Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Now playing at SIFF Cinema: Amazing films from UA

The United Artists 90th Anniversary series has started playing at SIFF Cinema, and I plan to warm up for the Festival by getting my fill of some old-school masterpieces. My picks:

Annie Hall playing Friday, May 9th @ 7pm (followed by Manhattan @ 9 if you're looking for some double feature Woody Allen action).

West Side Story, Saturday May 10th @ 2 and 8pm (the first musical to win my heart - and I don't generally like musicals).

Some Like it Hot, Sunday May 11th @ 2:15pm

Dr. No/Goldfinger Double Feature on Sunday, May 18th @ 2/6pm or 4/8pm (HELLO Sean Connery Bond!)

And,AePThe Manchurian Candidate on Monday, May 19th @ 7pm (I've never actually seen this original - only the remake. I'm kind of a Liev Schreiber fangirl).

Whether or not I'll make it to all of those has not been determined yet, but I love that SIFF is giving me the opportunity to go see some greats on the big screen. Tickets are just $10 each (cheaper for members), or if you're feeling hardcore you can grab a pass for all twenty-one films for $100 ($85 for SIFF Supporters!). You can see the full schedule here.

SIFF Cinema is located at 321 Mercer Street at 3rd Avenue, McCaw Hall.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Southerner Looks to the North: Part Five

A Chat with David Gordon Green: On Actors
and Producers
(click here for part four)

great%20world.jpg
A Green production

I love me some Noonan.
-- David Gordon Green

*****

I know you've answered this question before, but I'd like to ask it again: Why
don't you mention the location in Snow Angels? I had a feeling, while I was watch-
ing, that it was set in Pennsylvania, but I didn't know for sure until afterwards.


Well, in the book, it's Pennsylvania-we shot it in Nova Scotia-but I figured if you could have it take place in a timeless, place-less...place, that can make it more universal. And it looks cool. Most places that are more specific are just strip malls.

I thought there was one reference to the 1980s. Otherwise, it didn't specify a year.

There are cell phones and that kind of stuff. Kate calls Amy on a cell phone.

The cell phones inevitably make it more modern, though with
the way people are dressed, it could almost be the '80s.


It could be any time; it could be the '70s. I just tried to make it some-
thing all generations could relate to, and would project their own youth
on to. Tom Noonan came up with all the 'Sledgehammer' stuff.

manhunter.jpg
Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde in Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986)
We already talked a little bit about Tom Noonan, but were you a fan?
Yeah. I love me some Noonan. He's great. He's another one of those guys you bring to the table in a scene or two, and you know he'll give it substance that makes it interesting, so it isn't just hitting a plot point, but using that as an opportunity.
Since he's at the beginning and the end, did he just come in for a short time?
Yeah, he came in for a short time, shaved off his eyebrows.
I hadn't noticed that.
We hid it in glasses, 'cause I thought it looked too weird.
He's really good.
I love him, he's crazy. I watched the movie for the
first time with him the other day. It was pretty fun.
He'll always be remembered for Manhunter, though he's done other things. It could be worse, because he's so good in that. Did you take his dialogue from the book?
Some of it.
He has some of the best lines, because they're so weird. That's another thing
that could date it for some people-although I couldn't figure out what the song
was at first, because they're so out of tune. It's from, I think, the late-1980s.

[Arthur's band struggles through Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."]
It was actually kind of indecipherable until, in post, we
went back and added an alto sax playing the verse.
snow%20angels6.jpg
Beckinsale in Snow Angels
It starts to become more decipherable. So, it sounds like you were familiar with Kate Beckinsale before you cast her. In the press notes, you say, 'In a way, Snow Angels was the opposite of the studio movies she'd been doing. I'd been a big fan
of her work in genre movies, and really liked that this was an unexpected career move for her.' Were you also thinking of the things she did in Britain, and was
there anything in particular that led you to believe she'd be good in this part?

Everything. Her body of work led me to believe she'd be good in this part, because she hadn't done anything exactly like this, and all the things had been around encompassing the elements of Annie, from the physicality of an Underworld mov-
ie to some of the dramatic performances, like Laurel Canyon and Cold Comfort Farm, and some of the romantic elements of Serendipity. Being a character that has a phy-
sicality that invites you into her life, that can get raw, and strip down some of the preconceptions we have about her, because obviously she's a beautiful face, but trying to find something internally we were digging for, and she was generous enough to bring her investment in being the mother of a young daughter...
I was thinking about that when I was watching, too. I think it's inevitable that
what you know about an actor you project onto the character, but she's been a
mother for awhile. I mean, she had her child longer ago than people realize.

I think Lily's five or six now.
[Her father is Michael Sheen, The Queen's Tony Blair.]
That isn't as old as I thought. In a way that's almost spookier, though,
because then her real child is closer in age to the child in the film. I
figured she was bringing some of her experience as a mother...

She actually brought her daughter to the location to hang out and spend
time with us. I think it was just like a nice safety net for her to emotionally
have the reality there when she was gonna go to some pretty difficult places.
Which she does. I've always liked her, and I'm still getting caught up on things
she did a long time ago, like on PBS, they just showed her Emma
[the 1996
made-for-TV version]. They've been doing the whole Jane Austen thing.
You should check out The Last Days of Disco. That's a good movie.
I still haven't seen that. And she also did one of those fairytale adaptations-not Faerie Tale Theatre, but a competing version-I think she did Alice in Wonderland.
I don't know about that.
alice.jpg
Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998)
You have two movies as a producer coming out. I've seen Great World of Sound,
and Shotgun Stories is coming to Seattle, but I missed it during the film festival.

Didn't Shotgun win an award here?
It did, and I wish I'd known more about it before-
hand, because I heard how great it was afterwards.

It's a really good movie. Check it out, and spread
the word. We need to get Jeff's crew off to the races.
Were you at all inspired to produce in having had Terrence
Malick back your work? Or is it more that they're friends?

Well, they're friends, and you do whatever you need to help them out and
do something cool. I don't have time to make all the movies I want to
make, so I need a Mafia of people to start branching off and executing.
[I don't think he meant murdering...]
green%20and%20schneider.jpg
Green and Schneider
That makes sense. Did you inspire Paul Schneider to become
a director or was that something he was always interested in?

[Schneider's directorial debut premiered in January at Sundance.]
I think it's something he was always interested
in. He didn't study acting; he studied editing.
That's interesting. I didn't know that about him.
Has he actually edited anything post-school?

No. Do you know about Danny McBride?
That name sounds familiar.
He was in All the Real Girls. He played the funny psychic bus [indistinguishable]. He has a moustache. He's one of four friends he [Schneider's character] has. He was a directing student at our school, and now he's in huge movies. They haven't come out yet, but he's the guy to watch for the year. He and Will Ferrell are starting Land of the Lost right now. He's in my new movie, Pineapple Express with Seth Rogen and James Franco, and he's in Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller's new movie, and he's in Drillbit Taylor. He's never auditioned or got headshots. He's like, 'I don't want to be an actor. I
want to be a director. Why do I keep getting these stupid movie roles...?'
Paul is really good, and he seems to be getting even
better lately. Did you see Lars and the Real Girl?

I didn't.
Honestly, I didn't like it, but he and Emily Mortimer are great.
They make the movie. It's one of the best things he's done.

I'll keep my eyes open for it. It's good to see all your buddies that you've known for so long kind of taking off and doing some pretty cool stuff. And guys like Aaron Katz-who I didn't go to school with-he's kind of like a splinter of the group.
*****
Next: On Bill Anderson and Pineapple Express
shotgun%20stories.jpg
Another Green production
Produced by North Carolina School of the Arts alums David Gordon Green and directed by Jeff Nichols, Shotgun Stories opens at the Northwest Film Forum on
Fri., 5/9. The film won SIFF '07's New American Cinema Grand Jury Prize. The NWFF
is located at 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill. For more information, please click here or call 206-329-2629. Images from Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery, Monsters and Critics, Movie Habit, MovieMeter, No Budget Film School, and Variety.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Southerner Looks to the North: Part Four

A Chat with David Gordon Green: On the Cast (click here for part three)

george%20washington.jpg
The Criterion Collection: Spine #152

In spite of the commercial challenges his films have faced,
Green has emerged as one of the most interesting and idio-
syncratic independent filmmakers of the last decade.
-- George Ducker, The Believer (2006)

*****

You've talked about some of the differences between shooting your last two films, but were you working within the same time frame? Or did you have more time?

Same time-six weeks-and about the same budget.
Well, there was a little more money for Snow Angels.

How does that compare to your first two films, in terms of the shooting time?

My first movie was 19 days straight; second, third, and fourth were six weeks: five-day weeks, 30 days. And I just finished one [Pineapple Express] where I had 45 days.

amy%20sedaris.jpg
Amy Sedaris at the Shrek the Third premiere
I don't know about the crew, but that must've felt like a major difference to you. So, how did you end up casting Amy Sedaris? Did you know her from North Carolina?
I had a big crush on her. I didn't know her from North Carolina, but I
did know her. We had some friends in common, and I had gone over
to her house and had cupcakes one time, and so I knew I liked her.
[Sedaris has a sideline in cupcakes and cheese balls.]
She's good. She's funny at first. And then when she's not supposed to be, she isn't.
I like her a lot. I was trying to find someone-you know, the trick with that character and with the character of her husband, Nate, is that they're not in it that much, so they need to say a lot in a very brief period of time. They need to be interesting, they need to be likable, and they need to be a breath of fresh air. You've got to take that evolution, because if she just jumps right into dramatic heaviness, then that's-it's just not Amy. I don't think the audience would take that leap. So, it was about trying to use her comedy and her energy and her naturalism to our advantage, and to show the audience a different side of her, because when I met her I hadn't even seen Strangers with Candy or anything, and since then I had become a big fan of her work. I look forward to another-I'd like to do a vehicle for her specifically.
That would be awesome. It's interesting, because when I read about the cas-
ting-Amy Sedaris and Kate Beckinsale play best friends-I couldn't see it. I get intrigued by things like that, because you want to see if it'll work, and it does. And her
[character] being married to Nicky Katt is interesting, too. It's funny, but at the press screening, certain actors-and I'm sure you've seen this at screenings you've attended, too-people just respond to them. Like when Tom Noonan comes on the screen, people start laughing, and the minute Katt comes on the screen, same thing. It's not, 'Oh, there's that ridiculous guy.' It's more like, 'We love this guy.'
You just know what you're gonna get when you get those guys.
They both have this way of delivering lines. Like Nicky Katt...he amazes me.
nikky%20katt.jpg
Kool Katt
He's a funny individual.
Is he funny in real life?
Oh my God.
I have no idea what he's like outside his movies.
[Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, The Limey, Planet Terror, etc.]
His name wasn't Nate in the book, but he was so different
that we changed it, just so he could invent his own character.
Are those his tattoos?
Yeah, but that's not his moustache. You know, he's in that
leopard-skin banana hammock the first time you see him.
That was scary.
He was supposed to do it totally nude, but he chick-
ened out. I'm never gonna let him live that down.
It works the way he plays it.
It's a little less distracting, I guess.
Doesn't he also wear a woman's robe at some point?
When he's in the water, he's wearing a karate outfit.
How about Michael Angarano? Arthur wears this pink"sh hat throughout the
movie. I came up with this theory, because it seems like such a weird choice, that his Mom put it in with the colored wash. He
[a teenage boy] wouldn't choose a pink hat-and it was this really light pink-so I wondered if it wasn't forced on him.
I don't think it was forced on him. I did want it to be his Mom's hat.
I knew there must be a reason for it. That's not accidental.
I wanted it to be his Mom's hat, and I wanted there to be a closeness. Anything I could do to connect him to his Mom, because there aren't any real scenes-I mean, there's the first scene and the scene in the car-I wanted there to be allusions to the closeness to his mother. I like it that way, because it's funny, a character thing.
snow%20angels5.jpg
Arthur in his Mom's hat
I like that explanation. So, from what I understand Sam Rockwell
was attached to the film while you were working on the script?

Yes, the other director [Jesse Peretz] had cast him, but Sam came after I had written it. I was done with my job, and I did another movie. I was working on other things.
So, you weren't thinking about him when you were writing?
Uh-uh.
Were you thinking about any actors?
Mostly, I was just thinking about my friends. I wasn't projecting who would
act in this; I was thinking about people I knew and what they would say. I
find it easier to write that way. It's more realistic, because I have a limitation.
It gives you a boundary as to what the reality of the character should be. Like
with Arthur, a lot of it is what I would say, how I pictured myself [at that age].
Also in the press notes, Sam Rockwell talks about his preparation, and it's real-
ly extensive: he watched all these movies and read all these books. That's a lot
of work. Have you worked with other actors who prepare that extensively?

Yeah, it's a lot of work. A lot of actors within that same time just try to memorize lines. I don't focus on that. I have them do the research to get to the core of the character. I usually just cast people where that's their process, because it's more entertaining that way. It's more uncertain. I always work with people that are that crazy, unless they're just not actors and they just are who they are in real life.
He works pretty regularly, so I thought if he's putting this much
work into your film, he probably does the same for his other films.

That's why I went to hang out on the Jesse James set, because
we were rehearsing. We did this right after they filmed that.
So, he was overlapping.
We were overlapping a little bit.
Poor guy. He had a tough year-as an actor. Aside from Snow An-
gels
and The Assassination of Jesse James, I saw Joshua, too.

[Rockwell doesn't make out well in any of these films.]
He did do a lot of heavy stuff. I can't wait to see Choke. I haven't seen it yet.
I'm looking forward to that, too.
Next: On actors and producers
pineapple%20express.jpg
Green's Judd Apatow-produced follow-up, Pineapple Express (with Seth Rogen and
James Franco), opens on 8/8 (there are no more Seattle screenings of Snow Angels). Images from AOL Television, About.com (copyright Richard Chavez), Collider.com (click the link for the Pineapple Express trailer), and The Criterion Collection.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What Happened To Me

california.jpg
The view from my commute.

So, I've been absent for awhile. What happened what this. I was scheduled to interview Crispin Glover, during his January visit. An hour before the interview, I was notified that I was being laid-off. The next day I was getting ready to see Crispin Glover present What Is It? when my landlady notified me that she was going to sell the condo I'd been leasing. I'd like to think that losing my job and apartment had nothing to do with Crispin Glover. The following week, the heating broke down in my building, a mouse took up residence in my wall and the zipper on my sweater broke. I decided to move to San Francisco.

I flew down to see what I could line up. Three weeks later, on Valentine's Day, I got offered a job in the Financial District. A few days after that, I signed a lease on an apartment in Pacific Heights. I flew back to Seattle, packed up my shit and here I am, living a stone's throw from Lafayette Park, riding the cable car home from work, eating dinner in Chinatown, knocking back drinks at Tosca [Wim Wenders 'favorite bar in the whole, entire world']. My life is a fucking Rice-A-Roni commercial.

It all happened so vertiginously, I sometimes wake up and ask myself, "How did I get here?" Like Judy Barton, I often feel this isn't real my life, but an impersonation of somebody else's. Things aren't helped by the fact that I pass by the Brocklebank Apartments nearly every day. Hopefully, I won't be falling off any belltowers, anytime soon.

Veering between excitement and nostalgia, I find new and wonderful things to do, as I continuously miss my life and friends back in Seattle. Luckily, some things continue to be the same. Movies, for instance. San Francisco is a real film town. Not just because this city has inspired a significant number of memorable cinematic moments, but also because they show a lot of films here. Granted, there's nothing quite like the vastness of SIFF, but there are numerous festivals, one of which, the San Francisco International Film Festival, is right around the corner. So, along with Anne Hockens, I shall continue to contribute to Siffblog, as a sort-of foreign correspondent. In fact, I still have that Crispin Glover thing to transcribe... In the meantime, I have some SFIFF scheduling to figure out.

What Happened To Me

california.jpg
The view from my commute.

So, I've been absent for awhile. What happened what this. I was scheduled to interview Crispin Glover, during his January visit. An hour before the interview, I was notified that I was being laid-off. The next day I was getting ready to see Crispin Glover present What Is It? when my landlady notified me that she was going to sell the condo I'd been leasing. I'd like to think that losing my job and apartment had nothing to do with Crispin Glover. The following week, the heating broke down in my building, a mouse took up residence in my wall and the zipper on my sweater broke. I decided to move to San Francisco.

I flew down to see what I could line up. Three weeks later, on Valentine's Day, I got offered a job in the Financial District. A few days after that, I signed a lease on an apartment in Pacific Heights. I flew back to Seattle, packed up my shit and here I am, living a stone's throw from Lafayette Park, riding the cable car home from work, eating dinner in Chinatown, knocking back drinks at Tosca [Wim Wenders 'favorite bar in the whole, entire world']. My life is a fucking Rice-A-Roni commercial.

It all happened so vertiginously, I sometimes wake up and ask myself, "How did I get here?" Like Judy Barton, I often feel this isn't real my life, but an impersonation of somebody else's. Things aren't helped by the fact that I pass by the Brocklebank Apartments nearly every day. Hopefully, I won't be falling off any belltowers, anytime soon.

Veering between excitement and nostalgia, I find new and wonderful things to do, as I continuously miss my life and friends back in Seattle. Luckily, some things continue to be the same. Movies, for instance. San Francisco is a real film town. Not just because this city has inspired a significant number of memorable cinematic moments, but also because they show a lot of films here. Granted, there's nothing quite like the vastness of SIFF, but there are numerous festivals, one of which, the San Francisco International Film Festival, is right around the corner. So, along with Anne Hockens, I shall continue to contribute to Siffblog, as a sort-of foreign correspondent. In fact, I still have that Crispin Glover thing to transcribe... In the meantime, I have some SFIFF scheduling to figure out.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Life Before Her Eyes

life%20before%20her%20eyes.jpg

Since director Vadim Perelman directed one of my favorite films: The House of Sand and Fog, and (in my opinion), translated the book beautifully to film - I had hopes that The Life Before Her Eyes would be just as lovely. Unfortunately, it was not.

Young Diana (Evan Rachel Wood, portraying a great range of lush emotion) is a typical teenage wild child, testing the limits of her small town with sex and drugs while her tamer, religious friend Maureen (Eva Amurri - who bears a more striking resemblance to her mother every day) helps her through her tumultuous life choices. When a Columbine-like massacre erupts at their high school, it leaves the two girls forever changed.
Fifteen years later, as the anniversary and memorial of the massacre approaches, an older Diana (Uma Thurman) is trying to cope with her memories of the event. Despite her now perfect life - she's got the big, beautiful house, the fulfilling job, a precocious daughter and a handsome, smart husband - Diana has a secret that's starting to unravel and disrupt her happiness.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the performances in this movie; Thurman uses her giant, sad eyes to effectively convey the effects of trauma; Wood uses her growing acting experience fantastically, and it was nice to see Amurri play "the good girl", but even powerful acting can't save this film from its weaknesses.
Saying that the director is a little too heavy-handed with his use of flashbacks would be putting it lightly. While they're necessary to make us familiar with Diana's past, it's not necessary to constantly repeat the same flashback over and over - in other words, I get what you're showing/revealing to us, you don't need to hit me over the head with it. In addition to the repeats, there's an added montage at the end when "the secret" is revealed in order to throw the clues back in the face of the audience. Honestly, it felt really overdone, leaving me feeling empty and disappointed.
Having not read the book, I can only hope the story was better presented on the page. In fact, I'm a little sad I didn't read the book first, because I could see the potential for the story to be interesting and thought-provoking.
I could give you an example of a film that handled a similar theme in a MUCH better way, but I'd ruin the ending for those of you who are interested in seeing this - and I don't believe in giving away endings,AePeven if I think they're unsatisfactory. :)
The Life Before Her Eyes opens April 18th (Limited Release).