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Entries in books (103)

Friday
Sep022016

Quickie Reviews: The Light Between Oceans and The Jungle Book

by Nathaniel R

Apologies that there's no big review this weekend but I do hope you'll check out the Fassbender & Vikander flick. Here are two quick takes on movie options this weekend.

IN THEATERS

The Light Between Oceans (Derek Cianfrance)
Story: A war veteran (Michael Fassbender) takes a position as a lighthouse keeper where he falls in love with a local girl (Alicia Vikander). Their lives change irrevocably when they discover an orphaned baby in a boat.
Review: A pop quiz. Which is more ravishing?

  • Real life romantic chemistry that translates intact to movie screens.
  • Romantic dramas that don't stop at sexy but get across how comforting and life-changing love and companionship can be.
  • Picturesque rocky islands and lighthouses softened at their edges by grassy tenderness and the windswept beauty of two definitely cinematic brunettes.

Trick question -- they're all super ravishing! I've heard the complaints that The Light Between Oceans is "dull" or "has no edge" and it's definitely soggier and lacking in the instantaneously memorable moments of Cianfrance's previous outings Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. But I kind of loved it while I was watching it. At least the first half. It loses its way a little in the third act as the tragedy stretches out and the film shifts to Rachel Weisz but it's uncommonly gorgeous to gaze upon and cry through. 
Grade: B+ (maybe B towards the end)
Oscar Chances: Perhaps it's not potent enough to hold on for months to win acting nominations -- though Fassbender & Vikander are both excellent -- but I'm crossing my fingers for Best Cinematography. Take a bow, Adam Arkapaw. (His previous credits include Macbeth, Lore, and Animal Kingdom). It also feels like a possibility for Score (Alexandre Desplat) though that's a little overbearing. 

JUST OUT ON DVD / BLURAY

The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau)
Story: You know this one already. A boy is raised by animals in the jungle. No, not that white one with the apes. The little Indian boy raised by wolves and panthers and bears, oh my. The problem: a tiger wants him dead.
Review: Can you believe we never reviewed this? Though it's somewhat ravishing to look at as a technical achievement, in truth I was not particularly fond of it and found it difficult to write about. The problem was that it doesn't have an identity of its own to discuss. Favreau trusts that fond memories of the Disney animated classic it apes (pun not intended) will win your love. He and his team trust in this so completely that they even graft on two and a half highly uncomfortable musical numbers despite the fact that this Jungle Book definitely does not self-identify as a musical, it's one characteristic that immediately sets its apart from the original. Until it doesn't.  Great voice work by Idris Elba as Shere Khan. 
Oscar Chances: Most definitely. At least a visual effects nomination. Perhaps sound as well?
Grade: C/C+   

P.S. If you liked it more, I'd love to hear why. Its long legs at the box office indicate that it wasn't just brand recognition but actual audience love that made it an enormous hit.

Thursday
Sep012016

Derek Cianfrance: the Now and the Next

by Josh Forward

Derek Cianfrance, the man who made cinema fans everyway sit bolt upright with excitement at his stunning debut Blue Valentine is about to release his third feature The Light Between Oceans. Both films, and his second, the multi-generation epic The Place Beyond the Pines, show his preoccupation with the dark intricacies of doomed romances and families pouring out into gripping cinema. His talent with actors is evident again: Reviews are mixed to positive for the film overall, but leads Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, along with supporting player Rachel Weisz are all solidly praised.

Opening wide and based on a popular novel, this is Cianfrance's first dalliance with what could be considered a "mainstream" film. As much as his cinematic fascination with the mucky and the unflinching darkness in human nature can be mainstream at least. But it does have a more traditional narrative and sweeping landscapes to match. The words "sentimental" and "soap opera" are even being bandied around.

His next project, announced this week, may prove a progression of this trajectory. It's another literary adaptation, this time of S.C. Gwynne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History". The scale of the story is epic, and it could be his biggest movie yet. Although this is a story without tortured lovers (at least as its driving force), when Cianfrance discusses it, it still sounds firmly in his wheelhouse...

The passing of the torch, passing of pain, and decisions, and the ripple effect of decisions".

The same quote could easily be said about The Place Beyond the Pines.

This film has taken a long journey to screen. A screenplay based on the same book was developed in 2010 by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, the Oscar winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain. This would have been their first film since that masterpiece in 2005, but this adaptation appears to have nothing to do with this development, with the script written by Cianfrance himself with his Pines co-writer Darius Marder over the last three years. It's a shame we won't see another script yet from current one hit wonders McMurty and Ossana, but Cianfrance has certainly earned his auteur stripes and screenwriting chops. 

No actors have been attached yet, but cross all fingers and toes that some great Native American actors find representation on our screens.

Monday
Aug222016

Swing, Tarzan, Swing! Ch.7: Oscar Loves "Greystoke"

During this summer of the Tarzan reboot we've revisited past films in the long history of Tarzan on film. Four more episodes to go!

Impossible as it may be to move Tarzan away from his ultra-specific origins as a colonial era fantasy, filmmakers have tried over and over again to do exactly that. As we've seen in past installments of our "Swing, Tarzan, Swing!" series, he keeps changing with the times despite his historical baggage. We've seen starkly different depictions of his relationship to Jane from equal partners to Head of the Household suburban conformity. The Lord of the Apes even tried to get bachelor hip with the 1960s at the beginning of the James Bond frenzy. Nearly every Tarzan on television has attempted to place him closer to the actual timeline in which it aired. The new Legend of Tarzan (reviewed) works hard to downplay the racism in the myth, but it's never going completely away given that the story is, at heart, about a white man who becomes king of the jungle and often the savior of Africans in his ongoing adventures.

Tarzan works best when he's allowed to stay in the era to which he belongs. So it was a stroke of inspiration for director Hugh Hudson (fresh off a Best Picture win with Chariots of Fire) to give him the historical epic treatment in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) even though the Ape Man doesn't belong to world history any more than, say, Batman, Superman and Spider-Man who were all also tragically orphaned (it's a superhero thing, okay?). 

The marketing was so committed to this "serious" prestige historical treatment that the poster even has a four paragraph synopsis closer to a novel than a movie tagline...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun232016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 3: "Get the Guests"

For the 50th Anniversary of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) Team Experience is celebrating with a four part miniseries. Begin with Part 1 "What. A.Dump!" or Part 2 "Firing Squads & Flop Sweat" if you missed them.

Pt 3 by Kyle Stevens 
[Kyle's book "Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and The Reinvention of Psychological Realism" is available for purchase.] 

01:04:30 We pick up with Nick and George, left alone. Nick ceases peacocking for a moment since the ladies have gone, and, for George, this is the moment to assert dominance. For Albee, their tête-à-tête is an allegorical showdown between biology and history, nature and nurture: what they are, what people are, and who gets to say. Albee is on George’s side:

To take the trouble to construct a civilization, to build a society based on principles of, uh, principle. You make government and art and realize that they are, must be, both the same. You bring things to the saddest of all points, to the point where there is something to lose. Then all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae. And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? Up yours.” 

Thank you. Thank you!

1:05:52 Honey and Martha return from “the euphemism,” where Honey has been throwing up. Honey, who always seems to be out-of-step with the group, assumes that Nick’s sarcastic applause is for her. Her readiness to see everything as a performance, though, is also spot-on, hinting that she’s perhaps the most insightful one of the bunch...

Click to read more ...

Friday
May132016

Thank Link It's Friday

Vanity Fair meet Millicent Simmonds, a young deaf actress starring in Todd Haynes next film Wonderstruck
Film Independent if you are very rich and can afford $150+ to see a live screenplay reading, Hannah and Her Sisters is being performed tonight in Manhattan. Olivia Wilde directs an all star cast including: Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Uma Thurman, Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, and Salman Rushdie. (Love all those ladies but I'll save my pennies to see two fully staged Broadway shows on discount for that price. Jesus)
Oscars YouTube has released a bunch of conversational videos with the team behind Beauty & The Beast for its 25th Anniversary
Decider Joe Reid remembers gay romcom The Broken Hearts Club (2000)
The Film Stage interview with Terence Davies about Sunset Song (2016) now playing
Vulture why X-Men Apocalypse has so little buzz

 

Stage Buddy Nico Tortorella, of Younger fame, tests his comic chops out on stage in "Crude"
Nick's Flick Picks is revisiting the 1996 Cannes Festival, day by screening day. First up was Oscar nominees Ridicule (1996)
Film Forum (NYC) is screening several films based on the work of Noél Coward starting today including Design for Living, Bunny Lake is Missing, and Brief Encounter
Rolling Stone on a newly restored X rated Japanese anime from the 70s, Belladonna of Sadness
Talk House a comic strip review of a comic book movie (Civil War) - this is really fun
THR George Miller talks about his past Cannes jury stints (this next week he's leading the jury) and Oscar night for Mad Max Fury Road 
Interview Magazine unearths a Laura Dern interview from 1990. Great photos. 

Off Cinema
Monkey See lovely piece on reading to your children and the power of spoilers with a Star Wars slant
Madonnarama Madonna will be honoring the late Prince with a performance at the Billboard music awards on May 22nd
Vox on progressive US's citizens frequent threat to move to Canada -- hard to do!
Mic LGBT magazines have an unfortunate habit of lily white male covers, straight and gay. Here are 100 suggestions for LGBT people of color who'd look great on magazine covers. 

Body Positivity
This topic seems to be in the air right now -- and god knows who couldn't use it? -- so here are two good links on insecurities and self-discoveries  
Buzzfeed "Wrestling taught me how (not) to be a man"  
Towleroad "I am a Man..." is there strength in revealing our insecurities? Or just camarederie? 

This is Funny
I don't know who did it though I'd love to give credit -- maybe it's from here? -- but I LOL'ed 

More Captain America Funny: In related unexpectedly amusing news, the US Army confirms that it would indeed owe Steve Rogers 66 years of back pay after he was thawed out in Captain America: The First Avengers; Pajiba reveals a list of every "Chris" that is not part of the Marvel-verse; Over at Funny or Die, thanks to Tony Hale, Civil War Reenactments now mean a completely different thing...It's not a hobby it's a lifestyle!

Random News To Go
Godzilla 2 has been pushed back to 2019. Way to strike while the iron is hot, Warner Bros. Five years between movies? Strange.
• It's not official official yet but Lupita Nyong'o is reportedly in talks for Marvel's Black Panther, assumed to be the superhero's love interest
• We dreaded it and it's now official: Agent Carter, Marvel's most joyful current property (and they have so many now on TV and film) has been cancelled. In much happier news, The Real O'Neals (absolutely adorable and super funny - please tell me you're watching) has been renewed. Here's a bunch of other new cancellations and renewals.

Tuesday
Mar292016

Today's Must Read: Streep's "Kramer vs Kramer" Breakthrough

This new book on Meryl's rise will be released at the end of AprilIf you haven't yet chanced upon it or been directed there by multiple excited tweets, make sure to read this excerpt / reworking of a passage from a forthcoming book by Michael Schulman on Meryl Streep's rise to fame via Kramer vs Kramer that's currently gracing Vanity Fair. We've talked about Kramer vs Kramer multiple times here at TFE and it's been heartening to see the critical tide at least slightly turning in the blockbuster drama's favor of late. For a long time cinephiles seemed to despise it, due in no small part to its Oscars. When you beat noticeably ambitious artistic and stylized masterpieces like Apocalypse Now and All That Jazz to the Best Picture crown there's bound to be a backlash if your film is merely human-sized, no matter how resonant and superbly acted it may be. But, a truth, that's always worth noting in movie buff wars: every year has multiple films worthy of praise and just because one gets singled out in the moment, it doesn't mean its worthy of your ire.

But I digress. Read this piece! Here's a bit about the fantasies, realities, and fictions around Meryl Streep's audition --  nobody actually knows which is which since the accounts are different depending on who is interviewed:

Meryl marched into the hotel suite where Hoffman, Benton, and Jaffe sat side by side. She had read Corman’s novel and found Joanna to be “an ogre, a princess, an ass,” as she put it soon after to American Film. When Dustin asked her what she thought of the story, she told him in no uncertain terms. They had the character all wrong, she insisted. Her reasons for leaving Ted are too hazy. We should understand why she comes back for custody. When she gives up Billy in the final scene, it should be for the boy’s sake, not hers. Joanna isn’t a villain; she’s a reflection of a real struggle that women are going through across the country, and the audience should feel some sympathy for her. If they wanted Meryl, they’d need to do re-writes, she later told Ms. magazine.

The trio was taken aback, mostly because they hadn’t called her in for Joanna in the first place. They were thinking of her for the minor role of Phyllis, the one-night stand. Somehow she’d gotten the wrong message. Still, she seemed to understand the character instinctively. Maybe this was their Joanna after all?

That, at least, was Meryl’s version. The story the men told was completely different...