Won in Translation?
When North Korean President Kim Jong-il tested a nuke last month, Nora Jacobson was a mere 250 miles from the underground blast. The Norwich writer-director didn't actually feel the earth shake in Seoul. But the ground does proverbially move for the lead character of the screenplay-in-progress that took the Vermont filmmaker to the Far East. The Painting in Insadong, this semi-autobiographical project's working title, explores international adoption issues and bilingual romance through the eyes of an American visiting South Korea.
"I optioned an essay by a friend of mine from grade school," Jacobson explains. The married woman adopted two South Korean children, then, while later traveling there almost a decade later to research a book about birth mothers, fell in love with a painter. "I've been working on the script for a year," Jacobson says, "but felt I had to go myself to understand the culture."
Coincidentally, Jacobson met a Korean painter who invited her on a platonic journey to some Buddhist temples in the mountains. During her monthlong sojourn, she also talked with adoption officials, members of the arts community and potential co-producers from the Asian nation's thriving film industry.
"This supposedly would be the first U.S.-Korean co-production ever," notes Jacobson, whose budget has been bolstered by a grant from the LEF Foundation in Massachusetts. "We hope to begin shooting as soon as next April or October, to avoid the rainy season and yellow-dust season," a time of year when sand wafts in from China's Gobi Desert.
Jacobson's closest encounter with Korean political realities came during a group tour of the world's most heavily armed border: the DMZ that separates North and South. "Our guide, an American soldier, was getting his cues from some John Wayne movie," she suggests. "He threatened to smash our cameras if any of us took pictures."
Lots of women turned in great performances in 2006, but Catherine O'Hara really deserves an Academy Award. In Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration, the Canadian comedienne plays Marilyn Hack, a veteran actress tormented by Oscar buzz. The delicious satire, which premiered two months ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, opens on November 22 at the Roxy in Burlington.
Co-written by Guest and Eugene Levy, Consideration chronicles how Hollywood's fickle fame machine upends the marginally talented cast of a B-movie called Home for Purim, a fictitious melodrama about Jews in 1940s Georgia. Their dialogue includes Yiddish spoken with a Southern drawl by goyim who can't quite wrap their mouths around l'chaim. The plot centers on a family reunion, as two grown kids return for a traditional holiday feast. Marilyn portrays Mom, who is dying from one of those generic coughing diseases so popular on the big screen.
After three unheralded decades in the business, Marilyn catches highly contagious Oscarmania when an Internet source suggests she's a likely contender in the annual Tinsel Town sweepstakes. Both Victor (Harry Shearer) and Callie (Parker Posey) - appearing as her husband and daughter in Purim - are soon suffering from the same glorification malady. The only exception is Brian (Christopher Moynihan), whose role as the meshugah clan's son has been ignored by the rumor mill.
If many of these real-life names sound familiar, it's because Guest has rehired the gang from his previous comedies: Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Also look for Fred Willard and Jane Lynch as mindlessly superficial hosts of the make-believe TV show "Entertainment Now," and Michael McKean and Bob Balaban as the writing team responsible for the godawful Purim script.
The idea behind Consideration reportedly was sparked by Levy's own battle with Oscar fever after rave reviews for his gig as a depressed folksinger in A Mighty Wind. Here, he's on tap as a low-rent agent.
Like everyone else in the film, an indie studio mogul is willing to compromise artistic vision, especially when seduced by the mirage of a gold statuette. This character comes courtesy of Ricky Gervais ("The Office"), a pitch-perfect new member of the Guest ensemble.
They're all reliably wonderful, butnone more so than Catherine O'Hara. She deserves a genuine mazel tov moment in real life, at the 2007 awards ceremony.
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