> Chapter1-Take1: May 2016

Big Little Lies Image Gallery [Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman] #book2movie

Back in January we saw some of the first pictures of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley shooting Big Little Lies up in the Monterey Penninsula. As disappointed—and annoyed—as I am that Big Little Lies based on the book by Australian writer Liane Moriarty has left its Australian roots behind, I can't deny that section of the coastline of my state of California is an area of jaw-dropping beauty, one that television audiences will love seeing on screen.

The HBO series set for this fall is back in the Monterey area and local media shared some new images. 

Trailer for The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts & Selena Gomez: Based on a book by Jonathan Evison

This is interesting to me, coming on the heels of Me Before You, another film about the relationship between a man confined to a wheelchair and the caregiver hired to look after him.  

The movie comes out—only on Netflix—on June 24;  Based on the novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, the movie looks irreverant and moving. 

The Fundamentals Of Caring is a Netflix original starring Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts and Selena Gomez with Jennifer Ehle as the boy's mother.

Here's the rundown on the novel

For Ben Benjamin, all has been lost--his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. Hoping to find a new direction, he enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he will learn to take care of people with disabilities. He is instructed about professionalism, about how to keep an emotional distance between client and provider, and about the art of inserting catheters while avoiding liability. But when Ben is assigned his first client--a tyrannical nineteen-year-old boy named Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy--he soon discovers that the endless service checklists have done nothing to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated teenager who has an ax to grind with the whole world.

Over time, the relationship between Ben and Trev, which had begun with mutual misgivings, evolves into a close friendship, and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur. The bond between them strengthens as they embark on a road trip to visit Trev’s ailing father--a journey rerouted by a series of bizarre roadside attractions that propel them into an impulsive adventure disrupted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark. By the end of that journey, Trev has had his first taste of love, and Ben has found a new reason to love life.
Bursting with energy and filled with moments of absolute beauty, this big-hearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises as well as what it takes to truly care for another human being.
What do you think? I need to read the book first but I wonder, at what point do disabled people say, hey you authors, stop using us as characters to write your inspirational books for the able-bodied out there. Especially if they don't get it right. If you're writing about a character with a specific syndrome, it's vital to depict it honestly without whitewashing the real difficulties of living with the disease. It sounds like Evison does get it right, fingers crossed the filmmakers do too.

A look at Evison's trailer for his own book is probably a pretty good indicator for the kind of approach the author takes to the subject. Brash, funny. I'd like to read this author's take on these people's lives.

Me Before You: Protesters at the premiere label the movie a "disability snuff movie"

Me Before You had its London premiere this week, an event that brought out protesters and activists furious with the film's message, a message they say, shouts that anyone in a wheel chair is better off dead. 

Calling the movie 'a disability snuff movie', activists are upset at what they say is an inaccurate portrayal of life as a disabled person. While Will Traynor (Sam Claflin)—paralyzed after an accident— encourages Louisa (Emilia Clarke) to grow and move out of her comfort zone, to #LiveBoldly (the movie's hashtag)—Will (spoiler alert) ultimately chooses to end his life and leave the young woman he loves behind.

Ellen Clifford, a member of Not Dead Yet told BuzzFeed News
“The message of the film is that disability is tragedy and disabled people are better off dead. It comes from a dominant narrative carried by society and the mainstream media that says it is a terrible thing to be disabled.”
It is a difficult story with Will's decision leaving readers of the book devastated. Actress Emilia Clarke answered the protests by emphasizing this is one character's reaction to his situation, one couple's story, not an entire indictment on the life of all disabled people.
“I think that the movie is a Hollywood movie, but I think that what we are showing is something that we took a lot of care over, with Jojo being there as well, because she wrote the book first, so that’s the story that we were going off. We were very careful with how we wanted to present things. And we are showing a situation, we are not showing an opinion.”

The idea of a woman giving a man a shave is always sexy. Giving a man a bath, not so much.

What director Thea Sharrock 'showed' is also in question as the filmmaker doesn't depict some of the challenges many disabled people face in terms of dressing, bathing, etc. Michaela Hollywood, a member of the muscular dystrophy activist group "Trailblazers" wrote an essay in The Independent:
"The representation of life as a disabled person in Me Before You is a blurred reflection of the truth. Director Thea Sharrock said that she wanted to avoid portraying the realities of living with a disability in the film, such as being hoisted into a bath or being helped to clean, because she wanted to make Will’s disability “more normal”. In doing so, she strips the character and film of any real meaning.
Sharrock is right that disability needs to be normalised, but that will only happen when people like her stop leaving my reality on the cutting room floor."
You can see one of the protest groups and leader Liz Carr confront author Jojo Moyes on the Red Carpet, chanting Rights Not Tragedy at LifeNews.Com.

Me Before You opens this week on June 3rd. Having read the book, I'm curious to see for myself how the film handled the material. I'm also curious to see how the disability activists receive it. While I was one of those readers devastated by the ending of the book, I don't recall hearing a similar furor from the disabled community which makes me wonder whether, even with author Moyes writing the screenplay, the nuanced issues involved with Will's thought process about his life and his future, were left behind. 

James McAvoy & Alicia Vikander currently filming Submergence based on book by J.M. Ledgard

To be honest, I could care less if they never make another X Men movie. I'm just not at all interested. What I am interested in is what Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are up to on screen away from the blockbuster film franchise.

This year, for instance, I'm eagerly awaiting Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as a lighthouse keeper and his wife in the adaptation of M.L. Stedman's gorgeous book, The Light Between Oceans. That's coming out this September 2nd. Vikander is currently one of the most in-demand female actors.

Not to be outdone by his onscreen rival, James McAvoy is currently shooting a movie with Alicia Vikander too. The two are starring in Submergence based on the best selling book by J.M. Ledgard. Here's the lowdown on that:
In a room with no windows on the coast of Africa, an Englishman, James More, is held captive by jihadist fighters. Posing as a water expert to report on al-Qaeda activity in the area, he now faces extreme privation, mock executions, and forced marches through the arid badlands of Somalia. Thousands of miles away on the Greenland Sea, Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician, half-French, half-Australian, prepares to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor. She is obsessed with the life that multiplies in the darkness of the lowest strata of water.
Both are drawn back to the previous Christmas, and to a French hotel on the Atlantic coast, where a chance encounter on the beach led to an intense and enduring romance. For James, his mind escapes to utopias both imagined and remembered. Danny is drawn back to beginnings: to mythical and scientific origins, and to her own. It is to each other and to the ocean that they most frequently return: magnetic and otherworldly, a comfort and a threat.
I haven't read the book but the reviews are mostly of the outstanding "I read it through in one sitting" variety. Plenty of time to check it off your reading list; directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian and filmmaker Wim Wenders, Submergence doesn't hit theaters until sometime in 2017. 

Sam Claflin Chats about Playing Will Traynor in Me Before You

Let's look at Sam Claflin as Will Traynor, that master of the universe, cut down in his prime in Me Before You. Scroll down for the video of a promo interview he did for the film.

Where Louisa is naive, inexperienced, clueless, Will is worldly, sophisticated. Some would say jaded. Sam Claflin looks the part—tall, classically handsome—and in the trailers at least, seems to turn in a restrained, subtle performance in contrast to Emilia Clarke's more expressive Louisa—some reviewers are already saying she's overly expressive.

Me Before You: My Take on the Book by Jojo Moyes

Claflin is probably best known for playing Finnick Odair but watch for his star to rise with this one. Later this year Claflin takes the lead in Their Finest Hour and a Half opposite Gemma Arterton and he's currently filming My Cousin Rachel based on the Daphne DuMaurier novel along with Rachel Weisz and Holiday Grainger.

Jojo Moyes, the author of Me Before You also wrote the screenplay so I'm especially curious to see how the story works onscreen. The movie is directed by one of the few working female directors—Thea Sharrock, a stage director who makes her feature film debut here—and hits theaters on June 3rd.

Emilia Clarke talks Me Before You: Working with Sam Claflin, Thea Sharrock's debut & Jill Taylor's costume design

If you only know Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones—my experience—seeing her in the trailer for Me Before You is disconcerting. That stony, elegant face is suddenly moving all over the place, her eyebrows taking on a life of their own. With the Me Before You release date just about a week away I dug up this on set interview with Clarke, who claims Louisa is more like her than any other character she's played. Even to the point that people are confusing Clarke's own personal wardrobe with that crazy confluence of styles that Louisa wears in the film, wardrobe design from Jill Taylor! And those eyebrows? Those crazy caterpillars come naturally.

First look: Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty & the Beast Teaser Trailer

Fan art poster by FanPop.com

Disney, you big tease! The studio just released the first teaser trailer for Beauty & The Beast set to open March 17, 2017. That's a little over nine months from now which leads me to wonder, just how many little Belle's will be born when the film comes out?! Hopefully more Belles than little Beasts.

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beloved Disney cartoons AND Broadway productions ever, so odds are the first strains of the iconic score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice are as likely to stir your heartstrings as they did mine. 

The trailer gives us our first glimpse of Emma Watson as Beauty, along with a snippet of the vocal talents of Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Dan Stevens—surprisingly deep voice—as the Beast. I'm really curious to see how they look as their characters. Luke Evans as Gaston, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Audra McDonald with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts also star. Bill Condon directs.

Chances are that your child, grandchild or that of a friend performed in the play at the high school level. As a freshman my son auditioned for Lumiere but had to settle for playing a whisk. How about yours?

M.A.S.H. The Winner of the 1970 Palme D'Or #SaturdayMatinee

Since Cannes is still ongoing I thought I'd pick a previous Cannes winner for today's Saturday Matinee. M.A.S.H. took the award in 1970. 

The huge hit starred Elliot Gould as Trapper John, Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, Tom Skerritt as Duke with Rene Auberjonois as the hospital pastor,Robert Duvall as Frank Burns the sanctimonious married doctor and Sally Kellerman as Hot Lips Houlihan, Frank's mistress. The film was based on the novel by Richard Hooker.

Hooker—real name H.Richard Hornberger—was a M.A.S.H. surgeon and writer who had worked on his novel for over ten years, only to see it rejected time and again by publishers. After collaborating with an acclaimed sportswriter, the book was finally picked up by William Morrow in 1968, with the film rights being sold not long after. 

According to John Baxter in his book, A Pound of Paper, Confessions of a Book Addict, Hooker was furious for selling his rights for a few hundred dollars. Considering that none of Hooker's other books—also based on his M.A.S.H. experience got any traction, I can imagine his fury.

The movie, scripted by Ring Lardner, Jr. and directed by Robert Altman was a tremendous hit, a five time Academy Award nominee including Best Picture, Best Directing, Editing and a Best Supporting Actress nom for Sally Kellerman's Hot Lips. 

The movie won the screenwriter an Oscar for his adaptation of Hooker's book and in addition to the Palme D'Or at Cannes,  M.A.S.H. also took home the Golden Globe for Best Picture. They say movies based on books always increase the book's sales so I hope for Hooker's sake that some of the money Hollywood made from his work—remember there was the beloved TV series too—came back to him. A lesson to you writers out there, don't sell your film rights for a few hundred bucks. Hold out for a solid thou.

In his original 1970 review, Roger Ebert gave M.A.S.H. 4 stars:
'One of the reasons "MASH" is so funny is that it's so desperate. It is set in a surgical hospital just behind the front lines in Korea, and it is drenched in blood. The surgeons work rapidly and with a gory detachment, sawing off legs and tying up arteries, and making their work possible by pretending they don't care. And when they are at last out of the operating tent, they devote their lives to remaining sane.

Watch the trailer. Try not to laugh. Remember War is Hell! 

You can stream M.A.S.H. for $2.99 on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Vudu and YouTube.

Casting Call: A Wrinkle in Time

Here's an interesting Wrinkle. Director Ava DuVernay is looking to mix up the casting of Disney's adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time with some diverse faces. 

DuVernay, in New Orleans to work on Oprah Winfrey's television series, Queen Sugar, is looking for:

- A 14-year-old mixed-race girl of African-American and Caucasian descent. "This girl is questioning her life, her place in the world and her family," a casting description reads. "While troubled, she possesses untapped strength and intelligence which carries her through her search for truth."

- A 5-year-old mixed-race boy of African-American and Caucasian descent. "This boy is EXTREMELY intelligent and articulate. He is strong and loving and hypersensitive."

- A 16-year-old boy who is an ethnic minority. "He is a handsome, fit, caring young man who becomes a friend to the above two kids."

Director Ava DuVernay

These appear to be the character descriptions for the main characters: L'Engle's mousy-haired Meg Murray, her younger brother Charles and their friend Calvin, a redhead in the novel. I'm sure there are going to be some furious book fans who demand the actors look as much like the author's character descriptions as possible. It's difficult to take a beloved literary character and see them onscreen looking so utterly unlike the picture you drew in your imagination. It's like they're a different character completely. And that's the way it is. Cinematic characters are different characters completely from their literary origins. As much as we long for our favorite books to be transferred to the screen exactly as we saw them in our bookish imaginations, that's just not the reality. Whether they have red hair or black hair doesn't ultimately make a difference, whether they are caucasian, mixed race, hispanic, asian or black, it's what's inside a character that counts.

Clearly, the only way to address the lack of diversity in movies is to do what DuVernay is doing, cast people of color in place of white faces. 

Filming is supposed to begin this fall with a location yet to be finalized. Thoughts?

Margot Robbie joins Domhnall Gleeson in the Hundred Acre Woods: Goodbye Christopher Robin #book2movies

Margot Robbie and Domhnall Gleeson / About Time

Domhnall Gleeson, who disappointed his fans with his caricature of a villain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is working hard to redeem himself. I was hoping to see him reteam with Saoirse Ronan in the adaptation of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach but alas, that's not to be. Gleeson does have Goodbye Christopher Robin* in his very full pipeline. The Irish actor is set to play author A.A. Milne, with Margot Robbie in talks to play his wife, Daphne de Sélincourt. Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) will direct. 

It's hardly exaggeration to say everyone knows the story of Christopher Robin and his friend Winnie the Pooh playing together in the enchanted Hundred Acre Woods. Author AA Milne based the stories on his own son with illustrator E.H. Shepard—who had collaborated with Milne at Punch magazine—even drawing Christopher Robin as the spitting image of the little boy. 

Poor A.A. Milne. After he gave the world the iconic Pooh Bear the world would never take his other work seriously again. Poor Christopher Robin. The real life boy, as big a star as his father's literary creation, came to resent being the model for one of the most famous little boys in English lit. 

'It seemed to me, almost, that my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders' Christopher Milne

That's the complex relationship at the heart of the story.

I'm a bit of a sucker for these bio-pics that plumb the behind the scenes worlds of authors the way Finding Neverland did with J.M. Barrie, Saving Mr. Banks did with Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers and the upcoming Rebel in the Rye will with J.D. Salinger. 

I'm also excited at the direction Gleeson seems to be taking his career. His critically mocked Star Wars General Hux notwithstanding, he's a wonderful young actor who broke out for critics with last year's Ex Machina and who I've been watching since Anna Karenina, where he appeared alongside Alicia Vikander. They're both doing quite well, wouldn't you say?

*Fingers crossed this comes to fruition. The project was set to shoot back in 2011 with a completely different director, Nick Hurran, on board. 

Kitty: Chloe Sevigny Talks About her Directorial Debut #book2movies

Chloe Sevigny—who costars in Love & Friendship,  the adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan—is currently in Cannes where she is sharing her directorial debut. The actor, who has long had her eye on directing, has made a short based on Kitty, a story by Paul Bowles. 

Bowles, who was an expat American writer and composer who spent much of his life in Morocco and is best known for the book, The Sheltering Sky, also wrote some far out stories. Kitty, for example, is about a little girl who turns into a cat. 

Here's Chloe Sevigny chatting about her film.

Save the Date: Ewan McGregor's directorial debut American Pastoral set for October 21. #book2movies

I've just slotted American Pastoral into the guide to Movies Based on Books 2016 on its release date on October 21st. That happens to be the same day the new Jack Reacher movie starring Tom Cruise comes out. The big draw for American Pastoral is that besides being based on Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize winning 1997 novel, the movie is being directed by Ewan McGregor—a fairly gutsy and meaty debut. McGregor also stars as Seymour "Swede" Levov in the film, along with Dakota Fanning as the successful Jewish businessman's rebellious daugher.

I've only just begun the book, told from the perspective of Nathan Zuckerman, Roth's alter ego, played by David Strathairn in the movie. Rupert Evans plays Jerry Levov, Zuckerman's pal and Swede's younger brother. Jennifer Connelly is Swedes beauty contest winning wife.

D'you read it? 

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