An interview with Dan Stevens about his portrayal of Charles Dickens in "The Man Who Invented Christmas."
Matt writes: The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival just wrapped this past weekend, and screened an enormous array of enticing titles set for release this awards season. Click here for our complete festival coverage, including dispatches from Chaz Ebert, Brian Tallerico, Tina Hassannia, Vikram Murthi and Nick Allen.
Sheila writes: Todd Sanders is a self-taught neon sign artist. Roadhouse Relics, the gallery of his work in Austin, Texas, is filled with his beautiful vintage-inspired signs. His designs are all hand-drawn. He collects old magazines from the 1920s, 1930s, etc., to get inspiration for his neon signs. He does custom signs as well. You can check out Sanders' work, bio, and press kit at Roadhouse Relics. Neon brings up all kinds of automatic images and associations: seedy hotels, burlesque joints, cocktail bars. His signs evoke those images, but much more. For instance, look at his beautiful "Fireflies In a Mason Jar".
Marie writes: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, dissatisfied in general with the poverty of imagination currently on display at local cinemas. As anyone can blow something up with CGI - it takes no skill whatsoever and imo, is the default mode of every hack working in Hollywood these days. Whereas making a funny political satire in the United States about a Russian submarine running aground on a sandbank near a small island town off the coast of New England in 1966 during the height of the Cold War - and having local townsfolk help them escape in the end via a convoy of small boats, thereby protecting them from US Navy planes until they're safely out to sea? Now that's creative and in a wonderfully subversive way....
Marie writes: Welcome to "Good Books", an online bookseller based in New Zealand. Every time you buy a book through them, 100% of the retail profit goes directly to fund projects in partnership with Oxfam; projects which provide clean water, sanitation, develop sustainable agriculture and create access to education for communities in need. To increase awareness of Good Books' efforts to raise money for Oxfam, String Theory (New Zeland based agency) teamed up with collaborative design production comany "Buck" to create the first of three videos in a digital campaign called Good Books Great Writers. Behold the award winning animated Good Books Metamorphosis.
Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Khan has sent us the following awesome find, courtesy of a pal in Belgium who'd first shared it with her. "Got Muck?" was filmed by diver Khaled Sultani (Emirates Diving Association's (EDA) in the Lembeh Strait, off the island coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Camera: Sony Cx550 using Light & Motion housing and sola lights. Song: "man with the movie camera" by cinematic orchestra.
Marie writes: It's no secret that most Corporations are evil - or at the very least, suck big time. And while I have no actual proof, I'm fairly certain there is a special level of Dante's Hell reserved just for them. (Map of Dante's Hell.)That being the case, when my younger brother Paul wrote me about a cool project sponsored by Volkswagen, I was understandably wary and ready to denounce it sight-unseen as self-serving Corporate shyte. As luck would have it however, I was blessed at birth with curiosity and which got the better of me and why I took a look. For what I found was nothing less than extraordinary....
"Dear Mr. Spider;I am profoundly sorry to have taken you from your home in the woods, when I was picking Himalayan Blackberries on Monday afternoon. I didn't see you fall into my bucket and which was entirely my fault; I must have bumped into your web while reaching for a berry. Needless to say, I was surprised upon returning home with my bucket full, to suddenly see you there standing on a blackberry and looking up at me." - Marie
(photo recreation of incident)
Marie writes: This week's Newsletter arrives a day early and lighter than usual, as come Tuesday morning, I'll be on a Ferry heading to Pender Island off the West Coast, where I've arranged to visit old friends for a few days and enjoy my first vacation in two years; albeit a brief one. No rest for the wicked. :-)
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (120 minutes) premieres on PBS "Masterpiece Classic" at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 15th (check local listings). The film can also be watched online for a limited time beginning April 16th. It is also available on DVD.
When Charles Dickens died on June 9th, 1870, his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was barely half-finished. Almost immediately, completing the novel became a kind of literary sport, as numerous authors took it upon themselves to finish Drood in a manner fitting with Dickens's own style and substance. Speculative attempts to complete the story continue to this day, and now we have a new PBS "Masterpiece Classic" version to discuss, debate and appreciate. Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and adapted by British playwright and veteran TV writer Gwyneth Hughes (who previously penned the "Masterpiece Classic" drama Mrs. Austen Regrets), this two-hour version of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" dares to stretch credibility almost but not quite to the breaking point.
It's a delicate game being played here, so I'll avoid spoilers altogether. Suffice it to say that Hughes' solution to the mystery of Edwin Drood is in keeping with Dickens' intentions. We know from Dickens' own correspondence that it was Edwin's uncle, John Jasper, who would ultimately be held accountable for the alleged murder of his nephew. Not content to limit themselves to just this one historically well-established plot twist, Hughes and Lawrence have added a familial dimension to the story that qualifies, in this context, as a surprising (though not altogether shocking) revelation. Whether Dickens would've approved is yet another topic worthy of debate.
My blog entry I met a character from Dickens stirred up nostalgia for London even among some who have never been there.
The great city lives in our imaginations like no other, perhaps because of the writers who have so memorably populated it for us:
Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, William Makepeace Thackery, George Gissing, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, Compton Mackinzie, Virginia Woolf, Anthony Powell, Iris Murdoch. And then Shakespeare and the incomparable Johnson and his Boswell.
If the physical city is burned, bombed, bulldozed and stripped of the past through urban renewal, the London of our imaginations endures rich and full. RE
Blackfriar's Bridge in 1896
Petticoat Lane in 1903
A rather amazing and nearly crystal-clear color motion picture of London in 1927.
A magic camera's futuristic visions on London in 1924
The Blitz, 1941
The victory celebrations of 1945
"Of all the seats in all theaters in the world, the best seat is at the front of the top of a London omnibus." -- Henry James
Driving the A13
A cruise on the Thames, 1983
The haunted London Underground
Marie writes: They call it "The Shard" and it's currently rising over London akin to Superman's Fortress of Solitude and dwarfing everything around it, especially St. Paul's in front. I assume those are pigeons flying over-head and not buzzards. Ie: not impressed, but that's me and why I'm glad I saw London before they started to totally ruin it.Known as the "London Bridge Tower" before they changed the name, when completed in 2012, it will be the tallest building in Europe and 45th highest in the world. It's already the second highest free-standing structure in the UK after the Emley Moor transmitting station. The Shard will stand 1,017 ft high and have 72 floors, plus another 15 radiator floors in the roof. It's been designed with an irregular triangular shape from base to top and will be covered entirely in glass. The tower was designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect best know for creating Paris's Pompidou Centre of modern art with Richard Rogers, and more recently the New York Times Tower. You can read an article about it at the Guardian. Here's the official website for The Shard. Photograph: Dan Kitwood.
From the Grand Poobah: Netflix is great, but they don't have everything and seem to be weak on silent films. Here's a pay site streaming a large and useful selection of high-quality films, world-wide....
Marie writes: when Roger told me about this place, I signed-up to see if I could watch one their free movies? Yup! I can stream MUBI in Canada; though content will vary depending on where you live (that's also case with Netflix Canada) and so nothing new there. And after looking through their current catalog, I can report that they do indeed have some rare movies - stuff I've never found anywhere else. I even read that Martin Scorcese is a member.
I don't watch too much television, but I definitely read too much on the Internet. I know this because just last week I read something about television and now I can't remember where I read it.* The writer was mock-complaining that TV isn't as mindless and undemanding a leisure activity as it used to be, ever since "The Sopranos." What with "The Wire" and "Mad Men" and "Deadwood" and "Breaking Bad" and "Dexter" and other non-old-network series, you actually have to pay attention to watch TV these days. (If you remember reading something along those lines, please send me the link.) No more just leaving the set on whenever you're home in order to drown out the voices. These shows require as much concentration (and more memory and commitment) than most feature films -- or perhaps (a closer comparison) modern novels.
A New York Times essay by A.O. Scott last weekend asked: "Are Films Bad, or Is TV Just Better?" Yes, it's a false dilemma (what does the quality of one have to do with the quality of the other?), but it's the kind of headline that catches the notice of the knee-jerk TV haters who are still stuck in the three-network "vast wasteland" of 1961. Scott wrote:
Ten years ago I was the emcee of my high school class reunion. This year I sat and watched. It was better this way. As I'd walked into the room I realized I knew almost everyone on first sight.
Now, as they passed in review, called up one by one, I saw a double image: The same person in 1960 and 2010. The same smile, the same gait, the same body language, the same eyes.
Marie writes: what do you get a man with a massive book collection who has artwork by Edward Lear and huge canvases by Gillian Ayres? What would a man with a Pulitzer and a Webby now renowned for the verbosity of his tweeting, like for his birthday? Much pondering went into answering that. Until suddenly a light-bulb went on above my head! (Click image.)Of course! It's so obvious - turn the Grand Poobah into a super hero! Super Critic: battling the forces of bad movies and championing the little guy, while tweeting where no critic has gone before! In the process, we'll get to see him wearing a red cape and blue tights. Perfect.Note: the artwork was done by Dave Fox of INTOON Productions. He makes personalized comic book covers and animation cels. Diane Kremmer, a long time friend and fellow artist, works and lives with Dave on Pender Island (one of the Gulf Islands off the coast of BC near Washington State.) I spent last weekend with them and took advantage of Dave's cartooning skills. I mention this because he did all the work. I just sat there and drank his wine. :-)