> Chapter1-Take1: April 2018

Jessica Chastain Stars as Real Life Activist in Woman Walks Ahead

I wish I had more time for non-fiction! Take a look at the book behind the upcoming Jessica Chastain film Woman Walks Ahead also starring Sam Rockwell, Cieran Hinds, and Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull.

This book restores a little-known advocate of Indian rights to her place in history. In June 1889, a widowed Brooklyn artist named Catherine Weldon traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota Territory to help Sitting Bull hold onto land that the government was trying to wrest from his people. Since the Sioux chieftain could neither read nor write English, he welcomed the white woman’s offer to act as his secretary and lobbyist. Her efforts were counterproductive; she was ordered to leave the reservation, and the Standing Rock Sioux were bullied into signing away their land. But she returned with her teen-age son, settling at Sitting Bull’s camp on the Grand River. In recognition of her unusual qualities, Sitting Bull’s people called her Toka heya mani win, Woman Walking Ahead.

Predictably, the press vilified Weldon, calling her “Sitting Bull’s white squaw” and accusing her of inciting Sitting Bull to join the Ghost Dance religion then sweeping the West. In fact, Weldon opposed the movement, arguing that the army would use the Ghost dance as an excuse to jail or kill Sitting Bull. Unfortunately she was right.
Up to now, history has distorted and largely overlooked Weldon’s story. In retracing Weldon’s steps, Eileen Pollack recovers her life and compares her world to our own. Weldon’s moving struggle is a classic example of the misunderstandings that can occur when a white woman attempts to build friendships across cultural lines and assist the members of an oppressed minority fighting for their rights.

The logline

Catherine Weldon, a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull and becomes embroiled in the Lakota peoples' struggle over the rights to their land.

Woman Walks Ahead is due out June 29th. 

Big Little Lies: The Way We Watch It & Why

I ran across a video essay that my fellow Big Little Lies fans are going to adore. It’s a fascinating look at the editing process and the tools and techniques that help director Jean Marc-Vallee tell the story, allowing the audience to get into the characters’ heads. 

“Editing is the psychological guidance of the spectator.’’ 

The video creator Mzak posits that Big Little Lies is all about gossip and peeping. The idea that there’s always someone watching. 

But you don’t need me to tell you what you’ll see for yourself in this skillfully done 14 minute piece.  Watch!

Are you interested in these behind-the-scenes thought pieces? Would you like to see more? 
Lay it on me, I’m all ears.

On Chesil Beach Starring Saoirse Ronan: New Clip #book2movie

Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach

On Chesil Beach is due out in theaters here in the US on May 18th.

The film isn’t just about sexual repression, as you can see from the new official clip, the film—to a greater degree than the novel if I recall correctly—also looks at the question of class and those systems that have kept people in their rightful place. The question of marrying outside of your class was, and likely still is, in some quarters, of great import.

Coincidentally Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle is the next day, May 19. 

What a difference a few decades make! Once upon a time, Prince Harry would never have been permitted to marry Ms. Markle. Like Florence’s parents in this clip, his family would have issued quiet and not-so-quiet reminders that she was ‘working class’ not ‘one of them.’  

I am so glad the country, and the world, have changed so much. Not forgetting, of course, that ‘actress’ has long been a dirty word.

In fact, Duncan Larcombe, a former royal correspondent at British newspaper the Sun and author of a book about Prince Harry, told CNN

If she's perceived as behaving more like a celebrity actress than a royal bride, however, Larcombe believes Markle could face criticism.
‘‘I could see her being criticized for being too gushy, or, dare I say it, too American,” he says. ‘‘A Hollywood star is expected to be glitzy and glamorous, wealthy and indulgent.” But as a royal, ‘‘you've got all the fame but you’re not allowed to show the fortune.”
Let’s watch the trailer again.

Amy Adams to Play Anna Fox in The Woman in the Window #book2movie

We got excited a few weeks back when we first learned The Woman in the Window, the bestselling thriller by A.J. Finn, was being adapted for the screen. We’d barely begun to play the casting game, tossing out a couple of names for the role of Dr. Anna Fox, the agoraphobic child psychologist. Afraid to leave her home, Anna spends her days watching classic films, drinking and spying on the neighbors. 

The logline

An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors only to witness a disturbing act of violence.

Now we know Amy Adams will take the lead role and I couldn’t be more thrilled. She’s come a long way since her first foray into the business back in 1999 in Drop Dead Gorgeous. In less than twenty years Adams has ascended from day player to five-time Oscar-nominated power player. Take a look at her career highlights via The Hollywood Reporter.

What I love is that in her mid-thirties, Adams is an actor we’ll be watching for many years to come. This summer, she’ll be on our TV’s in Sharp Objects based on the book by Gillian Flynn and this winter we’ll see her as Lynn Cheney opposite Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Backseat

Joe Wright is directing The Woman in the Window from a script by Tracy Letts. As I’ve said before, I have my heart set on Timothee Chalamet to play the part of Ethan. Let the casting begin in earnest. Thanks to my long-distance twitter friend @irenehumpreysa for the heads up.

Juliet, Naked based on the book by Nick Hornby: Coming to the screen in August #book2movie

Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne & Chris O’Dowd in Juliet, Naked

I love me some Nick Hornby, and I have Juliet, Naked on the shelf so I have no idea why I haven’t read it yet AND why I missed the fact that Juliet, Naked is coming to the screen this summer. Starring Chris O’Dowd as music fan Duncan, Rose Byrne as his girlfriend, and Ethan Hawke as the once brilliant rocker, the film made its debut at Sundance to warmish—if not feverishly hot—reviews (hence, the lack of big buzz and how I missed it, I suppose). I like the writer, the cast, and the storyline so I’ll be watching it.

The logline

Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie, the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan, and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan's musical obsession.

I’m putting the novel on my ever expanding TBR pile with plans to complete the book before it hits the screens on August 17th.

About the book

Nick Hornby returns to his roots-music and messy relationships-in this funny and touching new novel which thoughtfully and sympathetically looks at how lives can be wasted but how they are never beyond redemption. Annie lives in a dull town on England's bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who's gone into seclusion in rural America-or at least that's what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker's work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Nick Hornby uses this intriguing canvas to explore why it is we so often let the early promise of relationships, ambition and indeed life evaporate. And he comes to some surprisingly optimistic conclusions about the struggle to live up to one's promise.

 No trailer yet! I’ll post as soon as it’s released. Have you read Nick Hornby’s book? Tell me, how do you like the casting? I’m all ears.

Crazy Rich Asians starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding: First trailer #book2movie

A Hollywood movie with an all-Asian cast is no everyday occasion. The Joy Luck Club, Peony in Love, Memoirs of a Geisha, Snowflower and the Secret Fan. It makes sense then that the anticipated release of Crazy Rich Asians starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding would cause a stir, and especially in 2018, come with heightened expectations that it be authentic and representative of the people in the novel. Let’s take a look at the trailer.

There was already some criticism from the Asian community that the casting of Henry Golding, who is apparently half Asian and half white sent a message that Asian actors aren’t attractive enough to play a male lead. 

Now that the first trailer for Crazy Rich Asians has actually dropped there are further complaints that the film lacks diversity. ‘Asian’ is a huge, all-encompassing word for the people in Kevin Kwan’s bestselling book, set mainly in the Malaysian city of Singapore. According to Quartzy, Singapore is a multicultural society, with ethnic Chinese making up 74% of the population, Malays 15%, and Indians 7.4%. Diversity like that has many colors, many faces, and many voices.

(Personal sidenote: my all-white, British uncle left England in the 1960’s for Singapore where he lived for the rest of his life and where he married what the family called ‘a Chinese girl’. They had a son who grew up and married, in his words via an email to me, ‘a lovely Indian girl, a Sindhi lass’. And they had a little girl, and so on and so on.)

Some of the criticism comes from the trailer’s lack of characters with a Singapore accent, what they call ‘Singlish’, and a predominance of English and American accents. That’s an aspect I can’t speak to but I’m curious as to how it might ultimately impact the film’s reception. 

Plenty of time to read Crazy Rich Asians before it hits theaters in August. Or, if you like, go to my post where author Kevin Kwan goes to the Google campus and both reads from, and discusses Crazy Rich Asians himself.

Are you a fan of the book? What do you think of the trailer? Lay it on me, I’m all ears.

Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams: First trailer #book2movie

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

Many of us, after reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and seeing just how good David Fincher’s screen adaptation turned out to be,  devoured the author’s  Sharp Objects and Dark Places hoping for work in a similar vein. 

Dark Places was sadly disappointing, both the book and the film, even with Charlize Theron in the lead role. Sharp Objects, on the other hand, was a book I enjoyed tremendously—you can take a look at my take on the book here—and my expectations for the 8 episode HBO series are high.

 Amy Adams as Camille with Patricia Clarkson as her mother Adora in Sharp Objects

Now HBO has released the first trailer for the 8-episode series starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson—who we’ll be seeing this summer in The Bookshop, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Elizabeth Perkins and Matt Craven. 

The logline:

A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.

Even if you haven’t read the book, a look at the razor blade on the book’s cover should tell you a bit more about how those demons come to the surface. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who helmed Big Little Lies, from a script by Marti Noxon (Glee, Mad Men), Sharp Objects is due out in July 2018 on HBO.

Will Sharp Objects live up to David Fincher’s adaptation of Flynn’s Gone Girl? Lay it on me. I’m all ears.

The Bookshop starring Emily Mortimer & Bill Nighy Heads to San Francisco in May: Watch the trailer #book2movie

The Bookshop is making its North American debut at the Seattle Film Festival this May, before it hits our screens in the merry month of August.

Bill Nighy & Emily Mortimer in The Bookshop

Based on the best selling novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop was written and directed by the acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet (Learning to Drive) and stars Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson.

Set in an English seaside village, The Bookshop is the story of a bereft widow (Emily Mortimer) who pursues her dream of opening a bookshop. 

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald 

“As she introduces the townsfolk to the world's best literature and stirs a cultural awakening, her efforts are ruthlessly opposed by a powerful local (Clarkson) causing a reclusive resident (Nighy) to join the fight to keep the bookshop open.’’
For those of us who can’t live without books, the idea behind the story is an odd one. Who on earth would not want a book shop in their community?

The raw and delicate relationship between tradition and change comes head to head between the two woman characters,’’ said SIFF Artistic Director Beth Barrett. “It's a gem of a film with incredible performances from the lead actresses, and a celebration of women who persist.’’

The film played as a Special Gala selection at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival and was the winner of three Goya Awards in Spain, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Woot Woot! Let’s watch the trailer. Don’t you want to get your hands on all those books?

Beautiful Ruins: I'm Dream Casting Clive Owen as Richard Burton

With thanks to Emily at As The Crowe Flies and Reads for the reminder, here’s a mini-update on the Beautiful Ruins movie based on the book by Jess Walter.
Beautiful Ruins revolves around an American actress who travels to Italy in 1962, where production on the most expensive flop in Hollywood history, Cleopatra, is underway. The plot spans multiple decades and locations, with the lead actress’ narrative intertwining with the trajectory of legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor, who played the titular Queen of Egypt in the real-life Joseph L. Mankiewicz epic and famously had an affair with her Cleopatra costar Richard Burton.

God, I love this book. Especially the part of the novel featuring Dee Moray as an actress filming in Italy on the Cleopatra movie starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The glamorous 50s film world on the coast of Italy really tugs at me. 

At some point Sam Mendes was attached to direct, at another Imogen Poots was cast in the part of Dee with Todd Field directing. But as often happens, nothing happened. Now, we’re getting a little action. The news is Mendes will still produce but Robert Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) will direct. 

According to Deadline, the intention is to start shooting this summer! I’m a little worried that the long wait will skew my expectations all but guaranteeing disappointment. That being said, I’m up to play the casting game. 

I’m casting my vote for Clive Owen to play Richard Burton in Beautiful Ruins

 As for Pasquale, how about Oscar Isaac? It’s been so long since I read the book, I forget how young a man Pasquale is when he meets Dee and falls in love with her. 

I’m trusting you to let me know but, yep, I’m going to have to reread the book.

In terms of Dee herself, the list of twenty-something actors to play the young actress who gets caught up in the drama is endless. What are your thoughts on who should play the critical role of Dee? The beautiful young actress who plays a handmaiden to Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra is a sympathetic character who has our heart from the get-go? I’m all ears.

The Guernsey LIterary & Potato Peel Pie Society: The Reviews are Coming in

Can you see my frown all the way from there? Since we’re not getting The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society here in the US yet, I couldn’t stop myself from perusing a few reviews. And after waiting for this film forever, I don’t like what I see. This line from the Telegraph stands out:
‘‘Dawsey, who is a welcome self-effacing counterpoint to Juliet’s fiancé Markham (Glen Powell), a flash American GI stationed in London, who marks her departure for Guernsey by putting a diamond on her finger the size of a Malteser. 

A flash American GI? Is that what’s become of the haughty American publisher Guernsey readers met in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s book?

Variety’s Guy Lodge may have the explanation.
Based on a posthumously published 2008 bestseller by U.S. author Mary Ann Shaffer and co-writer Annie Barrows, it’s one of those films rather perversely dedicated to celebrating the power of the written word, even as it jettisons reams of its source material in the name of cinematic simplicity.

Oh no! I could have told you. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society would make a much better limited series than a movie—even a two hour movie. All those lovely letters, the evolution of Juliet’s affections, the important and influential story of Elizabeth McKenna need time to develop. 

The Irish Times, calling it ‘bland as mashed potatoes’ goes further ...
‘‘On screen, the wartime episodes play out in a series of hurried flashbacks that allow little space for character development. Brown Findlay’s brave resistance figure is, in particular, hopelessly lost in the shimmying from past to present. Conversations in the book club feel anachronistic and forced.
But then, they don’t really get it either or the movie has changed something quite fundamental about the characters in the book. 
The supposed tension between Juliet’s three potential suitors is undermined by the milky blandness of the two that aren’t the always-welcome Matthew Goode.

Three potential suitors? Matthew Goode? One of Juliet’s suitors? Whose character in the novel, Sidney Stark is Juliet’s publisher, dear friend ... and a known homosexual? Which makes the final line of the review fall just a bit flat. 
‘‘For fans of the novel only. 

Erm. I don’t think so!

For my fellow fans of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society novel I can only hope the reviewers have it wrong. We’re well aware that movies are a different beast than the written page and transforming the material requires changes BUT when those changes erase the original nuance that made the material so beloved? Along with what seems like the diminishment of Elizabeth’s character, the lack of Remy and the child Kit, and the tweak of putting in some sort of romantic interest involving Matthew Goode is absurd. Because let’s face it. If Matthew Goode is in a film as a romantic rival—there is no rivalry. Goode wins every time!

Here’s the trailer. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed! If you haven’t read the book, you should. Here’s my take on the novel.


Nicole Kidman will star as Faith Frank in The Female Persuasion. Now, who will play Greer?

Now. Who will play Greer?

Last week we heard that Nicole Kidman was planning to adapt Meg Wolitzer’s newest best-selling book The Female Persuasion via her own production company. 

Now we have the facts. Nicole is attached. And she’ll play the lead role of Faith Frank, a strong and glamorous figure in the woman’s movement. In Wolitzer’s novel, Faith is sixty-three while Nicole just celebrated her 50th but she’ll either pull it off with makeup trickery as I noted in my previous post she does well vis a vis The Years, or they’ll pretend there’s no difference between a woman of fifty and a woman of sixty and that ain’t true (been there, done that) or they’ll make her character beautifully ageless like Nicole. 

Nicole Kidman image via Vanity Fair

Now, who to play Greer, the shy and awkward twenty-something college student? While EW’s Leah Greenblatt calls her a ‘small brown mouse of a girl’ she also writes in her review of the book that both characters are “fully formed [women] who speak to each other and have faceted ambitions and inner lives.” Always a good thing in women’s fiction and becoming increasing realized in films where women were once relegated to the role of the girlfriend.

I haven’t read the brand new The Female Persuasion yet; I may have to move it up on my TBR list so I can get a good idea for Greer—that small brown mouse of a girl. Any thoughts from those of you who’ve already read the book? Is there any chance she’ll look to her Big Little Lies costar Shailene Woodley? Talk to me ... I’m all ears.

Carey Mulligan & Jake Gyllenhaal star in Wildlife #basedonabook by Richard Ford #book2movie

Carey Mulligan stars in Wildlife

Paul Dano—we loved him as Beach Boy Brian Wilson and as Pierre in War and Peacehas gone behind the camera with his film Wildlife. His directorial debut is based on Richard Ford’s novel and stars Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould and Bill Camp. 

Jake Gyllenhaal plays husband Joe Brinson in the family drama

The family drama had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and is set to screen at Cannes. We first heard about Dano and Zoe Kazan’s collaboration—they wrote the adaptation of Ford’s novel together—back in 2016 when we learned neither of the actor/writer/directors has an on-camera part. 

Let’s look at the book
The setting is Great Falls, Montana, where the Rockies end and where, in 1960, the promise of good times seems as limitless as the sweep of the prairies beyond. This is where the Brinson family hopes to find a better life. Instead, sixteen-year-old Joe Brinson watches his parents discover the limits of their marriage and, at the same time, the unexpected depths of dignity and courage that remain even when love dies.

The release date isn’t set but it looks to be sometime this fall. In time for award season?  

Julie Christie as Lara—"the violent, sensual, sensitive girl" in Dr. Zhivago #saturdaymatinee #book2movie

Julie Christie as Lara in Dr. Zhivago

I was twelve when Julie Christie, born on this day in 1940, starred in Dr. Zhivago. Based on the book by Boris Pasternak, the movie was both breathtakingly beautiful and brutal. As a pubescent young girl, just beginning to understand and explore sexuality, the rape of Christie’s Lara by Rod Steiger’s Komarovsky was deeply disturbing. I’ve written a bit about that over on SimCarter.com if you have an interest.

Despite my traumatized response, the film was nominated for ten Oscars, winning five of those Academy Awards for Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Maurice Jarre’s score and the screenplay by Robert Bolt—who also won an Oscar for his screenplay for A Man for All Seasons

In short, a quality film lauded for production values that go to making a good film, great. While David Lean was nominated for directing, neither he or any of the actors—not Rod Steiger, not Omar Sharif and not Julie Christie received Oscar love. 

In fact only Tom Courtenay got a nom for Best Supporting Actor—Courtenay, by the way, can be seen as Eban in the upcoming Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. The Golden Globes corrected some of that, dubbing it Best Picture, giving the Globe to Lean along with a Best Actor trophy to Omar Sharif. 

Still nada for Ms. Christie while Geraldine Chaplin took home a newcomer award.

No matter, the sweeping drama, lush, romantic and full of pathos, remains as epic as ever. And Julie Christie, who won the Oscar the following year for Darling, remains a legend. 

Today’s Saturday Matinee, based on the book by Boris Pasternak, can be streamed on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes for about three American dollars.

Let’s have a look at the vintage trailer and note it boasts winning six Oscars. It only won five.

Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon: On location in Monterey for Big Little Lies

Meryl Streep as Celeste's mother-in-law on Big Little Lies, Season 2

In my last post, I shared the Big Little Lies crew prepping Lovers Point Park, building a gazebo and a pergola, getting the seaside park in shape for shooting. Now we’ve got Nicole, Reese and Meryl Streep on the set, in character, having coffee overlooking the Pacific.

In character & On camera: Reese Witherspoon & Nicole Kidman

Mary (Meryl Streep) appears emotional as Celeste & Madeline have a heart to heart

I’ve been on my share of film sets but I’m always struck by how close the camera often gets to the cast. It amazes me that the actors can block out the boom operator and the camera almost in their faces. In this shot we have a camera operator with a handheld camera being guided from behind by a grip, making sure the operator shooting the scene doesn't make a mis-step and topple off that newly built deck. 

Reese Witherspoon & Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies, Season2

Here’s the scene from another angle.The crew did a great job building it, didn’t they? They managed to create a lovely little cafe. I love that rustic bent wood chair with the colorful pillows.

Behind the scenes 

I can't tell if this is offscreen or on since both Reese and Meryl are wearing the big puffy jackets to keep warm between takes. Perhaps they're rehearsing.

KSBW TV shared some footage of the set with the actors moving around. Take a gander at the video at this link via the KSBW TV station that caught the crew on camera.

Too early to get excited about Big Little Lies since it’s not coming back to HBO until 2019?

Source: The Daily Mail
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