selenak: (Orson Welles by Moonxpoints5)
Smart, wonderful review of Cleopatra, 1963 version, too often dismissed as campy extravaganza. ([profile] amenirdis, this one is for you!) It was, of course, scripted and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, who in this most recent list of 100 greatest screenwriters of all time makes it to No. 23 ("Says Phyllis Nagy: “There may be a more endlessly quotable screenplay than All About Eve, but I’ve yet to find it.”).

About that list: as per usual in such lists written in the English language (US edition), what they mean is "100 Greatest American Screenwriters", with the odd foreigner thrown in. They also confess right at the start: It’s worth noting that Hollywood’s traditional exclusion of women and people of color makes it extraordinarily difficult to truly qualify the best in the craft, but acknowledging today’s urgent need for more inclusive storytelling doesn’t negate the contributions of these 100 pioneers.

That said, it's very satisfying to see pioneer Frances Marion (first scriptwriter, either male or female, to win the Oscar, twice) acknowledged at No.20), and the (imo deserved) number 1 spot goes to an immigrant to whom the English language was something he only learned as an adult (which turned out to be one of the all time successful love stories between a writer and an adopted language), the late, great Billy Wilder. Some of the other choices (even keeping the US pov in mind) are bewildering, no pun intended, but such is always the case.

In terms of Hollywood history, though, it amuses me that Joe Mankiewicz' brother Herman only makes it to No.56 while Orson Welles lands at No.41. Pauline Kael would roll in her grave. As the list writers themselves put it: Once upon a time, a small firestorm might have ignited over placing Orson Welles on a list of great screenwriters. For years, his co-authorship of Citizen Kane was in dispute, with many claiming that the credit belonged almost entirely to the great Herman J. Mankiewicz. (Pauline Kael even wrote an explosive, brilliant, deeply problematic essay arguing so, only for much of her research to be discredited later.) But even if he hadn’t co-written Citizen Kane (which he absolutely did), Welles would have been one of the great screenwriters of the 20th century. He was certainly one of the great adapters, able to take everything from the most acclaimed classics (think The Trial) to the lowest-brow pulp (think Touch of Evil) and make it his own. His Shakespeare adaptations are gems of concision and imagination, balancing respect for the text with a willingness to innovate. Look at the incredible Chimes at Midnight, where he takes pieces of several of the Bard’s plays and turns them into something completely modern.

I'm totally with them in terms of Orson as an adapter. (Which, btw, Welles biographer Simon Callow argues is what he did with Citizen Kane, too - Hermann Mankiewicz' original script - with some imput from John Houseman - was over three hours long, and Welles did what he did with Shakespeare, Kafka, and whoever wrote Touch of Evil - he cut, edited, added, rewrote, until the script had the shooting shape.) It's what makes his version of The Trial infinitely more interesting than the far more literal, bland and justly forgotten version of Kyle McLachlan as Joseph K. much later, and makes Chimes at Midnight show up later adaptions of the Henriad such as The Hollow Crown as deeply conventional and pulling their punches by comparison.

On a book-to-film note, thanks to [personal profile] chaila I've discovered Fall Equinox, a vid-athon wherein the vids in question are using book-based source material. I've only just started to watch my way through it, but check out Wherever I Go, a breathtaking exploration of the Gods in American Gods!
selenak: (Kate Hepburn by Misbegotten)
Having watched „American Crime: The People vs O.J. Simpson“ some months ago, I moved on to this year’s Ryan Murphy endeavour, „Feud: Bette and Joan”, several episodes of which were scripted by Tim Minear, aka he who was largely responsible for most of Darla’s episodes at Angel, for which I’ll eternally appreciate him. Now I had actually read the book this particular miniseries draws much of its material from, “Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud”, and among other things, it was interesting to see how Murphy and his team shaped the same raw material into a different type of story. The book is very gossipy, but in a way that doesn’t favour either woman about the other, and does point out when there are several conflicting accounts. Narratively, though, it feels like a collection of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford anecdotes, without overall themes or specific conclusions. The miniseries, otoh, goes for the the Sunset Boulevard (btw: there’s a great little reference to it during an escalating Davis/Crawford argument) approach of witty, biting and ultimately tragic Hollywood on Hollywood; if Bette Davis comes across as the more “likeable” of the two women, it’s ultimately Joan Crawford whose tragedy it is, and who has the most clear cut narrative arc, from her decision to find a project for herself and Bette Davis in the series opener to her death in the finale.

You mean all this time, we could have been friends? )
selenak: (Richelieu by Lost_Spook)
If the trailer for the newest cinema version of The Three Musketeers is anything to go by, Hollywood is letting Richelieu plot the end of the world this time around. Which would be news not just to the historical Cardinal, but also to the Dumas variation. I mean, on one level I feel for Hollywood scriptwriters. They're used to certain ideas about what constitutes a villain, and I assume the reason for the extreme silliness of the 90s Musketeers version (that's the one with Tim Curry as Richelieu) as well as for this more recent plot is that the original script conference went thusly (err, spoilers for Dumas' novel):

Producer: So, that Cardinal fellow is the villain of the piece, right? How does he die?

Scriptwriter 1: Err, he doesn't. Well and alive at the end of the novel.

Producer: Eh. So he's deposed as, what's it, Prime Minister of France?

Scriptwriter 2: They didn't have the job title then, but that's what it amounted to. No, actually, he's not. As much in power as ever.

Producer: What? So, how does the audience know our heroes have won?

Scriptwriter 1: They execute a woman and D'Artagnan gets a promotion.

Producer: .... Okay, that won't do. So anyway, what's this Richelieu guy up to? Wants the throne, does he?

Scriptwriter 2: Nope. Even if he wasn't a priest, he's only of provincial nobility, bourgois on his mother's side, and there are about a gazillion princely families with a claim to the throne if if Louis XIII. croaks it. Not to mention Louis' brother who did plot to get the throne all the time. Also, everyone of the high nobility hated Richelieu's guts and the king was the guy keeping him in power, so he was really, really invested in keeping Louis around.

Scriptwriter 1: But he's totally plotting against the Queen in the novel! That's a dastardly scheme, right? He's trying to expose her affair with a foreign head of goverment.

Producer: Eh. Is he the main villain or a journalist hack? What else?

Scriptwriter 2: Getting that foreign head of goverment killed so the Brits won't interrupt the siege of La Rochelle. That, err, works out. Also La Rochelle surrenders.

Producer: Guys, this is getting worse and worse. How are we going to sell assassinations of foreign politicians as villainous when everyone does it, including us? What else?

Scriptwriter 1: Err, that's it. Wait! He's anti duelling!

Producer: The spoilsport. Just out of curiosity, why?

Scriptwriter 2: Dumas doesn't say, but I read a biography and it seems his father and older brother died in duels. He thought they were an exceedingly stupid and dangerous past time the French nobility was really better off without.

Producer: .... Right. There's only one thing for it. Throw the book away and invent a completely new character. A proper villain who wants the throne and/or the end of the world. Otherwise everyone will accuse us of realism!

Now, nobody has ever accused the great Alexandre Dumas of being very faithfull to history and/or being realistic. But he did write fun novels, with more of a sense of humour than your avarage action movie allows (which is why the Richard Lester versions are my favourites), and he also happened to like his antagonist very much. I'll leave you with two passages from the novel.

Alexandre Dumas, scheming politician fanboy at large )
selenak: (Carl Denham by Grayrace)
Oscars: I was happy for the films I had already seen, like The Cove or Up, was pleased for Christoph Waltz as I had liked him since Der große Reibach, was even happier for Katheryn Bigelow, and not "just" because of the gender breakthrough (took you long enough, academy!) - Near Dark, Strange Days, Blue Steel are all films I found very captivating to watch, and I'm going to see The Hurt Locker soon. But the moment I found most touching was when Mo'nique, in her acceptance speech, mentioned Hattie MacDaniel, and what she had to put up with "so I wouldn't have to". Because I remembered my last visit to Los Angeles, and how I heard, after visiting Rosedale Cemetary, that Hattie McDaniel - who won the Oscar for her performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind - was buried there, which broke the color barrier on the previously segregated cemetery. Originall, she had requested burial at Hollywood Memorial (now Hollywood Forever), located just behind Paramount Studios, but that cemetery was also segregated in 1952 and refused to allow the burial. Today, the later cemetary who rejected her last wish for racist reasons has put up a monument in her honour:

And this was Hattie McDaniel's acceptance speech:


In other news, the amazing rozk has written an English version of the Heine poem Gedächtnisfeier which I posted yesterday, and it's here.

Also, new Babylon 5 fanfiction: Sisterhood offers a look at Delenn, her son David and a spoilery character, and is an amazing examination of Delenn's rejection of the Vorlons, the impact of the Vorlons on Minbari society and Delenn's relationships with her fellow Minbari.
selenak: (Six Feet Under by _ladydisdain)
Last entry from Los Angeles, as I fly back to Germany this afternoon. If the plane crashes, I hope it will be on an island with mystical qualities. Otherwise, I've had a fabulous final day, admiring nature, then fannish tv locations and then having an outrageous "only in Hollywood" experience, about which more below. But in chronological order:

[ profile] bitterbyrden and self went to visit Aqua Dulce in Vasquez County, site of many a cinematic and tv desert scene. It looked gorgeous. Behold:

Desert Pictures )

On our way back to Los Angeles, we noticed there was a complete traffic jam on the other side of the 101. Not surprising, really, because some nutter had decided to transport a complete house on the freeway, and it got stuck under a bridge. I kid you not. Sadly, there is no photo, but I'm told it did make the LA news. Meanwhile, after our nature admiration it was time to geek out some more and visit another film location. This one from Six Feet Under. I give you the home of the Fisher family:

Fisher and Sons )

Now the thing about this city is, everyone seems to know someone who knows someone. A friend of [ profile] bitterbyrden's happened to know someone who made it possible that we not only participated in an event called Cinespia, i.e. an outdoor showing of the movie The Exorcist in no less a location than the Hollywood Cemetary itself, but also let us in VIP style ahead of the queue so we could amply explore said cemetary before the masses were let in (who turned out to be about 3000 people in the end). When I first heard about this plan, I said yes at once but I thought [ profile] bitterbyrden was kidding about the movie being shown in the actual cemetary, among all the Hollywood dead - surely movie festivals did not take place in cemetaries? She was, of course, completely sincere and serious. Here is photographic proof of an immensely memorable last evening:

Ah, Hollywood! )
selenak: (Dork)
More pictures, as I visited the home of Arnold Schönberg, aka He Who Invented Atonal Music, and the Universal Studios.

All things Schönberg )

Today, I couldn't resist and visited the Universal Studios again. Expensive as ever, but it does spell Hollywood and Los Angeles for me, so....

Universal picspam )


selenak: (Default)

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