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Entries in Steven Spielberg (38)

Tuesday
Oct282014

DreamWorks' 'BFG' lands its lead and a July 2016 Release

 Margaret here as your resident Roald Dahl enthusiast, reporting on the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The BFG from Steven Spielberg. 

The fantastical 1982 novel follows a precocious little girl named Sophie and the titular BFG (Big Friendly Giant) who whisks her away into his world of catching and distributing dreams. The story's elements of darkness and absurdity (horrifying man-eating giants and a surprising amount of flatulence) are typical of Dahl, though perhaps less prominent than in some of his other well-known works. 

DreamWorks has announced that revered British stage actor Mark Rylance will be taking the title role. The the winner of three Tonys, two Oliviers, and a BAFTA, Rylance is nonetheless relatively unknown in the film world. This left-field choice for the lead is heartening; to choose an actor whose bankability is so entirely off the map shows great confidence in his ability, and bodes well for an interest in serving the material.

Certainly Steven Spielberg, who will direct and produce, knows his way around a heartwarming family film. Yet for the work of an author as misanthropic and wicked as Dahl, my heart wants a filmmaker who's proven they can do fanciful children's stories with more of an edge-- someone more like Cuarón or del Toro than the man who brought us E.T. (Not incidentally, the team who brought us that Best Picture nominee are reuniting for The BFG: Melissa Mathison and Kathleen Kennedy are respectively set to write and exec-produce.)

Production will begin in a few months, and it will open in the United States on July 1, 2016. Let's hope that, as the BFG might say, they don't gobblefunk around with this children's classic.

Other Dahl fans among us: how does this look to you? Any theater-goers here willing to attest to Rylance's abilities? And the most important question of all: will the Queen make a giant-slaying cameo as herself?

Monday
Oct132014

75th: Absence of Melinda

Two time Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon turns 75 today. Since we don't like any major actresses to totally fade from public consciousness when they stop working, let's look back. Though her last working year was 2007 her most recent high profile gig goes back much further to a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble of Magnolia (1999, pictured left) in which she played wife and mother to Phillip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. 

Though she'd been working for a decade before it in small parts (TV guest gigs and improvisational comedy) her first real claim-to-fame came as "Memphis Sue" Woody Guthrie's wife in the Best Picture nominated bio Bound for Glory (1976). She received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Acting Debut" (a now long defunct category) even though it wasn't her debut. Dillon's breakout led to bigger parts and two well-regarded Oscar nominations though curiously the Globes, who had first honored her, skipped her both times when her major hits rolled around. Her first Oscar nod made actually history: as the wide-eyed young mother in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1976) she was and will forever remain the first actor to ever receive a nomination for a Steven Spielberg film (it wasn't until The Color Purple when anyone else followed). Later she was nominated as a particularly fragile soul and key character at the heart of a war in Absence of Malice (1981) between journalist Sally Field and businessman Paul Newman (also Oscar-nominated).

Melinda Dillon as "Teresa" in Absence of Malice (1981)

Though Dillon's heyday preceded the birth of my own film/actress obessions I remember getting the sense that she was a critical darling, the kind of actress with a devout if not populist following. By the time I was watching movies regularly and passionately though the roles were all mom roles sometimes with lots of screentime as in A Christmas Story (1983) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and sometimes on the peripheries as in those very blonde family flashbacks in Prince of Tides (1991) or "Merna" in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar (1995).

If you're familiar with her work what's your favorite of her performances? If she could be coaxed out of her retirement what would you have her do?

Thursday
Aug282014

1989 Look Back: The Last Films of Two Hollywood Legends

Hollywood in 1989 was a far different place than it was in the studio system heyday of the 30s through the 50s. The Old Hollywood glamour that made stars like Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn once shine bright seemed like a distant memory compared to such blatantly sexual films as Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Trying to imagine Davis' Margo Channing or Hepburn's Holly Golightly appearing alongside the neon prints and leg warmers of the 80's is ludicrous. Except that both of these legendary Best Actresses happened to still be making films in 1989, decades after they had first achieved stardom. Sadly, 1989 would be the last year that both actresses would appear again on the big screen and what's worse, neither of their films (Wicked Stepmother and Always) would contribute much to their cinematic legacy.

more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug262014

Lukewarm Off Presses: "Chef" Again, Lord Attenborough, Joan Allen, and Movie-to-TV Series

Four interesting tidbits coming atcha that we neglected to discuss for multiple reasons. If you hadn't yet heard them, they'll feel like brand new news to you.

In what is clearly understood to be an awards-traction move, Jon Favreau's sleeper hit Chef will be coming back to theaters this Friday in wide release. I'm not sure it has the critical oomph to win any nominations and it didn't have the box office size to make that a non-issue (a la gargantuan hits like My Big Fat Greek Wedding) but could it sleeper hit its way into, say, The Screenplay race? I'm realizing I neglected to consider it at all there which is an obvious mistake. I had a really good time watching it with friends though; it's an easy sit and safe for diverse groups of viewers. My favorite visual was ScarJo eating a bowl of pasta but my least favorite visual was being asked to believe that vivid ScarJo and sexy Sofia Vergara would be a good sexual match for mopey Jon Favreau. These men and their self-serving onscreen fantasies!

Vanity Fair remembers Lord Richard Attenborough (1923-2014), actor turned Oscar winning director. I apologize profusely they we didn't honor him with an RIP here. This week was rough offblog. I'll remember him best as the director of Gandhi (1982) a very good biopic (as I remember it) that was unfortunately tarnished by being crazy over-rewarded by the biopic-obsessed Academy and had the misfortune to win in a strong year too what with Tootsie and E.T. and Victor/Victoria and Blade Runner all knocking about the cinemas and arguably moving on towards 'timeless classic' status. (Gandhi even took Costume Design)  Reportedly Shadowlands (1993), a biopic of C.S. Lewis with Anthony Hopkins & Debra Winger (Oscar-nominated) was his favorite of his own films. I liked that one too at the time. Notice how I'm ignoring the elephant in the room (A Chorus Line)

TV has a long history of attempting series versions of hit movies. Sometimes they're wildly popular (see M*A*S*H), occassionally they develop rabid fanbases but don't quite become big hits (Bates Motel, Hannibal currently) but most of the time they're quickly forgotten (Working Girl, anyone?) and cancelled. As you have probably heard Steven Spielberg is producing a series based on Minority Report even though there's been a show stealing that stop future crime premise for some time now (Person of Interest) and how you gonna function without Samantha Morton's pre-cog eeriness? Martin Scorsese is developing a Shutter Island TV Show for HBO which sounds like a strange idea in an ongoing format unless they go anthology with it and tell different crazy people stories as they come to grips or lose their grip of reality altogether OR they make it about the doctors and play-actors creating these worlds for the crazy prisoners, you know? And there's also a series coming based on that campy 90s hit Devil's Advocate which originally starred Keanu & Charlize as young marrieds and Al Pacino as The Devil. I have to tell you that all three of these sound like T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E ideas to me. Agree or disagree?

...and a tardy Yes No Maybe So extra

We don't do every trailer but I'd feel remiss if we continued to ignore the fact that Joan Allen, who disappeared so completely and who we've missed terribly, has a new movie coming out. The Stephen King adaptation A Good Marriage. Spoilers direct from the trailer in this Yes No Maybe So...

Yes - Joan Allen in a leading role again. It's been since, what, Upside of Anger (2005) for which she should've easily copped the Oscar (and she wasn't even nominated -oh the humanity). And the premise will certainly give her emotional scenery to chomp on. 
No - So the trailer basically tells you what's going to happen: she finds out her husband is a serial killer and then she tries to rescue one of the intended victims and things get scary. So if we're looking for good scares and suspense we won't get that here since we know what will happen.
Maybe So - Stephen King adaptations have been instant classics (Carrie) and absolute garbage and every gradation inbetween so who knows. I'm not familiar with director Peter Askin's work (Company Man, Certainty, Trumbo) beyond the filmed version of John Leguizamo's stage show Spic-o-Rama. Anyone?

Friday
Aug222014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Has Gone Global & Retro Cinematic

Tom Hiddleston after his challengeI know it's for a good cause but we're definitely reaching saturation point for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Soon, like maybe in 5 minutes, it will be over. But ALS is enjoying huge fundraising numbers so good on them for dreaming it up. I hope all these celebrates dousing themselves with freezing water are donating a dollar for every viewing of their videos and vines.

I've avoided sharing any because how would you choose? I mean other than skipping my beloved childhood idol Olivia Newton-John who kind of misses the point, filling her thimble "bucket" of ice with undoubtedly warm pool water before trickling it over her gorgeous blonde head. Let's just say Her Chills Weren't Multiplying. She Was Not Losing Control.

So why am I posting this? To note that this ice bucket madness which was mostly music stars at first has gone global. Here's Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi doing it below and challenging French actress Sophie Marceau. Her House of Flying Daggers co-star Takeshi Kaneshiro also did one but his is oddly subdued / silent. 

(Other Asian stars getting in on the action include Xiamoing Huang and Li Bingbing who he challenged. He also challenged Fan Bingbing so if "Blink" gets in on the action, I want her to do it in costume. Plz and thx.)

The ice bucket challenge has also gone retro cinematic. Steven Spielberg did it a few days back. But the best one -- or at least the highest budgeted-- is surely The Foo Fighters doing it 1970s Sissy Spacek/Carrie style. I'm just disappointed that they didn't challenge Sissy Spacek, Betty Buckley, and Piper Laurie in the process, you know? though at least Stephen King was name-checked.

If you'd like to donate to ALS to thank them for giving us all this ginormous celebrity wet t-shirt contest you can do so here