Friday, November 28, 2014

Rest in Peace P.D. James: 'The thing about being a writer is you need to write.'

P.D. James, one of the world's greatest crime writers, died on November 27th. The British writer was 94. My mystery-loving mother introduced me to James and her series of books featuring Scotland Yard's Adam Dagliesh, a complex poetry-writing detective, a few decades ago. Several of the Dagliesh books have been adapted for film and television including Death of an Expert Witness, Shroud for a Nightingale, Original Sin, Murder Room, Cover Her Face, Death in Holy Orders and The Black Tower.

One of her James' non-Dagliesh books Children Of Men, became Alfonso Cuaron's 2006 Oscar nominated film of the same name starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Her final book, Death Comes to Pemberley, the novel that imagines Austen's Pride and Prejudice' Darcy and Elizabeth later in life and embroiled in a murder scandal, has been adapted for television by the BBC with Matthew Rhys and Anna Martin Maxwell as Darcy and Elizabeth. I haven't been able to see this yet but I intend to.

Published in 2011, James told NPR the novel "combined my two great enthusiasms. One is for the novels of Jane Austen and the second is for writing detective fiction."

Affectionately called the Queen of Crime, James didn't publish her first novel until she was in her early forties. About writing as she grew older, James had this to say ...
"With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write," she said. 
"I hope I would know myself whether a book was worth publishing. I think while I am alive, I shall write. There will be a time to stop writing but that will probably be when I come to a stop, too."

Rest in Peace P.D. James; I like the image of you in your last days with a pen in your hand.

Oh and on the off chance heaven is real, would you please give my mother a hug for me? If she's not working in the garden, chances are you'll find her reading one of your books.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Still Alice: Listen to a song from the score

I heard it through the grapevine ... okay, make that twitter. Check out this tweet from singer/songwriter Haroula Rose:
Naturally, being Still Alice obsessed at the moment, I tweeted Haroula to see if she knew where Brand New Start played in the context of the film; here's her response.

Cool Haroula — speaking of cool, what a cool name!— Julianne Moore's character goes into a yogurt place —the Pinkberry's near Columbia University where her character is a linguistics professor — a couple of times during the course of the movie; blame my brain for not recalling which scene exactly but maybe that's better so I don't spoil it for you? I have a feeling it's the second time around though, and if any of my fellow Still Alice fans know, don't hesitate to give a holler.

The Pinkberry near the Columbia University School of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Mihika Barua.

The song is lovely, and haunting.  I'm new to Haroula Rose's music but the song A Brand New Start isn't new. It came out in 2011 on her second album These Open Roads.

Have a listen and read the lyrics below. While I'm not sure which section of the song is used in the movie, for me the key lines are :
You gotta walk so far
Lose who you are
Fall apart
To get that brand new start

                    BRAND NEW START
In the evening when the storefronts close
I watch as everybody walks away 
But I want to stay 
I stare down the empty streets aglow 
Wonder at the windows and homes 
In the morning kids are off to school 
Yellow buses, all the rules remain the same 
Stay in line, be kind 
Wait your turn but try to win 
Be good, like you should 
You gotta walk so far 
Lose who you are 
Fall apart 
To get that brand new start 
When you meet a stranger down the road 
Say hello, but all the same 
Don't get too close 
That's a lesson we've all been taught 
To protect what you've got 
And so you stay away 
These roads are open and wide 
There's room for everyone to move side by side 
So it's a shame, it's a pity 
In every town or city 
That we learn to walk in single file 
You gotta walk so far 
Lose who you are 
Fall apart 
To get that brand new start 
No one tells you how to grow 
They teach you everything but what you need to know

Based on the book by Lisa Genova Still Alice stars Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin and Kate Bosworth and is set for release January 16th after a short Oscar qualifying run December 5th in Los Angeles and New York.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch and the cast of The Imitation Game talk about keeping secrets, women's work and more : Q&A

Rather than the usual film critic type, the Weinstein Company got Walter Isaacson to conduct a Q&A with the cast of The Imitation Game. Are you familiar with Walter Isaacson? As the author of The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution as well as Jobs,* the best selling Steve Jobs biography, Isaacson is a great choice to moderate the discussion about the math geniuses who broke the Nazi codes during World War II, thereby turning the war around.

*The same Steve Jobs bio, btw, that Aaron Sorkin is currently adapting for Danny Boyle to direct. Apparently it's a done deal that Michael Fassbender set to play Jobs with Seth Rogan on as Steve Wozniak —now that's good casting. Jessica Chastain is rumored but not confirmed to be attached, quite probably as Jobs' wife Lauren Powell, an MBA who likely deserves her own movie.
In addition to being a successful nonfiction author, Isaacson has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. Basically he's a high-powered brainiac which I think steers this Q&A in a very thorough, very intelligent direction. Of course, whenever you have Benedict Cumberbatch speaking that's what happens, because the newly engaged Benedict is very clearly a deep, thoughtful, well-spoken intellectual.

Got about a half hour? I think you'll enjoy the discussion with the cast of The Imitation Game — and do note what Keira Knightley has to say about being the solitary woman in the boys' club.

The movie stars Cumberbatch as key computer genius and closeted homosexual Alan Turing, Knightley as fellow genius, mathematician and fiancé Joan Clark, Matthew Goode as fellow code breaker, chess champion and rival Hugh Alexander, Rory Kinnear as Robert Nock the detective who sniffs into Turing's background, Allen Leech as John Cairncross — a codebreaker suspected of spying, Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton another math genius, Charles Dance as Commander Denniston, Mark Strong as MI6 director Stewart Menzies and James Northcote as Jack Good, a very young (24 years old) codebreaker at Bletchley Park. 

If you want the inside story on all the characters involved, there's a really fascinating piece at the Telegraph.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon to tell "Big Little Lies" on the big screen CORRECTION! little screen!

UPDATE 11/25/2014: 

BIG LITTLE LIES is getting the True Detective treatment with David E. Kelley scripting!
Per Deadline.

I'm loving the choices that book-bent Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are making for their film projects. Kidman has the adaptation of SJ Watson's Before I Go to Sleep coming out on September 12th - I kinda can't wait to see her with Colin Firth and Mark Strong - and is currently shooting The Family Fang. Her costar, Jason Bateman, is also directing the movie based on the Kevin Wilson novel. As for Reese Witherspoon, she was planning to play Amy Dunne in the David Fincher/Gillian Flynn collaboration of Gone Girl but had to drop out which is why we'll see Rosamund Pike instead when it hits the multiplex on October 3rd. Watch the credits and you'll notice Witherspoon is still producing under her Pacific Standard production company banner. Instead of playing Amy, we'll see Reese as the real life Cheryl Strayed in the screen tale of Strayed's memoir Wild, when it comes out in December.  

Now these literary-minded ladies have teamed up, optioning the screen rights to the just-published - and already a New York Times bestseller - Big Little Lies from Australian author Liane Moriarty. The Oscar-winning actresses are planning on co-starring as the mommies of kindergarteners whose lives go a little haywire when young mother Jane and her own odd little boy enter their lives. A little haywire as in there's a murder in the schoolyard! No word on who'll play the young mother Jane. 

Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard and Nicole Kidman's film company, Blossom will produce with partners Bruna Papandrea and Per Saari co-producing with Kidman and Witherspoon. Hell, even Moriarty who wrote a bunch of best sellers I haven't read - What Alice Forgot, Three Wishes, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and The Husband’s Secret - gets a producer credit.

According to Deadline other books on Witherspoon's Pacific Standard slate include M.A. Larson's Pennyroyal’s Princess Boot Camp series of children's books about witchcrafty young things which I'm not really interested in and J.Courtney Sullivan's The Engagement, about a diamond ring and a female copywriter in the 30's, which I am. Reese also plays a supporting role in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchons Inherent Vice. In addition to The Family Fang, Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films has plans for adaptations of A.S.A. Harrison's The Silent Wife and Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McReight. 

So that's what the stars are reading, what about you?

images: Nicole Kidman in Before I Go to Sleep
             Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Still Alice Image Gallery

Still Alice Image Gallery

Still Alice, based on the book by Lisa Genova, stars Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin and Kate Bosworth. Written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Still Alice will be released on January 16th, 2015 after a short Academy Award qualifying run beginning December 5th in Los Angeles and New York.

My take on the movie

Image Source: IMDB

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dreaming of France: Dreaming of Alexandre Desplat

It's Dreaming of France Monday, where I like to play along with Paulita Kincer's Dreaming of France meme on her An Accidental Blog site. For this week's post I'm sharing a video interview with my favorite film composer Alexandre Desplat who is French and thus speaks in beautifully accented English. That French accent is my Dreaming of France connection, flimsy though it may be.

I'm hoping some of you share my fascination with the stars that work behind the scenes to make our favorite films, just that, our favorite films. If so, I think you'll enjoy this look at Desplat sharing his approach to composing for the cinema. He is incredibly prolific; as he says in the video chat, composing music is ALL he does. The list of his credits which includes The Monument Men, Grand Budapest Hotel and Zero Dark Thirty is so diverse and exhaustive I can't even begin to list them all, instead here's the link to his page. Among them, the six scores that earned him Academy Award nominations: The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King's Speech, Argo and Philomena. May the 7th time be the charm.

Monsieur Desplat is currently being talked about this year for two of his scores: The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and the upcoming Unbroken starring Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courntney and Garret Hedlund.          

What I've heard of The Imitation Game is gorgeous but then I think all of Desplat's music is exceptional; I imagine Unbroken will be of the same ilk, since both are from the World War II period and I would think will reference those big sweep scores popular in movies of the day.

If you're not familiar with his work check out this beautiful sampling of his music created by a fan. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Inherent Vice: New York Film Festival Panel with Paul Thomas Anderson and Cast

Director Paul Thomas Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix (Doc Sportello) and Katherine Waterston (Shasta)

Thursday I shared my take on the  Inherent Vice movie the latest from The Master director, Paul Thomas Anderson, the master behind Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love and his first feature, Hard Eight. I told you I'd transcribe my notes on the Q&A with the director at the DGA and get them up here as soon as possible. I still haven't done that. And since it's Slacker Sunday, when I like to take the easy way out and post a video,  I thought I'd share the press conference from the Inherent Vice panel back at the New York Film Festival.

What's notable is that while almost the entire cast is present, many questions are for the genius filmmaker himself. Directors: the new celebrities.  I like the fact that everyone — except for the director — seems rather awkward.

Here the is the panel discussion — can you guess who doesn't say a word? And no, the elusive Thomas Pynchon wasn't in attendance. That we know of.

Have a good Sunday. For tomorrow's Dreaming of France post, I've found another video interview with French composer Alexandre Desplat. The six time nominee is very much in the movie news right now as he composed the scores to both The Imitation Game and Unbroken, so come back and have a look see.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's 2014 and Big Brother IS Watching: 1984 coming to the big screen again

SONY, the studio behind Still Alice (where, oh where is the trailer? I can't wait for everyone to see it, I loved the movie so much) has hired a writer and a director to tackle 1984. It will be the third time around for George Orwell's dystopian classic where individuals are not allowed to have even freedom of thought, let alone action. Love? Forget about it.

Ironic isn't though, Big Brother is Watching used to sound so ominous and threatening. Now the government knows who we're talking to, and likely what we're saying, while corporations know many of our thoughts, plot our behavior patterns and we don't seem to care much, just say, gimme more, gimme more. Our complacency is what's pretty frightening to me.

So ... Paul Greengrass has been hired to direct the film based on a script by James Graham. Graham also wrote the book for an upcoming musical adaptation of Finding Neverland. Which could be heaven or well, you know, hell!

Greengrass is the director best known for Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, and the Bourne movies and have you heard? He and Matt Damon are reteaming for numero four. Not sure what that does for Jeremy Renner and his Bourne Legacy off-shoots but knowing Damon will Be Bourne Again pleases me greatly. Not usually what I'd call my kind of flick, but I could watch the Bourne Indentity with Damon and Franka Potente as Maria, the woman he falls in love with, anytime. Such a strong team, a true partnership, which is my idea of romantic perfection. We're in this thing together.

Whoops, back to 1984 —some days I wish I could — no word on who they're thinking of to play Winston Smith, the man who dares to buck the system. In the last version which came out in, wait for it ... 1984, John Hurt played Winston with Richard Burton, in his final role, as O'Brien, the high-ranking government official. Suzanna Hamilton was the woman who Hurt falls in love with. I'm not familiar with her work but she seems to have had a long if subdued career since.

I haven't read the book since, when, high school? so the details are fuzzy. But the concept is cemented into our universal subconscious, Big Brother IS Watching and that's not a good thing. I'll repeat that - It's NOT a good thing!

Let's take a look at the trailer for the magnificent looking John Hurt/Richard Burton version and see if that sparks some casting ideas. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Oh yeah, I know you're out there, and I even know where you came from. But have no fear, unless you share them with me, I don't know your thoughts. Not yet, anyway.