Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Mornings Chat and Chew

Vickie: Do you ever wish you were a lesbian? Don't you think it would be so much easier.

Lelaina: Sometimes. But...ah, I couldn't go through with it. I'd start laughing or something.

Vickie: It's such a shame because I am so through with men. If one more guy walks out on me . I don't even know what. I swear...

Lelaina: What are you talking about? Walk out on you? You walk out on them. I've seen you. You're out the door before the condom comes off.

Vickie: Listen to me. I am just beating them to the punch.

Lelaina: Okay

Vickie: You don't even know. I'm sitting here...maybe...probably dying of AIDS. And I'm totally alone.

Lelaina: Vickie, you're not alone. Hey, I'm sorry for everything I said. and I'm sorry for being such a bitch. But, I have to tell  you–you're not alone. You're not. And you're not dying of AIDS.

Vickie: You don't understand. Everyday...all day, it's all that I think about. Okay. Every time I sneeze, it's like I'm four sneezes away from the Hospice. And it's like it's not even happening to me. It's like I'm watching it on some crappy show like Melrose Place or some shit, right? And I'm the new character. I'm the HIV/AIDS character and I live in the building. And I teach everybody that it's okay to be near me. It's okay to talk to me. And then I die. And there's everybody at my funeral wearing halter tops and chokers or some shit like that.

Lelaina: Vickie, stop. Okay. Just stop. You're freaking out. And you know what, you're gonna have to deal with the results–whatever they are. We're gonna have to deal with them. Just like we've dealt with everything else.

Vickie: But, this isn't like everything else.

Lelaina: I know that. Alright. But, it's gonna be okay, you know? I know it's gonna be okay...
Melrose Place is a really good show.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Casting Cate

Deadline is reporting that recent Oscar winner and movie-making legend, Woody Allen (perhaps you've heard of him), wants Cate Blanchett to star in his next film set in Copenhagen.

"Fine, Woody, I'll do the Copenhagen film. Just stop looking at me like that. You're frightening me."

(He also apparently would like Bradley Cooper in the cast as well...Yeah, maybe there's still some time to rethink that one. I feel like Bradley Cooper is always in talks for these major films with serious directors, but on what merits? A bunch of Rom-Com Ensembles and The Hangover series? I just don't get it. And he's already done an episode of 'Inside the Actor's Studio' where he proceeded to cry the entire time and talk about the craft of acting in Wedding Crashers. Yesh.)

The pairing of Cate and Woody sounds pretty good to me. We don't know anything about the movie yet, but Cate is always the right choice in my opinion. And with her work on the next Terrence Malick movies and (possibly) this film, she'll be working with a couple of living legends in the next couple of years.

I feel like its been awhile since we've seen Cate. There was a time in the mid-00s where she was in every other movie. But, her only two films over the past 3 years were Robin Hood (which I actually shut off because I was so bored. And I never stop watching a movie. I even sat through Godzilla with Matthew Broderick) and Hanna (which she was pretty great in).

I just hope it actually works out. Of my three favorite actresses working today (Winslet, Kidman, Blanchett), not one of them has been in one of Woody's films. Both Kate and Nicole were cast in films (Match Point for Kate and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger for Nic), but both dropped out before filming. Hopefully things will be better for Cate. And Woody certainly has a knack for directing actresses to Oscars (Diane Keaton, Penélope Cruz, Mira Sorvino, Dianne Wiest–twice). Although, it's not like Cate needs another Oscar. But, if Hilary Swank has two...

There's no way to know for sure which direction the film will go either. We don't even know if it's a comedy or a drama. (I'm hoping for a comedy because I love when Cate let's loose and has some fun. But, doesn't the combo of Copenhagen and Cate just automatically equal snowy-set drama?) And his films can be wildly uneven, for every Midnight in Paris there's a Curse of the Jade Scorpion. (The man has been making a film a year since the 70s–they can't all be winners.) Fingers crossed that if a Woody and Cate pairing does happen, it'll be more like the former.

Until any concrete news is announced, we have his Rome set film this summer to look forward to. After the huge success of Midnight in Paris (Woody's most finically successful film to date), it'll be interesting to see how this one turns out. The Bop Decameron, Nero Fiddled, To Rome With Love stars Oscar nominees, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, and Alec Baldwin, plus Oscar winners, Penélope Cruz and...Roberto Benigni. Yikes. Maybe Roberto will prove that Oscar wasn't a fluke. But from the looks of this poster, it's not looking so good...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The People in the Pictures

Way back in the Summer of 1997, Will Smith was showing he was King of the summer Blockbuster with the first Men in Black, America was suddenly smitten with a mop-headed trio of brothers who MMMbopped their way into our hearts, and AFI did their first-ever television special: 100 Years, 100 Films. I was so excited that amid the usually brainless movie period of the summer, people were actually talking about real films. I was still in my early teens and though I had heard of most of the films they were talking about, had not seen them all. Being the list-obsessed, movie-lover that I am, I decided that it was paramount that I see all 100 films. I used to rent about 5 videos (!) at a time from Blockbuster (remember that place?) and watch them down in my basement. I was my own film education seminar.

One of the films on that list (#27) was the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde, which is the subject of this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot Series at The Film Experience. I can remember watching it in my basement all those years ago, but I couldn't really recall it in its entirety. Sure, I remember the famous scene at the end when the two are gunned down in a rain of bullets–twitching and bloody. That was the whole reason for the success of the film. It was groundbreaking in its depiction of violence (it seemed fitting that I re-watched it yesterday on the birthday of Quinten Tarantino. A man who revolutionized cinematic violence for a new generation). But, no other images really stood out in my memory. So, I felt as if I was watching it with fresh eyes and waited to see if something else would strike a chord.

I was immediately struck by the opening credits sequence. A series of Depression Era photographs flash onto the screen with no sound other than the clicking of a camera (meant to reference the quick-fire sounds of a gun?) and the title cards of the stars' names as the text change from the color of a yellowed photograph to blood red. Those images set the tone for the film and wordlessly establish a time and place. Even before we've encountered our doomed lovers, we can already see why they would take to a life of crime. Life was hell and you had to do what you had to get by.

As those images give way to the close-up shot of Faye Dunaway's painted mouth, we are taken from the grim reality of those photos and into the glossy world of the film–a place where sex and violence commingle to create a notoriety that will elevate Bonnie and Clyde from the fate of the people in the pictures. No death of starvation and poverty for them, but to end in a blaze of glory.

And speaking of blazes, those early scenes with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty have a cracking sexuality that was making my screen steam up. They're both so young and dewy. They kept looking at each other as hungrily as the camera is them. At one point as they're getting to know each other, they share some bottles of Coke together. The way Dunaway had her lips on that's a good thing the Hays Code was no longer utilized. I read that at some point Beatty's real-life sister, Shirley MacLaine was being considered for the part of Bonnie. That would have been awkward. It's no wonder Clyde takes to shooting and bank robbing when we learn he's unable to perform with Bonnie. All that foreplay build-up has got to find some kind of release.

So, the duo set out together as outlaws in a series of vignettes that don't entirely flow together into a cohesive storyline. They pick up a slow mechanic named CW that has one of those faces that doesn't age, mainly because he looks like an old man already even in his 20s. They are joined by Clyde's brother (Gene Hackman!) and his wife played by Estelle Parsons in an Academy Award-winning role (her?). Her performance and voice are so shrill and grating, I'm gonna have nightmares whenever I remember it. At one point Gene Wilder is taken hostage as well. It's all just a series of unfortunate events that lead up to inevitable massacre. Which, even by today's standards is pretty intense.

But, what I kept coming back to was those photographs at the beginning of the movie. The camera plays a huge part in the film and really of building the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. The camera, no longer an expensive luxury where you had to go to a studio to have your picture taken, was now apart of everyday life in the 30s. And with that came the power to make yourself a celebrity. In fact, the reason Bonnie and Clyde became the legends that they are is because of a series of photographs that the media published (recreated as a scene in the movie), in which Bonnie poses with a cigar in her mouth and a gun in her hand. The iconic image of the gun-toting moll and her lover gave off an element of danger and sex appeal. And what sells a story more?

As great as those images are though, the shots that stuck with me– and the ones I ultimately decided on– are those that recreate the grittiness in the photographs at the beginning of the opening credits. Bonnie and Clyde have been sleeping in an abandoned house that has been seized by the bank after foreclosure. The previous owners discover the two as they have shooting practice with his now-gone property. The man tells Clyde this used to be his home. Bonnie and Clyde look out at where his family is to see this:

They're such composed shots that really capture how down-trodden people were in the Depression. That image of the mother and child reminds me so much of Dorothea Lange's famous image from that era that you know the filmmakers used it as a reference. It's a fleeting, but haunting image. And with this scene we're able to see the humanity of Bonnie and Clyde. How do you root for people when they rob and kill? But the looks on the outlaws' faces after they see what their fate could be says it all–they're doing it for them. To give the put-upon something to believe in.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We Didn't Need Dialogue–We Had Faces

On this day, 113 years ago, the face of Gloria Swanson came into this world. But as beautiful as that publicity shot above is, the world will always remember her this way:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Artistry of Glen Keane

I've had Disney animation on my mind a lot recently. On Thursday night, the internet caught word that a rare documentary made by Trudie Styler and John-Paul Davidson called The Sweatbox had made its way to youtube in it's entirety. The film documented what was supposed to be an epic animated film about the Incas, with music by Sting, called Kingdom of the Sun. But, in the middle of production, the half-completed film was overhauled to become the comedic, The Emperor's New Groove. Word is that the heads of Disney were not happy with the way they were portrayed and have made it nearly impossible to see the finished documentary film. In fact, I moved too slowly in getting a chance to see it and now it's been taken off of youtube. I had been really looking forward to Kingdom of the Sun when it had been announced as a project. And was very skeptical of the change. I mean, it had the word 'groove' in the title. I will say that I do find The Emperor's New Groove to be pretty hilarious (Eartha Kitt's line deliveries are genius), despite the awful title. But, I still long to see that sweeping, epic film that was originally planned.

Then Nathaniel over at The Film Experience mentioned the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty in his post on former Disney animator, Tim Burton. That film focuses on the glory years of the late 80s to late 90s when Disney was able to make animation a huge success again. I got to see an advanced screening of that film, back in 2009, at BAM with a Q & A with the filmmakers, producer Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and former president of Feature Animation at Disney, Peter Schneider. It's available on Amazon to watch instantly. Hahn and Schneider said that they were surprised what they were able to show in the film because Michael Eisner and Roy Disney don't exactly come across in the best light. I guess maybe they got away with more because they were former employees and knew how it was. It's definitely worth a look if you are at all interested in animation.

But, the thing that made me most nostalgic was the news on Friday that legendary animator Glen Keane was leaving Disney Animation after 37 years. You may not be familiar with his name, but you definitely know his work (and his dad is 'The Family Circus' comic creator, Bil Keane). Over at Cartoon Brew, they have the complete text of the letter he sent out to his co-workers. In honor of what many are calling the end of an era, I wanted to pay tribute to Glen Keane with a look back on the amazing work he's created over the years. He's brought to life some memorable characters that were a huge reason for the success of the Disney Animation Renaissance. They certainly have had an impact on my life and will no doubt live on for generations to come.

Ariel, Beast, Aladdin, Pocahantas, Tarzan, and Rapunzel after the jump

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Girlz in the Hood

The 80s were a strange time in filmmaking. It seemed that no matter when a film's time or place were set, they were still obsessed with making it seem of the moment. It took me years to realize Dirty Dancing was supposed to be set in the early 60s. (Who do they think they were fooling? No one in the 60's had a teased mullet like Swayze was sporting. Try imagining that on Don Draper). And there seemed to be an unusual amount of fantasy movies that came out in that decade as well (Legend, NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, Working Girl– Melanie Griffith's gravity-defying hair had to be the work of magic) that don't always hold up to recent viewings. I watched NeverEnding Story a couple of years ago with some friends. It had been years since I'd seen it and was excited to relive my childhood. Big mistake. Huge. I can't imagine what I liked about it as a kid (other than the princess that wears necklaces on her head, of course. A look my 6-year-old self decided to make their own). The movie was soooo slow and more bizarre than magical. So, it was with some trepidation that I watched the first film in The Film Experience's Hit Me With Your Best Shot Third Season–a film I'd never actually seen before–the 80s fantasy film, Ladyhawke.

I kept telling everyone about how I needed to see Ladyhawke and everyone's response was, why? I feel like people know of it, but no one has actually seen it. One of my friends asked if there was time-traveling in the plot. Spoiler Alert: there is not. There is, however, a tragically romantic curse that keeps the lovers apart while they are together. (Aren't those always the best kind? I want people to suffer for their love. To love is to burn, to be on fire... ) By day the lady is in the form of a hawk and by night her lover, the knight, takes the form of a wolf. Thus preventing them from being human together at the same time. Aww...

Unfortunately, for a having the film named after her, there is not nearly enough lady (plenty of hawk). Instead, we are saddled with a fresh-faced Matthew Broderick as a thief named Mouse. They should have named the film Ferris Bueller Annoyingly Talks to Himself in a Quasi-British Accent for Two Hours. It was seriously grating. I'm not sure what he was trying to do with that character.

Since the transformations revolve around sunrise and sunset, there were some beautiful long-shots of mountains and lakes bathed in golden light. But, just like when I visit a museum, I'm not here for landscapes. I need a face. Luckily, the film has one of the most gorgeous faces to ever grace the screen, Michelle Pfeiffer. I was a little obsessed with her Catwoman as a kid. I may or may not have walked around the neighborhood with a one-handled jump rope wrapped around my body to simulate her look with a whip. And Ladyhawke is one of her few films that I hadn't seen–and really the only reason I was watching the movie now. After a torturous, Pfeiffer-less first half-an-hour of the film, I was starting to get antsy. Just give me what I came to see already! Finally, at about the 24 minute mark, the pay-off:

Such a dramatic entrance to the film as she slowly turns her head in a black hood until we get a full shot of her face. That face! I don't see how anyone could have chosen a shot that isn't of Michelle. And, as I'm sure you can guess from my necklace as headwear and jump rope/whip anecdotes, I love a good accessory. There's something so theatrical about a hood. The mystery of the way it hides your face. And it's best if it's attached to a flowing cloak or created by a draped piece of cloth–somehow a hooded sweatshirt doesn't have the same, romantic effect. It's definitely Michelle's accessory-of-choice in the film as she's again spotted wearing another hood, this time in red:

So effortless, even Little Red Riding Hood would be jealous.

I'm not really sure what else happened in the movie–something about an archbishop and a drunk priest and breaking the curse while going through a sewer. I kinda just let it play in the background and came back if I heard some Michelle or if I felt like rocking out to the 80s-tastic synth score (cause that was a good choice for a period piece–electronic music). But, my one take-away is: nothing makes a tragic lover look more chic than an amazing hood.

After the jump, a celebration of the hood.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's in a Name?

Back in the studio system days, when stars were packaged and sold to the public, the studio took it upon themselves to change an actor's name to give it more star quality. After all, who's gonna see the next film of Norma Jean Baker or Archibald Leach? But, we live in a different age now. Stars are just like us! US Weekly says so. They are just so real and use the names that they were born with...or do they?! Below are the names of several modern actors, see if you can guess which names are real and which are stage names. Answers after the jump.

1. Channing Tatum
2. Julianne Moore
3. Brad Pitt
4. Charlize Theron
5. Keanu Reeves
6. Sigourney Weaver
7. Joaquin Phoenix
8. Whoopi Goldberg
9. Leonardo DiCaprio
10. Winona Ryder
11. Viggo Mortensen
12. Natalie Portman
13. Michael Caine
14. Meg Ryan
15. Jonah Hill
16. Reese Witherspoon
17. Jude Law
18. Rooney Mara
19. Armie Hammer
20. Uma Thurman

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Ode to Lynn Collins

How is that not the face of a star?
Whenever I see casting news for Lily Collins I always get really excited because in my head they're actually talking about Lynn Collins (I sometimes have the same problem with Emma Watson/Emily Watson. Their names are too similar!). You see, ever since I saw Lynn Collins on stage as Rosalind in the Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It back in 2005, I've been one of her biggest fans. She had such an ease on stage and a charisma that drew you in. Her Rosalind had a natural sexiness, even when disguised as a man. Equally adept at both the comedy and the drama and a wonderful command of the language–she made it all look so effortless. I was completely enchanted and left the theatre thinking, 'she's gonna be a big star.'

Apparently, Hollywood had other plans. Lynn Collins is hardly a household name. And despite starring in some big-budgeted projects, she never gained that fame I thought she was destined for. Stardom is such a strange beast. If it was based on talent alone, Collins would already be there. But, there's so many elements at play that are completely elusive. It all depends on what you appear in and what connects with the audience. And sometimes the public is not always the best judge of character. I mean, we're talking about moviegoers that have made Adam Sandler a movie star.

Lynn Collins spent most of her childhood in Asia, which allowed her to learn about different cultures and people–perfect training for a future actor. When she returned to the Houston area, she attended Klein High School with classmates Lee Pace and Matt Bomer. At 17, she attended Juilliard in New York. After graduation, her first professional job was starring as Ophelia opposite Liev Schriber's Hamlet at the Public Theatre. Her first big break came when she was cast as Portia in the film version of The Merchant of Venice opposite Al Pacino as Shylock in 2004. She won the role after a pregnant Cate Blanchett had to drop out. The film was to be a showcase for Pacino, but most reviews praised Collins– signaling a sign of (hopeful) big things to come. Hot off the success of Venice, her Rosalind in the park the next year showed that she was one of her generation's best interpreters of the Bard. But after that is when things started going off-track. She started to appear in indies that no one had heard of or she appeared in forgettable girlfriend roles in things that were a success. (Quick–try to remember her in True Blood or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. ) It was frustrating for me to see her in those roles as I know she was capable of better.

Being cast as Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars, in Andrew Stanton's sure-to-be hit, John Carter, seemed like it would be just the thing to bring her to that next level. Unfortunately, I think we all know how that guaranteed success is turning out. But, the thing is, I saw the movie last weekend (in IMAX 3-D!) and Lynn is great in it. I actually really enjoyed the film as well. It was a lot of fun and gorgeous to look at. I don't understand the hostile critical reaction. It's like they all went in deciding they were gonna hate it. When it was over, the kid in front of me excitedly exclaimed, 'now that's a movie!'

Collins's Dejah isn't just a damsel in distress, but an intellectual (working at the Helium Academy of Science) and a sword-welding warrior. Her years of training in Shakespeare allows Collins to give a depth and believability to what has been criticized for being clunky dialogue. With a reddish-tinged tan (complete with tribal tattoos) and outfitted in skimpy dresses, she's never looked more beautiful on screen. I started to fall in love with her all over again. The film may not have been the hit it was supposed to be, but at least Collins can be proud of the work she did. Hopefully it will just be a stumbling block on the way to a long and successful career. I've kinda given up hope that she'll be the next big thing, but I'm happy as long as I get to see her on stage or screen. And there's always Mirror, Mirror to look forward to...Wait, that's Lily Collins. Dammit...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In addition to drinking, it's tradition on March 17th to wear green to avoid the sting of a pinch. So in honor of this tradition I've assembled the 10 Best Green Looks From Cinema. It may not be easy being green, but these characters certainly pull it off.

10. Ryan Reynolds as The Green Lantern
What's the best way to accessorize a CGIed skin-tight, green suit? With a gaudy green ring from space, of course.

9. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy 
The movie may have been a disaster (batsuit nipples!), but at least Uma looked good in her plant-couture costumes. 

8. Errol Flynn as Robin Hood
Not every man is able to pull off green tights...

7. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell
Unless you're the boy who never grows up and your best friend is a fairy. Then you can get away with anything.

6. Keira Knightley as Celia in Atonement
I think more people talked about the dress than the actual film. It become a character unto itself.

5. Shrek
Everyone's favorite green ogre is made of green as well. The franchise has made over 3.4 billion dollars at the box office.

4. Vivien Leigh in Scarlett O'Hara's dress made from curtains
One of the most iconic dresses in the history of film. She saw it in the window and just couldn't resist it (this joke brought to you by The Carol Burnett Show).

3. Yoda
Luke Skywalker's Jedi Master: Inspiring jumbled-up word impressions since 1980 he has.

2. The Wicked Witch of the West
Why did she want those Ruby Slippers anyway? With her skin tone, she'd be walking around looking like Christmas. She was just jealous that they went so well with gingham.

1. Kermit the Frog
How could it be anyone else? Nothing brings quite as much joy as this amphibian made of green felt.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Girl On Fire

Get ready, Jen, cause this is only the start
I hope everyone is ready because we are literally watching the meteoric rise of an actress getting catapulted into superstardom. And from the looks of her gold Prabal Gurung dress at Monday's LA Premiere and (are you noticing a trend here) Ralph Lauren dress at the London Premiere, the Oscar-nominated star of The Hunger Games is ready for the attention. The director, Gary Ross, has already stated that he thinks Jennifer Lawrence should be nominated for an Oscar for her work in the film. And what better way to alert potential voters that you are interested in trophies than by dressing like one (it worked for Meryl this year). So shiny...

I'm ready for the ascent of Jen. She was great in the film that earned her that first Best Actress nom, Winter's Bone. Her Appalachian character couldn't be more different than the dolled-up movie star in these red carpet photos (seriously, she eats a squirrel she kills herself in the movie). She's already worked with the likes of Jodie Foster and David O. Russell. And she's already been apart of a blockbuster with last summer's X-Men: First Class. But, I have a feeling that playing Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games is gonna one of those iconic roles, like Indiana Jones or Sigoureny Weaver in Aliens, that will forever be associated with an actor as a mark of their legacy.

But, the best thing about Jen is that she is actually a very good actress. There are movie stars who can act and then there are actors who just happen to be movie stars. Jennifer Lawrence is the later. She is very determined to do great work. And starring in a big-budget franchise can hurt your career just as much as help if people only buy you as that character. Luckily, she's already lined up her next project. She's working with Academy Award winning director, Susanne Bier, as the title character in Serena. The story is set in 1929 North Carolina as Serena and her husband (Bradley Cooper) set up a lumber empire at any cost. But, all her ambitions are sidetracked when Serena can't give birth. When she discovers her husband already has an illegitimate child, she sets out to destroy him. Sounds like a ruthless Medea/Lady Macbeth-type role that could show a very adult side to the young actress. In fact, the role had been pursued by another famous actress who could maybe give Jen some tips on how to handle being a movie star: Angelina Jolie. Cause after March 23, her life is gonna change...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Of a Mouse and a Man

This mock poster from a French artist named Pascal Witaszek has been everywhere the past couple of days. It even lead some people to believe it was an actual movie coming out. Sadly, it is just the dream of  a Frenchman who should go into casting (It's a little hard to read, but the other actors who are apparently in the movie are Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Marion Cotillard, and...Matthew Fox. I'm not really sure who all those people would be playing in the biopic, but that's quite the cast he's assembled). And even though it may not be true, the general consensus is that someone should make it happen.

Ryan Gosling as a young Walt Disney is kinda genius casting. After all, Gosling got his start on the Mickey Mouse Club. And a biopic about Walt's career would be interesting. I happened to catch a documentary about Disney a couple months ago while I was flipping through the stations and ended up watching the entire thing. But, the thing about biopics that don't seem to work is when they try to cram a person's entire life into 2 hours. I like the one's that focus on an important moment in time. This also saves us from the annoying young-actor-in-bad-age-make-up-recapping-their-life narrative that seems to be so popular as well. (Leo in J. Edgar should serve as a lesson to all filmmakers who think that's a good idea). I think this film would work best if it focused on Walt's early career (Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and ultimately, Mickey) and ended with the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. After that, Walt was going off in too many directions with different projects and the story would get jumbled. There should be some way to incorporate animated segments as well so it's not just a straight forward biopic. Which means Ron Howard as a director is out. His filmmaking is too humorless and dry. Someone on a website suggested Wes Anderson and I'd like to second that. Hopefully, someone at Disney is taking notice of all the good buzz this fake movie is having and make it a reality.

But, before that happens, it's looking like Oscar-winner Tom Hanks could be taking on the role of Walt Disney. It was reported last month that the company is trying to bring Saving Mr. Banks to the big screen with Hanks as Disney and Meryl Streep as P.L. Travers, the woman who wrote the Mary Poppins books. The script was on last year's Black List (an annual list of the best unproduced scripts) and focuses on Disney's pursuit of acquiring the rights to make the film and Travers' subsequent dislike of the final product. I, for one, hope this movie–with the proposed cast–actually comes to fruition. Mary Poppins is just one of those movies that reminds me of my childhood and a backstage look into the making of it sounds intriguing. Maybe if they move fast enough we can get a double dose of Disney biopics. Two of our finest actors playing an American Icon. When you wish upon a (movie) star, your (biopic) dreams come true...

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hit of All of Europe and Cannes

Twitter is officially the new place to debut a still from your new movie. Just days after Jerry Bruckheimer tweeted a pic from the set of the upcoming, big-budget blockbuster, The Lone Ranger, Best Actress Oscar winner (but, please don't mention Mommie Dearest), Faye Dunaway, tweeted this picture from the set of her feature film directing debut–the film version of Terrence McNally's play Master Class. She also stars in the film as opera diva, Maria Callas.

You haven't mentioned the Johnny Depp picture. Which I was brilliant in.

The play focuses on the legendary singer as she preformed master classes at Juilliard in the 70s and flashes back to when the opera star was with oil tycoon (and future Jackie O husband), Aristotle Onassis. The play debuted on Broadway in the fall of 1995 and won Tonys for Best Play, Best Actress in a Play (Zoe Caldwell), and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Audra McDonald). Faye did the National Tour of the production in 1996 and bought the film rights over a decade ago. Judging from the looks of that pic, it looks like the movie was filmed back in the 90s as well. 

I had no idea this was even happening. And after seeing the recent Broadway revival this summer with Tyne Daly, I'm not so sure it's necessary. The play is essentially a one-woman monologue as Maria Callas berates 3 students and tells tales of her glory days (complete with outlandish impressions of Onassis!). It's just so theatrical. I don't really see how it would work as a movie. And that picture isn't exactly inspiring confidence in Faye's ability as a director. This is the shot you choose to get people excited about your film? What's even going on? It looks like a staged shot from a community theatre production. 

Faye's been in the news in recent years for starting a feud with Hilary Duff and being evicted from her bug-infested New York apartment, so it's good to see her acting in something of value again. Faye really is a living legend. Even though things haven't been so great for her over the past few years decades, her body of work (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Network, and, yes, even Mommie Dearest) has already stood the test of time. She's brilliant in them. And if you don't believe me, just have her tell you herself. This is perhaps her greatest performance:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Let's Put On a Show

Vanity Fair has a great gallery of photographer Simon Annand's work of actors backstage. It's part of an exhibit of his work in the UK at the Idea Generation Gallery and coincides with the release of a book on the same subject entitled, The Half: Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage. Almost all of the photos are of actors who may have become famous because of their film work, but who have a history with the stage. Some, like Cate Blanchett and Kevin Spacey, still find time to return to the theatre, and others in the photos, like Tom Hardy and Carey Mulligan, were just getting their start. I've always loved behind-the-scenes photography of theatre and film productions. There's a romanticism to trying to capture that creative energy at work while the actor prepares.

I've actually had the pleasure of seeing a couple of these productions that the photographs chronicle, when they transfered to Broadway. It got me thinking about all the great actors I've gotten to see on stage. Since I always love a list, I've compiled the 10 Best Stage Performances by Film Actors (that I've seen). I'm focusing on famous actors known more for their film work since that is the main focus of the photos. So I'm gonna have to leave off the stage work of such theatrical greats as Zoe Caldwell and Patti LuPone or actors, like Fiona Shaw, Stockard Channing, and Cynthia Nixon, who have done film but aren't necessarily famous in that medium. Also, if a said one of the best performance I've ever seen was Mary Louise Wilson in 4000 Miles, that would mean nothing to you. You wanna hear about movie stars like Scarlett Johansson and John C. Reilly (neither will be on this list, but I have seen them) and I don't blame you. On to the stars!

10. Geoffrey Rush Exit the King (2009)
The Oscar winner has a tendency to go a little over the top in performances. But, you know where that works really well– on the stage where everything is exaggerated and a performance where you're going slightly crazy to avoid death! Rush won a Tony for his performance in this absurdist play by Ionesco. His comic performance definitely reached me in my cheap seats. His energy and humor are what really stuck with me.

9. Liam Neeson The Crucible (2002)
I must confess–I don't entirely remember everything about this performance. So, why have I included it here? Because it holds a special place in my heart. It is one of my favorite plays and this production (which also starred Laura Linney) was the first Broadway production I ever saw the first time I ever came to NYC. I was worried about taking the wrong subway and missing the show, so I walked all the way from NYU in Greenwich Village to 52nd Street in Times Square. Let me tell you, it's a long walk. But, I was thrilled to have seen it and I remember Liam Neeson's commanding presence on stage. His earthy, soulfulness is exactly right for the character of John Procter.

8. Jane Fonda 33 Variations (2009)
The two-time Best Actress Oscar winner has only appeared in two US theatrical releases since 1990 (Monster-in-Law and Georgia Rule. Lord, help me–I've seen them both) and the last time she was on Broadway was in 1964, so I was more than excited to see a living legend like Jane Fonda on stage. She played a Beethoven expert studying a minor piece of music of the composer while at the same time battling Lou Gehrig's disease. The play also concerns mother/daughter relationships and spans centuries as Beethoven, himself, is also a character in the play. Such a chaotic structure has the risk of getting out of control, but it was held together with Fonda's centered performance. And what a treat it was to hear that rich, honey voice in person. Her efforts were rewarded with a Tony Nomination.

7. Anne Hathaway Twelfth Night (2009)
This was definitely a hot ticket that summer as Annie was just coming off her Best Actress Oscar nomination for Rachel Getting Married. Her career had entered a new level and I think there were certain expectations that followed. This was a really smart move for her to make as taking on Viola, one of the greatest female stage roles, showcased her talents as a comedic actress–doing Shakespeare, no less–and allowed her to shine in an all-star ensemble. It really seemed like she was enjoying herself and that effortlessness came across on stage. The night I saw it, she started to cough after taking a drink of wine on stage and quickly ad-libbed, 'Tis strong. It was a charming moment that only increased my enjoyment of her performance and the production.

6. Frances McDormand Good People (2011)
When I first saw Frances on stage in The Country Girl in the role that brought Grace Kelly an Oscar (cause they're the same type...) a few years earlier, I was really disappointed. It was a ho-hum production and she never seemed to connect with the character or her co-stars. But, she was outstanding in her Tony award winning performance last year in this MTC production. This time around, she had no problems connecting with this character and she had a lived-in quality that made you believe that this was a real person. It helped that the play was so smartly written. She played a woman with a special-needs adult child in Southie, Boston. When she gets laid-off of her job at a dollar store, she reconnects with an old boyfriend who has since become a successful doctor. Her scenes in the second act with Tate Donavon as the ex and Renée Elise Goldsberry as his wife had a kinetic energy, edge-of-your-seat excitement that makes you appreciate live theatre.

The Stars do Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams after the jump

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hasn't He Already Met His Weird Character Quota?

Remember in the 90's when Johnny Depp used to be in movies like What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and Donnie Brasco and everyone kept talking about what a great actor he was and how nuanced and rich his performances were? Things changed after the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. (I will not specify which one with the <colon, subtitle> because there is only one that actually exists in my mind. The other three are just a fever dream.) And now we get movies with this Johnny Depp:

The top is from a picture that producer Jerry Bruckheimer posted on his twitter account today from the set of Disney's film adaption of the TV series The Lone Ranger, due out next year. That's SAG nominee (and Meryl Streep photo-bomber) Armie Hammer as the titular character. And the bottom pic was a released still from Depp's millionth 8th collaboration with director Tim Burton, the film adaption of the TV series Dark Shadows, coming out this May. Basically, if Johnny liked a TV show from the 60's when he was kid, he's gonna do the film version of it.

I mean, where do I begin? The man has an actual dead crow on his head. The whole damn bird.

I remember when Alice in Wonderland came out and Helena Bonham Carter kept talking about how Burton always tells her not to be too weird or over-the-top and her reaction was, 'But you let Johnny do whatever he wants!' Thank god, somebody said it. When did we decide it was okay to let Johnny Depp do whatever the hell he feels like doing with a character? Just because he did something different (that worked) with Jack Sparrow, we are now subjected to strange caricatures that are just weird for weird's sake. And the rare times that he does try to play it normal as a regular human being (like Finding Neverland and Public Enemies), he does absolutely nothing. They're so boring they border on catatonic. Does it have to be such extremes, Johnny? How many more birds have to die so you can indulge in this ridiculousness?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Is the New Summer

I feel like it all began with the unexpected success of 300 back in March of 2007. Up until then, everyone knew that if you had a potential blockbuster on your hands you released it in the summer. Big-budget, popcorn films and summers off just go hand in hand. Something about not being in school and the heat just make you wanna go to an air-conditioned theatre for a couple hours and turn your brain off. But, all that changed with the $70.89 million opening weekend of 300. Suddenly, studios realized that summer movies didn't have to be released in summer. (I wonder if they'll ever realize that Oscar movies don't always have to be released in the final weeks of December? It gets so hard trying to see everything at awards time when they're all released at the same time. They're probably afraid that if people actually had time to think about a film, they'd realize that it's not as good as they initially thought.)

With the success of 300, each year since has had a major March release. Tim Burton's (horrible) take on Alice in Wonderland in 2010 is still the biggest success of any film released in March. Its opening weekend was $116.1 million and its final US gross was $334.19 million. With the better-than-expected $70.2 million opening of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax this past weekend and a couple more high-profile, blockbuster films coming out this month, I think it's safe to say that March is no longer in the forgettable, barren wasteland stretch between awards bait and summer fare, but has established itself as the beginning of the Summer Blockbuster Season (if only the March weather would realize that)...

'I have a feeling we're going sink faster than the Titanic. The ship not the movie. Is there still a chance to join the cast of The Hunger Games?'
March 9: John Carter of Mars
This Friday brings the release of Pixar director, Andrew Stanton's first venture into live-action with the reported $250 million budgeted, John Carter. There has been a lot of press about this film lately– all bout how the over-budget film is looking to be one of the biggest flops in history. Last year, they decided to change the title of the film (based on a series of books from the early 1900's by Edgar Rice Burroughs) from John Carter of Mars to the very generic sounding, John Carter (that's also the name of Noah Wiley's character from 'ER' which would be a different movie altogether). Apparently, they were afraid that the sci-fi aspect of the film would alienate (pun intended) a potential audience. But, I mean, the film is set on Mars. You can only fool people so much. They're gonna realize once (and if) they actually see the movie. Because they haven't embraced what the film actually is, the average movie goer has no idea what the film is about now. It really hasn't been marketed well and I read some reviews today that weren't too glowing. Entertainment Weekly gave it a D, y'all. Things aren't looking good for its success or the intended trilogy it was supposed to start. But, every interview I've been reading with director Andrew Stanton has been really interesting and he's wanted to make this movie since he read the books as a kid. It makes me really want it to succeed. People were predicting a huge flop with Avatar as well and that turned out for the best (Oscar noms and blockbuster status ain't too bad). We'll find out on Monday how it all goes down.

March 16: 21 Jump Street
Academy Award nominee (it's still strange to write that before his name) Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team up on this buddy comedy based on the Fox TV series from the late 80's/early 90's that started Johnny Depp's career. Chan is already starting 2012 off well as his rom-tragedy with Rachel McAdams, The Vow, is one of two films that have already grossed over $100 million in the US. The other being Safe House. (Two very different movies. Good job on keeping Hollywood guessing what makes a hit, America.) I really don't see this as being a huge blockbuster, but it should be a reasonable hit that should make some money. That is until the following weekend when a certain movie gets released...

"Hey, this guy from ER wants to join our movie."
March 23: The Hunger Games
Get ready because this is gonna be huge. Tickets already went on sale last month and are tracking at Twilight levels of success. But, this film really has the potential to be even bigger than those films. People keep comparing them because they're both based on a hugely successful YA trilogy of novels, but the appeal of Hunger Games is more vast. Everyone is reading them–not just females. This movie is so big that no other films are being released that weekend. I'm really looking forward to it. But, I wish the damn thing would open already as everyday brings the release of some new trailer or clip or new 100 stills from the film. I would share them, but do we really need to see and know everything about it before it's released? Until then, we can always satiate our appetite for the film (and actual hunger) with these cookies from Eleni's bakery. Nothing celebrates children fighting each other to the death quite like a sugar cookie with Jennifer Lawrence's face.

March 30: Mirror Mirror and Wrath of the Titans 
Oh, boy. I don't really see either of these films (Mirror Mirror is the first of two Snow White based films released this year and Wrath is the sequel to 2010's Clash of the Titans) doing that great. (Have you seen the trailer for Mirror Mirror? It looks so bad. Julia is really straining herself with the comedy and everything looks so unintentionally hilarious. And the poster everywhere here in NY looks like it's for an ABC Family TV movie. Her evil queen is no Charlize or even Sigourney Weaver, for that matter.) But, the studios must think they have a place in this suddenly crowded, potential Blockbuster month. It's nice to have options if you don't feel like seeing Hunger Games a third or fourth time...