Daily Read (5/3/16)

Someone is making The Catcher Was a Spy into a movie! Starring Paul Rudd! I haven’t actually read that book yet, but I read about Moe Berg in a different baseball-related book and his story was FASCINATING.

Oprah Winfrey will star in the movie based on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Amazon is doing a new Jack Ryan series starring . . . John Krasinksi? I’m not sure I’ve actually seen a Jack Ryan movie but that casting feels . . . different. I am intrigued.

I am also intrigued by The Lears, a comedic (?!) King Lear adaptation starring Bruce Dern and Anthony Michael Hall.

The movie based on Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, which is also Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, is now set to come out on October 21st.

Movie News: American Pastoral, Looking for Alaska, & More

Ewan McGregorEwan McGregor will star in American Pastoral.

Sarah Polley will adapt John Green’s Looking for Alaska for Paramount.

Ansel Elgort will star in biopic Van Cliburn, based on the biography by Howard Reich.

Lifetime is making a movie of Stephen King’s Big Driver, starring Maria Bello.

Zak Penn will be rewriting the script for the adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Melissa Benoist has been cast in The Longest Ride.

Warner Bros. has acquired Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist.

Trailer: August: Osage County

August: Osage CountyThanks to Yahoo! Movies, we’ve got our first full trailer for the big-screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County, and wow, this looks really good. The ridiculously star-studded cast includes Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor, and Misty Upham. The movie will be in theaters at Christmas.

Trailer: August: Osage County

August: Osage CountyHere’s the trailer for August: Osage County, adapted by Tracy Letts from her play of the same name and directed by John Wells. It has quite the all-star cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, and more.

Classics Club: Emma – 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow Version

This is the first version of Emma I ever saw – I was in high school when it came out and remember watching it with my parents – and I realized while rewatching it this week that it’s pretty much the default version in my head, especially when it comes to Miss Bates, Mr. Knightley, and Harriet. (An aside: I also discovered that Miss Bates is played by Emma Thompson’s sister. Who knew?) And I was delighted to also realize that it held up quite well, especially in light of the fact that these days I’m more likely to think or talk about Gwyneth Paltrow in the context of her ridiculous lifestyle newsletter rather of any serious acting. This version keeps the lively tone and pace of the book, and it’s visually gorgeous, with lots of flowers and decorations and rich fabrics. The score is lovely – it won an Oscar – and overall it’s a little jewel of a movie, if we’re willing to overlook Ewan McGregor’s unfortunate wig.

Paltrow’s portrayal of Emma here is nicely nuanced – she’s sweetly but deliberately contriving, a la Blair Waldorf, which I prefer to versions that make her more obliviously self-absorbed. She’s absolutely convinced that she’s right and that what she’s doing is in people’s best interests, but, of course, she’s usually completely wrong. But what I liked about this version was that it highlighted that, especially when it came to Harriet, Emma wasn’t just dim – she was doing what would make sense for someone of her own class, because her upbringing and society made her unable to really grasp the huge differences between her own situation and potential futures and Harriet’s more dire options.

Jeremy Northam plays my favorite version of Mr. Knightley so far; he’s mature without seeming stodgy, and is completely believable as the beloved landlord everyone asks for advice. The age difference between him and Emma is made very clear but not emphasized too much, and I really liked the way they obviously had a connection and cared deeply for each other from the beginning without seeming overly flirtatious at that point. The rest of the cast was good as well, and Alan Cumming as Mr. Elton was an unexpected (well, forgotten) delight.

But my favorite thing about this Emma is the opening. We open by looking at what seems to be the whole planet, but zoom in to see that it’s in fact Highbury and its residents painted on a blue background – and then we zoom out again to see that it’s not a planet but rather a small ball-shaped ornament that Emma is holding. I thought this was the perfect way to establish the world of the movie (and novel): for Emma and many of the characters, Highbury is effectively the entire world, and Emma is at the center of it and, at least at the beginning, treats her neighbors as her playthings, there for her amusement and manipulation.