> Chapter1-Take1: August 2017

Lady of the Flies? New all female version of Lord of the Flies film in the works #book2movies

I have to admit, the idea that two men are writing an all-female screen adaptation of Lord of the Flies has me feeling a trifle icky. Since Warner Bros is going to the trouble of making an female-centric iteration, wouldn’t you think they’d look to a woman to write the screenplay? Who knows better than we do just how vicious girls can be? Ask Tina Fey, she knows, that’s why she wrote Mean Girls. Ask Margaret Atwood. And ask yourself the big question, will we still call the movie Lord of the Flies or will it be Lady of the Flies? Inquiring minds want to know. But seriously, are you annoyed, angry or philosophical about the fact that Hollywood still very much belongs to the old boy's network? Or is this much ado about nothing?

Scott McGehee and David Siegel—who wrote What Maisie Knew starring Julianne Moore & Alexander Skarsgaard together, and which I happened to love—will write and direct the reimagined story of a group of pre-pubescent boarding school girls who turn into savages. I don't think a woman necessarily has to write a woman's story but if we're all agreed we're looking for more representation of women in film, wouldn't this be a good place to start?

Remember the book by William Golding?

Here’s how the 1950’s era novel is summed up these days:

Before The Hunger Games there was Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.

Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.

Who on earth will they cast as the girl versions of Piggy and Jack, Ralph, Roger, Simon and Peter? 

I’m thinking Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) might play a part. 

Onata Aprile who played Maisie in What Maisie Knew

Mackenzie Hancsicsak from This is Us. 

Amybeth McNulty from Anne of Green Gables

Who else? Or will the new screenplay break from tradition and go with older girls? 

Shall we take a look at the trailer for the 1963 version of The Lord of the Flies directed by Peter Brook, and nominated back in the day for the Palme d’or?

Year By the Sea starring Karen Allen: Read it Before You See It #book2movies

Yesterday, doing some research for the September movies based on books, I discovered what looks like a small gem. While it played a host of film festivals last year to great reviews, it sounds to me like a little gem that deserves more light shined on it. A Year by the Sea is based on the memoir by Joan Anderson, A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman. It’s the bit following the colon that tells you everything you need to know. To live a full, complete life we need to acknowledge that we never stop growing, learning. We are never done, life is a process and to feel vital and truly alive, we need to stay fully engaged in that process. The question is how.

The film stars Karen Allen as Anderson as Joan, a novelist who after 30 years of marriage chooses not to follow her husband to his newest job but instead to retreat to a family cottage on Cape Cod and re-examine her life. 

I’ve started Anderson’s memoir which begins with this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke in Letter to a Young Poet.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.
Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything.                                      
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.

Here’s the lowdown on Year by the Sea from Penguin Random House:
An entrancing memoir of how one woman's journey of self-discovery gave her the courage to persevere in re-creating her life.  
Life is a work in progress, as ever-changing as a sandy shoreline along the beach. During the years Joan Anderson was a loving wife and supportive mother, she had slowly and unconsciously replaced her own dreams with the needs of her family. With her sons grown, however, she realized that the family no longer centered on the home she provided, and her relationship with her husband had become stagnant. Like many women in her situation, Joan realized that she had neglected to nurture herself and, worse, to envision fulfilling goals for her future. As her husband received a wonderful job opportunity out-of-state, it seemed that the best part of her own life was finished. Shocking both of them, she refused to follow him to his new job and decided to retreat to a family cottage on Cape Cod. 
At first casting about for direction, Joan soon began to take pleasure in her surroundings and call on resources she didn't realize she had. Over the course of a year, she gradually discovered that her life as an "unfinished woman" was full of possibilities. Out of that magical, difficult, transformative year came A Year by the Sea, a record of her experiences and a treasury of wisdom for readers.

I’ve been thinking about the book and the movie and as I indicated yesterday, I hope that it finds its audience. I suspect it’s aimed primarily at women like me—women who have been married forever, who’ve raised their kids into happy adulthood and while they may have work that satisfies, too often they merely have jobs. Empty nesters who may find that while empty nests are much cleaner and tidier than they ever were before, those nests are much quieter too. And in that quiet the sound of ‘what next?’ ricocheting throughout the house can become quite blaring. I’m determined to make my last chapter count.

I plan to finish Anderson’s book before I see the movie when it comes out here in Los Angeles on September 15th, maybe even get my take on the book written up. That shouldn’t be a problem since Anderson’s memoir is just a couple of hundred pages. As far as seeing the movie goes, I’m lucky because here in L.A. I can choose between the Laemmle theaters in West Los Angeles or Encino. It’s also playing in Pasadena. Check the Year by the Sea website to see if the film is scheduled for a theater near you.
The movie was written by composer Alexander Janko who after a long career making music for the movies (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Girl on the Train), makes his directorial debut here. Naturally Janko does the music too.

Let’s watch the trailer with Karen Allen—who has aged beautifully since she lit up the screen and Indiana Jones’ eyes in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark—as Joan, S. Epatha Merkerson as an old friend and Celia Imrie as a new one. Michael Christofer plays her husband with Yannick Bisson as the sexy local fisherman that catches her eye.

Gimme a holler if you’ve read the book or are planning on reading it before you see Year by the Sea. Let’s compare notes!

September: 9 Books to Watch this Month

September 1: Tulip Fever

Set in 17th Holland, an artist falls for a young married woman he’s hired to paint. Stars Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Jack O’Connell and Cara Delivigne. Directed by Justin Chadwick from a script by the acclaimed Tom Stoppard. 

Here’s my take on the book, Tulip Fever, by Deborah Moggach.  Spoiler Alert: I didn't much care for the book but I think the movie looks great. Don't take it from me though, the movie wrapped years ago but the release date has been pushed and pushed with re-edits rumored. Basically, it may be awful, awful but seeing as who is in it, I know I want to see it anyway. Watch the Tulip Fever trailer.

September 7: It

Honestly? I’m not going to see this movie. At least not in theaters. I would likely scream and embarrass myself and my husband. 

The logline is deceptively simple ... but we all know clowns are scary as your worst nightmare: 
A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

Because it’s Stephen King there are loads of commentaries out there. Again, honestly, I have nothing to add. Check out moviepilot.com for a complete look at the book & earlier tv adaptation to this newest iteration.

September 8: Year by the Sea

Hoping to reclaim who she was before marriage and children, an empty nester retreats to Cape Cod where she embarks upon a quest to set herself free.

Here’s one for all us old broads out there. Seriously, who else cares about a woman over sixty finding herself?  The same people who cared about the movie Hello, My Name is Doris, women my age, that’s who. The movie is based on the New York Times bestselling memoir of the same name by Joan Anderson. Starring Karen Allen (she’s actually a year older than me at 65!) with S. Epatha Merkerson (Law & Order, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med) and Celia Imrie (Second Best Marigold Hotel)—to know her is to love her—Year by the Sea seems tailor made for me. 

This resonates—because I’m one of the old broads the movie appeals to— but I’m happy to say, I didn’t have to retreat to my family cottage on Cape Cod to find myself. Mostly because as heavenly as that sounds, I am currently short of a family cottage in Cape Cod so I had to stay here in my L.A. apartment with my husband in residence. Which means I lacked, in real life anyway, any kind of romantic intrigue with a younger man. What I didn’t lack was unrest and a desire to make my life mean something, to find purpose and to remain relevant somehow. I do that through my writing which I mostly ignored while raising our son but returned to in earnest once he was grown. Besides what you read here, I have quite a few pieces of memoir over on SimCarter.com and I’m on the second draft of my first novel. OK, enough about me. The Year By the Sea got a very nice response when it played a host of small film festivals throughout 2016. 

September 8: The Limehouse Golem

A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times - the mythical so-called Golem - must be responsible.

As near as I can tell the 1994 book—Dan Leno & the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd—is out of print in hard copies but I found it at Barnes & Noble for my Nook. Oh, and don’t forget your local library. We still have libraries, don’t we?

Here’s a brief rundown on the story.
In this novel the light and the dark sides of 19th-century London flow into each other, attracting the attention of famous names such as Marx and Gissing, but also of less-well-known characters, who play a significant role in a tale that is a mixture of fable, adventure and Gothic comedy.

The cast of the film includes Billy Nighy, Eddie Marsan, Olivia Cooke, Douglas Booth and Sam Reid. Let’s watch the trailer and compare notes. Because it looks good to me!

September 15: Rebel in the Rye

I’ve been waiting for this movie since I first wrote about The Rebel in the Rye back in April of 2016. Based on the biography, J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski, I'm feeling like I should be reading not just the bio but Catcher in the Rye as well.  


Nicholas Hoult plays Salinger, on the cusp of genius, with Kevin Spacey as his mentor Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. Zooey Deutch takes on the role of the wild young sophisticated daughter of the acclaimed author Eugene O'Neill, Ooma, who had a rollicking romance with Salinger.

Take a look at the trailer

September 15: American Assasin

Mitch Rapp is a gifted college athlete who just wants retribution for the Pan Am Lockerbie attack. He trains six months intensely with other clandestine operatives, under CIA Operations Director Thomas Stansfield and protégé Irene Kennedy, to stop terrorists before they reach America. The assassin leaves a trail of bodies from Istanbul across Europe to Beirut, where he needs every ounce of skill and cunning to survive the war-ravaged city and its deadly terrorist factions.

Back in 2012 when the movie first started getting chatted about, Bruce Willis was in the convo, rumored to play the role taken by Michael Keaton. Dylan O’Brian is Mitch Rapp while Taylor Kitsch is Ghost and Sanaa Lathan plays the protege Irene. I gather author Vince Flynn has quite a following and for action adventure fans—not usually my cuppa—this sounds like a fun ride.

September 22: Victoria & Abdul

This isn’t the first time Judi Dench has played Queen Victoria —and some of you might be asking just how many movies about Victoria the world needs—but this is a story that has yet to be told. The story of the Queen in her later years as she strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim. A true story, the film is directed by Stephen Frears from a screenplay by Lee Hall (War Horse, Billy Elliot). The source material is the book of the same name by Shrabani Bas. 
The tall, handsome Abdul Karim was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. An assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, he suddenly found himself a personal attendant to the Empress of India herself. Within a year, he was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen's teacher, or Munshi, and instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs. Devastated by the death of John Brown, her Scottish ghillie, the queen had at last found his replacement. But her intense and controversial relationship with the Munshi led to a near-revolt in the royal household. Victoria & Abdul examines how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the empire, and his influence over the queen at a time when independence movements in the sub-continent were growing in force. Yet, at its heart, it is a tender love story between an ordinary Indian and his elderly queen, a relationship that survived the best attempts to destroy it.

September 22: Stonger

Here's another film based on a biography. Stronger stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiany Maslany and looks like a bring--hankies affair.
Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

September 27: Our Souls at Night

How could I forget Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Our Souls at Night, based on the book by Kent Haruf. Rom com maestros Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the writing team that gave us 500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars and the upcoming Richard Linklater-directed Where’d You Go Bernadette wrote the screenplay. While most of their work has been directed towards young love, the rom-com genre their forte, the pair works in the deeper, more nuanced territory than the rom-com label implies. Redford and Fonda have a long history together; Redford told THR ‘‘I wanted to do another film with her before I died.’’ 

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf's inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis's wife. His daughter lives hours away, her son even farther, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? As Addie and Louis come to know each other better--their pleasures and their difficulties--a beautiful story of second chances unfolds, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer's enduring contribution to American literature.

Here's the trailer. 

Whoa! September has so many movies based on books, the month is beginning to feel like back-to-school time! Tulip Fever, Rebel in the Rye, Victoria & Abdul and Year by the Sea are high on my own list. What’s on your required viewing list?

Updated to include Our Souls at Night.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin: My take on the book #book2movies

The Mountain Between Us stars Idris Elba & Kate Winslet

There’s no suspense, no drama at the beginning of The Mountain Between Us; you know right from the get go there’s been a small plane crash. The suspense comes every page after that crash. From the question of how the two survivors can possibly fight and find their way out of the isolated harshness of the wintry landscape they’ve been thrown into. The drama comes from their lives, where they come from, how they relate to each other and what they learn about themselves and each other as they battle the elements.

He’s—luckily—an orthopedic surgeon on his way home from a medical conference which he combined with a little mountain climbing vacation. All that gear and knowledge will come in handy. She’s a beautiful, athletic, independent, modern young woman on her way home for her wedding rehearsal dinner who finds herself completely dependent on this man she has only just met. If ever I am stuck in the snowy mountains, miles from anywhere, I’d want to be stuck with a man as emotionally strong and resourceful as Ben. On a personal note, I couldn’t help comparing Ben to my own husband, wondering how we’d do in similar circumstances and while we might not know too much about surviving in the snow and ice, he’s a McGuyver kind of guy, and that’s the kind of resourcefulness you need to survive anything.

The story unfolds through Ben’s eyes. We know his thoughts, his feelings, in part because throughout the book, he speaks into a recording device, sharing his experience with his wife Rachel. The author goes into great detail sharing their story, going right back to when the two met in high school when they were both avid runners. 

While I loved getting to see inside his head, at the same time, I found myself wishing we knew a little more about Ashley. What we do know about her and the young man she’s engaged to are mostly the snippets she shares with Ben.

It really is his story which is emotionally gripping, and our desire to see both these people make it out alive that keeps us turning the pages. While there were times I found Ben’s recollections and reflections a trifle too cloying—the pedestal he puts Rachel on is very high—and the couples’ conversations he shares having more in common with James Patterson’s saccharine style than I happen to appreciate, I honestly couldn’t put the book down, staying up until two in the morning until I finished it, and crying my little eyes out.

If you haven’t read it, I don’t want to tell you too much—and I’d advise you NOT to read the summary on Amazon, etc—so the story can unfold organically.  

Judging from the pictures I’ve seen, the film takes some liberties with the story. And the casting is probably not exactly what Martin pictured as he wrote the book—Ashley is closer to thirty than Kate Winslet’s forty, and there’s not a thing to suggest the doctor is black. On the other hand, how refreshing, to depict an age appropriate on screen couple, the color of their skin incidental. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

I don’t do ratings but if I did, I give it 3.75 snowy mountain peaks.

The Russia House starring Sean Connery ... [Bond, James Bond just turned 87!] #SaturdayMatinee #book2movies

Updated: August 26th, Sean Connery turned 87 yesterday, August 25th. If you were ever planning on Russia House starring Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, this seems like as good an occasion as any.

The Russia House seems like the perfect Saturday Matinee movie. It’s not for the awards it won although it did win a few. Michelle Pfeiffer was nominated for a Golden Globe, the National Society of Film Critics gave both the screenplay by Tom Stoppard and the cinematography by Ian Baker 2nd place wins, and director Fred Schepisi was nominated for a Golden Bear. But that’s about it. To be frank, it’s not a highly acclaimed movie. 

Michelle Pfeiffer & Sean Conner in Russia House

I’ll be straight with you. Roger Ebert, who I put a lot of stock in, only gave it two stars in his 1990 review. If I quoted the first line of that review, you wouldn’t bother with the movie at all. The New York Times was even harsher. They say ‘the narrative structure is a mess.’ From Tom Stoppard, no less!

But wait. It’s Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer together. Watch the trailer below. See the disheveled, drunken, bumbling British book publisher transformed by love. Set the story in today’s environment of heightened tension with Russia and I think you can see its’ appeal. 

It’s right there in Ebert’s review
‘‘And so what develops is one of those infinitely gentle, sad le Carre plots in which men who have worked too long within the mole tunnels of intelligence come out into the sunlight and stand, blinking and disoriented, in the glare of beauty, romance, truth and fresh air.

The Russia House also stars Klaus Maria Brandauer, Roy Scheider, James Fox and John Mahoney. If you’re brave enough, you can watch The Russia House on iTunes, Vudu and Amazon for $2.99. Let’s see how it’s aged! 

Oh, and one more plus, the bittersweet soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith is the Oscar-winning composers’ personal favorite and features the work of Branford Marsalis.  That has to be worth something. 

About the book

John le Carre’s bestselling classic is a timeless spy thriller about the Iron Curtain and the tense relationship between Great Britain and Russia.

In Moscow, a sheaf of military secrets changes hands. If it arrives at its destination, and if its import is understood, the consequences could be cataclysmic. Along the way it has an explosive impact on the lives of three people: a Soviet physicist burdened with secrets; a beautiful young Russian woman to whom the papers are entrusted; and Barley Blair, a bewildered English publisher pressed into service by British Intelligence to ferret out the document's source. A magnificent story of love, betrayal, and courage, The Russia House catches history in the act. For as the Iron Curtain begins to rust and crumble, Blair is left to sound a battle cry that may fall on deaf ears.

Mary Queen of Scots: Saoirse Ronan & Margot Robbie Rule the Day! #book2movies

Saoirse Ronan plays the title role in Mary, Queen of Scots seen here in the first official portrait released by the production currently shooting in England and Scotland. But it was the unofficial photograph from the set (below) that had fans freaking out; Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I. Robbie has gone ginger, with red curly hair, her skin is pale and pocked, her nose a bit beakish, for the role. I say Kudos. Robbie is proving she'll happily make a physical transformation if that's what it takes to play a part. It’s all part of the actor’s toolkit. (Ask Johnny Depp)

With a cast that includes David Tennant (Broadchurch, Dr. Who) Jack Lowden (War & Peace, Dunkirk, Tommy's Honor) Joe Alwyn (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, The Sense of an Ending) and Guy Pearce, the film was scripted by Beau Willimon (House of CardsThe Ides of March) based on the biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy. The movie won’t be ready anytime soon which gives us all plenty of time to read the 600 page book. 

And for all of us wanting to see more women in film, the project is being directed by National Theatre director Josie Rourke making her feature film directorial debut.

Here’s the official word on the movie:
Mary, Queen of Scots explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart. Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth 1.  Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones – and change the course of history.

And the book:
A long-overdue and dramatic reinterpretation of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots by one of the leading historians at work today.She was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, and Queen of France at sixteen years; at eighteen she ascended the throne that was her birthright and began ruling one of the most fractious courts in Europe, riven by religious conflict and personal lust for power. She rode out at the head of an army in both victory and defeat; saw her second husband assassinated, and married his murderer. At twenty-five she entered captivity at the hands of her rival queen, from which only death would release her.The life of Mary Stuart is one of unparalleled drama and conflict. From the labyrinthine plots laid by the Scottish lords to wrest power for themselves, to the efforts made by Elizabeth's ministers to invalidate Mary's legitimate claim to the English throne, John Guy returns to the archives to explode the myths and correct the inaccuracies that surround this most fascinating monarch. He also explains a central mystery: why Mary would have consented to marry - only three months after the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley - the man who was said to be his killer, the Earl of Bothwell. And, more astonishingly, he solves, through careful re-examination of the Casket Letters, the secret behind Darnley's spectacular assassination at Kirk o'Field. With great pathos, Guy illuminates how the imprisoned Mary's despair led to a reckless plot against Elizabeth - and thus to her own execution.The portrait that emerges is not of a political pawn or a manipulative siren, but of a shrewd and charismatic young ruler who relished power and, for a time, managed to hold together a fatally unstable country. MY HEART IS MY OWN is a compelling work of historical scholarship that offers radical new interpretations of an ancient story.

Find out what fellow Anglophiles are up to at Joy Weese Moll’s weekly meme.

Where the Boys Are: On Location with the Ultimate Spring Break Movie #book2movies

The Ultimate Spring Break Movie

This ought to separate the men from the boys ... and the girls from the er, older ladies. I was too young to see Where the Boys Are, the quintessential spring break movie, when it came out in 1960 (nope, I'm not talking the eighties version with Lisa Hartman), but I saw it on the boob tube several times during a seminal time in my adolescence. Even if you've never heard of the movie, much less the novel by Glendon Swarthout—the same Glendon Swarthout who wrote The Homesman by the way... 

I betcha you’ve heard the song by Connie Francis. No? Well have a listen on Youtube along with the opening credits and then come on back and watch the vintage trailer. 

Both Swarthout's book and the film were huge hits, basically putting Fort Lauderdale on the map. You can stream Where the Boys Are on Amazon, Vudu and GooglePlay.

Including Where the Boys Are and The Homesman,  Swarthout wrote 17 books before he died in 1992. Most of them were westerns, several of which were adapted for the screen, including The Shootist and Bless the Beasts and the Children.  Lots of you have read my post about the Costume Design from The Homesman

I'd totally forgotten that Where the Boys Are is set in Fort Lauderdale, spring break capitol of the USA! Good thing Spring Break is over because hubby and I are flying in to Fort Lauderdale en route to the Keys this weekend! We plan on stopping by the corner of Las Olas Blvd and North Fort Lauderdale Beach Drive where the above scene was shot; hopefully it won't be full of college kids. 

We also want to hit the Wreck Bar, a kitschy 'dive bar' located inside the Yankee Clipper Hotel at the south end of Ft. Lauderdale Beach. According to the Rum Connection, the Wreck Bar is one of the last remaining bars to feature mermaid shows —apparently that was a 'thing' in the 50's, and hasn't changed all that much since its appearance in Where the Boys Are. In the film some of the kids fall into the pool and, you guessed it, hilarity ensues. While the movie is billed as a comedy, and set in a time when women went to college mostly to find a man, there's a darker side to it as well. I won't spoil it for you but it's a side of male/female relationships that still exists.

Here's that vintage trailer I promised you. Enjoy.

originally published 4/23/2015

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