Sunday, September 14, 2014

Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart in short and sweet clip from Still Alice

Oh, what a glorious Slacker Sunday! Last week, to coincide with the debut of the screen adaptation of Still Alice at the Toronto International Film Festival, I reposted my take on Lisa Genova's novel about the brilliant college professor struck in mid-life by early onset Alzheimer's disease. Thanks to what everyone is calling an Oscar worthy performance by Julianne Moore with strong support from Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, and Kate Bosworth, SONY has picked up the movie to release during this year's Oscar season. So those of us not lucky enough to catch it at TIFF will be able to see it in our local movie houses soon. There's still no release date but films have to be released before the end of the year to qualify for the Academy's award so we'll have something more than pumpkins, turkeys and holiday bells to look forward to in the next few months.

Hooray! I really can't wait to cry my eyes out. In the meantime, a short clip has been making the rounds. It's not a spoiler, just a sweet moment between mother and daughter having the kind of chat many of us have had with our own parents, and/or our own kids.

There's still no trailer, still no poster. This Still Alice clip is still all we've got so I'm going to settle back with my second cup of coffee and take a look before I start my day. Start my day? It's only 58 seconds, I just may have to watch it several times. Cheers!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Simon Pegg and the Search for Happiness

Finally! Hector lands in theaters September 19th. I've been waiting for this one so Justin Chang's review in Variety - he calls it a 'ghastly feel-good travelogue' isn't making me happy. 

To quote the critic:
Trite, flat-footed, culturally insensitive, and sagging under the weight of more than 25 credited producers, Peter Chelsom’s film will need every ounce of charm and cachet it can wring from star Simon Pegg to achieve box office traction.

I so hope he's wrong!

On a brighter note, Parade, that bastion of cinematic criticism Parade (Ha!) is doing some sort of Twitter chat with star Simon Pegg on September 16th and in preparation for that they sat down and had an old-fashioned chat with the actor. I believe in the olden days this is what's called an interview? Am I the only one who finds Twitter chats with their 140 character restraints and disjointed comments and responses a drag? Anyway, here's a sample, complete with not-ready-for Twitter answers from Pegg. 

What is the one main thing you hope people will take away from this movie?
“When I showed it to my friends…they, without fail, have come to me the next day and said, ‘I’m still thinking about it.’ And for me, that’s the most important thing that any film can do, is slightly alter your perspective or leave you reevaluating things you thought you understood. Too often these days, you’ll go see a film and it will thrill you for 90 minutes and then the next day, you won’t remember what you did the day before.

“And I’m not saying there isn’t a place for frivolous entertainment because there is, and I’ve been in films that are just pure entertainment. But the truly really valuable thing that any art can do is make you think, and I think this film kind of has that. It leaves people thinking, ‘Well, what makes me happy, and how can I be happy?’ And, you know, ‘Why am I not happy?’”

Did you reflect on that personally while you were filming?
“The filming process was actually really interesting because there’s a parallel journey there…which is our journey in making the film. We really did go to all those places in the movie and had a sort of adventure of our own. And for me it was a real experience and I learned a lot and I mostly confirmed what I suspected, which is one of the messages of the film: You can’t just expect to be happy all the time; you need to know what happiness isn’t as much as you need to know what it is…Seeing people living in abject poverty and having the incredibly difficult lives, but nevertheless still smiling and still finding joy in everything—you know, that was incredible because you got the sense that when they smiled, they smiled because they were genuinely happy…And yet in affluent areas around the world I’ve been in, you see people looking far less happy. Maybe because life’s all a bit one note, you know. Maybe you need a bit of hardship to enjoy the times when things are easy.” 

Do you think our definition of happiness changes as we get older?
“The whole idea of getting married and having children when you’re 20 is now sort of a little bit archaic, so we’ve all been having fun instead of settling down, and we have sort of this 20-year extension to our childhood, where people are starting to do that in their early 40s or late 30s. And what that’s meant is, there’s this big void we have to fill, and the only thing we can fill it with is childish things… like video games and films about things we liked when we were kids.

“There’s a huge industry that’s been developed, trying to sell people happiness. People are wondering what the hell they’re doing with their lives, and what they’re supposed to do, and what they’re here for. And to paper over those cracks, we’re constantly told to eat this and buy this and watch this and wear this…and none of it really is a route to happiness. It’s a route to something equivalent to being drunk. It’s a temporary fix, a temporary euphoria.”

“Something that I’ve discovered—I’m going to sound like a really evangelical parent now—but since I’ve had a kid, I kind of realized what makes me happy because I totally understand why I’m on this earth. It’s like, oh, I get it. I’m here to do that. I don’t have to scrabble around for it anymore. You know, to make this little thing, and look after it, and make sure she grows up so she can do the same. It’s very simplistic but for me that’s been the key.”

Read the rest of the story here. And watch the trailer here. I'm planning on seeing Hector and the Search for Happiness anyway. You?

Hector and the Search for Happiness based on the book by Francois Lelord stars Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Gillette, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard and Christopher Plummer.
Peter Chelsom directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Tinker Lindsay and Maria Von Helland. The film comes out in the US on September 19th, while a 9 minute longer version has been playing in the U.K. since it opened last month on August 15th. I wonder what they're seeing that those of us in the USA aren't??

Friday, September 12, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You: Quotation Marks

I am so ready to see what's become of Jonathan Tropper's gorgeous, heartbreaking and hilarious novel, This is Where I Leave You. I plucked a few of Tropper's own words and paired them with images from the film out in theaters September 19th. With any luck some of these notions will make it into the movie; Tropper after all, wrote the screenplay. 

Directed by Shawn Levy This Is Where I Leave You stars Jason Bateman as Judd Altman (the filmmakers changed the name from Tropper's Foxman), Tina Fey as Wendy, Adam Driver as Phillip and Corey Stoll as Paul with Jane Fonda as Hillary, the widowed matriarch with the enhanced faux cleavage. 

The cast also includes Abigail Spencer as Bateman's wife, Rose Byrne as Judd's high school crush, Dax Shepard as Judd's former boss, Wade, Connie Britton as Phillips cougar girlfriend,Timothy Olyphant as Wendy's boy next door, Horry, and Debra Monk as Linda, Horry's mother and Hillary's very, very good friend.

“You never know when it will be the last time you’ll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there’s always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you’d never stop grieving.”

"I'd like to call Hillary and her children up to the Bimah now, to say Kaddish for their beloved husband and father, Morton Foxman."
Mom stands first and strides down the aisle in her stiletto heels like it's a runway, garnering appreciative glances from the older men in the crowd, including Peter Applebaum who shamelessly watches her ass the entire way down.

“Childhood feels so permanent, like it’s the entire world, and then one day it’s over and you’re shoveling wet dirt onto your father’s coffin, stunned at the impermanence of everything.” 

“Someday she'll get older, and the world will start having its way with her. She'll throw temper tantrums, she'll need therapy, she'll grow breasts and have pimples, she'll fight with her parents, she'll worry about her weight, she'll put out, she'll have her heart broken, she'll be happy, she'll be lonely, she'll be complicated, she'll be confused, she'll be depressed, she'll fall in love and get married, and she'll have a baby of her own. But right now, she is pure and undiminished and beautiful.” 

“Wendy taught me to curse, matched my clothing, brushed my hair before school, and let me sleep in bed with her when bad dreams woke me up. She fell in love often, and with great fanfare, throwing herself into each romance with the focus of an Olympic athlete. Now she's a mother and a wife, who tries to get her screaming baby to sleep through the night, tries to stop her boys from learning curse words, and calls romantic love useless. Sometimes it's heartbreaking to see your siblings as the people they've become. Maybe that's why we all stay away from each other as a matter of course.” 

“We don’t share our thoughts, we share carefully sanitized, watered-down versions of them, Hollywood adaptations of those thoughts dumbed down for the PG-13 crowd.” 

“Phillip is the Paul McCartney of our family: better-looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead."

Read more about it

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Heavy Boots: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

One of the most emotional stories to come out of 9/11 isn't about the horrific act of the 9/11 terrorists. Instead it is a young boy's search for understanding and learning to live in the wake of his father's tragic death in the twin towers on that horrible, horrible day. Jonathan Safran Froer's book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close chronicled one family's pain through the eyes of a child; I shed more tears than I can count reading it.
In the words of Jonathan Safran Foer, "You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness."
The Oscar nominated film, directed by Stephen Daldry and starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn (the son) and Max Von Sydow, while not quite living up to the book, and criticized for milking the emotion to the nth degree, is still very much worth watching.

Above, the route from book cover to movie poster to movie tie in book cover.

Reposted from 9/11/2012

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Two Faces of January: Designing the Title Sequences via The Morrison Studio

Just a couple more weeks until The Two Faces of January comes out in limited release.  I liked the book A LOT  and I'm counting the days until I can see the movie starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and the exciting Oscar Isaac. The Patricia Highsmith novel about a couple who become involved with a young American expat of questionable values - but look who's talking; neither Colette (Kirsten Dunst) or McFarland (Viggo Mortensen) are exactly weighed down by their scruples - was both seductive and thrilling. Hossein Amini, the screenwriter of Drive, wrote the screenplay and also directed this one so I'm more than curious to see how he handled Highsmith's cat and mouse game plot. 

Today I wanted to share the process of creating the title sequence for the film. While many movies seem to launch into the film while rolling the opening credits simultaneously, (a design choice in itself) I'm intrigued by those specially designed title sequences that add to the experience and help establish the tone. Think those amazing title sequences for the Bond films or the attention getting titles for David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As I recall that title sequence got a lot more love than Fincher's film.

For The Two Faces of January, The Richard Morrison Studio was tasked with the job; they've done title sequences for a vast amount of films including many other bookish movie projects - [A Long Way Down, Half a Yellow Sun, The Constant Gardener, High Fidelity, Seven Years in Tibet, and Now Is Good - based on Before I Die by Jenny Downham  which I wrote about a couple of years back.  That's the book and movie I think other fans of The Fault in Our Stars will love as well. As an example I've posted the opening title sequence for Now Is Good starring Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irving (War Horse, Great Expectations, The Railway Man).

But back to The Two Faces of January. I found Dean Wares, The Morrison Studio artist/designer who did the line illustrations for Now Is Good, on Twitter, and Dean suggested I might enjoy this nifty blogpost on the process of creating the titles for The Two Faces of January. You all know I eat this stuff up and yes Dean, I did enjoy it! I'm psyched to share it with you guys too. 

I've cut and pasted it from their blog, leaving it in their format so there's no confusion as to who wrote the material. They did. And while we're on the subject of giving credit where credit is due, I grabbed my main graphic of the pulp fiction book covers from their site as well. 

A thriller centred on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer. The film is based on the 1964 novel by Patricia Highsmith, and is already being described as one of the most beautiful and enigmatic thrillers to be hitting the cinemas. Dean and I, along with the rest of the team at The Morrison Studio are delighted to have been able to design and produce the main and end titles for the film.
Work for us began some time ago after meeting with both Hoss and producer Robyn Slovo, who insisted we do the titles after attending a screening for HBO’s Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, directed by Stephen Frears. Robyn liked our title sequence for the film so much, she requested the meeting to discuss what we could do for their new film.
The Two Faces of January Titles Mood Board
So we set out researching the genre in the time period of the film, along with book jackets from Patricia Highsmith’s books as reference. It became apparent that typography and the way we set it was going to be the main focus for us. But we were keen to also see if there was a graphical way we could introduce the first few credits before the opening live action shots. So we started to explore various styles and colours to get the right look we were after.
The Two Faces of January Title Design
From our research at the beginning, it became clear that ‘circles’ was a good direction to start. With the gift of Working Titles’ animated logo leading us into the first credits, it naturally felt right to evolve the style of the sequence from their logo. Combining the right colour palette with the right typeface suitable to the genre, we developed moon shape slithers to slowly rotate concentrically. Then we placed the titles in the negative spaces to create a design based on crime novel book jackets of the 1960’s. The circles were also a good metaphor for the three key characters, who’s romantic journey of deceit and deception would take them full circle to tragic circumstances.
The Two Faces of January Title Design
The creative process however, twisted and turned – a lot like the plot of the film. And as the film’s editing changed, we needed to rethink the titles to something more simpler, yet still stylish. Which will be revealed when you see the film. We kept the colour palette and the typestyle, and we are very pleased with the way it all looks. As simple as it might be… we have a look which compliments the film very well.
We hope you enjoy, and we look forward to sharing our title sequence with you in the very near future.
Note: All images remain the property of their respective owners. Copyrights apply.
At this point are you looking forward to seeing the title sequence as much as I am? I'll post them as soon as they post 'em.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Julianne Moore will lose herself in "Still Alice"; my take on the book

To prepare for the role of Alice, the college professor in 'Still Alice', 
Julianne Moore will most likely dial down the glamour much like she did in The English Teacher.  

I originally wrote this last November, 2013 but with Still Alice having just made its' debut at theToronto International Film Festival, I thought I'd repost it today. It's a film I've been curious about it as I've got a deeply personal connection with the subject of Alzheimer's disease, although not early onset which plagues the protagonist of Lisa Genova's best seller. 

Still Alice, Lisa Genova's frightening novel about a college professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer's disease, is being made into a movie with Julianne Moore signing on to play the titular role. 

The book was emotional and tough to read, the movie won't be easy to watch; my mother died from complications from Alzheimer's last year, she'd been diagnosed over a dozen years earlier. Pretty horrible. You know, a lot of you do anyway, what that's like, to see a family member stricken. Far too many of our parents have been hit by the debilitating disease. My mum was in her seventie's and her disease progressed steadily and slowly over the course of fifteen years but I think she was spared some of the indignity of realizing her own deterioration. Can you imagine having early onset? To be a woman in middle age when it strikes and worse, to be aware of its' quickening stranglehold on your mind, to feel your mental acuity crumbling, your brain falling apart like a piece of puff pastry? 

I can't even stand to think about it although every time I find myself struggling to find a word, I think about it far too much. 

ANYHOO ... scary stuff, and the book, which I read with my heart in my mouth, was terrifying. Separating my personal s#!t out, the story will make for compelling cinema. If you like watching people come undone. Actually I expect it will be the kind of tough love story Amour was to watch. Best of luck to the perennially flawless Julianne Moore*; it's bound to be an intense and emotional journey for the actor.


The lowdown on the book from B&N:

"This may be one of the most frightening novels you'll ever read. It's certainly one of the most unforgettable. Genova's debut revolves around Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife, and mother of three grown children. One day, Alice sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. It's a route she has taken for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Is her forgetfulness the result of menopausal symptoms? A ministroke? A neurological cancer? After a few doctors' appointments and medical tests, Alice has her diagnosis, and it's a shocker -- she has early-onset Alzheimer's disease. 

What follows is the story of Alice's slow but inevitable loss of memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book, or to recall information she heard just moments before. To Genova's great credit, readers learn of the progression of Alice's disease through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so they feel what she feels -- a slowly building terror.

In Still Alice, Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, uniquely reveals the experience of living with Alzheimer's. Hers is an unusual book -- both a moving novel and an important read."
Source: Variety

*Don't go blaming her for Carrie. I'm leaving Carrie out of this as I haven't seen the movie, which for all I know, isn't as atrocious and superflous as I've been given to understand. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

From Lady Chatterley to Bird People: Dreaming of French films

Anyone Dreaming of France? I know mes amis who play along with the Monday meme wish they were there; instead when they'e stuck inside of Mobile or Cleveland or Sydney, they share vacation photos of Paris, stories from trips to Provence, travel tips and books about the country they love. Actually that's not quite true, some of those taking part are there, living in France, or are lucky enough to travel there so much, they might as well be. People like Sally who spends every summer in France; by visiting via Dreaming of France a few months ago I discovered some really wonderful behind the scenes photos from the filming of The Hundred Foot Journey

I try to check in most Mondays by sharing something related to French films based on books. Not always an easy task but I'm a giver. Today I found a trailer for Bird People, a French language film screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie starring Josh Charles (The Good Wife) and Anais Demoustier made a huge impact at Cannes last May.

The trailer, below, is really intriguing; it's not everyday you see a bird riding an escalator.
Bird People, however, is NOT based on a book. It's an original film written by Guillaume Breaud and Pascale Ferran, who also directed.
In an airport hotel on the outskirts of Paris, a Silicon Valley engineer abruptly chucks his job, breaks things off with his wife, and holes up in his room. Soon, fate draws him and a young French maid together.
It doesn't sound like the characters or the audience gets to see much of Paris. Quel domage! Still, the trailer looks intriguing. 

So where's my book to movie connection? 

Director Pascale Ferran also received a huge amount of attention and acclaim for her rendition of Lady Chatterley's Lover -called simply Lady Chatterley- back in 2006. Yes, that book. Merci, Monsieur D.H. Lawrence for the erotic inspiration. I've shared the trailer to Lady Chatterley below; it looks like there's some lovely French scenery if you can take your eyes off the 'action'. I wonder how the seduction and the sex compares to the upcoming film based on Fifty Shades of Grey? Sorry, the two books really shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence; one is a revered classic, the other is poorly written trash. And, no, I'm not following the movie. Sorry? I guess I'd get a lot more hits if I did.

That's my contribution to this week's Dreaming of France, hosted by Paulita at An Accidental Blog. Scroll down to see the trailers and visit Paulita's An Accidental Blog for more.