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Entries in biopics (102)

Monday
Apr282014

Oscar Bait 2015 Alert: "Genius" With Kidman, Firth, and Law

Yes, dear concerned reader, I know I know. I'm supposed to be thinking about 2014 and who might be Oscar nominated 9 months from now. I'll get there. I will. But I can't let this latest dazzling dangling carrot of 2015 cinematic possibility pass without mention. Because a curious trend continues...

Thomas Wolfe, Aline Bernstein, and Max Perkins to be played by Law, Kidman, and Firth

We've already noted, with raised eyebrow, the shocking rapidity of Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth veritable obsession with working together. As previously mentioned they have THREE films together coming out this year. Add a fourth to the pipeline. They will co-star again in Genius which is based on the super acclaimed biography "Max Perkins: Editor Of Genius," by A Scott Berg.

The screenplay is by three time Oscar nominee John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo) and the cast is similarly Oscar-favored. Two time nominee Jude Law, Kidman's Cold Mountain "husband" (I will marry yoooo) has taken over the incredibly juicy role of the novelist Thomas Wolfe (which means a viable shot at a Supporting Actor trophy for Jude Law even though the best guess is that he's actually co-lead) which was once to be played by Michael Fassbender. Oscar winner Colin Firth headlines playing the influential book editor Max Perkins and Oscar winning Kidman plays Wolfe's lover, the multihyphenate writer/costume/set designer Aline Bernstein. The film takes place in the 1920s/1930s literary scene so stay tuned. Who will they cast as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway? Both of those legends also have major roles in the book.

The big obvious question mark here is budget (can it get the lush period treatment it deserves?) and Michael Grandage in the director's chair. This is the 52 year old stage director's first feature gig behind the camera though he's acted in front of it before. 

Wanna read the book?

 

 

Friday
Apr182014

Yes No Maybe So: "Jersey Boys"

From Tommy Lee Jones directing himself and The Swank we turn to another far more accomplished actor-turned-director. Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars in his career from two films (Unforgiven & Million Dollar Baby) but the 83 year old director has had a bit of a rougher run than usual in recent years, critically speaking. He's back with Jersey Boys based on the Broadway jukebox hit about the Four Seasons.

Let's divvy up our reactions to the trailer.

YES
• There will be a lot of music 
• Counterprogramming in the blockbuster realm of summer movies could help with critical reception so that's a smart move.
• Newish handsome actors in plum star-making position (if the movie is good and they ace it)
• Clint went from two-a-year to radio silence for two years. Maybe the time off did him good? This is, the longest break he's ever taking from directing since between The Gauntlet (1977) and Bronco Billy (1980). Maybe the time off will rejuvenate him...

NO

•... because Changeling/Gran Torino (2008), Invictus (2009)  Hereafter (2010) and J. Edgar (2011) were a dire quintet with hard-to-miss quality drops-off between each.
• The moment when Clint Eastwood's name comes up and it's paired with a suddenly plaintiff piano note is almost self-parodic considering his somber repertoire and his unfortunate desire to score all of his own movies. Something must have drawn him to this topic but have he and his chief accomplice (other than himself) Tom Stern smothered the joy from the Four Seasons music?
• People narrating directly to camera like they're still on the stage. Pass me the advil. Or revolver. Insufferable 
• Do we need more film celebrations of goodfellas bro-centric style Jersey? 
• If this is a hit, maybe Clint Eastwood will feel emboldened to remake A Star is Born with Beyoncé as he'd originally hoped. And nobody needs that remade. Again. (Three times would have to be enough right?)

MAYBE SO
•  Jersey Boys is a traditional biography (with a ♪ beat) and Clint is Clint so traditional forms ever so slightly tweaked (Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby) are exactly what produces his best work.
• There doesn't look to be as much color and joy as one would expect from a pop culture musical but it doesn't look as inky, heavy and self-serious as recent Eastwood flicks and that has to be considered a smart change of pace at this juncture.
• Doesn't look like an Oscar play (not that that couldn't happen) which is something of a surprise.
• It's kind of a relief not to see famous miscast faces or at least it's a treat to get new faces, since the musical is about new stars. John Lloyd Young, playing Frankie Valli, won the Tony on stage. It's been a long time since a Tony winner was afforded the opportunity to transfer with their star-making vehicle. Not that you can't biff it if you stick with the original cast (see: Rent for a "why not to do that") but it doesn't happen enough not to celebrate it when it does. One can only assume that Meryl Streep turned down the role of Frankie Valli.

 

Monday
Mar242014

Women's History Month: Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke as Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller

Our coverage of Women's History Month continues with abstew on "The Miracle Worker" (1962)

Born: Helen Adams Keller was actually born with the ability to see and hear on the day of her birth in June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. It wasn't until she contracted an illness, most likely scarlet fever or meningitis, at the age of 19 months that she became both blind and deaf.

Johanna Mansfield Sullivan (she would always be known as Anne or Annie) was born April 14, 1866 in Massachusetts. After the death of her mother in 1874, Annie and her brother Jimmy were sent to an almshouse where she lived for 7 years. It was there, in 1880 (the year Helen was born) that she became blind after an untreated bacterial eye infection called trachoma.

Oscar winning performances after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Mar202014

Ryan Gosling as Busby Berkeley? We're In.

We can breathe easy now. Ryan Gosling isn't actually going to retire from acting. His next project is of course behind the camera (How To Catch a Monster starring Christina Hendricks) but sometime after that we could well see him choreographing up a virtual storm of beautiful shapes made from shapely beauties. He's (possibly) attached to a Busby Berkeley biopic. The film will be based on Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

Gosling & Busby

It's not the type of project we imagined him for him as musicals went. In fact it's easier to picture him as one of those handsome singing hosts in tuxes in the musical numbers who present the parade of beautiful girls, but this isn't actually all that far off. Busby Berkeley was a driven visionary, always out to top himself, and messing with the boundary of the stage and the possibility of the camera long before Rob Marshall kept throwing his hands up and just filming dance numbers on a stage. Though Berkeley is best remembered for this massive dance numbers with relatively anonymous legions of chorus girls, he frequently worked with big stars like Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Eleanor Powell  and Gene Kelly (good luck finding people to play them!) and was married six times so there's lots of temperamental drama possibilities here.  

I'm always surprised when Hollywood greenlights movies about themselves. Though Oscar is often drawn to movies about movies they are rarely anything more than modest hits with the public if they're that.

And yet, if his reminds Hollywood of the virtues of choreography that you can actually see (stop with the constant closeups during dance numbers, already!) and of the virtues of Ryan Gosling gifts outside of strong and silent anti-heroes, than we all win.

Monday
Mar172014

Women's History Month: Greer Garson as Marie Curie

Our celebration of Women's History Month continues with abstew's look at English Rose Greer Garson in a nearly-forgotten classic about one of the most important women in science. 

Marie Curie

Born: She was born Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. She was the youngest of five children and her father was a professor in the fields Marie would later study, mathematics and physics. 

Death: After years of being exposed to the radioactivity from her experiments (no Silkwood showers for Curie) and the X-ray carts she created and worked in during WWI, her life's work would ultimately bring about her own end. Curie died on July 4, 1934 of aplastic anemia, a disease that damages the bone marrow and blood stem cells caused by exposure to chemicals and radiation. In 1995, her remains were moved to the Panthéon in Paris. She is the only woman to be buried in the prestigious monument because of her own achievements.

Greer Garson's Madame Curie (1943) is after the jump

Click to read more ...

Friday
Mar142014

Yes, No, Maybe So: "Get On Up"

You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

I love The Help (2011). I don't care who knows it. So I'm immediately curious about Get On Up, Tate Taylor's follow up which reunites Minny & Aibileen though they both take a back seat since this time it's the story of rock legend James Brown (Chadwick Boseman). This trailer also starts with an affirmative.

You special. And your momma's a no account fool. But you ain't gonna be. One day everybody gonna know your name"

JAMES BROWN [*makes applause sound*]

Okay so that's not as universal an affirmation but... wait. oh. That makes Viola Davis the 'no account fool'? Do over! Not sure I'm okay with this. Time for a Yes No Maybe So™ 

Click to read more ...

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