Friday, February 27, 2015

Remake Funny Face with Anne and Cate

Would love to see a remake of Funny Girl. It doesn't have to have the songs, or really the dancing. But the plot is fun and could see Anne Hathway playing the part of Jo (originally played by Audrey Heepburn) and Cate Blanchett as Maggie Prescott (originally played by Kay Thompson).

That's all.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Oscar, Pop Culture, Entertainment, Art

Are the Academy Awards for the most artistic film?

Are the Academy Awards given for the most entertaining film?

Are the academy Awards passed out to the film that most resonates with pop culture?

Of course not!

Yet, at the same time there is a desire (I share it) for the films that win the major awards at the Oscars be films that is art, entertaining, and maybe even a small piece of pop culture.

I think of previous films like Forrest Gump. The Godfather, or The Silence of the Lambs, as some examples that seemed to cross into these different areas in ways this years films did not.

As I think about why this might be the case I've thought about where we gravitate for entertainment and pop culture in recent years, and in honesty it is not typically the movie theater. And if we do, it's certainly not "artful cinema." Popular movies in the theater seem to really be the action film (think this year's Furious 7 where a car chase will go through the skyscapers) and super-hero genre films. These are clearly for entertainment and are a part of pop-culture, but doesn't touch the art space (well, maybe in some technical realms, but no rational person will be arguing that Vin Diesel is Oscar bound or that the screenplay for Furious 7 deserves a second look come award season).

But there is artful work being done that is also entertaining and a part of pop-culture, but I venture to suggest that much of that is happening on a much smaller screen. Like many people, we've tuned into a number of the serial television shows from England -- we enjoy Downton Abby, Sherlock, The Hour, Broadchurch and Mr. Selfridge. We were captivated by Maggie Gyllenhaal's work in The Honourable Woman this past year. And HBO, Neflix, and cable networks are bringing challenging television, compelling stories, and talented performers to the small screen.

In many ways for this reason, in an award show like the Golden Globes, I think many people (myself included) were more drawn towards many of the television categories than the film categories this year.

I don't think Hollywood is doing itself any favors on this front with some of the film release schedules that make watching some of these films very challenging. And while there are many mediums to watch a film, not everyone utilizes every medium. Some people are going to pay for the rental on a pay-to-watch service directly from their cable provider, others go to Redbox, some watch from online services like Hulu and Netflix, and others purchase what they want to watch directly or in a digital form.

So when it's award season there's a good chance that the limited release holiday feature wasn't something you saw, and if it did release in another medium who knows if that's a medium you seek out.

The awards shouldn't chose best actress based on how well the film was distributed to a wide audience, but when a winner is selected from a film they haven't seen, don't be surprised for a little social apathy. The right winner's may have won this past year, but general people wouldn't know. And while some are going to seek out opportunities to see these award winning performances, others might not, simply based on the distribution method.

I am absolutely content with a pop-culture/award winner disconnect. Although, I think it's unfortunate that there isn't a greater interest in creating award caliber work that people (from low-brow to high-brow) might actually want to seek out and enjoy. That these winners would not just create art, but create art that is part of the collect conversation of pop-culture and entertainment.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Trying Not to Be Negative about the 2015 Oscars

The 87th Academy Award Ceremony will be held this evening, and I am trying not to me negative about them.

I love the Oscars. I do.

But 2015 is a year where none of the films have been overly exciting for me, in fact - I find it very annoying that The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film I didn't enjoy at all is nominated for 7 Academy Awards, or that Boyhood, an ambitious project (that's a little long and boring) is a front-runner going into tonight's ceremony.

The box-office speaks for this years ceremony - a ceremony where all the films with nominations (except the very successful American Sniper) have had some less-than-dynamic box offices (although some are reasonable considering the genre/audience, etc.). But these are not popular films.

I do not claim or propose that the Academy honor popular films but I also think that it's a pity that winners of tonight's awards will be names we may know but in films most haven't seen (example, Julianne Moore from Still Alice).

I'm not saying that The Academy got it wrong, or that more commercially successful films should have been in the mix (Maleficient, 22 Jump Street and Ride Along are certainly not Oscar worthy films). But that maybe this year only needed 5 best picture nominees instead of 8.

Props to tonight winners - I certainly can't say that any of the winner's tonight are in themselves undeserving, but the competition this year is just simply something I'm having a hard time getting excited about.

So if I seem "poo-pah" about things, it's not for lack of respect for these films or winners, it's just...well...not the most exciting competition this time around, and probably not the award show we will be talking about for years to come.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Fiction to Film: 2015 Edition

I'm ready! A few weeks later than normal - but ready. I'm thinking about the 2015 film calendar and looking at what novels will be adapted to the screen.

This list is really for me, as I consider what I might want read before the films come out in the theater.

It may be a foolish pursuit, as the past two years haven't been big years for successful adaptations of fiction to film. In fact, as I recently posted, not a single best picture nominee this past year came from a fiction adaptation.

That said, people have certainly complained about the caliber of film last year, maybe it part because of the absence of exceptional literary adaptations. Below is a collection of 2015 films based on fiction we can expect to see in movie theater's this year.

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Bill Condon directs Mr. Holmes based on Mitch Cullins book A Slight Trick of The Mind. The film stars Ian McKellen as an elderly Sherlock Holmes solving his final crime.

Ridley Scott's likely hit The Martian based on the book by Andy Weir stars Matt Damon as an astronaut, presumed dead and left behind by his crew.

The book The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette gets a big screen adaptation in the action drama The Gunman staring Sean Penn and Javier Bardem.

Tom  Hank's will star in Tom Tykwer's adaptation of the Dave Egger's novel, A Hologram for the King, about a business man in Saudi Arabia trying to sell a technology solution to the king.

Jake Schreier directs an adaptation of John Green's Paper Towns, the popular young adults mystery novel, which stars Nat Wolff and Cara Delevigne.

Emma Donoghue's Room gets an adaptation which stars Brie Larsen, William H. Macy, and Joan Allen. About a boy who has never left a small shed since the day he was born.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan will star in E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey.

Tom Hardy stars in the adaptation of Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 about an investigation of child murder's during the Stalin era of the Soviet Union.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in an adaptation of Michael Punke's The Revenant. The film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu takes place in the 1820s and is about a man seeking vengeance after being left for dead.

London Fields by Martin Amis is adapted into a film staring Amber Heard as Nicolo Six, a clairvoyant who begins a love affair with three men knowing that one of them will be her murderer. The film also stars Johnny Depp and Jim Sturgess. It is Matthew Cullen's directorial debut.

Pierce Brosnon and William Hurt star in the fantasy-fiction-history adaptation of Vonda N. McIntyre's The Moon and The Sun about King Louis XIV's attempt to steal the life force from a sea monster.

Consistently praised director of fiction Stephen Daldry has brought Andy Mulligan's Trash to the big screen, although it's United States run has not yet occurred. The film stars Rooney Mara, and Martin Sheen. The book is was adapted by Richard Curtis.

Ezra Miller and Mia Wasikowska star in an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's classic Madame Bovary.

Todd Field still appears to be working on directing and adapting The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran. This 1910 period piece tells the story of arms smuggling ring in Mexico.

Another period piece is Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française directed by Saul Dibb a love story in the early days of the French occupation. The love story stars Michelle Williams (French villager) and Matthias Schoenaerts (German soldier).

Also staring Matthias Schoenaerts is another classic adaptation. This time Tom Hardy's Far From The Maddening Crowd which also stars Carrey Mulligan, Juno Temple, and Martin Sheen.

Nick Hornby's adaptation of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn tells the story of Irish immigrants in New York in the 1950s. The film stars Saoirse Ronan.

The author of the 2014 hit Gone Girl, gets another adaptation. Gillian Flynn's Dark Places stars Charlize Theron and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Todd Haynes is set to direct an adaptation of the same-sex love story The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan), the film is called Carol and set to star Cate Blanchett.

Derek Cianfrance will direct an adaptation of M.L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans about a light keeper and his wife living in Australia. Michael Fassbender stars.

Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor will star in The Secret in Their Eyes based on Eduardo Sacheri's book. This book was the same source material for the film with the same name that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Argentina in 2010.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper team up again, this time in North Carolina during the depression. The film is adaptation of Ron Rash's novel Serena.

Danielle Radcliffe and James McAvoy star in Victor Frankenstein, in the newest adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Susanna White is set to direct an adaptation of the John le Carre novel, Our Kind of Traitorstaring Ewan McGregor.

Jessica Chastain is set to star The Zookeeper's Wife a WWII story based on Diane Ackerman's book.

Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page star in Jean Hegland's Into The Forest about sister's in a apocalyptic world.

Rooney Mara stars in Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture about a woman in a mental hospital.

This year's Nicholas Sparks contributions include The Longest Ride and The Choice.

The second installment of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay will be released as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part II.

The Maze Runner series continues with the second film in the series. The adaptation of James Dashner's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials comes out in the fall.

The Divergent follow-up comes with Veronica Roth's Insurgent hitting theaters this spring staring Shailene Woodley.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Broadchurch Season 1 - Some Spoiler Free Thoughts

Broadchurch is a British Television crime drama, the first series originally aired in 2013. It is an eight episode series which is absolutely fantastic in a number of ways.

I write this post with great caution to be spoiler-free because the intrigue of Broadchurch is that it's a fantastic "who-done-it." And from the end of Episode 1 my wife and I started to play this guessing game. A game which I truly believe creator Chris Chibnall hoped we would play.

For example, in Episode 1 my wife selected a character we hadn't even formally met yet, but appeared briefly in a montage of reflective/impacted characters. We met her chosen criminal in episode 2, and as suspected he was a suspect.

At it's one of those things, were everyone is suspect. Yet, this is not just a police procedural or mystery, genres I often have a hard time getting excited about. Because Broadchuch while dedicated to solving the crime is also about telling a story.

The film's primary characters are Detectives Alec Hardy (played fantastically tepid by David Tennant), and Ellie Miller (also fantastic, played by Olivia Coleman, in her BAFTA winning role). The interesting thing to me about British TV sometimes it seems to cast differently - these actors were both so fantastic in their roles but in a leading role neither of them seem like a Hollywood star, instead they play their roles so convincingly, in ways that very human. Both the endearing and unflattering side of human.

The filming is beautiful and not just for it's Jurassic Coast setting. It has this exceptional pacing that creates a sense of timing and rhythm. The filming and editing are done in such a way that it tells you when to pause, to think, to reevaluate your thoughts, and to consider the character's positions and feelings. The filming is very much an active part of the story telling, and it works effectively from episode 1 to episode 8.

There are also some other incredibly excellent performances, but to mention names and actors almost in it's own ways opens up the door to spoilers. But there really was not a single actor in the film whom I did not find perfectly cast performing at an exceptional level. 

The overarching plot itself may not be the most unique (a murder investigation in a small town), but it doesn't really matter if there's a creative plot devise on the front end, because it's gripping, beautiful and compelling in each step of it's execution.

This past year, the show was retooled by Fox TV for American consumption as the show Gracepoint were David Tennant reprises his role. Although, while intrigued can't imagine that version being better than this, and the plot of the two versions is the generally the same in the American reiteration. 

The second series is currently airing in United Kingdom, and honestly, this is one of those shows where I can't imagine how they recapture the magic of the first series, but am eager to catch Season 2 when it is available. It has also been renewed for a third season as well.

Broadchurch is great serial television, and I can't say enough how compelling, beautiful, and well acted this show trully is -- a genuine pleasure to watch, up to the last minute. 

Where Is Zach Braff

Like a flash of lightening in your microwave when you remember you can't microwave metal, I thought tonight to myself...Where Is Zach Braff.

My wife and loved watching scrubs. We even owned the soundtrack...in part because the show introduced me to Colin Hay and sometimes I just want to sing the song Overkill. Wait now I have to post the video - here you go:


And up to a point this show was witty, creative, and funny and Zach Braff as young Doctor Dorian was perfect for the part.

And in the middle of the long running series he directed Garden State. Actually it was over 10 years ago, which is sort of bizarre in itself. And it really seemed like Zach Braff as a director was a threat to watch. Speaking of music, Zach even won a Grammy award for another great soundtrack.

And like I said, tonight all the sudden I realized Zach had sort of disappeared from the public light. His 2014 film Wish I Was Here didn't really hit on anyone's radar and yet, I have to think there is a place for Zach Braff.

It seems to me that place may be as Zach Braff, director. But who's to say. Zach is funny, a little bit off-center and a comical story teller. Yet, it's been over 10 years since he's resonated in the way he did in Garden State or the successful early season of Scrubs.

All this leads me to ask "Where Is Zach Braff?" I want Zach Braff to be the most famous Zach.

I ask "Where Is Zach Braff" because I want to see a Zach Braff come back. And not just in syndication.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Zero - The 2015 Oscar Best Picture Nominations and Fiction Adaptations

In the continuation of a long standing post series, I have continued to track the impact on award nominations for best picture coming from the adaptation of novels.

Last year, the 2014 nominations resulted in zero of the 9 nominees coming from novels (5 original works and 4 based on non-fiction sources).

I thought this might be a one off year where we might see a quick bounce back considering the works of fiction that were being adapted in 2014...yet films like Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, and The Hundred Foot Journey didn't make a significant splash (for these three films specifically the films were each directed by best picture nominated directors -- but not these films).

The 87th academy awards, honoring the films of 2014 seemed to show a repeat aversion to fiction adaptations.That's right zero of the 8 films nominated for best picture were adapted from fiction. This year's films include:

  • 4 Original works (Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash)
  • 4 Non-fiction sources (American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything

The previous 10 years still show that 1 in 4 films (exactly 25%) nominated for best picture came from fiction. And beyond that 20% of winners from the past 10 years won based off adapted-fiction source material (Slumdog Millionaire and No Country For Old Men). But the trend of books-to-film-to-awards isn't looking so hot based off the last two year's track record.

But perhaps the year in 2015 film will be different?



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Nominees for Best Picture from Novel from the Previous 10 Year (2004-2013 films)

• 2013 films best picture nominees: 0 of 9 adapted from a novel

• 2012  films - best picture nominees: 3 of 9 adapted from a novel (Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Yann Martel's Life of Pi, Matthew Quick's Silver Lining Playbook)

• 2011  films - best picture nominees: 5 of 9 adapted from a novel (Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants, Jonathan Safron Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Brian Selznick's Hugo, and Michael Murpurgo's War Horse)

• 2010 films - best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Charles Portis' True Grit; Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone)

• 2009 films best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Saphire's Push [source material for Precious]; Walter Kirn's Up in the Air)

• 2008 films best picture nominees: 2 of 5 adapted from a novel (Vikas Swarup's Q & A [source material for Slumdog Millionaire]*; Bernard Schlink's The Reader)

• 2007 film best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapated from a novel (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men*; Ian McEwan's Atonement; Upton Sinclaire's Oil! [source material for There Will Be Blood])

• 2006 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2005 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2004 films best picture nominees: 1 of 5 adapted from a novel (Rex Pickett's Sideways)


*won the Oscar for best picture

This years percent of Oscar nominees from Novels - 0 of 8 nominees : 0%

The percent of Oscar nominees coming from Novels over the previous 10 years - 18 of 72 nominees: 25%

Additionally, 2 of the previous 10 years saw the winner coming from a novel.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Favorite Films From Years that End in "5"

In celebration of the new year here's my favorite films from each of the year's that end in five.


1935: Alice Adams (dir. George Stevens)
1945: Christmas in Connecticut (dir. Peter Godfrey)
1955: The Wages of Fear (dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot)*
1965: The Sound of Music (dir. Robert Wise)
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (dir. Milos Forman)
1985: Back to the Future (dir. Robert Zemeckis)
1995: Dead Man Walking (dir. Tim Robbins)
2005: The Constant Gardner (dir. Fernando Meirelles)

To see similar posts from previous years you can view favorite films from year zero (2000), one (2001), two (2002), three (2003) and four (2004).

 Here's to a great 2015.

*My film list is categorized by US Release date, while The Wages of Fear was released in 1953 in France and other European counties, it's US premier was in 1955.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Key Elements in a "Hallmark Christmas Movie"

I write the term "Hallmark Christmas Movie" in quotes, because all movies in this genre are not Hallmark movies, but Hallmark seems to have excelled in their marketing of this genre of films.

For various reasons, this year we caught a great deal of these (again produced by a number of different sources, including but not exclusively Hallmark). Perhaps you caught some of these as well.

Below are the films in this genre that my wife and I saw this season:

  1. A Christmas Kiss (2011, directed by John Stimpson, staring Elisabeth Röhm, Laura Breckenridge, and Brendan Fehr)
  2. The Mistle-Tones (2012, directed by Paul Heon, staring Tia Mowry-Hardict, Tori Spelling and Jonathan Patrick Moore)
  3. A Bride for Christmas (2012, directed by Gary Yates, staring Arielle Kebbel and Andrew W. Walker)
  4. Let it Snow (2013, directed by Harvey Frost, staring Candace Cameron Bure and Jesse Hutch)
  5. A Very Merry Mix-Up (2013, directed by Jonathan Wright, staring Alicia Witt and Mark Wiebe)
  6. Christmas Under Wraps (2014, directed by Peter Sullivan, staring Candace Cameron Bure, David O'Donnell, and Brian Doyle-Murray). 

It's a little overkill - I admit it. Yet, like watching infomercials, they sometimes just grab you and don't let go. And I realize these do not reflect the full cannon of Christmas films (in fact, in addition to these we also watched White Christmas and our favorite Christmas in Connecticut).

Here are the key elements of the modern "Hallmark Christmas Movie:"

  1. The lead is a single female (may or may  not be engaged or dating at start of the movie)
  2. If engaged/dating, the one she is engaged or dating is not the one she will be with at the end of the film
  3. If the first guy she meets has a bad haircut she will not be with him at the end.
  4. If a boyfriend/potential love interest is obsessed with his career or brings a laptop to a Christmas event or her parent's house she will not be with him at the end (unless she convinces him to "break loose"...i.e. The Mistle-Tones).
  5. All shows must include characters with parent issues (either pressure to be like their parents, or parents who think they should be making different choices).
  6. An alternative variation to parent issues can also include characters who's parents died while young or were distant for other reasons resulting in a character never "truly experiencing Christmas" or hasn't been able to experience Christmas since.
  7. Parents, particularly mother's, must be especially keen on their children getting married and married quickly (long dating periods or engagements are not encouraged).
  8. The love interest may not have an impressive job but he probably knows how to play the piano.
  9. If a girl is wearing a white dress, do not underestimate the possibility of an impromptu wedding happening in that scene, even if she is not yet officially engaged 
  10. The film should reference "following your heart" at least once.

These films will be predictable from start to finish, and anything else would be entirely unacceptable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Really, The Interview, Non-Stop Press

Granted - the premise of The Interview (directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan) is extreme in creating a rude comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Yet, who would have ever thought that this movie would make such a splash. The president speaking about, people hacked, insulted, lawsuits, and press, press, press. So much press for a movie that at the time of this post has a 52% Rotten Tomatoes scores. 52% and the president is talking about a comedy that is rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence.

I get in my car and every time I hear stories about the movie. Today it's been all about independent and art house cinema chains speaking out and sharing why they are sharing this gift of a movie with the world.

Surely, this isn't the path Sony wanted to take on this film, especially with the embarrassing hacking leaks, but this film with a $44 million dollar budget and a Christmas release is jamming the air waves with press -- and it's hard to tell how the story continues to shape. But today it includes conspiracy theories about North Korea losing their own internet. "Was it an American response?" people are asking. Who knows (well, maybe some people know...) but this movie...really?

I keep scratching my head. And yet, in many ways this becomes the big film press story of the month, maybe the year.

I must admit - for all the exposure, I hope it ends, because I can't imagine what type of new news would make this a story, other than people leaving the theater disappointed or some insane box office figures.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chicks and Salsa

I love it when a book captures my kids and it becomes a part of our collection of favorites. This past fall the book that has captured all of our children (6, 3 & 2) is the book Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Paulette Bogan.

It's pretty hillarious, with a fun tone and candence as well as enjoyable artwork. In the spirit of books like Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin, the barnyard animals are up to their own unnatural mischief, in this case cooking with a Mexican flare. The artwork has little "bonus material" that goes beyond the text. The text references some mystery (such as were did the chips come from?) and the pictures reveal some additional detail that is fun to see the kids discover.

Highly recommended - probably our favorite new book of 2014.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Reel People: Eddie Redmayne is Stephen Hawking

The film is The Theory of Everything. The film is directed by James Marsh (Oscar winner for the documentary Man on Wire). The screenplay is written by Anthony McCarten based on the book Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Hawking.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking's parents, Frank and Isobel had met at a medical institute in London at the start of WWII. Both had been students at Oxford. Frank had studied medicine, while Isobel studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.  Stephen Hawking was born shortly after, January 8, 1942. He would go on to have two younger sisters and an adopted brother.

Hawking's family high value education, and he attended Saint Albans in London where he was connected with friends and mathematician Dikran Tahta, with whom he did projects such as creating a computer from clock parts and who inspired him to study mathematics at University.

In 1959, at the age of 17 he breezed through his university years at Oxford and then went on to begin his graduate work at Cambridge in in 1962. At Oxford he had been bored with his studies and had been engaged with a rowing team. But at Cambridge, life began to change when at 21 he was diagnosed with motor nueron disease at the age of 21, his speech began to slur and he experienced some general clumsiness and challenges with motor skills such as rowing.

Given a life expectancy of two-years he struggled with depression while at the same time also developed a relationship with his sister's friend Jane Wilde with whom he would become engaged to in 1964 -- the relationship helping him through those initial challenging years as his motor skills continued to decline. They would be married in 1965.

Continuing his studies during this time, he spent a lot of time on physics topics including the big bang theory and black holes. Hawking obtained his PhD degree in 1966.

Continuing his work in physics Stephen stayed busy, while his wife Jane was also obtaining her own PhD. While keeping his physical challenges a subject not spoken about, Jane carried a great deal of the burden's for domestic life. In 1967 they would have their first child, Robert, followed by Lucy in 1970.

Hawking would publish his first book with fellow physics and leading cosmology theorist George F. R. Ellis in 1973 called The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time.

As Hawking continued his studies in quantum mechanics continued and developed public interest in black holes grew and Hawking was regularly interviewed and in the public eye.

In 1979 he and Jane would have their third child, Timothy. Around that time Hawking was also appointed the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

Stephen's notary continued to grow and his studies and writings continued to gain increasing interest. He also would lose his voice and begin to use a speech generating device. Jane and Stephen's thoughts on religion would become more and more different as Stephen's religious beliefs which were contrasting with Jane's growing devotion to God.

In 1992 Hawking picked up a wider audience when Errol Morris did a film version of of Hawking's 1988 book A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes. This book would become a best-seller, selling more than 10 million copies over the next twenty years.

Stephen and Jane would divorce in 1995 when Stephen decided to leave Jane for one of his nurses Elaine Mason with whom he married in 1995.

Hawking had a unique pop culture populaity during the 1990s with an appearance on Star Trek and The Simpsons as well as having his synthesized voice used in the Pink Floyd song "Keep Talking."

This continued into the next decade with some more serious subject matters including documentaries and television appearances as well as continued character work on shows like Futurama.

In 2006 Stephen and Elaine would divorce and Stephen became increasingly involved in the life of Jane, his children, and grandchildren. Jane published the book Traveling to Infinity, My Life with Stephen in 2007.

Stephen Hawking continues to speak, write, and make public statements - often statements which are controversial and tend to deal with a variety of subjects including politics and religion. He also has continued to receive recognition and honors for his work in the field of physics.

The Theory of Everything

The film The Theory of Everything focuses on the romantic relationship of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde in the 1960s at Cambridge. In addition to staring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen, the role of Jane is played by Felicity Jones.

Supporting performances in the film include Emily Watson (as Stephen's mother Isobel) and David Thewlis (as British physicist Dennis W. Sciama).

Will Eddie Redmayne receive his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of this Real (Reel) Person?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Hologram For The King by Dave Eggers

Just finished the book A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.

I told my wife the other night that if Oprah was a white-man than this would be on his book club list.

But, men don't typically have book clubs and read books together and discuss how they relate to the feelings and experiences of the characters, discuss the themes and plot - so since this is not White Oleander or Where The Heart Is, so maybe it never has the chance to grab that type of group-love.

But instead a story about a middle-aged sales man who goes with a group of young business people to present an energy plan to the king of Saudi Arabia, in hopes of landing a big contract for a new development underway.

So they sit in a tent, waiting for the king to present the hologram presentation. He goes to the hotel. He laments his past, his crazy ex-wife, his career, and globalization. Oh, and he's obsessing about a growth on his neck. It's lovely.

It's well written - it's interesting, even though hardly anything happens.

In many ways, one of the most interesting thing plot wise is the friendship he forms with a Saudi man who drives him between the hotel and the remote future city being developed.

I won't lie, it's the type of book that is an interesting read, because I have to think that despite the unique setting that many cannot relate to personally, the themes, emotions, and life reflections have to resonate with the current American experience.

I'm not sure the story would grab all readers, but I certainly enjoyed the read - Eggers is a great writer and could probably write about a man watching butter melt and it would be strangely insightful.

This 2012 book, a finalist for The National Book Award is being made into a film directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas), with Tom Hanks playing the main character (Alan Clay). It'll be interesting to see how this comes to the big screen, being that it's plot is basically the story a man in the desert obsessing about neck growth.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reel People: Jack O'Connell is Louis Zamperini

The film is Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie. The screenplay is written by Joel & Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. The film is based on the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.

Louis "Louie" Zamperini

Louis was born in New York in 1917. He was born of Italian immigrants, the second of four children. A few years after his birth his family moved to Torrance, California. Where we would grow up, including his attendance at Torrance High School. While at Torrance High School he joined his older brother Pete on the track team. While breaking records he would go on to get a scholarship to the University of Southern California.

In 1936 he decided to try out for the Olympics, and qualified at the age of 19 to compete in the 5000 meter in the Berlin Summer Games. He would finish 8th, but is said to have caught the eye of Hitler at the games for his fast finish in the final lap.

In 1941 Louis enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces where he was deployed to the pacific island of Fanafuti, as crew member of a B-24 bomber.

In 1943, when the bomber ("Super Man") was damaged in combat, Louis was assigned to search for lost crew members utilizing another plan ("The Green Hornet") which crashed while on the search. Only three of the 11 crew members survived the crash.  Louis, along with the other two crew members Russel Alan Phillips and Frances McNamera were adrift 47 days at sea until they reached the Marshall Islands were they were captured by the Japanese Navy.

While captives, they were poorly treated, and Louis Zamperini was transferred between a number of Prisoner of War camps before being released after the war ended in 1945.

After his release he would return to the United States, having previously been declared dead following the 1943 B-24 crash. He would get married to Cynthia Applewhite, a celebrated in his home town. The Torrance Airport was renamed Zamperini Field in his honor in December 1946.

Upon his return though, he found himself traumatized by his experience, regularly having nightmares of his experiences, notably his prison guard tormented Mutsuhiro Watanabe ("the bird") from the Naoetsu Prisoner of War Camp his final POW camp from the end of the war.

His wife persuaded Louis to attend a Billy Graham crusade in 1949, and although he stormed out the first night was persuaded to attend a second night where he became a follower of Jesus.

Louis Zamperini quickly became sharing his new found faith with a number of different communities and church groups. In 1950 he returned to Japan to share his faith in the country, sharing a message of forgiveness, and offering forgiveness to Japanese war criminals who had previously been his tormentors.

Zamperini would go on to have a career in commercial real-estate while staying active in his church and community.

In 2001 his wife Cynthia died.

In 2014, Louis Zamperini died of pneumonia in his home at the age of of 97. His survivors included daughter Cynthia, and son Luke.

Unbroken

The film Unbroken tells Zamperini's story with particular focus on his WWII story.

In addition to Jack O'Connell playing the role of Louis Zamperini, the film also stars Domhnall Gleeson (Russel "Phil" Phillips) and Finn Whitrock (Francis "Mac" McNemera). Japenese musical Artist Miyavi plays Mutsuhiro Watanabe. Morgan Griffin plays the role of Cynthia Applewhite. The film also stars Jai Courtney, Garrett Hedlund, and Alex Russell.

Jack O'Connell is relatively unknown, but will his feature role in a potential Oscar darling propel him into the Oscar spotlight for his role as this Real (Reel) Person?
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