Editor | Peter Bowen
What Nice Jewish Boys!
Posted March 31, 2008
Last Friday, Ben Walters in his blog for the British newspaper The Guardian explored a rarely discussed aspect of the Coen Brothers' oeuvre. Critics and writers have fully explored Joel and Ethan's distinct American humor, their Midwestern-ness, their neo-noir roots, and their fraternal bond. But rarely have writers considered, as Walters does, "How the Coens Found their Inner Jew." Walter's writes: "Steven Spielberg famously found his inner Jew while preparing to make Schindler's List, embracing a part of his cultural identity that had previously been more or less invisible in his work. Things are a little less clear-cut for Joel and Ethan Coen, as one might expect of film-makers renowned for a delight in mischief and ambiguity. From near the beginning of their career, a thread of Jewishness has run through the odd tapestry of their work, one of many sources of humour and tension, often at the same time. But it's now set to come to the fore as never before in two features currently in pre-production."
While their next film, Burn After Reading, a romp involving a possible CIA tell-all memoir with Brad Pitt and George Clooney (due out from Focus Features) isn't particularly Jewish, the next two are. A Serious Man (also from Focus Features) will start shooting in the Coen's old Minnesota stomping ground. But unlike the Scandinavian Fargo, A Serious Man looks at the Jewish neighborhood. According to Walters, "A Serious Man will be seriously Jewish. Set in 1967 and located within the town's Jewish community, it focuses on a college professor seeking advice from several rabbis while in the throes of domestic and professional crises. Although the plot isn't autobiographical, the Coens will draw on their own experiences in this environment, including attending Hebrew school and being the adolescent children of academics. The picture also reportedly includes a sequence set in Poland a century ago, involving a rabbi and Jewish wedding customs and superstitions, which will be spoken entirely in Yiddish."
And after that, they will adapt Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a murder mystery set in Alaska, which (in Chabon's version of the world) had been settled and turned into a Jewish state after World War II.
Man in Black
Posted March 26, 2008
Poor James Schamus. No sooner did he drop off his tux at the cleaners after ShoWest where he and Ang Lee were presented with the inaugural ShoWest/NATO Freedom of Expression Award, that he has to get it back to be honored (along with Showtime's Matt Blank) at the Museum of the Moving Image's annual black-tie benefit on April 20, 2008. Herbert S. Schlosser, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of the Moving Image, exclaims about this year's honorees: "Both Matt Blank and James Schamus have had enormous success in transforming the face of mainstream American entertainment." The Museum had screened part of Schamus' contribution a few years ago when they held a retrospective of films produced by his former company Good Machine to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Congratulations...again.
Adams and Pace Speak Up
Posted March 11, 2008
Amy Adams and Lee Pace have been out talking up Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Cinemablend's Katey Rich has a nice talk with Lee Pace about the film, his tv series Pushing Daises, and his particular choice of British accents. Amy Adams pops up in two places. For The Philadelphia Daily News, Adams has funny interview with Howard Gensler about her acting history and her decision to only appear on screen with Meryl Streep in the future. For MTV, Adams talks about her open love of old movies and her secret love for Lee Pace.
Adams: Yes! There's such a masculinity to him, and a real throwback feel. (Dreamily) He's so tall and substantial ...
MTV: I take it you like him?
Adams: Yes, I do. (Blushing.) Can you tell?
A De Luxe Miss Pettigrew
Posted March 05, 2008
When you're looking for film-related articles in the newspaper, you don't usually start at the Home Section. But that's exactly where Chisty Hobart's recent Los Angeles Times article "The Satin and Silk World of 'Miss Pettigrew'" resides. Hobart speaks with production designer Sarah Greenwood (who was recently nominated for an Oscar for Atonement) as to how such a deco fantasy as the one spun for Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is put together.
Greenwood looked to the abodes of actual Hollywood icons (like Jean Harlow and Doris Day) for initial inspiration. But since they didn't design their own homes, the real starting point was their designers, primarily actor-turned-designer William Haines. (Haines' own life was captured in the book and then documentary Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star). They also turned to Haines's contemporary Dorothy Draper for styling and decorating ideas. But with so many objects, furniture, molding, paint colors, swirling about in one room, how do you tie it together? For Greenwood, it was the figures of Dianna and the deer near the fire place: "I quite liked the idea of Diana the Huntress and asked myself if there was an analogy with the mistresses that [Nick] put up there."
Schamus on the dear cost of London
Posted March 05, 2008
In this week's New York Magazine, the "Devouring Culture Vulture" column caught up with James Schamus at the screening of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Intrigued by comments he had made about the high cost of film abroad, the culture column pushed him for a deeper financial analysis about the state of international production. In his opening remarks explaining why Bush's economic policies and the falling dollar have made foreign production so hard, Schamus quipped, "[it's] that Sophie's Choice
between ordering a pizza or paying for your kids' college education." What a pizza cost in London for Americans converting US dollars would make people look for refinancing their mortgage. But then, of course, in most places in Europe, education is also free.