Monday, March 30, 2009

A Vision: Woody Allen Directs & Stars in a Bernie Madoff Bio Pic

Show a fruit bowl to a hundred different painters, and they'll all be different. Some might paint replicas that have fruit that appears edible, while some might create something so abstract, you'll wonder if they were looking at fruit at all.

Most biopics seem like they focus on painting the fruit to look as close to the fruit as possible, and to be honest, those end up being the most successful, especially when they add a little extra glitter and shine to that "fruit."

But I propose a fantasy, a hope, a dream, of something I would love to see. And that is a little more of an abstract telling of the Bernie Madoff story.

Wall Street, investment, stocks, bonds, securities, and hedge funds, and the like are all an important part of our financial world, but part of the reason people hire out investments specialists is because these things are complicated, and boring.

So let's not create an accurate retelling of how Madoff's ponzi scheme played out. Other movies have shown these things in smaller scales, and seeing more zeros on a computer screen or more green in a wallet doesn't make the story more compelling.

No, I have a vision for a Woody Allen film about Bernard Madoff. Last month, Steve Fishman wrote an article for NY Magazine about Madoff titled The Monster Mensch.

Mensch is a yiddish word word meaning a respectabe, mature, and respected person. Madoff in many ways, up until the fraud unraveled, had all the characteristics of an admirable American, pulling himself up from his bootstraps from the life of a Polish-American sprinkler repairman to a man worth millions of dollars.

New York Mag article really creates an interesting picture of Madoff beginning at a huge wedding for Bernie's niece Shana Madoff. The story really creates this interesting texture to the life of Bernie Madoff and the relationship he had in his community of friends and family. A story of respect.

In my vision of a Woody Allen film about Madoff, I don't think the scandal even plays a big part of the story, at least not the public scandal. Instead in Woody Allen's self-aware fashion it would show the sociable, but maybe insecure Bernie as he intermingles with friends, puts on a good face in regards to his great personal and business success.

It would be about Bernie's family, especially his younger brother Peter, wife Ruth Madoff, and his two sons Mark and Andrew. Each of these people had a part in the family business, and I can just see the back and forth of seeing these people at parties and social functions as well as around the office.

Picture, a less outrageous, but equally self-aware Arrested Development, (with a pre-arrested story).

Woody Allen of course would play the part of Madoff. Sure he doesn't look quite like Madoff (pictured above), but it's not like Madoff is a Johnny Cash or Ray Charles. Sure, I'm sure a Madoff look alike could be cast, but that's really not the idea here.

Sidenote: If I was doing a Madoff look-a-like casting, honestly I think I would cast Robin Williams and make-up and hair style him up to look older, and do some "younger Bernie" flashbacks even. It could be Robin Williams chance to regain some time in the spotlight as a serious actor (you know, the academy award winning actor, who's been nominated 4 times).

A story like Bernie's told in an Allen-style way really has room for such a wide ensemble, especially considering the party scenes, the dinner parties, and the office.

I'm sure there's a role for Scarlett Johansson in the film, maybe as Madoff's secretary or something.

To be honest, I'm sure Woody Allen has some thoughts on the Madoff scandal, in fact, I imagine Allen knows people who knew Madoff, or people who lost money with Madoff, so of course that would change the stories tone too.

To be honest, I'm not the biggest Woody Allen fan, but every once in awhile he does something amazing (like my favorite Allen film, Hannah and Her Sisters). And I think Allen doing a Madoff biopic could potential be one of the greatest ways to tell this story in an interesting, unique, and captivating way.

Come on Woody? What do you think?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brief Thoughts on the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

In 2008, the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction was not your typical "high literature." The winner was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

I have never quite experienced anything quite like Diaz's story. It is no doubt modern fiction. The story is broken up in multiple sections telling the story of a variety of the characters.

The primary character is Oscar de Leon, a grossly-overweight dark-skinned Dominican living in New York who is interested in "genre fiction," and who's greatest desire is to feel validated, particularly by sex.

Hardly a family friendly book, Diaz's book is filled with the most abrasive and crash language of both the Dominican world and streets of New York.

What makes this book one of the most unique books, is because it masterfully crafts a story of rich characters that intertwines the modern history of the Dominican Republic, but at the same time because of the first-person perspective of the story's narrator and Oscar's obsessions the story consistently alludes to comic books, graphic novels, and science fiction.

In fact, I would say that this story would be hard to understand if you didn't have a little command of Spanish, as frequent phrases and dialogue contain simple spanish expressions, and then secondly, I think this story would be hard to understand if you didn't know the Lord of the Rings.

The whole confines of which the Dominican dictatorship of Trujillo is discussed is built around Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. For example Trujillo's luetenents are often referred to as ringwraiths. In fact, the book has frequent references to Mordor, the Eye, Golum, Sauron, Galadriel, and of course the ring.

It is these types of references, and frequent frenferences to the Marvel Universe that make the story a different type of novel (it is probably worth noting thought that this is the second book in this decade to deal with significant comic book themes with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay plays on these thems, but in a different time and tone).

I am always interested in how literature cross references society. Currently I'm reading Stephen King's Duma Key and in it there are tons of modern references, especially with the old lady Elizabeth who watches Oprah everyday, at one point King references Kristie Alley appearing on the show to talk about her weight.

King's book falls into the "popular fiction" category while Junot Diaz's book falls into the "literature" category.

I can certainly appreciate this book, but would hardly recommend it to many. It's no coincidence that the main character and the narrator are fans of the Watchmen comic, the end of the novel potentially "spoils" Watchmen (as I've seen in some reviews) as it raps up the entire story of Watchmen in a brief paragraph in the end of this Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

Unless you're obsessed with reading everything, love "genre fiction" and "Dominican-American" culture, this book might not, and probably is not for you, but I am very impressed with the work that Diaz has put together, and impressed with the Pulitzer Prize teams that pick the winners, who never let us know quite what book will be given the ultimate honor.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Knee Jerk Thoughts on The Special Relationship: The Clintons, Dennis Quaid, Julianne Moore, Peter Morgan, and Michael Sheen

Have you heard about "The Special Relationship"?

The the main players of the cast has been assembled for a not-yet-Greenlit HBO project called "The Special Relationship."

Staring Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton, Julianne Moore as Hillary Clinton, and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair.

The Title, The Special Relationship: If I tell you there is a Bill Clinton Biopic called The Special Relationship, what will you think of? Surely some less then professional and morally objectionable relationships the President had with various females including Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, and Paula Jones. And if the TV-movie doesn't focus on this, you would think it would be focusing on how Hillary Clinton could tolerate this type of behavior and stand beside Bill in a hope to have her own political success on the coat-tails of her husband.

The film is not about these relationships...or if at all included, which I doubt, it is not the special relationship the title references. No, it's about Bill Clinton's relationship with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton: Most people in bio-pics get an upgrade, and the casting decision of Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton really doesn't bother me. Sure, why not...toothy grins, large foreheads, the ability for Quaid to play all-American, this works for me.

Julianne Moore as Hillary Clinton: What in the world are they thinking? This is more than the typical biopic upgrade. Sure Elizabeth Banks took on the part of Laura Bush in W, but why would Julianne Moore take on this role that seems like such a Saturday Night Live caricature. Amy Poehler did a great job, and sure Julianne Moore will surely want to bring some dignity to the role...but why would she take on this role? Julianne as Hillary is more than an upgrade.

Julianne Moore & Dennis Quaid: Moore & Quaid played husband and wife in Far From Heaven, for which Moore received one of her four Oscar nods. In Far From Heaven, the 1950s drama, the perfect couple ends up having problems with Quaid has homosexual relations at the office and Moore falls in love with the African-American Gardner...sounds like Quaid and Moore have already stared in a movie about "special relationships."

Peter Morgan: Peter Morgan is a screenwriter I've been paying attention to. His high profile historical bio-pics have consistently given actors and actresses a chance to shine in high-profile acclaimed character driven stories (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon). But this project on the surface seems far less intriguing, and the fact that it's for HBO as opposed to the big screen discourages my interest. In addition Peter Morgan is currently slated to direct this project, it's interesting that this would be his directorial debut, I would think he would have chosen a different project. It makes me think he's taking the first opportunity to direct that is being handed to him.

Michael Sheen as Tony Blair: I don't know if Peter Morgan's script contracts contractually force Sheen to get lead roles but Sheen consistently leads in Peter Morgan penned films (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Deal, and the upcoming The Damned United).

When I first saw Michael Sheen in The Queen I was very impressed. His portrayal of Tony Blair was incredible, and thought it was Oscar-nomination worthy, but this will be Sheen's third time to play the part of Blair, all of which were in Morgan scripts (The Deal, The Queen, and now The Special Relationship). Honestly, isn't it time everyone moves on, that is unless Michael Sheen's anticipating royalties from a Tony Blair box set or something.

Is Peter Morgan going to pen-screenplays about Tony Blair's interaction with every leader of the Western World? If that's the case Michael Sheen should have no problem keeping his schedule full, Morgan can write the next project while Sheen's first project is filming.

What are your knee jerk reactions?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Too Big To Fail

The US Government in the world of bailouts has frequently commented that companies like AIG, Citi, Fannie Mae and other are too big to fail. Other companies, like auto manufacturers also want to make the case that they too are too big to fail.

With bailouts and stimulus plans, regulations, and new taxes every one is trying to figure out to save these big companies from failing.

But maybe, just maybe, they are concentrating on the wrong part of the expression...maybe instead of concentrating on how to stop these companies from failing, they need to focus on how to keep these companies from getting big.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.

In 1933 the Glass-Steagall Act was put together by democratic senator from Virginia Carter Glass and former secretary of the treasure (and democratic Congressman of Alabama) Henry B. Steagall. The Glass-Steagall Act created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as well as created banking regulation that we rely on today. This act is frequently referered to as the Banking Act of 1933.

In 1999 Phil Gramm (Republican Senator -Texas), Jim Leach (Republic Congressman - Iowa), and Thomas J. Blailey (Republican Congressman - Virginia) introduced the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act. The Bill passed and was signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

The Gramm-Leach-Blailey Act (GLBA) repealed language of the Glass-Steagall Act and allowed deregulation in the financial services industry. It is because of the GLBA that for the first time since the great depression Commercial Banking and Investment Banking was allowed to happen with in the same corporation.

For example, in 1993 Citibank received special waivers to combine commercial banking and insurance underwriting under one conglomorated company. The GLBA allowed this conglomeration to be legal and allowed Citigroup-Travelers Insurance, to further merge with Smith-Barney.

Investment Banking Combines with Commercial Banking

City Bank of New Yorks story is not the only example of commercial banking and investment banking being done by the same company. Under the 1999 legislation, this became legal behavior, with the purpose of allowing American companies to compete on a global scale and to combine resources.

Examples of current companies that combine Investment Banking with Commercial Banking include: Bank of America, Barclays, Lehman Brothers Bank, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, USAA, Nomura Securities Co., Ltd., ING Group, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, and KeyCorp.

Your local commercial banks are not involved in investment banking, and there are many investment banks that are not involved in commercial banking (Oppenheimer & Co., Fidelity Investments, Raymond James).

Mergers, Consolidation & Federally Supported Buy-Outs

With the financial crisis we are currently in, I believe, the problem of big companies too big to fail is only made worse. Many investment banking operations are being absorbed into large commercial/investment banking companies in ways that would have been illegal before the 1999 GLBA.

Examples: Bear Sterns became a part of JP Morgan Chase in 2008, A.G. Edwards became a part of Wachovia in 2007,Wachovia became a part of Wells Fargo, Petrie Parkman & Co. was acquired by Merill Lynch in 2006, Merill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America in 2008.

Too Big to Fail - My Thoughts

Perhaps it's time to revisit this act again. There was a time when the government was more eager to tackle monopolies, but lobbyist, politicians, and lawyers have figured out a way to keep large companies in tact, and as companies diversify. Andrew Carnegie might be proud of the ways his intergration of multiple business became such a model and pattern for American business. In fact, his company Carnegie Steel Company was sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 and although J.P. Morgan died in 1913 we still know his name, and his name is associated with a lot of money, and huge portions of the global marketplace.

Perhaps instead of bailing out companies like AIG, the government should be breaking up companies like AIG with multiple holding. Create AIG Finance to deal with lending, and AIG Real Estate to deal with real estate, and AIG Aerospace, and so forth so that each business unit can be handled independently, and perhaps some of these different groups then would be small enough to fail, and the parts that can't will have to be saved. AIG even owns it's own ski resort, Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.

Seperate the Ski Resort from the Aerospace, and Telecommunications, and then see what parts of the business are too big to fail.

Maybe the same should happen for Lehman, Citi, GE, and any other company seeking federal bailouts. Maybe once these companies are made smaller, it'll be easier to see where the money really needs to go.

And as companies fail, government support of making J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and other "stronger" companies expand, only makes the potential risk in the future greater. In fact, it makes it so the only saviors of these massive companies is the government, which is the situation were getting into now.

Let's change up the leadership in these larger failed companies, and make smaller companies. And let's revisit the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. The goals of commercial banking and investment banking are different and putting these under the same roof might be too great a risk.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reel People: Matt Damon is Mark Whitacre

The film is The Informant, directed by Steven Soderbergh. The script is written by Bourne Ultimatum screenwriter Scott Z. Borne and is based of the non-fiction book with the same title by former New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald.

Mark Whitacre

Mark Whitacre was born in Morrow, Ohio in 1957. Whitacer lived in Morrow (just north of Cincinnati) through high school, where he was class president of his school in 1975. Whitacre attended Ohio State University, and went on to Cornell where he earned his PhD in 1983 with a degree in Nutritional Biochemistry. (Whitacre also earned two law degrees, including his Juris Doctor from Northwestern California University School of Law).

Whitaker married his wife Ginger in 1979, his high school sweetheart. She was an elementary school teacher.

After a variety of management jobs, Whitacre was hired at the age of 32 (1989) by Archer Daniels Midland's Bio Products Division, where Whitacre was president from 1989 to 1995. Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a Fortune 500 company, is located in Decatur, Illinois a company that owns 270 plants world-wide specializing in the processing of cereal grains and oilseeds. By 1992, Whitacre was a Corporate Vice President and an officer for ADM.

Also in 1992, the FBI began investigating ADM for a possible case of corporate espionage, the case was found to be groundless but during this time Whitacre told the FBI that ADM was involved in a price-fixing scheme to control the cost of lysine, an amino acid often found in grains. It is said that Whitaker's wife threatened to go to the FBI herself if her husband did not tell them first.

Over the next three years Whitacre worked with the FBI to help record conversations of top execs and provide information necessary to call out the actions of ADM. ADM settled out of court paying over $100 million to the federal government and millions more to plaintiffs.

During this same period though, Whitacre also embezzled $9 million dollars, by setting up fake off shore companies and then paying fake invoices to these companies.

Whitacre's agreement as an information provider created conflict for the US Department of Justice because he had helped them collect information in the price-fixing case, but his embezzlement was a separate crime.

In 1998 Whitacre received a ten and a half year sentence for wire fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering. Many tried to support Whitacre in getting presidential pardon or early release.

After eight and a half years Whitacre was released from prison for good behavior.

After release from prison he was hired on as COO for technology company Cypress Systems Inc.

Two books were written about Whitacre: The Informant written by Kurt Eichenwald, which argues that while the sentence was steep, Whitacre's attempts to help were crucial, but they also often also muddled the FBI's case. In addition Eichenwald tries to outline motivations for the fraud, including a Nigerian scandal, as well as bio-polar behavior. The other book Rats In The Grain was written by lawyer James B. Lieber, who focuses on the trial of ADM and praises Whitacre as a whistle blower in a huge scandal.

The Informant

It's somewhat challenging to anticipate what this film will be like. Matt Damon is expected to deliver a strong performance, and his weight gain to portray Whitacre is sure to generate buzz and attention. Soderbergh's films and styles have unique and unpredictable tones and feels. The casting of this project supports the idea that this film will be a dark comedy, as it has been reported. The other principal cast members include comic actors as FBI agents: Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Murphy Brown), Joel McHale (host of The Soup), and Allan Havey (comic). Melanie Lynskey plays the part of Ginger, Whitaker's wife.

Matt Damon hasn't been nominated for an Oscar since his double nominations for Good Will Hunting more than 10 years ago. Will "Fatt Damon" and his portrayal of Mark Whitacre earn him critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big Love - Big Controversy in the Temple?

First off, I'm impressed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got an apology out of HBO. Sure HBO shows a variety of offensive programming, but airing a depiction of a Mormon temple ritual on a show about a Polygamist Mormon dare HBO.

If you haven't heard about the controversy, basically what I stated above is it. I don't watch Big Love, and I'm not Mormon, so who am I to say anything, I suppose, but according to Brian Carlson with Salt Lake City's ABC news station, the episode "depicts one the show's main character's performing a sacred ritual that is meant to be kept private, which typically are only talked about between members of the church and only by those members who are in the temple at the time."

First off this certainly makes the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints sound like a cult. Private ceremonies, only talked about in secret?

This is apparently the first temple scene and LDS-members are outraged. Many have circulated petitions to boycott HBO and AOL, try to get the show off the air..

Is HBO really the type of network that markets to Mormons? Are Mormons the primary market for Big Love? I doubt it. And frankly, like most boycotts it only raises many more people are searching online to find out about this episode and what's behind this endowment ceremony, and the special undergarments the characters wear?

When Big Love first went on the air in 2006 I did a post on the show I commented on how Mormons would be displeased with the show and there was even a e-mail forward the Salt Lake Tribune published to encourage people to pass along to help boycott the show.

Three seasons later, Bill Paxton's staring vehicle is still on the air. So much for the initial protest, can't imagine this most recent one will be successful.

"Art" has been stirring up controversy forever, especially among religious leaders and groups. This does not validate art, nor excuse the messages and implications of the art. But throughout history boycotts and outrage usually have minimal fact, it's the outrage that usually in time validates the art's place in history, capturing how something caused people and groups to react.

I think LDS members are being very overly sensitive in this mater. I think more than feeling like the inclusion of the endowment ceremony compromises the sacredness of the ceremony. Instead I think Mormon's are fearful about what a non-Mormon will ascertain by watching the sacred temple scene.

Mormon's have tons of missionaries going all over the place to tell people about their faith, why the need for secrets? Why the fear in people knowing the truth about what they are getting into in the process of exploring Mormonism?

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Watching Fat People Exercise: In Praise of The Biggest Loser (and Ron & Mike)

As I write this, I wonder if years from now there will be a lawsuit against me for my use of the word "fat" in the title. People have grown to be sensitive about adjectives and word choice as they describe people, and people's body weight is a sensitive subject.

In fact, when I first heard about the biggest loser on the advent of it's first season in 2004, I thought that the name of the show and the premise was just another ploy filled reality show to match ridiculous shows like Joe Millionaire and Temptation Island. Networks sure seemed like they were grasping for reality anything.

Yet, some how I've found myself watching the current season of Biggest Loser (Season 7, couples).

I started watching when I went to gym on Tuesday nights, and you can only watch the blah-blah-blah of CNN and Fox News so many minutes before you want to rip out your skull.

Plus, when I was working out if you here the trainers telling these obese contestants "Come on, let's run 3 more miles" how else can I not help but at least stay on the elliptical machine another five minutes to see what happens after the commercial break.

So, it turns out that this show is not a gimmicky reality show with no value, in fact, I'm tempted to say it's one of the best things on TV.

A show like Survivor test your ability to manipulate and mentally handle the paranoia, American Idol seeks out undiscovered talent, and Extreme Home Makeover gives an amazing gift to someone who usually deserves it.

These shows are all great psychological studies, entertainment, and heart warming (respectively), but The Biggest Loser it's something different, it's transformation of people when their CANNOTs become CANs.

(And don't get me started on the Bachelor...a reality TV show with absolutely no-value, in fact an absolute negative social value)

Anyways, I think that The Biggest Loser is more than just watching people exercise, it's watching people strive for their greatest most unimaginable dream, and finding success with a little help, a little challenge, and a few tools that radically transform their lives.

Ron & Mike
I included a picture above of Ron and Mike Morelli, because they are two of the most heartwarming Reality TV characters I have ever seen on TV.

This Father son team is incredible. Ron's long term obesity (over 200 pounds since 9, starting the show at 430 pounds), has caused him knee and shoulder damage, and yet with the most recent episode (3/17) he has lost 103 pounds in 10 weeks.

His son, 18 year old Mike has lost more than any other contestant on the show at this point going from 388 pounds to 270 pounds.

Yet what is amazing goes beyond their weight loss, it is their relationship with each other that challenges and pushes each other, and the deep love that is so clear as it is shown on television to millions of viewers.

Mike's a good kid, giving one of his prizes he won (groceries for a year) to another contestant who he thought could use it more. His Father's pride (and lack of surprise) was so evident, and touching.

Even at this point in the game, they are on different teams but the way they still show their care (beyond the game) is incredible. (I really hope they win.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Magic of The Internet: St Patrick's Day, Lucky Charms, Breakfast, Obama

So I was going to do a post on St. Patrick's Day and how Jerry Bruckheimer, in his lack of creativity, should follow The Sorcerer's Apprentice with a feature length film version of a "Lucky Charms" Cereal commercial.

I was imaging what the movie could be about and discovered the character Waldo the Wizard (pictured left), who was introduced in 1975 to replace Lucky the Leprechaun. Well Waldo the Wizard didn't last for long and Lucky the Leprechaun (a.k.a. Sir Charms, and L.C. Leprechaun) returned and is still around today and kicking.

Interesting fact, did you know that the cereal apparently was originally intended to combine the flavor of Cheerios with Brach's Circus Peanuts. Now that's disgusting!

Anyways, I can picture the Jerry Bruckheimer movie now with the wizard take-over but the mischievous leprechaun finding all the charms before the wizard and taking him over. Hearts! Moons! Stars! Clovers!

But the Internet is a crazy thing. You really never know what you're going to find. Somehow in the process of my lucky charms movie creation, president Barack Obama suddenly comes.

Now, I think Obama would be partial to other cereals before lucky charms, no matter how magically delicious the cereal is, but that's really not the point.

I found this bizarre piece of artwork called "Breakfast of Champions" by Hank Willis Thomas and Ryan Alexiev.

You will notice, and I encourage you to expand the photo...but Obama's image is made up of breakfast cereals, largely sugary kids cereals like Lucky Charms. The description of the art can be found incidentally on the website Cereal Art.
Where the world be without the Internet...or a picture of Obama made out of cereal?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reel People: Audrey Tautou is Coco Chanel

The film is Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel), a film directed and written by Anne Fontaine, adapted from the book by Edmonde Charles-Roux.

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel

Gabrielle Chanel was born August 19, 1883 in a poorhouse in Saumur, France. She was the second daughter of a traveling salesman.

The illiterate women who were with her and her mother at the poorhouse went to the court house and even misreported the spelling of her name. Her birth records show her birth name as Chasnel.

Gabrielle/Coco Chanel was certainly not born into a traditional family, her parents were married the same year as her birth and they already had one daughter (Julie). Four siblings would follow Gabrielle.

When Coco Chanel was 12 her mother, Jeanne, died of tuberculosis. Because the 6 kids' father was a traveling salesman, he was unable to care for the children, the children were raised at the Roman Catholic monastery of Aubazine. It was a the monastery where she learned to sew from the nuns.

When Coco was 18 she left the monastery to work for a tailor.

During this time Coco met Étienne Balsan, the french socialite and horse breeder. Balsan was Coco's lover as well as a man who introduced Chanel to fine things, pearls, dresses, and a socialite life she had not experienced or been accustomed to previously. Coco lived with Balsan, and in 1909 they parted ways but he allowed her to remain living in a first floor flat he owned in Paris. In 1913 Balsan also helped well as helped her open her own boutique in Deauville where she primarily sold raincoats and jackets. The store went out of business and Coco was forced to surrender the property.

Shortly after she met a friend of Balsan's, Arthur "Boy" Capel, with whom Coco feel in love with. Like Baslan, Capel, was also a polo player. It's hard to tell when Capel and Coco began relations, it could have begun as early as 1909 when she left Balsan, but the role of Capel in Channel's life seems to have an increased role after the failure of her first boutique.

Capel helped finance a second boutique for Chanel in Brittany, France. Capel's blazers and male clothing apparently inspired much of the look that Chanel drew into her clothing styles. As this store did well, Capel helped her open more stores. Especially during WWI, Women began to become more interested in dressing for themselves, and not just for their husbands, and the style Chanel created really captured many women.

Capel and Chanel broke off relations, and Capel married Honorable Diana Wyndham in 1918, daughter of the half-brother of the Duke of Winsdsor.

In 1921 Chanel came out with her first signature fragrence, Chanel No. 5. This perfume was the first to have a designers name attached to it.

During this time Chanel also made up new stories of her family, including the primary story that he mother had died young, and her Father had traveled to America. The mispelling of Coco's birth records when she was born, made it very challenging for people to track down her true roots.

By 1923 Harper's Bazar was interviewing Chanel about her clothing and style, which was based on simplicity, comfort, and revealing styles. Chanel was known for using bourgeois fabrics like jersey, and updating them to be elegant and stylish. Many have said that Chanel's styles influenced the flapper look of the 1920s, with fashionable short skirts and outfits that showed style at the same time they reflected disdain for conventional styles.

1925 Vera Bate Lombardi, the illegitimate daughter of the 1st Marquess of Cambridge, began the public relations manager of Coco's lines to the British royalty and society. With the help of Lombardi, Chanel also fashioned "the English look."

With WWII, just beginning, Coco Chanel closed her shops in 1939 saying it was not a time for a fashion. At this time Coco Chanel took up residence in Hôtel Ritz Paris. During the Nazi occupation of France, Chanel was said to have had an affair with German officer and Nazi spy Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who arranged for Coco Chanel to remain in the hotel even during the occupation.

In fact, in 1943 Chanel contacted Vera Bate Lombardi to try to gain access to her relative Sir Winston Churchill. When Lombardi refused she was living in Rome, and the Gestapo arrested Lombardi claiming she was a British spy. After WWII, Chanel was convicted of war crimes, but the British family intervened to prevent Chanel from being taken to trial.

In 1945, she moved to Switzerland partially to avoid the scandal caused by her WWII associations, but even when she returned back to France to return to fashion design, but was highly criticized by the French who shunned her because of her Nazi ties.

Chanel was still able to succeed in selling her products as American interest in Chanel designs was very high at this time, and Chanel was still able to sell huge amounts of her product overseas to Americans who were less aware and concerned with her WWII-history.

At the age of 87 (January 10, 1971) Coco Chanel died in her suite at the Hôtel Ritz.

Coco avant Chanel

The films title (Coco before Chanel) and the casting of Audrey Tautou, the 32 year old actress to play Coco, gives us a good indication that this film will feature the earlies parts of Coco's life. The role of Arthur "Boy" Capel will be played by Alessandro Nivola, and the part of Étienne Balsan will be played by Benoît Poelvoorde.

Audrey Tautou has never received an Oscar nomination, although she has been highly praised for much of her work, specifically for Amelie which scored her name recognition and critical acclaim.

Will Audrey Tautou's portrayal of Coco Chanel earn her critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watchmen Walk Outs - Some Thoughts

This past weekend I called my sister. Her and her husband had just gone to see Watchmen.

Sure, it makes sense that they'd see Watchmen, right. It's the big Hollywood movie, it has that sci-fi bent that makes it seem like something that you should see on the big screen...and it involves super heroes...who doesn't love super heroes these days.

Yet, not to my surprise she hated it. I'm sure they're are a variety of reasons that both her and her sci-fi/philisophical/action/adventure/imagination-loving husband both were disappointed.

I assume, they were unfamiliar with the source material. This is common. Part of the reason people see movies is because it's quicker and more engaging then reading the book or studying that portion of history.

I don't fault them for sister and her husband never read Alan Moore and David Gibbons graphic novel.

But, the story line and that was it was told was not quite what they expected.

Watchmen Walk Outs Common
Chris Borelli wrote about this on Chicago Tribune's site about in his opening weekend theater experience about a quarter of the theater he was watching with walked out.

Borelli mentions that people left due to the explicit sex, nude Dr. Manhattan, and gruesome splatter violence. Chris reminds people that the movie is rated R, but I would assume that a large portion of people this past weekend who loved movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man last year, thought they might be going for a similar ride.

Chris' article points to several cities and viewers that mentioned major walkouts during various showings of Watchmen.

Speaking of being rated R, Watchmen's opening weekend theater count was the widest release of any rated R movie ever...although BoxofficeMojo reports it's opening weekend gross was only the 6th highest R rated gross ever (behind The Matrix Reloaded, The Passion of the Christ, 300, Hannibal and Sex and the City). With it's $55.2 million dollar opening gross, it makes me wonder if theaters gave refunds on the tickets of walk-outs and if that reflected the end of weekend take?

The advertising, the posters, and the rest of the hype didn't all necessarily point to the fact that this movie was something different than a Toby Maguire Spider-Man flick...but the Watchmen crew can't be blamed...especially since most indications seem to indicate the Zach Snyder and crew were faithful to the original work, maybe even to a fault.

But, I commend those who were offended for leaving, as oppose to subjecting themselves to something they found offensive.

A Recommendation: Kids-In-Mind
If you are likely to be that type of person, I thought I would take a moment to direct you to a favorite website of mine called I know there are other sites of this kind, if have a favorite let me know.

What I like about Kids-in-Mind is that it gives films a numerical score (between 0 and 10) based on three offensive areas...the higher the score, the more of this offensive element is present. The actual page goes on to list the offensive elements, with out neccesarily naming characters or giving away spoilers, but still explicitly detailing the offenses.

The three scores evaluate the presences of sex & nudity, violence & gore, and profanity.

Since even when it comes to rated R movies there is a wide range of what makes something "R" and what will offend someone, or even make a certain film bad for certain audiences.

I had been curious about Watchmen's content, and was semi-shocked to see the weekend of it's release that kids-in-mind rated Watchmen a 9.9.6, telling me that this was a sex/nudity heavy and violent film.

With this knowledge, I was hardly surprised my sister said she was disturbed and offended by the film. I wish she would have checked out kids-in-mind first and maybe instead they would have seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop (3.5.3.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chris Brown bows out of Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards for 2009

I was very excited earlier today when my friend Anthony sent me the story that said that Chris Brown had decided to take his name out of consideration for the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Award.

This made me very happy. Especially after Nickelodeon released a statement saying that they decided to stand by the nomination since he was who kids voted for.

When I posted about the nomination for Chris Brown on Saturday I was bothered by the news. I wasn't bothered in the way I would be bothered if Brown received a Grammy nomination, but the Kids' Choice Awards is a program geared towards children, and for Nickelodeon to throw their hands up in the air saying "well, the kids did vote for him" was really a lame excuse.

On Sunday I spent time not only sending online letters to Viacom/MTV Networks/Nickelodeon, but also to sponsors of the Kids' Choice awards, including Cheerios and Dreamworks Animation (producers of Monsters vs. Aliens).

I was pleased to get a response from Cheerios expressing their dedication to supporting family oriented television.

Chris Brown won the award for best male singer at the awards show in 2008, and I hope that him pulling out was due to extensive pressure and bad press, and maybe (hopefully) the request of network execs at Nickelodeon. Brown's exclusion should lead to conversations in families discussion how Brown's actions are inappropriate under any circumstance, and how Rihanna needs to remove her self from dangerous situations of this nature.

I appreciated the comments on my Chris Brown/Kids' Choice Award post, the frustration expressed by Michael Parson, Aaron Covey, William Petruzzo, Goon Squad Sarah, and Ando. Each of these commented validated that Nickelodeon's failure to respond only served to validate that domestic abuse was acceptable behavior, and no response on their part was wrong and inappropriate.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Reel People: Paul Bettany is Charles Darwin

The movie is Creation, directed by Jon Ameil, written by Master and Commander screenwriter John Collee based on the biographical work of Randal Keynes, most specifically the book Annie's Box.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England two-hundred years ago in 1802 to Robert and Susannah Darwin. Born into a Unitarian family, the fifth of six children, Darwin attended school taught by the families Unitarian preacher, but when his mother died in 1818, Darwin went to boarding school at Anglican Shrewsbury School.

Darwin went to college at the University of Edinburgh, with original intentions on following his father and grandfather (Erasmus Darwin) in the field of medicine as a doctor, but was more prone to having interest in natural history and even taxidermy over surgery and medicine.

Due to Darwin's lack of interest in medicine, his father sent him to Christ College in Cambridge to get his Bachelor of Arts to become an Anglican priest. While there he became interested in both outdoor activities like horse back riding, as well at etymology, collecting various specimens of Beetles. While in school his interest was most focused on natural theology, investigating the divine design in nature.

After a summer mapping trip in Wales with Adam Sedgwick (the founder of modern geology), Darwin joined one of his closest friends and professors, botanist/geologist, John Stevens Henslow on a trip on the HMS Beagle to chart the coastline of South America.

While, Robert Darwin regarded Charles' trip as a waste of time, he was persuaded to allow his son to go on the the two-year voyage. The two year voyage ended up lasting just under five years. Darwin, often sea-sick, spent most of the trip collecting specimens and taking notes, particularly observing marine invertebrates, observing geological specimens caused by the rising and falling of tides, and observing shells, island birds and the effects of natural events on landforms and sea life.

Charles Darwin read the work of geologist Charles Lyell while on the HMS Beagel and upon returning to England had gained some notoriety and was invited to be a part of Lyell's social circles. Darwin was also able to be a self-funded scientist, as his father had secured funding for his son while he was traveling.

It was over the next couple years in England that Darwin began to delve into the ideas of transmutation and the idea that one species could become another. These ideas were particularly developed through discussions and observations made in these scientist circles and in the discussion of birds that Charles Darwin had observed on the various islands traveling through South America.

Darwin became very stressed and ill after Henslow and Darwin collected a treasury grant to publish multi-volume work of the zoology discovered on the HMS Beagle trip. Darwin finished the early drafts of his journal around June 20th, 1837, the same day Queen Victoria took the throne. Three months later Darwin started having heart trouble, and the doctors urged him to take a break from his work.

During this time Darwin traveled to visit his mother's side of the family (the Wedgewood's) in Staffordshire, England. During this time Darwin still continued his work and asking everyone he knew questions about zoological observations that might be able to support the ideas of transmutation. Darwin's interest in the subject continued to grow, and in March 1938 had a chance to see an orangutan at a zoo and began to connect his theory to include humans, no just birds and marine specimen.

By November 11, 1938 Charles proposed to marry his first cousin Emma Wedgewood despite his concerns that marriage would mean "less money for books" and a "terrible waste of time." Emma accepted the proposal although she was concerned that Darwin's doubts weren't as compatable with her strong Unitarian beliefs and that they might be separated from one another in the afterlife. They were married January 29, 1939. Charles was 29, and Emma was 30. Together they would have 10 children.

One of the most notable children, his second, Anne Elizabeth, died in 1951 at the age of 10. It is generally believed that the death of 'Annie' caused a great amount of stress on Charles, partially concerned that he had passed on weakness in his genetic make-up to his children through the closely linked genetics of him and his wife. It is also believed, that upon the death of Annie, Charles also began to seriously doubt his faith in God.

Still sick himself, Darwin continued his work, experimenting on a variety of plants and animals, continuing to investigate the ideas of natural selection while writing a variety of books and essays on geological and zoological topics.

In 1958 Darwin planned to present his paper, "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection," but due to a scarlet fever outbreak in his family, and the death of one of his sons (Charles Waring Darwin who was born in 1856). Instead Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker presented on his behalf, and this was the first formal presentation of what would become Darwin's most famous work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life which was published in 1859.

On the Origin of Species did not specifically address the human evolution, but did accept and acknowledge that the content and ideas would effect future evaluation of humankind, suggestion the possibility of common descent.

Darwin's publication was both popular, well read, and translated in many languages. There was instant appreciation as well as criticism of his work, but in many cases, Darwin had limited exposure to the praise and critics due to continued struggles with his own health. Many scientific work and scientific though began spinning out with the suggestions of natural selection and favored races.

In Kent, England, on April, 19 1882, at the age of 73, Darwin died, and was given a state funeral, being buried at Westminster Abby.


The film is based on the biographical work of Randal Keynes (great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, also great-nephew of John Meynard Keyens). Keynes' book, Annie's Box, is also subtitled and often published as Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution. The book focuses largely on the death of Annie in 1951 and how the death effected Darwin's view of religion. The film is expected to draw on these themes, especially in light of his wife, Emma's, deep religious views.

The film not only stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin, but co-stars Jennifer Connelly as Emma Darwin (Wedgewood). The film also stars Jeremy Northam and Toby Jones.

Paul Bettany has worked with director Jon Ameil previously in Master and Commander, in a critical praised supporting role. Incidentally he has also worked with Jennifer Connelly before in A Beautiful Mind. Will the role of the father of evolution, be the role for Paul Bettany that will direct enough praise his way for Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Chris Brown, Rihanna, and Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards

I have a feeling most people reading this blog is well aware and have some opinions about the Chris Brown and Rihanna domestic abuse events.

It seems like the general consensus among the public is that Rihanna is being a horrible role model, and the stereotypical cut-out of what happens in abuse situation. As she reunites with Brown, it is expected that she will not press charges, testify, or speak out against abuse. It is expected, that the 19-year old Chris Brown will abuse again.

While legal battles and media attacks wage, Chris Brown appears to be moving on.

Chris Brown's myspace reads: ""Vote for Chris on the Kids' Choice Awards 2009, Thank you for your support."

The Kids' Choice this year are March 28, 2009, and hosted by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.

The nominees are based on votes by kids, and the voting finished four days ago, March 3rd...well after the Chris Brown/Rihanna scandal began.

Of the four music categories, Chris Brown and Rihanna have a combined four nomination (nominations in song categories listed at end of post).

I have really torn feelings over this...the awards have their rules, and I don't think that award should be manipulated as if we lived in a state-controlled government, but it also is a kids show, and to allow Chris Brown to be praised and lauded in a public forum geared around Children and Teens is unfortunate.

Should Nickelodeon take a stand? Should parents take a stand? Should Chris Brown's personal life be separated from his entertainment life?

Music Nominees for the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice awards:
Favorite Song: I Kissed a Girl (Katy Perry); Don't Stop the Music (Rihanna); Kiss Kiss (Chris Brown featuring T-Pain); Single Ladies (Beyonce)
Favorite Music Group: Daughtry, Jonas Brothers, Linkin Park; Pussycat Dolls
Favorite Male Singer: Chris Brown; Jesse McCartney; Kid Rock; T-Pain

Favorite Female Singer: Beyonce; Miley Cyrus; Alicia Keys; Rihanna

Reel People: Amy Adams is Julie Powell

The movie is Julie & Julia directed and written for the screen by Nora Ephron, based off the books Julie and Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Childs.

Julie Powell

Julie Powell was born and raised in Austin, Texas and attended the Amherst College where she received a double major in fiction writing and theater.

With an eye for adventure Julie and her husband to-be, Eric, moved to New York City. Where Julie Powell worked a variety of temp jobs.

Julie's last job of this nature was with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation which was responsible for distributing funds post-9/11. Powell's need to work jobs of this nature gladly became a thing of the past after Julie took on a unique project. In 2002 Julie Powell created a unique blogging project, "The Julie/Julia Project" a blog which was chronicling her attempt to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's famous cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking. This in itself a huge project being that Julie had never even cooked an egg before, and had a small poorly equipped apartment in Queens.

Julie claims to have started the project because she had an intrinsic feeling about Julia Child’s book: “Though it had been there as long as I could remember, I’d never seen Mom take this particular thick, cream-colored tome out of the pantry. Actually, it was one of a matched pair: two fat books, both called Mastering The Art of French Cooking, both with a pattern of spangled floral shapes on their covers.”

Of the course the experiment not only did Julie Powell's cooking skills improved, but her unique, open, and often-coarse style captured a large blog audience, as she shares about her husband, friends and family.

Julie never met Julia Child in the process of creating this book, but instead through the project begins to imagine about not only the cooking of Julia Child, but also her relationships with her husband Paul.

This blog audience resulted in a book deal for Powell with Little, Brown and Company. Powell reformatted the work she had done on her blog and crafted the 2005 published book Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen . (The book was later retitled Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously)

Julie's popularity only grew with the movie a deal for a movie adaptation of her story in 2009, making the movie, based on her book, based on her blog, the first movie ever to be based on a weblog.

Julie Powell's second book Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession is set to come out in conjunction with the release date of the film. This book focuses on Julie's attempt to learn butchery.

Julie & Julia

Writing a bio for Julie Powell is complicated, not because she doesn't have a life, but because the film, the story, and the premise are so tightly woven, that I feel like the power of the blog and book are based on the experience and Powell's writing, while so much of the power of this film relies on the way that Nora Ephron will find a way to tell this story in a way that fits the medium.

In the film, Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, Chris Messina plays her husband, and Mary Lynn Rajskub plays her friend Helen. The story of Julia Child and Paul Child some how gets intermingled into the film (Meryl Streep plays Julia while Stanley Tucci plays Paul).

Julie Powell describes her reaction to the film at an early screening last November on her current blog and said: "somehow seeing yourself - or a Rom-Com-ed, slimmed-down, considerably less foul-mouthed version of yourself - on a movie screen is a whole different thing. Well, it's not so much that, even. 'Julie Powell' is a character, played by Amy Adams, who is lovely and great - I understand that, ingest it, am fine with it. It's stranger hearing Chris Messina (Yummy!!) referred to as 'Eric Powell,' and see him in an office tricked out with posters and books poached from Eric's actual office. It's stranger to see a set of our apartment, built by people who never saw our apartment, and see how creepily right it is in some particulars - the red cowboy hat, the brand of digital kitchen timer, the particular lamp or cookbook or poster on the wall. "

Amy Adams, a two time Oscar nominee (Junebug and Doubt) is one of Hollywood's hottest commodities, but also someone who has been criticized for playing the same sugar-sweet roles. Will Amy Adams receive critical attention or even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Related post: Julie & Julia, thoughts on the book (that is, the book based on the blog, that is the source material for the major motion picture)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Reel People: Meryl Streep is Julia Child

The film is Julie & Julia, directed and written by Nora Ephron based on the books Julie and Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child.

Julia Child

Julia McWilliams was born in Pasadena, California in 1912. Daughter of wealthy parents, she grew up eating fine food prepared by the family maid. At 6 feet, 2 inches tall Julia was a basketball player on her college team at the prestige Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. In 1934 she graduated from Smith with a Bachelor's degree in history.

Upon graduating from college, Julia McWilliams worked in advertising and copy writing for W. & J. Sloane, the high-class furniture store known for furnishing the homes for the wealthy, as well as The White House, the breakers, and model homes in the 1939 World Fair. Julia worked as the assistant to New York ad manager A. W. Forester. Julia McWilliams returned to California in 1937 where she freelanced and worked in advertising for local publications.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor Julia McWilliams tried to enlist in the Navy but was rejected because she was too tall, and instead took a job with the Office of Strategic Services in Washington D.C. working directly under General William J. Donovan, who ran the OSS as the COI (Coordinator of Information), the predecessor to the CIA. One of her greatest contributions during this time was assistance in developing a shark repellent that would minimize interference with sharks and bombs intended for German U-Boats.

In 1944 she was stationed in what is now Sri Lanka, and then she was stationed in China. During her time overseas she met Paul Child, a OSS Cartographer. In 1946 Julia married Paul Child.

After WWII, Paul joined the United States Foreign Service and the US State Department assigned Paul to Paris, where Julia Child was introduced to fine French cuisine. She joined Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and then later studied privately with individual chefs. Two of Child's cooking friends Simon Beck and Louisette Bertholle were writing a cookbook and pulled Child's into the project to help the French cookbook appeal to American women.

These three authors (Beck, Bertholle, and Child) would not see their book, Mastering The Art of French Cooking, published until 1961 after the original manuscripts were rejected by Houghton Mifflin, for it's "encyclopedia qualities." Instead the 734 book was published by Alfred A. Knopf upon which it became a highly respected book as well as a best-seller, launching Child's status an expert in French cooking, writing articles, and appearing on television. Her first regular television program began in 1963, the Emmy-winning show The French Chef which aired for 10 years.

By the 1990s Julia Child was not only a household name, but many of her cooking shows aired in her own household kitchen which was set up to accommodate television cameras. The kitchen was designed largely by her husband to accommodate her height as well.

Paul Child died in 1994, after living in a nursing home for 5 years. Julia continued her work, but retired in 2001 moving to a retirement community in Santa Barbara and donating her house to her alma mater Smith College, and her kitchen was donated to the National Museum of American history.

Julia Child died in 2004, at the age of 91.

Julie & Julia

The film Julie & Julia is a film based off the blog and book by Julie Powell who chronicled her experience cooking her way through Julia Child's entire book Mastering The Art of French Cooking, while blogging about it along the way. While Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, and Stanley Tucci (pictured above with Streep) plays Paul Child.

An incredibly interesting person played by an incredibly talented and highly acclaimed actress, will Meryl Streep receive critical attention or even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Real (Reel) People Win Oscars: 2009 Edition

When it comes to win an Academy Award, recent years have shown that not any bio-pic performance means a guaranteed nomination, but if you get nominated for your performance playing a real person, then there is a good chance you will win.

Of the past 18 Lead Actor/Actress winners, 11 of these winners have won for playing real life people. That's 61% of winners since 2000.
  • In 2008 Sean Penn played controversial politician Harvey Milk and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2007 Marion Cotillard played French singer Ediath Piaf and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2006 Forrest Whitaker played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and won the Oscar for Best Actor
  • In 2005 Reese Witherspoon played country music celeb June Carter and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
  • In 2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman played author Truman Capote and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2004 Jamie Foxx played musician Ray Charles and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
  • In 2003 Charlize Theron played prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos and won the Best Actress oscar.
  • In 2002 Adrien Brody played Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman and won the Best Actor oscar.
  • In 2002 Nicole Kidman played author Virginia Woolf and won the Best Actress oscar.
  • In 2000 Julia Roberts plays the unlikely activist Erin Brokovich and won the Best Actress oscar.
The non-biopic winners: Kate Winslet (The Reader), Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Denzel Washington (Training Day), Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), Russell Crowe (Gladiator).

2008 had only a few bio-pic nominees with only Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, and Sean Penn won.

Through 2009 I will collect the real life stories behind the cinematic performances that actors and actresses will be capturing.

A few previous Real (Reel) People entries include actors who could potentially be 2009 eligible..I'll begin the series listing those films.

2009 Real (Reel) People Performances:

See the 2008 and 2007 Real (Reel) People projects.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Never Let Me Go: The Book, The Film, and Dream Casting

The Book
I recently got my hands on Never Let Me Go by British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The 2005 acclaimed novel is written by the author of potentially my favorite book of all-time The Remains of the Day.

Never Let Me Go is such a unique book, as it tells the story of three people, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy through three phases of their life, as children, adolescents, and adults. The story begins with the feel that these three kids are at a very prestigious boarding school, but it doesn't take long to realize that something is different.(Minor spoiler alert) Early on you discover that these three kids, as well as there classmates are unique because they have been cloned for the purpose of organ donations. Thus creating a sci-fi element, within the context of a late twentieth century world.

The story is provocative, creative, extremely well written, and a recommended read.

The Film
As I read the book, I could easily picture a film adaptation, particularly a film adaptation directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist). And in fact, I didn't even care if he cast Keira Knightley to play the part of the eldest Kathy H, the main character, because frankly, I think she could pull it off quite well.

So, as I thought about writing a list of a dream cast for this film I discovered that just last evening it was announced in Variety that a film adaptation picked up by Fox Searchlight was in the works, and surprise surprise it was to star Keira Knightley in the lead.

Unfortunately the director is not Joe Wright, but the music video director Mark Romanek, who's only film-credit to his name is the eerie Robin William's picture One Hour Photo.

Now Romanek has done some very unique and famous music videos including Fiona Apple's "Criminal," Nine Inch Nail's "Closer," Johnny Cash's "Hurt," and Coldplay's "Speed of Sound."

Yet when I picture the feel of this film, I want it to feel more like Atonement and less like 2001: A Space Odyssey. I want the focus to be on the people and their relationships, not on the sci-fi dynamics. I want subtly not loud artistry.

Yet, I have hope with the casting of Keira Knightley that he might be looking to Joe Wright for inspiration. In fact, the other two actors named that are attached with this project are Andrew Garfield (Lions for Lambs) and Carey Mulligan (who played Keira's younger sister Kitty in Pride & Prejudice).

Dream Casting
I certainly don't doubt that Knightley, Garfield and Mulligan are up for the parts they've been cast (presumable the adult Ruth and the adult Tommy), but...

if I were casting these adult leads, I might consider Emily Blunt for the part of Kathy H,

There's these three really incredible parts of the role of Miss Emily and Miss Lucy, two teacher at the school, and Madame, this essential, and bizarre french women who collects the art work of the students.

These roles are nondescript enough that Miss Emily and Miss Lucy could go to someone like Maggie Smith or Kristin Scott Thomas or Julie Christie.

Some how I just cannot help but picture Judi Dench or Imelda Staunton playing the part of Madame, although neither are French, I feel like these actress could really succeed in this role.

As far as the younger kids, this could take some skills in casting, but depending on the leads, a consideration for Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, or Georgie Henley seem like dream considerations.

As for Tommy, perhaps Andrew Garfield is a good casting decision, but I'd love to have Cillian Murphy cast in the role.

And almost as important to the success of this film is the crew who will create the feel for this film that has such potential to capture some incredible cinematic scenes in bold ways, and a beautiful score by Dario Marianelli or Alexandre Desplat could certainly help as well.

Here's hoping to a great film, with well suited casting - even if the best cast is a cast of some what unknowns. This film has such great potential, and do hope it is a great success. Of course the support of Fox Searchlight can't hurt.