A trailer for a Sunday morning: “Miral”

Artist turned director Julian Schnabel managed to make a film about a man with one of the most terrifying illnesses I can imagine into a genuinely uplifting experience with 2007’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Now he takes on probably the most single most contentious issue in all of world politics, Israel-Palestine, in “Miral.”

Take a look at this French trailer for the English-language film, written by Palestinian-Italian journalist-author Rula Jebreal, adapting her own novel. “Miral” stars a slightly de-glammed Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire” and Arab-Israeli actress Hiam Abbass.

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” ran the risk of being a drippy in terms of being a bit of rather conventional arthouse fare/Oscar-bait, but he was quite adept at transcending that at every turn there. Let’s hope he and writer Jebreal — working in, or being translated into, English — pull off the same trick here.

Clearly, the film-makers are hoping for a large audience for “Miral.” Considering the subject matter and what looks like an honest but evenhanded treatment of the ultimate hot-button topic, I kind of hope they get it; I also hope all my Jewish relatives see it. I hate to say it, but too many people — and not only Jews — have allowed support for Israel to become translated into what I see as a near complete lack of awareness of the humanity of Palestinians.

H/t /Film. (I have to say I’m not sure I agree with Brad Brevet about the Tom Waits song at the end. Maybe it’s a bit of cultural stereotyping on my part, but when I think about the problems of a teenager in modern day Palestine/Israel, I don’t think of Waits’ bluesy tones, so popular among middle-aged ex-bohos in L.A. and New York.)

  

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Friday movie news dump: the first Salinger movie, the Sundance beat goes on, etc.

Hey folks. I’ve got a relatively limited amount of time today and, just to add to the drama, the usually excellent free wi-fi at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf slowed down today to a relative crawl for a time while I was researching this. Let’s see how much I can cover.

* Just as I was ready to wrap things up, we have a breaking story. As I sorta alluded to yesterday regarding J.D. Salinger, it’s inevitable his death will pave the way for some new films. It turns out I was, if anything, way behind the curve. Working screenwriter Shane Salerno — whose work, like the planned James Cameron-produced “Fantastic Voyage” remake, bends toward the geek — has been working on a documentary about the writer who became almost as famous for his escape from the public eye as for his actual work, and it’s apparently nearly completed. Mike Fleming has not only broken the news of the formerly under-wraps project, he’s seen most of the movie

* Of course, Sundance continues slogging away, and word of acquisitions by film distributors have been making their way round the usual spots. Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has news on the well-regarded “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. He also gives a quick nod to such other highish profile films as “The Tilman Story” (a documentary about the late Pat Tilman), “The Kids Are Alright” (not to be confused with the old rock-doc about the Who) and “Hesher,” a not very appealing sounding film that nevertheless has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead. The “Valentine” sale is of particular interesting as it was the troubled Weinstein Company that picked it up. Coincidentally, the company named for Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s parents, Mira and Max, has gone on the block.

miramax

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So, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” looks awesome

Many people are going to see this movie simply because it was Heath Ledger’s last role. That’s all well and good, but “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” has a lot more to offer. The film, which Terry Gilliam directed and co-wrote, began production in December of 2007 and was given a budget of $30 million. Over the years, Gilliam has gathered a worldwide recognition, and many fans have been eagerly awaiting this film, which is his first since 2005’s “Tideland.” Perhaps best known as the only American in Monty Python, he also directed their films “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “The Meaning of Life.” Gilliam later went on to direct such classics as “Brazil” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” After Ledger unexpectedly died, Gilliam and co-writer Charles McKeown made some changes to this script, which now had Ledger’s character going through physical transformations. Thus, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell were cast to play different versions of Ledger’s character. Outside of some entertaining comedies, it’s been a pretty dry year for movies. Thankfully, it looks like “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” won’t disappoint.

Oh, and Tom Waits plays the devil in it. Need I say more?

  

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Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy

It’s funny to think how vastly different Seth MacFarlane’s life would be right now had “Family Guy” not been revived from the dead. FOX would have never offered him a multi-million dollar development deal and a big chunk of their Sunday night primetime block, and he certainly wouldn’t have had the commercial backing from a company like Burger King to launch his own online series, “Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.” Unfortunately, if there’s any indication that MacFarlane might be losing his comedic edge, this is it. While the collection of animated shorts is presented in the same vein as the cutaways from “Family Guy,” they mostly just feel like B-sides that never made the final cut. There are a few really good ones in the group (Wile E. Coyote finds Jesus after finally killing the Road Runner, Mario’s advances are squashed by the Princess, and Bob Dylan gets into a mumble fight with Tom Waits and Popeye backstage at his concert), but a majority of them are only giggle worthy. The shorts themselves are pretty harmless on their own, but when viewed in one sitting, they don’t work quite as well. Plus, the idea of having to pay for something that you can watch for free online is a pretty ridiculous concept, so unless you pray at the altar of MacFarlane, you’d be better off watching it the way it was meant to be seen.

Click to buy “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy”

  

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Blossom: Seasons 1 & 2

Although “Blossom” is often viewed as a kitschy punch-line of early ‘90s television (“Tonight, on a very special ‘Blossom’”), the series actually contains some unique elements which make it surprisingly easy to respect its accomplishments. With that said, however, while most of the girls like to watch “Blossom,” only some of the boys do. And given that the first episode is all about the titular character getting her period for the first time, you can’t really blame the guys for that.

When “Blossom” premiered on NBC in 1991, Mayim Bialik had already done a fair amount of sitcom work (most notably on “Webster”), but she was riding on the high of having played the younger version of Bette Midler’s character in “Beaches” and ready to break out. Enter Don Reo, who provided her with the opportunity to play Blossom Russo, a teenage girl living with her father and two brothers. What was perhaps most exceptional about the series was Bialik herself: a girl who looked, dare I say it, real. She was cute, but she wasn’t gorgeous, which meant that you could imagine that guys would want to date her, but unlike a lot of teenage TV characters, you didn’t watch the show and find yourself thinking, “How can a girl who looks like this ever be without a date?” The character of Blossom was also an impressive tightrope walk, as she came across as a very original spirit (particularly with her sense of fashion) while still going through the same things that all teenage girls go through.

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