> Chapter1-Take1: October 2018

If Nazis Ruled America: Rufus Sewell stars in The Man in the High Castle

 Rufus Sewell stars as Obergruppenführer John Smith in The Man in the High Castle

Imagine an America where Germany and Japan won the second World War. That’s the premise of Philip K. Dick's dystopian novel. An America where the bad guys won and rule our country. Would we sit back and let the new order control our lives? Or would we resist? Would we fight for the rights of our fellow citizens? For our freedom? 

It's also the premise of the Amazon Prime series inspired by the book. Rufus Sewell—who celebrates his 51st birthday today, October 29th—stars as Obergruppenführer John Smith, an American who rises through the ranks after America surrenders. The paramilitary title is a real one belonging to Germany's Third Reich; in the show's context Smith, assigned to investigate the Resistance, the Americans who do fight back, is the first American to receive the title. Nazism. If you're not hearing enough about it in the news, you can find it in the dystopian series currently in its third season on Amazon with the fourth season in production.

About the book

It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.
Rufus Sewell in The Man in the High Castle (2015) 

This harrowing, Hugo Award–winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

Have you been watching the show? I'm not sure how I'll respond to seeing Rufus Sewell in the role. Like a lot of fans of Brit telly I fell head over heels with him as Lord Melbourne in the Victoria series. And while I've never met him, my husband worked with him on Tristan and Isolde and has nothing but nice things to say about the actor as a man. I'm not sure I'm ready for the darkness, especially now as real Nazism seems to be on the rise. 

Season 1 Trailer 

Season 2 Trailer

Season 3 Trailer

The Bell Jar: An interview with Sylvia Plath pre-publication #book2movies #SaturdayMatinee

Sylvia Plath from her Mademoiselle Photo Shoot

Updated 10/27/2018 on the occasion of Sylvia Plath's birthday

I finished Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar the other day and find I’m newly fascinated by everything about the short life of the acclaimed poet and writer. The novel, famously inspired by Plath’s summer as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine in NYC and her own institutionalization is getting its second adaptation at the hands of Kirsten Dunst in the director’s chair with Dakota Fanning as Esther Greenwood. The material was first adapted in 1979 with a very 70’s cast that included Marilyn Hassett as Esther, Jameson Parker as Buddy with Julie Harris as her mother.

Plath, with husband Ted Hughes

Poor Sylvia Plath. She was just 31 when she committed suicide at the London home she shared with Ted Hughes and their two children. Putting those two babies in their bedroom with the windows wide open, Plath taped up the gaps around their bedroom door before turning the gas on, putting her head in the oven and taking her own life. It’s hard to reconcile those deliberate actions with what feels like such an act of desperation. But as we know, she had been hearing the call to kill herself from her teen years. 

As I said, I’m newly obsessed with Plath which led me to this 1962 radio interview with Plath and an unidentified British interviewer. While she talks about wanting to write a novel—and was likely working on the novel at the time—she was there to talk about her poetry, the work for which she’d been getting prizes all her life. Her novel would be published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in January 1963 to lackluster reviews. Plath, her marriage to Ted Hughes in tatters, killed herself a month later.

Mad Girls Love Song was included at the back of my copy of The Bell Jar.

Mad Girl's Love Song
"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

Book: The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath

What did you think of the interview? I was struck by the tone of her voice, the depth and maturity of a woman who sounds much older than thirty, that accent from another time that almost reads as British. And of course, the clear point of view of an accomplished and recognized poet with no signs of what was to come, except perhaps, for her own interest in the subject of mental illness.

We are still waiting for the promised debut film from Kirsten Dunst based on Plath's book, with Dakota Fanning in the lead role.

In the meantime, you can catch Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia with Daniel Craig as husband Ted Hughes. The film is available to screen on HBO Now and HBO Go.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: My take on the book

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

I wanted to read Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion almost before I knew Nicole Kidman was going to star in the adaptation of the book. Especially as I loved Wolitzer's novel The Wife which also deals with a feminist theme, although less obviously. The Female Persuasion has to be the ultimate book for your average feminist—heck it's practically in the title—and the storyline about a young contemporary woman who comes to work for an inspiring 2nd wave feminist sounded empowering. 

Here's how the publisher describes the book—which has received rave reviews:

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings, an electric novel not just about who we want to be with, but who we want to be.
To be admired by someone we admire - we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world. 
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women's movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can't quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she'd always imagined. 
Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It's a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.
Those rave reviews might be part of my lackluster response to the book. It was good, without being great. By that I mean it didn't transport me, it didn't take me to any new places. If anything it affirmed what I already know without giving me any great delight or insight as it did so. It's that obvious feminist theme that feels less than compelling in this fictional setting. While I was initially captivated with Greer's story, she disappointed me with her responses throughout the novel. And what the overview doesn't tell you is that fabulous Faith Frank also has a tiny problem with integrity. Not to mention that holding Frank up as a leader in the women's movement with a huge career without giving her the power to have a long, satisfying relationship with a man—or woman—was disappointing, to say the least. Does a woman have to lead a solitary life to be successful in it? 

I found the novel just a tad too stuffed in its feminist themes —which are very much in the news right now, themes of women's empowerment and equality I adhere to and have believed in ever since I marched for the ERA back in 1972!—and a tad shy of the elements of fiction that keep us reading. Characters we're emotionally invested in and whose lives we want to know more of. The novel worked best when we followed the secondary character's stories, that of Zee, her best friend who happens to be a lesbian, and especially Cory, Greer's boyfriend,  whose arc I followed with happy anticipation. 

I found myself wondering if Greer had big dreams for herself or does she simply want to coattail onto Faith's foundation, a foundation that makes a business out of feminism. 

Feminism, as the quote below from Greer's mother would seem to indicate in the quote below, isn't just about marching and carrying signs. 
"It seems to me," said her mother, "and this is really outside my sphere of knowledge, since I'm not the one who's been working at a feminist foundation. But here's this person who gave up his plans when his family fell apart. He moves back in with his mother and takes care of her. Oh, and he cleans his own house, and the ones she used to clean. I don't know. But I feel like Cory is kind of a big feminist, right?"
Sounds like equality to me.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Based on the book by #JohnLeCarre #book2movie

Updated 10/19/2018
On the occasion of John LeCarreé's 87th birthday

Originally published 2016
I’m quite busy with John LeCarré right now, currently finishing up Our Kind of Traitor. The film version starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis & Stellan Skarsgård hits the UK on May 13, no word on a release date here in the US yet. That being the case I’m going to revisit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  The film, fabulous from its’ period-perfect clothing to the Oscar-nominated screenplay is currently available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay, and Netflix. 

Here’s my piece, originally posted November 30, 2011:

Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and I took a beautiful drive from our Los Angeles suburb up the coast to Santa Barbara. He had an invite from Focus Features for an industry screening to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Having recently read the book, I couldn't wait to see it and I'd asked him to watch for the screening announcement in the mail. 


At this time of year, our mail is full of envelopes from the studios who screen their award season contenders at multiple locations and times through the end of the year. Sometimes they are held in small private screening rooms at a studio, other times they're at public theatres. Mark's DGA card entitles him to entry with a guest. By the time he actually plowed through the stack of envelopes and called the RSVP line, all the Los Angeles screenings had been booked up. Hence the lovely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset, the sea glimmering to the west, Ventura, Carpenteria, Summerland, Montecito and Santa Barbara to the east, green and lush, the small mountain range hovering in the background. I always love this drive; had the film turned out to be a bomb, the hour each way in the car would have been enough. It wasn't a bomb, but it may be box office wise.

The screening was held in a small theatre, the Plaza de Oro; The Descendants and The Way were Now Playing. Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In was Coming Soon. There were less than twenty of us in the audience; Santa Barbara being a satellite location, they hadn't expected a throng. Mark and I were the youngest people in the theatre, it was clear the rest of the group were insiders with at least a nodding acquaintance with each other, driving over from tiled roof Spanish style homes in the tony town of Montecito, weekend getaway of the quietly rich and sometimes famous.

The film started, sans the usual previews, typical for a screening. While the studio screening rooms don't have a snack bar, this theatre did but we passed on the popcorn and soda. The other notable thing that happens in a screening is most of the audience actually stays to watch the credits, something that never happens on a Saturday night at your local movie house. It's not just a sign of respect; you search the names looking for old friends and colleagues or because you were so wowed by the makeup you have to know who keyed it, where was it shot, who played that small but spectacular part?

And so it began. And right off the bat, it was different from LeCarre's gentle start with Jim Prideaux arriving at the school in its bucolic setting. Instead, we are taken to the Circus right away. If I thought for a moment that the film might be leaving LeCarre's quiet suspense behind in favor of a more modern taste for fast action I was wrong. The film moves slowly but steadily along, with frequent flashbacks from this spy or that to explain what they knew, when they knew it, and who they told, thereby explaining the intricacies of the plot.

But do they? Having read the book, I had a pretty good handle on who the fairly large assortment of spies and counterspies were and what they were doing. And yes, in this somewhat tidied up version, a few of those names were lopped off; I wonder how easily the storyline is followed by someone who hasn't (heaven forbid) read the book first?

All the key players are that special brand of British actor—every movement solid and believable, no false notes. John Hurt as Control was every bit as wild and paranoid as his literary counterpart. I wonder if he will be considered for a Best Supporting nod.

I do think it wouldn't have hurt Gary Oldman to have picked up a pound or two to pad his girth so he could more readily be LeCarrés fat barefoot spy, and I admit to examining the lines on his face from one scene to another to determine their source, makeup or life. Makeup I think. Having said that, I thought he was quite wonderful in his patient, calm, quiet reserve on the exterior, George Smiley. He isn't really called upon to do much more than that though, with a couple of exceptions, one being where he sees his wife in the arms of another man. (Won't say whose arms for those who haven't read it) so I don't think it has the histrionics needed for award season.  The director has all but hidden the elusive Ann from our eyes, perhaps so we can create the perfect fantasy woman that Smiley holds her to be? There is a lovely moment when we view George from the back, as he sees Ann, his legs barely buckle at the sight. It's a very subtle and perfect touch.

Tom Hardy is sensual and gives us the touch of sex we all secretly crave but he's more than his full, almost pornographic lips. His recounting to Smiley of the Irina adventure is one of the most endearing and emotional scenes in the film.

Mark Strong isn't at all what I pictured when I read about Jim Prideaux and they've changed a bit about his role in the plot (in the book it's a little more action-oriented!) and I would have loved some more sweet moments with Bill Roach and the other boys but he won me over; his eyes tell a thousand tales. I really feel the need to IMDB him and see everything else he's been in. My husband worked with him on Tristan and Isolde starring James Franco and says Strong is just a terrific guy, classically trained, brilliant and intensely likable.

Colin Firth, the film's resident movie star, as Bill Haydon was quite as charming as LeCarré intended but isn't he always? That mix of swagger and vulnerability, the offhand smile; he's quite deadly.

Benedict Cumberbatch will no doubt fetch a ton more 'Cumberbitches' after this one, I think. He knows how to wear those 1960's clothes and he's a fantastic friend to good ol' George.

The director, Tomas Alfredson, is a Swede who has done mostly nordic television work so I can't quite fathom how he landed such a plum job. He did helm the vampire flick "Let the Right One In" which has a huge cult following. Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay together as they did Sixty Six,  a film I've never heard of. BUT Straughan also wrote The Debt and Men Who Stare at Goats so the writing assignment does make sense.

Grey and gloomy London, Budapest, and Istanbul, the Circus with its soundproof modules, tatty old English homes and Control's crazed hoarder's flat all read beautifully and authentically thanks to Maria Djurkovic's production design, and Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography. The costume design by veteran Jacqueline Durran was perfect in its imperfection, just what you would expect from someone who did the wardrobe for Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and Vera Drake. Her latest film is Anna Karenina (what? again?) with Keira Knightly and Jude Law; period pictures are clearly her element.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the film while finding some of the English accents a bit muddled even for the daughter of a couple of Brits. I found its slow pace, revealing the ins and outs methodically, compelling. I'm just not sure if the film will find its audience; mature, appreciative viewers and readers who don't mind doing a bit of work following along to get to the end. No visual tricks, barely a gunshot. An ending that's a bit more telling than the book's and ultimately a bit more satisfying for those who like things tidy. I just found out from IMDB John LeCarre is uncredited as a party guest. See if you can spot him.

Islands in the Stream: Based on the book by Ernest Hemingway #book2movie

George C. Scott stars in Islands in the Stream 

Gone but not forgotten. George C. Scott, born on this day—October 18, 1927—was an acting heavyweight. A four time Oscar nominee, Scott who died in 1999, won the gold for his portrayal of Patton in 1970. He refused to accept the award because he didn't feel he was in competition with other actors. His appearance in a televised version of Twelve Angry Men was also lauded, earning him an unwanted Golden Globe. 

Of all the roles Scott is known for, Islands in the Stream is likely not in the conversation. The film which came out in the summer of 1977 was based on an unfinished Ernest Hemingway manuscript—his wife put it together from various found drafts after his death—which I'd read in January of 1977 and can still recall for its extraordinary many-page long description of fishing. Outside of catching Sunfish off a big stone rock at a summer cottage on the St. Lawrence River when I was a kid, fishing isn't a subject I hold any reverence for but Hemingway’s depiction is stunning and absolutely compelling. Not just about the big catch it’s loaded with all that Hemingway stuff on manhood and a boy's pleasing and living up to his father's expectations.

 For most feminists, Hemingway, despite his status as a literary icon, is representative of toxic masculinity at its worst. But we still flock to his Key West home to see where the great papa wrote and drank and lived and thrill at his exploits. While Islands in the Stream isn't part of the legendary Hemingway’s lauded ouvre, the novel, and the movie are said to be loosely based on the author's life. Except instead of being a writer, he's a sculptor. The book might not have been that great as Roger Ebert alludes to below, but I bought it hook line and sinker.

“Islands in the Stream” is a big, strong, old-fashioned movie about that threatened species, the Hemingway Hero. It celebrates physical courage and boozing all night and the initiation of boys into manhood, and it has a fishing scene, a battle scene, a love scene and a whore with a heart of gold. Papa would have loved it, and no wonder: He wrote it, and in many ways it's about him.
This was the posthumous Hemingway novel, assembled by his widow, Mary, from various drafts and stages of the work in progress. Its reviews weren't particularly good, and there's a possibility that Hemingway, had he lived, might have decided not to publish it. But it makes good movie material: The best movies somehow seem to come from second-rate books, while great literature resists translation into other forms.

Islands in the Stream is available to stream on Amazon, Vudu and iTunes. In addition to George C. Scott as Hemingway, the films stars Claire Bloom, David Hemmings and Hart Bochner and was nominated for its cinematography. The great Jerry Goldsmith—nominated 18 times for his music—composed the score. 

Call it a Throwback Thursday piece of sentimentality but I think it's worth a rewatch.

My Brilliant Friend: Based on the book by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

HBO just keeps them coming! The adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend hits our screens on November 18 as an eight-episode series. The story of a lifelong friendship, complete with conflicts. Another one that simply passed me by, the book is on my hurryupandreadit,youidiot! list.

About the book:  

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila, who represent the story of a nation and the nature of friendship. 
The story begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets, the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow - and as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge - Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.
With My Brilliant Friend, the first in a series, Ferrante proves herself to be one of Italy's greatest storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted pause-resister, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations - a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new listeners to her work.

Presented in its original Neapolitan dialect of Italian with subtitles, with no recognizable names for North American audiences, I wonder how large an audience it will garner? If the first series goes well, there are three more books that have already been filmed. The subtitles won't be a problem for me, to be honest, I watch some British shows where the accent is quite thick—Shetland and Vera, for example—with closed captioning on as it is. And I'd rather watch subtitles than bad dubbing that's for certain. 

As for the author, she is unconcerned. According to THR, Ferrante believes that the less the author is involved in the making of an adaptation, the better. 
“As for casting, the few times I have been asked to speak up I have only complicated things. In fact, if I had to choose the two actresses, I would never have come out of it. Usually, the images I have in mind as I write are iridescent, sometimes hyper-defined, sometimes blurred, so I would have run after the most various incarnations,” she explains. “Therefore, in my opinion, it is a good thing that those who write a book do not exercise a sort of veto right: the director must build his work, set up his show in complete freedom. Whatever happens, books do not need protection: they are there, definitively fixed, patient and invulnerable." 

Watching the Great American Read: The Help starring Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis and Emma Stone #book2movies

Octavia Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this film but I remember being blown away by Viola Davis nominated in the Best Actress category and Jessica Chastain, also nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Having fallen in love with The Help as a book, I was tremendously excited they were making it into a movie.
When I heard Emma Stone was playing Jeeter, I was, er, sorry, whaaaaaat? But curiosity got the better of me and I too plonked down my $12, contributing to the $216 million the movie netted worldwide. And, yes, Stone was fine. Her funny little mouth with its slightly protruding teeth, the fair skin and freckles all helped her to portray the serious and conflicted Skeeter.

Emma Stone's performance aside, I could quibble that the movie failed to capture the dark essence of the civil liberties battle, that it stepped a tad little too lightly in its search for laughs and feel good 'dramedy', that it blithely accorded way too much power to one little white girl and not enough to the real heroes, the black men, and women themselves.

All true but despite that, there are three very good reasons to see The Help. One, Octavia Spencer. Two, Viola Davis. And three, Jessica Chastain.

This is another brilliant performance from Viola Davis,  a performance garnered the acclaimed actress her second Best Actress nomination. She got her first nom for Doubt and went on to win in 2017 for Fences opposite Denzel Washington who also directed. Of her performance in The Help, Mahnola Dargis said in the New York Times,  "Ms. Davis keeps her cool even as she warms your heart and does her job, often beautifully. She doesn't just turn Aibileen, something of a blur in the novel, into a fully dimensional character, she also helps lift up several weaker performances and invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off." 

Playing an abbreviated version of Kathryn Stockett's Celia Foote, Jessica Chastain was talked about at the time as the next Meryl Streep. She was nominated the following year in the Best Actress category for her extraordinary performance in Zero Dark Thirty. Al Pacino is said to have raved about her to Terrence Mallick who cast her in Tree of Life which also came out in 2011The New York Film Critics Circle awarded her that year's Best Supporting Actress. Chastain has continued to be hugely popular with fans and critics alike. 

And then, of course, there's Octavia Spencer, the award winner who took home the gold for playing the powerful Minny Jackson whose special pie made a lasting impact. 
Here's that remarkable scene from the movie.

The Help is available on iTunes, Amazon, Googleplay, YouTube and Vudu. I don't know about you, but I'd like to reread the book.

Portions of this post previously published on October, 2017 and December, 2011.

John LeCarré's The Little Drummer Girl TRAILER #BriFri #Book2movie

Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård star in John LeCarré's The Little Drummer Girl

Have you seen the latest production of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins as Lear? In that updated production on Amazon Prime—featuring an incredible cast including Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Jim Broadbent, Cordelia is played rising British star Florence Pugh. 

You may have seen the BAFTA Rising Star nominee in Lady Macbeth or Marcella, and next year she'll play Amy in Little Women.  Sooner than that, though, Florence Pugh is the female lead in The Little Drummer Girl. The BBC and AMC are teaming up again to bring the adaptation of John LeCarrés novel to the screen. The Little Drummer Girl is set to hit our TVs this fall with Florence Pugh starring as double agent Charlie with Alexander Skarsgård as the Israeli intelligence officer and Michael Shannon as his boss. The Little Drummer Girl arrives here in the US on October 19th, we’ll keep our eyes out for the BBC UK dates.

About the book 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; soon to be a miniseries on AMC starring Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Shannon, and Florence Pugh.
"You want to catch the lion, first you tether the goat."
On holiday in Mykonos, Charlie wants only sunny days and a brief escape from England’s bourgeois dreariness. Then a handsome stranger lures the aspiring actress away from her pals—but his intentions are far from romantic. Joseph is an Israeli intelligence officer, and Charlie has been wooed to flush out the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of deadly bombings. Still uncertain of her own allegiances, she debuts in the role of a lifetime as a double agent in the “theatre of the real.”
 Haunting and deeply atmospheric, John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl is a virtuoso performance and a powerful examination of morality and justice.

Last week I noted there should be a trailer popping up shortly.  Here it is!

First Man: Ryan Gosling & Claire Foy Interview

First Man starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy opens Friday which means there are plenty of media interviews available online. I particularly enjoyed this one from an Australian program.

Directed by Damien Chazelle, the script by Josh Singer—who has a talent for bringing real stories to the screen (Spotlight, The Post)—is based on the biography by James R. Hansen.

Robert Redford: The Old Man & Some Parting Thoughts

I haven't made it into the theater to see The Old Man & the Gun yet, one movie-going friend said she doesn't want to see Redford as an old man. 

All I can say to that is at least he’s not Clint Eastwood who has revealed himself to be an ornery old man. To be fair, Eastwood has half a dozen years on Redford so you never know to what depths of crotchetiness Redford may sink to when his time comes. In the meantime, post-Kavanaugh’s ascension to the supreme court, Redford—who has announced that The Old Man & the Gun is his last film as an actor—has released a statement on the Sundance site about the current state of affairs.

“Tonight, for the first time I can remember, I feel out of place in the country I was born into and the citizenship I’ve loved my whole life. For weeks I’ve watched with sadness as our civil servants have failed us, turning toward bigotry, mean-spiritedness, and mockery as the now-normal tools of the trade.

“How can we expect the next generation to step up and serve, to be interested in public life, and to aspire to get involved when all we show them is how to spar, attack, and destroy each other?

“It’s hard to blame young people for calling us out, and pointing to our conflicts between the values we declare, and those we stand behind only when it’s convenient to partisanship. Many people are rightly calling it a damn mess.

“But I want to encourage you to dig deep for hope and civility right now—to try to make connections with people you disagree with, to be better than our politicians.

“We don’t have to share the same motivations to want the same outcomes. Let’s focus on each other, and strengthening our communities, and reflecting on what’s happening. Let’s live in justice and respect and let others fight it out now to the bitter ends.

“This is our country too. Every woman, man, and child in it, our American future.

“We’ve got work to do.”

Let's get to it! 

Colette starring Keira Knightley: My take #review #book2movie

Keira Knightley looks more exquisite than ever in Colette, my friend and I agreed, wondering if she is ever going to look less dazzlingly beautiful? Her beauty, as you find your eyes playing over her face, is almost distracting. That bone structure can sometimes get in the way of the true story of Colette, the famous French writer—who looked nothing like the gorgeous Knightley—and Willy, the man who ran a sort of factory of writers, publishing everyone's output under his own name. 

Keira Knightley and Dominic West star as Willy and Colette

The real Willy—a little fatter—and Colette—a little plainer.

Brash and full of male entitlement, Willy is played beautifully by Dominic West who swaggers his way through the production with full-on machismo and a protruding belly. Because a big belly has never stopped a man from feeling he should have what he wants while we women fret about our slightest imperfections on a daily basis. Not that Keira Knightley has any that I can see.

Costume Design by Andrea Flesch

Initially, Colette is the wild child who brings the famous Willy to his knees and to a marriage bed. The unconventional duo is happy, throwing traditions and norms out the window and we are equally happy to watch until somewhere in the third act when the zest goes out of life and the film. Colette and Willy vie over the same lover and ultimately part ways, Colette leaving Willy and finding another lover. What should be exciting, full of drama becomes heavyhanded, as tiresome for us as it must have been for the real couple mired in their own exhausted confusion.

Production design by Michael Carlin

It's not the fault of Keira Knightley's distracting beauty, nor anyone's acting. That's all top notch, including Eleanor Tomlinson as an American heiress who seduces both Colette and Willy. And the production values are glorious. The production design by Michael Carlin (Oscar-nominated for The Duchess) is as exquisite as the film’s star. The country house Willy buys—and Colette remodels—had me dreaming of flowered wallpaper and velvet cushions.

And don't get me started on the costume design! I’ll be devoting a future post to the authentic wardrobe design by Andrea Flesch; I wouldn't be surprised to find the androgynous clothing, emulating a liberated masculine energy, finding its way into the world of contemporary fashion. 

The fault lies not in any of the filmmaking as much as it resides in the script by the wonderful director Wash Westmoreland and his now-deceased screenwriting and life partner Richard Glatzer. The pair—who did such an amazing job on Still Alicedidn't quite bring the necessary cinematic fire to lives lived on a grand yet human scale where the death of a relationship occurs most often not in explosions but in tiny sputters and sparks.

To learn more about Colette, check out Judith Thurman’s Secrets of the Flesh, A Life of Colette.

Watching the Great American Read: Beloved based on the book by Toni Morrison #SaturdayMatinee

Beloved by Toni Morrison

‘‘To get to a place where you could love anything you chose, not to need permission for desire, well now, that was freedom.’’ Beloved, Toni Morrison

Beloved, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book from the Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison is also one of the Top 100 novels included in PBS’s Great American Reads. A complex and shocking horror story, Beloved confronts the dehumanization of slavery as well as the desperation of one woman’s version of mother-love. Could a mother commit such an atrocity? Could a mother not? 

About the book 

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past. 
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. 
Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present. 
Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.

Oprah Winfrey as Sethe with Thandie Newton (right) as Beloved and Kimberley Elise as Denver

The novel was adapted for the screen in 1998 by Jonathan Demme with Oprah Winfrey starring as Sethe with Danny Glover as Paul D., the man she loves. Beautiful Thandie Newton (Westworld) is the seductive Beloved. Kimberly Elise is the jealous Denver with Beah Richards as Baby Suggs. Richards was nominated in 1968 for Best Supporting Actress as Sidney Poitier’s mother in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. You can stream Beloved for about three bucks on Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu. Double check Netflix because you never know.

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man.
The pieces I am, she gather them and
give them back to me in all the right order.”

Danny Glover as Paul D. with Oprah Winfrey and Kimberley Elise

Rather than ‘review’ Beloved (I mean seriously? The book won the Pulitzer Prize, what more review do you need?) I found John Green’s Crash Course on the novel immensely interesting and enlightening.

Scroll down for the trailer. 

Thoughts? I’m all ears.
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