> Chapter1-Take1: February 2016

The Oscars: Let’s look to tomorrow

About last night
Mad Max: Fury Road dominated with six wins for production design, costume design, makeup and hair, film editing, sound editing and sound mixing. And yes, it is remarkable that the costume designer (I was rooting for Sandy Powell who dress the inimitable Cate Blanchett in Cinderella and Carol, and was nominated for both) looked scruffy and underdressed for the occasion but with the glitz on the back of her jacket, its clearly a style choice. The cobbler needs new shoes? Its the only movie I havent seen and my son says I really should, if I want to call myself any kind of feminist. It just looks a shade too loud and violent for me!
The big wins were all over the place, a mix of the expected and surprises. In my opinion, the Best Picture award could have gone to Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max or the expected winner The Revenant, but Spotlight, a great movie with an important message and a fabulous ensemble cast won, along with Best Original Screenplay, and that felt right.
The Revenant still won critical awards, recognizing Alejandro Inarritu for his genius with Best Director, Emmanuel Ubezki for his vision with Best Cinematography & Leonardo DiCaprio with Best Actor as much for his acting as for his endurance in the wilds while making this movie and his endurance in the industry —he’s been a working actor since the late 80’s, his first of five nominations came in 1994 for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
Leo, always a winner in a tuxedo, was sweet and humble as the winner, and used his win to remind us of the reality of climate change. So now thats it, done. As much as I love him we dont have to worry about Leo & Oscar, we can go back to wishing Leo & Kate would reunite in something. Anything. Or perhaps he and Brie could get up to something good?

When Brie Larson won Best Actress as expected, her Room co-star Jacob Tremblay cheered her on, looking as proud as only a real son would be. And the moment he stood up and craned his neck, his mouth wide open with wonder at the sight of the Star Wars characters on stage was out of this world. I hope Hollywood doesn’t change that kid, that he doesn’t grow up too soon. Famous last words.
Mark Rylance—who stole the Best Supporting Actor award from presumed winner Sylvester Stallone—made one of the best acceptance speeches of the night. I became familiar with Rylance in last year’s Wolf Hall where he gave a similarly low-key, absolutely brilliant performance as he did in Bridge of SpiesRylance won my heart with his gracious acceptance speech when he said: "I want to just say thank you to my fellow nominees. I don’t know how they separate my acting from your glorious acting in these wonderful films that you’re in, which everyone must see. I don’t know how they separated the five of us from all the other supporting actors who are making films at the moment. It’s a wonderful time to be an actor and I’m proud to be part of it.”  That’s the kind of celebration of film I want to see more of. 
Alicia Vikander —second only to Cate Blanchett in terms of What a dress!—won for Best Supporting Actress and while I LOVE Kate Winslet and thought she was brilliant as usual in Steve Jobs, Vikander broke my heart in The Danish Girl.  I’ve said it before in this space, Vikander almost stole the movie from Eddie Redmayne.

While the ‘who are you wearing’ ridiculousness was rightly de-emphasized, Cate Blanchett wore it amazingly well. The dress was striking in its simplicity of construction, perfect fit, flattering color and all those frothy flowers, which only Cate, strong, outspoken, feisty Cate could pull off without being overshadowed.

And finally, the elephant in the room. The #OscarsSoWhite issue. Chris Rocked it, took the question of racism in Hollywood and had us look at it from all angles, sharp and funny. You can bet therell be a blacklash and next year will look different, thankfully. Producers are scrambling, looking for stories of diversity. Get me Idris Elba on the line, would ya?
Tomorrow, tomorrow
The good news is there are already stories with men and women of color coming down the line. Films made prior to, and having nothing to do, with this big to-do. Movies made by producers, writers and directors who already recognized the value of showing the world as it is. 
I’m familiar with a few of them, the first two from The Ink Factory:

The first is Our Kind of Traitor, which you’ll find under the tab Movies Based on Books 2016. Based on the LeCarre novel, Our Kind of Traitor stars Damian Lewis, Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris (in a role not written as black), directed by a woman, Susanna White. They didn’t talk about that lack of diversity last night. It’s coming out May 13 in the UK, no date so far in the US. Perhaps this controversy will stir things up? Hope so!

The Ink Factory also has Message from the King with Chadwick Boseman, Luke Evans & Theresa Palmer coming out sometime in 2016. About a ‘mysterious outsider named Jacob King from South Africa arrives in Los Angeles to avenge his younger sister's death.’ My husband worked on that one, produced by LeCarres sons, Simon & Stephen Cornwall, the men behind the Ink Factory label. And I went to the wrap party and met Chadwick, a hunky nice guy with a whole lot of charisma.

We’ll also be seeing Star Wars leading man John Boyega playing a pivotal part in The Circle, a role not specifically written as black in Dave Eggers novel, but cast as a young black man by director James Ponsoldt. I just finished the book; loved it but have a feeling I’ll love the movie more. At 500ish pages, there’s definitely material that can be edited away to make a fine film.
So that’s just a few projects to look forward to seeing at next year’s Oscars. 
Did you enjoy this year’s show? Let me know, I love hearing your thoughts.
The Complete Oscar Winners List 2016
Best Picture
Spotlight, Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust, Producers
Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Actress
Brie Larson, Room
Best Directing
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant, 
Best Original Song
“Writing’s On The Wall” from Spectre
Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith
Best Original Score
The Hateful Eight
Ennio Morricone
Best Foreign Language Film
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Best Live Action Short Film
Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armtiage
Best Documentary Feature
Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
Best Documentary Short Subject
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Best Supporting Actor
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Best Animated Feature Film
Inside Out
Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
Best Animated Short Film
Bear Story
Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala
Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett
Best Sound Mixing
Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mark Mangini and David White
Best Film Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
Margaret Sixel
Best Cinematography
The Revenant
Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road
Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
Best Production Design
Mad Max: Fury Road
Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
Best Costume Design
Mad Max: Fury Road
Jenny Beavan
Best Supporting Actress
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short
Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Best Original Screenplay

Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

My night at the Oscars

I went to the Oscars back in 2012. Here’s how the night played out. Lest you think my life is always so glamorous, I haven’t been back since. Originally published 2/27/2012

It was my first time at the Oscars as a guest—I had gone once before, years ago, as a seat filler which is a lousy way to go to the Oscars, believe me. This was different, so exciting! Naturally, I had to get all gussied up for the event and I brought my iPhone so I could sneak a few shots of the proceedings. My brother, who works for the Academy, invited me as his guest so I couldn't get too obnoxious. 
Driving up Hollywood Blvd was crazy though. The street was not only closed off to all but Oscar traffic but ugly cyclone fencing had been put up along the sidewalks making sure no pedestrians went running into the road so they could get run over by George Clooney's limo. I guess. I'm not really sure why that was necessary. Not exactly glamorous, is it? Lots of cops. Lots of valet parkers.
As we pulled up, the valets helped us out of the car and led us to the red carpet which ran down the middle of Hollywood Blvd for about a half block before it arrived at Hollywood and Highland.We were surprised to see Jennifer Lopez get out of the car ahead of us. It wasn't a limo, just some high-end SUV. She looked gorgeous from behind, her gown was stunning if a teensy bit see-thru. I tried to get a shot but it was really awkward trying for a picture of her butt. She was equally gorgeous as she turned and we saw her face.
There was an unbelievable amount of cheering from the crowd gathered at the corner, screaming, yelling J Lo, J Lo.  As we joined the throng going through security we saw Meryl Streep, Michael Fassbender. Went through security and  it was much like going on an airplane except we didn't have to remove our shoes, and we all got electronically frisked! Even JLo, even Fassbender, even Meryl Streep! 

On the carpet itself we saw Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Moore, Octavia Spencer, George Clooney and Stacy Kiebler. The crowd called out Steven Spielberg's name with just as much fervor as they did George Clooney's. George. GEORGE. GEORGE! GEORGE!!
How we can expect our stars to stay humble when they are treated this way, I really don't know.

As we made our way along the red carpet and upstairs to the "Formerly known as" Kodak theatre - I realized I had dropped my ticket along the way. Even though I'd had to show it to get this far, they wouldn't allow us in so we had to go back and get a duplicate ticket - thank heavens the folks in charge of security knew my bro!
Along the way we saw Viola Davis limping slowly up the stairs - her gold 5 inch heels were def cramping her style and she had to be helped along. Then we saw Sandy Bullock, rushing in late, and she tripped and almost fell flat on her face. She still looked dazzling though!
As we ran back, the red carpet was empty except for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who were taking their time and talking to all the reporters. Brad (and earlier Octavia Spencer) were the only stars I saw walk across the carpet to greet their screaming fans in the grandstands!

It was an amazing night! We made it back in time to arrive before they closed the doors - I really wasn't worried because I knew Brad and Angie were behind us and no way the Academy would start the show without this Hollywood royalty couple in their first row seats. They entered at the last moment and were seated right in front of Martin Scoresese who they talked quite a bit with throughout the evening. George and Stacy were on the other end of the first row flanked by Sandra Bullock on one side, Michelle Williams on the other.

And there they stayed, Clooney and Pitt both remained planted in their seats and didn't hit the bar once! We went a couple of times but with the exception of Christopher Lloyd didn't see any famous faces. If any of the writers were there, I didn't recognize them!
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the show though, from Billy Crystal's opening to the amazing Cirque de Soleil act and even The Artist stealing Best Picture from my beloved Hugo. Oh well! I was happy to see that the Best Adapted Screenplay winner matched with the results of my tiny poll, with The Descendants winning it and Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, taking the stage. We all thought Angelina was hilarious striking her leg forward pose, Faxon and Rash duplicating it were funny too. So happy to hear Alexander Payne give a shout out to novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings!
On the way out, I stopped by the womens' room where I saw Owen Wilson waiting for his mother. That made me smile, that he took his mother to the Academy Awards and that like any other son, he had to wait for her before going to the party. Even if in this case the party was the very glamorous Governor's Ball. 
I saw their little group ride down the elevator together. I was a happy camper as I gave Oscar's tush a love pat goodbye.Thank you, big brother, for taking me to the Oscars. I had the time of my life!

The #OscarsSoWhite debate: Boycott or Not?

In today’s post I’m including an excerpt straight from the pages of Variety. I haven’t talked much about the #OscarsSoWhite debate or the call for an Oscar boycott. There is an undeniable dearth of diversity in Hollywood but it’s not the Oscar voters to blame. It’s primarily the producers, the money people who insist on casting white actors because that’s where the money is. The studios who decide which movies they’re going to push and promote. Should Netflix have pushed harder to make sure Idris Elba received a Best Actor nomination? Yes, they should have. But would that one nomination have changed the fundamental lack of diversity? No because it’s an across the board problem. People of color in Hollywood are like people of color in Beverly Hills. They’re just not a presence. 
Beyond the producers, it’s the writers who write from their own experience, experiences sadly devoid of people of color. The directors who want to tell stories that typically come from their pov, that of mostly white men. It’s a systemic case of myopia that demands a cure but a boycott is only a bandaid. I’m not saying don’t put the bandaid on, but real change will only come when more diversity is seen in film schools, in writer’s programs, in casting offices, on the sets of studio films, in front of and behind the camera, and in those studio boardrooms. 
John Oliver has a stinging—but hilarious—take on the problem. Following that is the Variety piece on Reverend Al Sharpton’s call for a boycott.
Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a rally protesting the lack of black Oscar nominees.
The civil rights leader and MSNBC host will orchestrate a demonstration near the Dolby Theater on Sunday right before the Academy Award broadcast begins. Earlier in the day, Sharpton will preach at two Los Angeles churches — the Second Baptist Church and the First AME Church.
The rally is being organized by the National Action Network, the civil rights group Sharpton founded and leads. In an interview with Variety last month, Sharpton said he planned to call for a “tune out,” urging viewers not to watch the awards show because voters had not recognized the work of black performers such as Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”) and Will Smith (“Concussion”). It’s the second straight year that the acting category was made up entirely of white actors.
“If major advertisers know that people are tuning out and the ratings are down, that will impact the bottom line of the value of the Academy and the Academy has to, at some point, determine whether or not it is in their interest to continue excluding people and excluding them at what price,” Sharpton said.
Other civil rights groups won’t be joining the demonstrations. Rather than protest the awards show, the Hollywood branch of the NAACP said it will work with entertainment industry leaders to promote diversity. Some notable African-American filmmakers and talent, such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, have pledged not to attend this year’s Oscars.

NAN rallies are also planned in Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. It’s not clear how close to the show demonstrators will be able to get. Security is expected to be tight, and the area surrounding the Dolby, where the broadcast is held, will be off limits to the general public.” 

A lot of people I know dont watch the Oscars. They find all that fuss and bother ridiculous. Im partial because my husband works in the industry, and my brother works for the library at the Academy. Hes not a member, hes an employee, so he doesn’t get a vote but every year one of the job perks is that he and his wife go to the Oscars. He dusts off his tuxedo, his wife puts on a glamorous black dress, and they get to walk the red carpet alongside Hollywood royalty. He took me a few years ago when Olivia Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress and Viola Davis was nominated for Best Actress for The Help. I was right behind Spencer on the red carpet and snuck that picture on my phone. That was back in 2012 when the Oscars werent quite so white.
Boycott or not? What would you do?


Michael Fassbender & Alicia Vikander will tear your heart out in the first trailer for The Light Between Oceans

The trailer for The Light Between Oceans has arrived and it will tear you in two. I read the book last year, found the story devastating and can’t wait to see the emotionally rich material on screen. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander are perfect for the parts of Tom and Isabel, and watching the trailer brings all the painful emotion of the book right back. The film directed by Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance also stars Rachel Weisz, the beautiful score is from my composer crush Alexandre Desplat with cinematography from Adam Arkapaw who also shot Macbeth.

The Light Between Oceans doesn’t get released here in the states until September 2 and not until January 2017 for the UK!!  In the meantime Ill be watching the trailer over and over again. I know Im gushing, but talk about being Hollywoods royal couple (and yeah, I know neither one is from Hollywood); the pair has an immeasurable amount of talent. Vikander practically steals The Danish Girl from Eddie Redmayne and his Steve Jobs is a work of art. Cant wait for this one! 
Please, please read the book. It’s simply unforgettable.
Watch the trailer courtesy of The Guardian.

Costume Design: #Oscar Nominated Designs of Sandy Powell for Carol

If life is fair—and I’m not at all sure that it is—costume designer Sandy Powell will walk onto the stage Sunday night and accept an Oscar for her work on Carol. Although it’s possible she could take the win for Cinderella, her gorgeous take on early 1950’s fashion on the sidewalks of New York seems more likely. Either way, she’s dressing her muse, Cate Blanchett; Powell’s designs for Blanchett in The Aviator earned Powell one of her three Oscar wins out of a dozen nominations.
Let’s take one more look at the costume design via Powell’s interviews with The Fashionista and The Wrap. 
Powell told The Fashionista that to help formulate the look for Cate Blanchett’s character she looked at a lot of fashion magazines, including vintage Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, from the actual period— the winter months of 1952 going into 1953 —  “and that pretty much that gave me all the shapes, all the color tones, everything that I needed.”  
VOGUE AD: 1952

“Carol is particularly interesting because it is 1952, and 1952 is not the Fifties people think of because it still looks like the Forties. It is a transitional period so the silhouette was going from the wide-shouldered look of the Forties to the more streamlined look of the Fifties, so it was really really exciting to do”  

“I looked at the specific fashion photographers like Gordon Parks, Clifford Coffin and Cecil Beaton, and if you pick up any magazine from 1952, that is the silhouette you will see. In order to create that silhouette, I had to start with the undergarments. That's not Cate’s natural silhouette — she doesn't have pointed bosoms [laughs]. Believe it or not, a lot of the jacket shapes are actually padded over the hips to give that hip shape and the small waist and the bras provide that shape of the bosom. So you create the silhouette from the foundation garments and build the clothing over the top.” 
Powell designed a look for Cate Blanchett to highlight Carol’s wealth, she wanted the clothes to “place her in her world” of privilege. “But I also wanted to use a paler palette for her–she doesn’t ever wear black or anything too dark. 

When you see the Carol and Therese first meet in the toy section of the department store where Therese works, it's almost love at first sight. What went into choosing the wardrobe pieces for that important moment?

For Carol, I wanted very specifically to have [her wear] something that would stand out from everybody else [in the department store] without looking like she wandered into the wrong shop. The fur coat was completely normal for the period and that's one of the things that came directly from the book. In the script, she's seen wearing the fur. But the color of the fur to me was really crucial in that I wanted a fur that was a slightly unusual color. It's pale, it's not a normal darker brown, and I think there's something rather luxurious and sophisticated about a pale color fur and [it also goes] with [Blanchett's] blonde coloring. Then I used the coral color for the scarf and the hat to be seen against that fur from the other side of the room. 

The leather gloves that Carol leaves at the department store counter for Therese to return leads to their developing relationship. The gloves are a pivotal plot point...

Yeah, the gloves are a key, key feature. And the gloves are tonally the same color as the taupe dress Carol wears underneath [the fur]. She does have a pair of coral gloves that she wears later and I was toying with the idea of using those, but then I thought that would be too obvious. I don't know why. Maybe I should have used the coral, but we used the taupe, which were just expensive-looking gloves.
Carol looks so put together and her jewelry and accessories are so impeccably matched. Where did you find those pieces?
I made the scarves and the hats. The scarves I dyed because I wanted that specific coral color and then they matched [Carol's] nails and lipstick. Her jewelry was loaned from various estate jewelry [collections, plus] Fred Leighton and Van Cleef & Arpels lent us pieces. All her shoes are made by Ferragamo based on their original 1950s and 1940s shapes and original patterns. I bought vintage bags from the period as well.

For Therese, she looked ‘a little bit at fashion, but she’s not very fashionable. [I tried] to find pictures of real people, real young women, students and arty types in the street.’ 

As Powell told the Wrap ‘she looked for clothing that leaned to dark colors and wouldn’t have cost a lot of money. “She’s a shopgirl, probably recently out of art school — she dresses practically, for comfort, but with a touch of bohemian-ness. 
And then at the end of the film, when she gets a good job, I assumed that she spent her first wage packet on a new outfit.”
Sandy Powell competes against herself for Cinderella, Paco Delgado for his stunning transformative work in The Danish Girl (we looked at that here), Jacqueline West for The Revenant and Jenny Beavan for Mad Max: Fury Road.

If you were a member of the Academy, who would you vote for?

Here’s another look at Cinderella.

Amy Adams to star as Camille in television adaptation of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

July 12, 2012. That’s when we first heard that the screen rights to Gillian Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects had been optioned. I don’t know why I’m surprised but I remained constantly baffled at the number of times we read about a novel being adapted and then fizzle out and fade away. Sharp Objects is back, this time not as a movie but as a television series. It sounds like all the players are in place so it’s really happening. It’s been so long, I had to go back and read my own take on the book to remember exactly what the book was about and what I found exciting about it. It’s the protagonist, Camille, a flawed female reporter, as interesting, perhaps more interesting than the crime she’s investigating. We’ve just learned she’ll be played by Amy Adams who also takes Executive Producer credit.  Who better to play a reporter than Lois Lane herself?
The story of a reporter who, after a hospital stay for cutting herself, returns home to cover the murder of a couple of young girls, the series will be directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyer's Club, Wild)—who has just wrapped the HBO series Big Little Lies starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon—from a script by Marti Noxon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Fright Night). Lets hope this one fares better than the Dark Places adaptation of Flynns book which despite starring Charlize Theron, barely made it out of the gate. Somewhere in my fuzzy memory bank I believe I found this to be a superior book; its no Gone Girl but I enjoyed it.  

Have you read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn? What do you think of Amy Adams in the key role?

Le Danish Girl: The French trailer for The Danish Girl starring Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne & Alicia Vikander

How do you say The Danish Girl in French? I dunno but it doesnt seem to matter. The French marketing for the film has taken out the The but have made no effort to translate the title into English. 

I’ve got the trailer, en français, below, to be honest just because I love to hear that gorgeous language coming out of their mouths.
No matter what language, The Danish Girl (or Danish Girl) is a lush & moving period drama with a timely transgender story. Both Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander have been nominated. Redmayne, for Best Actor, but he will likely lose out to Leonardo DiCaprio who has already won this year’s Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA awards and others, while Vikander is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category. She #1 was incredible #2 should have been in the Best Actress Category—rather than supporting—and #3 will likely lose out to Kate Winslet, also incredible in Steve Jobs.

The film is also nominated for production design—check out my earlier post on the work of Eve Stewart. The Danish Girl is also nominated for the transformative costume design of Paco Delgado. Read the post on his costume design here.

Enjoy the trailer en français, and if you amor the français, check out my friend Paulita’s Dreaming of France meme where France is the topic of the day.

The Danish Girl: OSCAR-nominated Production Design by Eve Stewart #SlackerSunday

Eve Stewart and her set decorator Michael Standish are aptly nominated for an Oscar for their work on the gorgeous looking The Danish Girl.  Today’s #SlackerSunday video is via Variety and their ‘artisans’ series. This one looks at how Stewart brought the emotion of the characters to life on the screen. In the video, the designer references the painter Hammershoi, how his pale greys and blues influenced the color palette. Take a look at some of Hammershoi’s work in the post I wrote about the cinematography of The Danish Girl from Danny Cohen who also shot Room

In another life I would love to be a production designer. It’s probably the behind the scenes element of film I find the most exciting.  Imagine creating a whole little world through the use of color and furnishings, deciding on imposing walls and dark colors to create claustrophobic feelings or light, bright spaces full of windows and light to endow the film with an openness, a desire for adventure. Stewart and Standish are in the running with the designers of Mad Max, Bridge of Spies, The Martian and The Revenant. For me its The Danish Girl all the way.

Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp & Kate Winslet: #SaturdayMatinee

PAN, the latest big splashy version of the Peter Pan story bombed but don’t blame J.M. Barrie! His Peter Pan will live forever. As may today’s Saturday Matinee:  Finding Neverland. Starring Johnny Depp as Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie — a character at the opposite end of the spectrum of his currently-in-theaters Whitey Bulgar role— Roger Ebert called the movie surprisingly moving’ and gave the film three and a half stars out of four. 
Im hoping to get out to see Depp in Black Mass this weekend and find a way to squeeze in Finding Neverland too. Good luck with that! the things I have to do snicker at me.

The Peter Pan Syndrome  

In addition to Depp, we have a venerable cast including Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie. We also have Barries’ muse(s): Kate Winslet as the mother of four boys, one of them a young Freddie Highmore in a heartbreaking performance as Peter. Barrie becomes besotted with the entire family, ignoring his own wife as he finds a way to stay in childhood forever. Barrie is the original Puer aeternus, in pop psychology terms, a socially immature man suffering from ‘the Peter Pan syndrome’. Like the ToysRus kids, the Puer aeternus won’t grow up. Like Peter Pan and the lost boys, they prefer to stay young, unfettered, to live forever. Try as we might, we can’t live forever, but through the power of his imagination and his own yearning to return to the magical place of childhood, J.M. Barrie found a story that will.


Finding Neverland received 7 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and a Best Actor nom for Johnny. Depp had been nominated the year before for his work on Pirates of the Caribbean. That was before he went completely over the top and we were still a little in love with his mad, staggering Captain Jack Sparrow. Depp lost out to Sean Penn in Mystic River that year, and the following year, in 2005, Jamie Foxx took the trophy home for the Ray Charles biopic. The Best Picture went to Million Dollar Baby. 
Finding Neverland did win for its gorgeous musical score. The costumes by Alexandra Byrne are sumptuous and spot on and duly nominated but Sandy Powell, the costume designer for Cate Blanchett in Cinderella and this year’s Carol, won that year for her work in The Aviator. As gifted a designer as Byrne is, the 3 time Oscar-winning Powell is hard to beat.
Let’s watch the trailer. 

Are you crying too? Finding Neverland is available to stream this Saturday afternoon on Netflix, Amazon, Google-Play and Vudu. 

First published on 9/26/2015

Despite the Falling Snow: My take on the book by Shamim Sarif

Now that Ive read Shamim Sarif's Despite the Falling Snow, Im looking more forward than ever to the film. Directed by the author, the story features Katya—played by Rebecca Ferguson in the movie—a female spy in Cold War Moscow who steals secrets for the Americans from an idealistic Russian politician—all the while falling in love with him. The nuanced writing allows the reader to see Katya’s guilt and hesitation at having to choose between betraying her own values and the man she loves along with the anxiety and second guessing that accompany her agonizing decisions. It’s an inside look not often revealed in typical novels in the spy genre.

There are several layers of plot. Katya and the younger Alexander’s story (Ferguson and Sam Reid in the film) revealed in flashbacks, and the life Alexander leads many years later. A successful food entrepreneur in Boston the older Alexander (Charles Dance) has a mature relationship to ponder and explore, with a woman named Estelle, married, about my age, a striving writer. 
Charles Dance as the older Alexander. With “Estelle”?

While I fell in love with the love story between Katya and young Alexander, I related to Estelle. Her appreciation for this man that stirs up something new in her, while comfortably ensconced—she might say entombed—in a thirty year marriage is something most women married for a lifetime might feel. I’m lucky my husband appreciates and supports my writing but Estelle’s spouse is dismissive of her efforts; it’s easy to see where how this intriguing supportive man would be a temptation. There is no Estelle listed on the cast list but I don’t think the older woman has been kicked to the curb; I think she just has a new name.

The older Alexander also has a beautiful niece Lauren, a dead-ringer for Katya, also played by Rebecca Ferguson in the film. 

In the novel, Lauren begins a same sex relationship. You’ll have to read the book to see with who, I’m not going to tell you everything. It’s a relationship that Sarif doesn’t dwell on, there are no salacious sex scenes, no anxiety-ridden discussions. Rather she throws it out as a subplot, a minor chord, but one that plays throughout. At one point in the novel, the father of the other young woman asks very matter of factly “So you like this girl?” the way we typically see a concerned dad saying “So you like this boy?” A good, straightforward understanding and honest portrayal of the world as it is. 
For this reader, the mix of suspense and relationships made for a great read, and I’m eager to see how the author transferred the characters and their story to the screen. The film opens in the UK on April 22 and is beginning to get slated into US film festivals, including the L.A. Women’s International Film Fest here in my home town on March 24. I recommend reading the book first.
“It’s a funny thing,” he says. “Even though it has been such a long time, sometimes I can still remember how I felt in those weeks after I first met Katya. The excitement, the dizziness, the agony of meeting the person you had never believed existed. It is a wonderful thing to be truly in love. He looks up. That is what I remember most about my wife. How very much I adored her. 
That much is true, he thinks. All the rest; the betrayals, the nightmares, the waking horrors, the guilt; he has packed these away over the course of the years, packed it all tightly into one corner of his mind. No regrets. About anything.
pg 17, Despite the Falling Snow

Have you seen the trailer?

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