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Archive for May, 2015
Caitlin Cronenberg with Sarah Gadon Premieres Thursday, June 4 at 9 p.m. ET
Commissioned by an Italian fashion magazine for a photography project, celebrated photographer Caitlin Cronenberg and actor Sarah Gadon (Maps to the Stars) travel to Bruce Peninsula National Park. This episode explores how the pair connected amidst the Hollywood and Fashion machine, and issues of image-making, film, and fashion. Sarah Gadon’s directorial debut. Enemy, starring Sarah Gadon and Jake Gyllenhaal, follows the episode at 9:30 p.m. ET. (More info HERE!)
Watch the whole thing HERE!
When I mention to Blythe Danner there is Academy Award buzz around her work as Carol, a widow taking tentative steps into the world of dating in the new film I’ll See You in My Dreams she says, “That, I find idiotic.” Long pause. “But thank you.”
Danner made her film debut in 1972, two years after she won a Best Supporting Actress Tony Award for Butterflies Are Free on Broadway. Since then she has amassed over one hundred film and television credits, including all three Meet the Parents movies and Sylvia, where she played the mother of Sylvia Plath as portrayed by her real life daughter Gwyneth Paltrow.
Remarkably I’ll See You in My Dreams is her first lead role on the big screen. She plays Carol, a widowed woman whose carefully constructed world is rattled when she starts dating Bill (Sam Elliott).
“I think it is a very underplayed role,” she says. “Yes, she runs the gamut of emotions but there is nothing that is very extreme in my playing of this role. It is heartening that people are touched by the whole film and if they are by my performance that is very flattering but I don’t see it as an Oscar worthy performance. I just don’t see it. The possibility seems absurd to me.”
The veteran actress admits to feeling uncomfortable accepting praise
“I do think there is something wrong with me. I really do. I’m very perverse. It may be the fact that I went to Quaker schools growing up. I grew up in a household where we were always told not to get a big head about being received positively. It’s the work that is important. My favourite thing when I played Nina in The Seagull was her speech at the end when she says, ‘I know now that it is not the fame and the glory that is important, but how to endure.’”
Danner’s wonderfully rendered portrayal of Carol is being called “quietly touching” by the New York Times and “deeply felt” by Variety but she credits writer, director Brett Haley with writing a script that was, “clear and accessible and simple.”
“It was all on the page,” she says. “I felt so grateful. I found it effortless. I feel a little guilty about saying that because it should have been harder. From the beginning to the end it was a gift.”
Carla Gugino was living in New York in September 2001. Every day she would look at the Twin Towers from her window, and then, one morning they were gone. The rush of emotions she felt on 9/11 stayed with her as she filmed her new movie, the earthquake disaster flick San Andreas.
“I thought about it a lot in the way Dwayne Johnson’s character and my character reconnect in this movie,” she says.
In the film she plays Johnson’s estranged wife who teams with him to rescue their daughter from a devastating earthquake that rips California in half.
“What I found so smart and well done is that they connect not in a cliché way or in a sentimental way; they reconnect because they may not be alive the next day. In those moments, which was very much the case with 9/11 and what happened that morning, you realize you want to go help people. You want to be with the people you love and you want to not sweat the small stuff. It contextualizes life in such a radical way.”
Warner Bros chose not to change the release date of San Andreas in light of the recent deadly earthquakes in Nepal. Instead they’ve used the film’s trailers and ads to raise awareness about relief efforts and have vowed to match donations made by their employees. “There were always going to be public service announcements after the trailer and the film,” Gugino adds, “but then they were specifically geared toward Nepal.”
“This is a movie that does not take Mother Nature or her tics lightly,” says Gugino, “and I think it’s about the triumph of the human spirit, which is what always amazes me. At 9/11 and seeing this terrible situation in Nepal the thing you are reminded of is the resilience of the human spirit.”
The actress, best known for her roles in Spy Kids and Sin City, lives in New York but spent twenty years living in Los Angeles on top of the shaky San Andreas fault line.
“I’ve been in a couple of big ones in LA and they are intense,” she says. “The first one I ran outside which is exactly what you are not supposed to do. That is a good thing about San Andreas, you actually learn some stuff too—the whole under a doorway, or under a desk ting. Or under Dwayne Johnson. That is one of the advantages of his size.”
Big Bird is, arguably, one of the best-known characters on the planet but how much do we really know about him? We know he’s yellow, 8′ 2″ and lives in a large nest behind 123 Sesame Street but the rest is murky. A new documentary, I Am Big Bird, exposes Caroll Spinney, the man who has spent forty-five years beneath the Muppet’s felt and feathers and knows the bird better than anyone. Spinney is Big Bird and Big Bird is Spinney. Here are five things you might not know about Big Bird and the man behind the mask.
- Muppet mastermind Jim Henson created Big Bird, but Spinney says, “I was given a lot of freedom to create the kind of guy he is. He’s a person like I was as a kid, except he doesn’t get pushed around as much. I was the smallest boy in my class so there is a lot of satisfaction playing the largest character who’s ever been on television. To be loved like a little child but be eight-feet-two, what a strange accomplishment.”
- Caroll’s relationship with Big Bird lasted longer than his first marriage, which blew up because his then wife was “embarrassed” by his career choice but Spinney calls his job “a dream come true. From the moment I first became aware of television I knew I wanted to be on TV regularly for children. So many of the things that have happened for me have been things I dreamed of doing.” As for retiring? “I can’t imagine it,” he says. “It keeps me young.”
- Underneath Big Bird’s feathers is a device called “an electric bra” strapped to Spinney’s chest so he can see what’s happening outside the feathers. “We call it that just as a joke,” says Spinney. “It’s really a TV monitor, a tiny little television set. We have a new one now, an LED monitor and it is too big. It takes up room and it is robbing me of space for the scripts inside.”
- Caroll is President Obama’s ninth cousin, but Big Bird isn’t dogmatic in the least. “Big Bird, I’m told by the owners of him, does not have political opinions. I thought of an idea that would get around that problem if someone [ever asked about it]. ‘I don’t know who that is,’ he says in Big’s voice. ‘I thought we had a king.’ In most fairy tales lands are run by kings or queens.”
- NASA invited Big Bird’s to be a passenger on the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger to get kids interested in the space program. “I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to go.’ About a month later they found out there was no place on the craft to put Big Bird. I realized it would be dangerous, but who could picture what actually happened?”
For years Cameron Crowe could do no wrong. As the screenwriter of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (based on his book of the same name) and director of Say Anything and Singles, he became what The New York Times called, “a cinematic spokesman for the post-baby boom generation.”
His biggest hit, Jerry Maguire was a romantic comedy that gave Renée Zellweger a career, Cuba Gooding Jr an Oscar and us the catchphrase, “Show me the money!”
Then came his acknowledged masterpiece Almost Famous. The semi-autobiographical story of a young music journalist on the road with a band at an age when most kids still had a curfew.
He was a critical darling with box office clout but then came a string of films that failed to connect with audiences.
This weekend he’s back with Aloha, an “action romance” starring Bradley Cooper as a military contractor stationed with the US Space program in Honolulu who reconnects with a past love (Rachel McAdams) while developing feelings for a stern Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone).
Pre-release the film may be best known as the subject of a brutal Amy Pascal e-mail. In the Sony hack leaked correspondence from the former SPE co-chairman suggested she was not happy with the movie. “I don’t care how much I love the director and the actors,” she said, “it never, not even once, ever works.”
Variety recently reported that the film has been recut since Pascal’s scathing review and quotes a current Sony executive as saying, “Is it Say Anything or Jerry Maguire? Probably not, but is it a really entertaining movie for an audience? Yes, it is.”
Moviegoers will decide the fate of Aloha, but its release begs for a reassessment of Crowe’s recent, less successful films.
A remake of the Spanish film Open Your Eyes, 2001’s Vanilla Sky starred three of Hollywood’s hottest stars of the moment, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz in a dark thriller about a self-obsessed playboy whose life is turned upside down after reconstructive surgery on his face. The surreal blend of romance and sci fi threw critics off but a another viewing a decade after its release reveals a daring movie that examines regret, desire and mortality.
An enjoyable darkly comic romance, Elizabethtown got trounced by critics (it currently sits at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes) but is a great showcase for star Kirsten Dunst. She is frequently good in films, but here she really steals this movie as the cute and kooky stewardess who has several unforgettable moments—when she tells Bloom (Orlando Bloom) to stop trying to break up with her and her giggly reaction when Bloom asks her a personal question on the telephone. Without her performance the trip to Elizabethtown wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
Finally, We Bought a Zoo, the story of a widower who swallows his grief by buying a zoo and finding love, shouldn’t work. It’s too sentimental and manipulative by half but luckily Matt Damon is there to ground the flighty story. Even a postscript (and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is), that even Steven Spielberg would find schmaltzy, works because star Damon hits all the right notes and Crowe’s dialogue sings. A father and son argument is a showstopper and you’ll likely never use the word “whatever” again without thinking of this movie.
Where’s Irwin Allen when you need him? He was the Master of Disaster, a director and producer who gave us misery masterpieces like “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno,” films that gave cinematic calamity a good name. Allen’s mastery of the form is sorely missing from a new earthquake movie that rumbles but fails to shake up the audience.
In “San Andreas” Dwayne Johnson, the actor formerly known as The Rock, goes head to head with his biggest foe ever—the tectonic fault line that runs through most of California.
He plays Ray, a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot who tries to save his wife (Carla Gugino) and daughter (Alexandra Daddario) in the wake of a devastating earthquake in San Francisco. How big is the quake? “Even though it is happening in California,” says a seismologist (Paul Giamatti), “you will feel it on the East Coast.”
Cue the wild action, crumbling buildings and Johnson’s trademarked strained neck muscles.
Come to see The Rock! Stay for the collapsing digital buildings! “San Andreas” is an orgy of CGI with pixel dust billowing out of hundreds of buildings made of bits and bytes. There is much computer artistry on display, but sadly little artistry of any other kind.
Johnson is tailor made for big action movies, but here he is done in by a script that uses lines like, “I know this sounds crazy but…” as a crutch to push the action forward. Unfortunately the big set pieces actually get duller as they get bigger. Not enough variation—Look everyone! There’s yet ANOTHER building falling apart!—and lackluster 3D make “San Andreas” on of the most visually uninteresting action flicks to come along in some time.
The only thing less interesting than the look is the dialogue, which consists mostly of the actors mouthing, “Are you hurt?” or “Oh, this is not good,” or my favourite, “It’s an earthquake!” The only cast member given more to do is Giamatti, who, as Mr. Exposition, must explain, ad nauseam, why earthquakes happen. “Lost” screenwriter Carlton Cuse, appears to have used only half his keyboard to peck out the script.
“San Andreas” is a natural disaster picture but it didn’t have to be a cinematic disaster. Johnson is charismatic and funny, so why not give him a chance to flex those muscles here? The movie is too earnest by half, from the schmaltzy score that swells underneath the scenes of chaos to the heartfelt reconciliation scenes between Johnson and Gugino—Ahhh… don’t you have something better to do, like rescue your kid, than discuss what went wrong in your marriage right now? Instead, why not have some fun with the over-the-top action? Perhaps it would have been funny to see the snooty woman Gugino is lunching with when the first quake hits get eaten up by the splitting ground. Alas there is no such campy pleasure to be had in “San Andreas.” As it is I hoped the ground would open up and gobble up whole the movie. What a disaster.
I am a fan of Cameron Crowe. Not only did he live out my childhood dream of being a teenage rock journalist and touring with Led Zeppelin but he also wrote “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and gave us the sublime “Almost Famous.” So when it comes to his new film, “Aloha,” it gives me no pleasure to report, in a paraphrase of one of the master’s greatest lines, it didn’t have me at hello. Or goodbye for that matter.
Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a disgraced defense military contractor hired by his old boss, billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray), to supervise the launch of a satellite in Hawaii. He’s a brilliant but troubled guy—he’s described as a “sad city coyote”—with a history who is immediately confronted with his romantic past in the form of his former flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams). At his side is the stern Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to keep him out of trouble. Romance blooms as international intrigue brews with Gilcrest at the center of each scenario.
“Aloha” is part rom com, part industrial thriller and part redemption tale. Crowe covers a lot of ground here but the story elements are as flavourless as a Virgin Mai Tai and just about as potent. The director attempts to mix the various components together under the soft sheen of Hawaiian mythology and spiritualism but the film still feels disjointed as though it’s two different stories mashed into one.
Crowe’s dialogue occasionally sparkles—“You’ve sold your soul so many times nobody’s buying anymore,” is a great line—but it’s not enough to connect us to the situation or the characters. As a result it’s a film with good actors who feel disconnected from one another.
“Aloha” is a sweet natured misfire, a movie that, to once again paraphrase Crowe, does not show us the money.