Coming to Netflix: The Queen Elizabeth II Story “The Crown”

Posted on May 3, 2016 at 3:54 pm

As Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch turns 90, “The Crown” focuses on Queen Elizabeth II as a 25-year-old newlywed faced with the daunting prospect of leading the world’s most famous monarchy while forging a relationship with legendary Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. The British Empire is in decline, the political world is in disarray, and a young woman takes the throne….a new era is dawning. Peter Morgan’s masterfully researched scripts reveal the Queen’s private journey behind the public facade with daring frankness. Prepare to be welcomed into the coveted world of power and privilege and behind locked doors in Westminster and Buckingham Palace….the leaders of an empire await.

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Based on a true story Biography Epic/Historical VOD and Streaming

Charlie Brown and God

Posted on May 3, 2016 at 3:53 pm

The Atlantic has a fascinating article about “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz and the way he expressed his religious doubts and beliefs through his classic comic strip.

Charles Schulz was widely applauded for a long list of achievements. The creator of the Peanuts comic strip was a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and his comics earned him an Emmy, Peabody, and Congressional Gold Medal. Sixteen years after his death in 2000, Schulz is still the third top-earning deceased celebrity, trailing only Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. He even changed the way Americans talk, inserting phrases like “Good grief!” and “security blanket” into the national vocabulary.

But Schulz also revolutionized his industry by using his strip to subtly raise religious questions about the Bible, prayer, the nature of God, and the end of the world. Schulz was a devoted Christian; unshell the Peanuts and you’ll find the fingerprints of his faith. By mixing Snoopy with spirituality, he made his readers laugh while inviting them into a depth of conversation uncommon to the funny pages….More than 560 of Schulz’s nearly 17,800 Peanuts newspaper strips contain a religious, spiritual, or theological reference. To put this into perspective, Schulz only produced 61 strips featuring the famous scene where Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick it. Particularly later in his career, the religious references came so frequently that pastors and religious publications regularly requested permission to reprint Peanuts strips, which Schulz almost always granted.

The beloved “Charlie Brown Christmas” is notable not just for its pathetic little tree and evocative Vince Guaraldi score but also for the clear, sweet voice of Linus reciting a passage from the Gospel of Luke, a rare reminder in the world of advertising-driven commercial television that Christmas is about the birth of Christ.

The article quotes Stephen J. Lind, author of A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz.

“When readers come to the end of the panel, there is a gap not only between two rectangles, but also the action contained in each and the reader must then fill in what happened, creating a sense of mental ‘closure’ so that the episode makes sense,” Lind writes. “As the reader fills in this narrative leap, they begin to connect with the scene, for they helped create it.”

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Behind the Scenes

Oprah to Star in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for HBO

Posted on May 3, 2016 at 2:04 pm

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is being adapted for HBO, with Oprah Winfrey in the lead role of Lacks’ daughter.

There was something special about the poor, uneducated Henrietta Lacks, something she could never have suspected. From the description of the book, by Rebecca Smoot:

She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Her family knew nothing about this and of course was not paid for the use of her cells. Winfrey’s casting as the daughter suggests the focus will be more on the family and the ethical questions than the science, but I hope both will be covered.

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Based on a book Based on a true story Television

Interview: Director John Goldschmidt on “Dough”

Posted on May 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm

John Goldschmidt is the director and co-producer of the film “Dough,” a sweet comedy about an Orthodox Jewish baker (Jonathan Pryce) whose new assistant is a Muslim teenager from Darfur who has a side business dealing weed. The marijuana gets mixed up in the bread, and suddenly the bakery has a lot of new customers just as a predatory developer is trying to take it over and the baker’s son is trying to get him to retire.

In an interview, he told me that he made this film because he was looking for a project that had “something to say about the state of the world that’s particularly relevant but it will also entertain, in other words a film that will treat serious issues with a comedic like touch.” In a film like this one, he said, casting the lead “sets the standard for everything” and attracts the other performers. His casting director, Celestia Fox, called to tell him she had seen Pryce at a party and he had a beard, so he already looked the part. “Jonathan is one of the most celebrated theater actors in London. Once he’s involved, other people seem to say, ‘This is must be a good project.’ So Pauline Collins, who acted with Jonathan Pryce years ago at the National Theater loved the script, knew about me and got involved.

It was more of a challenge to find the young man to play the African immigrant. “I auditioned a lot of people and choose six of them along with Jonathan Pryce to see the chemistry between them.” Jerome Holder won the role. “I chose Darfur as the country for this Muslim boy to come from because I had seen George Clooney’s film about the persecution of the African Muslims in their villages by Arab horsemen. I thought the people looked so beautiful. I wanted to avoid the complexities of the Middle East. I wanted it to be unencumbered by that whole situation. We needed to get all that detail about Darfur and we needed to get Jerome to have an African accent. He’s from a Christian family, a church based family. He had to acquire an African accent for his dialogue. He did very well I thought because I didn’t want it to be too strong for people to be alienated by it and yet he couldn’t really talk like a London guy. I didn’t want him to have a dialogue coach because if you get too self-conscious about these things it can knock around with your head. I just wanted him to retain his naturalness because he’d never been in a movie before.”

Goldschmidt, whose favorite Jewish bakery treat is challah, said Pryce spent a week in a kosher bakery to play a man who has been baking for decades. They shot in Budapest, where they completely replicated the Jewish bakery in North London. “My producers say that a lot of the best films about America are being made by European directors who see America through fresh eyes,” he told me. His own background contributes to his tendency to appreciate cultural differences. “My family are classified as victims of Nazi persecution. I was born in London, I grew up in Vienna. Came to England to go to art school when I was 17. And so in a sense although everyone thinks of me as totally British, I do have a slightly different angle on things. I just liked this particular idea because it’s like the odd couple. It’s about two characters who are as different as possible could be. One is old the other is young. One is black, the other is white. One is Jewish the other is a Muslim. I wanted to make an entertaining, uplifting movie in the end. This is the story of a very unlikely friendship and I wanted to make a film in these dark times where people would leave the cinema with a smile on their face and yet at the same time I wanted to address the issues that I thought one has to deal with in this period that we are living in.”

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Directors Interview
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