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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Entries in biopics (117)

Thursday
Aug272015

Viola 'on the move'

How did I miss this incredible news in the New York Times?!? Viola Davis, on the Emmy campaign trail for her Shondaland series How to Get Away With Murder, talked about all her future projects. It's good news times three.

Q. In addition to “Suicide Squad,” what else are you working on?

A. They are making “Fences,” August Wilson’s play, into a feature that Denzel Washington is directing and I’m going to be in. My husband and I started a production company, and we are doing Harriet Tubman’s story for HBO that Kirk Ellis is writing. And Tony Kushner is writing a project that we got greenlit at Fox Searchlight about the great congresswoman out of Texas, Barbara Jordan. I’m always moving.

She also explains the reasoning behind her recent populist / less prestigious genre choices...

Q. So starting your company let you be in control?

A. Yes, but it’s a lot of work to be the boss. You’ve got to have two trains going at the same time. You have to stay relevant, hence “How to Get Away With Murder,” hence “Suicide Squad. “You have to stay relevant, because if you are not, no one will take a chance with you on even a $2 million budget. But then at the same time you have to take risks in terms of material that moves you.

Good luck to her as ever. We've been in her corner since 2002 (the "who is that" triple whammy of Far From Heaven, Antwone Fisher, Solaris) and we don't plan to go anywhere!

I don't want to say that we willed movement onto the Fences adaptation but IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME. And though her Barbara Jordan project has been talked up for three or four years now, there's been no real movement on it until now. Thank you Fox Searchlight! Now let's get all of this fast-tracked right now since Viola Davis just turned 50 and you know how Hollywood likes to turn on women when they do. There's no time to waste!

Pointless But Fun What If Trivia: If Viola wins the Emmy for HTGAWM next month and the Oscar for Fences when that movie is released (astoundingly big "ifs" but go with it) than she'll just be a Grammy short of an EGOT since she already has two Tony Awards (for lead and featured). It's worth noting that if she wins all four competitively she'll be the very first African-American to accomplish it and only the second woman of color after Puerto Rico's Rita Moreno. Now, technically, three black icons (Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, and James Earl Jones) have all four but those statistics come with the heavy asterisks that also plague Liza & Babs in that at least one of the prizes was given non-competitively or in a "lesser" form. I mean, sorry Whoopi, but you shouldn't count daytime Emmies anymore than you'd count regional Emmys (they give those things out like candy!) towards the showbiz quadruple. (Yours truly personally prefers the Triple Crown -- easier to follow and the Grammys aren't actor-focused like the other three so there's less beautiful symmetry! -- but Tina Fey's 30 Rock destroyed popular culture's interest in that statistic by popularizing the notion of the EGOT.)

Thursday
Aug272015

Ingrid Bergman at "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness"

Tim continues our Ingrid Bergman centenary retrospective which concludes Saturday...

The two films Ingrid Bergman headlined in 1958 offer a splendid study in contrasts. Both are obvious attempts at image control as she re-entered the American film industry following the scandal of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and they approach that mission as differently as they could. Indiscreet, which Anne Marie just looked at, is a head-on confrontation with the scandal, humorously defusing it with satiric candor. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, on the other hand, is a forthright piece of special pleading that we should ignore all of that unpleasantness by squashing Bergman into the role of the saintliest damn woman who could be scrounged up.

The living saint in question was Gladys Aylward, a London housemaid who became gripped by the idea that she should give up everything to move to China in her 30s to be an informal missionary and later became a national hero for her charitable work with orphans. Bergman was such a poor fit for the tiny Cockney brunette that Aylward herself openly complained about the casting, as well as just about every plot detail in a screenplay by Isobel Lennart that fairly should be counted more as a fantasia on the themes of Aylward's life than a legitimate biography. [More...]

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Tuesday
Aug112015

Cast This: Patti Smith & Robert Mapplethorpe in "Just Kids"

Surprising news broke today that John Logan (Penny Dreadful) has successfully won a behind the scenes battle to adapt the best-selling memoir "Just Kids" as a limited series for Showtime. Why is the news surprising? Well, right here at The Film Experience, as you may recall, Patti Smith was horrified by the idea of this happening in our 2014 interview.

Our exchange went like this...

She appears to have had quite a change of heart as she was emphatic on this point when we spoke and she is still very much among the living!

So since she's changed her mind, it's time for CAST THIS!
Who should play these two iconic American artists in their twenty-something years for the miniseries? You'll need actors who can play raw emotion, uninhibited sexuality and bohemian charisma (For extra credit you can also cast playwright/actor/ex-partner of Jessica Lange Sam Shepard since he was also Patti's lover in the early 1970s and Sam Wagstaff who became Robert's older lover around the same time and his devoted mentor/patron/lover until his death.)

Both Smith and Mapplethorpe were poor 21 year-old transplants to NYC in 1967 (they were the exact same age) and lived together as roommates and lovers and later, he was homosexual after all, as devoted friends until 1974. Their fates were tied together and they both became famous, she as a musician with the release of her debut album "Horses" in 1975. His fame built more gradually as the fame of photographers and artists, tends to. 

Photos from the early 70s after the jump... (NSFW)

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul012015

YNMS: "Steve Jobs" & "Creed"

Films celebrating their over achieving male protagonist are par for the course come fall movie season each year as Oscar competition heats up. But Steve Jobs and Adonis Creed both got trailers in the same 24 hours or so and I couldn't resist conjoining them since they both also star actors named "Michael". They make both an odd couple and perfect pair: Mind and Body. Michael Fassbender plays real life computer genius Steve Jobs for Oscar winner Danny Boyle; And Michael B Jordan, reuniting with his Fruitvale director Ryan Coogler, plays fictional Adonis Creed, the son of dead boxer Adonis, in an attempt to reboot the stalled Rocky series.

Yes No Maybe So on both trailers after the jump...

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Tuesday
Jun232015

Links

Good luck finding an actress today that looks like thisFilm School Rejects a biopic of Ingrid Bergman during the Notorious era might be coming from James Mangold. I'm always hoping they'll cast unknowns rather than stars for these things, so that they'll look more like their subjects
Decider really funny ranking of all of Meryl Streep's Oscar nominated work, judged by accents, struggles, co-stars, and random intangibles
Movies Now the box office wealth gap between blockbusters and everything else - interesting piece and worrisome, too
ArtsBeat Smash's "Bombshell" musical MIGHT (sigh) actually become a Broadway musical. Yes, they're still dangling that carrot since the one night only cast reunion of Smash went so well
MCU Exchange the deal is done and Ava DuVernay (Selma) will direct Marvel's Black Panther film 
/bent is thrilled that Inside Out passes the Bechdel Test so easily on all counts

A Must Read
"The Decline of the American Actor" is a really engaging piece about today's leading men, the "Chris"es and beyond and the struggles they face without challenging roles or all that much in the way of training like their foreign counterparts. It's really fascinating and the writer Terrence Rafferty only threw me out of it once when he makes a very strange rather off topic dig at Masters of Sex's second season which had me questioning his sanity (I couldn't disagree more on all counts of what he's saying in that section). It also has a nice little detour into current 20 and 30something actressing by clever way of Clouds of Sils Maria... that movie sure did get a lot of people talking so it's a mystery why it didn't break through in a more major way since actual stars were involved. 

RIP - Exit Music
The film composer James Horner died in a plane crash at age 61 yesterday. He was a favorite of James Cameron and Ron Howard, and moviegoers of course. He composed so many well liked movies that it's tough to name a favorite though I remember always liking the scores to Aliens, Avatar, Apollo 13 and Willow. We will be treated to his three final scores this year with  Southpaw, Wolf Totem and the Chilean Miners movie The 33. The Oscar favorite won both of his Oscars from the phenomenon that was Titanic (for score & original song) and was twice nominated for movie songs. So here's a little Celine at the Oscars and a little something from An American Tail, too.

 

Tuesday
May262015

A Letter to Todd Haynes

Dearest Todd,

Never ever under any circumstances take another 8 year break from the cinema. The reviews for Carol (2015) read at times like an ecstatic mirage, dehydrated desert critics stumbling upon a Haynes-flavored pool. Its weird ½ an actress prize at Cannes, for the unexpected ½ at that, feels somehow fitting given the prismatic way you like to view identity (Velvet Goldmine, I'm Not There, etc).

I can't tell you the joy I felt this morning waking up to the news that you've added a third project (!!!) to your upcoming slate after so much hibernation. Of the two we already knew about a TV series set in a 1970s commune sounds the most promising; it's an underexplored rich topic in terms of time period and political content -- you're counter culture enough to do it justice. The other project, the Untitled Peggy Lee Biopic is a swell idea, too. You're the one filmmaker who is creatively incapable of making a dully traditional biopic (Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story / I'm Not There) and Miss Peggy Lee lived through all your favorite eras. We already know that its star Reese Witherspoon can sing thanks to her Oscar winning role as June Carter Cash and though we can't quite picture her as one of your muses a la Moore (Far From Heaven / [safe]) or recently Blanchett, we can picture her as a Barbie doll and we know you like those. At any rate, the part is a good fit for her. Peggy has so many classic songs, she was indominatable enough to serve as one of the original inspirations for Miss Piggy and that six decade career / four failed marriages surely contain plentiful dramatic fodder.

But the happiest news may well be the newest. You're planning to adapt Brian Selznick's children's book Wonderstruck for Killer Films??? How wonderful. That bifurcated tale featuring a boy in the Seventies pining for his father and a girl in the Twenties dreaming of an actress should provide ample spark for your formidable creativity. 

an image from Wonderstruck

You're 54 now, Todd. There are only so many years in a life. I'm not telling you to rush through these next projects but please never ever under any circumstances whatsoever take an eight year break from the cinema again in which we only get a remake of something that was already more than wonderful enough to begin with (Mildred Pierce). It was a painful drought.

Your forever fan, xoxo

Nathaniel R

Monday
May182015

Review: Bessie 

TFE's newest contributor Angelica Jade Bastién on HBO's latest biopic

For over two decades Queen Latifah has been trying to bring the life of Bessie Smith, the legendary "Empress of the Blues" who found success in the 1920s and 1930s, to the screen. Despite Bessie's life being a perfect mix of glamour and tragedy that seems tailor made for a biopic I'm not surprised it has taken Latifah this long to bring her story to life. Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah) is a rough hewn, country, bisexual, and passionate broad. The film doesn't sand off her edges or shy away from her contradictions instead it embraces them. Bessie tracks the legend from her early days as a singer with her older brother/manager, Clarence (Tory Kittles) always in her corner to the Great Depression when all her personal and professional success falters. 

Anyone familiar with women's pictures knows the emotional terrain Bessie is covering. But what makes this women's picture downright transgressive is its sympathetic,multi-layered portrayal of black queer desire...

Click to read more ...