Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Film

Speaking of Movies …

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, August 2, 2005 09:14 pm


It's time for the semi-annual news report about Francis Ford Coppola's never-ending attempt to greenlight a film of Jack Kerouac's On The Road.

I'm not sure if I want to see this film made or not. Probably not, but if somebody's got to do it, I think Coppola is the right choice. However, I'm not reserving my tickets on Moviefone just yet ... we've been covering this film on LitKicks a long time.

Maybe the film will finally get made. Maybe it won't. Maybe it will star Billy Crudup as Sal Paradise, or maybe it will star Jack Black as Allen Ginsberg (well, why the hell not?).

We've also been hearing about Joyce Johnson's Kerouac film project for a long time, and in fact I attended a read-through of this screenplay over a year ago. Adira Amram (David's daughter) played the Joyce Johnson character, and I think Adira Amram should get the role in the movie as well.

And Jack Black should play Allen Ginsberg.





Inside the Chocolate Factory

by Jamelah Earle on Saturday, July 16, 2005 07:29 pm


Today, I went to see the brand spankin' new adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Being a big fan of Tim Burton's delicious weirdness, and also a big fan of Johnny Depp's delicious... Johnny Depp-ness, and also also at least a moderate fan of Roald Dahl's original book, I have to say that I, for one, was really looking forward to this movie. So how was it? Like I expected -- sort of like a 1 hour, 46 minute sugar high -- fun and discomfort all mixed up together in a great big confection of guilt.

First of all, this film is not a remake of the 1970s Gene Wilder classic titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, for which I'm glad. Go ahead and call me a jerk, but even though that movie is fun, and that Oompa Loompa song sure is catchy, it just never really clicked with me. Tim Burton's version of Charlie is, well, Tim Burton's, and therefore is really its own thing. I think it follows Dahl's book pretty closely; it may vary from the source material in places (most movies do), but where it does, I don't remember. The last time I read the book I was 9. So it's been awhile.

Anyway, I think Tim Burton nailed it. The opening scenes in the Bucket home are spot-on, and the kid who plays Charlie is priceless. In fact, most of the kids in this are good, though I did find myself wishing for just a little bit more appalling brattiness out of Veruca Salt. Even though I think comparing this to the other film version is sort of pointless, I will say that the Oompa Loompas in this film kick the other ones' asses all the way to Oompa Land and back. For what it's worth.

Actually, as much as it may pain me to say this, the only problem I had with this was Depp's performance. I was glad to see that he wasn't Michael Jackson so much as a 19th century dandy underneath layers of cynical sadism and stiffness. At first, it worked for me, but after awhile, it got to be a bit much. Though the malicious smile that would play on his mouth when each of those awful children got what was coming to them was a nice touch. Ah, schadenfreude.

Anyway, I think it was worth sitting in a theater crammed with children on a Saturday afternoon to see this film, if for no other reason than, seriously, oh my God, the squirrels!








The Secret Life of Owen Wilson

by Caryn Thurman on Saturday, July 16, 2005 12:53 pm


Word has it that Owen Wilson (star of such fine films as Meet the Parents, Starsky & Hutch and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) will play the lead in the film version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The classic Thurber tale of the quintessential daydreamer was made into a movie once before, back in 1947. It's interesting to note that Wilson appeared in another book to film adaptation (one we've mentioned recently, even) -- the movie version of Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions.





DiCap’s in the Cradle

by Caryn Thurman on Monday, July 11, 2005 07:49 pm


I'm not sure how I missed this one -- although it seems like I have posted this before, with all the Tom Hanks connections to books in film and the infinitely inescapable presence of the young Hanksesque Leonardo DiCaprio (not unlike the haunting memory of Jack Dawson in Titanic) it's sometimes hard to tell what is real and what is a dream around here. In any case, it looks like Leonardo DiCaprio's production group, Appian Way, is working with screenwriters to adapt Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. No word on who might star in the film or on a production date. Any nominations on who you'd like to see in this one?





Tom And Viv: Eating a Peach

by Levi Asher on Thursday, June 9, 2005 10:33 pm


Peaches are in season, so naturally our minds turn towards the poetry of T. S. Eliot.

I've been pondering the film Tom and Viv, a very convincing 1994 art film about young T. S. Eliot and his troubled marriage. A shy but ambitious American visiting England, Eliot fell in love with Vivian Haigh-Wood, a tempestuous woman whose upper-class British style and ribald sense of humor fascinated him. They married impulsively, then discovered they did not get along at all. The bad marriage lasted for many years, and in fact seems to have inspired many parts of Eliot's poetry. Sexual and interpersonal anxiety is central to most of his work; it is fascinating to realize that in real life T. S. Eliot did dare to eat a peach, and perhaps too impulsively at that.

In the film, Eliot is played by Willem Defoe, and I think he does a great job. I don't usually like Defoe -- I thought he was badly miscast as Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (Willem Defoe does not look Jewish), and in Wild At Heart I thought he was just plain weird. But he was born to play T. S. Eliot, sallow skin, cautious diction and all.

Miranda Richardson is just as good as Vivian, who you feel both sorry for and angry at in this film. The movie is also an interesting tableau of Jazz Age London; we see Vivian Eliot having a meaningless affair with Bertrand Russell, then getting into a catfight with a group of women including the haughty Virginia Woolf.

Overall, I thought this was one of the best literary biographies I'd ever seen on film. I'd like to know what you thought of it -- have you seen it?





Merchant of Merchant-Ivory

by Levi Asher on Thursday, May 26, 2005 07:22 am


Let's take a moment for Ismail Merchant, co-creator of some of the best literary films of our time, who died yesterday, May 25, in a London Hospital at age 68.

From 'Shakespeare Wallah' in 1965 to 'The Golden Bowl' in 2000, the team of Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala produced films steeped in the greatness of Victorian and modern literary traditions, often adapted from books by authors like E. M. Forster and Henry James.

'A Room With A View' was their first breakthrough success, though in my opinion the team hit its peak in 1992 and 1993 with the wonderful 'Howards End' followed by the soaring, sublime 'Remains of the Day', featuring Anthony Hopkins as a repressed butler in a grand mansion. This film contained a smaller cast and fewer costumes than most Merchant-Ivory productions, but was probably their most thrilling work of all.





Stallone Takes on Poe

by Caryn Thurman on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 08:46 am


Rumor has it that Sylvester Stallone has all the pieces in place to go forward with a new film project -- a movie about none other than Edgar Allan Poe. Apparently Stallone wrote the screenplay for this project back in the 70s and it has been his goal to portray Poe "not as a dour dipsomaniac, but as a rogue, a real rake." Now that the details of financing and distribution are settled (it seems that Stallone will be footing much of the bill himself), Sly has his eye on Robert Downey, Jr. to play the role of everyone's favorite goth.





Depp as Hunter, Again

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 01:58 pm


I don't know if any of you liked the film of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", starring Johnny Depp. I didn't, though I don't think the problem was Depp but rather a basic mismatch between filmmaker Terry Gilliam's showy visual stylizations and the raw material, which could have used a more naturalistic treatment. Anyway, I'm not sure if it's good or bad news that Johnny Depp will be playing Hunter S. Thompson again in a new film of "The Rum Diary". I guess I'll make up my mind after I see the new "Willy Wonka".





Books at the Movies

by Jamelah Earle on Friday, April 29, 2005 08:13 pm


As you may or may not know, a film version of the Douglas Adams classic, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is opening in theaters this weekend. I know this book remains a popular favorite among many, so I thought I'd ask what you think about it being adapted into film. Do you plan to see it? Why or why not? If you catch it this weekend, be sure to give us a short review.

But now, because I'm fond of changing the subject, I'm going to, uh, change the subject. Even though it's often like the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges, the subject of books on film is capable of spurring debate among devotees of each form. (No, really. It is.) But beyond that, I think we can all agree that there are some film adaptations that shouldn't have happened, like, ever. (The Scarlet Letter, anyone?) We can all agree on this, yes?






The Return of Seen and Heard

by Caryn Thurman on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 10:43 am


After a long hiatus, we're back with what's moving and shaking in the literary and publishing world. In addition to several upcoming book awards and publishing fairs here are a few items that caught my eye over the past few weeks.

-- While Bob Dylan is up for a National Book Critics Circle prize (winners will be announced March 18), another music legend is making news in the publishing world. Yes, Sean "P. Diddy - Puff Daddy - Puffy - Bad Boy for Life" Combs is being sued by Random House over a dispute in which the publishing company claims Puffy decided just to keep the $300k advance it paid for his memoirs -- which he never completed. I'm sure he's been busy writing his stories of J. Lo, meeting the Bushes and flamboyant awards show arrivals and parties. I think he just didn't want to overshadow the success of Dylan's Chronicles, Vol. 1.

-- On the Road again ... Earlier this month, the 120-foot long scroll of Jack Kerouac's On the Road manuscript was again unfurled -- this time at the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Fans can catch a glimpse of the yellowed and fairly tattered literary artifact in Iowa City through March 12, then the scroll will continue its four year national tour of museums and libraries.

-- Possibly destined for a paper mill near you ... the towering oak that was known as "Kesey's Tree" in Menlo Park, CA fell victim to root rot last month. What would later become a local shrine to Ken Kesey, the gnarled oak reportedly shaded the cottage where Kesey began writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

-- Speaking of rot, this just in from the "please stop making horrible movies from books" department: It seems that the screenplay adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections is floating around for review. And the reviews aren't good -- what a surprise. While I personally didn't care for this "must-read" novel, I'm not sure I want to someday find out that one (or all) of its characters will be played by Tom Hanks.

-- As many of you know, former president Bill Clinton won a spoken-word Grammy Sunday night for My Life. What you may not know ... in an effort not to be outdone, the rumor is that John Ashcroft may have his eye on another national office -- Poet Laureate. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

-- What are they doing in the Hemingway House? Fear of being overrun with tourists has prompted Ketchum, Idaho residents to attempt to buy and move the last home of Ernest Hemingway. In 1961, Hemingway shot and killed himself in the concrete and wood house. The Idaho Hemingway House Foundation (which boasts Tom Hanks, ahem, as a board member) hopes to open the house to the public and opposes the move.

Of course the biggest news this week was the death of playwright Arthur Miller. We'll be posting a retrospective on his impact and career on Monday, but in the meantime -- which literary news items and events are on your mind today?





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