Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: emma stone

“Cruella” Success Sets Up Sequels for the “101 Dalmatians” Villainess

Cruella De Vil, the big budget Disney picture starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, debuted on May 28th and screams “Sequel” from the moment the last scene fades. Director Craig Gillespie has pulled out all the fashion stops on this one, and it shows.

In the last 23 hours, the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed those sequel suspicions, with these remarks:

“We are very pleased with Cruella’s box office success, in conjunction with its strong Disney+ Premier Access performance to date,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. “The film has been incredibly well received by audiences around the world, with a 97% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, in addition to A’s in every demographic from CinemaScore on opening weekend, ranking it among the most popular of our live-action re-imaginings. We look forward to a long run as audiences continue to enjoy this fantastic film.”

Emma Stone in Cruella (2021)   Everything I had read about the performances (Top Notch), the soundtrack (great), and the costuming (exceptionally great) was confirmed. There is even an acceptable backstory for how Cruella got so cruel, crafted by  Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly  Marsel and Steve Zissin.  My remark to my companion, as we left the theater, was that it was obvious there would be a sequel that would pick up where this film left off. And I was right.

Cruella is a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians and Walt Disney‘s 1961 animated film adaptation.

Unlike other films that have spun off from animated beginnings, this one seems to have more interest in developing sympathy for the devil that Cruella becomes (one of the many soundtrack choices from the Rolling Stones that is heard throughout the action). Audiences didn’t prefer the film versions of Disney offerings like “The Lion King” to the Disney animated pictures, but this one may be the exception to that rule. That song, by the way (“Sympathy for the Devil) released on November 1st, 1968, is but one of the many 70s punk songs like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,’” “Time of the Season,” “Whole Lotta’ Love,” “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” and on and on. The music is a large part of the success of the film.

COSTUMING & SETS

Cruella (2021)Emma Thompson in Cruella (2021)Cruella (2021)Emma Thompson in Cruella (2021)Emma Stone, Joel Fry, and Paul Walter Hauser in Cruella (2021)

So are the fashions and with a $200 million budget, you see some over-the-top fashions. “Screen Rant” reports that the film is far pricier than most Disney re-imagined fare. Cruella’s production budget is reportedly $200 million, making it a very expensive endeavor. That price tag is higher than other Disney live-action re-imaginings like Aladdin ($183 million)Beauty and the Beast ($160 million), and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ($185 million). Cruella’s budget is more in line with what one would expect from a tentpole comic book adaptation. Disney’s upcoming Black Widow also cost around $200 million to make.”

So, we have established that the soundtrack and costuming and make-up will scream “Oscar” in March.

What about the acting?

ACTING: Competent, as one would expect from the two Emmas (Stone and Thompson). Also doing good work are the supporting players, namely Joel Fry as Jasper and Paul Walter Hauser as Horace, with a stylish turn from John McRea as Artie and Billie Gadson as the 5-year-old Estella/Cruella. Mark Strong also has a pivotal role as John the valet, a role that reminds of something Stanley Tucci would play.

 

Joel Fry in Cruella (2021)Cruella (2021)

PLOT:

Set in 1970s London  amidst the emergence of the punk rock movement, Cruella traces the trajectory of Estella (Stone), and the tragedies and ecstasies that mark her formative years. Her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham) plays a seminal role in shaping her worldview. Despite being a loving and nurturing presence, Catherine often encourages Estella to “fit in” in order to stay out of trouble. Estella is viewed as somewhat different for her beautiful, black-and-white ombré hair and her  rebellious nature. As Estella defends herself in talking about the mother/daughter relationship, “It wasn’t her I was challenging; it was the world.”

As the film progresses, our heroine (Emma Stone) declares, “I want to make art, and I want to make trouble.” At first, she is constrained by her loving mother (Emily Beecham) from realizing her full potential in either field. The pair then begin a journey to London, where Estella hopes to become a fashion designer.

Derailed along the way by circumstances beyond their control (“Happy accidents can change the whole course of your life…Happy may not be the right word.”), Estella ends up living and working in an abandoned building, alongside a couple of childhood grifters straight out of a Dickens novel, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser).

Top cast

One of the fast friends, Jasper (Joel Fry) submits an application for Estella to work at the Liberty House Fashion Firm that she so admires. That opens the door to frustration, followed by eventual fame and fortune when the Baroness (Emma Thompson)—THE arbiter of fashion in the swinging 70s scene— sees Estella’s potential and hires her to be her assistant, ripping off her originality and vision at every turn while lording it over the rest of society.

Using fantastic settings like the Tower of London (yes, THAT Tower of London) doesn’t hurt the film at all. Gorgeous mansions and even more gorgeous gowns are a treat for the eye.

As the plot thickens, Estella realizes, “I’m not sweet Estella, try as I might. I’m Cruella. Born bad and a little bit mad.” She adds, “People do need a villain to believe in, so I’m happy to fit the bill.”

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Cruella in future films, and I hope the films are as entertaining as this one was.

“The Favourite:” Not MY Favorite

 “The Favourite” is nominated for 5 awards at the Golden Globes. It has another 76 wins and 204 nominations for other cinematic awards.
The excellent acting in “The Favourite” is  from all three of the principals: Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah Marlborough and Emma Stone as Abigail (Lady Sarah’s cousin) are 3 of its Golden Globe nominations. Also excellent is Nicholas Hoult as Harley. There are numerous nominations from various other competitions for Best Screenplay, Best Costumes, Best Make-Up, Best Direction, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Comedy/Drama, etc.
First, let me say that I knew “The Favourite” would be “different” in a weird way, because it was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed “The Lobster” with Colin Farrell (and Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman, again). That was one of the stranger films in recent memory, but it had some very funny moments.
I anticipated similar funny moments in “The Favourite” but this film is much less humorous. (I’ve appended some memorable lines from it.),
Second let me add that I have only now researched Anne, last of the Stuart rulers (1702-1714) to determine the film’s authenticity. Throughout the film I asked myself about the French/English  war in question. Only now, in looking up the history, did I find out that there was a difference of opinion about whether to fight the war on land (Rachel Weisz’s spouse, Lord Marlborough, was the head of land forces) or on sea. The movie also failed to mention a settlement in a war under Queen Anne that gave her something like 22% of a lucrative trade ferrying slaves. (Not P.C. enough?)
The information that Queen Anne gives in the script about having been pregnant 17 times: true. Only one child, a son, managed to live until 1700. Her failure to provide a male heir led to Queen Anne’s downfall as a monarch.
Third: The palace settings in “The Favourite” (Hatfield House in Hatfield, Hertfordshire) and costuming were phenomenally opulent. The costumes and make-up will be hard to beat at awards time. Add to that the sensitive acting by the three female leads and it is a film-lover’s film. Maybe not for the Marvel fans among us. Filmed on a $15 million dollar budget, it looks every penny of those millions.
STRANGE TOUCHES

“The Favourite” has used the credits in a weird way—presenting them like a cross-stitch at the end. It makes them hard to read. During the story various messages are displayed for the camera with odd statements like “This Mud Stinks,” “What An Outfit,” “A Minor Hitch,” “Stop Infection,” “Leave That I Like It,” “I Dreamt I Stabbed You in the Eye.” The plot does not unfurl as smoothly as that of some other films of this length (2 hours) and part of that is the presence of these weird markers. The title cards, displayed along the way are like the names of television episodes that we see on Netflix streaming services. Often, the phrase displayed will be a line of dialogue (“This mud stinks.”).
THE END
“The Favourite” really does not have a “concluded” feeling. It is a long movie (1 hr., 59 minutes) but it feels as though it (still) could go on for a while, to let us know exactly what the fate of Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and her soldier husband are. Instead, it just ends.
The musical background in “The Favourite” is monotonous and odd, with almost the sound of dripping water at times. It’s a bit like a beating heart. However, the musical selections are duly noted at film’s end. (Primarily classical).
One question that I still have: was the dance that Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) is shown doing in “The Favourite” with a  young man (which drives the Queen into a rage) a “real” dance of the time? It looked more like something from the Zoot Suit days than an early 18th century parlor dance. Likewise, the dance that Abigail and the Queen practice in her chamber.
NOTABLE QUOTES:
Here are some lines from the nominated screenplay for “The Favourite”scripted by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara:
“Love has its limits.”
“Sometimes a lady likes to have some fun.”
“I’ll make a killer of you yet.” (Lady Sarah, i.e., Rachel Weisz, to Abigail, i.e., Emma Stone)”
“I am a person of honor even if my station is not.” (Abigail)
“You are too sensitive.” (Lady Sarah to Queen Anne). “And you are too mean and uncaring.” (The Queen to Lady Sarah, her childhood friend become Lady of the Bedchamber and chief advisor.)
“There is no point winning a war abroad if losing one at home.”
“I’m on my side, always. Sometimes, it’s a happy coincidence for you.” (Abigail).

Opening Night of the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival on Oct. 13th

http://search.aol.com/aol/video?q=Valerie+Perrine&v_t=aolrt-ff

Claude LeLouch with interpreter.

Claude LeLouch with interpreter.

Now that I have your attention, may I mention that the lovely creature featured in the tribute above is the co-author of French director Claude LeLouch’s (2015) film “Un & Une?” You may recognize Valerie Perrine from her Oscar-nominated role as Honey Bruce, wife of Lenny Bruce, in the 1974 film “Lenny” or any of her many other film roles. She accompanied LeLouch to the opening night and is a lovely and vibrant 73-year-old (LeLouch is 79).

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of "La La Land" and "Whiplash."

Damien Chazelle, Writer/Director of “La La Land” and “Whiplash.”

The current hot director who attended the Opening Night of his film was Damien Chazelle, whose musical “La La Land” has been well-received virtually everywhere it has screened. In Venice, on August 31st, the opening sequence on a Los Angeles freeway received a standing ovation. Since then, the film has opened to kudos at Telluride and Toronto and Emma Stone won the Best Actress award for her role (She is being prominently mentioned as a Best Actress Oscar contender). The chemistry that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone displayed in “Crazy, Stupid Love” (he told her his signature move was the lift from “Dirty Dancing”) remains.

Michael Rooker

Michael Rooker

Another classic flick brought back to life for the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival was “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, an indie film directed by John McNaughton and starring Michael Rooker. The film premiered in Chicago in 1986 and has achieved cult status over the intervening 30 years. Rooker, himself, now 60, has gone on to appear in such films as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Days of Thunder” (1990), “The Bone Collector,” and as Merle in television’s “The Walking Dead.”

When McNaughton was asked his advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to make an independent film he said, “Ill give them the same advice my father gave me: become a dentist.”

Rosemarie DeWitt of "La La Land."

Rosemarie DeWitt of “La La Land.”

In addition to Writer/Director Chazelle of “La La Land”, actress Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Gosling’s older sister in the film, came to Chicago and her comments to me about the film were, “I think Damien made something very beautiful and very fresh that is going to make you very happy and maybe even make you cry.”

“Crazy, Stupid Love:” Who or What Is A Jonah Bobo and Why Has He Ruined This Movie

“Crazy, Stupid Love” is the latest Steve Carell vehicle, co-starring the uber-cool Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone—seemingly the ingénue flavor of the month. The tagline for the movie is: “This is stupid.” I couldn’t have said it better.

I saw this movie the day it opened, but waited to write about it until I figured out why it didn’t work that well. Two words: Jonah Bobo.

What? You don’t know what a “Jonah Bobo” is? To answer that question, he’s the child actor hired to play Carell’s son Robbie (age 13). The young man delivers his lines well. No question about that. He’s just wrong for the part. He looks like neither of his film parents (Julianne Moore & Steve Carell), has a haircut like a sheepdog, is short and—let’s face it—somewhat androgynous. The entire subplot revolving around Robbie’s (Jonah Bobo’s) huge crush on the 4-years-older Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) is made ridiculous by the lumpy kid who, in certain light, could be mistaken for a girl. He has a very Jewish kid look about him, while, to the best of my knowledge, neither of the onscreen parents would qualify in that department.

The other flawed part of the film, as written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, is the finale scene. I won’t spoil that by saying anything other than that it involves a miniature golf prop and the writers just didn’t know when to quit with that scene. Over-the-top just barely describes it.

The best parts of the film come when Julianne Moore as Carell’s wife asks for a divorce. Reason given? She slept with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). Carell is then taken under the wing of the womanizing Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) who dispenses wisdom on being cool like, “Don’t wear New Balance sneakers ever.” Upon meeting Carell in a bar, Jacob says, “I don’t know if I should help you or euthanize you. Do you have any idea when you lost it?” Carell’s character of Cal says, “A strong case can be made for 1984.”

The theme rammed down our throats throughout the movie is that “When you find the one, you never give up.” Like father, like son, in that regard…only the son (Jonah Bobo) really ruined it for me. Marisa Tomei has a small part as Robbie’s English teacher and my spouse considered her scenes among the movie’s strongest. I liked the Jake-teaches-Cal parts and hated the ending. Waaay too many coincidences and over-the-top clichés stuffed into that ending, boys.

It was just crazy. And stupid.

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