August: Osage County and This Year’s Top 10

August-Osage-County-movie-poster-2013-best-picture-oscarI’m somewhat baffled by the  response that August: Osage County has received by the critics. For me, it was the best film of the year, hands down. Better than Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and several great films that were released. August: Osage County is electric with extraordinary dialogue rendered by actors who understood every fiber of their characters. Not a single person in this film felt false. While I wish I’d seen the stage play – as I heard it was extraordinary – of course some things would be lost from paring down a 3 hour play to a 2 hour film. But Tracy Letts, the writer for both, won a Pulitzer for this work, and rightly so. His mix of deep pain, wry moments and comic asides is masterful throughout, and I found myself deeply moved.

The dinner scene in this film is far more scary and tense than any horror film, because we are watching people tear at each other without mercy with words rather than any sort of bludgeoning tool.

Indeed, the dialogue and sentences in this film sparkle with intelligence and wit. The claustrophobic nature of the farmhouse is expertly crafted given that it’s surrounded by acres of nothingness. It’s one of the only films this year that I’d like to see twice.

So, here goes my 2013 Top Ten Films:

1. August: Osage County

2. The Place Beyond The Pines, The Dallas Buyers Club – The follies of men, and their need for redemption are expertly captured in these two films.

3. The Way Way Back

4. 12 Years A Slave – A very difficult film to watch that was undone slightly by the late cameo appearance of Brad Pitt.

5. The Kings of Summer – The three boys in the film are wonderful to watch as they navigate their summer away from responsibility only to find how responsible they must be to each other.

6. Gravity – The first 17 minutes and the ambiguous ending elevated this film over the rest of the film, which was merely exciting from the first frame to the last.

7. Her, Before Midnight – two important films about relationships, love, letting go, and the future.

8. Captain Phillips – the last 45 minutes of this film is harrowing stuff and brilliantly acted by Tom Hanks, whom I’d given up on.

9. Fruitvale Station

10. Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis

So I really have a top 14 since there were ties and I didn’t want to leave them off the list. Caveat: I haven’t seen Nebraska or Short Term 12 yet, which are definitely on my to see list.

Worst film of the Year: The Wolf of Wall Street – an execrable waste of talent, money and time.

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The Power of Strategy and Story – School of Thought – The Next Big Thing

My friend and fellow writer, Andrea Jarrell, recently sent me a questionnaire about my next big writing project as a process of getting started and moving forward with our writing. It’s fall now, and I’ve begun to write again when I can’t sleep. And I’ve been reading some great books lately (The Absolutist, In Sunlight and In Shadow and The Light Between Oceans), listening to wonderful music, (Paul Buchanan, Ben Howard, The Head and the Heart, The Lumineers) and watching some fascinating movies (The Master). So things are percolating…

Here’s the questionnaire:

What is the working title of your book?
Eucalyptus

Where did the idea come from for the book?
So far, it’s the sequel to Airstreaming, which left off at a point of departure for the main character. I need to see where she goes.

What genre does your book fall under?
Literary Fiction | Women’s Fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Elizabeth Olsen with darker hair would play Linda. Matthew McConaughey would play Jack because I think he’ll reappear. But the McConaughey of late, because he’s doing far more interesting work than he was doing with Kate Hudson.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Linda sets off in her Airstream to discover who she is, and becomes enmeshed in the Los Angeles music scene during the 70’s.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’ve just begun the first draft of Eucalyptus, but it took 10 years to write the 1st draft of Airstreaming. I’m hoping that it won’t be near as long.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
My Antonia, Just Kids

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I have to find out what happens to Linda once she’s taken her independence and how life treats her. And I have to find out what happens to the Airstream trailer that is given her.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’ve always found the 70’s music scene in LA fascinating, but rarely written about, so from what I know having grown up in LA and aware of the music scene then, and what I’m researching, I’m hoping to make it just as fascinating for the reader. I love music, and I love writing women characters, so for me, it’s a win win.

Andrea Jarrell is a fine essayist, fiction writer and works as a communications strategist for many fine colleges and institutions across the nation. You can find Andrea’s fine blog here: http://www.andreajarrell.com/blog/