Ingrid & Isabella

Line Break

A photo of a young Isabella Rossellini with her mother, Ingrid Bergman, discovered by fellow HarperStudio author Sam Wasson.

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Red Carpet Redux

When we found out that Sam Wasson, author of Fifth Avenue, 5 AM, was invited to attend this year’s Academy Awards, we turned green with envy. But since we couldn’t be there ourselves, Sam was gracious enough to give us the scoop on the night’s festivities.

Q: What did you think of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as hosts? Dynamic duo or awkward pairing?

A: What’s not to love? Though they did seem under rehearsed and under used, more like mascots than actual hosts. I mean where were they when we needed them most, during the Ben Stiller incident and that horrific horror montage? The host or hosts have the responsibility of making the show feel like an actual event as opposed to a series of loosely connected episodes. This year, the Oscars didn’t have that.

Q: What were your Oscar award predictions and how did they play out? Do you think the usual Oscar award “politics” were at play this year?

A: My Oscar predictions played out pretty much as I thought with the exception of Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Foreign Film. I know it’s become fashionable to put down on Jason Reitman, but I thought he (and his collaborators) wrote a terrific script, and were very clever about when and how much they delivered on genre. The Academy loves an 80% old-fashioned movie, and that’s just what Up in the Air is. I can’t say I was that surprised to see Sandra Bullock win the Oscar for Best Actress, considering the Academy’s penchant for honorably discharging Meryl Streep. I never thought I’d say this about the greatest living actress, but I’m actually beginning to feel sorry for her. Julia Child was far from her best, but it was leagues ahead of the others. And finally, I was shocked out of my cummerbund when The White Ribbon lost Best Foreign Film. It was the strongest in the category, and it had all the momentum a winning film could have. Were politics at play? Absolutely. No matter what Mo’Nique says.

Q: Hurt Locker vs. Avatar. The underdog basically stole the show this year. Was the Best Picture win a triumph of story and direction over special effects and beautiful cinematography?

A: The Best Picture win was a triumph of many, many things, aesthetic and otherwise, the most significant of which, as everyone knows, is Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar. But I wouldn’t call either of them an underdog. Both films showcased mind-blowing feats of direction, and both were beautifully shot (though I’m still uncertain about how cinematography fits into Avatar’s largely CGI universe), and well received. The underdog – and to my mind the best picture of the year – was The Coen Brothers’ film, A Serious Man.

Q: The Oscars featured a moving tribute to the films of John Hughes. What do you think it is about his movies that people love so much?

A: John Hughes respected his characters. More than that, he got to the strangeness of being young, and – here’s the feat – he made it relatable. No matter what, Hughes took all of his people seriously, and that, when dealing with teenagers – who are so often marginalized in cinema as well as life – is a wonderful, wonderful thing. He also understood the many kinds of teenagers from the jock to the nerd to the hot girl and onward, types everyone could relate to. It gave his films immediacy. But rather than paint them with broad strokes, Hughes always gave his characters a touch of contradiction or darkness or unforeseen humor that helped them to defy the limitations of their type. That right there is so much of what his films (and growing up) are (is) about: breaking type. People love his films because no matter who they are, Hughes loved them. And when you’re fifteen or sixteen, falling in love, out of love, scared, or alone, that’s no small thing.

Q: Who were the best dressed? Worst dressed? Did you get a swag bag? Who did you get to schmooze with after the show?

A: Sandra Bullock knocked my socks off. If only we had met later, she might have knocked off even more. And Vera Farmiga! VERA! FARMIGA! Holy Mackerel! She looked like a present I wanted to give myself over and over again. After the show, I got to schmooze with the liveliest bunch of rascals in the room, the editors and the documentarians. (Word of advice: at awards shows, always hang out with the editors and the documentarians. Actors are distracted by other people, directors are distracted by themselves, and writers are distracted by the buffet, but editors and the doc-makers are always present. Along with cinematographers, they see the bigger picture.) I quite literally bypassed Charlize on my way to Lynne Littman, Rob Epstein, Richard Pearce, Lynzee Kingman, and Mark Goldblatt. I got no swag. Only the happiest hangover of my life.

Read more about the Oscar’s on Sam Wasson’s blog. His book Fifth Avenue, 5 AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman will publish in July 2010.

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Greatest Michael Jackson Tribute EVER

Some of us clearly still have Michael on the brain. Stick with this video for the first 2 minutes… You won’t be disappointed.

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HBO’s Thing for Autism

It was only a matter of time before someone made a biopic about Temple Grandin. When you stop and think about it, HBO makes perfect sense- so does Claire Danes. (Oh and add Sheila Nevins to my list of creative heroes.)

Ms. Grandin is currently reading a copy of Elaine Hall’s book Now I See The Moon (Elaine starred in the incredible HBO doc Autism: The Musical). I can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

(update! this just in from Temple Grandin: “Now I See the Moon provides insightful ways to teach and work with individuals with autism and severe disabilities.  It will give parents great hope.” Whoop! Whoop! JC)

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Creative Hero #01: Ryan Murphy

Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project inspired me to change things up a bit (thank you Gretchen!) Each week this year I’ll single out one of my creative heroes- people whose work makes you go whoa. (This seems more likely to release serotonin than, say, blogging about e-books.)

I was first turned on to Ryan Murphy when he optioned Sin in the Second City a book I edited at Random House. Over the holiday, I finally sat down and watched Glee, the FOX show about a group of high school misfits. I know I’m late to the Glee party but I’ve just got to say: The dude is a genius.

What Glee lacks in subtlety it makes up for in imagination. A show choir performance of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” really?? Murphy is able to take the most cliche ridden material and make it fresh. Check out this clip from “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It’s like tasting apple pie for the first time.

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Liz Lemon Is Crushing It!

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Spoiler Alert! Q&A with Natasha Vargas-Cooper, author of Mad Men Unbuttoned

Mad Men Season 31) Was the finale surprising in any way? And, if not, did that diminish the episode?

I think so! It was an elegant capstone that encompassed the themes (particularly, Footnotes favorite: stubborn individualism!) of the season. It also packed the wallop we’ve been all waiting for — who knew that a dreary old business deal would have more verisimilitude than the Kennedy’s assassination this season!

2) Were there really no non-compete clauses in the early 60s?

With McCann-Erickson, essentially, no. In the early 1960’s they gobbled up a mid-sized shops and retained them under one umbrella, but still forced them the compete for clients. This had an upside: two agencies could be under the McCann-Erickson parent with one shop servicing American Airlines and the other shop servicing TWA. And a downside: the fear, at the time, was there would be leaks and betrayals between agencies.

3) Is the last shot of Don Draper meant to signal a kind of re-birth?

Goodness no! That’s Don at work. Don with his team. It’s just Don doing what he does with all that charisma: lead. Don’s far too restless and caught up in his own melodrama (divine though it is) to reform himself into being any kind of consistent, deferential personality. He’s a powder keg of emotion in a very tidy hat!

4) Was Don full of horseshit when he told Pete that Pete has always been one step ahead?

I think Pete is one step ahead purely by virtue of being young. And Don was right, Pete is the one pushing Sterling Cooper (RIP) into aerospace space and black magazines. While Peggy has been great in the clutch for copy, it’s been Pete and Harry who have tried to pioneer into new markets. I think that’s why Kinsey and Kenny were left behind because they seem endlessly complacent.

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Kevin Connolly’s Stephen Colbert Handstand Challenge

Kevin Michael Connolly challenges Stephen Colbert to a handstand contest

If you can tear your eyes away from the photo for just a second, I would like to point out that Kevin Michael Connolly is taking his memoir, DOUBLE TAKE, on the road. Kevin has posted his national book tour schedule over on his blog, and he also provided a handy public Google calendar to give you a better look at where he’ll be for the next month or so. Check it out and see if Kevin will be stopping by a town near you!

Now back to the photo. Kevin isn’t doing handstands just for the heck of it (okay, maybe he is)…there is a bigger picture here. Kevin is challenging Stephen Colbert to a handstand contest, and he needs a little help:

there is one thing I desperately, desperately need your help with. I’m not trying sell anything here – buy my book or not, it’s entirely up to you – but what I do need from you is a small amount of your time to help lobby Colbert (of Comedy Central’s, The Colbert Report). People have begun lobbying Colbert to put me on his show under the challenge of a handstand contest (during which, I’m hoping we’ll talk about the book, of course). First one to fall has to eat a hardcover copy of Double Take.

So here’s what I need you to do:

Copy and paste the message below into the “Comment” field at Comedy Central’s site to see a Colbert’s first inverted interview! Oh, and don’t forget to select “The Colbert Report” from the drop down list. Here’s the link: http://www.comedycentral.com/help/questionsCC.jhtml

“THE HANDSTAND CHALLENGE: COLBERT VS. CONNOLLY

THE CHALLENGE: Holding a handstand for as long as possible. First one to fall has to eat a hardcover copy of the book Double Take. Winner gets eternal glory.

THE CONTENDERS:

Kevin Michael Connolly, 24-year-old legless guy and author of the new memoir, Double Take.

Stephen Colbert, anemic political satirist and host of The Colbert Report.

THE BOOK: Double Take http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5MD7KHwLw4

Quit hiding behind that desk, Colbert!“

Please take a couple of minutes to submit a comment and challenge Colbert to a handstand contest with Kevin. I’m not taking sides or anything, but you know you want to see Colbert eat a book.

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Fox News Anchor Outraged by Bacon Cheese Doughnut Burger

TIWYF

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LIVE FROM YOUR COMPUTER

The other night I had my first real HarperStudio experience. I call it that because it was experimental and different. I’ve been to author events before, but not in this capacity. With just my laptop, we live streamed. Isabella Rossellini’s event for GREEN PORNO at a local bookstore. It was a great event—Isabella is charming, funny and very knowledgeable about how whales reproduce. We had a good crowd, good films, good questions. And we had viewers tune in to the event on their computers at home to watch live. Don’t worry if you missed it, you can see it here:

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