Wednesday, September 15, 2021

My debut novel, "The Cypress Club"

Four years ago, I decided "for fun" to begin writing a work of fiction. I'd toyed with the idea for a while, having maintained this blog for close to six years by that point. There's no question I'd been influenced by my staunch attention to Meryl's film career, and to the characters she so poignantly portrayed. It was with this fascination that I set out on what I first expected to be a short story. Fast forward to today, and I'm thrilled to share that I've published my first novel, The Cypress Club. 

I'm sharing it on my blog because (aside from it being a great venue to shamelessly plug the book), like so many other stories on which I've speculated over the years, The Cypress Club includes a main character whom I'd love to see portrayed onscreen. Having dissected so many of Meryl and her contemporaries' performances over the past decade, I feel like I was armed with an understanding of how to portray a believable character from a certain generation. Betsy was fun to write about, as was the setting that surrounds her and the rest of her family. A brief synopsis:

Ben Apt has given up on the relationship his mother, Betsy, has never allowed them to have. School, career, his choice in boyfriends--she's always found an excuse to pull away. Pushed to reconcile by a deathbed request from his beloved grandmother, Ben accepts an invitation to visit his parents for their fortieth anniversary party. Destination: their new retirement home in the tony Cypress Club community of Palm Beach. 

Ben's efforts to reconnect are quickly tested when Betsy greets him. She's gone platinum. Her face looks. . . new. And instead of hashing things out with her son, she spends the weekend going to deceptive lengths to impress the other nouveau-riche Boomers in residence--whose greatest concern is where to enjoy a mimosa-soaked brunch after their first eighteen holes. 

As Ben struggles to navigate the minefield of the club's peculiar culture, greater secrets are revealed, until he's no longer sure whether reconciling with his mother will provide the peace he'd been seeking, or only serve to destroy the Apt family completely. 

The Cypress Club is by turns funny, irreverent, and heartbreaking. An often-satirical tale that explores the painful prospect of severing ties with a parent and invites readers to rethink what it means to live the American dream.

I'm not ashamed to admit that an early driving motivation to continue the drudgery required to actually complete, edit, and revise a novel was helped by the fantasy of it getting optioned for a film. If you can't dream it, no way it'll happen, right? That idea sort of waned as I got further into the process, and I was able to simply enjoy the craft, and the fun of daydreaming. Through all the work, I've gained a better understanding of how to go about writing quality future stories (which I've already begun). It's been a rewarding process beyond my expectations. I hope folks feel inclined to take a look. 

The novel is currently available pretty much anywhere books are sold online, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and many more. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Netflix releases teaser for "Don't Look Up"

 Netflix released its first official teaser for Adam McKay's upcoming film, Don't Look Up.

I told a friend I thought it was a bit underwhelming. I was hoping for a tad more of Meryl, and even the clip she was in was pretty basic, as if her character is mostly just going to be in the background. I don't believe that's the case. The editors likely just need to make this seem to people like something they'll want to see more of. Simply having all the cast members given a small chunk of screen time should be a good draw. 

Jonah Hill is sort of playing himself it seems, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. Looks funny. Cate Blanchett has perfectly channeled the creepy blonde conservative cable news anchor. Leo made me a little anxious too with the panting. Not a type of character we see from him often, so might end up being a nice vehicle for him. I don't see this being something Jennifer Lawrence gets a lot of critical praise for. Her role is just fine, not super interesting. Anxious to watch Mark Rylance. He's almost unrecognizable with the coiffed white hair and blazing teeth! Some additional stills released as well:

Looking forward to seeing more!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Results of poll #10

The results are in from last week's poll which asked "which Streep film or performance left you particularly disappointed." Below are the results:  

Not super surprising that The Prom came in #1. I think many of use were excited to see Meryl team up with Ryan Murphy. Her singing and acting were wonderful, and I still really like the soundtrack, but it just didn't pack the kind of punch we were hoping for. 

This might surprise a few readers, but I'm one of those who chose August: Osage County. For no other film role did I get as excited for a Streep performance than I was when I learned she and Julia Roberts were going to star in it. I had seen the play and adored it. And when confirmation of the film's production was delayed by over a year, I remember pining for it's possibility, much like I eventually did for The Good HouseMaster Class and The Nix. But August actually got made (with Meryl)! It was one of the most buzzed films and performances that I can remember leading up to the film festival and awards seasons. Yes, Streep had just won her third Oscar for The Iron Lady the year prior, but even with that "overdue" status, many thought Meryl's performance in August may end up being of the "undeniable" caliber, based on the written character and pedigree of Tracy Letts's play. 

Alas, while Streep did achieve an Oscar nomination (it's a remarkable performance in its own right), she  probably just sneaked in the top five that year. Moreover, reactions to the film were rather tepid compared to expectations. I agree with CJames in the comments section on last week's post, in that this film had so much potential to be outstanding, but was instead watered down and cut down to a subpar shell of its staged glory. Meryl's role included. In the hands of a different director perhaps, or from a different studio that didn't insist in shaving down the running time, we would've gotten a more thorough and therefore more compelling examination of the mighty Weston family. It's hard to overestimate the importance a film's success (mostly critically) is for its actors' chances at recognition. Had August been a film that captured the irresistible family dynamics and emotional tone of, say, Ordinary People, we might have gotten a true American classic, as well as a performance for the ages. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Poll #10: Which Streep film or performance left you particularly disappointed?

Now that I've rekindled the polls, I'm adding one that at first glance might seem a bit uncharacteristic for the tone of this blog. A commenter had suggested doing a poll of where "Meryl underperformed by public opinion." I think this isn't a bad idea to explore. As much as I'm consistently astounded by Streep's performances, there are definitely films that I've gotten supper jazzed about seeing, only to have my expectations not met. Whether it be the role itself, the quality of the film, critical or box office success, or (very rarely) how Meryl approached a certain aspect of the character, there have been times I wish I'd seen a different outcome. 

The below list is obviously not exhaustive. I just chose a number of films that weren't exactly unanimous gems. I'm sure some folks may choose something not on the list, or even one of her most lauded performances, for reasons that are special to them. I just like to hear the discussion. As in the last poll, I'll leave my answer for the results post next week. 

Fire away!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

"Don't Look Up" officially releases to Netflix on December 24

I guess we have confirmation, now that Netflix has tweeted its plan to release Adam McKay's film Don't Look Up on Christmas Eve:

The film will open its brief theatrical run on December 10, qualifying it for Oscar consideration. I'll likely try to see it in the theater if it's anywhere near Minneapolis.  If not, maybe I'll have some viewing plans to add to my busy holiday weekend. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Results of poll #9

Last week, I reinstated the poll tag on the blog! Folks made their choice in response to the question, "Besides 'Sophie's Choice,' what was Meryl's best screen performance?"

Below are the top five results:

1. Doubt

2. The Bridges of Madison County

3. The Devil Wears Prada

4. A Cry in the Dark

5. (tie) Adaptation, Silkwood

I have to admit, I'm a little surprised that Doubt came out on top. I'm certainly not complaining. I absolutely LOVE that movie and performance. I think a lot of people find Meryl's portrayal of Sister Aloysius a bit over the top. It might be a tad, but I think it's splendid. Bridges is an excellent choice too. I happened to select A Cry in the Dark. Her performance as a ordinary woman from Australia thrown into extraordinary circumstances was both mesmerizing and heartbreaking. And she did a wonderful job with a very difficult accent (I always love that). 

I'd be curious to know why other people chose what they did. And specifically which role those who selected "other" would've chosen?  Big Little Lies? I'm also surprised more people didn't choose Angels in America. The scenes as Ethel Rosenberg are probably top five for me in Meryl's career.

Any suggestions for the next poll?

Friday, August 13, 2021

"Don't Look Up" set to drop on Netflix on December 22

Film Updates tweeted on Wednesday that Don't Look Up is apparently going to be released to Netflix on Wednesday, December 22. 

I don't know for sure exactly how reliable this site is, but the folks on Awards Watch seem to think it might be legit. It seems like a perfectly reasonable date. I though a Wednesday may seem strange, but if they released it on the 24th instead two days later, its number would probably be lower because a lot of folks are likely going to be busy doing other things on Christmas Eve. We'll see if we get confirmation from Netflix. Knowing they're going to have a short-run theatrical release as well, it'll be interesting to see when that date is going to be, and in exactly how many cities it will actually play.