Category Archives: Film

Girl (AKA Lena Dunham) Wants to Make “Catherine, Called Birdy” Movie

Lena Dunham discussed a wide array of topics with writer and author Ariel Levy during the 15th annual New Yorker Festival on Friday night, including her aspirations to turn Karen Cushman’s “Catherine, Called Birdy” into a feature film….”It’s a really interesting examination of sort of like coming of age and what’s expected of teenage girls,” Dunham said. “I’m going to adapt it and hopefully direct it, I just need to find someone who wants to fund a PG-13 medieval movie.”

From Lena Dunham Wants To Turn ‘Catherine, Called Birdy’ Into A Movie.


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Lou Bunin’s Alice in Wonderland

Lou Bunin did a fabulous stop motion Alice in Wonderland film in 1949.  I’ve heard so much about it, but seeing it in total seems to be elusive. (Evidently Disney had a hand in this, wanting his version to be the movie version.) The clip below gives you a taste of why we Carrollians are so eager to get our hands on it. ( This young woman found a French subtitled version — scroll down to see it— that, she indicates, is not complete.)


Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Film

The Story of Dido Elizabeth Belle


I’ve long been interested in the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. The child of the British admiral John Lindsay and an enslaved African woman (possibly named Maria Belle), she was sent to Kenwood House, the home of her great-uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield as a young child.  The earl was already raising his great-niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray who was the same age as Dido and so the two girls grew up together with Dido evidently becoming Elizabeth’s personal companion.  While in his rulings as Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Mansfield indicated his distaste for the institution of slavery, in his own household there is evidence that Dido was treated in demeaning ways, clearly not viewed as equal to Elizabeth and others in the family.  You can learn more about her here and here.

Now there is a movie about Dido, Belle, due to be released here soon. Variety has given a favorable review, noting that while it will appeal to Austen fans it doesn’t shy away from addressing the harsher topic of slavery.  The Guardian also weighed in, And below is the trailer. I’m eager to see it and learn for myself as to how successful it is.


Filed under Film, Movies

Some of this Actually Happened And/Or Is in the Original Book: Movies Involving Children’s Stories and Their Creators

The making of movies is a tricky thing  when it comes to children’s stories.  Especially when those children’s stories are deeply rooted in adult viewers’ memories.  This season brings two such movies — Saving Mr. Banks and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

“Some of this actually happened.” As far as I know that disclaimer was not provided for Saving Mr. Banks, a movie I haven’t seen yet (ETA I have now*), but one based on the true story of Mary Poppins‘ author Pamela Travers in Hollywood during the creation of the Disney movie. Rather, that quote comes from the beginning of a very different movie, one also based on a true story, but absolutely not for children, American Hustle. I loved seeing that disclaimer and wish more filmmakers would start with some variation of it as it would be more honest of them. Certainly, it sounds like it would make Saving Mr. Banks go down a lot better with those who are not pleased with its fiddling with what actually happened. Now, again, I haven’t seen it so can’t comment, but I do think it is interesting how people are bringing their own childhood experiences with Mary Poppins to their viewing in a unique way.  That is, many only know her from Disney and those who later came across Travers’ version don’t seem to much like her.  So I’m guessing many are more sympathetic to Disney than to the author in this fictionalized movie version. For those interested in knowing more about the real story and Travers check out the following:

And then there is The Hobbit for which there is no disclaimer although there should be one along the lines of “Some of this actually is in the original book.” After seeing the first movie last December, I forcefully expressed my dismay about Peter Jackson’s decision to turn Tolkien’s charming book for children into something completely different in this HuffPo post, “Another Children’s Book Turned Into Young Adult: My Take on The Hobbit Movie (s).”  So my expectations were minimal when I went to see the second movie a few days ago. And, yep, it was pretty much what I expected — even more epic-izing of a children’s original fairy story and a whole lotta horrid orcs.  While I was happy to see Biblo here and there, especially with Smaug, I sure would have liked to see more of his clever repartee (say with the spiders). The pandering seemed even more pronounced this time — to fanatic Jackson LOTR fans (I agree with those who call this fan fiction),  to those who wanted a kick-ass female in Tolkien’s totally male world with a Gale/Peta or Jacob/Edward (take your pick) quandary in store, and to those who can never get enough battling orcs.  As for the final movie, I suppose some of it will have been in the original book — the battle and …no spoilers here…what happens to the dragon.

* I’ve now seen Saving Mr. Banks and my opinion about being honest when playing with historical fact hasn’t changed. I enjoyed the movie because it played on my nostalgic sensibilities big time (was tearful by the end), but can imagine how irritating it could feel to those who knew the players and the facts firsthand.


Filed under Film, Movies

New Disney Cinderella

Did you know that Disney has a new Cinderella movie in the works?  Directed by Kenneth Branagh? With Cate Blanchett as the stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother? Well, I sure didn’t. For many of us Disney’s 1950 animated feature Cinderella epitomizes a certain sort of fairy tale princess, one who waits for her prince to come.  Many have railed against these animated princesses (notably Jack Zipes) and Disney has somewhat responded, supplying their more recent princess heroines with more agency. And so I am fascinated to see what they will do with their forthcoming live-action Cinderella.

Here’s the image and press release that came out last week:



Starring Lily James, Richard Madden, Academy Award®-winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar®-nominee Helena Bonham Carter and Directed by Academy Award®-nominee Kenneth Branagh

Burbank, Calif. (September 23, 2013)—Walt Disney Pictures announced today that principal photography has begun at Pinewood Studios in London, on “Cinderella,” Disney’s first-ever live action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale.

Directed by Academy Award®-nominee Kenneth Branagh (“Jack Ryan,” “Thor”), the film stars Lily James (“Downton Abbey,” “Wrath of the Titans”) in the title role, Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones,” “Birdsong”) as the Prince, Oscar®-winner Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator”) as the infamous stepmother Lady Tremaine, and Academy Award-nominee Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech,” “Alice in Wonderland”) as the Fairy Godmother. Holliday Grainger (“Great Expectations,” “Anna Karenina”) and Sophie McShera (“Downton Abbey,” “Waterloo Road”) play Ella’s stepsisters Anastasia and Drisella, respectively. Stellan Skarsgård (“The Avengers,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and Nonso Anozie (“Game of Thrones,” “The Grey”) play the Arch Grand Duke and the Prince’s loyal friend, the Captain. Tony® Award-winner Derek Jacobi portrays the King.

“Cinderella” is produced by Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: First Class,” “Elysium”), Allison Shearmur (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), David Barron (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” “Jack Ryan”), from a screenplay by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy,” “The Golden Compass”).

The filmmaking team includes three-time Academy Award-winning production designer Dante Ferretti (“The Aviator,” “Hugo,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”), three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell (“The Aviator,” “The Young Victoria,” “Shakespeare in Love”), director of photography Haris Zambarloukos (“Sleuth,” “Thor”) and Academy Award-winning editor Martin Walsh (“Chicago,” “Clash of the Titans”).

The timeless story of “Cinderella” dates back to 1697 when first created by Charles Perrault, although it truly came to life for millions all over the world in 1950 with Walt Disney’s celebrated animated feature.

Director Kenneth Branagh says: “It is impossible to think of Cinderella without thinking of Disney and the timeless images we’ve all grown up watching. And those classic moments are irresistible to a filmmaker. With Lily James we have found our perfect Cinderella. She combines knockout beauty with intelligence, wit, fun and physical grace. Her Prince is being played by Richard Madden, a young actor with incredible power and charisma. He is funny, smart and sexy and a great match for Cinderella.

The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother. Keen to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine and her daughters Anastasia and Drisella into the family home. But, when Ella’s father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who abuse her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an employee at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears as if her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming “Kit.” Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand as a kindly beggar woman steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.

Production on “Cinderella” will take place at Pinewood Studios and locations throughout England.

“Cinderella” will be released through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 13, 2015.

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Travers and Disney

I knew the story of P. L. Travers’ unhappy experience in L.A. during the making of the Mary Poppins movie, but hadn’t heard until now that Disney has turned that story into a movie as well, “Saving Mr. Banks,” out this December. With Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Disney, this post about the new movie’s script and the following trailer has me hopeful.

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Old Cult Movies

I’m fascinated by how and which films and filmmakers become underground hits. That is, not mainstream movies generally, but indies and such that become embraced and then recommended and screened in off-beat places.  For example, decades back when I was at Columbia, there was an organization that showed weekly art movies (the organization had a name that had something to do with a zoopraxiscope, but I can’t remember exactly what it was).  I recall Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s bizzare Un Chien Andalou, Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, Tod Browing’s Freaks, and Philip de Broca’s King of Hearts.  There were other cultish movies out and about at the time that I avoided because I suspected I couldn’t take their creepiness, say David Lynch’s Eraserhead, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, and Alejandro Jodorwsky’s El Topo.  It took me a while to finally attend a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Pictureshow, but I must say I had a great time when I did.

One of my personal favorites is Lindsay Anderson’s  If… (you can read a bit more about my feelings about it here) and I was thrilled to see that it seems to be a favorite of Neil Gaiman’s too as it is one of the films he has selected to screen in a brief series he and his wife Amanda Palmer are doing. And was further tickled to see that she had selected King of Hearts. I haven’t see it in years and wonder how I’d respond to it today.  I have seen If.. and still love it (partly…er…mainly…because of the young Malcolm McDowell), but do wonder how others will respond to it today what with the horror of school shootings.

What  movies speak to you this way?  I’m suspecting the films of John Hughes, perhaps?  Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings?  I’m curious.


Filed under Film, Movies