August 6, 2007

So Very Many Writer Girls

Cinecultist has had actress Julia Stiles on the brain lately. It's sort of unfortunate really. See, Julia reprises her role as the slightly inept CIA handler Nicky Parsons in The Bourne Ultimatum, so last week Cinecultist was watching her running through the Morocco streets with Matt Damon. But then we couldn't help but also think about Sylvia Plath.

Here's where the brain leap happened: after this report in Variety from last spring that Stiles had optioned the rights to Plath's novel The Bell Jar, we'd picked up a cheap paperback of it from the Strand because even in our days of reading all those feminist classics we'd never gotten to it and CC also finished reading it last week. Of course, when you read a book while thinking about its upcoming movie adaptation you can't help but picture said stars speaking the book's dialogue, so all through The Bell Jar it was Miss Julia we saw wearing the fussy '60s outfits as an unpaid intern in the magazine offices and stalking around the fancy insane asylum. Julia has a good look for that era, despite being a pretty mediocre actress, so we'll be curious to see the movie when it comes out. Especially because after reading the book, since CC didn't develop any kind of pre-teen style fascination with the story, we'll be okay if it sucks. In fact, we found neurotic, anti-social, privileged Esther Greenwood tough to get invested in. Certainly being manic depressive and suicidal is something that's going to be outside of your control, but all through the book we couldn't help but wonder if English major Esther was so damn smart, why couldn't she at least try to will herself into a better mental state? It sounds a bit insensitive but with all of those opportunities to excel, we sort of wanted to slap her around a bit and yell, "Man up, woman!"

As for Esther's drive to live a life of letters, Cinecultist certainly identifies with that. We've been doing some freelancing at some Condé Nast publications over the last few months, but today was our first day working at the 4 Times Square location (which we've been lovingly/mockingly calling "the mothership"), and as we waiting in the lobby for our security pass, it was sort of thrilling. After six years in New York, and over three working in publishing, you'd think CC would be inured to the imposing security turnstiles and the lure of the Frank Gehry designed cafeteria. But nope. It's cool to be here, another little cog in the vast machine that is the magazine industry. Although much to our Mom's chagrin, we would not promise to take a camera phone picture of Anna Wintour if we were to end up in an elevator with the Vogue editor. A with-it downtown New Yorker like the Cinecultist has to draw the line somewhere.

July 17, 2007

Jane Austen Redux

janeaustenpencilsketch.jpgCinecultist sometimes has a terrible memory. We know that we read The Jane Austen Bookclub a few years ago because it's sitting right there on the bookshelf and vaguely we recall enjoying it. But plot, characters and themes are all a bit fuzzy. There's a book club? They read Jane Austen's six books together? Romance, intrigue or something or other? Watching a trailer for the movie version which comes out on Sept. 21 rang a few distant bells. Oh well, with a cast this good (Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker, Jimmy Smits and Maggie Grace) we'll probably be seeing it regardless of if we can remember the finer points of the story.

Another Jane Austen reworking on the movie horizon is Anne Hathaway's Becoming Jane, a fictionalized biopic which imagines that Jane's spinsterhood sprung from a disappointed great love. It is out Aug. 3. While CC always finds Hathaway charming and thought this was also a good role for the on-the-cusp-of-stardom James McAvoy, it plays a little too fast and loose with what we understand as Jane's life story. To suppose that one of the greatest romantic comedy wits ever had some sweeping movie-style affair in her life is just a little too Hollywood convenient.

In case you couldn't tell, Cinecultist is very protective of Madam Austen. We don't want to see her too tinkered with, just to tap into a continuing trend from the '90s. We take appropriations of her work and her person oddly personally. If you're going to riff on her, ye puny novelists and filmmakers, we demand you be smart about it. To get into what Jane Austen's writing means to CC would probably take more than just one blog post but suffice it to say, she's the patron saint of all smart girls and we've read all her books (even the childhood ephemera) more than once. Going into a mild-mannered Hollywood movie with that much baggage and pre-conceived notions is never going to turn out well. Or could it? Will our decade plus obsession make Cinecultist the perfect critical audience these two movies, one highly tuned into the potential pitfalls and pleasures of the subject matter?

January 9, 2006

It's All There In The Text

Heath Ledger loves that shirt
Last week Cinecultist received in the mail at work a copy of Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain in a stand alone short story version. This was a nice surprise because we've always enjoyed Proulx's writing but hadn't read the story before we saw Ang Lee's film version a few weeks and we've been hearing from various friends that it's a wonderful story.

It's a quick read, so CC gobbled it up like some small, tasty snack on Sunday evening. Like when we used to read novelizations of films (i.e. books written after the movie as a tie-in product) in junior high school, Proulx's story was very faithfully adapted by Lee and so there's the pleasure in the reading seeing the movie spool out in your mind's eye. The story, like the film, spans many years of this relationship between Ennis (played by Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and so the style of writing skips through time lightly, only touching down to sketch in a brief dialogue or incident. Sometimes when you read the source material for a film, it can be easy to lapse into the assumption that the text is always the richer or more complex version than the film. However in this case, it seems that Lee's movie actually has the time to elaborate on scenes or characters only eluded to in Proulx's text, creating a deeper understanding of these two characters.

Which is not to say that Proulx doesn't hit it out of the park in certain turns of phrase, such as this passage below where Ennis visit's Jack's childhood home after Jack's death and discovers a momento of their time on Brokeback together.

The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack's sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack's own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.

If you're one of those straight dudes or somebody else not easily prone to spending $10 bucks to see two sheepherders fall in love and thus haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet or read Proulx's story, CC urges you to fix this soon. Both instances are storytelling at their finest.

Posted by karen at 9:11 AM |