THE ART OF THE MATTER – Part One: Movie Reviews of The Meyorwitz Stories (Both New and Old), Rebel in the Rye, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold by Howard CasnefPosted: December 10, 2017 | Author: Donald | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Catcher in the Rye, Claes Bang, Danny Strong, Dominic West, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Moss, Emma Thompson, Griffin Dunne, Hope Davis, J.D. Salinger, Joan Didion: the Center Will Not Hold, Kevin Spacey, Nicholas Hault, Noah Baumbach, Rebel in the Rye, Ruben Outland, Sarah Paulson, The Meyerwitz Stories (Both Old and New), The Square, Vanessa Redgrave, Victor Garber, Whit Burnett | Leave a comment »
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Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
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The Meyerwitz Stories (Both Old and New) opened both on the Netflix streaming platform and in the theaters at the same time. The goal, as I surmise it, it to have a qualifying run for the Oscar race (and screeners have been sent) while giving it as little theatrical distribution as possible.
Sort of like having your cake and eating it to.
It’s hard to say, but I’m not sure they have that strong a chance. Many voters might feel like this is cheating (and Cannes refused to show any Netflix product).
But The Meyerwitz Stories…, written and directed by the intelligent and erudite Noah Baumbach, is quite good, even quite marvelous and definitely deserves an audience. Read the rest of this entry »
3 Women: Movie Reviews of Personal Shopper, Ghost in the Shell and Beauty and the Beast by Howard CasnerPosted: April 7, 2017 | Author: Donald | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Audra McDonald, Beauty and the Beast, Bill Condon, Dan Stevens, Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Evan Spiliotopoulos, Ewan McGregor, Ghost in the Shell, Ian McKellan, Josh Gad, Juliet Binoche, Kevin Kline, Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Luke Evans, Michael Pitt, Olivier Assayas, Rupert Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Chbosky | Leave a comment »
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First, a word from our sponsors: I wanted to say thank you to everyone who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign for 15 Conversations in 10 Minutes. We did very well due to you folks. For those who weren’t able to give, keep us in your thoughts. And if you are able to contribute in the future, contact me and I’ll tell you how. I will even honor the perks on the original campaign.
I am now offering a new consultation service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00. For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you. I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one.
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? FosCheck out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Kristen Stewart, as far as I was concerned, did not have a particularly auspicious start in films as an actress. She came to fame by making big movies. But I found the Twilight series, and her acting, impossible to watch (I couldn’t get through the first in the franchise). She followed that up with Snow White and the Huntsman, which I did manage to get through, but definitely no thanks to Stewart’s underwhelming performance.
Then something happened. She became good. I was astounded, but still it happened.
This came to pass around the time she made Still Alice and The Clouds of Sils Maria (for which she became the first American to win a César award for acting-here in the supporting actress category). Read the rest of this entry »
When Emma Thompson first appears on screen as children’s author and Mary Poppins’ creator P.L. Travers (sorry, that’s Mrs. Travers to me) in Saving Mr. Banks, she’s pinched face, irritable, unpleasant and deeply unhappy, possessing the personality of the second nanny in the horror film The Omen.
I know she’s an unlikable human being, so unlikable she probably makes dogs run for their lives just by glaring at them. But from the first moment I saw her, I loved her and was on her side. I mean, she has one of the best “save the cat” moments in recent films. When she can’t get her suitcase into the overhead rack and a mother with a baby comes to her rescue and offers to move her own bag to give her room, Travers responds by asking whether the child is going to be a nuisance since it’s an eleven hour flight. Now, if you can’t adore someone like that, then you just don’t have a heart.
I suppose part of her immediate appeal to me could be because I’m a screenwriter as well, and so I could easily identify with her fears of what a producer might do to her beloved creation Mary Poppins. And she has good reason for these fears, with the constant complaints from authors whose novels and plays Hollywood has, well, what’s a good PG-13 word for it—misinterpreted, distorted, altered, disfigured, twisted, warped, raped, sodomized up the anus cavity with a heated iron rod like Edward II…but I digress.
But it’s not just that. There’s more to it than just that. When she arrives in Los Angeles and steps off that plane, she’s confronted by a constant barrage of “it’s a small, small world” happy people with toothsome smiles out of The Sound of Music and a city so brightly lit with mind-numbing sunshine, that all I wanted to do was slap those merciless grins off of everybody’s faces and ask God to do to the city what Mark Robson did to it in Earthquake.
So when she constantly throws her Noel Coward-like snarky comments at one and all; or school teacherly corrects the screen and song writers of the movie to be when they make the somewhat dubious claim that Dick Van Dyke is one of the greats; or she gets so frustrated she throws the screenplay that has so disgusted her out the window, I was yelling “you go, girl” (well, no, I didn’t yell it, I was in a movie theater, after all, but you know what I mean).
And then it happens, the exact same thing that happens to Travers in the movie. The charm of Disneyland and Los Angeles just wears you down and you have no choice but to succumb to it all. It’s inevitable. And there’s no shame in it because it happens to god bless us one and all who transpose themselves to this bright and shining city on the sea.
And so, like everyone who has come before her, by the end of the film, Travers has embraced the sordid cheeriness of the City of Angels and gives up fighting for control of her story, letting “Walt, you have to call me Walt. Mr. Disney is my father” turn her no-nonsense, all business nanny into a singing, dancing, twinkling (“and the magic word is”) Julie Andrews.
Saving Mr. Banks is the Hitchcock of 2013. Based as was Hitchcock on a true Hollywood story of the making of a classic movie, it also leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to the facts. But also like Hitchcock, it’s one of the most purely enjoyable films of the year. The screenplay by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith is witty and bright and full of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (OMG, believe it or not, that did not come up wrong on spell check; spell check actually has that made up word in it) energy and John Lee Hancock’s direction is taut with expert timing.
It’s not perfect by any means. The psychology is simplistic and obvious, and there are scenes that aren’t as convincing as they might be, as when Don DaGradi, Mary Poppins’ screenwriter, gets Travers to tap her toes and dance with him (calling Joseph Campbell, calling Joseph Campbell, I think a couple of steps in the hero’s journey got left out here). And some of the visuals are painfully on the nose (as the change in Travers’ fashion from sensible, brown tweed to free flowing blue and white cotton after she signs over her creation’s life to Disney’s implacable will).
But gosh darn it all to heck, it just doesn’t matter. You can point out the problems and bewail and bemoan it all, but that won’t stop the whole thing from winning you over and thoroughly delighting you. Even when it doesn’t work, oh, my, does it work.
The cast is one of the finer ones of the year. Both Emma Thompson, as Travers, and Tom Hanks, as Disney, seem to have had something of a Renaissance here. Neither has really been doing anything of real note lately. Thompson had been hiding out in small supporting roles in such movies as Brideshead Revisited, Pirate Radio and seasonal revivals of Love Actually. But now she’s back in a lead and she’s brought all her glory with her.
And Hanks, who had been making some of the most painfully uninteresting movies of late that a major actor could make (Cloud Atlas, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Larry Crowne), gives the second of two remarkable performances this year, first in Captain Phillips, and now in Saving Mr. Banks, where he brings a mythic Walt Disney down to earth (and does one of these impersonations where whenever I think of the original, now all I’ll see is Hanks).
Maybe both just needed to go through a period of adjustment as they grew older and had to reinvent themselves in order to reinvigorate their careers (most actors do).
But the movie also has some of the most imaginative casting in supporting roles as well, from Wes Anderson refugee Jason Schwartzman as one half of the Sherman brothers song writing team (B.J. Novak is also solid as the other half); Kathy Baker, who really has nothing to do as Disney’s secretary, but she makes the most of it anyway (she has a terrific bit at the end where she’s laughing as Disney comes into the office because she knows something he doesn’t); and perhaps most wonderful of all, Collin Farrell, who gives a magical and haunting performance as Travers’ dipsomaniac father in the moving and heartfelt flashback episodes.
So in the end, is Saving Mr. Banks a good movie? Sure it is. Even very good, I’ll venture to say. Is it more than that? God, no. But like Los Angeles and Disneyland, it’s easier not to fight it and just enjoy the hell out of it. It’s the only way you’ll get out alive. Take it from Mrs. Travers.
Beautiful Creatures, the new slough of despair, riddled with angst teenage film written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, is one of those movies that preaches against intolerance and bigotry and then makes cartoons out of every Christian in town, except for the one who’s black and therefore a true believer (stereotype much?). It’s also a teenage version of Bewitched in which a mortal falls in love with a witch (oh, all right, Christine O’Donnell, they are not witches, they are casters—happy now?), but with more adolescent ennui and existential dread. Finally, it’s also one of the myriad of films that we’re going to be plagued with (and I mean plagued) as various producers desperately try to fill the void that has been formed by the absence of the Twilight franchise.
I think it’s safe to say that Beautiful Creatures didn’t do a lot for me (I only went because I finally decided it had a better chance of working than that new Die Hard film—unfortunately, from what I’m hearing, I made the right choice).
To be fair, there is one marvelous scene near the beginning of Beautiful Creatures that did suggest the movie might actually go somewhere. Not anywhere great, mind you, I wasn’t that optimistic; but, you know, somewhere. In this scene, our hapless hero Ethan (played by Alden Ehrenreich, who has such an unnerving resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio, he could play his younger brother) is put under a spell by caster Macon (Jeremy Irons—yes, that Jeremy Irons) and asked what he’s going to do with his life. It’s already been readily established that he is applying to every college more than a thousand miles away in order to get out of his podunk, one-horse town. But instead of going there, he instead finds himself spouting out that he’s going to college locally so he can take care of his father and end up teaching in town, making a disastrous marriage and cheating on his wife and drinking heavily and having a heart attack at age 52, etc., etc., until he dies at age 62 by hanging himself (but with the rather brilliant coup de grace that his body won’t be found for a few days).
But alas and alack, this going somewhere twas not to be, for a few scenes later, Macon and another character, Sarafine, who has taken over the body of the local religious bigot Mrs. Lincoln (played by Emma Thompson—yes, that Emma Thompson), have a lengthy pax de duex in a church that goes on and on…and on. And at this point, this very point, the movie crashes and burns and, to mix metaphors, gets buried so deep, not even George Romero could resurrect it.
And speaking of Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, not to mention Viola Davis and Eileen Atkins and Margo Martindale (yes, that David, Atkins and Martindale), why is it in England when they use their great actors and award winners for escapist fare, they give them movies like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the James Bond films, but in the U.S. they give them stuff like…like…well, like this?
But you have to hand it to them. All the actors are game and they play it all as if it were written by the bard himself (one doesn’t know whether to give them credit where credit is due for that, or just sit down and weep tears of Dido). At any rate, it hardly matters. Most of the time one just sits there not entranced by their performances, but just trying to figure out why they would make a movie like this.
Yeah, I don’t think Beautiful Creatures did a lot for me.