Gwyneth Paltrow at UCSB

If anyone could be said to have been “born into show business,” it’s Gwyneth Paltrow. Her parents were film & television producer-director Bruce Paltrow and actress Blythe Danner, whom Gwyneth cites as her main inspiration to pursue acting. Her brother, Jake, is a director and screenwriter; her uncle Harry Danner is an opera singer; her aunt Dorothy Danner is an opera director; and her godfather is Steven Spielberg. With that pedigree, a career on stage and/or screen must have seemed pre-ordained.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Paltrow initially pursed a theatrical career before being drawn into film work. After a number of small roles, including Brad Pitts’ wife in the cult favorite “Seven,” she rose to prominence with an Academy Award-winning performance in the surprise hit “Shakespeare in Love.” This led to notable turns in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Proof,” “Sylvia” as doomed poet Sylvia Plath (the role of which Paltrow is proudest), the television series “Glee,” and as Margot Tenenbaum in Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Anderson’s third feature film and the one that firmly established his now-familiar distinctive style. Following a brief hiatus from her hectic schedule, prompted by marriage and motherhood, Paltrow enjoyed a career rejuvenation thanks to her on-going participation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In this episode of Script to Screen, Paltrow discusses her process of preparing for her various roles, stressing the importance of finding a connection to the material and of placing complete trust in the director – which often requires a high degree of adaptability to accommodate divergent directorial styles and personalities. In the case of “Tenenbaums,” for example, she notes that Wes Anderson had the entire film fixed in his head down to the smallest detail, including set design, props, make-up, and wardrobe; all the cast had to do was “execute it properly.” (Apparently co-star Gene Hackman didn’t have that level of trust in Anderson; in Paltrow’s words, Hackman “just didn’t get it.”) By contrast, her scenes in “Iron Man” with Robert Downey, Jr. were largely improvised by Paltrow and Downey working with director Jon Favreau. Paltrow also touches briefly on her parallel careers as a singer, author, and e-commerce entrepreneur with her web-based lifestyle company Goop.

When asked by host Matt Ryan to give advice to students seeking a foothold in showbusiness, and particularly women, Paltrow notes that “this is a great time” for women emerging in the industry. Studios are finally acknowledging the chronic gender and racial biases plaguing the industry, as well as the pay inequities, and have undertaken a number of corrective initiatives. Above all, Paltrow urges the students to be confident, to be themselves, and to continue to break down doors.

Watch Royal Tenenbaums with Gwyneth Paltrow – Script to Screen

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Comic-Con 2018

San Diego Comic-Con International is the world’s largest convention devoted to popular culture. Emphasis is traditionally placed on the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres, but over the decades the convention has expanded its scope to encompass a range of genres and topics in a variety of forms, be it motion pictures, television, print, or digital media.

During the 2018 edition of Comic-Com, “Script to Screen” host Matt Ryan conducted over a dozen interviews with creative talent from television shows such as “The Man in the High Castle,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Mr. Mercedes,” and “Dear White People” – to name but a sampling – and the acclaimed feature film, “A Quiet Place.” Participants run the gamut from actors, producers, and directors to sound editors and composers. (The two latter professions are often underrepresented in industry profiles, so their presence here is particularly welcome.) Though of course familiarity with the programs is helpful, it’s not essential. The interviews focus less on plot details than on initial reactions to scripts and on preparations for the work at hand, be it acting, directing, or scoring. Put another way, the stress is on the individual artist’s contribution to the craft of collaborative storytelling. In this regard, all of the interviewees acknowledge the quality of the writing as the most critical component of a show’s potential success.

Though the shows and personalities highlighted in this program are necessarily just a small fraction of those on display at Comic-Con, they offer a sense of the depth of talent and narrative diversity currently available to the discerning consumer of popular media.

Watch Comic-Con: 2018

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Imagination and Human Origins

Try to remember the first time in your life when you imagined something. It may have been imagining what was behind the door or under the bed, or a fantastic universe of wonders and exciting adventure. As children, our imaginations are furtive and encouraged as ways in which we develop our cognitive capabilities. As we grow older, we may not imagine in quite the same ways, but we continue to heavily use and depend on our imagination in our daily lives, imagining different situations that might occur in a few moments or in a few years. Thus, we actually spend a large amount of time in our own particular universe imagining many possible different ones.

Why do we do this and how did this capacity evolve in humans? Imagination probably helped our ancestors to be successful in making decisions and live in complex societies, and imagination is key to advancing technology. In this CARTA symposium, imagination is explored as a unique and enhanced human ability, and experts from all fields discuss its evolutionary origins, the fundamental genetic and neurological basis of human imagination, the impact of human imagination in science and art, and the consequences of imagination impairment.

Browse more programs in CARTA: Imagination and Human Origins

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Beyond the Brink?

Are we beyond the brink? With months of oppressive heat and unrelenting fires – the fingerprint – or perhaps the firm boot print – of climate change is planted on California as global warming marches on to change everything about the future.

“Adequate water for food for the nation is a water security issue, and it’s also a national security issue,” says UC Merced CITRIS researcher Roger Bales.

Drought, climate change, an aging infrastructure and growing population threaten the water California’s San Joaquin Valley uses to supply most of the nation’s produce and a large proportion of its livestock and dairy. This excerpt from a new documentary previews an examination of water problems and solutions across the United States and globally.

Watch Water Supply and National Security: Beyond the Brink

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Aging Well

Evidence is building for the importance of physical and social activity as the way to optimize wellbeing in older age. UCSF Geriatrics faculty review their research and cutting-edge work on improving physical, social and emotional wellbeing in older adults.

Explore topics on the myths of aging, improving surgical outcomes, the science of longevity, social connection in older adults, and tools for comprehensive advance care planning.

If you are an older adult, caregiver or anyone interested in optimizing well-being as you get older, this is for you.

Browse more programs in Aging, Activity, and Community: The Science Behind Function and Social Connections in Older Age

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