Friday, November 30, 2007

Haynes HIS Way: The touch, the feel, of Dylan

He’s been spinning through awards season like a rolling stone, but director Todd Haynes left the Hollywood hoopla for Paris, France to present his critically acclaimed Dylan biopic “I’m Not There.” The Dylan biopic, which recently nabbed four 2008 Independent Spirit Award nominations, will screen as part of a retrospective of Haynes’ work during independent film festival Les Rencontres Cinematographiques organized by the city’s Forum des Images. (and during which, yours truly is a member of the prestigious Jury) Haynes sat down with me to talk about the film’s success, working with an A-list cast and how to get Bob Dylan drunk enough to finally sit down and watch his movie.

“I’m never reluctant to come to Paris,” Haynes said, wearing a sweater and jeans and sipping un café in a boutique hotel in Paris’ très chic Le Marais district. He looked very relaxed for a man whose film may quite possibly be in the running for every major prize as awards season gets underway.
But let’s cut to the chase, the question we’ve all been waiting for … drum roll please… will the film’s most buzzed about star Cate Blanchett, be nominated in the “Best Actress” or “Best Supporting Actress” category should she be nominated for an Academy Award? “I really don’t know,” Haynes said. Oh, come on Todd, stop playing it “Safe” (that was a reference to the helmer’s 1995 film of course) – give us the scoop! “A campaign for Cate in the ‘Best Actress’ category would bring a lot of attention to the film as a whole,” he explained, but, based on the film’s recent success, “That’s not necessary.” “I’m proud of the performance no matter how it’s categorized,” Haynes said. While some may say that Cate has “outgrown the supporting actress category,” Haynes told me: “It’s Cate Blanchett. She’ll always be someone of note and it’s all good for the film,”
Haynes also emphasized the fact that “I’m Not There” “is really an ensemble piece” but added that he’s not surprised Blanchett’s performance has been highlighted: “Jude is the central performance in my film. It’s Dylan’s star turn, Dylan’s electric period. He’s the most famous of all the Dylans in the movie. And Cate Blanchett is extraordinary in the role.”
However, Haynes added: “I’m so proud of all the actors in the film.” Including – bien sur! – Gallic actress Charlotte Gainsbourg who plays Dylan’s wife Claire in the film. “Charlotte was the only actor I thought of while writing the script,” Haynes said of the “composite character, who is really a mix of several women.” But was the half-anglophone daughter of Jane Birkin who speaks perfect English “French” enough for the role? “I wanted her to be more French,” Dylan admitted, “I told her to put on the French accent.”
Gainsbourg is a big star in her native country, not unlike the other members of the A-list cast – Heath Ledger, Julianne Moore, Richard Gere and co. So how did these big stars feel about not being alone in the spotlight for a change? “They’re all big stars but they were all up for the challenge of such an unprecedented, experimental approach to a film. They all jumped in whole, they were all just so with me. They’re all true artists,” Haynes said. Not to mention, “These actors all worked for nothing. They basically paid me to be in the movie,” Haynes added, laughing.
While filming went smoothly, Haynes said that money to fund such an ambitious project wasn’t exactly “blowin’ in the wind. “American films over the past few years – specifically those made by the major studios – have been fairly risk-averse. It’s hard to get things like this financed,” he said. “Audiences really are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. If you give them crap, they’ll eat crap. But this film has really covered a whole range of venues and audiences.”
However, despite the wide critical acclaim and strong box office stateside, the iconic musical legend and subject of Haynes’ film has yet to see the finished work. “Hopefully he’ll see the film. But it’s hard to be Bob Dylan and sit and look at yourself everywhere. He’s always kind of on the run from himself. I hope he’ll be able to sense a lightness and sense of humor the film has, not just the over-worship he’s used to.”
Haynes laughed. “I don’t know if it’ll take an Oscar or just a couple of brandies to get him to watch it.”

Culinary genius of the day: Pierre Hermé

I always thought ambrosia – the Greek “nectar of the gods” – was a myth. How could anything possibly taste so scintillatingly delicious? It had to have been just a page from Zeus’ book of lies. And then I wandered into Pierre Herme, tasted his famous macarons and had what can only be described as a culinary orgasm. Yes, I admit. I’ve lived in Paris for over three years and just tried Pierre Herme macarons a few days ago. Why, you may ask? Because I have been loyal to La Durée and couldn’t possibly imagine anything better. They say you always remember your first time, and I certainly do. It was a cold winter night and I will never forget wrapping my lips around that hard …. cookie shell and decadently soft filling. It was a “green tea and chesnut”-flavored macaron, a brassy gold on the outside and a green circle surrounded by light brown chesnut filling around it. It was a cacophony of flavors entertaining my tongue and waking up my taste buds. I had to do it again. I tried “vanilla and olive oil” – ostensibly a horrible combo, but actually quite good – and rose-flavored, which made La Durée’s version of the flower-flavored cookie taste far less blooming. And those are just the macarons… The desserts themselves look almost too beautiful to eat. I said, ALMOST. The vanilla millefeuille is just that – “one thousand sheets” of pastry goodness filled with a light yet amazingly flavorful vanilla cream. Pierre’s (yes, Pierre – I feel we should be on a first-name basis, don’t you?) desserts are, as we used to describe my grandmother’s matzoh ball soup “so light and fluffy,” They are calorie-ridden sins disguised as light bites from heaven. Try a bite-sized or full-sized macaron, some of the pastry master’s famous chocolates, millefeuilles or perhaps even an “ispahan” – featuring rose-flavored macarons, cream of rose petals, whole raspberries and litchi – and you will not be sorry, I promise. And, if I thought my neighbor hood was “dangerous” before (see: hundreds of fabulous boutiques tempting me at every turn), with a shop on the rue Bonaparte, my life – or more specifically my health – and wallet – Herme’s treats aren’t exactly a steal – are at risk.

Quote of the Day (or “Why Gertrude Stein is my hero”):
““It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
-Gertrude Stein

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What do Tom Cruise, George Bush and I have in common?

Not much actually (well, Tom's high school guidance counselor was my high school chemistry teacher and come on, who hasn't sung "Old Time Rock and Roll" in only a tshirt? But I think the similarities end there.) However, Tom, George and I are all featured in this video clip from TPS' "StarMag" about the recent Hollywood "franchise" of Iraq war movies:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

French Literary Snobs, Princesses and Pumpkins

La Fleur à la Flore

Nov. 7, 2007. It was the epitome of the French hipster chic intellectual Parisian literary and media snob scene. Lanky girls with bangs and flowy dresses mixing funky music on stage as Gallic author/ modern-day dandy Frederic Beigbeder slammed prose by Proust and chic men and women smoking cigarettes, sipping champagne and snacking on mini croque-monsieurs shook their moves (or lack thereof) on the dance floor of the legendary hub of international intellectuals, the Café de Flore. This image is immortalized every year at the annual Prix de Flore, a French literary prize founded in 1994 which aims to reward young writers judged by a panel of prestigious writers and journalists. The nominated books must be written in French, but the author doesn’t have to be French (there’s hope for moi just yet!) The winner gets not only the respect of everyone in the room, but also a free glass of Pouilly-Fumé at the Café de Flore for all eternity (or at least until death do him or her part) and 6,100 euros. This year, Belgian author Amélie Nothomb took the coveted prize for her 16th novel in 16 years “Ni d’Eve, ni d’Adam” (in English: “Neither Eve nor Adam”) about a young woman in her early 20s who has a relationship with a young Japanese man. Justice was certainly served for the occasion – no, I haven’t actually read Nothomb’s book, but – literally – Justice was there! The Gallic electro house duo made a surprise appearance! Apparently they ARE our friends! (that was a reference to their hit club tune “We Are Your Friends” for all of you allergic to the club scene.) Journalist and writer Nicolas Rey told the crowd “I am a writer who doesn’t write, it’s better that way.” The lovely waiters of the Flore made sure that no champagne glass went unfilled the entire night (or mine at least!) and I think I may have broken the world record for most mini croque-monsieurs consumed in a 3-hour period. (Unfortunately, I get neither 6100 euros nor unlimited Pouilly-Fumé for such a feat.) But a good time was had by all (and by “all” I of course mean modern French literary talents and a few TV personalities sprinkled among the mostly Germanopratin crowd.) So “Neither Eve, nor Adam” were there, but it was definitely a sinful evening nonetheless.

Movie of the Week: ENCHANTED

An appropriate title for Disney’s latest cinematic voyage into the land of happily ever afters because I truly was “enchanted.”
The story is this: “Once Upon a Time…” (like the film’s French title “Il était une fois…) a princess who believes in true love and a perfect cookie cutter prince charming who really exists somewhere out there is banished to New York City by an evil queen and meets a real man. But can her storybox view of romance survive in the real world? I know what you’re thinking – Disney stole my life story and made a movie about it, right? Well I’m not aware of any evil queens (although a few French girls I know certainly fit that description), that’s pretty much the situation over here in a nutshell (no this is the situation over here in a nutshell – help, I’m in a nutshell. How did I get in this nutshell? What a shell for a nut! Apologies for the poor Austin Powers reference). The princess who believes in true love (me of course.) …the perfect cookie cutter prince charming (haven’t quite cast this one in the giant film of my life but I’m thinking along the lines of Louis Garrel or Andy Gillet – thoughts?)…the real man (well of course there aren’t any of THOSE in Paris, France and Dr McDreamy is already taken in the Disney version so that leave limited options here)…and the big city (Paris) filled with cynical people (Parisians) who don’t believe in the power of true love. But enough about me…”Enchanted” is enchanting. It’s all the magic of Walt Disney catapulted into modern day New York. There are singing forest creatures, wicked witches, prince charmings on horseback and poisonous apples but in this version, there are also rats and cockroaches, bitchy businesswomen, divorce lawyers and pizza. Amy Adams plays the naïve Giselle whose whiny voice finds a perfect home in Disney animation and Patrick “Dr. McDreamy” Dempsey her knight in shining…divorce lawyer armor. The story is completely implausible and ridiculous – be prepared to evoke those wild imaginations of yours – but also absolutely enjoyable and entertaining as well. It’s a film for children – Disney movies were all so scary when I was young, but this film definitely earns its PG rating – and for parents (and any childless adults lucky enough to have an excuse to go and see it such as yours truly). The humor is simple and unpretentious, yet also subtle and witty at the same time. It’s a movie for every princess who still believes her prince charming is out there somewhere- even if, as Giselle discovers, he may not necessarily be the perfect cookie cutter, sword-bearing knight on horseback she’s envisioned since childhood. After seeing so many important yet disconcerting films about the war in Iraq this season, thank you Disney for reminding me of the power of true love and happily ever afters.

While we're on the topic of princesses and pumpkins...


Roast turkey. Gravy. Stuffing. (Three different kinds of) sweet potatoes. Corn Bread. Cranberry sauce. Broccolini. Asparagus and beets. Butternut squash soup with toasted pecans and gruyere. Cranberry bread. Pumpkin seed bread. Pumpkin cake. Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie. Apple crisp. Toffee cake. Whipped cream. All topped off by my entire extended family. Vive les pilgrims!

Quote of the day:
“To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.”
-Gertrude Stein

Monday, November 05, 2007


Voilà! A Clip from TPS' entertainment show StarMag featuring ... moi talking about the strike threat in Hollywood. (I realize that as of today it's no longer just a threat but it was when I filmed this segment.) Enjoy!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"OOOH OUI!" : Mark Ronson in Paris

"OH MY G-D!" Mark Ronson in Paris for the first time -- "oooooh OUI"! (sorry his songs are just asking for pun-tification.)
The "toxic" music producer turned superstar came to the city of lights for a concert at the Elysées Montmartre on Friday night. Ronson, dressed in a dapper dark suit, played his classic tunes -- "Toxic," "Stop Me," "Valerie" etc -- and surprised concertgoers with an appearance from the very talented Sean Lennon. Ronson and Lennon played a cover of Stevie Wonder's cover of the classic Beatles' hit "We Can work it Out" - very cool. Lennon also played a song from his album "Parachute" that he recently recorded with popular French chanteur M. (Mathieu Chedid, aka Mr. Audrey Tautou) which blew me away. After the show, the Markster enjoyed perusing the new PLAYBOY France ... and hanging out with yours truly.

Restaurant of the Day: L'Hôtel Amour

What do you get when a chic hotel meets one of the world's most loved nightcrawlers? The aptly titled "Love Hotel" of course.
Welcome to L'Hôtel Amour where the oh-so-chic Costes family meets (or rather, makes sweet love to) king of the hipster chic Parisian scene André. As its name implies, the establishment caters to French lovers in need of a quickie before or after - or during - dinner and rents rooms by the hour. You can even stay the night, the week, the month if you'd like. The popular Montmartre haunt also serves as a fun, laid-back restaurant. The food and drinks are well-priced - even poor journalists like moi can enjoy the fare worry-free - and, while the food is not earthshatteringly delicious, it's definitely, as they say here, a "bon rapport qualité prix." I recommend the Ceasar salad with grilled chicken, one of the best I've had in Paris (that's not saying much I realize, but it's good!), the mac n'cheese (well technically it's pasta with bechamel sauce and comté cheese, but what did you expect Kraft Cheddar?) and, for smaller appetites, the "assiette verte." I also recommend the "Who's Your Daddy?" wine. The Hotel Amour is unpretentious, the service is friendly and efficient, but I recommend reserving a table if you plan to eat anytime between the hours of 8 pm and 1 am since it gets packed. Usually filled with hipster chic Parisians on their way to le Baron. Bon app!

Soundtrack of the Day: "Into the Wild" from Eddie Vedder. Vedder is back (pearl) jamming his way through the heart of America with this incredible music accompaniment to an incredible film.

Lyric of the Day: "Love is like an aero plane
You jump and then you pray
The lucky ones remain
In the clouds for days
If life is just a stage
Let's put on the best show
And let everyone know"
-Sean Lennon, "Parachute"