> Chapter1-Take1: February 2014

Could Gravity win the Oscar for Best Score?

Last on the list of nominees for Best Musical score is Gravity composed by Steven Price. As noted in IndieWire, this is the fave for the Academy Award and it took the Critics Choice trophy. Gravity didn't get the Golden Globe which went to All is Lost, not even in contention for an Oscar. Gravity is less musical in the melodic sense that I tend to fall for BUT in terms of doing what a film score is supposed to do - support the movie by helping to create suspense and build tension and certainly terror in the case of Gravity, I get why some film music nerds love it.
Looking at the other nominees Thomas Newman for Saving Mr. Banks, John Williams for The Book Thief, William Butler and Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire for Her and Alexandre Desplat for PhilomenaPeter Knegt at IndieWire is predicting Gravity will take the top prize BUT holds out hope for a Desplat fan like me noting Philomena could win. That's if the Academy voters decide they want to find some sort of way to honor the loveable Philomena, which isn't expected to take much home otherwise. Although Philomena has a teeny chance to win Best Adapted Screenplay, 12 Years a Slave is likely, and deservedly so, to win it. Philomena also has no chance at Best Picture - that seems to be down to 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle (a light, funny frappe that doesn't stay with you), or for Best Actress for Dame Judi Dench as Cate Blanchett has that neatly wrapped up for Blue Jasmine. So if the Academy does do that weird balancing act they do, yes, a Philomena win is possible. And that would be thrilling, giving me a chance to luxuriate in the beautiful speaking voice of France's Monsieur Desplat. But, I'm keeping my hopes down, as Gravity is apparently more probable. 
Knegt also thinks that the score for Her SHOULD win but won't and doesn't understand why Hanz Zimmer's 12 Years a Slave wasn't even nominated. Ditto! The nominations and wins for Steve McQueens masterpiece have been all over the place. 

Her: Arcade Fire's Oscar-nominated score and Her 'Moon Song'

In this late look at the composers and this year's Oscar-nominated scores, we can't ignore HER, the score created by Arcade Fire's William Butler and Owen Pallett. Still, the musical highlight of the film for me has to be the Karen O./Spike Jonze collaboration The Moon Song. And while the newly released version from Jonze and Karen O. is pretty sweet, I'm partial to the movie version which features Scarlett Johanson's breathy, less than perfect yet perfectly evocative vocals. LISTEN

John Williams score for The Book Thief is his 49th Nomination. Will it be his 6th win? LISTEN

Who doesn't love the music of John Williams? The legendary composer has given us a wealth of compositions over the years, earning him the iconic status of a Leonard Bernstein. Some of the eighty two year old's most beloved compositions have been the scores to some of Steven Spielberg's best films. Of his forty-nine Oscar nominations, Williams has won five times, three of the five wins were for the Spielberg films Jaws, E.T. and Schindler's List. Williams also won the Academy Award for the scores to Star Wars and Fiddler on the Roof but it's not just the winners we love; Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones, The River, Memoirs of a Geisha, Amistad, Born on the Fourth of July, Witches of Eastwick, Lincoln, Catch Me If You Can, Hook ... the list is so lengthy, I'm giving you a link to William's page at the Academy. 
A win now - the last time was twenty years ago for Schindler's List - would be a sweet way to cap off a career. I'm sure Williams doesn't see it that way; here I am telling him he's done and he's busy composing for Jurassic Park IV and the Star Wars:Underworld TV show. Carry on, Mr. Williams, carry on!

Listen to the beautiful Book Thief suite. I have to admit, it's gorgeous.

Thomas Newman's haunting Oscar-nominated score to Saving Mr. Banks. LISTEN

If I can't have Desplat's Philomena for Best Score, I'll take the score to Saving Mr. Banks. Thomas Newman's work is my second choice to beat out Gravity, Her and even The Book Thief - from the iconic and 49 time nominee, John Williams, another audience favorite. Williams has won the award five times, the last time the maestro won was for Schindler's List in 1994; we'll take a listen to The Book Thief in my next post.
You can hear Newman and some of his fellow nominees chat about their work in this THR composers roundtable I posted back at the end of December.

There is something so haunting about Newman's music, in much the same way that Emma Thompson's JP Travers character is haunted by the past. And the way Newman married the Sherman Bros familiar music with his original compositions was genius. Newman has been nominated 10 times but like Desplat has yet to take Oscar home with him. This is a win I could happily live with. Newman was previously nominated for Skyfall, WALL·E, The Good German, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Unstrung Heroes, Little Women and The Shawshank Redemption. A pretty impressive batch of scores, to be sure. LISTEN to what he's done this time around.

Will six-time nominee Alexandre Desplat finally win Oscar with score from Philomena? LISTEN

Oscar pundit types are saying Steven Price's music for "Gravity" will take the gold this Sunday night when the Academy hands out the award for Best Original Score. Price won the Critics Choice Award which is often a big tip off of what's to come. On the other hand, Price lost the Golden Globe to Alex Ebert's "All Is Lost"  - an apt title when you consider how the Academy has ignored the Robert Redford film. 

The nominees for Best Score are 

Some of you know I'm a Desplat groupie - check out this gushing post or this one  so you can already guess I think the talented Mr. Desplat deserves the win. Desplat has been nominated five times previously, for The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King's Speech and Argo.  That's five times in the last seven years and the man has yet to win. It's time people!

I'll be posting music from the other nominees later - check the links above for updates and for now give a listen to the main theme from Philomena.

The Greg Allman 'Midnight Rider' biopic has been suspended

The Greg Allman biopic that we talked about in early January has been put on hold. The production was suspended after the tragic - and in all likelihood, preventable - death of 27 year old camera assistant Sarah Elizabeth Jones. 

Sarah and a splinter group of cast and crew, including actor William Hurt, were shooting a scene in which a bed straddled the train tracks in Norcross, Georgia. Horrifically a train speeding along those tracks careened through the setup killing Sarah and injuring another dozen and a half cast and crew. 

RIP Sarah Elizabeth Jones 9/22/1986 - 2/20/2014

While Sarah's family, friends and colleagues are grieving - camera crews from film and television productions around the country and the world have been posting Slates for Sarah to honor the young woman on FB and Twitter and there's a movement to include her in this year's Oscar In Memoriam section - the accident raises all kinds of questions about film crews being made to work in dangerous situation without their knowledge. Hopefully the heart-breaking death of Sarah Elizabeth Jones will shine a light on the imperative that safety and welfare be a top priority in film and television production.

Steven Poster, head of the ASC, issued this statement on behalf of the International Cinematographers Guild:
“Local 600’s membership and IATSE members across the country are mourning the loss of Sarah Jones, a 27-year old camera assistant, who died in a tragic accident last Thursday while shooting on the set of “Midnight Rider” in Savannah, Georgia. Sarah was a smart, talented camera assistant with an infectious personality and a promising career ahead of her.”
“When Locals 600 and 491 received the call about the accident on late Thursday afternoon (local time), we immediately sent representatives to the site. We are cooperating with ongoing government investigations including OSHA, and NTSB and the Local Sheriff’s office and we are providing grief counseling for the crew.“
“The safety of our crews is of paramount importance to this union and we will work tirelessly to ensure that a tragedy of this kind never happens again.There is no way we can mitigate the pain and the loss of Sarah. But we hope that something good can come out of this very unfortunate situation. It will surely shape our talks with producers in the future. There will be memorials across the country to honor the memory of beloved member, Sarah Jones.”
An educational foundation is being created in the name of the beautiful young woman. According to Sarah's obituary in the Post and Courier, the family is requesting that donations be made to: BC Education Foundation Sarah Jones Scholarship Fund c/o Brookland-Cayce High School 1300 State Street, Cayce, SC 29033

Inherent Vice: Will Thomas Pynchon's playlist feature in Johnny Greenwood's score?

Shasta (Katherine Waterston) and Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix)
Inherent Vice
"She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn't seen her for over a year. Nobody had. Back then it was always sandals, bottom half of a flower-print bikini, faded Country Joe & the Fish T-shirt. Tonight she was all in flatland gear, hair a lot shorter than he remembered, looking just like she swore she'd never look." first paragraph, Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice sets release date for December 12, 2014

Dig those crazy sideburns!

Joaquin Phoenix really came back from the edge, didn't he? After that whole bizarre performance act schtick just left people befuddled, the actor has steadily delivered one intriguing performance after another and now - like that other great reinvention, Matthew McConaughey - Phoenix is back to being one of our most beguiling actors. I'm still aglow from his performance in Spike Jonze' Her and just seeing Phoenix in Doc Sportello's retro garb in the production stills - plus the fact that it's set in a mythical beach town in my own back yard - has me all aflutter. I'll have to cool it until December 12th but, come on, take a look at those sideburns! I think I dated that guy! His name was George.

The cast of Inherent Vice includes Katherine Waterston as Doc's ex girlfriend, Shasta, Jena Malone and Owen Wilson as Hope and Coy Harlingen, with Reese Witherspoon (Penny), Josh Brolin (Bigfoot Bjornsen), Maya Rudolph (Petunia Leeway), Benicio Del Toro (Sauncho Smilax), and Sasha Pieterse as Japonica Fenway. Will have to wait and see how the size of those roles play out in Paul Thomas Anderson's production. The December 12, 2014 release date puts the movie in prime time for awards qualification; the film has wrapped and there must be an early cut that looks promising. On the other hand, it's a Paul Thomas Anderson film with a mind-blowing cast; it was bound to get great placement before a single frame was shot.

Haven't read Pynchon's Inherent Vice yet? It's clearly much easier going than Gravity's Rainbow, which we're hearing Anderson may adapt as well. Whaaat? I'm telling you right now, no way I'm going to try reading Gravity's Rainbow again. No way.

Check out the publisher's description for Inherent Vice and don't miss Pynchon's own playlist plus the book trailer below. Pynchon's voice has a cool gravel to it and while a lot of book trailers are simply goofy, this one is Groovy with a capital G. Listen and watch through to the ending which should make you laugh out loud. It did me anyway.

Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon- private eye Doc Sportello surfaces, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era. 
In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre that is at once exciting and accessible, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there.
It's been a while since Doc Sportello has seen his ex- girlfriend. Suddenly she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. It's the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that "love" is another of those words going around at the moment, like "trip" or "groovy," except that this one usually leads to trouble. Undeniably one of the most influential writers at work today, Pynchon has penned another unforgettable book.

Still listening? Look what I found over at Amazon; Doc's playlist courtesy of Thomas Pynchon! Who else is hoping that Johnny Greenwood, the composer and Radiohead/Weird Sisters guitarist that Anderson used to score both There Will Be Blood and The Master, brings some of these classics into the soundtrack? London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is on board; the thought of strings and The Beach Boys "God Only Knows" has my little heart swelling! 

"Bamboo" by Johnny and the Hurricanes
"Bang Bang" by The Bonzo Dog Band
Bootleg Tape by Elephant's Memory
"Can't Buy Me Love" by The Beatles
"Desafinado" by Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, with Charlie Byrd
Elusive Butterfly by Bob Lind
"Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra
"Full Moon in Pisces" performed by Lark
"God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys
The Greatest Hits of Tommy James and The Shondells
"Happy Trails to You" by Roy Rogers
"Help Me, Rhonda" by The Beach Boys
"Here Come the Hodads" by The Marketts
"The Ice Caps" by Tiny Tim
"Interstellar Overdrive" by Pink Floyd
"It Never Entered My Mind" by Andrea Marcovicci
"Just the Lasagna (Semi-Bossa Nova)" by Carmine & the Cal-Zones
"Long Trip Out" by Spotted Dick
"Motion by the Ocean" by The Boards
"People Are Strange (When You're a Stranger)" by The Doors
"Pipeline" by The Chantays
"Quentin's Theme" ("Dark Shadows")  performed by Charles Randolph Grean Sounde
Rembetissa by Roza Eskenazi
"Repossess Man" by Droolin’ Floyd Womack
"Skyful of Hearts" performed by Larry "Doc" Sportello
"Something Happened to Me Yesterday" by The Rolling Stones
"Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman
"Soul Gidget" by Meatball Flag
"Stranger in Love" performed by The Spaniels
"Sugar Sugar" by The Archies
"Super Market" by Fapardokly
"Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen
"Telstar" by The Tornados
"Tequila" by The Champs
Theme Song from "The Big Valley" performed by Beer
"There's No Business Like Show Business" by Ethel Merman
Vincebus Eruptum by Blue Cheer
"Volare" by Domenico Modugno
"Wabash Cannonball" by Roy Acuff & His Crazy Tennesseans
"Wipeout" by The Surfaris
"Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys
"Yummy Yummy Yummy" performed by Ohio Express

Hop over to the link to hear some of the tracks.

What would dope-smoking Doc think of our changing marijuana laws I wonder; would he still be living at the beach or would he have hightailed it to Colorado? Probably stay here and like everyone else rely on legal medical marijuana to ease the pain of a 'bad back'.

Winter's Tale: My take on Mark Helprin's novel

I've finally finished the 637 paged Winter's Tale, the 1983 novel that inspired the movie. I continued reading Mark Helprin's book long after I realized that the movie was going to be a critical and box office bust; Winter's Tale was so beautifully written I couldn't stop. How director Akiva Goldman ever thought he could fashion a film from a book this big - as immense in ideas as it is in size - is beyond me. Martin Scorsese was interested early on but abandoned the idea saying the book was un-filmable. Well of course it is. I've never read anything like Mark Helprin's almost magical prose, as my son can attest to, based on the number of times I interrupted him to read stunning passage after passage. I couldn't possibly sum up the storyline in a neat paragraph or two but here's how the pros do it at Barnes and Noble -
"Mark Helprin’s masterpiece will transport you to New York of the Belle Epoque, to a city clarified by a siege of unprecedented snows. One winter night, Peter Lake – master mechanic and second-storey man – attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks it is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the affair between a middle-aged Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl dying of consumption. It is a love so powerful that Peter Lake, a simple and uneducated man, will be driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.
But the book is so much more than that! Themes of truth, justice, beauty, pain, life, death, redemption and love - everlasting love - run rampant in this remarkable novel. As Mark Flanagan puts it in his About.com review-
"Winter's Tale is a powerful and magical book, an epic story of love, beauty and justice, and the ability - or more accurately - the necessity for these qualities to exist within each us and across all of time. 
Know what I mean? No. Because Winter's Tale was not meant to be summed up in a sentence or even a book review. Helprin plumbs the depths of language as he masterfully unravels his century-spanning human drama. Even the blurb written for the novel's back cover falls terribly short, and if you think the movie version of Winter's Tale (starring Colin Farrell as Peter Lake) will do this story justice, you're mistaken. Don't sell yourself short. Read this book."

I've highlighted so many passages in my nook, they've become a blur. This extract should give you a sense of both style and substance, Helprin is a master at creating ethereal imagery and marrying it to meaning.
 "... and the icicle covered trees outside began to ring like a thousand sleigh bells. Then the hands of the clock started to race like the tortoise and the hare, and both reached midnight at the same time. The clock struck along with every other clock in New York, and church bells, fireworks, and ship whistles sounded all at once, turning the entire city in a giant hurdy-gurdy. 
It soon got so cold that the men rushed to close the doors. When they had shut them and the room was again silent, they saw that several women had begun to cry. The women said it was because of the numbing air that had washed over their bare shoulders, but even strangers embraced sadly as they coasted in the new year and felt its strength commencing. They cried because of magic and the contradictions; because time had passed and time was left; because they saw themselves as if they were in a photograph that had winked fast enough to contradict their mortality; because the city around them had conspired to break a hundred thousand hearts; and because they and everyone else had to float upon this sea of troubles, watertight."
If you didn't feel yourself there, sensing that rush of cold sweeping over your skin, the cold as sharp and bitter as the realization that life is both everlasting and over in a blink, then Helprin's brand of writing doesn't work for you. I found it charming, hypnotic and at many times, mystifying.  Biblical, Shakespearean, and mythical references abound, from Peter Lake's beginnings - his Irish immigrant parents quarantined at the port and forced to return to Ireland are so desperate for their son to live in America, that they take the perfect model replica of the ship they find on display, and tucking their baby into its bowels send him, Moses-like, into the water to be safely found gently bouncing in the bay to more than a century later - and many pages later in the novel - Lake is called on to raise a young girl from the dead, while all around the city burns at the turn of the apocalyptic millennium. There is even a mythical flying horse, Athansor, a beautiful white horse who acts as Peter Lake's guardian angel.

In Benjamin DeMoot's 1983 review for the New York Times -
"THERE'S far more that I would wish to say about the book - so much more that I find myself nervous, to a degree I don't recall in my past as a reviewer, about failing the work, inadequately displaying its brilliance. The canniness of the balancing of fantasy and realism, the capacity of these Dickensian presences to bring to mind, subtly, contemporaries and near-contemporaries from Rupert Murdoch to Howard Hughes to Thomas Pynchon, the excitement scholars will find in interpreting Mr. Helprin's extension of the line of American imaginers who have grappled for longer than a century with the meanings of technology. . . . Not for some time have I read a work as funny, thoughtful, passionate or large-souled."
I may still see the movie to satisfy my curiosity but knowing how shallow an abbreviation of this exquisite and entrancing book it can only be, I hold out little hope except for the obviously glorious cinematography from Caleb Deschanel. 
UPDATE: Here's my take on the movie but surprise; even Deschanel's camera work left me a little cold!

Michael Caine's Last Love #book2movies

November 15, 2011. That's when I first posted that the French novel, La Douceur Assassine by Françoise Dorner was being turned into a film with Michael Caine, Clemence Poesy, Jane Alexander, Justin Kirk and Gillian Anderson. In the film, titled Mr. Morgan's Last Love, Caine plays an American widower who develops a special relationship with Clemence Poesy, much to the chagrin of his daughter played by Anderson.
February 18, 2013. We finally got the first trailer for the Sandra Nettelbeck-directed film where we got our first listen to Caine's odd American accent. Not sure where in the states he's supposed to be from but be that as it may ... 
July 29, 2013. We got another trailer last summer and the promise of a US release date in October. I don't know about you but if Mr. Morgan's Last Love was actually released in US theaters, I missed it. And I live here in movie country where we have access to a wide variety of independent films. If I missed it I'm betting a bunch of you did as well. 

No worry; what did your mother - make that your granny - used to say? All good things come to those who wait. The wait is over. You can now see the movie via Amazon Instant Video where it's available to stream for about four bucks. Don't search for Mr. Morgan's Last Love, a funny thing happened on the way to the movies, somewhere along the line the title was changed to simply Last Love. Did you pick up the difference on the two posters? 
Did you happen to notice the tag line "It's never too late to love life again" which makes it clear that the friendship between Caine's character and the much younger woman is platonic rather than romantic, a relief if you were weirded out by the idea of Alfred making out with a woman young enough to date Bruce Wayne. 

I'm going to try to get to it in the next few days; curious to hear what you think of it as well. I haven't checked the reviews but having heard so little about it they can't be raves. There is that strange American accent of Caine's to contend with! On the other hand I can promise some beautiful wide French boulevards and to-die-for Parisian apartments with glorious high ceilings.  Perhaps that, along with a score by the acclaimed Hans Zimmer, is enough. 

If this trailer leaves you Dreaming of France, pop over to my friend
Paulita's weekly meme where fellow readers celebrate all things French.

12 Years a Slave costumes wins Costume Designers Guild trophy. Will 12 Years a Slave win the Oscar?

I was planning on taking a look at the Oscar-nominated 12 Years a Slave costume designs today anyway since the big day is next Sunday, but I was assuming the work didn't actually have a chance against Catherine Martin's work in Gatsby - check out the gorgeous Gatsby designs -  which has been getting all the love. After last night's Costume Designer Guild awards,  I'm not so sure. And between you and me, I'm rooting for 12 Years a Slave's Patricia Norris. 

What happened? The CDG handed out its own trophies last night, awarding winners in three film categories, Contemporary, Fantasy and Period.  While Blue Jasmine took the CDG for Best Contemporary Film, and Trish Summerville's designs for The Hunger Games  took the prize in Fantasy - neither of which is nominated for an Oscar - it was Patricia Norris for 12 Years a Slave who won the Best Period Film prize, and not Gatsby which incidentally took the BAFTA last month in both the Costume and Production design categories.

I'm hoping this is Norris time. The 82 year old designer has been nominated for an Academy Award five times before and never won. Norris earned her first nomination in 1978 for Terrence Malick's  Days of Heaven - Death on the Nile won. Norris was nominated again for David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, Amadeus, Victor/Victoria and a Bruce Willis/James Garner film titled Sunset that I've never heard of. Talk about always the bridesmaid, never the bride! While the 70's and 80's were clearly her glory days - she did Scarface, Frances, over 100 episodes of The Waltons  and won an Emmy for her work on Twin Peaks (she also worked with Lynch as a production designer on Lost Highway, Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet) - Norris has stayed active, working as both Costume Designer AND Production Designer in the more recent Killing Them Softly and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.  While she's won Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Costume Designers Guild and the Art Directors Guild I think it would be amazing for this woman to cap a her illustrious career with the coveted prize. 

Will the Academy voters give Norris their vote for the historically perfect costumes in 12 Years a Slave? In addition to Gatsby, and American Hustle, the film is up against The Grandmaster and The Invisible Woman. Stiff competition but Academy voters are known to have a sentimental streak; I wouldn't be surprised to see the vote go Norris' way, her body of work quite possibly putting her over the top. 

No complaints from me; I'm up for a little reverse ageism. The bulk of the nominees are in the middle of their careers, they have time. 

Days of Heaven
The Elephant Man
Twin Peaks
The Waltons
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Killing Them Softly

 Sources: Vanity Fair, NY Times, Deadline, Costume Design Guild

Atlas Shrugged: So Who is John Galt?!

Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt? is the last of producer John Agiolani's three part adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, the controversial Ayn Rand novel. The film, set in 2020 for this version, has already wrapped principal photography after a short seventeen day shoot. Still, writer/director Jim Manera, a commercial director brought in to give the film 'a complete overhaul' promises 'a very different movie from the first two' - neither of which did well. Rob Morrow is set to play steel magnate Hank Reardon. Laura Regan who you've seen in a ton of TV stuff plays Dagny.The score could be interesting. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Traffic member, Dave Mason, is involved on the music side of things. So who is John Galt? Kristoffer Polaha who you might know from Ringer.  

The story, to quote Deadline -
"The story follows railroad executive Dagny Taggart as she navigates her way through an inefficient economical culture. The book endorses free enterprise with no federal regulation, and the dystopian tale ultimately sees the great minds of industry shutting down their factories and disappearing to join a “strike” led by John Galt. In the novel, Rand challenges altruism and moral obligation and boldly celebrates reason, capitalism and individualism. The 1,200-page tome, according to Manera, “is a cry out for freedom from the shackles of inefficiency.”
The film is scheduled to come out this fall.

Pass. Unless you care to convince me otherwise?

Edward Norton gets back in the director's chair for Motherless Brooklyn

If you like the Rust Cohle character in True Detective as much as I do, I have a feeling you're going to love this. Edward Norton is going to play the lonely Tourettic private detective Lionel Essrog in his own adaptation of Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn.  

Take a look at how Essrog's character and the story is described by the publisher -
Lionel Essrog is Brooklyn's very own self-appointed Human Freakshow, an orphan whose Tourettic impulses drive him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in startling and original ways.  Together with three veterans of the St. Vincent's Home for Boys, he works for small-time mobster Frank Minna's limo service cum detective agency. Life without Frank Minna, the charismatic King of Brooklyn, would be unimaginable, so who cares if the tasks he sets them are, well, not exactly legal. But when Frank is fatally stabbed, one of Lionel's colleagues lands in jail, the other two vie for his position, and the victim's widow skips town. Lionel's world is suddenly topsy-turvy, and this outcast who has trouble even conversing attempts to untangle the threads of the case while trying to keep the words straight in his head.  Motherless Brooklyn is a brilliantly original homage to the classic detective novel by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation.
Lethem's novel - winner of the National Book Critic's Circle Award for Fiction - is set in current day NYC but Norton's script places the story of the obsessive detective in New York in the mid 50's - one of my favorite city/time period combinations. 

Brett Ratnor, partnering with Norton to produce the film, told Deadline:
We all know Edward Norton is one of the most compelling actors of our generation, but I also know he’s an exceptional writer and filmmaker,” said Ratner, who directed Norton in the 2002 adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. “As soon as I read his script for Motherless Brooklyn I knew this was a project I wanted to get involved with and am thrilled to partner up with Edward and Class 5. Edward’s script has melded elements of Jonathan Lethem’s terrific novel with an original story that at once feels classic and entirely fresh. And with Edward playing Lionel Essrog, the brilliant private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome, this will be a tour de force performance.”

Edward Norton picked up the rights to Lethem's book when it was first published in 2000, at which time he was being lauded for his impressive Oscar-nominated role in American History X. This will be his second time in the director's chair; the first time was Keeping the Faith, the rom-com about a priest(Norton) and a rabbi(Ben Stiller) who fall in love with the same girl(Jenna Elfman). Keeping the Faith was also filmed in Norton's beloved NYC, and in a case of life intersecting art - or this blog anyway -  my husband was one of the assistant directors on the film. I flew in from L.A. with our son and we spent a few memorable months living there in a Manhattan sublet on 110th Street and Broadway.  But that's a story for another time and place, a place I hope to get to on my other blog where I get personal about my life and its many locales. It's all about me me me.

Norton is currently starring in the Wes Anderson-directed The Grand Budapest Hotel and recently wrapped the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed comedy Birdman.

I haven't read this one but the character sounds too good to miss so I'll put it over in that ever-growing pile of books I gotta get to. How about you?

Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman" coming to the screen

Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman
Illustration by Jim Steranko

Harlan Ellison's Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman is at long last being made into a film. The sci-fi icon has optioned his 1965 Hugo and Nebula award winning story to J. Michael Straczynski, the writer behind World War Z, Thor, Babylon 5 and Sense8(which Straczynksi and the Wachowski siblings are bringing to Netflix). Deadline reports that Ellison only agreed to option the award winning short story - which he wrote in a single afternoon - after Straczynski delivered a fully finished script for Ellison's approval.

Here's how the trade mag explains it -
"The story is about Everett C. Marm, an ordinary man who disguises himself as the anarchical Harlequin and engages in whimsical rebellion against the Ticktockman. The trouble is that if he is found out, the government could stop his heart at long distance if they learn who he is. Straczynski sees the cautionary tale as especially relevant in a post-Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street environment, or even Edward Snowden, in a story of a man who goes against the system and must pay the price for his actions.
Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman
Illustration by Don Ivan Punchatz/1978

Straczynski, Ellison-approved script in hand is said to be approaching Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro to direct. Check out Deadline's inside line on what took Ellison so long:  
"Why would Ellison wait so long? He has had a tough time in Hollywood, and it sounds like a lot of it is because of his uncompromising manner. He got a job writing at Disney but lasted less than a day, after Roy O. Disney overheard him musing about his desire to write a porno film featuring Disney characters. Later, he feuded with Gene Roddenberry over rewrites to the Star Trek episode he scripted, and once, when asked by Warner Bros after the success of Star Wars to adapt Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, he was dropped after telling then-studio head Robert Shapiro that he had the intellectual capacity of an artichoke. Finally, he ended up suing Orion and Hemdale, alleging that The Terminator took liberties with his “Soldier” and “Demon With A Glass Hand” episodes of The Outer Limits. They settled out of court, and Ellison got acknowledgment on The Terminator, over (James) Cameron’s objections.
A whimsical rebellion? The story takes place in a world where being late is a crime. For someone like me that's the furthest thing from whimsy imaginable. 

I just hung out with John Green: Ten things I learned about #TFIOS and more #book2movie

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort/ The Fault in Our Stars 
Photo Source: Clever.com

It was just me - and several thousand John Green fans - hanging out with John via the 20th Century FOX TFIOS Hangout with John Green. It's all part of the The Fault in Our Stars hullabaloo but Green is such an articulate and affable guy that hearing what he says about both his book and the film makes the basically self-serving promo worthwhile. 

The so-called 'hangout' is a few minutes shy of an hour but TFIOS fans and John Green readers in general should enjoy it.

Here's ten things I learned sorta hanging out with John:

John Green's favorite TFIOS quote ...

"My faults are stars I can't fathom into constellations."

He hates it when...

Hollywood takes a story and tries to make it palatable to a really broad audience. Green is excited about the movie because he was on set the entire time it was being shot in both Philadelphia and Amsterdam and says they didn't do that with what could be a tricky story to tell about a couple of sick kids falling in love. Green really felt everyone wanted to be there and brought a tremendous desire to get it right. He's seen the film in its entirety and thinks it's one of the most faithful book adaptations he's seen. 

On the subject of the Creation ...

Not that one, the creation of a book. He believes author and reader co-create a novel, and that each reading is different because of what we, the reader, bring to it. We decide what to skim and what to re-read. We bring life to his words and 'each time a book is read, it's co-created differently.

Green likes ... 

'the weird crazy idea' that some infinities are bigger than others. He calls the idea of boundlessness really lovely. He says infinity isn't such a big number, it's more about the idea of 'endlessness', that kind of infinity really is a beautiful, all encompassing idea.

Other Young Adult books he loves... 

Meg Rossoff's  How I Live Now, (I missed the limited release of the film with Saoirse Ronan in the fall of 2013) and the book Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I'm sure there are others, I zoned out:(

About Writers Block ...

his dad told him carpenters don't get to get carpenter's block and coal miners don't get to get coal miners block. It's work. 

He's just like most writers ...

He wishes the book were better, wishes he'd succeeded more in achieving his own goals but it is what is and there's comfort in not being able to make changes. It's done.

He's not very visual ...

Green says he pictures the world in words, not pictures. Can you see "Okay?" "Okay" floating around in his head?

Green was NOT a fan of The Great Gatsby in high school ....

In the hands of a generous reader, the right book can become magical. You have to watch this just to see what he says about his initial rather ungenerous reading of The Great Gatsby - about 45 minutes in if you're skimming.


There will not be a sequel to The Fault in Our Stars ...

There will not be, I repeat, NOT be, a sequel to The Fault in Our Stars. No matter how much TFIOS movie producer Wyck Godfrey wants one. He has no intention of writing a sequel to The Fault in Our Stars so quit asking. And that includes a telling of the Van Houten's fictional An Imperial Affliction, Hazel's favorite novel. NOT happening.

My take: Of course it's a no-brainer from the Hollywood side of things; The Fault in Our Stars was/is a mega YA bestseller, fans of the book have devoured every little nugget the filmmakers have released from pictures of Shailene's haircut to play Hazel, to the low res leaked trailer which prompted 20the Century Fox to release the real trailer earlier than planned. That trailer has had over 11 million views and over 200,000 likes, which John explains is an incredibly high volume of views and likes. Godfrey and 20th Century Fox are looking at The Fault in Our Stars as a guaranteed hit; even if the film were to be a massive fail, the built in audience is so primed and ready for it, nothing will keep them out of the seats. So while Green is definitely 1000% certain he has no interest in writing a sequel, Hollywood has 1000% interest in making one.

Take a gander at the video, do you come away with any nuggets you want to chat about?

The Fault in Our Stars is set to come out June 6th. The Josh Boone directed film stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Woolf, Laura Dern, Sam Trammel, William Defoe and Mike Birbiglia. 

For more THE FAULT IN OUR STARS news, check out my TFIOS FILE page.
And one more thing I learned ... Green's cameo in the film was cut. The author says it's a much better movie without it. 

The BAFTA Winners: True Brits?

Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen

Below is the full list of winners for the 2014 Bafta Film Awards. To make sure I've got it right, I've cut and paste it from the BBC news site The winners are in bold. Of great interest - especially online - is the fact that 12 Years a Slave took Best Film while Gravity took the Outstanding British film with director, Alfonso Cuaron taking home the Director prize. The fact is 12 Years a Slave was not eligible for Outstanding British film not only because it wasn't shot in the UK and was largely produced through American companies, -notably Brad Pitt's Plan B - the film's producers did not submit it in the 'British film' category. Gravity, on the other was shot in the UK AND the producers did submit it, so there's that! 

There's been a slew of questions and complaints about Gravity taking the best pic award (6 in all!) over more clearly British films; check in at Digital Spy to read more about the dustup. Alfonso Cuaron has already weighed in on the 'controversy' saying ...

"Except for a couple of Mexicans that came here - legally! - and a couple of American stars, this is a film that was completely shot in this country, developed in this country, and made using cutting edge technology developed by British artists," said Cuarón.
"I want to say artists because I don't like the distinction between the technical awards and the artistic awards."
Personally I loved both 12 Years a Slave and Gravity - for very different reasons, the first being such a deeply emotional, historical and weighty film, the second for the riveting visceral thrill of it - and get very grouchy about the whole winner/loser conversation. Being last to get picked in gym class seems to have left a never-ending distaste for competition.

We'll see where British director Steve McQueen ends up in a couple of weeks at the Academy Awards. We'll also see how Chiwetel Ejiofor fares; he won the BAFTA but will he be able to beat Matthew McConaughey riding high in his new role as renaissance man after a remarkable transformative performance in Dallas Buyer's Club (not in BAFTA competition) a turn only buffeted by his hypnotic work in the huge HBO hit True Detective? A hit show from novelist Nic Pizzolatto which incidentally, if you're not watching, you might want to, although with Girls, Downton Abbey and Sherlock all airing on Sunday nights, it can make for an overly busy date night with your tv set.

Very pleased the heartwarming Philomena was awarded the Adapted Screenplay prize although again, 12 Years A Slave's screenwriter John Ridley would have been a worthy winner, as well. As much as I adored Judi Dench's performance in Philomena, not at all surprised that it was eclipsed by Cate Blanchett's in Blue Jasmine. Jennifer Lawrence's Supporting Actress win for American Hustle is a bit of an irritant, I'm so over her 'cool girl' aura and would love to have seen lovely and gracious Lupita Nyongo (12 Years a Slave) or surprising Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) take home that particular trophy. But that's my personal bias, another left-over from an awkward adolescence, a pathetic reminder of feeling like the mousy one in the corner while the pretty and popular girls knew how to be comfortable and confident in their own glowing skin. Poor Jennifer Lawrence; she has a lot of ground to make up with me!

Do you have a personal bias that blocks you from seeing and assessing one of this year's movies or performances dispassionately? After all, we can't help but filter the films we see through our very personal lens, can we? 

Best film

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips

Outstanding British film

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Saving Mr Banks
The Selfish Giant


Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)


Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks)

Supporting actor

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Supporting actress

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
Oprah Winfrey (The Butler)


Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
David O Russell (American Hustle)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Adapted screenplay

12 Years a Slave
Behind the Candelabra
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street

Original screenplay

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Inside Llewyn Davis

Animated film

Despicable Me 2
Monsters University


The Act of Killing
The Armstrong Lie
Tim's Vermeer
We Steal Secrets

Foreign film

The Great Beauty
The Act of Killing
Blue is the Warmest Colour
Metro Manila


12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis

Costume design

The Great Gatsby
American Hustle
Behind the Candelabra
The Invisible Woman
Saving Mr Banks


12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street

Make-up and hair

American Hustle
Behind the Candelabra
The Butler
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


12 Years a Slave
The Book Thief
Captain Phillips
Saving Mr Banks

Production design

The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Behind the Candelabra


All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis

Visual effects

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

Short animation

Sleeping with the Fishes
Everything I Can See From Here
I Am Tom Moody

Short film

Room 8
Island Queen
Keeping Up with the Joneses
Orbit Ever After
Sea View

Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer

Kieran Evans (writer-director, Kelly + Victor)
Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson (writers, Good Vibrations)
Scott Graham (writer-director, Shell)
Kelly Marcel (writer, Saving Mr Banks)
Paul Wright. Polly Stokes (writer-director and producer, For Those in Peril)

Rising Star award

Will Poulter
Dane DeHaan
George MacKay
Lupita Nyong'o
Lea Seydoux
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