> Chapter1-Take1: November 2015

War & Peace starring Lily James, Paul Dano and James Norton: Images from the set in Vilnius, Lithuania

Karas Ir Taika [War and Peace]

Look what happens when a professional photographer happens to catch a movie in the making. Art of another kind. 

These images from local photographer Vilma Martisauskaite don’t capture any of the famous faces in War and Peace. Lily James, Paul Dano and James Norton are nowhere in sight. But what a beautiful preamble to the television series coming in 2016. 

Where do you find such an ancient looking locale? Shot on location in Vilnius, Lithuania, the pictures illustrate just a fraction of the charm of the ancient city which dates back to the 1300s. The cityOld Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Sight in 1994. Thanks to @astridafn for sending them along.

Watch the trailer and you’ll spot the soldiers marching through the streets of Vilnius’ Old Town.

Epic new drama indeed!

War and Peace is coming to television early next year. But you might want to add Vilnius too your bucket list now. 

Here’s what the city looks like today. In addition to a couple of thousand medieval, gothic, renaissance and baroque buildings, the city features the KGB museum, located in a former Soviet prison. That’s not something you’ll see in Paris. Flanked by Poland, Belarus and Latvia, Lithuania also boasts a gorgeous coastline. Check it out on Lonely Planet.
 Image via gazprom.ru

Image via thethq.com

 Image via coffeeaddictgreta.wordpress.com 

Coming tomorrow
I saw Carol last night at the DGA including an after screening conversation between director Todd Haynes and Wash Westmoreland, one of the directors of the heartbreaking Still Alice. I’ll try to get my thoughts on this beautiful film down on paper.

Carol starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara: A Conversation

Happy Sunday! Im going to a screening of Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara at the DGA tonight with my husband. The director Todd Haynes will be there for a Q&A but as no recording devices or cameras are allowed, and my notes are historically illegible, I’ll do my best but I’m doubtful I’ll come away with much new usable data to share with you. I’ll do my best to give you my take on the movie though. 

As far as Q+A’s go, I’ve got a great video from The Guardian. It features Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, screenwriter Phyllis Nagy and director Todd Haynes. I’ll do nicely for today’s #SundaySlacker post.

Misery starring Kathy Bates in Oscar winning performance. #SaturdayMatinee #book2movie

You may have heard Bruce Willis is currently starring on Broadway in the stage production of Misery. The play, co-starring Laurie Metcalf, runs through mid-February. I dunno if tix are still avail but if they are, youll find them here

The movie, a horror classic based on a Stephen King book, came out twenty-five years ago this month. If youre one of my writerly friends, the idea of having a number one fan the likes of Annie (Kathy Bates) rescuing you is probably your worst nightmare. 

Today’s Saturday Matinee stars James Caan as Paul Sheridan, the writer—Regency Romances are his genre— that Annie rescues from a roadside accident and nurses back to health ... until she reads Misery’s Child, Sheridan’s most recent novel, and loses her mind when Misery dies at the end of the book. Imagine having a reader so thoroughly invested in your character’s lives!

Kathy Bates won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the crazed book fan, and if you havent seen it, or even if you have, Misery, based on the Stephen King novel is most certainly worth curling up in front of the TV for. 

You can stream it on YouTube, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu, and Amazon. As often seems to be the case, Netflix offers Misery, but only in DVD or Blu-Ray form.

While you were eating: The Winter’s Tale starring Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh

While you were eating, stuffing yourself to the gills with Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, your friends in the British Isles were flocking to the theatre to see Judi Dench in a live broadcast of Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale, co- starring by Kenneth Branagh who also had a hand in directing.

The play, which began running in the UK in London’s The Garrick Theatre in October, continues through January 16th. The live airing sold over £1.1million in tickets, beating out Mockingjay!

We’re supposedly getting the ‘live’ broadcast here in the US, in movie theaters on November 30th. I can’t find it anywhere, but I hold out hope for the Shakespearian classic to at least hit our TV screens at some point. 

UPDATE: Here’s what it’s playing Fathom Events

Were you lucky enough to see The Winters Tale, either on stage or at the theater. Would love to hear your thoughts!

British Isles Friday 

And on Past Tense, Perfect/Imperfect 
To Read: Photographic Memory

A Thanksgiving #ThrowbackThursday

Everything I try to write about Thanksgiving is as corny as my corn casserole so rather than make you queasy, let me just say I’m grateful for many things, including you. Thanks for stopping by. 

Now, watch this scene from The Blind Side based on the book by Michael Lewis. Lewis is the same author who wrote Money Ball and the novel the upcoming The Big Short movie is based on. I’m grateful for mega talents like him too. 

The Blind Side is available on Googleplay, Amazon, You Tube, iTunes and Vudu.

May your turkey be stuffed with blessings.

Fly me to the moon with Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong

Being a loyal Ryan Gosling fan, I’m always excited when I hear the Canadian actor has a new project in the works. I’m pleased The Big Short is getting great reviews and the idea of Ryan as a piano player who falls in love with an actress played by Emma Stone in La La Land, thrills me. Today I was over the moon to see Ryan Gosling is in discussions to star as the astronaut Neil Armstrong in a biopic based on James Hansen’s autobiography. 

Damien Chazelle, the young writer/director who gave us Whiplash would direct. Chazelle is currently directing La La Land so there’s a natural progression here. Like Nicholas Winding Refn who teamed with Gosling in Drive, then again with Only God Forgives, and Derek Cianfrance who worked with him in Blue Valentine, and once more in Place Beyond the Pines, some directors can’t help but fall in love with Gosling’s collaborative energy and his willingness to dive deep into a project. He’s funny, charming, a tall, lean acting machine whose great sense of humor and good nature are endearing. Of course they want to do it again. That’s not just me talking, that’s how my husband (not a director, an AD) viewed Ryan when he got to know him on the set of Drive. Not that he’d use my specific gushing words, mind you.

Ryan Gosling and Drive director Nicholas Winding Refn

Not everyone agrees. Below the Deadline piece on the biopic, couple of snide comments questioned Gosling’s casting.
sacha • on Nov 24, 2015 2:58 pm   Gosling!?, with that whiney Mickey Mouse voice of his…

Anonymous • on Nov 24, 2015 6:59 pm  This is an abomination. Will he deliver “That’s one small step..” with that fake DeNiro accent? How will he use his main acting asset, his abs, in a space suit?

How about you? Are you a Gosling hater too? Go ahead, risk my ire and tell me so in the comments section.

The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy: “My” review of an early screening

My husband and son saw a screening of The Revenant at the DGA yesterday and said theyd never seen anything like it. Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu put them in a cold dark place where they both felt completely immersed in the brutally frigid world of the film, a world it took 11 months, with just two hours of available shooting light each day, to create. Cinematography from Oscar-winning Emmanuel Lubezki was a key component.

The strenuous schedule, the difficult climate and conditions, reportedly took its toil on the cast and crew, a rumored mutiny on the set may even have come to blows between the director and one of its stars. 

All the production difficulties fade in the light of the creation however. After the screening, which received a standing ovation from the Guild audience, acclaimed director Michael Mann interviewed Iñárritu, making the point that nature was a key character in the movie, the frontier testing the men, questioning their makeup and what they believed in.

My son, who said all the Oscar buzz seemed apt and that the film will likely be nominated in all the categories from Best Picture, Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Supporting for Tom Hardy, directing, cinematography, editing etc etc, was struck by the characters’ stubborn insistence on sticking with hard tasks.  He questioned his own response, the temptation to set the task aside, curl up into a ball and hope for better weather tomorrow. He said you feel everything, you feel the cold, deep in your bones, the misery of having to live in these conditions. 

Iñárritu told the audience everyone was miserable. There was no fun. They were shooting in the wilds of Canada. They weren’t in New York. There was nothing to do. They were all just cold and lonely. Miserable.

My husband, who woke up this morning talking like Tom Hardy’s vicious frontiersman, said Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass isn’t your typical DiCaprio role. A small guy, an average guy, with a huge spirit, he was indomitable. Not a tough guy, a guy made tough by his need for revenge. As for Hardy’s John Fitzgerald, he’s the type of man who sees the entire world as a foil, as if everyone else is just deliberately trying to make his life harder. He didn’t stop complaining from the start of the film through to the finish. If you’re like my hubby, you’ll be mumbling tough like him for days. According to our son, Domhnall Gleeson as Andrew Henry was reportedly fantastic as the young patrician commander too. 

While the cinematography by Lubezki was absolutely instrumental to the movie’s visceral look and feel, Iñárritu used 5 different composers to create the score. In the post-screening discussion he said he wanted the music to come in like a soft breeze, almost unnoticeable. As for the musical mix, he called it ‘a spicy guacamole of sound.’ 

The story, of a man left for dead after a bear attack, also featured an ‘Indian’ attack; Iñárritu got this right too. While Hollywood has often shown Native Americans (and yes, indigenous people played all the parts of indigenous people) with a binary dichotomy, either as demonic monsters representing dangerous forces or pure angelic spirits that the white man ruins, the reality is much more complex. As real people, not other, they are in fact like us, not good, not bad, but a realistic mix.

The Revenant, based on the book by Michael Punke—but with which the director took liberties—comes out on January 8 after a short Oscar qualifying run in December. I canwait to see it for myself.

In the meantime, I’ve got the trailer...

UPDATE: 11/25/2015
I told my husband there have been reports of a few people walking out of early screenings citing too much gore. He rolled his eyes. It’s realistic, he told me, but not overdone. Would they walk out of a Quentin Tarantino movie? 
My son said it’s a western you’ve never seen before, that the violence is incredibly visceral. He said it’s disturbing and he can see how it might be too much for some audiences. Look, The Revenant is not a love story. All movies are not made for all audiences. And that’s okay.

Eve Babitz: Iconic 1970’s Party Girl, Writer, Artist story coming to TV

Hollywood can’t get enough of girls who have both boobs and brains. They just can’t fathom them coming together in one package. That was part of the Eve Babitz allure. 

Eve Babitz was an original L.A. woman, a wild child who wrote several memoirs about her life in LaLa Land. While all four books— Slow Days, Fast Company; Sex And RageLA Woman and Eve’s Hollywood—were first published in the 70’s and 80’s, Eve’s Hollywood was recently reissued and all four books have been optioned by Amy Pascal as the basis for a television series at Sony Pictures TriStar Television. 

Eve Babitz, born and raised in LA to an artsy, boho, intellectual family, famously made waves at 20—in 1963— posing nude for a photograph of her playing chess with the artist Marcel Duchamp. Well known for her quasi-fictional writings about her life as party girl, writer and involvements with a series of famous men ala Jim Morrison, Steve Martin, Harrison Ford and Ed & Paul Ruscha, Babitz, was also an artist/designer, this cover for Buffalo Springfield one of her best known works.

She was something. If you want to know how much of something, check out this Vanity Fair piece which sums up the un-summable, quite nicely. And here author Dan Wakefield, an old boyfriend of Eve’s from 1971 (she would have been about 30) who says he had a great year with Babitz but he couldn’t handle a second one. 

Pascal was the studio head demoted when a series of inappropriate emails came to light in the SONY hack. She was making $3 million a year and I’d be surprised if she wasn’t still doing very very well. But I digress. Pascal is partnering with producer Elizabeth Cantillon, the two, who go back to high school together, are also teaming on a sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
As a longtime LA resident, a tv series based on Eve Babitz life, set in the LA of the 70’s will be right up my alley. You know the one, that dark alley off Santa Monica and ... oh, never mind. But yeah, it’ll be one to watch for.

Chris Hemsworth flaunts his gaunt bod for In the Heart of the Sea

This [above]is how I want to picture Chris Hemsworth. 

This [below]is not how I want to picture Chris Hemsworth. 
Wait for it!

The actor tweeted out this image revealing the weight he lost for In the Heart of the Sea. All I can say is the movie better be AMAZING! 

Helmed by his Rush director, Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea opens December 11th with, um, a whale of a cast (I HAD to!) including Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Holland and Benjamin Walker. Which might leave you wondering if there are any women on board? Only one in any kind of sizable role and that’s Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) as Peggy. 

Who’s Peggy? I dunno. This is another movie based on a book I didn’t read (makes sheepish face).

 The newly released international trailer

#SlackerSunday: Carol starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara, A Visual Soundtrack from Carter Burwell

“ The characters don’t have the vocabulary to describe their feelings, so that job falls to the music. It’s an enjoyable canvas to write for, because the film is shot so subjectively. We’re not in a time and place in many of the scenes; we’re in someone’s head.” 

“One of my initial thoughts was that we should have two solo instruments, as there are really only two characters, and everyone else just passes through.”  
                                 Carter Burwell, Composer, Carol

I saw this four minute video on Rolling Stone and thought it was perfect for #SlackerSunday. They call it a “Visual Soundtrack” fancy schmancy lingo for the few minutes of Carter Burwell’s lush score put together with some intriguing images from the movie.

Composer Carter Burwell has been working on movie music since the nineties, on big deal film projects like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Conspiracy Theory, In Bruges, Twilight, The Kids Are All Right, and so many more, but his work on Carol could very likely net him his first Oscar nomination, and potentially a win. Take a listen to some of the score and see if you find it “Oscar-worthy”.

Carol, based on the book The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Directed by Todd Haynes, Carol is in theaters now.

Happy Birthday Goldie Hawn! Seventy and I bet you’re still rockin’ it!

I think you’d have to say she was the sexy one. Teamed with Bette Midler and Diane Keaton in our Saturday Matinee, First Wives Club, Goldie Hawn got to wear the skinny white pants (are those leather??) and butt-revealing jacket. As Elise, Goldie was also the desperate-to-stay-young one, if there’d been Botox in 1995, she would have double-needled it. Instead the joke is all about her overly plumped up Collagen-injected lips. Based on the book by Olivia Goldsmith, the comedy about taking your ex for all he was worth was hilarious. Wondering how it holds up? You can check it out on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, GooglePlay and iTunes. Netflix! What on earth is wrong with you?!

Its Goldies 70th birthday today and Ive got a hunch shes never gonna be the grandma in the sensible shoes type! Rocking chair? Hardly. Rocking it? Probably.
Happy Birthday Goldie, keep on rockin’! 

Diane Keaton, Bette Midler & Goldie Hawn singing 
You Don’t Own Me. 
I agree. Goldie Hawn was likely dubbed.

Black Mass starring Johnny Depp & Joel Edgerton; My take on the movie

We got a screener in the mail earlier this week so I finally got a chance to watch Black Mass. The cast, the entire cast, top to bottom, did a remarkable job telling this awful and true story. Maybe it was the comfy chair, maybe it was the glass of wine, but I fell asleep sometime during the last half hour of the film. I fast forwarded my way through the movie again last night, finding my place and was again struck with the gritty realism of the performances. It could be that the 2 hours and 2 minutes running time is just a little bit long. It could be it’s just a little bit too long for me.
My son suggested I pay attention to the cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi–Takayanagi also shot Spotlight currently in theaters—who imbued the movie with a distinctly 70’s haze, a seaminess that added to the authentic feel of the film. Since the film was based on fact, not fiction — the book Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill informed the script—it was especially important that the awful ring of truth was clear throughout. There’s no big shootout of an ending, just the slow, inexorable crawl of life and ultimately, a karmic satisfaction. The bad guys do get their day in court, it’s just sometimes, in real life, you have to wait an awful long time for justice.

Johnny Depp was brilliant as Whitey Bulgar, the inherently cruel crime boss. The warmth in Depps brown eyes eradicated by light blue contact lenses, the viciousness visible in the set of Depp’s jaw, the arrogance alive in the swagger of his walk. You’ve got to give it Bulgar, he did most of his dirty work himself, taking pleasure in dishing out the punishment, strangling, choking, stabbing, viciously kicking, while his crew looked on and then cleaned up the mess. As bad as Bulgar is—and boy is he bad—it’s very good to have Johnny Depp back, doing real, solid, memorable work.

Far from being a cartoonish stereotype of evil, Depp’s Bulgar is also seen as a loving, if misguided, father, and even a boy scout of a citizen when he runs across a little old lady from the neighborhood, ordering his crew to help put her groceries away. It’s a scene that director Scott Cooper uses as shorthand to show not just that Bulgar can be a nice guy, but that in spite of being a criminal, he’s achieved a celebrity status in his neighborhood, beloved for keeping the mafia at bay.    

It’s Bulgar’s desire to keep the mafia from encroaching on his turf that has him accepting the offer from his childhood friend, FBI agent, John Connelly to turn informant. Joel Edgerton is equally compelling as Connelly, sleazy, dishonest, swayed by the glitz his association with Bulgar provides. 

His wife (Julianne Nicholson) who clearly feels dirtied by the relationship accuses him of changing. The way he walks, the way he carries himself. Getting manicures. Connelly is becoming more and more like Bulgar, she says. Her disgust mirrors our own distaste, her disappointment in her husband the FBI agent not unlike the disappointment Bulgars associates feel in Bulgar, the crime boss. They’ve seen him at his worse, bad behavior he hasnt hesitated to show to them too. 

It’s a fascinating look at an old friendship between two men who should be on opposite sides of the good/evil debate. But what was that your mother told you when you were growing up? Show me your friends, and I’ll show you who you are. Show me your friends and I’ll show your future.

Here’s the trailer and a behind the scenes featurette. Directed by Scott Cooper, Black Mass stars Johnny Depp and Joel Edgarton with an amazing cast of supporting players including Julianne Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Harbour, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Saargard, Adam Scott, and Corey Stoll with special shout outs to Bulgar’s crew: Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights) Rory Cochrane (Argo) and W. Earl Brown (True Dectective, season 2). 

Black Mass is still playing in my Los Angeles neighborhood, if it’s still playing in yours too, catch it when you can. Just don’t drink the wine.

Logan’s Run: In a world where no one lives past 30, who would you cast in the remake? #ThursdayThrowback

Whoah! I’ve got a post dating back to 2011 talking about looking forward to Ryan Gosling doing a remake of Logan’s Run. He was going to reteam with Drive director Nicholas Winding Refn but they both backed out somewhere along the way. I suppose at 35 he’s too old now?! The movie is still a go, with  a renewed search out for a director. Apparently Warner Bros is hoping to achieve some sort of Hunger Games franchise success; in a dystopian world where no one is supposed to live past 30—a crystal embedded in the palm of your hand lights up when you approach the magic number—the screen would be filled with perfect pretty millennials. You might recall that in the novel, no one is allowed to live past 21.

George Clayton Jones—the original 1960’s Ocean’s 11 movie based on Jones’ story was this week’s Saturday Matinee—cowrote the novel with Frank Jones. Logan’s Run starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Roscoe Lee Brown, Richard Jordan, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Peter Ustinov came out in 1976 and is so deliciously seventies I can’t stand it. Nominated for Cinematography, Art Direction/Set Direction and Visual Effects, Logan’s Run took home a Special Achievment Award in the latter. By present day standards it looks pretty cheesy. I can only imagine what today’s VFX specialists will do with the material. Speaking of material, Jenny Agutter’s Jessica 6 doesn’t have much in the way of fabric to make a dress. Looks like she and Jennifer Lopez were cut from the same cloth! 

 Run, Logan, Run!

 Watch the trailer ...

Who would you cast as Logan 5 and Jessica 6?

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