> Chapter1-Take1: May 2013

Are you there Judy Blume fans? It's me, Tiger Eyes.

Willa Holland plays Davey
Strange that a Judy Blume book hasn't been made into a feature film before now. There's been television but this is the first time on the big screen: Tiger Eyes is being released without hullabaloo on June 7th. It will also be available on demand. The director is Lawrence Blume; the author's son - what absolute heaven that must have been for Mama Blume; I can only imagine how thrilled I would be to collaborate with my own filmmaker son! Blume and son adapted her novel together as well. 
On a trip to New Mexico with her mother and little brother after the death of her father in a 7-11 robbery, Davey (a teenage girl) is befriended by a young Native American who helps her find the strength to carry on.
Davey is played by Willa Holland (Arrow, Gossip Girls), Amy Jo Johnson as her mother and Tatanka Means.

Blume told EW Lawrence told EW that he first read “Tiger Eyes” when he was in college and that the book “affected [him] deeply,” in part because he and Blume moved to New Mexico when he was a teenager after his parents divorced, and he struggled there.
Lawrence said it was difficult getting the film made despite Blume’s fame and the current multiple young adult book adaptations happening at the movies.

“It’s a Judy Blume movie,” he said. “That should be enough, you would think. What shocked me was that a big segment of the business knew who Judy Blume was but they didn’t understand who she was. Part of it is that the film business is run mostly by old white men – and some young ones, too – who didn’t grow up with her books.”  That's a pretty tragic state of affairs!

Check out the trailer, see what you think. 

Behind the Candelabra: My take on the movie starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon

Warning: This Post Riddled with Spoilers 
Behind the Candelabra, the story of Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson, gets off to a bumpy campy start with their meeting in Liberace's Vegas dressing room. Liberace (Michael Douglas) has such a ridiculous leer on his face, he so obviously wants to devour Thorson(Damon) who just stands there looking goofy and gorgeous and uncomfortable that for a nano-second I cringed. I watched cautiously measuring my responses to seeing these two actors as I had never seen them before; but before long I was in it completely, laughing at the outlandishness of it all but swept up by these two men, these two people, and the wild and crazy story of their love and its predictable demise. It could have been a made for TV disaster but tethered by Soderbergh's clear-eyed direction and brutally honest, committed performances from both Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra escapes being a cheap celebrity tell all or juicy titillation; it's a compelling deconstruction of a love story that's bizarre for most of us (it's not your everyday relationship where your sex addict musical legend boyfriend asks you to have a face lift to look like him!)that somehow touches us all. 

Damon as Liberace's young lover is all fawning innocence at the beginning; the dopey look on his face, his mouth open in unformed response; a babe in the woods; hunky Matt Damon totally sells being swept off his feet by Douglas' cooing, lonely, Liberace. And like I said, 'committed'. I thought MLH was going to faint when Thorson (Damon), clad in a skimpy white rhinestone mankini, climbed up out of the pool and straddled Douglas on a chaise. As the two start making out, Douglas grabs Damon's butt in both his hands - it's an audacious and hilarious move. And you can certainly see what Liberace sees in Thorson to leer at; Damon must have been working out with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper's trainer to achieve those arms, that back; Damon looked hot. Technical term.

Embracing the role of Liberace, Douglas left his vanity in his trailer. When we see the legendary pianist without a wig for the first time, bald, mere wisps of hair poking out the sides, his paunch escaping from his bare, towel-wrapped torso, we're as speechless as Thorson. Is this really the superstar?  In the scenes where Liberace performs onstage, Douglas has to compete with a blindingly dazzling set but manages to steal the spotlight, like he was born to strutt his stuff, trailing an outlandish Swarovsky crystal-encrusted white fox cape behind him.  But it's the one to one moments that make this one of Douglas' finest performances; capturing the desperation of the older man in his eyes, finding his own softness and vulnerability in order to reveal Liberace's complex man in love. His performance could have been the cringe-worthy caricature I dreaded - but it wasn't. It was honest, illuminating, heart-wrenching and great fun to watch. 

Soderbergh details the couple's rise and fall with authenticity; the HBO Behind the Scenes vid I posted is actually pretty informative with specifics from the craftsmen and women on the amazing sets, hand-sewn costumes, wigs and first rate makeup. These spot-on elements keep us grounded in time and place - a time and place that demanded gay stars stay closeted - while the relationship unravels.

Soderbergh finishes his film with the unbelievably beautiful funeral scene. Thorson, sitting alone at the back of the Catholic church, watches as Liberace - spectacularly attired as ever - rises up like an angel to where his piano waits on a platform high in the air. Bathed in Soderbergh's soft gold light*, Thorson watches, his eyes warm and filled with love, while Liberace sings his signature version of The Impossible Dream. I was seriously done in. Shoulders shaking, the whole shebang. 

Kudos to both Douglas and Damon for embracing the challenge - and each other - with gusto. And to Soderbergh. What a spectacular retirement party! The truth is that while the director is famously retiring; for the time being it's just from feature work - and who knows how long that will last? In the meantime cable tv is more than thrilled to have him. Soderbergh's next project will be The Knick starring Clive Owens for Cinemax.

See the real Liberace sing The Impossible Dream. The vocal starts at about 1:15 in. 

*Russell (the filmmaker son) clued me in that Soderbergh used a fog filter which creates a soft glow and flare to set a warm romantic tone. 

Kiss and Tell: Behind the scenes of Behind the Candelabra

HBO has released an extended behind-the-scenes look at Behind the Candelabra, the tv movie based on Scott Thorson's memoir about his life with Liberace. The Steven Soderbergh film starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon airs this Sunday at 9PM EST.  The buzz, as I buzzed yesterday, is that it's brilliant.  The 15 minute piece includes interviews with the actors - including the question of kissing each other - as well as archival footage of Liberace and some of his opulent homes. The production and costume designers share some of the amazing stuff they created for the film - sumptuous costumes bedazzled with crystals, a cape hand-sewn with ostrich feathers; diamond-encrusted pianos,  a reproduction of the reproduction of the Sistine Chapel that Liberace had painted on the ceiling of one of his homes. There are no spoilers so feel free to view; unless you'd rather not know how they make delicious Rob Lowe look so hideous?
Rob Lowe plays a plastic surgeon in Behind the Candelabra
Behind the Candelabra extended behind the scenes look 14 minutes

Behind the Candelabra: Bling It On!

If Cannes has been a bit of a mixed bag for James Franco's adaptation of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, another adaptation I've been watching out for had a much more uniformly enthusiastic reception. Steven Soderbergh's movie Behind the Candelabra, based on Scott Thorson's memoir of his life with Liberace -Thorson is played by Matt Damon, Michael Douglas is the flamboyant entertainer - has blown most everyone away. Turns out it's the full-on glitz fest everyone expected but critics are just bursting that it works! Liberace was larger than life amplified when he was alive so it stands to reason that  'over the top' as a criticism doesn't apply. And Soderbergh, by all accounts, seems to have managed to capture Liberace's and Scott's time together in an honest and moving film without falling into schtick or caricatures.

Matt Damon and Michael Douglas both turn in powerful performances; Oscar blogger Sasha Stone called it "Soderbergh's best film in years," going on to say "were this movie released in US theaters* there would be Oscar nominations all around. Douglas might have even won his second." 

Major bummer for Michael Douglas his "Oscar-worthy performance" as Liberace isn't eligible because it's a TV movie, but not for us. We get to watch Behind the Candelabra when it airs this Sunday, May 26th at 9pm EST.*  I know what I'll be doing Sunday night. What about you? Maybe this trailer will help you decide; it's razzle dazzle drama.

* Good news for the UK - the film is being released in cinemas there on June 7th.

Behind the Candelabra Trailer

James Franco won't lay dying

James Franco is dividing critics, as usual, this time with his adaptation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying which screened at Cannes this week.  Interesting to note even the negative reviews grant Franco respect for the effort. An E for effort in the school-like references that critics like Mary Corliss in Time are making as a sort of snarky nod to Franco's grad student status. 

Franco brought it on with his own essay online in the online compendium Vice challenging the critics of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby
 “The critics who’ve ravaged the film for not being loyal to the book are hypocrites.These people make their living doing readings and critiques of texts in order to generate theories of varying levels of competency. Luhrmann’s film is his reading and adaptation of a text – his critique, if you will.

Feelin' Fine
Corliss begins her review of I Lay Dying by including the quote and going out of her way  to identify the author as "A Ph.D. candidate in English literature at Yale University" before revealing the author as Franco. Corliss goes for the collegiate dig, summing up the film this way 
"... the film of As I Lay Dying reveals itself as a successful summer project for a multitasking graduate student.  But that’s just one opinion of the film. For the definitive take, we must await James Franco’s review of his own film: his critique of his critique, if you will."
It's worth noting that most of the critics focus on Franco's use of split screens; Corliss puts it this way
"Faulkner told this story in a chorus of voices: 15 narrators in the 59 chapters. To locate an equivalent for the novel’s polyphonal scheme, Franco often employs split screens. They may give views of two characters, as when Ma is inside the shack beckoning to Cash outside; or additional perspectives of a single calamity, such as when Addie’s coffin is lost in a river. Sometimes we get two aspects of the same character from slightly different perspectives, as if showing Take One and Take Two. The device imposes a strange rhythm on the images. It distracts as often as it enlightens, and Franco himself seems to have tired of the tactic. He mostly dispenses with it halfway through the film."

Whatever the critical verdict Franco won't be stopped. He's already got the adaptation of Andres Dubus III  Garden of Last Days in development; he'll direct and likely star. 

Below, links to a few of the reviews. First up, THR's Todd McCarthy's rather glowing one!
I'm intrigued.

"James Franco has pulled off a devilishly difficult literary adaptation with this faithful yet cinematically vibrant version of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. "

The Guardian               
"But with As I Lay Dying Franco can chalk up a qualified but distinct success, and another chapter in what is becoming a very notable career."

"And the movie, whose script he adapted with his Yale classmate Matt Rager, could be an elaborate summer project: attempting to find a cinematic language for Faulkner’s text — Franco’s critique, if you will. The effort is honorable, a mixture of mannerism and earned emotion."

The Independent            
"Franco’s approach to the task is bold and yields some startlingly beautiful sequences but, as feature length drama, it is also lumpy and very uneven"

Leonardo DiCaprio says hello to The Deep Blue Good-by

This excites the hell out of me - Dennis Lehane, author of novels Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, is adapting the great John D. MacDonald's The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of the Travis McGee books FOR LEONARDO DICAPRIO TO PLAY TRAVIS. I feel like a little kid but I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait. Leo as a beach bum? And as this particular cynical but romantic beach bum? Yes please.  If this goes well there could be a whole Travis McGee franchise opportunity - there are plenty more colorfully titled McGee books to keep going and going and going: The Quick Pink Fox, The Turquoise Lament, The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper, The Green Ripper, A Purple Place for Dying, etc etc. MLH turned me on to MacDonald; I haven't read him in awhile but I was always intrigued to see how the title was referenced. Do you know how it played out in The Deep Blue Good-By?  

Here's the overview of The Deep Blue Good-by from B&N

Travis McGee is a self-described beach bum who won his houseboat in a card game. He’s also a knight-errant who’s wary of credit cards, retirement benefits, political parties, mortgages, and television. He only works when his cash runs out, and his rule is simple: He’ll help you find whatever was taken from you, as long as he can keep half.

McGee isn’t particularly strapped for cash, but how can anyone say no to Cathy, a sweet backwoods girl who’s been tortured repeatedly by her manipulative ex-boyfriend Junior Allen? What Travis isn’t anticipating is just how many women Junior has torn apart and left in his wake. Enter Junior’s latest victim, Lois Atkinson.

Frail and broken, Lois can barely get out of bed when Travis finds her, let alone keep herself alive. But Travis turns into Mother McGee, giving Lois new life as he looks for the ruthless man who steals women’s spirits and livelihoods. But he can’t guess how violent his quest is soon to become. He’ll learn the hard way that there must be casualties in this game of cat and mouse in The Deep Blue Good-by.

MLH isn't quite sure about Leo as Travis is the big and burly type; I think his charisma will sell it and everyone will fall in love with Travis. Is Leo what you pictured as Travis? Who would you cast?

Details to come - any John D. MacDonald fans out there as jazzed as I am?

What Maisie Knew ... my take on the Henry James' classic

What Maisie Knew is quite an old book - published in 1897 - but its' subject matter is just as timely in 2013 as ever. The inspiration for a new film starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgard, Steve Coogan, Joanna Vanderham and scene stealing Onata Aprile, here's the overview of the novel's storyline from Barnes and Noble.
"After her parents’ bitter divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled between her selfish mother and vain father, who value her only as a means for provoking each other. Maisie—solitary, observant, and wise beyond her years—is drawn into an increasingly entangled adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal until she is finally compelled to choose her own future. Published in 1897 as Henry James was experimenting with narrative technique and fascinated by the idea of the child’s-eye view, What Maisie Knew is a subtle yet devastating portrayal of an innocent adrift in a corrupt society."

My take on the book
While I read and loved Portrait of a Lady in my youth, these days I find Henry James' language a bit too archaic and convoluted; it's tedious to have to read and re-read some of James' more ambitious sentences several times before moving on! And moving on is quite often more of the same. Poor Maisie, when she's not being forgotten, she's constantly being pulled back and forth between fathers and mothers, governesses and stepfathers, in six months rotation periods; she's been exposed to a wide variety of bad behavior which only Mrs.Wix - her governess from her mother's household - and her stepfather Sir Claude seem the least bit concerned.

Maisie, constantly questioned by each parent about the other, learns quickly how best to couch her answers. Let's speak plainly; her self-obsessed mother is more concerned with securing new lovers than worrying where or how, her daughter is. Her father, similarly self-centered, gets to have it off with his daughter's pretty young governess; by marrying Miss Overmore he has convenient built-in child care and the worry of Maisie off his shoulders.  Miss Overmore and Mrs.Wix both rely on Maisie as a means to a living and a place to sleep. To put it crudely; no one gives a crap about the child except as she affects them. Sir Claude has genuine feelings for Maisie but he's little more than a kept man, with no money of his own, and helpless to change his nature.

cover art by Edward Gorey
In the novella, James wants us to know only 'what Maisie knew' nothing more or less; the constant question in the reader's mind, as adults talk over, around and far too much, directly to, Maisie,  is just what six year old Maisie does know and what does she make of what she's seen? How much does she understand the choices the adults in her life make, and what does she imagine those choices say about their feelings for her?

Maisie's welfare is a thin pretext for the adults in Maisie's world satisfying their own needs - ultimately every one in the book disappoints us, but not Maisie. All the while she's been watching, listening, learning; she accepts her lot at the story's end with a shrug. It's heartbreaking to see how little mind she pays, as if she had already assessed her value, the pure simple power of her innocence, and realized she could never compete against the temptations of the adult sexual world.

While I found the idea at the heart of the novel very compelling in its' contemporary nature, the experience of reading the book was - for me - just too exhausting to highly recommend it.

Will it make a good movie? Yes! Nancy Doyne has written an adaptation that captures the essence of the story but completely contemporized it. I've just seen the film and aim to get my take up shortly but in a word. LOVE. And obviously, loads better than the book.

Side note: As shocking, appalling and heartbreaking as Maisie's treatment in the novel, even more disturbing to me were the hateful words James put in Maisie's mouth to describe her father's newest 'friend'.
"Maisie in truth almost gasped in her own; this was with the fuller perception that she was brown indeed. She literally struck the child as more as an animal than a 'real' lady; she might have been a clever frizzled poodle in a frill or a dreadful human monkey in a spangled petticoat." 
I was so surprised by the inherent racism that I googled James only to learn to my horror that his nonfiction look at America - The American Scene - is rife with it. I'm depressed by my own ignorance about James; but how disappointing to see that level of ignorance put forth by a supposed intellectual!
Why should I want to read anything else by this bigoted old gasbag???

The Spring Snow falls in The Fault in our Stars

We don't have 'spring snow' in L.A.  That's the annual Amsterdam springtime ritual when the Iepen (the elm trees) shake off their seeds, so beautifully described by John Green in The Fault in Our Stars. 

The elm trees cast off their seeds every spring
'There were elm trees everywhere along the canals, and these seeds were blowing out of them. But they didn't look like seeds. They looked for all the world like miniaturized rose petals drained of their color. These pale petals were gathering in the wind like flocking birds- thousands of them, like a spring snowstorm. 

The old man who'd given up his seat saw us noticing and said, in English, "Amsterdam's spring snow. The iepen throw confetti to greet the spring."

Jacaranda trees bloom briefly in May and June

We don't have Iepen (elms) in L.A. - at least not in any number to create the slightest sort of flurry - but every year in May and June the Jacaranda's purple the sky with their shock of color. 

The short-lived blooms ends up strewn across lawns and sidewalks in bright little pick-me-up pops of purple. There's no festival but it's an annual  brightening that brings me joy.

See the spring snow in Amsterdam at the Springsnow festival site here.  TFIOS director Josh Boone has indicated that he will be shooting in Amsterdam - what would a TFIOS movie be without a romantic dinner at the fictional canal-side restaurant Oranjee and a trip to Ann Frank's house? Since the production starts shooting in August - but the seeds are snowing now - are we doomed to faux CGI elm seeds scattering in the air?

Listen to Julianne Moore sing with The Kills in 'What Maisie Knew'

What Maisie Knew opens today in L.A.; my understanding is that it's in limited roll-out but I'm not sure where besides the usual big city suspects. In the screen adaptation of Henry James' novella, Julianne Moore plays Maisie's divorced mother Susanna, an aging rocker. (more on the story, including a trailer with music by STARS here) In the film she teams up with real-life rock group The Kills, singing two songs with them on the soundtrack, “Night Train” and “Hook and Line.”

EW has an exclusive audio stream of both recordings plus the score from the gorgeous soundtrack; the What Maisie Knew theme is especially lush. The soundtrack is available on i-tunes now. Take a listen and see what you think. Do you buy Julianne Moore as a rocker, albeit an 'aging' one? Either way I'm pretty psyched to see this one; I'm eager to see how they've 'adapted' the story. Surely she can't be as despicable and selfish as she is in the book.


The accompanying article also includes a snippet of a photoshoot that Susanna and her daughter Maisy (Onata Aprile) do as publicity for her world tour. It looks like she's really working that rocker vibe - I think Moore is so cool she can pull it off. EW reports that directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel wrote the following in the soundtrack's booklet. “Before production began, we took Julianne Moore (an avowed ‘non-singer’) to see The Kills perform. Watching her watch the band was incredible: She couldn’t take her eyes off [lead singer] Alison [Mosshart].”
"The EW exclusive stream of the full soundtrack includes the score by Nick Urata and the ethereal closing credits song, “Feeling of Being,” by Lucy Schwartz."

You might also be interested in this L.A. Times piece with Julianne on playing Susanna, Ida Farange in the novel.

Which I read and have mixed feelings about; I'll have to get it sorted at some point.

Scarlett Johansson is Making a "Summer Crossing"

Scarlett Johansson
Update 5/16/2012: I TOLDJA about Scarlett Johansson adapting Summer Crossing over a year ago, back on 11/12/2011!  Johansson's finally getting some financing and announced at Cannes that they'll start shooting next year.  She talked to EW about the project Several years ago I began working alongside the Capote estate and writer Tristine Skylar to adapt Summer Crossing, an inspired early work of Truman’s which has long captured my heart,” Johansson said. “Being able to bring this story to the screen as my full-length directorial debut is a life dream and deep privilege.”  

Here's my original post from 2011.  

Another actor takes the plunge!  Scarlett Johansson's rep confirms a Variety report that Johansson is set to make her directorial debut.  The project is an adaptation of Truman Capote's novella, Summer Crossing. Choosing a shorter work - it's a 142 page book - is a smart move right off the bat! And the material would seem to be in her wheelhouse. It's the story of a rebellious 17 year old debutante, Grady, who refuses to accompany her WASPish parents to Europe. Instead she stays in Manhattan for the summer and begins a relationship with a Jewish parking lot attendant. Capote started writing the story when he was just 19 years old; but it wasn't published until after his death in 2005. And while critics don't consider it to be of the calliber of a Breakfast at Tiffany's, that's not say it won't make a great little film. Presuming of course, that Ms. Scarlett is up to the task. She's certainly a terrific actress and has rubbed shoulders and hopefully learned from some very respected pros, like Woody Allen (Match Point) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation). Writer and actress Tristine Skyler will write the screenplay and Johansson's role will be behind the camera only.  I expect the two women are friends and colleagues and excited about bringing what sounds like a compelling story to the screen. What do you think? Is Scarlett Johansson ready?
source: ew.com, amazon.com

Hailee Steinfeld goes For the Dogs with Sam Worthington

Some news from Cannes on the Phillip Noyce adaption of Kevin Wignall's novel For the Dogs. The film, set to star Sam Worthington as Stephen Lucas, a hit man hired to watch over a teenage girl, gets his girl; True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld. I haven't paid attention to this one; I usually don't seek out thrillers and suspense for reading material although I almost always end up enjoying them. Especially when Publishers Weekly compares the author to John leCarre! Have you read it? Sounds good ...
"In this slim, fast-paced page-turner, Wignall returns to one of the themes of his well-received first novel, People Die-the sympathetic hit man who has, if not exactly a conscience, extended internal considerations of the moral implications of his trade. Stephen Lucas, a recently retired, emotionally stunted hit man, emerges from his Swiss hideaway as a favor to old friend Londoner Mark Hatto, who hires Lucas to surreptitiously guard his daughter, bright, extroverted Ella, while she's vacationing in Italy with her boyfriend. After Ella's entire family is murdered, Lucas foils several serious attempts on Ella's life, and the two of them form an odd, almost familial relationship. The boyfriend soon drops out of the picture as the hit man reluctantly helps Ella exact revenge on those who killed her family. There's plenty of action, but it's the twisting, turning, complicated relationship between Ella and Lucas that forms the core of this compelling novel. Most popular genre writers allow and even encourage the category elements-action, adventure, suspense-to subsume the literary ones, but Wignall concentrates instead on the questions of character and motivation that make for a deeper reading experience. The names le Carre, Simenon and recent British mystery author Mark Billingham come to mind, making this a blend of old and new masters wrapped up in an original, finely hewn effort. "
Sam Worthington seen here in Man on a Ledge
to star as Lucas, a 'retired ' hit man in For the Dogs
With the exception of The Debt in which Sam Worthington played the young David character, the thirty seven year old Australian actor has been in films and tv shows I'm not familiar with or that I just don't care about - Avatar,  Clash of the Titan, Wrath of the Titans.
 I did see Avatar once which was enough - astonishing visuals with no story - but can't remember what I thought of him. I did think he  was lovely in The Debt though; the entire cast
was; Jessica Chastain in particular. That's the extent of my Sam Worthington knowledge.

Hailee Steinfeld seen here in a scene from Romeo + Juliet
is the teenage girl Lucas is hired to protect.
Hailee Steinfeld, the precocious teenager, is in fact just sixteen so I hope they'll stick to the story line in the novel - I won't spoil it with the details but part of the tension is that Lucas wants to get back to his girlfriend and their child. Steinfeld hasn't had a thing on screen since her breakthrough in 2010's True Grit. Now, she has no less than ten -10- projects due to come out this year or next! Romeo+Juliet with the too pretty Douglas Booth is slated for July, Loveship, Hateship based on Alice Munro's kinda eponymous collection of short stories doesn't have distribution yet; the cast also includes Kristin Wiig, Guy Pearce and Nick Nolte - a bit of a hodge podge. Ender's Game will undoubtedly be BIG when it comes out in November and then as I said, she has what, seven more projects including this one in various stages of production. Side note: Steinfeld is currently filming The Homesman, a Tommy Lee Jones trinity; Jones stars, directs and co-wrote the screenplay based on the book by Glendon Swarthout. Jones as director? I would love to watch that; I imagine he's calm and business-like on set; consult with the pro's, rely on their advice and get the shot.

For the Dogs was adapted by hunky Paul Leyden
seen here as Simon Frasier in As the World Turns
The For the Dogs screenplay was originally written by Paul Leyden who, according to Deadline, optioned the rights to the novel with his own money; which they say is never smart. They being "they" not Deadline. Whoever they are, they might be right. Leyden is not only a writer, he's a hunky TV soap actor - Simon Frasier on As The World Turns, Blake on The Young & the Restless - who looks the part so strongly that it makes me wonder whether he optioned the book and wrote the screenplay way back in the beginning pre-Worthingtonin order to play the part of Lucas himself. I'm just wildly speculating but now Deadline reports that another writer was brought in, Oren Moverman who "wrote a script based on the adaptation of the novel by Paul Leyden."

I wonder what the story is there;  I wonder too what contractual difference it makes with the WGA and the moolah; any writers guild experts out there?

In the highly skilled hands of Australian (Leyden's an Aussie too) director Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Bone Collector, Salt) For the Dogs will probably be fantastic regardless of the book; still the film is still in pre-production and won't come out for over a year plenty of time to read the book and get to know the characters. Judging by the description they sound worth knowing. Learn more about the book at kevinwignall.com

This Is Where I Leave You : On location in New York City

Updated Filming  for the screen adaptation of Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You got underway yesterday in NYC. The first day's shooting location was Oakland Cemetery, 2 Saw Mill River Rd, Yonkers, NY. according to On Location Vacations. Not sure if they've moved on yet or not - depends on the length funeral in the novel, I s'pose. (10am Update: OLV reports the film is shooting today at Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island.) Tropper wrote the screenplay himself; the only other screenwriter credit is as writer/producer credit on the show Banshee. I wonder if he already had a finished product in hand when the producers approached him to write the script ... or who approached who first?

If you haven't read This Is Where I Leave You - as I have not - here's the book description filched right from Amazon...

"The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. Then Jen delivers the clincher: she's pregnant.
This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper's (One Last Thing Before I Go) most accomplished work to date, and a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind-whether we like it or not."
Shades of Joshua Henkin's The World Without You* in that they both deal with the death in a large, dysfunctional Jewish family with depth and humor. *That's a book I'd like to see adapted by the way! Click my take for my thoughts on The World Without You by Joshua Henkin.

The cast of This is Where I Leave You includes Jason Bateman as the son, Judd (unless they change the name) Tina Fey, Adam Driver (Girls) and Corey Stoll; his siblings. Abigail Spencer is Bateman's estranged wife, Jen. Rose Byrne is Bateman's love interest; a role reportedly read for  by Isla Fisher, Zoe Saldana, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ari Graynor. Timothy Olyphant is Fey's once-upon-a-time love; he still lives at home, due to a brain injury, across the street from the Foxman house. Deadline also reports that Dax Sheperd will play a "Stern-like radio shock jock" - presumably the boss Bateman catches sleeping with his wife. Ben Schwarz (Parks and Rec) is the family's rabbi trying to help smoothe the process of sitting shivah along.

And now Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) has joined the cast as an 'age-inappropriate girlfriend' to Driver's character, the baby of the family. Plus she's a therapist and he's got a lot of problems.

Have you read Tropper's book? What do you think of the casting? Here's hoping that director Shawn Levy can do justice to the novel; he did Date Night with Fey and that wasn't so hot. Very conventional and predictable. This sounds like material that would be magic in the hands of someone like Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Young Adult) who knows how to tell an authentic adult story about human relationships. Levy, on the other hand, may be equally sharp but his resume is full of TV movies and formulaic comedies like Date Night, and Cheaper by the Dozen. Some laughs but little nuance. But that's neither here nor there; Levy is on the job. More details as info and first pictures surface online.

As I Lay Dying ... First trailer and poster for Franco's Cannes entry

Here's the first trailer for James Franco's movie adaptation of As I Lay Dying. And finally a poster! A very pleasing poster that is so strong and GRAPHIC without being graphic; I suspect it's just a placeholder created for Cannes; can you imagine a film poster without a giant head or heads on it?
They'll use this as a teaser until the film gets its distributor and then the real marketing gets ramped up. And then they'll need James. Which brings us back to Franco and whether he shoulda even tried to make this adaptation and you know what - and this won't be delicately put - I'm really fed up with critics and the voices of those who don't have a clue how to 'do' themselves but quite gleefully tell those that do, why their efforts stink and why they shouldn't bother. Of course there's an important place for healthy, heck, any kind, of criticism but isn't our twitter/facebook/corpocracy world just a little overfull of the biggest bunch of whiners and kvetchers, crybabies and knowitalls ever? When we are all busy talking at people; who is there to listen? Who can hear amid the noise? And this from someone who was a total idiot on Twitter yesterday, sending out over a dozen tweets like a complete twit, and probably pissing off my peeps. I'm not innocent, that's for sure.


Something in the Air flies you to Paris, circa 1968

Something in the Air - the original French title was Apres Mai -isn't based on a book as far as I can tell but I couldn't resist posting the film's trailer for the Dreaming of France meme over at An Accidental Blog. The trailer looks - and sounds - fantastique! It takes place in Paris during the tumultuous late 60's; Apres Mai (After May) refers specifically to May of 68 - an especially dark period. The film written and directed by the accomplished Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Carlos) and better known to me due to my scandalously scant knowledge of contemporary french film, the "Quartier des Enfants Rougessegment" segment on Paris Je t'aime. The script won best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival last year; but what attracts me about what I see in the trailer - someone who lived through the 60's (are you sick of boomers like me lording our exciting times over you?) - is the authenticity, the rough feel of it. It's almost as if it had been shot then, back in those fast and furious times. Take a look at the trailer; see what you think. Something in the Air came out in France last November; it's currently playing here in L.A.; perhaps it's at an indie theater near you?

The Great Gatsby ... They like it too!

Happy Mother's Day!

Leonardo and Carey in an all too brief love scene

I liked The Great Gatsby even though I feel like I'm branding myself as a cinematic imbecile for doing so. That's why this video review from Richard Roeper made my Mother's Day Weekend. I recommend you see the movie, if not today then someday while it's still in theaters. Don't wait for it to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray - you'll want to see it in 3D, which I found initially disconcerting, but even a 2D version merits that big movie screen treatment.

Things are looking up; there's another good review by Kia Makarechi over at the Huffington Post.
Since it is Mother's Day I'm going to go get pampered instead of laboring over lovingly crafting another post about why Gatsby, with some reservations, is actually pretty good; I'll take the slacker way out and post the HuffPost article in its' entirety instead.

"The Great Gatsby" is Better Than Its Reviews

"To hear the critics tell it, Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" is the disappointment of the year. There's not enough jazz, they say. There was no 3-D in the 1920s! It's two movies that don't fit together! Has Jay-Z even read the book?!

If you're a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald's book, take a deep breath. It's not as bad as they make it seem.

Let's examine some of the reasons that folks are saying Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan's romp through Manhattan, West Egg and the barren lands in between falls flat. The primary complaints about the movie are as follows:

The movie isn't faithful to the Jazz Age.
It's true -- Jay-Z scored the movie, which features contributions from Beyonce to Nero, none of whom have much business being in a movie set in the Roaring Twenties. Except they sort of do: With one notable (and hilarious) exception, the music works in great concert with the film's narrative. When listened to as a standalone stream on NPR, the electronic dance music and hip-hop elements in the soundtrack are far more removed from the movie's subject than they are when used in the film. Lana Del Rey, Beyonce and Florence Welch's songs are used tenderly, and Emeli Sande's take on "Crazy in Love" is perfect, too. The singers Jay-Z assembled bent their talents to the movie's mood; denying their place in the movie is almost as stupid as saying Carey Mulligan can't play Daisy Buchanan because she's an English actress.

Put another way: If you want to watch a historically accurate period piece, don't buy tickets to a Baz Lurhmann movie. (It's worth noting that, in 1996, Lurhmann was lavished with praise for his "relentlessly inventive and innovative" modernization of "Romeo + Juliet.") Complaining about historical accuracy in a Luhrmann movie is like not being able to appreciate the entertainment value of an Onion article because it's "not really true."

The first half is more fun than the second half.
This one really takes the cake. Yes, Lurhmann's trailers promise a slick, non-stop party and the movie's party scenes are particularly well tailored, but "The Great Gatsby" is ultimately a wholly depressing affair. The second act of the novel is a slow, aching arch toward utter despair, culminating in one intense sequence with approximately two twists. My colleague and HuffPost's Senior Entertainment Writer Mike Ryan wrote that Luhrmann abandons the pomp of the first act halfway through "and tries to become something that resembles a faithful adaptation," but I'd argue that the movie is actually shockingly faithful all throughout. Once the lights shut off in Gatsby's mansion, it's imperative that the story feels like a new movie, because it is. Until that point, Gatsby's world was solely one of aspiration and imagination. Now that he has once again seen Daisy in the flesh and the challenges that await each of then have been made tangible, things are different. If you leave "Gatsby" feeling dejected, as I did, Lurhmann has been faithful to Fitzgerald's book.

The movie has "no soul," and it's in 3-D.
The Associated Press' Christy Lemire wrote that the movie is "all sparkle" (perhaps she missed the hour that Mr. Ryan found so boring?) and that Luhrmann's decision to include actual words on the screen and film in 3-D make the movie even more lacking in "soul." I'll freely admit that this movie doesn't need to be in 3-D, though the treatment is brighter and more clear than most recent blockbusters. But there's a simple solution for those who don't like their Gatsby in 3-D: Watch it in 2-D. The words and phrases that appear on screen can just as easily be seen as proof that Lurhmann respects the text and believes in the strength of Fitzgerald's famously powerful sentences. (This also happens twice, and one instance features the book's final sentence, one of the most respected endings in American literature.)

All of this is not to say the book is without flaws. Gatsby's origin story is curiously repeated and some of the performances seem a tad off kilter. But as the New York Post's Lou Lemenick smartly wrote, Lurhmann's take on James Gatz is "a movie that may not be truly great but certainly stands out like a beacon in a sea of silly blockbusters." The problem with reviews of the movie isn't that they dare find fault in the Luhrmann's ambition, but that they're unreasonably harsh.

It seems we've been conditioned to see witty superhero franchises and overbearing "art films" as surefire pathways to critical appreciation, particularly in the summer. Make a movie that dares blend fun with some heavy, famous fiction? You're out of luck, old sport.
More Gatsby Posts

Ansel Elgort Cast as GUS in The Fault in Our Stars movie and John Green approves

The Fault in our Stars is finally right next to my bed, on top of my pile. Perfect timing since it was just announced that Ansel Elgort has been signed to play the basketball loving (loathing?) Gus to Shailene Woodley's Hazel. And despite Ansel's wierd name, the boringly named John Green approves. OKAY!!

Green told EW
“Ansel is whip-smart and uber-charismatic and everything I dreamed for Augustus Waters. ... I am by nature a cautious pessimist, but I’ll just say it: Now that we have Shailene and Ansel, I am completely, unreservedly psyched about this movie.”

More importantly at this point, since the story is in the hands of the director, Josh Boone, he likes Ansel too - 
Ansel Elgort is the epitome of the boy John Green brought to life so vividly in his novel and he truly embodies the character traits we admire so much about Gus. His humor, sensitivity, honesty and confidence floored us. Watching him with Shailene was like seeing the film for the first time. Hearing then say okay to each other was incredibly moving. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have found our Gus.” 

Shailene Woodley is also Tris in Divergent Elgort plays her bro
Last week, Variety had reported that five guys were being tested last weekend Brenton Thwaites, Nat Wolff, Nick Robinson, Noah Silver and Ansel Elgort but whether that happened or didn't happen, it's Ansel that got the part. He has a little in with Shailene - he's playing her brother Caleb in the adaptation of Veronica Roth's Divergent, which I blogged about here. and here  

Producer Wyck Godfrey weighed in with the praise you'd expect from a producer; I like what he said about falling in love with Gus. It's so true!

”We were all swept away by the humor, charm, and aching vulnerability Ansel brought to his portrayal of Gus. His performance completely annihilated our concerns about his playing Caleb in Divergent with Shailene, and we are confident that the fans of Fault will fall in love with him the same way that Hazel does–slowly, and then all at once.”

So TFIOS fans, what do you think? Is he your vision of Gus? Did you picture a guy with a bit more bulk as I am imagining while I'm reading? I was bad reader! From his first appearance Green describes him as "long and leanly muscular". He's also Tommy in Carrie coming this fall; you can see him ask Carrie to the prom in the trailer here.

The film set for release next March, starts shooting this August; and yes director Boon confirms Amsterdam will play Amersterdam.

I'll post updates on my reading progress on my Currently Reading (the movie I am reading now) page.

The Great Gatsby: My take on the movie based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic starring Leonardo DiCaprio


There have been four movie versions of the book; the most well known being the 1974 adaptation starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. The difference between that iteration and Baz Luhrmann’s movie is night and day. Where that attempt to film F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American classic suffered from being too slow and stuffy; this year’s Gatsby is nothing if not fast paced and dazzling.  Luhrmann’s camera dances, glides, swoops, twists and sharply turns but seldom sits still long enough for us to simply see; the over-the-top, outrageous and ‘bazzling’ elements in Luhrmann’s repertoire - those stunning sets and costumes - have the power to buckle our knees and sweep us right off our feet if only Luhrman would allow us to linger, to stay just a little bit longer.  That’s probably my one real complaint about the film; even at two and a half hours the story speeds by so fast, almost too fast to fully feel, absorb and appreciate.

And, contrary to criticism, there is plenty to feel, absorb and appreciate.

Fast. While Luhrmann gives this high octane version its’ thoroughly modern feel with his very active camera; JayZ succeeds with an equally energetic score to create a seamless fusion of pop, hip hop and Gershwin that feels as fresh and thrilling as jazz must have felt at the time - Luhrmann’s intent - music alive with the thrill of breaking all the rules, defiant of taboos. I'm not usually a fan of hip hop but Luhrmann, whose penchant for putting contemporary music in his soundtracks is well known, might have struck a gold chord here; the score may well be the way to the hearts of the masses of young people Luhrmann would love to lure into seeing the film and yes, reading the book. The director was on Colbert last night - as was Carey Mulligan (Daisy) in a very funny ‘didn’t read the book’ skit - and it’s clearly important to Luhrmann that we get it. He was understandably proud that interest in the film generated more sales of The Great Gatsby novel in one recent week than F. Scott Fitzgerald had seen in his lifetime, when this now great American novel was largely ignored at the end of Fitzgerald's days. He was also visibly moved to recount a conversation with Fitzgerald’s grand-daughter; the gist being that he got it right. A little self-serving, agreed.

MLH and I saw the first showing of The Great Gatsby at an L.A. theater last night; some of the mostly twenty-something audience donned Gatsby-themed gear;  a few young women wore flappers’ headbands, one of their boyfriends sported slicked back hair and too-tight sport jacket. When Leo made his entrance - perhaps one of the most audacious and delightful movie entrances ever - to the accompaniment of fireworks and Gershwin - the crowd laughed, cheered and clapped with delight. DiCaprio turned out to be as grand as his entrance; his desperation to be the GREAT Gatsby was in his eyes, and almost palpable in that deep crevice between them. The accent and ‘old sport’ affectations, far from being over the top, were delivered in just the way a self-made man would; one can almost see his James Gatz practicing his ‘old sport’ in his shaving mirror at precisely 5pm just as F. Scott Fitzgerald had Jay write in his daily schedule “Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it  5.00-6.00.”

MLH and I both felt Daisy - lovely, spoilt, cowardly - was perfection as played by Carey Mulligan but in the spirit of full disclosure MLH worked with Ms. Mulligan on Drive where she had very little to do but stare and look love struck - ‘she does that so well’ MLH said. While we waited for and got Daisy’s “I hope she’ll be a beautiful little fool” line, Luhrmann skipped the famous reference to Daisy’s voice being ‘full of money,’  an impossible definition to live up to; any effort sure to sound as artificial as Mia Farrow’s turn in that 1974 failed effort.

Joel Edgerton was fine as Tom; if not quite the physically hulking and barely restrained bully I pictured and who looks more like Tom Hardy to my mind. But Edgerton did channel the dark undercurrent of cruelty of a man who charms one moment but the next, spurred by a drink, will just as likely give you the back of his hand.

The big surprise for me was Tobey Maguire as Nick. I haven’t been a fan; Maguire’s clueless Joe routine has only annoyed me up to now but I found his na├»vete as Nick endearing and authentic. In a change from the novel, Luhrmann has Carroway in a sanatorium to get treatment for his alchoholism (‘everyone drank back then’ he tells his shrink); with encouragement from this doctor, Nick begins to write Gatsby’s story.

And like the novel, the vision of Gatsby that Luhrmann gives us, is Nick’s vision, a vision filtered by friendship and affection. Nick, at once flattered and surprised that the great Gatsby takes him into his confidence, is ever-present in the love story of Jay and Daisy, a willing accomplice to their joyous days. He may feel awkward and uncomfortable acting the beard in the company of Daisy’s brutish husband, Tom, but in the end Nick has Jay’s back. In today’s parlance, the Jay and Nick are bro’s and it’s a fine bromance, indeed. .

Luhrmann has likened the lives of Daisy and Tom to those of celebrity couple Liz and Dick, an oddly outdated reference for such a contemporary piece of work, but what he really means is that Daisy and Tom lead indulged celebrity lives like Katie and Tom, Angelina and Brad, Stacy and George, celebrities whose lives are lived in the glare of the spotlight and ever-present papparazzi.  The world hangs on their every word, retweeting their blurbs, inflating their importance and their worth. Careless and entitled, the Buchanan’s of the world take what they can and then move on, leaving a slew of servants and hired help to clean up after them and leaving Gatsby, were he alive, a step away from being reduced to a love-sick stalker charged with a restraining order at the very least.

The Great Gatsby is a poignant story about undying love, following your heart as far as you can go, about striving for the American dream, about trying and failing and trying again. I remember liking but not loving the book back when I was young and it was required reading. I found the story’s end too disappointing, Gatsby too tragic a figure and Daisy simply indecipherable. How could she stay with that belligerent racist bully? The tawdriness of his affair with Myrtle; the ugliness of the accident; none of it added up to the pretty romantic picture I craved.

When I reread the book recently it all made sense; my cynical adult self knew instantly (even if I hadn’t known) that Daisy and Gatsby would never make it; their failure was as inevitable as death and taxes.  I closed the book and wept with the hopelessness of it all.  Seeing the movie, watching DiCaprio reach out for that green light that blinks barely out of reach, his dream dying, I was glad Gatsby was spared the knowledge that his flickering hope would die out completely.

No tears but a solid night at the movies.

For more Great Gatsby posts visit my Gonzo for Gatsby page.

Read my take on the 1974 film starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

More Reviews of Movies Based on Books

Great Gatsby B-Roll: This is one big fat spoiler alert

"Gatsby? What Gatsby"  
spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler alert spoiler 

The notion of a spoiler alert seems ludicrous for the hugely hyped film version of the 'great American novel almost every American had to read in high school. However I recognize that not everyone in the world has multiple copies of The Great Gatsby on their bookshelves.  So if there are things you don't want to see or know about Baz Luhrmann's splashtacular adaptation, don't watch the following B roll footage showing Luhrmann, the actors, et al at work (and play) behind the scenes on The Great Gatsby. Quite a bit is without sound but there are times when you can hear Baz speaking with the actors, rehearsing and using his hands to frame out his camera's position. At moments the hands-on director almost seems to give line readings to both Edgerton and DiCaprio. Kind of cool to see the cast watching themselves on the monitor holding 3D glasses up to their eyes!

To create the lavish party scene at Gatsby's mansion, Lurhmann combined scenes shot on location in Sydney where St. Patrick's Seminary doubles for Gatsby's mansion, as well as on a Sydney soundstage where Luhrmann's production/costume designer - and wife - Catherine Martin had Gatsby's pool set constructed.  
You can get a look at other sets and locations at my post Gatsby is in the House; a look at Chez Jay

Favorite bits: Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire dancing a vigorous 1920's number; Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher share a decidely off camera laugh; the beginnings of a wild party at Tom and Myrtle's city hideaway; anytime Leonardo DiCaprio is on screen. 

Visit my Gonzo for Gatsby page
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