Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is there a party going on?

Yesterday we went to Hollywood and Highland to do the "stars on the pavement" thing - unfortunately a chunk of them were covered up and/or inaccessable because the whole of the front of the Kodak Theatre was under wraps, in preparation for the Oscars later today. So instead we watched lots of people with security passes rushing about doing stuff. It really is a major upheaval, but the buzz is undeniable. I'll post photos here once I get over the slight hitch of the laptop having gone completely beyond the reach of resusitation.

In lieu of photos, might as well do some predictions, since that's what hundreds of other bloggers are doing too. According to all the TV pundits and Oscar pre-shows on TV here (and there are many), some categories (Best Picture) have no obvious front runner, whilst others (Best Actress) are a foregone conclusion. We'll see. So:

Best Director:
- will win - Martin Scorsese. Everyone says so; it's his turn as he hasn't won before.
- want to win - Paul Greengrass. If it was just on this year's film alone, rather than the Academy making up for its previous omissions with a career best award for Marty, I'd go for Paul Greengrass and "United 93". Stunning, moving, great film-making. At least he got the BAFTA.

Best Actress:
- will win - Helen Mirren. Bookies stopped taking bets ages ago. She got the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and goodness knows what else. Plus she's been doing great press. The Oscar is hers.
- want to win - Judi Dench. Much as I loved Helen Mirren's performance, I thought Judi Dench's was the greater stretch. Although if Dame Helen doesn't win, I've lost a bet and therefore have to ring a certain someone and ask him out for dinner. I'm torn.

Best Actor:
- will win - Forest Whitaker. The Academy love actors who take on real people, plus it was a great performance.
- want to win - Peter O'Toole. Another great performance, plus I'm going with the emotional vote here. If it can go that way for Best Director, why not Best Actor? Although he might just sneak away with it on the basis that he too has been doing the press circuit out here, and there is a line of thought that says better give him the Oscar now (after 7 previous nominations) before it's too late.

Best Supporting Actress:
- will win - Jennifer Hudson. That's where all the smart money has been going.
- want to win - Abigail Breslin. I confess I haven't seen "Dreamgirls", but out of the four nominees I have seen, I loved this performance - sweet and funny and moving.

Best Supporting Actor:
- will win - Eddie Murphy. Again, all bets seem to be off.
- want to win - Alan Arkin. Because he was very rude and very funny.

Best Original Screenplay:
- will win - Michael Arndt won last night at the Independent Spirit Awards but I have no idea who the Academy will go for. I'd guess either Peter Morgan for "The Queen" or Iris Yamashita for "Letters from Iwo Jima".
- want to win - Peter Morgan.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
- will win - Patrick Marber for "Notes on a Scandal" although the "Children of Men" team might be in with a shout.
- want to win - Patrick Marber.

Best Picture:
- will win - this is the one that no-one will predict with any confidence. "Little Miss Sunshine" won at the Independent Spirit Awards last night, but is seen as too saccharine for the Academy, plus they rarely vote for comedies as Best Picture. "Babel" might get it, the same way as "Crash" got it last year, on the basis that it's an ambitious ensemble piece that "says something" about the world we live in. But audiences were split between people who thought it was pretentious tosh and people who loved it. I loved it. "The Departed" is said to be too violent for Oscar, and "The Queen" too small and parochial. Which might let "Letters from Iwo Jima" sneak in. I'm hedging my bets - it will either be "Babel" or "The Queen."
- want to win - "Babel".

And in only a few hours, we'll see just how wrong I can be!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Love from Los Angeles

Billy over at "Living the Romantic Comedy" says there's something doing the rounds right now in LA, laying everybody low. He may be right - I've been flat out with a stinking headache all day and still feel that "hung over after a migraine" fuzziness.

But, back to business - had a meeting on Tuesday with a producer I met in Cannes; great to see him again, we had a few projects to discuss and it looks like we might be able to work together, which is exciting. He's interested in the film poems project which is probably going to be my next short. We met at the Chateau Marmont, which is a fun place - it has a great vibe, Gena and I have done some good work there before now. We drove home along Sunset and then out through Beverley Hills to the Pacific Coast Highway which is probably my favourite road in the world. I think it says something about the psyche of California writers vs Brit writers - they have the PCH, we have the M1.

Yesterday we headed out to Neptune's Net, a great seafood place on the Malibu/Ventura County border, for calamari, shrimp and fries, then went to the beach; I paddled! In February! What's not to love about California? (OK, don't let's think about the traffic on the 405). Coming away from the Net, we saw a whale spouting, then at the beach we saw a pod of dolphins cavorting really close in - fantastic!

Spotted so far: Willem Dafoe (looking tired but rugged and handsome); Harry Connick Jr (very handsome, with eye contact - wanted him to say "hi, I'm Harry", so I could say "Hi, I'm Sally" - except he wouldn't have believed me); David Thewliss (v tall, messily spiky blond hair); Brittany Murphy looking cute in a little black hat; Melissa Rivers; Kevin Bacon; and possibly Jake Gyllenhaal although he was moving fast and we were concentrating on not running a binman over.

We have managed to get some work done, although it's hard to resist the urge to be a bit of a tourist - I think Saturday is going to be our big Hollywood tourists day, might even have some pictures of Oscar!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Goodbye Chicago

Am now in California, and have thawed out. Chicago was fabulous, but cold - three layers, a big coat, hat, gloves and scarf, and still feeling the wind blow - that cold. Yesterday I went out in T shirt and jeans, and my skin felt the sun - ahhh lovely!

Had a great day on Friday, walking miles and taking photos - the architecture of Chicago is endlessly fascinating. We started by going up the John Hancock Tower and taking pics from 94 storeys up:

Above: Navy Pier and part of downtown; below, Water Tower Square:

Perhaps not the place to go if you don't like heights!

We spent ages in the Prairie Avenue Bookshop (which was used as Simon Wyler's house in "The Lakehouse"), which specialises in archictecture and has a great atmosphere - and a big table and comfortable chairs where you can sit and read up on what you've just seen.

Back outside to Millenium Park and The Bean:

A large silver coffee bean (by Anish Kapoor) on top of Park Grill restaurant (which was Il Mare in "The Lake House") reflecting Michigan Avenue underneath the cap of snow.

On Saturday we spent the morning in the Art Institute of Chicago, (well worth a visit - good range of collections) and in the afternoon went to see Pinter's "Betrayal" at The Steppenwolf Theatre. It was a solid production, although the English accents were a little forced to my ears. Turned out we'd gone on the day of the post-show discussion, which was great fun - having chipped in once (with Stacie next to me whispering, "go on, you've got to say something") and thus identified myself as a Brit, I was asked for my opinion a couple of times on this and other Pinter plays! Hadn't considered myself an expert in the slightest but its amazing how much can be dredged up from the memory when you're representing your country, so to speak.

And that was Chicago, pretty much - next time I'll go when the weather's a bit friendlier, and stay for longer. It was great fun, despite the cold, and lovely to catch up with Stacie again - going to the theatre with a mate is so much better than going alone.

And today - LA!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sad news

I was very sad to read that Steven Pimlott died last week; a great loss for British theatre. He was responsible for some of the most moving and most thrilling nights I've had at the theatre. His "Hamlet" for the RSC in 2001 changed my life, it's as simple as that. I've never cried more at a play that at the end of "Master and Margarita" in Chichester, a fabulous adaptation (by Edward Kemp) of a novel that seemed to defy adaptation in its complexity, but which resulted in a physically adventurous and almost unbearably moving production. The same season had the Minerva Theatre containing "King Lear", and acting as merely the starting point for a "Doctor Faustus" that took over the centre of Chichester ending in the cathedral, a wonderfully inventive piece of community theatre mixing only 7 0r 8 professional actors with a cast and crew of hundreds of local people. He was sometimes criticised for placing too much emphasis on the political aspects or for being deliberately provocative, but that's what made him an interesting and thought-provoking director - you didn't come out of his plays saying "that was quite nice, wasn't it?" You came out talking, and thinking, for hours. After the marathon of a four hour "Hamlet" in Stratford all I could think was "I want to see it again - now!"

My sympathies to his family and loved ones - he will be very much missed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hello, Chicago

Holy cow, it's cold here. Painfully cold, it feels as if my ears have been bitten off. Not that my ears have ever been bitten off, but if they had, I imagine that this is what it might feel like. It's 7:56pm here in Chicago right now, 01:55am tomorrow in the UK, and I've been up since 5am today UK time - if that makes any sense at all - let's just say, I've been awake now for around 20 hours so if I make any spelling errors its hardly surprising. I reckon if I can only stay awake until 10pm, I'll be fine and jetlagless.

First impressions of Chicago - supercool. The buildings are fantastic, I want to take pictures of almost everything. And everyone is supernice. I forget how much better the attitude to customer service is here, on the whole.

And a quick news catch up - last Saturday did the acting workshop at Sheffield Theatres - fantastic. I was dreading it, but ending up having a brilliant day. Steve, the tutor/workshop leader, was great, got us (small group of 7) working really well together, and at 5pm we performed a play that had not existed at 10am. I learned a huge amount about the acting process, and about myself - any writer really should take an acting class, its a revelation.

Sunday was the Echoes screening - almost all the cast, almost none of the crew, and most of our supporters came. It was good to see people and to have a bit of a celebration. The cinema (Hyde Park Picturehouse, Leeds) is lovely, and aside from an initial glitch to do with sound levels, the screening went well. The film was well received, and I was hugely relieved to get to the end of the day with a positive feeling. And lots of hugs. Hugs are always good.

And now its time to go to my room and try not to fall asleep in front of a film.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Wanna see my play?

The performance of my submission for "Gone in Sixty Seconds", which was selected by the Brooklyn theatre and performed last summer, has now appeared online here. Scroll down the list to "The Hedge in Springtime". Unfortunately, I can't see it, I can only hear it, but it sounds funny and the audience laugh, which is good. My aim was to write something that actors could have fun with, and it sounds as if they do. If anyone can find a way to get me a copy I can see, I'd really appreciate it. I've done the whole "downloading the Xvid codec" thing, all to no avail.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Swings and roundabouts

Either life is too dull to blog about (I now have two boring low paid jobs, oh joy) or it gets interesting and I'm too busy to blog. Sudden burst of the latter last week.

I had a few meetings related to the producer side of my life, which were all good and promising; we're also gearing up for the cast/crew/investor screening of "Echoes" this weekend, which I'm looking forward to. Also went to a workshop at YAC, which was really good - a workshop every now and then to kickstart ideas is a really useful exercise, I think.

On the spur of the moment on Friday, I went over to Sheffield to see "As You Like It" at The Crucible, directed by Sam West, starring Eve Best and Sam Troughton (who sat next to me in the bar afterwards so I can now say I've sat next to Dr Who's grandson - cool!). As it was only the second preview, it seems unfair to do a proper review as no doubt refinements will be made, but actually there seems to be very little to refine. I really enjoyed it, even though AYLI isn't one of my favourite plays. Eve Best was fabulous, she has such an expressive face that she made the scenes where Ganymede makes Orlando woo "him" as Rosalind completely hilarious but also full of yearning; she and Sam Troughton had real chemistry. The set, designed by Katrina Lindsay, is beautifully simple, extending the stage as far as the back wall making it into a huge white box with almost no furnishings, except for a gorgeous moon and a solitary silver tree for the forest. Because the set goes so far back, sitting in the side block is a slight disadvantage but not massively so. In the second half I moved round to sit with Sam, Katrina, and Paul Arditti the sound designer, and had a better view, but I don't think you'd miss anything significant at the sides.

Then of course a sensible person wouldn't have stayed in the bar til midnight if they had a train to catch at 6:50 the next morning, but I never claimed to be sensible, and what's more I made the train. And had a little snooze. This month's NPA workshop was on formats and technology, and was very useful, althoguh I need to read up a bit more. Then to Sloane Square to meet Liz because we had the hot tickets of the season - The Seagull at the Royal Court, Christopher Hampton's new translation and adaptation of Chekhov, diretced by Ian Rickson and starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Mackenzie Crook and Chiwetal Ejiofor. Kristin Scott Thomas is perfect as Arkadina, self-absorbed, shallow and too interested in herself to really pay any attention to her son except when she thinks she should for appearances sake. With a roll of her eyes or a sigh she conveys exasperation and desperation, especially in her scenes with Chiwetal Ejiofor as Trigorin, who seems here ill at ease in the country, as if he doesn't know what he's doing there, with Arkadina, and wishes he hadn't got himself into the situation at all. Mackenzie Crook was physically just right as Konstantin, thin, gangly, almost consumptive, and consumed with passion at being so misunderstood. It's a perfectly balanced production, with the laughter covering the underlying sadness, fear and desperation. Katherine Parkinson as Masha also stood out, and Hildegard Bechtler's set, a crumbling Russian estate, was perfect. I'd say "go see this", but if you haven't got a ticket already, you'll have to queue for returns as it's completely sold out.

And now to the RSC website to check out tickets for the Ian McKellan "Seagull", plus Lear, plus Coriolanus (the last production in the old theatre), before my laptop conks out.