Archive for hollywood

Dear Mr. Stravinsky

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

In May 1953 Boston University proposed to commission Igor Stravinsky, by then living in Hollywood, to write an opera with Dylan Thomas, who was staying in New York, and had a few months to live. They met in Boston, and Stravinsky recalled the occasion in Robert Craft’s book Conversations with Igor Stravinsky:

His face and skin had the colour and swelling of too much drinking. He was a shorter man than I expected, not more than five feet five or six, with a large protuberant behind and belly. His nose was a red bulb and his eyes were glazed. He drank a glass of whisky with me which made him more at ease, though he kept worrying about his wife, saying he had to hurry home to Wales ‘or it would be too late’. I don’t know how much he knew about music, but he talked about the operas he knew and liked, and about what he wanted to do. ‘His’ opera was to be about the rediscovery of our planet following an atomic misadventure. There would be a re-creation of language, only the new one would have no abstractions; there would be only people, objects, and words. He promised to avoid poetic indulgences: ‘No conceits, I’ll knock them all on the head.’ He agreed to come to me in Hollywood as soon as he could. Returning there I had a room built for him, an extension from our dining room, as we have no guest room. I received two letters from him. I wrote him October 25th in New York and asked him for word of his arrival plans in Hollywood. I expected a telegram from him announcing the hour of his aeroplane. On November 9th the telegram came. It said he was dead. All I could do was cry.

Here’s the letter Thomas sent Stravinsky after that meeting:

The Boat House, Laugharne
Carmarthenshire, Wales
16th June 1953

Dear Mr. Stravinsky,

I was so very glad to meet you for a little time, in Boston; and you and Mrs. Stravinsky couldn’t have been kinder to me. I hope you get well very soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the opera and have a number of ideas – good, bad, and chaotic. As soon as I can get something down on paper, I should, if I may, love to send it to you. I broke my arm just before leaving New York the week before last, and can’t write properly yet. It was only a little break, they tell me, but it cracked like a gun.

I should very much like – if you think you would still like me to work with you; and I’d be enormously honoured and excited to do that – to come to California in late September or early October. Would that be convenient? I hope so. And by that time, I hope too, to have some clearer ideas about a libretto.

Thank you again. And please give my regards to your wife and to Mr. Craft.

Yours sincerely

Dylan Thomas

Let’s all listen to Schoenberg …

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

I enjoy a lot of Schoenberg’s music, in the broadest sense of “enjoy”. It’s not really music to relax or wind down to, it can be so intensely personal and subjective, especially the works of the free atonal period, exhibiting a plethora of intense emotions which tend towards the dark side. I don’t expect any more than a minority of classical music listeners will ever want to listen to it on a regular basis, but I think it is unique and meaningful music (if very much a product of a particular time and place) and does have an importance for that reason.

Certainly all art is very much a product of its time and place – the question is whether it still has anything to say to people here and now? That sort of sensibility that comes through in Schoenberg – rootlessness, alienation, inhabiting a certain precipice within “high culture” and the social world it inhabits, etc., certainly speaks to me, but I don’t find it wholly surprising if many others don’t find it relevant to them.

Schoenberg’s life beyond the concert-hall – his listing by the Third Reich as “degenerate”, his escape to the United States, his life as an émigré, his teaching there, his prominent position as a Jewish refugee – brought his name to a greater prominence than many of his contemporaries. His name became a byword for a kind of purposed complexity and intellectual rigour in music … to a wider public who’d never heard a note of it, but had heard of Arnold Schoenberg.

And they fervently believed that this Schoenberg man represented the very summation of everything they wouldn’t like in music, and should be avoided like the plague.

Brown Bread: Elizabeth Taylor

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

“It’s the end of an era. It wasn’t just her beauty or her stardom. It was her humanitarianism. She put a face on HIV/AIDS. She was funny. She was generous. She made her life count.”
(Barbra Streisand)

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, arguably the last great female star of the Hollywood studio system, has died at the age of 79.

The Oscar-winning star died in the early hours of the morning at Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles, from congestive heart failure, according to her spokeswoman Sally Morrison. She said Taylor’s children were at her side.

A stunner, back in the day. But she wasn’t the kind of stunner that would have made her an actress today. Funny how Hollywood’s concept of beauty changes over the years. A lot of today’s starlets wouldn’t have made it in the 1950s because they’re too scrawny. Elizabeth Taylor was … voluptuous.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

Elizabeth Taylor: best and worst films

The five best:

1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
3. A Place in the Sun (1951)
4. National Velvet (1944)
5. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

2011 Oscar Winners & Nominees

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Best motion picture of the year
WINNER: The King’s Speech
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Performance by an actor in a leading role
WINNER: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
WINNER: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Achievement in directing
WINNER: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O Russell (The Fighter)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Art direction
WINNER: Alice in Wonderland – Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O’Hara (set decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Stuart Craig (production design), Stephenie McMillan (set decoration)
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas (production design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (set decoration)
The King’s Speech – Eve Stewart (production design), Judy Farr (set decoration)
True Grit – Jess Gonchor (production design), Nancy Haigh (set decoration)

Achievement in cinematography
WINNER: Wally Pfister (Inception)
Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech)
Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)
Roger Deakins (True Grit)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
WINNER: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Best animated short film
WINNER: The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
The Gruffalo (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) (Bastien Dubois)

Best animated feature film of the year
WINNER: Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist

Adapted screenplay
WINNER: The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
127 Hours – Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story)
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay
WINNER: The King’s Speech – David Seidler
Another Year – Mike Leigh
The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (story)
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg

Best foreign language film of the year
WINNER: In a Better World (Denmark)
Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
WINNER: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)
WINNER: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)
John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech)
AR Rahman (127 Hours)

Achievement in sound mixing
WINNER: Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo and Ed Novick)
The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley)
Salt (Jeffrey J Haboush, Greg P Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin)
The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F Kurland)

Achievement in sound editing
WINNER: Inception (Richard King)
Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers and Michael Silvers)
Tron: Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey)
Unstoppable (Mark P Stoeckinger)

Achievement in makeup
WINNER: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)
Adrien Morot (Barney’s Version)
Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)

Achievement in costume design
WINNER: Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Antonella Cannarozzi (I Am Love)
Jenny Beavan (The King’s Speech)
Sandy Powell (The Tempest)
Mary Zophres (True Grit)

Best documentary short subject
WINNER: Strangers No More (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)
Killing in the Name (Nominees to be determined)
Poster Girl (Nominees to be determined)
Sun Come Up (Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger)
The Warriors of Qiugang (Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)

Best live action short film
WINNER: God of Love (Luke Matheny)
The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Crush (Michael Creagh)
Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
Wish 143 (Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite)

Best documentary feature
WINNER: Inside Job (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz)
Gasland (Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)

Achievement in visual effects
WINNER: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell)
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

Achievement in film editing
WINNER: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (The Social Network)
Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan)
Pamela Martin (The Fighter)
Tariq Anwar (The King’s Speech)
Jon Harris (127 Hours)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original song)
WINNER:
We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Randy Newman)
Coming Home (from Country Strong, music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light (from Tangled, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise (from 127 Hours, music by AR Rahman, lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)

Brown Bread: Tony Curtis

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Tony Curtis in “Sweet Smell of Success”

Tony Curtis: a true Hollywood star

I honestly can’t think of a bad Tony Curtis film, i.e. one I didn’t like.

The Persuaders now seems cheesy and kitsch, but I can remember it being an enormous success on ITV in the early 1970s – there had been nothing so racy from the British television stable up to then and it earned ATV vast sums in worldwide sales.

I remember reading an article in which Roger Moore and Tony Curtis said ruefully that the majority of their shooting was done on sets in London whilst a second unit did all the glamorous continental exteriors.

R.I.P. Tony Curtis (Bernard Schwartz), actor, born 3 June 1925; died 29 September 2010

Rare Marilyn Monroe Pics

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Dressed down in a simple white shirt and with her hair plaited in pigtails, Marilyn Monroe looks a far cry from the iconic star synonymous with old Hollywood glamour. In the newly released image, the actress sports a sombre expression but appears relaxed as she is snapped on set of 1961 movie The Misfits – her last ever completed film.

Other shots also show a fresh-faced Marilyn caught off-guard wrapped in a towel, reading the script between takes and standing at her trailer door sipping coffee as she chats to co-star Montgomery Clift.

The images form part of a series of eight intimate portraits entitled Marilyn, taken by America photo-journalist Eve Arnold, that went on display in galleries nationwide on Saturday. Only 495 prints of the pictures will go on sale, with prices starting at £350.

Eve Arnold said: “She was going places but she hadn’t arrived. She liked my pictures and was canny enough to realise that they were a fresh approach for presenting her – a looser, more intimate look than the posed studio portraits she was used to in Hollywood. It became a bond between us … Marilyn was very important in my career. I think I was helpful in hers too.”

Proclaimed by Vanity Fair to be the top photographer in the world, Eve Arnold’s career spanned much of the 20th century.

It was in 1954, with her intelligent choice of subject matter and a unique fresh quality that Arnold was invited to join Magnum Photos, the prestigious international co-operative of photographers as their first woman member.

Eve Arnold was recently honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sony World Photography Awards this spring, just one day after her 98th birthday.

1910: Frankenstein

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Frankenstein is a 1910 film made by Edison Studios that was written and directed by J. Searle Dowley. It was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor’s fiancée.

Shot in three days, it was filmed at the Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York City. Although some sources credit Thomas Edison as the producer, he in fact played no direct part in the activities of the motion picture company that bore his name.

Dr Frankenstein creates his monster by putting some sort of an elixir into a vat. The monster emerges from said vat and terrifies his creator, who then runs off back home to his fiancée. The monster follows him, and they fight over her on the wedding night. The monster sees himself reflected in a mirror, and then disappears into the mirror.

The grainy out of focus camera work adds character to this movie, but also makes it a bit more difficult to follow the plot. However, the industrial looking sets, costumes, and make-up are more eerie and effective than a lot of what Hollywood churned out.

The very deepest roots of horror can be found in this gem. From the terrified look on Dr Frankenstein’s face when the first monster in US cinema history comes to life, to the last moments of footage, the film leaves one captivated.

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