A little over a year ago I was in London. I went to the legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott’s. At one point during a jam session a young Russian man in a thick coat and scarf (despite the warm weather) ran up on stage, blew his alto like it was nobody’s business, then promptly disappeared despite calls for more. I knew that if I had a crew with me and access to that man’s life I’d have the winner at next year’s Sundance.

There’s something wonderfully cinematic about a musician’s life. If they are any good, they are usually half in our world and half in their own. Yet they are fluent in another language. Plus, unless they are playing the ukelele, they look really cool.

Here are eight of my favorite movies about musicians that aren’t as well-known as they should be. Once isn’t on the list. I’m assuming you saw that already. But if you saw the headline and were hoping to see a clip to that masterpiece, here’s the “When Your Mind’s Made Up” recording scene, which ranks alongside the final 45 minutes of Avengers as the most exhilarating piece of cinema from the last ten years. Read More »

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One of the best films of the past year was Todd Haynes‘ new version of Mildred Pierce for HBO. It’s actually a mini-series, but what the hell: the boundaries between film and TV are dropping like the Berlin Wall, so let’s call Mildred Pierce a movie. It’s a great one that continues Haynes’ unblemished run of ambitious, interesting films. (Even when I’m not an unabashed fan of one of his films, as is the case with Velvet Goldmine, I can’t deny that the film is worth watching.)

And now Todd Haynes is getting set to make another film for HBO: an adaptation of Sara Gran‘s novel Dope. Circling the lead role is Julianne Moore. If this works out it’ll be the fourth project for the pair, who have previously worked together on Safe, Far From Heaven and I’m Not There. Read More »

To kick off 2011, HBO is premiering two huge star-studded events. On February 12, they have The Sunset Limited starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones about two men brought together by extraordinary circumstances who debate the ins and outs of life. It’s based on a play by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men). Then on March 27, director Todd Haynes tackles the Depression era story Mildred Pierce with Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, Guy Pierce, Melissa Leo, Hope Davis and Evan Rachel Wood. It chronicles a single-mother’s attempts to win back her daughter’s love and is based on a 1941 novel by James M. Cain.

Check out multiple trailers for each of these HBO movies after the jump. Read More »

mildred-pierce-cast

I’m excited about the upcoming version of Mildred Pierce to be directed by Todd Haynes. Already set to star Kate Winslet in the title role, the HBO mini-series has just added a couple more good names: Guy Pearce and Evan Rachel Wood. Sure, Wood’s career has been spotty, but there’s something that suggests she can do a lot more than what we’ve seen her manage recently. I really liked her in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, for example.

The obvious guess is that Pearce will play the husband from whom Mildred Pierce splits and that Wood will play their daughter. But that’s unconfirmed for now. [Production Weekly]

After the break, it’s buddy comedy time again, and the Hugh Laurie/Catherine Keener indie gets another cast member. Read More »

This is really just confirmation of a story that broke last August: director Todd Haynes is adapting the classic James M. Cain novel Mildred Pierce into a television mini series starring Kate Winslet. That’s the old news. The new stuff, which confirms speculation from last summer, is that HBO has bought into the project and will broadcast the eventual result, which Haynes will begin shooting in April.

This is awesome news. Most should know the 1945 movie version of the book at least by reputation — it’s among the most iconic Joan Crawford roles, and the one which won her an Oscar.

But the film simplified the novel’s plot, contracted the timeline, cut out plenty of sex and skewed the whole thing to be more of a thriller. All reasonable — do whatever you want to a novel when adapting, as long as the result is good — and very much in keeping with trends at the time. But given five hours to play with, there’s ample reason to expect Haynes to be a lot more faithful to the original text. Far From Heaven proved he has total control over melodrama; this is one I can’t wait to see. [Variety]

Kate Winslet is Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce

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[Safe] and Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes is moving to television for his next project, a mini-series adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic noir novel Mildred Pierce. He’s given Kate Winslet the nod to take the title role, a woman struggling to survive the depression and protect her daughter amidst a complex set of betrayals and even murder. It’s the character that gave Joan Crawford her only Best Actress Oscar win, courtesy of Michael Curtiz’ truly splendid 1945 feature film.

Curtiz and his screenwriters Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner and Catherine Turney took a number of creative liberties with Cain’s novel, most notably changing its entire structure and set-up. Unlike the linear novel, the film recounts the story in flashback after Mildred Pierce has been arrested on suspicion of murder. It works quite wonderfully, and definitely creates even more of a sweaty and desperate tone than the novel has, and I’m very curious to see if Haynes will, or even can, adopt the same strategy. Personally, I’m hoping he returns to the chronological ordering of the novel and lets the pressure build steadily. I can see him doing a bent-out-of-shape soap like that quite superbly.

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