Thanks to Kaitlyn Cole for sending me this list of 50 great movies about writers. I especially like the way it is broken down into categories — about writing (“Wonder Boys”), writers being bad (“Sunset Boulevard,” “The Shining”), and real-life writers. If I could, I’d add a category of writers being good (lots of great crusading journalist movies like “Call Northside 777” and “All the President’s Men,” both based on true stories), and documentaries about writers, including films about Hunter S. Thomson, Charles Bukowski, Ayn Rand, and Alan Ginsberg.
It’s been a while since Hollywood has given us a great thriller for grown-ups. Fortunately, there are currently four from outside the US that are in theaters now and well worth seeing. [NOTE: These films include very intense, brutal, and disturbing material]
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is based on the international best-seller, the first of a trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. All three have been keeping readers up all night all over the world. A disgraced journalist joins forces with a damaged but determined and fiercely honest young woman to research the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy man’s favorite niece. An American movie version is in the works, but fans of the book should see this one now. It is a brilliant adaptation with a sensational performance by Noomi Rapace as the mesmerizing Lisbeth Salander.
“The Red Riding Trilogy” If you are a fan of “Prime Suspect,” you will love these three British films from three different directors that track a series of murders over more than a decade. It is based on David Peace’s The Red Riding Quartet. The first one, set in 1974, tracks a brash young reporter who uncovers corruption that may be tied to several murders. The second takes place in 1980 and focuses on a police officer investigating the “Yorkshire Ripper” murders. He is played by Paddy Considine of “In America.” The last, set in 1983, is about a lawyer (Mark Addy), the son of a policeman, who is finally able to put together what happened. The films are as dark and murky and twisted as the crimes, and completely engrossing.
“Mother” is a South Korean film about a woman whose shy son becomes the suspect in a murder case. It is up to her to prove him innocent. An award-winner at Cannes and Korea’s entry for the foreign language Oscar, this is filled with surprises up to the very last minute.
“Ghost Writer” is the latest and probably final film from legendary director Roman Polanski (“Chinatown,” “The Pianist”). It is the story of a writer (Ewan McGregor) brought in to fix the dull memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan), now living in virtual exile on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. There is only one copy of the draft and it is kept in a locked drawer. I found it almost endearing that in this digital age a sole physical manuscript could become so sought after or that anything written by a retired politician could be considered incendiary.
“The Eclipse” is a moody Irish thriller about a recently widowed teacher who is a volunteer at a local literary festival. Michael (a deeply moving Ciarán Hinds) is doing his best to stay strong for his children and his father-in-law, but has not begun to let himself think about how devastated he is by the loss of his wife.
He is assigned to be the driver for one of the authors at the festival, Lena (Iben Hjejle of “High Fidelity”), who writes non-fiction books about encounters with ghosts. The most prominent author at the festival, in more than one sense of the term, is the pugnacious and needy Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn). He comes to the festival in part to see Lena, with whom he has a history and hopes for a future.
All of this could work as a straight-forward drama but writer-director Conor McPherson adds a mysterious overlay of the supernatural that seeps into the interactions between the characters. It creates a pervasive tug of dread and uncertainty. The contrast between the forces the characters are struggling with, from the largest emotional conflicts to the smallest domestic tasks, and the forces that are just beyond reach but seem to be reaching for us. McPherson has a gift for silences and superb control of mood. The story explores the prism of liminality. It is not just the ghosts who are stuck between worlds.
Karley Scott Collins stars in Amish Grace, the real-life story about the Amish community in Nickel Mines, which responded to unthinkable tragedy with compassion and forgiveness. Five little girls were shot and killed and five others severely injured by a man who then took his own life. Hours after the shooting, an Amish neighbor comforted the man’s family. The Amish set up a charitable fund for the family and attended his funeral. Their example of grace and forgiveness has been an inspiring example for people around the world and became a book. And now this movie tells the story.
Karley, just 10 years old, is an accomplished performer, and she spoke to me about her role as the sister of one of the murdered girls.
Tell me about the character you play in this film.
I play Katie Graber. I’m trying to deal with the loss of my sister, Mary Beth (Madison Davenport), and just like everyone else, I’m having trouble forgiving the man who killed her. And I have guilt because I’m still alive, and I think maybe I shouldn’t have ran out of the school, I shouldn’t still be here. So I have lots of emotions mixing together and I am having trouble with it. If she’s having a hard time forgiving herself than she is not going to be able to forgive others. She has to learn, the reason she forgives, is that Mary Beth when she was dying had forgiveness in her heart. If you don’t forgive him, the only person it hurts is yourself. It doesn’t hurt him, it only hurts you.
Did making the movie teach you something about forgiveness?
I think it’s a really touching movie and it’s really important that you do forgive.
Did you know anything about Amish people before you made the movie?
I didn’t know as much as I do now. I admire them. They just want to be closer to God and I think that’s wonderful. But it would be hard for me because I would not be able to call my friends and my family on the telephone. I like the clothes, though. They have no zippers so they use pins. They are very, very simple, but they are very comfortable. I think that’s pretty cool.
What do you like about acting?
I love that whatever you get in a character becomes a part of you. I love making friends on set and watching it when it’s finished. I find out new things about myself whenever I portray somebody else.
Your mother in the movie is one of my favorite actresses, Kimberly Williams-Paisley. What was it like working with her?
I loved her! In between the scenes she would help me make grass flutes. And everything she did was so real. I really believed she was a mother whose daughter was murdered. And she is so sweet.
Did you get to meet her husband, Brad Paisley?
No, but I did get to go to one of his concerts!
Was there something you saw in a movie or on television that made you want to act?
When I was like five or six, I am not sure which one made me want to act but I loved the Bernie Mac show so it might have been that one. I loved acting like a princess! I had this Aurora outfit and every time I went to Disney, I was Aurora!
What’s the best advice you ever got about acting?
Don’t think about it, just have fun with it!
What do you do for fun?
I love to draw! My favorite artist is Jasmine Becket-Griffith. She draws fairies. I love reading. I fell in love with the Percy Jackson and The Sisters Grimm books. And I love to swim. With my friends we play the Wii, we love Rock Band, and do each other’s nails and dance.
What’s on your iPod?
I love Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. I also love Guns n’ Roses! “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is my favorite. I also like Rihanna and BeyoncÃ©.
You’re in another new movie, based on a true story, “Letters to God.” What can you tell me about that?
It’s about a boy who has cancer. When he dies, his dad finds all the letters he wrote to God. It’s very touching. I play one of his friends, who sits with him every day at lunch. They call me liverwurst girl, because I love liverwurst. And I am in “Open Season 3,” and I play a little deer. It was so much fun! And it’s hilarious. One of my favorite scenes is where there’s a little bear and a rabbit but I can’t tell you any more about it!