Monday, July 6, 2015

Poldark: Say yes to the dress! [Episode Three]

Chatting about last night's episode of Poldark. If you haven't yet watched it and you plan to, go read something else. May I humbly suggest The Height of Hubris, todays post on my other site? If you're here for my weekly play along with Dreaming of France, that's for you too.

Well well Mr. Poldark! Aren't you the one? You revealed two sides of your handsome face last night:

The almost heroic Poldark who goes out on a limb to speak up for a poor employee when he's been arrested for poaching—even while sadly failing and getting hot under the collar and quite possibly making things worse for poor James. 

And that other far less heroic man; the weak one who allows himself to get lost in his ales and bed his own servant girl — don't get me wrong, not that I didn't love it — but then the morning after, when your old love comes to call, you look right through poor Demelza. Like she's nothing. You're a cad...and you know it so what do you do? You marry the poor girl. You marry her but there are no guests, there's no celebration. It's just the preacher and your worthless servants Prudie and Jud as witnesses. No guests and not much joy on your faces either. It's a marriage of expedience so you can continue having what you want and need in lieu of Elizabeth but where is the love? We see it on her face all the time while yours, still holding a candle for Elizabeth, is harder to read. What are you doing Ross Poldark? What's the rush?

Meanwhile Uncle Charles has taken ill and suggests it's time for Francis to step up and really run his family's mine. Uncle Charles wants Francis to follow Poldark's lead, do it like Poldark does it. That's likely to build up even more resentment in Francis who knows Elizabeth still secretly holds Poldark in her heart.

Oh! And that dress Demelza needed help getting out of but presumably needed none getting into? Some fans are actually wondering how it's possible and all I can say is, really? The old — can you help me with this zipper, button, necklace — is the oldest trick in the steamy book. Come on now ladies and gents, this is Poldark, historical, bodice-ripping fiction, not a gritty, realistic British crime drama we're talking about. Get with the program, the correct British program!

Characters We Love

Verity (Ruby Bentall) is still holding on to her lost love; looking pale and very unhappy, she carries a picture of the captain in a locket around her neck. Lots of secrets and buried resentments piling up all around. What's next? 

Let's take a peek at a preview of Episode 4 below. I'd love to hear what you think in the comment section.

Key players in this episode: 

Aidan Turner as Poldark
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza
Heida Reed as Elizabeth
Warren Clark as Uncle Charles
Kyle Soller as Francis Poldark
Beatie Edney and Philip Davis as Prudie and Jud
Alexander Arnold as James

Previously on Poldark

Episode One:  I'd Wait for Him
Episode Two: Poldark and his Women

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Slacker Video: The Very Watchable Vera

"She was a large woman, big bones amply covered, a bulbous nose, man-sized feet…Her face was blotched and pitted."
                                                                                                       The Crow Trap 

Not exactly Brenda Blethyn, who stars as Vera in the ITV production based on Ann Cleeves books! While Blethyn's Vera may be slightly bigger than average, and her feet a little clod-hoppery, her skin not only has zero blotches, it's downright peaches and cream. The promo piece above looks ever so slightly tweaked, a bit more lipstick than usual plus one of her rare smiles. While the program first aired in the UK in 2011, I've only just discovered Vera. I binged 3 episodes on Hulu Friday night, and I'm already on the second episode of season two! Brenda Blethyn has the cranky, brilliant and somewhat ungainly bag-lady detective down. Unlike the poster above, Vera Stanhope barely bothers with lipstick. And getting her to pose for a photo would be near impossible. But never mind.

That's a bit more like it. It's still a promo shot but see the difference in her lipstick here vs the poster for the program? When Vera does wear lipstick, it will soon be creeping into the crevices about her mouth. Vera's just not the type to fuss and bother with her looks. She looks the type to throw on whatever's clean, eschewing fashion in favor of comfort and expediency. And yet, all those scarves and dowdy print dresses that she wears with her eternal green trench coat ... could it be she deliberately pairs these odds and ends together? She ends up looking like she shops at Sally Ann's which you may know better as the Salvation Army thrift shop. Vera's lousy fashion sense is trumped only by her poor people skills. Self-involved, controlling, obsessed with the work, the business of solving crimes, she has a hard time connecting with people on a personal level. 

She's one big fabulous mess.

Below is a direct shot from the show; no lipstick, no retouching. Very Vera.

Characters We Love — Vera Stanhope

For today's Sunday Slacker video, here's the trailer for any other Vera virgins out there. Vera costars John Leon as DS Joe Ashford, the detective sergeant Vera prefers to partner with. The other two regular detectives who bear the brunt of Vera's bad humor are Jon Morrison as Kenny and Wanmu Mosaki as Holly. One of my favorite characters, who we luckily only see in small doses, is the dirty-mouthed coroner who makes all sorts off-color remarks played by Paul Ritter. Beyond that the station house is hilariously filled with extras who are never given any assignments and don't say a word but if you can ignore that —and I can—it's good stuff.

The other star is the gorgeous English landscape and coastal areas, simply irresistible. Tune in and settle back for yet another British detective show set in the English countryside. This time the setting is Northumberland; on the east coast,  in the north of England, so far north it's almost Scotland. You can hear the Scots seeping into the dialect too, with costar John Leon calling his children his "bern" and his lunch, his "butty.

I'm eating it up.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saturday Matinee: Tom Cruise sets off the fireworks in Born on the Fourth of July

Tom Cruise was just 27 when he starred as Ron Kovic, the marine turned activist whose biography formed the basis of the acclaimed 1989 anti-war movie, Born on the Fourth of July directed by Oliver Stone. Risky Business, Top Gun and Rain Man were in his past; Days of Thunder and Nicole Kidman were in his immediate future. 

According to Charlie Sheen in The Hollywood Reporter, director Oliver Stone had originally promised him the part. He thought he was a shoe-in due to Platoon but the role went to Tom Cruise who was nominated for an Academy Award for his incredibly strong and moving portrayal of the former Marine. Cruise—who has also earned nominations for Magnolia and Jerry Maguire—didn't take Osar home while Oliver Stone did.
"Ron Kovic was a natural athlete, a shy teenager who dreamed of girls and loved baseball, God, John Wayne, John F. Kennedy, and above all his country. He was a boy who yearned to be an American hero, and who couldn't wait to enlist in the Marines and be shipped off to Vietnam to fight. But Kovic did not come marching back a hero; he came back in a wheelchair, a man with strong reservations about the conduct of the war, and a growing determination to voice those reservations. This is a reissue of his account, which became an Oscar-winning film starring Tom Cruise, of innocence lost and courage found.
You can watch today's Saturday Matinee, Born on the Fourth of July on Google-Play, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon and M-Go.


Happy Fourth of July! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Secret in Their Eyes Trailer: Julia Roberts plays a Mother with capital M & revenge on her mind

Holy S#$t! The first trailer for Secret in Their Eyes just gutted me. It's so powerful it has me wondering whether I could watch the film in theaters. For those of you that are parents out there, don't you find movies that harm kids are tough to watch? My hubs still refuses to watch Mystic River because he can't bear to feel Sean Penn's pain—and we don't even have a daughter! The thriller is a remake of the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film The Secret in Their Eyes and based on the Spanish-language book by Eduardo Sacheri. Writer/director Billy Ray switched things up for the English version of the movie: the film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts as an FBI investigator and a mother whose 16 year old daughter is savagely murdered, a part originally played by a man. Ray (Best Adapted Screenplay nominee for Captain Phillips) apparently wrote the screenplay with Julia Roberts in mind.

We typically think of mothers through a soft focus; on Mother's Day, mommies are feted with flowers and flowery cards singing praises to their sweet, eternally giving sacrificing side but inside every mother I have ever known is a real MOTHER, a woman who doesn't just whimper "Oh, I'd do anything for my child" she Means it. While little daily sacrifices, like that last helping at the supper table, are made by most mothers without a second thought, real MOTHERS will also sacrifice their lives for the life of their child without blinking. When pushed into a corner, when someone threatens or harms their babies, that's savage payback time. We go into attack mode. Judging from the trailer, Julia Roberts' inner mommy is coming out strong. Pity the fool who gets in her way.

Secret in Their Eyes comes out October 23rd. Just in time for awards season and it looks like a contender. No kidding. 

On the minus side my son watched the trailer and while he loved the look of it, he thought the music was heavy-handed and melodramatic. Hard to say if that's part of the score or just something the marketing department put together for this first trailer, a case of the promo music department composer gone amok. Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz takes the credit of 'music editor' on imdb as opposed to composer so it's hard to say.

I'm excited to see the movie is set in Los Angeles, the seedy side of town, not the surfacey glam and sunny places you normally see on film. See what you think of this trailer ...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Long Hot Summer is here: Tis the season for hot days and hotter nights


Phew, the long hot summer is in full swing now. It's been so humid and sticky here in LA that I've had to switch to my summer schedule already, and it's not even the fourth of July yet. That means instead of staying in bed until 10 am while I write my blog—picture me propped up in bed against a pile of plumpy lace-covered pillows like some Victorian authoress, a plumed pen between my delicate little fingers*—I have to abbreviate my morning writing routine so I can get my morning two miles in before the heat of the day zaps my energy and kills any possible incentive to get out there and walk. Once the heat kicks in, I'm done for the day. 

*That's a lie. I don't own a plumed pen or lacy pillows. But I do write in bed in the morning and my hubs always brings me my first couple of cups of the day.

After this week's mini heatwave I can relate to today's #ThrowbackThursday movie, The Long Hot Summer starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Ennui, listlessness; the weather stirs up languor, like drinking hot milk and honey under a princess and the pea size pile of covers. It's just too damn hot.

Languor and lust. When William Faulkner wasn't talking in riddles —Absalom (cough) Absalom—he knew his way around that certain feeling.  And director Martin Ritt knew how to capitalize on the crackling chemistry between Newman and Woodward. The couple, who met while making this film, became inseparable. 

According to TCM
The screenplay for The Long, Hot Summer, written by husband and wife team Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., was based primarily on William Faulkner's 1940 novel The Hamlet. Adapted into a steamy story about a shady drifter being pushed into marriage with the prim daughter of a local businessman, The Long, Hot Summer had all the ingredients for a hit film: colorful characters, striking dialogue and enough heat and innuendo to melt the ice cubes in a tall glass of southern iced tea.
Sound familiar? We ran across the iced tea motif in last week's Saturday Matinee, The Bridges of Madison County.

Let's watch the trailer for The Long Hot Summer. 

Need to add a few more cubes to your glass? The Long Hot Summer is available to stream now on Amazon Instant, GooglePlay, Vudu and Youtube.

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Sim Carter: Past Tense, Perfect/Imperfect

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ten Thousand Saints: The trailer has landed

I featured a couple of video Q+A's with the cast of Ten Thousand Saints back in January when the film debuted at Sundance. Now, four and a half months later, we've finally got a trailer. The movie, based on Eleanor Henderson's novel, comes out August 14th. Check out the trailer and see what you think but to my mind, the trailer anyway, plays a lot more upbeat than the book did.

Set in the 1980's, in a pre-cleaned up NYC—you can't miss the graffiti and the grunge and the garbage on the streets—Ten Thousand Saints stars Asa Butterfield as Jude, a teenager whose mother sends him to NYC to live with his father Les (Ethan Hawke) after his best friend Teddy overdoses on drugs. Trouble is dad deals weed and isn't exactly Robert Young in Father Knows Best. Les isn't exactly Hawke's character in Boyhood either—in the book, at least, Les is much more of a real slacker, absent father while his character in Boyhood is a bit of fuck-up but basically well-intentioned. 

Jude, incredibly depressed by Teddy's death, continues getting high, until he finally gets turned on to the straight-edge, zero drug tolerance lifestyle as practiced by Teddy's brother,  Johnny (Emile Hirsch) a hardcore punk rock singer. Hailee Steinfeld is Eliza, the daughter of Les' girlfriend, Diane, played by Emily Mortimer. Eliza hooks up with Teddy (Avan Jogia), getting him high, the night he dies. She carries more than just guilt as a souvenir of their night together.

I don't think this is really going to be my kind of film even though it's filled with talented actors. Plus the movie comes with 34 producers attached. 34! What's that old saying? Oh, that's right. Too many cooks spoil the broth. 34 cooks is too many cooks.

Mostly though, I doubt I'd enjoy the music which surely must be a major draw for fans of punk rock. A young Canadian composer Garth Stevenson takes the music credit; hopefully he knows a thing or two about the hardcore straight edge music scene as well as scoring for film. But punk is not for me. While I trailed along to a couple of clubs majoring in punk music here in LA in the 80's, punk music was never my scene. Too noisy, too much head banging, screeching and sweat for little old me back then, certainly nothing that would appeal to me now. 

There is also the question of the filmmakers appearing to sanitize the story which deals with some heavy duty issues; real drug abuse vs a little smoking of weed, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, tolerance and acceptance,  and piss poor parenting. On a sheerly superficial basis, what's the deal with Emile Hirsch's hair?! As Johnny he's supposed to have a shaved head, and that shaved head really stands for something. His hardcore devotion to staying straight, eschewing the drugs his contemporaries indulge in. 
But Hirsch's lovely hair is still very much intact which indicates to me a real lack of commitment on Hirsch's part as well as the filmmakers to the intense story Eleanor Henderson tried to tell. What's the opposite of hardcore? But what do I know?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

23 men, 3 women directors invited to join the Academy. This is the most diverse group in history?

A couple of days ago the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released its list of this year's invitees to join the Academy's membership. The org. has been slammed in past years for lacking diversity in both gender and race. Under the leadership of Cheryl Boone-Isaacs who is both black and a woman, the Academy hopes to address some of the inequities. The basic rules of membership, and how that membership comes to be though, hasn't changed. With the exception of Academy Award winners, members can only be nominated and it takes two current members to do so. Even then, the board has to approve the invitation. Call me crazy, but it seems to me change will come very slowly as long as you have the old boy network doing the inviting. 

According to Boone, this year's list of 322 is the largest number of people ever invited, and supposedly the most diverse group ever. 
"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 322 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.  Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2015.
“It’s gratifying to acknowledge the extraordinary range of talent in our industry,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.  “This year, our branches have recognized a more diverse and inclusive list of filmmakers and artists than ever before, and we look forward to adding their creativity, ideas and experience to our organization.”
There's a link at the bottom of the post if you want to check out the full list. First, let's have a look:

The actors branch, the face of the Academy, and mostly what we go to the movies for:

The Ladies First (7)

Elizabeth Banks – “Love & Mercy,” “The Hunger Games”       

Heather Graham – “The Hangover,” “Boogie Nights”                                                   

Felicity Jones – “The Theory of Everything,” “Like Crazy”                                         

Gugu Mbatha-Raw – “Beyond the Lights,” “Belle”                                               

Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl,” “Pride & Prejudice”                                                 

Emma Stone – “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” “The Help” 

Jodi Long – “A Picture of You,” “Beginners”


The Men (18)

Choi Min-sik– “Lucy,” “Oldboy”

Benedict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”

Martin Freeman – “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Hot Fuzz”

Tom Hardy – “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Inception”

Kevin Hart – “The Wedding Ringer,” “Ride Along”

Stephen Lang – “Avatar,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats”

John Carroll Lynch – “Shutter Island,” “Zodiac”

Denis O’Hare – “Milk,” “Michael Clayton”

Michael O’Neill – “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Transformers”

David Oyelowo – “Selma,” “A Most Violent Year”

Dev Patel – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Slumdog Millionaire”

Chris Pine – “Into the Woods,” “Star Trek”

Daniel Radcliffe – “Kill Your Darlings,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2”

Eddie Redmayne – “The Theory of Everything,” “Les Misérables”

Jason Segel – “The Five-Year Engagement,” “The Muppets”

J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash,” “Juno”

Sonny Skyhawk – “Geronimo: An American Legend,” “Young Guns II”

Song Kang-ho – “Snowpiercer,” “The Host”

How do you like those odds? But wait, they get worse. 

With all due respect to Jodi Long, her nomination seems a stretch as Long is primarily a television actress. She is however an actress of Asian descent which I suspect had a little something to do with her invitation. That's great but surely there are more where she came from? I'd love to know who makes up the current membership in its entirety. As past Academy Award winners, Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore have all been 'invited' to become members. Did they join? And if so have who have they sponsored? Come on ladies, let's pull together and create a voting body that looks more like the world we live in. If you had the power to nominate a woman, whether she's a composer, a writer, an actor, or any one of the Oscar categories, who would you pick?

I'm listing the female invitees in other categories and their projects below so you can support these notable women working in film. You want to know who the men are, you'll have to look 'em up yourself. I'm feeling grumpy. 

Of 26 directors, 3 are women.

François Girard – “Silk,” “The Red Violin”

Kelly Reichardt – “Meek’s Cutoff,” “Wendy and Lucy”

Lynn Shelton – “Laggies,” “Your Sister’s Sister”

Of 21 writers,  2 are women

Maya Forbes – “Infinitely Polar Bear,” “Monsters vs Aliens”

Rita Hsiao – “Toy Story 2,” “Mulan”

Of 25 editors, 4 are women. 

Nadia Ben Rachid – “Timbuktu,” “Bamako” 

Kristina Boden – “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Cake” 

Mathilde Bonnefoy* – “CitizenFour,” “Run Lola Run”

Tara Timpone – “Friends with Kids,” “Bad Teacher” 

Of 11 cinematographers, just 1 is a woman

Rachel Morrison – “Cake,” “Fruitvale Station”

Of 16 production designers, 6 are women 

Gae Buckley – “The Book of Eli,” “He’s Just Not That into You” 

Suzie Davies – “Mr. Turner,” “The Children”

Bryn Imagire – “Cars 2,” “Up”

Dina Lipton – “Baggage Claim,” “Love Hurts”

Tatiana Macdonald – “The Imitation Game,” “The Invisible Woman” 

Charlotte Watts – “Mr. Holmes,” “Mr. Turner”

While all 3 costume designers are women...

Kasia Walicka Maimone – “Foxcatcher,” “Moonrise Kingdom”

Francesca Livia Sartori – “Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy,” “When the Night”

Jany Temime – “Gravity,” “Skyfall”


8 out of 10 casting directors are women

Only 4 of the 19 invitees in the music category are women

Just half of the 10 hair & makeup invitees are women

Three out of the 11 'executives' invited are female.

Of the 26 invitees in the sound category, just four are women.

Of 23 visual effects artists, only 1 is a woman.

But there's also some good news. Of the 12 producers, 7 are women. Seven! Just over half.  Check out the entire list here.

The Academy’s membership process is by sponsorship, not application.  Candidates must be sponsored by two Academy members from the branch to which the candidate seeks admission. 
Additionally, Academy Award nominees are automatically considered for membership and do not require sponsors. 
Nominees and sponsored candidates are reviewed by branch committees and recommendations for membership are considered by the Academy’s Board of Governors.  The Board decides which individuals will receive invitations.
Membership Reviews take place ONCE a year, in the spring. Our current DEADLINE for ALL proposals is Thursday, March 24, 2016 

Put yourself in Reese Witherspoon's shoes. Or Nicole Kidman's. Tell me. Who would you sponsor?