Cinemalinks: Weekly Reads

Into the Woods
New resolution for the New Year: Share more work by fellow writers. I’ve always been meaning to do something like this, but in 2015, I’ll resolve to do more weekly round-ups of reading links!

Good reads for the week:

-By Joseph Belanger, Black Sheep Reviews

I love engaging with adaptations and comparing what changes from page to screen or from stage to screen, but there isn’t time to read and see everything. The recent adaptation of Into the Woods is one example where I noted that I couldn’t comment on the adaptation since I haven’t seen the play. Fortunately, though, Joseph at Black Sheep Reviews is familiar with the musical (even having produced it once!) and he offers a detailed analysis on what changes from stage to screen. One often gains a lot of insight into a production by examining the gaps between one work and another, and I especially like his reading of the film’s final act, which helps some of my own criticisms of the film’s finale:

Into the Woods deals directly with debunking the myth that everyone lives happily ever after, never wanting for anything more again after getting your wish fulfilled. While I have debated that the show has some structural issues in the past given that these types of reactions are frequent, I now wonder something else entirely. Is it possible that those who don’t understand the point of the second act just don’t want to know about what comes after everyone gets their wish?”

By Jeff Lebreque, EW

Speaking of adaptations, news broke that the Academy made a significant ruling on one of the frontrunners in the Best Original Screenplay race by deeming Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash an adaptation. Whiplash, which distributor Sony Pictures Classics has been campaigning in the Original category and was accepted as such by many groups including the Writers Guild of America, is in a pickle because Chazelle raised funds for the film using a short film (a hit at Sundance!) featuring J.K. Simmons’ drill sergeant band conductor. “However,” Lebreque writes, “Chazelle wrote the screenplay for the full-length feature first, and the short, which debuted at Sundance, was made to attract notice and funding to tell the story on a larger scale.” This ruling follows several odd calls for screenplays, most notably 2005’s Syriana, which writer Stephen Gaghan openly adapted from Bob Baer’s book See No Evil and credited it as his source, yet the Academy ruled it an original screenplay even though other writers’ groups acknowledged it as an adaptation, including the WGA and, notably, the USC Scripter awards for adaptation. Whiplash isn’t an adaptation any way one slices it since none of the elements of the feature film engage with characters previously written and produced. Two works conceived simultaneously simply make for two original works.

By Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

Every year sees films that dramatize real life events, and every year sees charges of historical inaccuracy. This year’s charges take aim at Ava DuVernay’s Selma for its portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson, whom Tom Wilkinson portrays in the film. Instead of offering a counterargument and debating the merits between fiction and non-fiction and drama and documentary, Bailey examines the questionable timing and rhetoric of the piece and incisively takes aim at the agenda of the Selma challengers. They’re making noise for the history books, Bailey argues, but solely for those that account for who wins and who loses on Oscar night: “And what does Mr. Califano demand in exchange for this betrayal? An amendment of the film? An on-screen correction? A public apology? Nope: ‘The movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.’ That line, which ends Califano’s ‘editorial,’ is a rare bit of transparency — because that piece, and the furor that has accompanied it, is not about correcting the record. It’s about keeping Selma from winning Oscars.” I haven’t had a chance to see Selma yet, but I’m catching it tonight and looking forward to it as a work of art in its own right. It’s much more rewarding to write about a film you love, history guys!

"Selma Director on Lyndon B. Johnson Portrayal: I'm not Gonna Argue History"
By Scott Feinberg, The Race/The Hollywood Reporter

DuVernay's been handling the opinions against Selma very well (she's a past publicist, after all) and a recent article in THR highlights Selma's power. Awards pundit Scott Feinberg notes that the film recently got a sound endorsement from journalist Gay Talese, and it couldn't be a better stamp for any filmmaker: "I was on the Pettus Bridge and I watched the mayhem, the madness of Sheriff Clark. She got it. I was there. I saw it. She wasn't there, but she got it. When I was seeing the film, I was seeing what I remembered, truly remembered."

By Sam Adams, Criticwire

Another annual award season (sort of) controversy is the announcement of the Golden Raspberry Awards aka the Razzies. Honouring the ‘berry worst’ in film, the Razzies shame the low points of the year. The Razzie longlist broke before the upcoming nominations, with titles like The Interview, I, Frankenstein, and Pompeii on the list. (See the longlist at The Playlist.) I’ll admit that I enjoy the novelty of the Razzies even though one can never take them at face value, but rather as a bit of finger-wagging at multi-million blunders that fall flat on their faces. The annual news mostly brings groans about the awards and Criticwire editor Sam Adams gives the Razzies their biggest squish this year, writing, “So what you've got, in essence, is a group of unidentified voters with unknown qualifications taking shots at people they reflexively dislike, and — here is where the problem begins — being rewarded for it.” Are the Razzies an annual novelty? Should Hollywood be allowed to laugh at itself (or be laughed at?) during award season or is it time to turn the Razzies into jam?

-Bang + Strike

Past Oscar winners include some impressive inhabitations of accents and make-up, while other actors fully transform their bodies to become the characters they play. If you're looking for something outside of reading and want to play around a little, this handy infographic charts the physical transformation of some of Hollywood’s most notable metamorphoses, including Charlize Theron’s 30 lb commitment to become Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Some critics have been calling Jennifer Aniston’s deglamed and hefty transformation in Cake her Monster, so could Aniston follow Oscar history by becoming the character she plays?

By Susan Wloszczyna, Thompson on Hollywood

Since we’re talking about Jennifer Aniston, ToH!’s Susan Wloszczyna looks at Jennifer Aniston’s growing profile in the Best Actress race and offers seven reasons why she could land her first Oscar nomination for Cake. Wouldn’t you know it, her transformation gets a shout-out: “But that doesn’t mean that Aniston doesn’t deserve all those “for your consideration” ads. And after topping People magazine’s Most Beautiful list in 2004 and being declared “The Sexiest Woman of All Time” by readers of “Men’s Health” magazine in 2011, that's not just because she is stripped of all makeup, exhibits facial scars and has limp fly-away hair in Cake.” Cake doesn’t screen here until January 21st, but I’m looking forward to it!

-By Olivia Roat, Buzzfeed

No actress transforms quite like Meryl Streep does, so why not kill five minutes and take a Buzzfeed quiz after playing around with stars’ weight loss numbers. Just what kind of Meryl Streep are you? Do you like accents and wigs? Do you sing ABBA or Sondheim? Would you tell them to take the little girl or the little boy? Do you snort orchids or eat butter by the pound? I tried and got “Academy Awards Meryl Streep.” These things are hilariously accurate!

"Best Music Documentaries of 2014"
-By Andy Markowitz, Nonfics

Nonfics is impressively hihglighting the best docs of the year, and this week's recap of the top music docs is especially worth a read. Rock docs, rockumentaries, or whatever one chooses to call them frequently mark the most popular and audience-friendly non-fiction films of the year, but there's also an art that goes along with exploring the world of film and music. This list shows thar 2014 was a good year for rock docs, since even the terrific doc Keep on Keepin' On misses the cut, but hat's off to Nonfics for recognizing films the My Prairie Home that deserve a shout-out. (Admittedly, that film should have been included among my list of Canada's best for the year.)

-Point of View

Documentary magazine Point of View lists the most-read articles of 2014. Popular reads include backgrounders and interviews on some of the best Canadian docs of the year including The Wanted 18 and Monsoon.

-The Seventh Art

Joining Monsoon at TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten is Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. (My favourite Canadian film of the year.) To help highlight some of the signature style and substance of the filmmaker behind Canada’s acclaimed Oscar bid for 2014, TIFF commissioned a video essay from Toronto video-magazine The Seventh Art. The insightful ten-minute essay, narrated by filmmaker Patricia Rozema, is a great exploration of Dolan’s work and shows the filmmaker’s style comes together most fully in Mommy.

Any recommendations for further reading?