix. Based on Alan Glynn's novel of the same name, the movie stars People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, Bradley Cooper and one of our greatest living actors, Robert Dinero and Johnny Whitworth (CSI Miami).
 Leslie Dixon, who wrote the screenplay, has a tremendous body of work including Hairspray, Outrageous Fortune, Mrs. Doubtfire, Look Whos Talking Now and Pay It Forward so the adaptation was  presumably in good hands!

Here's the basic storyline of the book:
A burnout at thirty-five, months behind on his book, low on cash, and something of a loser, Eddie Spinola (Eddie Mora in the film, played by Cooper) could use a shot in the arm. One day he randomly runs into Vernon, his ex-wife’s brother, and his ex-dealer. Now employed by a shadowy pharmaceutical company, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) has something that might help: a new designer drug that stimulates brain function. One pill and Eddie is hooked. His book is finished within days; he learns and synthesizes information at a frightening rate; and he can go a long time without sleep or food. Naturally, he begins to play the stock market. But when Vernon turns up dead, Eddie makes off with the only stash of the drug in existence. Then come the side effects: black-outs, blinding headaches, and violent outbursts he can’t seem to remember.
Have you read the book and seen the movie? What did you think, did they get it right?

HUGO: Five Things I Learned About Martin Scorsese

Mike Fleming has an amazing interview on deadline.com today, with the legendary filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, re: the making of his first 3D film, HUGO. Reading this lovely long piece, I learned a few things about Martin Scorsese.
Here are the 5 things I learned about Martin Scorsese:
1. Scorsese has wanted to work in 3D since he saw his first 3D film, The House of Wax, in 1953.
2. He believes Taxi Driver could have benefitted from being shot in 3D ... because DiNero's character was so intimidating and his presence everywhere!
3. He would like to shoot every film he makes in 3D.
4, He has a deep spiritual interest in questions of the soul and the heart.
5. He has a 12 year old daughter.

Here's Fleming's piece in full

Georges Melies
"Martin Scorsese long ago established himself as one of the pillars of contemporary films, an auteur steeped in the history and culture of cinema who makes movies that are usually brutal, visceral and, quite often, Oscar-nominated too. His 2006 release, The Departed, finally brought him his best director Oscar, after five previous nominations left him just short, and the film also won best picture and two more awards that night. But anyone who thinks they have Scorsese pegged will be in for a shock with his latest, Hugo. It’s a children’s story, based on the best-selling novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” and it’s the filmmaker’s first foray into 3D. Less surprising is that Hugo revolves around the early days of cinema, with pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) playing a prominent role. And it’s figuring regularly in Oscar buzz. So, Hugo isn’t entirely out of character for Scorsese.  The director took a few minutes recently to talk to me about the influence of his young daughter on his latest film, his new-found embrace of 3-D technology, and what his Oscar wins in 2007 meant for his family.

AWARDSLINE: What were you looking for that made Hugo fit so well as your first family film?
MARTIN SCORSESE: The book by Brian Selznick is so compelling and beautifully done, particularly the illustrations. But the story, the mystery of it, really became interesting and I felt an affinity with the 12-year old boy, his isolation and ultimately his trying to find a reason for his life and its tragedies. Ultimately all of that gets resolved through the invention of cinema.
AWARDSLINE: You’d found a personal frame of reference? There are also themes of film preservation, a passion of yours, and the origins of cinema.
SCORSESE: That seemed to be like a natural. But really, it was mainly the young children that first got me involved with it. And the fact that it resolves itself with Melies and early cinema was something that kept drawing me back. Well, apparently it must have been that but I didn’t quite realize it until I was shooting and  friends in my life would say ‘This is very much you.’ [Laughs] While I didn’t think of that, all my close friends felt it was totally natural.
AWARDSLINE: How long had you wanted to work in 3D?
SCORSESE: Since I saw my first 3D film back in 1953, House of Wax.
AWARDSLINE: As you watched 3D develop through the years, it’s gone from something that jumps out at you to an immersive feel. How have you felt about the evolution?
SCORSESE: I have always been fascinated by it. Even before I saw 3D films, I remember getting a packet of 10 postcards that were stereoscopic from the late 19th century and looking at them through a little device. Then there’s the wonderful View-Master which had beautiful stereo images. Not only did it immerse you in the picture, but was like a story.  I was fascinated by depth and I placed such moments carefully in Hugo. There are a number of things that do pop out at you, but we tried to have our cake and eat it too. Ideally you don’t realize the effect occurred. By the time it’s over, you’re onto something else. It was about placing you inside this boy’s world; the memory of a child. If you think back at your childhood, you think about where you grew up and if you ever go back there, it’s different. It has a different feel to it from what a child sees and perceives. I thought that would be amazing in 3D plus the fact that he lives in the walls of a train station with the mechanisms of the clocks – which always fascinated me.  I remember a little glass ball of a clock that my grandfather had. He gave it to me. I was always fascinated because on the back of it, you can actually see magnified; the workings of a clock and since I was a child I was fascinated by that.
AWARDSLINE: The technology certainly allowed you to see the inner workings of the clocks that are prevalent in the film.
SCORSESE: I go back to that old clock my grandfather had and I still have in the house now and I was fascinated by that. I’m not mechanically inclined but I’m fascinated by the mechanisms, and what they suggest. The stories that come out of them. The measurement of time itself. Movies being the illusion of motion, and then it is seen and it is an experience that disappears–into time. And in many cases, it has strong, profound, powerful reactions that can change your life. It certainly did mine.
AWARDSLINE: There’s a wonderful moment where an audience watching a moving picture for the first time scatters as a train rushes through the camera. In your life and career, what film innovation compares to that?
SCORSESE: Well, two things really. It was the use of 3D back in ’53. Obviously, there are two or three films better than all the others – House of Wax, Phantom of the Rue Morgue and Hitchcock’s use of it in Dial M for Murder.
AWARDSLINE: What was the other?
SCORSESE: I’m going back to theatrical experiences for this one. It was the first use of wide screen and the Cinemascope image on a wide screen at the New York Roxy theater which was really very thrilling. But the 3D I preferred, because in the first use of Cinemascope, it was rather static, but the 3D was not for some reason, particularly in House of Wax. I was always fascinated by these technical innovations and never thought I would get to make one.  It was only 2 years ago that I was talking to some filmmakers in Cairo of all places, saying 3D is going to be amazing, but that it has to be in the script. I said, I’ll never get to make one but that’s the nature of where everything is going anyway. Ever since storytelling started, whether it was rock paintings or campfires, or the Shaman, it’s been about telling stories with motion, color, sound and depth, which leaves you what? Holograms.
AWARDSLINE: And just two years after saying you wouldn’t make one, we’re talking about your first 3D film. What changed for you?
SCORSESE: Well, the story of Hugo. The climate of what Jim Cameron did with Avatar and 3D seemed right and the subject matter was just perfect for it. And it was time to take a chance with it.
AWARDSLINE: How did you feel after watching Avatar?
SCORSESE: There was extraordinary visual storytelling in that picture. Cameron is a great innovator and leader in cinema. It made it (3D) very welcoming. If you suggest 3D, from that point on, it was taken seriously.  But I just think 3D is open to any kind of storytelling. It shouldn’t be limited to fantasy or sci-fi. Look at (Werner) Herzog’s use of it (in Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Wim Wenders with Pina. It should be considered a serious narrative element and tool, especially when telling a story with depth as narrative.
AWARDSLINE: Which of your movies might have most benefited from being shot in 3D?
SCORSESE: That’s an interesting question. Let’s see…Aviator, maybe? Maybe Taxi Driver… because of the intimidation of the main character , his presence is everywhere, a frightening kind of presence.
AWARDSLINE: What was the hardest part about getting use to shooting with this format? There must have been a learning curve, figuring out how to frame shots to take advantage of that dimension.
SCORSESE: The high depth was very helpful and beautiful to work with. The rigs we had at the time were big, and that was problematic, though we were luckily shooting in a studio so we could keep it on a crane and move it around. Now, the rigs are smaller and more flexible. As I lined up each shot, we had to rethink how to tell a story with pictures.  And so each shot was a separate surprise, a separate journey, even though I designed a lot of the 3D effects in the movie way before shooting started. I just didn’t want to waste the depth, even if it was a medium shot of a person speaking . This was something that [cinematographer Robert] Richardson, myself, my AD Chris Surgent, my second unit director Rob Legato. We all worked on it heavily, every day, adding to the frame, try things, making mistakes. Pull back, go forward, try something we weren’t supposed to do. This was the key.
AWARDSLINE: Is it that much more challenging than shooting a 2D film?
SCORSESE: Eliminating the idea of the heavier equipment which is now getting smaller and flexible, I don’t think there’s very much of a difference. It shouldn’t frighten the filmmaker, it shouldn’t be an obstacle or an impediment. Break through it. Think differently about it. Don’t let people tell you what can and cannot be done. I shot the film in the way I’m used to shooting. It’s designed with editing, it’s a montage at times, but imagine somebody doing one long take in two hours in 3D, where the element of space really becomes part of the very fabric of the narrative, as we tried to accomplish here in our editing? It’s so unlimited. So yes, there are certain technical issues to deal with as you go ahead and work on a picture, but those are choices you make and you work it through. I wouldn’t be intimidated by it. You should really try and be bold.
AWARDSLINE: Recently, 3D has been knocked as an excuse for studios to charge higher ticket prices. Now we’re seeing more filmmakers like you, Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Ridley Scott shooting in it. Would you prefer to shoot all your movies in 3D going forward?
SCORSESE: Quite honestly, I would.  I don’t think there’s a subject matter that can’t absorb 3D; that can’t tolerate the addition of depth as a storytelling technique. We view everyday life with depth.  I think certain subject matters aren’t meant for 3D but you have to go back to Technicolor; when it was used in 1935 with Becky Sharp. For about 10-15 years, Technicolor was relegated to musicals, comedies and westerns. It wasn’t intended for the serious genres, but now everything is in color.  And so it’s just a different mindset. Granted once the technology advances and you can eliminates glasses that are hindrances to some moviegoers, so why not? It’s just a natural progression.
AWARDSLINE: This is a family film with a sophisticated message. What concessions did you make so that kids would be engaged in Hugo?
SCORSESE: I have a young daughter who’s going to be 12 in a few weeks.  By living with her everyday, I began to see things differently. So I was always checking on how a child would perceive this, every frame, including the station inspector, all these tricks, his sense of authority which is subverted by his, at times, his ridiculousness. It was always about ‘what would a child think about this scene? How would they see it?’ That’s why we had to heighten the look of the picture and the train station.  We designed the picture to call back to a very special kind of dream-like palace that René Clair used or designed in 1930, to give a feeling of a fairy tale world, but yet to speak to a reality. The station inspector [Sacha Baron Cohen] might be funny at times, but he still has the authority to put children in the orphanage. So I always tried to see it through a child’s eyes.
AWARDSLINE: Your films always factor in the discussion during Oscar season. You’ve been nominated five times as director before you won with The Departed. What was the most gratifying part of getting the Oscar?
SCORSESE: I made Departed as an attempt at a gangster thriller. It was really remarkable that of all the films I made, that picture was singled out. And I think I was most happy for my family. Everybody always gets up and thanks their family, but the reality is that they were so excited, including a few of my aunts. One of my aunts just passed away, she was the last of my father and my mother’s world. She was excited. She was in tears. It meant a great deal to them.  It’s not that (the award) doesn’t mean a great deal for me, but it fulfilled a long journey that many were on with me. And it was very sweet.
AWARDSLINE: You’ve tried to adapt the Shusaku Endo novel Silence, about 17th Century Jesuits who risk their lives to bring Christianity to Japan. It isn’t commercial, it has been hard to finance, but it looks like you’ll finally get your chance to make it. Why has it been so important to you?
SCORSESE: My initial interests in life were very strongly formed by what I took seriously at that time, and 45-50 years ago I was steeped in the Roman Catholic religion. As you get older, ideas go and come. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me. Yes,  the Cinema and the people in my life and  my family are most important, but ultimately as you get older, there’s got to be more. Much, much more. The very nature of secularism right now is really fascinating to me, but at the same time do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends? That’s one of the reasons why I made the George Harrison documentary. Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done and now is the time to do it. It’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.
AWARDSLINE: Are the questions you’re asking here similar to the questions that drew you to Last Temptation of Christ?
SCORSESE: Yes, but this is a different line of questioning.
AWARDSLINE: We Catholics are always struggling for answers.
SCORSESE: There are no answers. We all know that. You try to live in the grace that you can. But there are no answers, but the point is, you keep looking. Because people tell you science tells us everything. Science doesn’t! They just have discovered these Neutrinos that go faster than the speed of light. And there is this idea that once we got to a point in the mid-20th century and now the 21st century where everything is known in a sense, right? Well, we don’t! We don’t really know everything. I mean, yes, we don’t know what happened in the Big Bang, but we understand the idea of progress. But have we really progressed? We’ve progressed on the outside, but what about inside? What about the soul and the heart? Without trying to sound pompous and ridiculous, I can tell you this is where my interest is.
AWARDSLINE: When a director with your accomplishments keeps challenging his beliefs and asking questions like this, does that show you’ve still got the capacity for growth?
SCORSESE: I hope! [laughs] I hope! That’s what I’m trying for."
You can see the HUGO trailer on my Featured Trailer page.

We Bought A Zoo: The Reel World vs The Real World (Interview w author)

Just found this interesting 5 minute interview with Benjamin Mee, author of  the memoir We Bought A Zoo the book that inspired Cameron Crowe's film with Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church.

We Bought A Zoo: My Thoughts on the Book

Just finished reading We Bought A Zoo. You can see what I have to say - for what it's worth - over at the my my take on the book page. The film, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church is very loosely based on the book.
This is the real Benjamin Mee with his family. Not a lot in common with Matt Damon clearly. The real zoo, by the way, is in England. Mee's purchase of the Dartmoor Zoological Park in Devon was the subject of a BBC documentary.

We Bought A Zoo: The Sneak Peek

Twentieth Century Fox sneaked We Bought A Zoo yesterday and - with the exception of Variety - it looks like it will be a commercial hit. The Facebook page where the studio invited movie goers to "tout" their responses for a chance to win a trip to the San Diego Zoo were all positive but what else would you expect.

From the handful of critics that have weighed in - Fox hasn't screened it for critics yet, and in fact asked for reviewers to hold off writing about the film until closer to its release date, but several plunked down their own money - it seems the overall consensus is that this is a commercial crowd pleaser. A tad sweet, not stupendous, but a heartwarming family flick.
Having just finished the book, I can say it is loosely based on Mee's memoir We Bought A Zoo. Taking the kernels of Mee's story: grief stricken father trying to overcome the morass of bureaucracy in order to open a zoo (the real one is in England, here it's in the states), it looks like Crowe has developed the human drama sadly lacking in the book. While the book focuses on the animals and meeting the overwhelming - and necessary - requirements of running a zoo (animal welfare is the mainstay and one that Mee takes seriously), the two children are very much in the background and the reader feels the loss. Had Mee included more about his relationship with his kids struggling through and past their mother's death, it would have been a much stronger work.
It looks like the film, from the open hearted Cameron Crowe has got that part down. And, according to the critics, he has done so without going too deeply into saccharine mode.

As David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter said:
"Cameron Crowe’s film has some rough edges, but it ultimately delivers thanks to Matt Damon’s moving performance."
"The force that binds the disparate characters together and anchors the story in emotional truth is Damon’s Benjamin. His struggle gives the movie a soulful pull, even at its most predictable. Whether he’s pleading with an ailing Bengal tiger not to give up the will to live, lost in melancholy solitude or yelling in frustration at his son about a shared pain that neither of them can express, Damon brings integrity and intrinsic decency to a character just searching for the courage to emerge from grief."
Read the entire article at The Hollywood Reporter

Over at First Showing
"Sometimes you go in to see a movie, unsure of really what to expect, and it sweeps you away, connects with you emotionally in ways you didn't think possible, then the tears start flowing without any control. That's what happened to me seeing Cameron Crowe's new movie We Bought a Zoo at the sneak previews held Saturday evening; it's one of the most endearing, heartwarming, joyful films I've seen this year (so far). Part of this is thanks to Crowe, his direction and cast, another part of it is thanks to Jónsi's amazing score, which I wholeheartedly believe deserves Oscar recognition. I love this film, it filled my heart with true happiness." Read the whole review at First Showing

In contrast,  Variety had a grinch-like reaction
"We Bought a Zoo" is an odd bird, warm-blooded but largely lifeless. Adapted from Benjamin Mee's autobiographical account of his experiences as the new owner of a fixer-upper menagerie, Cameron Crowe's overlong pic works hard to deliver intermittent pleasures, most of which derive from Matt Damon's affable lead turn. Animal action, as well as comedy of any variety, remains curiously sparse as Crowe strains to make a tribe of his human characters, including a ragtag zoo-keeping team and the widowed Mee's two kids. Sneaked nearly a month in advance, Fox's holiday offering lacks the zip needed to drive upbeat word of mouth."
"Per usual for a Crowe film, the soundtrack comes stuffed with goodies, although the mix of Neil Young, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, among many others, lacks the moments of musical epiphany in the director's signature works. The score by Jonsi of Sigur Ros sounds a touch saccharine and doesn't mesh well with the vintage pop.
Tech credits, with the exception of the shapeless cutting, are solid but hardly vivid enough to compensate for the pic's deficiencies."
To read more of the same go to Variety although I have to say, I bet they've got it wrong!

We Bought A Zoo directed by Cameron Crowe (Say Anything, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Maggie Elizabeth Jones and Colin Ford.

Cosmopolis: Cronenberg In Defense of Pattinson

Yesterday, I posted about Howard Shore, who scored Martin Scorsese's HUGO - there's a lot of chatter that this is the finest 3D film ever - and  I mentioned that Howard Shore has worked on every single one of David Cronenberg's films except for The Dead Zone. And that Cronenberg and Shore had Cosmopolis in the works, starring Robert Pattinson. Well, it's actually in the can. While there's no release date yet, it should be sometime during the first half of 2012. And in case you wondered what Robert Pattinson (Edward in the Twilight movies - is it possible there is anyone out there who doesn't know this?) was doing in a Cronenberg film, so were a lot of other people.  And they've been asking Cronenberg about the casting choice in their interviews with the director of A Dangerous Method. That film, based on John Kerr's A Most Dangerous Method is out now in limited release. It stars Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson and Keira Knightly. It's a book I will never, ever read but the film does look absolutely riveting!
Anyway, here's what Cronenberg told the Huffington Post about his controversial decision regarding Pattinson's casting in Cosmopolis.
Why did you want Pattinson for the part in Cosmopolis?
Cronenberg: Well I'd watched a movie that I think not too many people have seen called "Little Ashes," where he plays Salvador Dali, and he plays him as a young man and plays him with a Spanish accent. So I thought, well that's really interesting, I mean this was before he was a "Twilight" star, because, it takes a particular handsome young man to decide to play that role. And then I did watch some of the "Twilight" stuff and I watched "Remember Me" and I felt that he had a lot going on. He's supposed to be a super smart billionaire at a young age, 28 he says in the movie. It's intuition. I didn't know him as a person, but I'd figured from the movies that I'd seen, like "Little Ashes," that I could maybe interest him in doing something that's not "Twilight" obviously. To read the entire article which focuses on A Dangerous Method go to
Huffington Post

And here's what Cronenberg told Josh Horowitz at MTV:
"You start with the basics. How old is he? What does he look like? Is the character very nerdy? Is he handsome and devilish?" Cronenberg said. "Is he an intellectual? You think about all these things and you think about the actors who could possibly project the things that you need from this character."
Once Cronenberg had a list of potential candidates for the "Ulysses"-inspired protagonist, Eric Packer, it is important to consider a star's profile in order to get the proper funding for the film. Cronenberg said that it takes an actor with a name like Pattinson to get his movies made.
After judging Pattinson's interest in the project and working around his schedule, it was clear to Cronenberg that he was the man for the job. "Ultimately, I felt he was the guy. Once again, intuition," he said. "I saw his movies, including ones maybe his Twi-Hard fans don't know about, like 'Little Ashes.' Maybe they saw 'Remember Me,' I'm not sure."
As for Pattinson's "Twilight" reputation, it's something Cronenberg acknowledges. "I can't pretend that I'm not aware of that. This is an unusual jump for him. He said it himself. It's scary," Cronenberg said, adding that it's the scary part of it that makes it worthwhile. "It's a scary thing because he's never really had to carry a movie quite that way before, totally on his own," he said. "He's in every scene. He's almost in every shot, so scary for him, but for an actor, scary is good. You don't want to be bored. You don't want to be too confident."
The question that will be on everyone's minds who goes to see the film may ultimately be, "Can the 'Twilight' kid actually act?" Cronenberg was quick to cast any doubt aside. "Really, he's fantastic. He's sensational," he said. "Really, I'm telling you. He's a great actor. It's obvious in the movie. It's not like maybe yes, maybe no. It's obvious."
Hopefully it will be obvious to the rest of us! I'm not a huge Pattinson fan but I'm all for helping actors break out of their casting niches.

If you're not familiar with the book, here's the storyline from Amazon. Director, Cronenberg, also wrote the script by the way:
It is an April day in the year 2000 and an era is about to end -- those booming times of market optimism when the culture boiled with money and corporations seemed more vital and influential than governments.
Eric Packer, a billionaire asset manager at age twenty-eight, emerges from his penthouse triplex and settles into his lavishly customized white stretch limousine. On this day he is a man with two missions: to pursue a cataclysmic bet against the yen and to get a haircut across town.
His journey to the barbershop is a contemporary odyssey, funny and fast-moving. Stalled in traffic by a presidential motorcade, a music idol's funeral and a violent political demonstration, Eric receives a string of visitors -- his experts on security, technology, currency, finance and theory. Sometimes he leaves the car for sexual encounters and sometimes he doesn't have to.

HUGO: Howard Shore Scores for Scorsese Again

For the film, HUGO, Scorsese turned to one of his frequent collaborators, the renowned composer, Howard Shore. Shore did the scores for Scorsese's  The Departed, The Aviator, and Gangs of New York and their first film together After Hours in 1985. The only director Shore has worked with more is David Cronenberg, since their first project together in 1979, The Brood, Shore has scored all of Cronenberg's films except for The Dead Zone in '83. Shore has won three Academy Awards for his work on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and as you might imagine has an incredibly extensive list of credits:   among them, The Fly, Big, High Fidelity, That Thing You Do, Panic Room, Edge of Darkness, History of Violence, Doubt, A Dangerous Method and Twilight; The Eclipse. He's worked with the best, in addition to Scorsese, Cronenberg, and Peter Jackson, Shore has collaborated with David Fincher, Penny Marshall, Jonathan Demme, Sydney Lumet, James Mangold, John Patrick Stanley and Stephen Frears among others.
If Martin Scorsese goes ahead with plans to make a pair of bio-pics, starring his muse Leonardo di Caprio, (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt based on Edmund Morris' book and Sinatra, ) Howard Shore will score those too. He's currently at work on The Hobbit, again with Peter Jackson. And he's signed on to work with Cronenberg again on Cosmopolis, a film adaptation of Don DeLillo's book.

Scorsese, and Shore with Spielberg,
 one of few directors Shore hasn't worked with
 According to Shore, his work with Scorsese on Hugo was, -- as it was to Scorsese himself -- a love letter to the groundbreaking early days of cinema.
Here's how the work is described on howardshore.com,
'Shore’s music is composed for two ensembles – one nested within the other – to create a sense of layering in the musical palette. Inside a full symphony orchestra resides a smaller ensemble, a sort of nimble French dance band that includes the ondes Martenot, musette, cimbalom, tack piano, gypsy guitar, upright bass, a 1930s trap-kit, and alto saxophone. “I wanted to match the depth of the sound to the depth of the image,” says Shore.
The Hugo score is based around a family of primary musical themes. “The themes are used for clarity of storytelling and they develop over the course of the film,” says the composer. The score’s central theme is a Parisian waltz that develops into the song “Coeur Volant.” Howard Shore invited renowned French singer Zaz to collaborate with Elizabeth Cotnoir and him on the song, which captures the lyrical essence of the world of Hugo.

The theme for Hugo’s quest begins the score with clocklike precision in piano octaves. A figure for strings, celesta, and ondes Martenot rotates downward through minor modes to depict the mysterious automaton that Hugo’s father left behind. The Station Inspector is portrayed by a marche comique featuring bassoon and striding snare drum, while the cinematic innovations of Georges Méliès – “Papa Georges” to Hugo and Isabelle – receive Shore’s most theatrical flourishes, which recreate the spirited energy of live theater orchestras and the very first film scores."
If you're looking for a more detailed account you might want to check out Doug Adams interview with Shore at howardshore.com.

The Corrections: Why The Corrections starring Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest didn't happen

Updated 11/11/2017
(see below)
To all my readers in the states, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you get a chance to see a movie or two over the holiday weekend and I hope they're not turkeys! While made for tv movies usually give me luke warm expectations, HBO has a great track record in this area, so I'm looking forward to their small screen adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Also welcome; the fact that have just added Ewan McGregor to the cast. No word yet when the small screen adaptation of Franzen's award winning book - it was the winner of the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction - will be on but it is supposed to go into production next year (2012)  but I'll be watching for it. I haven't read the book yet but in addition to McGregor who will play Chip, Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest are already on board as the parents. Have you read the book? What do you think about the casting?
The director, Noah Baumbach and Jonathan Franzen, himself, will write the script together.

Here's the storyline: After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Aaaaaargh! The project fell apart. Noah Baumbach whose projects are my ideas of perfect films—check out the Meyoritz Stories, Frances Ha and While We We're Young all on Netflix—filmed the pilot and HBO dropped it because it just wasn't working and it cost too much money! What a shame!
Here's what the director had to say a couple of years back
“I don’t know that I appreciated how different it was from movies,” the director told Studio 360, and it was Baumbach who couldn’t negotiate his shooting style for the small screen. “I think I shot it too much like a movie. The real reason I think we didn’t go forward with it was it was too complex, and it was really too expensive for the kind of show it was going to be.”
“… we didn’t have dragons. It was the kind of show that most people would do for two cents and we were spending what ‘Game of Thrones‘ spends,” he added.

source: deadline.com, amazon.com, indiewire

Hugo: Why it isn't just for children

I've been intrigued by the beautiful visuals in the Hugo trailer and have indicated here, that I intend to see it, kids movie or not. Now, in his usual charming way Mike Ryan of MovieFone, pleads Hugo's case, film lovers of all ages will want to see this movie. So I can go without feeling like a wierdo. Read his 25 questions about Hugo to see why it isn't just for kids.

If that's not enough, check out this video featuring James Cameron and Martin Scorsese talking about the film. Cameron is incredibly complimentary about what Scorsese does with 3D imagery; coming from the creator of Avatar, that's high praise indeed. Such a thrill to see these two icons chatting about the craft!

If you'd like to read a little more about Robert Richardson, the world class cinematographer behind the amazing visuals, check out my post Robert Richardson shines a light on Hugo
John Logan penned the script, based on Brian Selznick's The Adventures of Hugo Cabret. Logan who was nominated for his screenplays for Gladiator and The Aviator, also wrote the scripts for Sweeney Todd, Rango and the upcoming Lincoln from Steven Spielberg and Skyfall, the latest James Bond flick.

Howard Shore did the score; I'll save that for another post.
You can also watch the full Hugo trailer below.

All in all, I feel pretty good about my decision to see the movie. What about you? Even if you don't have children, will you go see this film?

The Descendants: My take on the movie starring George Clooney and Shailene Woodley

Kaui Hart Hemming's novel The Descendants swept me away.  I'm relieved to say the film didn't disappoint. It's rich, complicated, emotional. A surprising and refreshing mix of funny comingling with the sad. A grownup's movie with an R rating owing to its use, primarily of the f-word. It's always difficult to watch a film and miss the parts that didn't make it to the screen; it's that depth and richness of setting and character development filmmakers don't have time for. So while I may have shed a quick tear for Matt King's home without the quirky housekeeper, the hospital without the scene in the gift shop where Matt the buys up all the soft core postcards flouting his gorgeous 15 year old daughter Alex, in a bikini, without the scene where Scottie hops on their beach club bar stool singing for a drink like her mother used to; I shed many more for what did make it into the movie.

I've never seen George Clooney so unattractively attractive. He wears faded cotton Hawaiian shirts tucked into dockers. Tucked in. Not cool. Kind of like a nerdy accountant. He never gets to dazzle us with his movie star smile or twinkle sardonically. He never gets to be George Clooney. Instead, he is Matt King, a man whose wild wife is in a coma caused by a boating accident, who has two daughters he has no idea how to deal with, a huge decision about what to do with a land inheritance, and the newfound knowledge that his wife was having an affair. He's a man at once confused and angry and grieving by the events taking place. Every gesture, every stunned expression, every look of resignation rang true. When he cried, I cried too.

Shailene Woodley, George Clooney, Amara Miller and Nick Krause

As in the book, his daughters shock him with their behavior and their language. The eldest daughter, Alex played by Shailene Woodley was honest and pure in her disgusted responses to her father and deserved anger with her comatose mother. She's a natural beauty too with the most amazingly expressive eyes, an actress one wants to watch. Young Amara Miller is pitch perfect as the both moody and needy Scottie. Matt Lilliard, formerly known as Shaggy and that guy in Up A Creek with Seth Green and Dax Shepherd, made the most of his small amount of screen time as did Judy Greer. I also enjoyed Nick Krause's performance, the stocky young actor played Sid the stoner with a wide and open grin, providing much of the comic relief. In a nice nod to Hemmings, she "played" King's secretary. I think she had a line, maybe two. Still, it must be sweet satisfaction for her.

Alexander Payne, the director, who is known for his interest in locales and settings, showed Hawaii perfectly. The real Hawaii; not just the postcard picture perfect place we imagine when booking vacations. Oahu with it's crowded freeways, its big city with its share of poverty, and homelessness, and ugly architecture, its beautiful beaches crowded out by hotel after condo after hotel, as well as the soft and lovely landscape where guess what, sometimes it gets a bit grey. Sometimes it rains.

Paradise isn't all it's cracked up to be. While there are spots of breathtaking beauty - notably the thousands of acres of land fronting an idyllic bay that Matt's family has owned for generations and which he now has to decide what to do with - I don't know that I've ever seen a film that painted Hawaii as a setting so realistically.
Payne has said himself that the film is a little exposition heavy - the George Clooney voice over does come in quite a bit. But for me it was pitch perfect. Mature. Deep and velvety. At times bemused, at others the confusion, the anger, the hurt, but finally the contentment rings through.
You should see this movie. I hope you've read the book but even if you don't, you should see this movie.

Gary Koftinoff: The Man Behind the Salem Fall's Score

Since so many of you are curious about the musical score for the made for tv movie, (I've hand an amazing number of hits from people searching for this!) Salem Falls, here's a couple of links you might want to check out.
The award winning composer of The Good Shepherd soundtrack has his own site. You can learn a little more about Gary Koftinoff's work there.  Koftinoff.com
And an old interview from 2005 in Pulpmovies that you can read.pulpmovies.com
You're welcome!

Behind the Scenes of My Week with Marilyn

This is a big week for films as Hollywood unveils some of its biggest Oscar and blockbuster contenders over the usually heavy movie going Thanksgiving weekend. And a huge week for book to movie fans. We've got The Descendants, based on Kaui Hart Hemmings novel expanding into more theatres. Martin Scorses's Hugo based on Brian Selznick's The Adventures of Hugo Cabret - and Scoresese's love song to films. And My Week with Marilyn, based on two books by Colin Clark, The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn.
Michelle Williams and Simon Curtis, the director of My Week with Marilyn were on Piers Morgan last night. Curtis, a first time director, said that what attracted him to Michelle's work is that she always brings such psychological details to her work. Anyone who saw her work in Blue Valentine can attest to that.
When Michelle was asked what surprised her when she delved into Marilyn's character, Williams responded in a very Marilyn-like breathy tone "Oh gosh! I suppose the biggest discovery was that Marilyn Monroe was a character and how we commonly think of her was a part she played. The  truth was she was a very complex woman." After Morgan played a clip from the film, he said what I'd been thinking.
"You are Marilyn" he said, "It's wierd."
"Oh gosh" Williams purred again.
Curtis said "It was truly thrilling to see Marilyn on our set and to see what Michelle was doing, it was just fantastic."
While not quite as gorgeously voluptuous, Williams does seem to channel Marilyn, to completely get under her skin. The New York Times magazine has a clip on Marilyn Monroe getting into character. It's really fascinating to watch her trying on poses, self correcting and finding a place that feels right for her. You can watch the clip here although one must add, actors don't usually do this with cameras rolling. Or didn't use to. In our current age where every moment is a potential You tube hit, everything is fair game.
Williams clearly empathizes with Marilyn Monroe - that nack for empathy is a trait that separates great  actors from the rest - and has said she has never cried so much over a character before.
"I've never spent this long with a character before. Her struggle was valliant. That moves me when someone is fighting against themselves or the outside world"
I've also attached a five minute B-roll video showing some fascinating behind the scenes of the film.

We Bought A Zoo was made in my back yard.

Just when I was half-wondering why Cameron Crowe moved Mee's Dartmoor Zoo in We Bought A Zoo to the states, I found this snippet over at Collider.com.
In Cameron's own words, from a tweet:
“The story was set in Boston when I first read Aline’s script, and she really made it sing as a universal story.  I watched Benjamin Mee’s BBC documentary, and read his great book a few times and knew that Ben’s story (while very much set in the UK) was largely a personal one.  I also knew a ton of places in ‘inner’ California that felt like my ‘Dartmoor’… places that felt far removed and would support a struggling zoo.  Then we found the Greenfield Ranch location, outside Westlake Village, and we all fell in love with the property.  Plus, I wanted to work with Matt Damon, and I think he gets things done pretty well with his natural accent… so we started casting American actors, reading with them, setting the story here in California… and the real Benjamin Mee gave us a thumbs up… and that’s a mighty thumbs up.  We filmed in ‘out of the way’ California, places that don’t normally turn up in the movies. "
The funny thing for me is that I live about five miles from this location and didn't have a clue they'd been filming! It does clear up the mystery though why, when I went into one of our local second hand bookstores, The Bookaneer, looking for a second hand copy (ie cheap) of the book, the owner told me. "Sorry I don't have it. But you know, a few months ago the set decorator for that movie came in and bought up a huge load of our books. Said it was to use in the house." We live about 45 minutes from Hollywood, not exactly prime shopping territory for set dec but being just a few miles from the actual set? It all comes into focus.

The Movie I'm READING Now: We Bought A Zoo

I've just started We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee. It's the true story of a British family who --wait for it -- buy a zoo!
If you've seen the trailer for the movie which stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, you already know that in the movie the family is definitely NOT British. And the zoo, which in the real world is in England, looks like it's somewhere in the states in the reel world. So one wonders what else they've changed. Or does one? Because just over 60 odd pages into this two hundred and four page book, this is what I know:  British family emigrates to France to restore an old farmhouse, wife gets diagnosed with cancer. Treatment cures her massive tumor except all the experts say it will come back; there is a very, very small chance of survival. The husband, a DIY writer, is in a bit of a state of denial about this so when his family back in Britain suggests they all pool their resources to buy a zoo - which comes with a huge ramshackle house - he plunges in to explore the options. After endless rounds of conversation, consultation, studies, and legal documents ad nauseum, they buy this zoo - which is in just as poor shape as the house.

And just over 60 pages in, this is what I know. The basis of the story should be a glorious feeding ground for the dramatic. Unfortunately, at least so far,  Mee's telling of it isn't. It's a tad stodgy and so full of the endless details of the purchase, and really very little attention to the wife, that one can forgive director Cameron Crowe and scriptwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (more about Crowe in another post) for making a film, more accurately inspired by the book, rather than being based on it. Then again, perhaps I'm not being fair, perhaps we're still in the formative stages and Mee will deliver the goods in the three fourths of the book I've yet to read. So, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will perservere and shoo away my thoughts that for once, the film may be better than the book. A nice ending. Just not what I am hoping for as I read! Have you read it? What did you think? Am I gettting ahead of myself? I'll post my updates over on my The Movie I Am READING Now page. The movie is getting quite a bit of buzz and opens in select theatres this Thanksgiving weekend. Take a gander at the trailer and see what you think.
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