Archive for the 'Movies' Category

New Film Adaptation of “The Tempest”

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Julie Taymor, who did a stunning adaptation of the harrowing Titus Andronicus, is set to adapt Shakespeare’s The Tempest for film. Russell Brand, of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is set to play the drunken clown Trinculo.

You’ll never guess who’s going to play Prospero.

Can’t wait. Even if it’s a mess, it’ll be a gorgeous one. (Link from Entertainment Weekly)

Better in Black and White

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Stefan Kanfer, at the City Journal, on films in black and white (Link from Arts & Letters Daily):

Gregg Toland, the greatest cinematographer of his generation, never shot in color. He and his A-picture directors, including John Ford, Orson Welles, and William Wyler, preferred to give audiences the sense that they were watching a suite of etchings. Who needed color when the haunting landscapes of Wuthering Heights materialized on screen, as if photographed in Emily Brontë’s nineteenth century? Or when Citizen Kane’s deep-focus montages breathed life into the story of a fatally ambitious press lord?

Those of us in the Twin Cities are fortunate to have a good cinema culture that screens many of the black and white films Kanfer mentions. If you don’t have access to film revivals, though, TCM and Netflix do an outstanding job of making these films easily available.

On a Lighter Note

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Is it me, or are photos of Claire Danes with her costar Zac Efron from the upcoming film, Me and Orson Welles, more than a little reminiscent of those of Angela and Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life?


How We Ended the Long Weekend

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

There was much crying and screaming at bedtime last night. I wonder, is the “price” of a good day a difficult bedtime? We met friends at the pool, then met them again later for burgers, hot dogs and great french fries at the Bulldog NE, picked by Minnesota Monthly as having the best burger in the state. After that, bedtime was challenging. But once Drake and Guppy were _in_ bed, they stayed there and fell asleep quickly, so G. Grod could watch a bit more of Branagh’s Hamlet. I’m not sure how I made it through all four hours in the theater when it came out. I can’t make it through an entire hour without nodding off. Then again, I was unmarried, without kids and twelve years younger in ‘96.

Half Price Books Labor Day Weekend Sale 2008

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Half-Price Books (a US used book, movie and music store) is having a sale over Labor Day Weekend with an extra 20% off everything in the store, which is almost all at least half price already. Our little family brought home quite a stack of books and dvds last night; a pic to come, I hope.

Trailer Music for Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia”

Monday, July 28th, 2008

I love the films of Baz Luhrmann. When I saw the trailer for his upcoming Australia, and heard the accompanying music, from one of my favorite films, Branagh’s Henry V, I got pretty excited. I know the music won’t necessarily be in the film, but the trailer + the music was quite stirring.

“At the Movies” Balcony Will Close

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Sad news for fans of Ebert, Roeper, and fans of good film reviews. They are officially leaving At the Movies, the show that introduced Ebert, Siskel and the Thumbs Up and Down ratings.

Richard Roeper joined Roger Ebert on the show after Gene Siskel’s death. Ebert has long been absent from the show for health reasons. Several guest critics have filled in, but only a few have even come close to Ebert’s high standards of review, in my opinion: New York Times’ A.O. Scott, Village Voice’s Robert Wilonsky, and Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips.

Ebert and Roeper will continue to review movies in different media formats, such as Ebert’s site.

Movie Trailer: Tale of Despereaux

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

I Watch Stuff has the trailer for the movie adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery-award winning book, The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread.

I was surprised how cutesy this preview looked. The book is quite dark, even violent at times. DiCamillo is an advocate of not writing down to kids; she trusts her readers with stories that include life’s difficulties and injustices, as well as hope and redemption. I hope that this adaptation is more true to the book than the preview indicates.

Correction added later: The animation for the Despereaux movie is not done by the same team who did the bizarrely beautiful Triplets of Belleville. (Thanks to Camille of Book Moot for giving me the heads up that this had changed.) The directors previously worked on Flushed Away, Seabiscuit and Pleasantville. Check out the cast of voice talent, though. It’s impressive.

Related Reading: Education and Classics

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I feel as if I’m caught in a reading zeitgeist, with many online articles touching on similar themes.

At The American Scholar, William Deresiewicz details what he sees as “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education“:

[I]t makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you …[and] inculcates a false sense of self-worth.

An education from an elite US university, like Yale, will reinforce the class system, and prepare students for the security of an upper-class job, not introspection and independent thought.

In “The New Learning That Failed” at The Criterion (link from Arts & Letters Daily), Victor David Hanson argues that modern universities have lost two important lessons from a classic, Western education: the value of self-criticism and introspection, and theories of exploitation based in the real world. The result, according to Hanson, is pedagogy focused on what to think, not how to think.

Hanson also notes the loss of three things that used to distinguish between what once was studied in a traditional liberal arts education, and pop culture:

an appreciation that a few seminal works of art and literature had weathered fad and cant and, by general agreement, due to their aesthetics or insight, or both, spoke universally to the human condition.

[an] old assumption that professors, through long training, were necessary to guide students through such classic texts [like] Dante’s Inferno

an appreciation of a manner of formal thought and beauty that separated some high art and literature from more popular and accessible counterparts.

Historian David McCullough echoed this idea of established classics in a recent commencement speech, “The Love of Learning” (link from Mental Multivitamin):

Read for pleasure, to be sure… But take seriously–read closely–books that have stood the test of time. Study a masterpiece, take it apart, study its architecture, its vocabulary, its intent. Underline, make notes in the margins, and after a few years, go back and read it again.

At The Times, Rod Liddle writes about books that don’t survive their age (link from Bookslut):

[T]hey seem to be books that fitted in far too comfortably with the sensibilities of a certain chattering-class elite when they were published. Remove a work of fiction from the milieu in which it was written and you remove some of its purpose and point, of course; however, with Hesse, Powell and Fowles, as with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you seem to lose all the purpose and point. Everything simply evaporates.

Liddle’s, though a rant, is similar in subject to Jonathan Yardley at the Washington Post on Cannery Row and other Steinbeck works (link from Arts & Letters Daily):

Not many books of our youth survive unscathed into what passes for our maturity, and many other books await that maturity before we are ready to appreciate and understand them.

For more on Steinbeck’s books as classics, see “The Rescuing of Steinbeck” at The New York Review of Books. (link from Arts & Letters Daily)

All of the preceding articles provide an interesting context for Entertainment Weekly’s lists of new classics–the top 100 since 1983 in books, movies, tv, music, and more. In the blogosphere, at least, EW’s lists seems to have quickly eclipsed the AFI’s 10 top 10, released the same week. As with any list, there’s a great deal of righteous protest: This should have been higher, that lower, this one’s missing, I can’t believe that one is on there.

EW qualifies their lists up front. They’re not only based on quality, but on influence. They include recent works, because that’s what EW does–it’s a weekly magazine for entertainment, focusing on what’s new.

A few things struck me about the lists, and the commentary on it. First, I think there’s great value in a waiting period to see if a work endures. Second, lists are only ever a starting point for discussion. Nearly every list that’s published acknowledges this, but that gets lost in the ensuing outrage. Third, I think there was a great deal of justice done in the lists for works that were critically acclaimed but not blockbusters, or for things like comics that still aren’t considered by many to be real books. Finally, my own numbers told an interesting story: 37 books, 87 movies, 67 television shows, and 46 albums. I don’t agree with all of EW’s choices, and I think they put too much emphasis on recent works, but it affirmed why I am a fan of the magazine–I like much of what the writers like, so EW is a good index of things I might like.

AFI’s 10 Top 10

Monday, June 9th, 2008

AFI has a special, 10 Top 10, on US tv next Tuesday, June 17, 2008, naming their top ten films in ten categories. Take a movie quiz (I’m a MOVIE MASTER, with 34 out of 40 correct) or try to pick the 10 winners in a contest. There are some tough questions, but some good ideas for stuff to see, though there were some headscratchers in there, too. Clash of the Titans for Best Fantasy? Really?

Tonight on TCM: “Our Man in Havana”

Friday, June 6th, 2008

As part of a spy-themed night, Turner Classic Movies is showing Our Man in Havana tonight in the US at 10pm EST. It’s based on the novel by Graham Greene (the author of The Quiet American). It’s not available on DVD in the US, so this is a rare opportunity to see it. (Link from Laurel’s TV Picks.)

Predicting the Summer Hits and Misses

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Here’s what the crowd picked during previews before Iron Man on opening night:

Applause for Indiana Jone and the Crystal Skull and Batman, no reaction for Incredible Hulk, and laughter (not the good kind) for M Night Shymalan’s “The Happening” either for the trailer, or the silly title.

UK Reviews of “Miss Austen Regrets”

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

“Miss Austen Regrets” was probably my favorite new film of the recent PBS series, The Complete Jane Austen. It’s just now showing in England, and Austenblog has a good roundup of the reviews, which seem more negative than the ones stateside.

It also has a link to the Jane Austen Society of North America’s details on the men in the film, which I found illuminating.

Sweet Escapism at the Parkway

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Twin Citians, we deserve a sweet escape from this dreadful weather. The new series from TakeUp, screwball romantic comedies from the depression, starts tonight at the Parkway. The snow will prevent me from going tonight, but those of you who are closer might check out Easy Living, which I’ve not seen.

Mr. Right vs. Mr. Good Enough?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am as convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage state. –Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth Bennet, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

In the March 2008 issue of the Atlantic, Lori Gottlieb makes an argument for settling that reminded me strongly of Charlotte Lucas’s speech explaining her acceptance of the boorish Mr. Collins’s proposal of marriage. Gottlieb, who decided to become a mother even though she’d not found “Mr. Right,” wonders if settling earlier for “Mr. Good Enough” would have made for a happier and easier life.

It’s a fair question, and clearly one that’s been around some time. It made me wonder what advice Jane Austen might have given. The recent PBS Masterpiece showing of Miss Austen Regrets had a few conjectures. Austen commented to her niece that “The only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up!” Later, a reader comments to Austen that Elizabeth Bennett only realized she was in love with Darcy after she saw what a big house he had. Austen herself never married, and Miss Austen Regrets raises the question of whether she later wished she had settled. While we can’t know, it’s interesting to wonder, especially since Austen’s ideal of marital bliss as portrayed in her novels was (nearly?) always a combination of financial security and romantic love.

Moviewatch: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Coming soon, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is based on one of the selections from the charming and lovely Perspehone Books. Miss Pettigrew is a nanny sent to the wrong address, who ends up living the high life with an actress for the day. It’s a sweet, funny story. I’m holding my breath, because with Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, and Amy Adams as the flighty actress, this has some of the pieces in place to be a good adaptation.

80th Annual Academy Awards: Selected Moments

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Democrats do have an historic race going, Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama. Normally, when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty.

–Jon Stewart, from the opening monologue

What is happening?!

–Diablo Cody, on winning Best Original Screenplay

Fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up.

–Marketa Irglova, co-winner for Best Song, brought back onstage by Jon Stewart after being rushed off by the orchestra

Mazel tov to the Coen brothers, who scored a hat trick with No Country for Old Men. Did you know they’d only won one other Oscar, for the original screenplay for Fargo?

Did you notice how The Bourne Ultimatum won all three awards for which it was nominated? I think the Academy members were trying to give that film, one of my favorites of last year, more of the love it deserved from Oscar.

Overall, I was disappointed in the fashion. Black, red, and blage. Where was the color? Where was the joy? Oh, I sound like Michael Kors on Project Runway. Hated the peekaboo shoulder bullseye on Katherine Heigl’s dress; was she promoting for Target? And who did her makeup? Hated what Jennifer Hudson’s dress did to her should-have-been voluptuous chest. And while Tilda Swinton is weird, there are quirky dresses that are pretty; she didn’t have to choose a velvet garbage bag and forgo her bra. For more fashion dishing and dissing, Go Fug Yourself.

Jane Austen for Geek Guys

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Nathan from TeeVee dishes on his geek love for Austen and the PBS Masterpiece’s The Complete Austen, which I’ve been (mostly) enjoying. I agree that Olivia Williams was great in Miss Austen Regrets, and that the series as a whole is well done and enjoyable. I don’t, though, think Gillian Anderson is doing herself any favors revisiting Scully-red hair, and I found the Mansfield Park production in general, and Billie Piper in particular, wanting.

“Guy” Movies

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

GQ lists the ten best “guy” films “you” haven’t seen (quotaton marks, mine, and link from A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago.) I felt rather smug that I’d seen the first four on the list: Rififi, Croupier, The Limey and The Matador. One of the remaining five, Point Blank, was given to my husband, G. Grod, for Christmas, so we’ll see it soon. Of the other five, though, I was abashed to find I hadn’t heard of three: The Last Detail, The Sand Pebbles and The Beat that My Heart Skipped.

Interestingly, Rififi, The Limey and The Matador were all three recommended by my friend The Big Brain, a guy. Croupier, though, was recommended to me by my gal pal Rock Hack, who said she thought I’d like the lead actor, some guy named Clive Owen. It was a good call, both on the film and on Clive.

2008 Oscar Nominations

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Oscar Nominations were announced earlier in the week, though they’ve been somewhat eclipsed by Heath Ledger’s untimely death. Note to young Hollywood: Just say no. Sheesh.

I’ve seen only two of the best-film nominees–Juno and Michael Clayton. Both were excellent. I have several more to see, though, if I’m going to feel at all informed about the competition. It was an Oscar season of years past, probably the one after Drake was born, that inspired me to start my annual film challenges. I’d seen none of the films; I’d seen no films in a long time. I’d allowed a baby to keep me from one of the things I love, so I rearranged my priorities, set myself a challenge, and have seen lots and lots of films since.

I use the Oscars as a guide, not a list. There are lots of good movies that don’t get nominated for Oscars, and plenty of mediocre movies that do. The foreign and documentary films seem to have an especially poor selection process.

I had a few “wherefore art thou” moments going over the nominees. The Bourne Ultimatum was a very good film. It should have been considered for bigger awards. Knocked Up had some of the funniest writing this year, and newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse stole all his scenes in Superbad.

My plan this year is to see There Will be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and Persepolis, as soon as I can. They’ve been the best reviewed films and ones I think I will enjoy. Sweeney Todd, Into the Wild, and I’m Not There also sound worthwhile. All these films also sound as if they’re good as a whole. Many of the others boast good aspects, like a performance or the cinematography, but not enough holistically to draw me. I’m curiously indifferent about Atonement; it feels like a film calculated to win awards.


80th Academy Awards - Nominations

LIVE Telecast: Sunday, February 24, 2008

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie in “Away from Her”
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”
Laura Linney in “The Savages”
Ellen Page in “Juno”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement”
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton”

Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, Julian Schnabel
“Juno”, Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton”, Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men”, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood”, Paul Thomas Anderson

Best motion picture of the year
“Michael Clayton”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”