Imagine only being able to communicate through blinking. Now imagine trying to dictate your memoirs in this grueling and time-consuming fashion. That’s how Jean-Dominique Bauby had to put his life and thoughts down on paper. The editor of French Elle suffered a stroke so severe that it rendered him almost entirely paralyzed for the remainder of his short life. He died less than 18 months later just days after the publication of his 1997 memoirs. Making amends for his laughable adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera Ronald Hardwood pays homage to Bauby’s remarkable achievement with an eloquent screenplay that examines the power of the mind over the body. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly begins on the day when Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) wakes up from a coma and is alarmed to find himself in a hospital completely paralyzed and unable to speak. But his mind is sharp as it ever was. Flashbacks reveal Bauby to be a man who lived life to the fullest and relished every challenge that came his way. So being stuck in a body that no longer functions as it once did is clearly pure hell for Bauby--until his therapist Henriette (Marie-Josee Croze) teaches Bauby to communicate by blinking his left eye. Bauby suddenly decides to honor a book contract he had signed before his stroke--and in the process he discovers his raison d’être. Like My Left Foot’s Daniel Day-Lewis before him Amalric indelibly proves that the mind can and will thrive even when the body is broken and beyond repair. Amalric though has less to work with than the wild-eyed Day-Lewis who had the luxury of drawing you into his performance by tapping into Irish author Christy Brown’s abrasive personality and larger-than-life presence. It’s mesmerizing to watch the intrepid Amalric at work even though he’s practically motionless for the entire film bar for a few flashbacks. While the rest of his face remains frozen solid Amalric eloquently expresses Bauby’s innermost hopes and fears through the mere blink of his left eye. There’s never a time when you don’t know how Bauby feels. And his narration is laced with gallows humor which helps keep Diving Bell free from drowning in sentimentality. As Bauby’s therapist Croze personifies patience dedication and resourcefulness we all expect and demand from health-care professionals but don’t always receive. Emmanuelle Seigner maintains a brave face as Bauby’s neglected wife Céline. You wait for Céline to crumble especially as Bauby never stops asking about his mistress but Seigner reveals Céline to be caring and forgiving. The most heartbreaking moments come between Amalric and Max von Sydow who plays Bauby’s father who is much trapped inside his apartment as Bauby is inside his body. There’s great sadness and regret to be found in von Sydow’s every word as he comes to the painful realization that he will outlive his rich and successful son which no father wants to do. Yes Diving Bell is the latest in a long line of inspirational fact-based films about physically and/or mentally challenged people mastering their disabilities. But director Julian Schnabel distinguishes himself and the film by shooting the first act solely from Babuy’s perspective. We see everything Bauby sees through his one good eye from the moment he comes out of his coma. What follows is confusing disorienting and taxing. And darkly humorous as evidenced by Bauby’s admiration of his females nurses. Schnabel’s approach though works to dramatic effect because we receive a greater understanding and appreciation of what Bauby’s experiencing. Stay the course and you will be rewarded for your patience. Once Bauby comes to terms with his fate and refuses to spend the rest of his days wallowing in self pity Schnabel finally turns his camera on Bauby to reveal his post-stroke physical appearance. It’s a quiet but ingenious way for us to accept Bauby as he accepts himself. Schnabel then concentrates on Bauby’s Herculean effort to dictate his autobiography which is occasionally interrupted by poignant flights of fantasy (it’s not hard to guess what the diving bell and the butterfly symbolize). Equal amounts of joy and regret are be found in Bauby’s reminiscing but Schnabel never tries to romanticize his subject or ignore to his past transgressions. Diving Bell doesn’t set to turn a flawed man into a hero but Bauby’s will and determination ultimately reinforces the notion that anything’s possible if you set your mind to it.
Troubled rapper Eminem pleaded no contest Monday to two gun-related charges stemming from an incident last year involving the Insane Clown Posse's road manager.
Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and brandishing a weapon during an argument with road manager of the rival band Insane Clown Posse outside a Royal Oak, Mich., stereo store in 2000.
The plead comes less than two weeks after Eminem received two years probation on a separate charge of carrying a concealed weapon during a brawl outside a Detroit-area nightclub. He also allegedly pistol-whipped a man he saw kissing his then wife, Kimberly Mathers. They are now divorcing.
Sentencing was schedule for Tuesday, June 5. He faced up to five years in prison, but he will now receive probation for pleading no contest.
VH1 moving beyond the music
VH1, known for its music videos, seems to be replacing the music with more original programming--comedies and dramas, to be exact.
The cable network has announced plans for a full slate of series, reality shows and feature-length films.
"We tried really hard to make sure that all our new shows are fundamentally about music," Lauren Zalanick, VH1's head of original programming, told The Associated Press.
Among some of the new programs is the drama Pulling the Strings, starring James Brolin as an entertainment mogul on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His wife, Barbra Streisand, will co-produce.
VH1 also plans to develop TV movies about MC Hammer and heavy metal rockers Def Leppard.
Looking for Bond
Little-known Scottish actor Gerald Butler may enjoy a license to kill as and when Pierce Brosnan hangs up his Walther PPK.
Several actors have been considered as the new James Bond, including British pop star Robbie Williams, but Butler may be the one to become the sixth actor to portray 007, as reported by Scotland's Daily Record newspaper.
Series producer Barbara Broccoli would like to cast a Scottish actor. The most famous Bond remains Sean Connery, a Scot.
"Gerard is one of the two people Barbara has appointments with," a source told the paper. "They are meeting to discuss replacing Pierce after his final movie."
Brosnan's contract expires after his fourth installment, which will go into production in January 2002.
Butler, who took up acting after earning a law degree from Glasgow University, was seen in last year's Wes Craven's Dracula 2000.
Braxton goes to the chapel
R&B singer Toni Braxton married her love of four years, Keri Lewis, the keyboardist for the group Mint Condition, on Saturday during a private outdoor ceremony.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young officiated the ceremony, as Braxton, 32, and Lewis, 28, exchanged vows in front of 250 guests at the 60-acre Dean Gardens estate in Atlanta.
Guests included singer Monica, rapper Mack 10, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of the R&B group TLC.
The bride wore an ivory satin gown with a notched and beaded bodice, and a beaded train and matching veil designed by Vera Wang. She also wore diamond-crusted gems designed by Stephen Russell, as reported by The Associated Press.
Colombian soap opera saying adios
Wildly popular Colombian soap opera Betty La Fea is winding down after a 1 ½-year run. The show revolves around an accountant, Betty, who wears braces, glasses, has a snorting laugh and facial hair. In a country that prides itself on its beautiful women and beauty contests, the show's success was phenomenal.
After more than 300 episodes, the writers and actors are extremely exhausted and glad to have a break, but fans are worried.
"I'm going to miss it, because it's been a lot of fun," Elkin Tovar, a 35-year-old chauffeur told The Associated Press. "But it will also be a bit of a break, because watching the show so often has become a form of slavery."
The show claimed 80 million viewers worldwide across Latin America and as far away as Hungary and Israel. Betty almost single-handedly rescued the Colombian TV network RCN from financial ruin, even as the country's unemployment is at an all-time low and violence is ripping through the nation.
Robin Hood lives on
USA Network is nearing production on a new reality series, based on super spies, which would bring a modern-day Robin Hood to television.
The series, tentatively called Break-In!, will feature two teams in a race to recover stolen artwork or government secrets and return them to their proper owners. The first to do so wins. The prize is yet to be determined.
The show takes its inspiration from such films as The Pink Panther or Mission: Impossible, during which protagonists execute elaborate plans to retrieve stolen items, Chris Sloan, USA Network's senior VP of reality programming, told Variety.
But the show won't show people how to pull off a crime, he said.
"That's why we're doing the fairly fantastical type of things-we're not breaking into someone's house. You're not going to hear us saying here's how you break in to steal the Oscars."
XFL's painful journey
The fate of the XFL has yet to be determined, but NBC Sports and the World Wrestling Federation are treating the low-rated series as a bad skin blemish they are trying to hide.
The XFL should make it to the 2002 season because "Vince [McMahon, chief of World Wrestling Federation] has the leverage to keep the weekly games on UPN Sunday night and TNN Sunday afternoon," David Carter, a principal in the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group, told Variety.
The leverage is the Thursday-night WWF Smackdown, which is UPN's highest-rated series by far, and the Monday night Raw Is War on TNN, which is killing the competition on basic cable.
On NBC, the XFL averaged a 3.3 rating, 27% below the network's guarantees to advertisers.
NBC may stay on as an investor, but any idea that the network would switch the XFL Saturday night games to its sister network, CNBC, is just not going to happen.
"CNBC's demographic is the upscale white male executive in his 50s." Carter said. "The only two people in that category who watch XFL games are Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol," chairman of NBC Sports.
Whatever the series has to do to make it, its going to have to prove it can generate revenues: it lost $40 million during its 2001 season, according to industry estimates.
WGA: Waiting to the last minute
With only nine days left before their contract expires, the Writers Guild of America and the Producers Alliance have yet to reach an agreement. Many insiders are saying the serious negotiations will happen in this final week before the contract expires.
Writers and many others are anxious about a strike because the talks, which resumed April 16, did not extend over the weekend. Companies are preparing to stop taking work from writers beginning next week.
There is a chance that the contract expiration may be extended to coincide with the Screen Actors Guild contract, which expires June 30. Although neither side will comment, other scenarios include the contract being extended only a few days-and only if the negotiations are moving forward in a significant way.
The agreement still boils down to around $100 million over three years, including WGA demands for boosted residuals in cable, video/DVD and foreign TV.
"Dances With Wolves" again
Pacifica Film Development has acquired the motion picture and television rights to Michael Blake's novel Holy Road, his sequel to the 1990 Dances With Wolves. Blake also will pen the screenplay, as he did with Wolves.
Holy Road continues the story of Lt. John Dunbar, now known as Dances With Wolves, who has, after 10 years, become a tribal warrior. When the white man invades once again, abducting his wife and youngest child, he embarks on a daring mission to rescue them.
No word on director or casting, but the novel is scheduled for a Sept. 15 publication. The screenplay should be finished by the end of the summer, depending on the potential strikes.
"Trap" continues on
Those pesky, adorable twins from The Parent Trap are back for more mischief.
Writers Derek Guiley and David Schneiderman will pen the Walt Disney Co.'s straight-to-video sequel to the hit film The Parent Trap, originally released in 1961 and remade in 1998.
This time around, the matchmaking girls have to deal with the perils of high school.