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Entries in biopics (107)

Saturday
May172014

Cannes Diary Day 3: Mr Turner & Timbuktu

Diana Drumm is reporting from Cannes for The Film Experience on two new films that have won strong reviews.

Timothy Spall as Mr. Turner

Mr. Turner
Mike Leigh’s latest (and the current Palme d’Or frontrunner though we're only a few days into the festival) opens on a pastoral landscape of seemingly neverending fields. A windmill in the middle-ground and sunlight speckling through the vastness give hints of perspective. As the camera lingers, two women ease their way into frame and jolt the viewer into the 19th century. Chatting back and forth and carrying their errands’ loads, they breathe human life into the painterly image (lensed by Leigh's regular cinematographer, Oscar nominee Dick Pope). The camera follows this humble pair until it spots a graying stout figure staring off into the field and sketching near-furiously. Sticking out like a sore crooked-toothed thumb in this panorama, this is J.M.W. Turner (Timothy Spall), the controversial but influential British painter best remembered for his Romantic oil painting landscape and seascapes though he also worked in watercolor.

Spanning the final quarter decade of the artist's life, Mr. Turner eases through the artist’s autumn loves, losses and disappointments. The film opens with Turner leading the life of a discontented bachelor. His ex (Ruth Sheen who led Leigh's last, Another Year) and two daughters live elsewhere, though they call on him regularly enough to nag and harbinger guilt about his lack of involvement in their lives. His two main companions are his father (Paul Jesson), who acts as his studio assistant buying paints and hosting potential clients, and his housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson), who he occasionally rogers from behind. Their relationship resembles a bizarrely reticent S&M relationship more than institutionalized employer-employee rape.  

More after the jump...

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Friday
May162014

Cannes Diary Day 2: Or, How I'm Still Grappling With 'Grace of Monaco'

Diana Drumm is reporting for The Film Experience from Cannes

As you should know by now, thanks to mid-screening tweets, prompt reviews and Nathaniel being awesome as always, Grace of Monaco is bad. So bad that Cannes critics are being divided into indifference, dislike and rollicking hate. I, for one, fall into a fourth category, that of the now-jaded hopeful still grappling with how it all could have gone so horribly wrong. It’s from the director behind La Vie En Rose and... NICOLE KIDMAN. And I do mean grappling, I’ve barely eaten since that lovely sandwich or slept since nodding off on the Nice-Cannes commuter and my attempts at writing an actual review have gone the way of nonsensical jibberish with many ‘rather’s, ‘while’s and ‘thereby’s. Plus I’ve missed multiple opportunities to stow-away on champagne and celebrity-laden yachts. (Well, maybe not, but you get the gist – me, bedraggled by disappointment.) It could be the jet lag typing, but I wish I could go back to the before time, before I knew for certain that Grace of Monaco was a bad film. 

For weeks, I’ve been hushing naysayers, lah-lah-lahing the latest Weinstein cut rumors and ignoring the strawberry blonde Nicole Kidman as Grace press photos. With its synopsis reading like My Week with Marilyn meeting Evita for cucumber sandwiches to discuss an upcoming charity event and swap stories about who was handsier, Ari Onassis or Alfred Hitchcock, I kept telling myself that whether Grace was good or bad, it would be nice to see Grace Kelly’s story onscreen. I was wrong, so wrong. This isn’t to say that the film’s downright awful, or even amongst Cannes’ worst (Splitting Heirs, anyone?), but as someone with only love in her heart would say, it’s not that I’m angry, it’s that I’m hurt and disappointed. 

Princess Grace and Old Hollywood fairy tales after the jump...

Click to read more ...

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...

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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 ...

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