Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Final Girl has one up. Who Is the March King? did his. Hell, it's a tradition for every holiday: we must all list our favorite films in the genre that reflects the season.

Horror was my first favorite genre. Anyone who enjoys reading this blog has Tod Browning, James Whale, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price to thank. I still regard Vincent Price as my favoritest actor of all time. I collected the toys, the Universal Monsters stamps, the scripts even! Just yesterday I got the soundtrack to Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the sequel to one of the films on this very list. Halloween is a special time for me: it encourages my adoration of horror, and brings others into my obsession. My Twitter followers will know my roommate and I have been having a Shocktoberfest Marathon (I swear, we didn't know Final Girl had one until a year after we started ours).

So, yeah: I love Horror movies. Here, for Halloween, are my twenty favorite horror movies:

20. Scream (1996, Wes Craven)
Even knowing the twist, the suspense and fear factor is always fresh. Great performances from the large ensemble, including Drew Barrymore and Rose McGowan. Glenn is through the Scream franchise scene by scene over at Stale Popcorn; it's a great read.

19. The Phantom of the Opera (1925, Rupert Julian)
Can you believe I first saw this in a large theatre with a live organist? It was Halloween night, I was in third grade, and my father insisted. Thanks, Dad! Lon Chaney's performance still haunts and touches me today.

18. Hausu (1977, Nobuhiku Obayashi)
The most recent addition to my List o' Love. Impossible to describe, except to say that it's a haunted house tale that's...highly original, to say the least. Criterion just released it, so try to snag a copy. You will never ever forget it.

17. Dracula (1931, Tod Browning)
My first favorite, and not just of horror. 'Twas this film that birthed my love of cinema. Blame Bela Lugosi's legendary performance, blame Tod Browning's mastery of the eerie, blame Universal for greenlighting it in the first place. Blame who you want, just let me have it!

16. The Haunted Palace (1963, Roger Corman)
The Tomb of Ligeia may be the best of the Corman/Price collaborations, but this one is my favorite. The opening credit sequence (above) is equaled only by the James Bond flicks. Vincent Price was at his best when he had a list of victims and a theme: in this case, the descendants of those who burned his warlock ancestor are the victims; fire is the method. It's also got Elisha Cook, Jr.!

15. The Wolf Man (1941, George Waggner)
Complicated protagonist? Questions on the nature of good and evil? Maria Ouspenskaya? This landmark Universal horror becomes more profound the older I get.

14. Night of the Living Dead (1968, George Romero)
Another cherished memory between father and son. Dad, me, Romero at midnight makes three. The end shocked and shook me...and I loved it.

13. House on Haunted Hill (1999, William Malone)
I know it's blasphemy to prefer a remake to the original, especially since the original starred my all-time favorite actor. Truth be told, though: I'm a bit of a gorehound, and this version does not disappoint. Geoffrey Rush rocks.

12. Trick 'R Treat (2008, Michael Doughtery)
Douglas Pipes' score alone! I'm a sucker for an ensemble flick, and with its four intersecting horror subplots, Trick 'R Treat is one of the more original ones. Funny and freaky. Deaky.

11. Village of the Damned (1960, Wolf Rilla)
Civilized horror, all the more chilling for the cold deliberateness of the perpetrators: children. The finale is suspenseful and exciting, anchored by a magnificent performance from George Sanders.

10. Theatre of Blood (1973, Douglas Hickox)
Price hams it up, murdering unkind critics in ways resembling the works of Shakespeare. The Titus Andronicus and Henry VI: Part One murders are my personal favorites, the latter significant for Price's fey mannerisms and large afro. Diana Rigg lends some sexy support.

9. The Wicker Man (2006, Neil LaBute)

I find the original dull; I find the remake incomprehensible in the best way possible. Hilarious, illogical, legendary. Nicolas Cage has gone OTT in many films, but this one is his masterpiece."How did she burn? How did she burn how did she burn?"

8. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale)
Beautiful and atmospheric. Furhter exploring the themes of life and death, good and evil, God and Man, the film boasts Elsa Lanchester's bewigged Bride, Franz Waxman's score, and startling special effects that still hold up. Ernest Thesiger's Dr. Pretorius is Oscar-worthy, but there was no Supporting Actor category at the time. Alas.

7. House II: The Second Story (1987, Ethan Wiley)
It's almost a family film! Crystal skulls, drunk-driving zombies, John Ratzenberger as an electrician/adventurer! Bill Maher! Prehistoric pets! An adorable dogerpillar! House II, you're so good, you're so good, you're so good, baby you're so good!

6. Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma)
Pino Donaggio's score first got to me, along with that slo-mo tracking shot in the locker room. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received Oscar Nominations for their performances as awkward telekinetic teen Carrie White and her abusive, religious mother, respectively; Laurie should have won. The second-best thing Brian De Palma's done.

5. Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)
This will never not be scary. Never. I even have the score, as strange as that may seem. This movie gets under my skin. Every time I'm walking at night, even if it's just to put a garbage bag in the dumpster, I expect to see Michael Meyers creeping behind a bush...

4. Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma)
Horror-musical from Brian De Palma boasts campy performances and great songs. I admit, I get a litle misty-eyed at the end: the love story is too heartbreaking. Jessica Harper's heroine, Phoenix, is one of my greatest Cinema Crushes.

3. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971, Robert Fuest)
Price's greatest performance, as silent and brooding organist/inventor Anton Phibes. Phibes is the most sympathetic character Price played, a man striking back methodically, madly, at the surgeons who allowed his wife to die on the operating table. Use the Ten Plagues of Egypt as a blueprint, each kill is more glorious than the last. A brilliant horror-comedy.

2. Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)

A slow-burn thriller that used real sideshow attractions in its cast, Freaks is unforgettable, atmospheric and just plain weird. The finale is terrifying, but the greatest scene, of course, is the Loving Cup. "Gooble gobble, one of us!" Even the Ramones couldn't resist!

1. The Black Cat (1934, Edgar G. Ulmer)
Bela Lugosi as the unexpected hero, Karloff as the Satanic villain. It doesn't show on this list, but no subgenre of horror makes me happier than Look Out for Satanists! This film has the most to do with that. But why #1? There are all sorts of reasons, actually. Every character is fully-developed, even the mute manservant Thamal (Harry Cording). The production design does not rely on Gothic architecture or decaying manors, but an art-deco mansion with sliding doors and modern conveniences. Terror can be anywhere. The finale with the Witches' Sabbath and Lugosi's shocking revenge has yet to be equaled. And you know what? I think Julie Bishop's heroine is fairly brave, smart, and well-rounded. Not for a 1930s character; for any character. Period.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Casting Coup Tuesdays: Their Eyes Were Watching God

I have read Their Eyes Were Watching God three times now. Once in high school, where I absolutely adored it. A second time my freshman year of college, where I was bored by having to read it again. Then a third time last month, as a senior, where I realized that I still loved the book, but in a completely new way!

It is a pillar of African-American literature. Written by Zora Neale Hurston during the Harlem Renaissance, it disappeared for years until Alice Walker wrote about a pilgrimage to find Hurston's unmarked grave. She said, "There is no book more important to me than this one," and so 70s-era college students were found photocopying the sole copies at their libraries for everyone to read. It has since become known as a classic piece of American, African-American, Feminist, and African-American Feminist literature. It has never been out of print since its rediscovery by Walker, and there was even a TV Movie version made in 2005 with Halle Berry in the lead.

The novel begins with Janie Crawford's return to Eatonville, an all-black town in central Florida. Janie is a beautiful woman, even now at forty, light-skinned, God-given breasts, and long, straight hair that swings below her waist. The younger man she left with is dead, and the women of the town are all set on lashing their wicked tongues against her. Only Pheoby Watson, Janie's best friend, is willing to sit down and listen to the whole story, and Janie really tells it all. From her teen years with her strict grandmother all the way to the hurricane that caught her and her husband in the middle of the Everglades with a rabid dog, Janie's story is a journey of self-discovery set against the backdrop of the black community and Florida swamp. 

Being a Floridian myself who lives near the Everglades, I always felt a strong connection with this novel: I knew the places, the people, the way of life she spoke of. It's in my blood. It wasn't until recently that I finally understood what Janie understood, the realization that to know one's self is to know nature, the Earth, to be a part of its glorious design. It's all there: her suffocation in the suburbs contrasted with her freedom in the muck; the bees and flowers sharing the perfect marriage; the routine of covering one's head and the joy of letting it loose. While it is nowhere near the most important novel in my life, I totally dig where Walker's coming from. 

Because of this affection, I have avoided the Halle Berry movie, mostly because it got there first. I always wanted to make my own version, but I knew I wasn't ready. Now I get it. Now I'm ready.

Who is She: A girl who picks beans in the muck. She's young, energetic, and always paws at Tea Cake. The only time Janie experiences jealousy of another person.

My Choice:
Chyna Layne (Cadillac Records, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire)
She's younger than my Janie, and darker, too -- two things Janie is very conscious of. Layne is a natural actress, as was everyone in Precious; it would be a shame not to see more of her.

Who is He: A white doctor in the Everglades who knows everyone and tries to help the Woodses when Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog. He also testifies on Janie's behalf at the trial.

My Choice:
Wayne Duvall (Leatherheads, Duplicity)
Dependable character actor who's got that Southern charm down to a science. No surprise, that, but he looks like the stereotypical professional, doesn't he? Doctor, lawyer, mayor, etc.

Who is He: Delivery boy and assistant shopkeeper of the Eatonville General Store run by Starks. He starts to mimic Jody later on, and even tries to keep a watchful eye on Janie when Tea cake comes to town.

My Choice: Indie Spirit Winner for Best Ensemble (I'm Not There.)
Marcus Carl Franklin (TV's Lackawanna Blues, Be Kind Rewind)
It's been a few years since that picture was taken -- three, in fact. Putting him at around sixteen/seventeen years old, the age of Hezekiah. We were all impressed with his work in I'm Not There and, like Layne, it would be a shame to see him disappear after such a strong debut.

Who is He: A friend of Tea Cake's from the muck, he escapes with the Woodses during the hurricane. He eventually opts to wait it out in the upstairs of an abandoned house, the height of foolishness...but he gets away, safe and sound!

My Choice:
Earl Poitier (Remember the Titans, Drumline)
He'd be able to use his talents for the comedic and the dramatic...and he plays weary really well. Of course, I'm going by his performance in a football movie, but hey, acting's acting.

Who is He: Pheoby's husband. He enjoys sitting outside the general store, cracking jokes and "playing the dozens". Don't think he's just a joking layabout, though: he's fully aware of, and grateful for, Jody leading the improvements made in Eatonville.

My Choice:
Wood Harris (Remember the Titans, Not Easily Broken)
I just like him, is all. He'd be Tea Cake if he wasn't 40.

Who is She: She and her husband run a diner in the Everglades. She prides herself on her light skin and straight hair, and so she takes a shine to Janie because of her "whiter" features. She hates dark-skinned blacks like Tea Cake, thinking that they are holding the race back; she hopes to set Janie up with her brother.

My Choice:
Jackee Harry ("227", "Sister, Sister")
It's not just that she's light-skinned, a crucial part of the role. Mrs. Turner is a broad, fast-talking, comic role, and didn't Jackee build her career on that? She can do funny, she can do snotty, she can do Mrs. Turner. I love Jackee.

Who is She: Janie's grandmother, a former slave who wants only the best things for Janie. Unfortunately, her views -- financial security through a rich husband -- clash with Janie's want for independence. Nanny means well, but she does not understand Janie, and sets the girl back for twenty years.

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress [in a Drama] (Sounder), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman)
Cicely Tyson (The Concord...Airport '79, Madea's Family Reunion)
So, it was between her and Ruby Dee, because I adore these women. And then I saw Cicely's monologue in Madea's Family Reunion and thought, "DAMN!" Also, Ruby already did this in the TV movie, so Cicely it had to be.

Who is She: Janie's best friend in Eatonville. When everyone else is content to gossip behind Janie's back, Phoeby alone is willing to actually sit down and listen to the whole story.

My Choice:
Tangi Miller (Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood, Madea's Family Reunion)
My favorite part of Madea's Family Reunion (other than Cicely's aforementioned monologue). She's a good listener, really, and you can't say that about every actor. The good ones know how to listen.

Who is He: Janie's first husband, a well-off older man who tries to get Janie to do farm work. She leaves him.

My Choice:
Alfonso Ribeiro ("Silver Spoons", "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air")
We typecast because we know they can do it. In this case, Ribeiro can play clueless frustration, because he did so as Carlton Banks and as Dr. Maxwell Stanton on "In the House".

Who is He: Janie's second husband, he arrives in the all-black town of Eatonville with his new bride and whips the place into shape. He becomes mayor, postmaster, landlord, and owner/operator of the general store. For him, Janie is better seen and not heard. He condescends towards the others in town and has picked up mannerisms from the well-off whites he knew in Georgia: a mansion built like a plantation house, gold spitoons, a desk like his former boss-man's, cigars, etc. He dies eventually, leaving Janie to tend to the store.

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (American Gangster)
Idris Elba (Daddy's Little Girls, Obsessed)
Good-looking and well-spoken, just like Jody Starks. He would relish the cigar-chomping condescension, you can tell. One of the best actors working today, too.

Who is He: A much younger man who strikes up a conversation with Janie a year into her widowhood. He actually -- GASP -- values her opinions, assumes she's intelligent, lets her take part in work and play alike...he's her true love. Tea Cake can be irresponsible, a gambling man, a flirt, but he always comes back to Janie. When he tries to save her during the hurricane, he is bitten by a rabid dog and takes a turn for the worst.

My Choice:
Donald Glover (Mystery Team, "Community")
Young and handsome, Glover has the spontaneity and humor needed for Tea Cake. Largely untested in straight drama, the moments he gives us in "Community" are great, and I look forward to seeing more of him. This is the kind of role an up-and-comer like him needs.

Who is She: Wife of Logan Killicks, then Jody Starks, then Tea Cake Woods. Janie loved nature, and when she saw the interaction between the bees and the flowers, the mutual dialogue and communication, she knew that's what a marriage should be: in tune with each other and nature. Alas, it takes her years to find that marriage, and it ends tragically. But Janie comes out of it a better woman, self-actualized and whole.

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire)
Paula Patton
Although only about ten years older than Glover, Patton needs to cover a woman's life, from sixteen to forty. She can pass for any of these, I think, and she's also the stunning beauty the novel describes. Oh, and a phenomenal actress.

Thoughts? Agree? Have a better Janie in mind, or do you think nothing will ever top the TV Movie? Tell me what you're thinking....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Sights on Sites

Awards Season is in its beginnings, and so we're getting openings, nominees for non-Oscar awards, and -- my favorite -- THE STUDIO "FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION" SITES!

Sony seems to be touting The Social Network as its sole hope, though indie wing Sony Pictures Classics has a whole slew: Animal Kingdom, Another Year, Barney's Version, Get Low, The Illusionist, Inside Job, Made in Dagenham, Mother and Child, Please Give, Tamara Drewe and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Both sites offer screening info but nothing else. Yet.

Likewise is the case with Fox and Fox Searchlight: screening info only, though Searchlight usually offers the screenplays somewhere down the road. Fox has Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Love and Other Drugs on its agenda, while Searchlight has 127 Hours, Black Swan, Conviction and Never Let Me Go.

Overture Films and Anchor Bay Films have five films in the mix: City Island, Jack Goes Boating, Let Me In, Solitary Man and Stone. Chloe Grace Moretz is, oddly enough, being campaigned in Supporting Actress for Let Me In, which is bizarre, especially since Kodi Smit-McPhee is acknowledged as being the Lead Actor. Except for Solitary Man, all screenplays are available for download.

Paramount's site has a nifty new design, with five films on its plate. Info for Shutter Island, How to Train Your Dragon and Waiting for "Superman" is up, with COMING SOON the only thing we see for The Fighter and True Grit.

Warner Brothers also has COMING SOON labels...but only for score and screenplay downloads, thank goodness. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, Hereafter, Inception, Legend of the Guardians and The Town are all getting campaigns, as expected. Make sure you visit their Golden Globe site, though, for an additional campaign: Due Date.

Universal's got Catfish and Despicable Me in the mix this year, the latter qualifying for Best Song. Hear it play on the site; it's pretty catchy.

Disney is most likely to succeed with a few of the films they're campaigning: Alice in Wonderland, Secretariat, Tangled, Toy Story 3 and Tron: Legacy are all in the mix, with Jeff Bridges campaigned in supporting and Alice actually getting a full campaign. I can see some tech noms, but otherwise? Nuh-uh. Especially not Original Song for Avril Lavigne's "Alice".

The Weinstein Company only has screening listings, but it would seem that the scores, screenplays, and categories will eventually be available to us. Their movies are The Tillman Story (which TomS wrote about here), Blue Valentine, The Company Men, The King's Speech and Nowhere Boy.

Lionsgate remains blank, and Focus Features has yet to stir. Perhaps they're waiting for their movies to open? Not a bad idea, actually, but inquiring minds do want to know what's what!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Current State of Mind...

Finally updated the Top Ten in the sidebar, to reflect my mind of now. In what order are these? Alphabetical, and no more than that.

By the way, the last time I updated that sidebar was May, and the last time I did one of these posts was July.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stone & Movie an Easy A

I don't know why it's so difficult for me to express my love of certain films. I can write up a full review for The Town, yet for weeks I've been silent on my reaction to Easy A and The Social Network. That's unfair, to both the films and you, my dear friends, who no doubt choose your theater-going experiences based on what I think (...right?).

Rest assured, there are two reasons: (1) I want to be able to do justice to these films, and (2) I'm trying to keep both hyperbole and the words "awesome" and "amazing" to a minimum. That's difficult because both words aptly describe these films, albeit in different ways.

At least I know exactly how they apply to Easy A: the performances. Specifically, Emma Stone's lead performance as false slut Olive Penderghast. Stone makes Olive into my dream girl: an intelligent, quick-witted redhead who can reference the Kinsey scale and German cinema with equal ease. Sure, writer Bert V. Royal and director Will Gluck probably did have a great effect on the crafting of the character, but Stone's execution is confident and flawless. It's thanks to Stone that we believe that such a whip-smart knockout could conceivably be another background figure in the high school hallways, so in tune with her body that she subtly marks the difference between the casual student of the beginning and the wanton "harlot" of the middle with her walk and posture. Her line delivery is killer, in scenes both dramatic (the confessional) and comedic ("You gotta be shittin' me, woman"). It's one of the most consistently drawn, confidently performed high school heroines since Alicia Silverstone's Cher Horowitz, even topping Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. After Superbad and Zombieland, it is more clear than ever: Emma Stone has arrived.

But I said performances. Plural. So I must talk about Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci and Bryce Clyde Jenkins as Olive's parents and adopted brother, respectively. There is an easy chemistry in all their scenes, and you get the sense that this is a family, that they have known each other their whole lives. Certainly Olive's humor and brilliance obviously stems from her warm, open, hilarious parents: when a boy arrives asking, "Is there an Olive here?", Clarkson replies, "There's a whole jar of them in the fridge." If there was anything that I wish we had more of, it's these scenes. Movie night, heart-to-hearts on cars, parents' past relationships stories, all are realistically, humorously portrayed, without any "wink-wink".

The school ensemble is solid, too, but here is where one problem lies: the script doesn't know what to do with all of them. A subplot with Lisa Kudrow as a guidance counselor is fascinatingly acted, but seems to come from nowhere. Alyson Michalka as the best friend is given short shrift; am I really to believe that her oldest friend would turn on her so quickly? Michalka is great, but I'm not always convinced by the turns the character makes. I wish we had gotten to know more about Penn Badgley and Cam Gigandet's characters,  because both young men are rather charming in their brief appearances.  Amanda Bynes and Thomas Haden Church are great fun, and Dan Byrd -- as the gay kid who first asks Olive to help his rep -- is pretty great, funny and touching.

The script does have its problems (unless it's a product of editing), but overall it's an extremely solid piece of work. I have to commend a high school movie that neither glamorizes nor demonizes sex. Gluck keeps everything grounded, but he never loses sight of the COMEDY. It made me laugh, it gave a message without being preachy, and it didn't overstay its welcome. Easy A lives up to the title.

Expect a write-up of The Social Network later.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Casting Coup Tuesdays: Follies!

Years ago, I heard Aaron Sorkin was writing a screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, to be directed by Sam Mendes. As I said, years ago. At the time, I'd never heard of the show. One of my friends called it the one with old people, so I was intrigued: as a fan of The Golden Girls, I felt that older was better,  and all too rare in entertainment. And yet, somehow...I never got around to knowing it. No CD, no libretto, nothing. I just didn't look for it.

It never left my mind, though. When I immersed myself once more in musical theatre during the summer, it went to the top of my list of things I needed to catch up on. Fortunately, my school's library had both the soundtrack and the libretto, so I was able to read along to the CD.

I loved it. The music was glorious, even if the book was bizarre. An old theatre is being torn down, and as it was once the site of the Weissman Follies, Weissman himself holds a farewell party for all the ex-showpeople. Chief among them are two couples, the Stones and the Plummers, filled with thirty years of regret and unrequited love. Throughout the night, while other stage vets reminisce with a song from the old days, the two couples dance, drink, fight, and carry on, all culminating in a recreation of a Follies show called Loveland. It's all very strange but beautiful. And since they already announced a movie version in the works, it didn't take much for me to think of one of my own...

Now, some things to know before you delve into this. I know everyone here is about ten years older than the characters in the play, but no one in the correct age range seemed right for these parts. Also, my source for songs and plot is the original libretto written by James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim. I understand that different versions have different songs or a different order, but I don't know those versions. Finally, because this is a show about the theatre, my usual awards rundowns on the actors includes Broadway honors; this is a one-time deal.

With that out of the way....

Who is He: One of the old standbys of the Follies. Everybody knows him, everybody's worked with him. Even at his advanced age, he still has a beautiful voice.

Song: Beautiful Girls (2:25)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Cabaret), Tony Award Winner Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Cabaret, Chicago), Drama Desk Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical (Goodtime Charley, The Grand Tour, Cabaret)
Joel Grey (Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, The Fantasticks)
At seventy-eight, he's two years shy of the character's age. And he is an old standby. More of a theatre star than a film one, but if you're going to start things out right, it's best to get an Oscar Winner. That's what I say. The man's still got it, too.

Who is He: Husband of Stella Deems. They had a radio show after the Follies, but after an on-air outburst from Max, they quit and opened a store in Miami.

My Choice: Tony Award/Drama Desk Winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (The Producers)
Gary Beach (The Producers)
I can see him playing well opposite my Stella. He's a pleasure to watch, and I see him playing a pleasant fellow who tells it like it is. The only thing wrong with this casting is the lack of songs for Max. So there.

Who is She: Max's wife, who leads the other ladies in an energetic mirror dance.

Song: Who's That Woman

My Choice: Tony Award/Drama Desk Winner for Best Actress in a Musical (Evita, Gypsy), Drama Desk Winner for Best Actress in a Musical (Anything Goes)

Patti LuPone (Driving Miss Daisy, State and Main)
Stella's the youngest of the show-stoppers, so it's only right that we get that great not-old-yet grande dame of the stage, Patti LuPone! Her voice is just perfect for the song, too, and she'd sell it's comic moments.

Who is She: Fabulous French chanteuse who now has a perfume for men...called "Solange", of course.

Song: Ah, Paris! (2:40)

My Choice: Tony Award/Drama Desk Winner for Best Actress in a Musical (The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman)

Chita Rivera (Sweet Charity, Chicago)
Totally should've played Liliane la Fleur, especially since they didn't even give Judi a chance to be un-Dench'd. Here, Chita gets to be fun and French once more, with those rrrrolling r's and sexy septuagarianty. Brief numbers need solid performers, and Chita is Solid with a capital S.

Who is She: German singer once known for her soprano. She was so popular, even Hungarian composer Franz Lehar wrote a song for her! She has my favorite number of the non-leads.

Song: One More Kiss

My Choice: Tony Award Winner for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (The Music Man) and Drama Desk Winner for Best One Person Show (Barbara Cook: A Concert for Theatre)

Barbara Cook (Thumbelina, TV's Hansel and Gretel)
Broadway star known for her lovely soprano. She can add a real sadness to this song; her "Losing My Mind" above is effective enough, isn't it?

Who is She: Five-time widow. Direct and funny, she also gets a signature tune of her own.

Song: Broadway Baby

My Choice: Tony Award Nominee for Best Actress in a Musical (Sail Away, Company), Best Actress in a Play (A Delicate Balance) and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Bus Stop), Drama Desk Winner for Best Featured Actress in a Play (A Delicate Balance), Best Solo Performance and Best Book of a Musical (Elaine Stritch at Liberty)

Elaine Stritch (September, Krippendorf's Tribe)
I mean, hello? Elaine Stritch is Broadway. It'd be nuts to do Follies without her.

Who Are They: Emily and Theodore Whitman are an elderly couple that had a duo act in the Follies. Theirs is a sweet, treacly little tune, and they're a sweet little couple.

Song: Listen to the Rain on the Roof (1:05)

My Choice: She is a Tony Award Winner for Best Featured Actress in a Play (The Good Doctor, The Heiress) and Drama Desk Nominee for Best Featured Actress in a Play (Equus)
He is a Tony Award Winner for Best Actor in a Musical (La Cage aux Folles) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Sunset Boulevard) and a Drama Desk Winner for Best Actor in a Musical (La Cage aux Folles)
Frances Sternhagen (Misery, The Mist) & George Hearn (The Devil's Own, Barney's Great Adventure)
It'd be fun to see these two theatre stalwarts play off each other. It'd be short and sweet, but completely worth it. You'd get a sense of how long the Follies lasted and the talent it had.

Who is He: Why, he's the Weissman in Weissman's Follies, a cynical skirt-chaser who gets the gang back together for one last celebration of himself.

My Choice: Tony Award Winner for Best Actor in a Musical (The Rothschilds)
Hal Linden (Deathquake, Out to Sea)
Like Weissman, Linden is still strikingly handsome and remarkably spry at 79 years old. He has the sophistication required of the role, and he can do accents pretty well, too. This is a guy he probably knows all too well, too, having done theatre most of his life.

Who is She: Star of the silver screen! She is a failed Follies girl; her one number was cut because it got too many laughs despite being a sad song. Carlotta "is the kind of woman who not only has seen everything but has liked the look of it". Still sexy thirty years later.

Songs: Who's That Woman, I'm Still Here

My Choice: Academy Award/BAFTA Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Ghost), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Drama (The Color Purple), Tony Award/Drama Desk Winner for Best Musical (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Drama Desk Winner for Best One Person Show (Whoopi Goldberg)

(start 6:31)
Whoopi Goldberg (The Long Walk Home, Sister Act)
Carlotta needed to be sexy, funny, a little sad, and a STAR. And for this to work in a film, I wanted someone respected by fans of both the stage and screen. I flirted with the idea of Cher, or Bernadette, or Bette, but something didn't seem right. If Cher or Bette came along, it would be the Cher/Bette show; Bernadette, meanwhile, has been long forgotten by the casual filmgoer (not that this would be a movie for them anyway). No, I needed someone who was both an ensemble player and a legend. So I looked up the list of EGOT Winners, saw Whoopi's name right above Barbra and Liza and thought, "THAT'S IT!" I would kill to hear her sing "I'm Still Here". From Ted Danson to Frank Langella, Oscar to Razzie, comedienne to talk-show host, she's been through it all. And she's still here.

Who is He: A traveling salesman. He wasn't going to come, but he follows Sally when she catches a plane back to New York. Though he adores her, he's disappointed with their lives together, knowing that he's her silver medal. Buddy is also having an unhappy affair with a gal he met on the road, Margie.

Songs: Waiting for the Girls Upstairs, The Right Girl, Buddy's Blues

My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor/BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actor (A Fish Called Wanda), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Soapdish, Dave, In & Out, De-Lovely), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actor (Life as a House), Tony Award/Drama Desk Winner for Best Actor in a Musical (The Pirates of Penzance) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (On the Twentieth Century), Drama Desk Winner for Best Actor in a Play (Henry IV)

Kevin Kline (Sophie's Choice, A Prairie Home Companion)
I do think Kline and my choice for Ben could trade parts and still do a 100% effective job. I think I'd buy Kline's "The Right Girl" more, though. He's very effective at playing guilt. Man, I can't wait for that new Lawrence Kasdan film. I love Kevin Kline.

Who is She: Former Follies showgirl, she was best friends with Phyllis. She also carried on an affair with Ben in the past. Now married to Buddy, Sally still believes she could have a future with her first love. In and out of mental clinics and alcoholic rehab centers, Sally is unhappy, choosing to live in a memory instead of the present. Gets the best overall solo, "Losing My Mind".

Songs: Don't Look at Me, Waiting for the Girls Upstairs, In Buddy's Eyes, Who's That Woman, Too Many Mornings, Losing My Mind

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Cactus Flower), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (There's a Girl in My Soup, Cactus Flower)

Goldie Hawn (The First Wives Club, Everyone Says I Love You)
Still beautiful and girlish. If you've seen Everyone Says I Love You, then you know Hawn can sell the hell out of a sad song without overplaying it. I wish she'd been nominated that year.

Who is He: A successful author who roomed with Buddy when they were younger. He dated Phyllis, but when she wouldn't put out, he spent his nights with Sally. Benjamin is a bit self-absorbed, and throughout the night he considers running off with Sally, fights with wife Phyllis, and tries to bed Carlotta. He wonders what might have been, more in love with Young Sally than with Now Sally.

Songs: Don't Look at Me, Waiting for the Girls Upstairs, The Road You Didn't Take, Too Many Mornings, Live, Laugh, Love

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Pennies from Heaven, All of Me, Roxanne, Parenthood, Father of the Bride: Part II), WGA Award Winner for Best Adapted Screenplay (Roxanne)

Steve Martin (The Jerk, It's Complicated)
Martin's a great singer, first off. Second, he's a phenomenal actor, whether he's playing an asshole, a nice guy, or someone in between. The man's incredible. It's a juicy role, this, and Martin has proven that when given a challenge, he meets it head-on. Handsome and sophisticated, he seems like he could be an author who dines with members of the U.N. He'd be the man.

Who is She: Formerly a shy showgirl, now a bitter housewife. Always biting and sarcastic, her marriage to Ben is a cold one, and she regrets marrying the only man she's slept with. Attractive and high-class, Phyllis's class is the result of hard work. She's perhaps the most perceptive of the group.

Songs: Waiting for the Girls Upstairs, Who's That Woman, Could I Leave You, The Story of Lucie and Jessie

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons) and Best Supporting Actress (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (Dangerous Liaisons), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Drama or Musical/Comedy (Fatal Attraction, Maxie, 101 Dalmatians), Tony Award/Drama Desk Winner for Best Actress in a Musical (Sunset Boulevard), Tony Award Winner for Best Actress in a Play (The Real Thing, Death and the Maiden)

Glenn Close (Air Force One, Mars Attacks!)
She's got that high-class look, the singing chops, the stage experience, the wit, the pathos: she's got it all. Plus she'd get to share the screen with Kevin Kline once more, and that's always a plus. She'd nail the triumphant bitterness of "Could I Leave You" and the bitter wit of "The Story of Lucie and Jessie". It's a Glenn Close role, for Heaven's sake!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Casting Coup Wednesday: A Wrinkle in Time

Finally! After many delays and broken promises, I've finally got A Wrinkle in Time CCT'd...on a Wednesday. Hey, it got done, right?
I took so long, though, because I did want this to be just right. You see, the novel was recommended to me last summer by an actor and friend I greatly admire; a year later, one of my close friends waxed rhapsodic about it, so I finally got around to reading it. If two people I hold in high esteem love Madeline L'Engle's popular novel as much as they do, then it must be worth the read, right?

Right indeed. I was charmed by the Murrys: I could identify with Meg, and while the idea of a sex-year-old as genius as young Charles Wallace seems, I went with it. There are a lot of impressively brilliant children out there, so I didn't see why a telepathic pre-kindergartener who communicates with angels should be bizarre. Then, of course, the Mrs. Ws, especially dear Mrs. Whatsit, who quickly became my favorite character in the book. The plot itself was one that had me re-reading certain passages to reassure myself of what I was reading. But it was there: a mode of travel through space and time called "tesseracting"; a cold, clammy Black Thing that is attacking the universe; and a distant planet turned into a warless, fascist world of conformity by a large brain known only as IT. It was weird. It was glorious.

It was the perfect subject for a film! Certainly, the casting seemed off when I looked up the television version from 2004. Twenty-year-olds to play the leads? It's not like we're short on child actors, people. Besides, I had some ideas of my own while reading it, and some more well after. The only major characters not to show up here are the Murry twins and Charles Wallace. The twins are bit parts, and probably could go to unknowns -- also, I don't know of many twins actors. As for Charles Wallace, that has to go to an unknown, for it will be a rare thing indeed to find a child of that age range that could play the character. As for the rest...well, judge for yourselves.

Who is He: Prime Coordinator of Camazotz, he is the vessel through which IT speaks to Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace. He communicates telepathically. IT enters into Charles Wallace when the boy looks in the eyes of the Man with Red Eyes.

My Choice:
Doug Jones (Hellboy, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer)
This time we get to see his face. And what a menacing, terrifying face it is. Not in a bad way, though, in a "could totally pull off this role" way. And with red contacts, the effect would be terrifying.

Who is She: The blind, telepathic, tentacled creature who nurses Meg after she is frozen by the Black Thing. Aunt Beast is nurturing and loving, with a soft and motherly voice.

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons) and Best Supporting Actress (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (Dangerous Liaisons), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Drama or Musical/Comedy (Fatal Attraction, Maxie, 101 Dalmatians)
Glenn Close (Tarzan, Hoodwinked!)
Of course, Aunt Beast herself would have to be played by a Where the Wild Things-esque blend of costume and VFX, but the soothing tones of a mother should be done by one whose voice is soft and reassuring. Remember her work in Tarzan? Of course you do, she was magnificent.

Who is She: A jolly woman whose crystal ball reveals the Black Thing, an evil being attacking the universe. She lives in a cavern on a planet in Orion's Belt.

My Choice:
Della Reese (Harlem Nights, Beauty Shop)
She's got a kind of mystical quality to her...probably from all those years as Tess on "Touched by an Angel". She's also got a wonderfully jolly smile and laugh, which I think would help in playing a character who's "jolly".

Who is She: One of the angelic Mrs. Ws. Unable to completely materialize, she is a ghostly, ethereal presence, with an echoing voice. Mrs. Which is the wisest and leader of the Mrs. Ws.

My Choice: Academy Award/BAFTA Winner/Golden Globe/SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Michael Clayton), Golden Globe/Indie Spirit Nominee for Best Actress [in a Drama] (The Deep End), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Adaptation., The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Tilda Swinton (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Julia)
An otherworldly woman. She's got a great voice for the angelic, echoey effect, too.

Who is She: One of the Mrs. Ws. Round and bespectacled, Mrs. Who speaks in various languages and often quotes the Bible and Shakespeare. She finds it difficult to use her own words to express herself.
My Choice: BAFTA Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (The Age of Innocence)
Miriam Margolyes (Romeo + Juliet, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone)
She is a plump woman who would look owlish with spectacles. A wonderful supporting actress, you could just plop glasses on that face above and she'd be good to go.

Who is She: An elderly woman in appearance, she is actually the youngest of the Mrs. Ws. Because of this, she has the easiest time communicating with the children, and it is she makes contact with Charles Wallace and the Murrys. Mrs. Whatsit is a tiny woman wrapped in various layers of clothes, and it is rumored that her house is haunted.

My Choice: Academy Award Winner/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Year of Living Dangerously)
Linda Hunt (Ready to Wear, Stranger Than Fiction)
As soon as this character appeared, I immediately thought of Linda Hunt.

Who is He: An astrophysicist, he's been missing for some time at the novel's opening. As it turns out, he's been researching fifth-dimensional traveling, or tesseracting -- that is, the same method of travel the Mrs. Ws use. Unfortunately, his research puts him at the mercy of the Black Thing, and he becomes a prisoner of IT. Long-haired, bespectacled, handsome, and a devoted father.

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Kate & Leopold)
Hugh Jackman (Scoop, Australia)
Much of the story is spent in anticipation of eventually seeing him, so why not cast someone audiences will anticipate seeing? Plus, he can rock the long haired, bespectacled handsomeness.

Who is She: Microbiologist and beautiful, red-headed wife of Alex. She is a devoted mother, working from home in her own laboratory. Her beauty and intelligence, though, unknowingly put pressure on Meg.

My Choice: Academy Award/SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress (The End of the Affair, Far from Heaven) and Best Supporting Actress (Boogie Nights, The Hours), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (The End of the Affair) and Best Supporting Actress (The Hours), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Drama or Musical/Comedy (The End of the Affair, An Ideal Husband, Far from Heaven) and Best Supporting Actress (Boogie Nights, A Single Man), Indie Spirit Winner for Best Actress (Far from Heaven), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Magnolia) and Best Ensemble (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Hours), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (A Single Man)
Julianne Moore (Savage Grace, The Kids Are All Right)
Beautiful. Intelligent. Red-headed. Really, the only other option would be my girlfriend, but she's not old enough to have a fourteen-year-old daughter. So, Julianne Moore it is, then.

Who is He: Fourteen-year-old high school junior who plays basketball. He likes being around the Murrys far better than being with his own inattentive family, and he winds up traveling with them to Camazotz. Of course, there also seems to be a "thing" between him and Meg.

My Choice:

Dylan Minnette (Let Me In, Fred Claus)
I was having a lot of difficulty with this role, but then I saw Let Me In. This kid walked on-screen and I immediately went, "Of course! Perfect!" It may seem bizarre of me to choose someone based on their portrayal of a sadistic bully, but he was also good as Jack's son on "Lost", so I think Calvin's in good hands here.

Who is She:  Our protagonist. Bespectacled, brace-faced, and mousy, Meg is unruly and unpopular. Though brilliant in mathematics, she is considered hopeless in other school subjects, and often does not apply the gifts bestowed upon her by God and good genes. She misses her father, is protective of her youngest brother Charles Wallace, is attracted to Calvin, and goes on a tesseracting journey through time and space.

My Choice:
Madeline Carroll (Swing Vote, Flipped)
Can you believe I'm basing this off of a commercial I saw her in? Those 30 seconds impressed me more than most other young actresses in whole films. Carroll seems to be admired in the industry, though, and what with being age-appropriate and someone who is obviously one to watch, I feel like she's just what this film needs to anchor it.