I can't stop thinking about Call Me By Your Name. I'm profoundly moved. It's a love story we've seen a million times; forbidden, new, confusing, fleeting, passionate, soulmate kind of stuff. But the way it unfolds and the acting, the Italian countryside and the quiet moments, make it feel like nothing I have ever experienced on film.
I have so many questions. Was Timothee Chalamet chosen because of his natural idiosyncratic nature or was this an artistic approach he worked on with the director? These idiosyncrasies permeate everyone else: The quirky and subtle behavior - the father hopping to the dinner table or "mock" blowing smoke into the air with his wife, Oliver falling into the pool in the middle of a conversation and auditory and visual clues into this world - the fish caught for dinner (fish out of water), the fly that hovers around Elio like he is a sweet piece of fruit - a reflection of the sensuality of the peaches and apricot juice he's surrounded by in the vineyards and meals, and the door slamming in the hallway with the wind. I had no idea what that sound was for a whole scene (and later, the door slamming shut when they are trying to be secretive). It's 1983 and no one is connected to technology, only to each other and the Italian countryside. They spend their time reading, playing piano, dancing, laying out in the sun, dreaming, studying ancient Greek statues, having sex, and thinking and falling in love. It was a beautiful treat to be immersed in a world like that and one I was a part of until Facebook and smartphones came along (Armie Hammer said if the story had been set in modern times, Elio and Oliver never would have gotten together because they would be too engrossed in their online social lives).
The second time I saw it, the theater was full and people laughed at all the little joyous, beautiful, silly moments (Elio throwing the peach pits onto the floor, or when he mumbles things under his breath). What about the unexpected love and compassion of Elio's parents? It wasn't a "coming out" trauma. The mystery and ambiguity of their sexuality creates another layer - maybe Elio is gay, or bisexual or maybe he is never with a man again. We can guess about Oliver but don't know (I haven't read the book) and the fact that it doesn't matter because it's just about love. And the music. All of the music, from the piano score to Sufjan Stevens to Psychedelic Furs. And the dialogue/scene when Elio tells Oliver, without any specific words, how he feels. I was a little confused the first time I saw this scene, because it was so stripped down and all about allusion and tone and speaking without saying the words. It's so brilliant. I wish I wrote and directed it. I want to make something that moves people like this, that captures unspoken beauty and time and "moment." It was slow and easy, like that Italian summer. You could breathe. I haven't been this moved and felt so much in a long time. And the love...it made me feel so much. Thank you Luca Guadagnino, for taking my breath away.
I attended the PEN Center Literary Awards at the "Pretty Woman" Hotel in LA (Beverly Wilshire).Oh what a night! I finished Janet Mock's Redefining Realness and just started Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (we received free books of all the nominees!). And Margaret Atwood received the Lifetime Achievement Award!
I had the pleasure of working as Production Designer on a short film called Spanko, written, directed and starring Melanie Zoey Weinstein in September here in Los Angeles. It was an awesome experience and the crew were so great to work with. Spanko is getting ready for festival submissions. I saw a cut and I can't wait for everyone else to see it soon.
This shot is from a fantasy scene where I created a "goddess tent."
Last April (time flies in Los Angeles, without seasons I can't keep track of when things happened!) I was asked to do a screenwriting workshop with high school students from various high schools near the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine, at Bates College (they even provided my plane ticket!).
It was truly a pleasure to share my passion for screenwriting with students who have just as much passion. They were insightful, engaged, immensely creative and supportive of each other. Don't worry about the future; the kids are gonna be alright.
I remember seeing the original Disney animated Beauty and the Beast as a kid, but I can’t say it was my favorite. I was more into Batman and Jurassic Park. My sister and I didn’t recite lines from it the way we did with Aladdin, but we knew all the songs, and even performed a stage version for one of our dance recitals.
On a whim one afternoon I went and saw this new Beauty and the Beast in the theater and I was surprised by how entranced I became. It was magical. People in the theater cried. Full of heart, gorgeous visuals, and a celebration of the original, Beauty and the Beast represents all the best reasons we love going to the movies. I’ve now seen it four times, along with thousands of other theater-goers, helping to make it The Highest Grossing PG Film Ever in the U.S.
Did this “tale as old as time” speak to you? Here are 7 ways Beauty and the Beast tugs at our heartstrings.
1. It was filmed to closely match the original
Experiencing deja vu? I was delighted to find the film didn’t stray far from the original animated version. The pacing, visuals and songs were nearly identical. Even though I hadn’t seen the original in more than a decade, it was like visiting an old friend and slipping into a familiar space. In fact, the trailer is a shot-by-shot remake.
Watch this side-by-side comparison:
2. Emma Watson as Belle.
Belle isn’t a princess, as she makes note in the movie. She’s the nerdy, book-worm in a town too small for an ambitious young woman of the world. A feminist of her time, Belle is played by self-proclaimed feminist Emma Watson, who has spoken on issues of feminism for the UN and elsewhere, even winning the first “genderless” acting award at the MTV Movie Awards.
3. The Visuals
Director of Photography, Tobias Schliessler, filmed on extensive practical sets built on soundstages in and around London, England. Even Belle and her father’s fictional town of Villeneuve, built on Shepperton’s largest set, is based on the real village of Conques in southern France.
The costumes, hair and makeup and set design were inspired by the original movie and by 18th century France. I noticed they used gold hues throughout the film; the gold on the ceiling that becomes a part of Belle’s classic yellow ballroom gown and to match Lumiere and Cogsworth’s metallic bodies. And who doesn’t love seeing the real life glowing rose in a svaroski crystal case?
4. John Legend and Ariana Grande
John Legend and Ariana Grande (known for her impressions of Celine Dion), tackle the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ song, originally performed by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. With 82 million views, it’s become a hit within its own right. You can view the new version and the original below.
5. Dan Stevens as the Beast
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen Downton Abbey, stop reading now.
When our most beloved Downton Abbey gentleman, Matthew Crawley, died in a car crash (as a way to end his contract), leaving Lady Mary without her soulmate, we were crushed. How would we go on? Seeing Dan Stevens reach new success as the Beast almost makes up for Matthew Crawley’s death. Almost.
Apparently, I wasn’t paying attention the first time I saw the film, because I didn’t recognize him at all!
7. The Supporting Cast
What do Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Professor Sybil Trelawney all have in common? “They can sing, they can dance, after all miss, this is France!”
Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci play castle servants who become household objects after a curse is placed upon them. Hearing these recognizable voices adds to their roles. Seeing them in human form again at the end, in a hilarious but sentimental conclusion, will make even the coldest of hearts warm. Need a tissue? I think we all have a little something in our eyes.
The Poet has won the Audience Award for Best Horror Short at the SENE Film Festival in Providence, RI! Thank you audience!
The Poet is an official selection at SENE in Providence, Rhode Island Friday, April 28th. More details as they come!
The Poet (director's cut) won Best Narrative Short Film at the Noosa International Film Fest in Queensland, Australia! It was a wonderful surprise! The people at Noosa have been so gracious and kind to us. Unfortunately we couldn't attend, but I sent them an acceptance video and they sent me the award--and a fancy scarf just like Drake the vampire would wear! Thank you, Noosa!
Today marks 7 weeks since I moved to LA! It's been a whirlwind. I have no sense of time. The seasons don't change so I feel like I'm in perpetual summer (not my favorite season).
I took a train across the country from Maine! I've road-tripped across the country several times and flown, but never gone by train! I made a short 3 minute video about my trip, filmed on my phone, nothing fancy. I highly recommend taking the train, at least once. It's a great way to see back country areas away from highways. I got a sleeper and was very comfortable--and it only takes 3 days!
I've been to LA before, but it had been a while and I didn't get to see everything. I've been trying to see as many things as I can. Here's an assortment of the sights.
May has been an incredible month. I am so honored to have been a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards for my short script "Motherbird" and to have received Honorable Mention as Best Maine Filmmaker in the Portland Phoenix Best Of Awards. Thank you to everyone who voted and to the MWPA for considering my script. I am truly grateful for every moment. Beyond words.