Brian Selznick (#110 of 3)

Cannes Film Review: Wonderstruck

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Cannes Film Review: Wonderstruck
Cannes Film Review: Wonderstruck

Full as it is with ideas from, and allusions to, Todd Haynes’s other films, Wonderstruck still represents the director’s most dispiriting work to date. This story of children finding themselves through their discovery of art and the past is adapted from Brian Selznick’s Y.A. novel of the same time, so it inevitably bares some resemblance to Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film Hugo, which was also a Selznick adaptation. But the better comparison, ludicrous as it sounds, is an entirely different Y.A. adaptation, one released the same year as Scorsese’s: the execrable Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Haynes, with a film light on dialogue and entirely too reliant on Carter Burwell’s impressive, ever-expanding and changing but nonetheless incessant score, draws on the hollow sentimentality of his premise rather than the emotional specificity of his characters’ engagement with the art and history that saves them.

Giving Shakespeare His Due Brian Selznick’s The Marvels

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Giving Shakespeare His Due: Brian Selznick’s The Marvels
Giving Shakespeare His Due: Brian Selznick’s The Marvels

In the middle of Brian Selznick’s newest picture book/novel hybrid, The Marvels, a young boy sneaks into a theater where he’s enraptured by a performance of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The play, one of the Bard’s late romances, is perhaps best remembered for its late-act feat of magic wherein a statue of queen Hermione, who had presumably died 16 years prior, comes to life only to be greeted by the repentant husband whose accusatory cries of adulterer had caused her death. “The play had left him strangely sad, even though he knew it was supposed to have a happy ending,” we’re told. It’s one of many moments in Selznick’s latest endeavor that feels indicative of the type of story we’re reading, as this is a stage-bound spectacle that depends on its own theatricality to craft a narrative about how families are made and unmade.

Just as George Méliès was at the heart of Selznick’s instant classic The Invention of Hugo Cabret, so does Shakespeare haunt these pages. It’s no surprise cross-dressing, mistaken identities, aimless young men, and a family tragedy are at the center of this centuries-spanning chronicle that begins in an all-too familiar Shakespearean scenario: a tempest at sea.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

Conventional wisdom suggested that adaptations of the biggest bestsellers would make up much of this year's shortlist—barring, perhaps, the sourly gynecidal Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its nightstick-in-the-naughty-hole vengeance. So it's something of a blessing that the 100-odd-page translations of Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, whose own wisdom is quite conventional indeed, weren't counted among those movies' recognized achievements. The best-known tome to see its adaptation make it into the final five is John le Carré's inimitable classic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, just one reason this category boasts one of the 2012 Oscar season's finest lineups. Since politics can never be ignored, it's worth noting that Tinker Tailor has an extra edge here considering nominee Peter Straughan's wife and co-writer, Bridget O'Connor, passed away before the film hit theaters. But then again, such a sad truth may be precisely what got the unsure hopeful over the nomination hump, and a second sympathy-boosted triumph doesn't seem likely.