Interviews

The Gronvall Files: Director Alison Klayman On Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Acclaimed internationally for sculptures and installations that have been exhibited in western cities from Munich to London to New York, to name a few, Ai Weiwei is also a culture hero to millions of Chinese, not only for his trenchant and yet often playful art works, but also for his populism and activism, which he has advanced through blogging and social media like Twitter. His protests against injustice, corruption, and propaganda (he publicly criticized the 2008 Beijing Olympics) occasionally landed him in hot water with authorities (he was beaten up and seriously injured in Chengdu), and in 2011 led to an 81-day-long government detention.

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‘Nuit #1′ explores love, sex and despair in Montreal’s lost generation

It all happens in a flash. No sooner do Emond’s lovers kick the door of his apartment shut than they’re groping each other and striping off their clothes. The cherry is added to the sundae when Nikolai apologizes for having to ask Clara what her name is. The same thing happened in Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me,” another song about sex without love, intimacy without passion. “There’s a lot of me in ‘Nuit #1,’ of course,” the first-time writer/director allows. “I know how it feels to be 30 and lost.”

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The Gronvall Files: Red Lights

“What jumped out at me about Tom were the themes of self-acceptance and obsession, because those I think are sort of the twin engines for him, and everybody can identify with that. When you take away the setting of this sort of paranormal world, or this sort of genre, and just talk about the characters—that, to me, is what I’m always interested in: character.”

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The Gronvall Files: Lynn Shelton

“With ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ I had a script, I had dialogue written out, but I asked the actors not to memorize it. Sometimes they would just slightly alter a line, or sometimes they would change a whole line. Maybe 25 percent of the movie is from lines that I wrote, so the vast majority of it is not. But there’s a very specific trajectory that needs to be followed, and so even though the dialogue itself may be improvised, the movie is not, if that makes sense.”

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The Gronvall Files: Safety Not Guaranteed’s Colin Trevorrow

I write studio films, and you’re not allowed to do that anymore, you’ve got to keep the plot going. And we took like a 15-minute break from the plot in this movie, and just let these characters hang out and fall in love and discover things. I guess that’s where maybe the hipster side comes in: “hipster quirky,” or whatever the label. I don’t even know what hipster means anymore. But I can’t apologize for wanting to spend time with these characters and learn what’s really going on with them, outside of this cool time travel story.

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Wilmington on DVDs: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Certainly Kevin is at his cutest when he finally listens to Eva, as she reads him the tale of Robin Hood, champion Saxon archer — and his father, whom Kevin plays like a bassoon, later buys him a bow and arrow, and he becomes a crackerjack archer, who can always hit his target.

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In Victorian England, good vibrations trump ‘Hysteria’ every time

All kidding aside, the prohibition on vibrators in Alabama — and, until recently, other several states – harkens to the 1920s, when a sharp-eyed publisher noticed that the same therapeutic gizmos being advertised in their periodicals were being used in stag films to accomplish paroxysms of a less clinical nature.

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The Gronvall Files: BETWEEN TERENCE DAVIES AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA

For a world-class filmmaker, Terence Davies keeps a fairly low profile; you’re not likely, for instance, to catch him chatting on late-night TV (in part because the director-screenwriter dislikes travel and hardly ever watches television). He has channeled his energies into his work, from ruminative autobiographical features like “Distant Voices, Still Lives” and “The Long Day Closes,” about Britain in the 1940s and 1950s, to his masterly adaptation of the Edith Wharton classic “The House of Mirth” (starring Gillian Anderson in one of her best movie roles), followed by the acclaimed documentary “Of Time and the City,” about his native Liverpool.

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The Gronvall Files: JENNIFER WESTFELDT ON FRIENDS WITH KIDS

What’s a gifted actress to do when Hollywood continues to bypass projects featuring strong roles for women, in favor of cookie-cutter productions kowtowing to that coveted 18-35 male demographic? In the case of Jennifer Westfeldt, you fight back, writing and producing indie vehicles to star in.

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The Gronvall Files: PAUL WEITZ ON BEING FLYNN

“Something that I sometimes worry is a flaw in myself is that I can’t really extricate some sense of humor from a sense of tragedy. Anton Chekhov would write at the front of his plays “a comedy in four acts,” and then Stanislavski would direct them as flat-out tragedies, and Chekhov would be furious that he’s not getting laughs.”

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THE KIDS AREN’T ALL RIGHT: An Interview With Submarine Director Richard Ayoade

The Gronvall Files British actor, writer, and director Richard Ayoade turns 34 this month, around the time that his feature directorial debut Submarine—a big hit in the U.K.–arrives on this side of the Atlantic. Based on the acclaimed novel by Joe Dunthorne, the movie is a whip-smart coming-of-age comedy set in Wales, about a very…

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Digital Nation: ‘Viva Riva!’ … think ‘Harder They Come’ in Africa

Remember the jolt of excitement you experienced watching “The Harder They Come,” “City of God” and “Amores Perros” for the first time? How raw depictions of violence, sex, corruption and poverty flowed organically from the directors’ choices of actors, locations and music, whose singularity couldn’t have been faked or synthesized? These stories may have been…

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Interview: Jodie Foster’s Tango With Depression In The Beaver

Jodie Foster’s directed a third feature. The one with Mel Gibson and the beaver hand-puppet? The Beaver is a rich fable about depression and fear and hope, piercing, personal, bruised. (I think it liked it more than a few opening week critics.) While Gibson’s two roles are his best (and most intense) in memory, other…

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The Gronvall Files: Tops in His Division: An Interview with Win Win Director Tom McCarthy

By Andrea Gronvall Who says you can’t go home again? Actor/writer/director Tom McCarthy, inspired by his memories as a high school wrestler in his hometown of New Providence, New Jersey, collaborated with his close friend and former wrestling teammate Joe Tiboni, a lawyer and first-time screenwriter, to create the funny and heartwarming new indie feature…

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The Gronvall Files: Richard Press and Philip Gefter: Partners Behind Documentary Bill Cunningham New York

By Andrea Gronvall As a breed, film critics are generally sartorially challenged, but I’ll freely admit to enjoying Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the style coverage in The New York Times–particularly the “On the Street” column that’s photographed, written, and composed by the paper’s long-time fashion chronicler Bill Cunningham. A colorful collage revealing trends Cunningham spots…

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Spotlight: Ari Gold on Adventures of Marketing Adventures of Power

Three years ago, filmmaker Ari Gold made a little film called Adventures of Power, a quirky comedy about a dorky air drummer (played by Gold himself) who pursues his air drumming dream all the way fro New Mexico to New … Jersey where he battles Adrian Grenier for a $2000 smackeroos. Unfortunately for Gold, the…

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“The Film That Changed My Life”: Richard Kelly On Brazil

Robert K. Elder’s latest book, “The Film that Changed My Life,” came together as he met filmmakers as part of his regular writing assignments, and then got them to expand on one film that changed their lives, and what form that “change” took. Among the thirty equally appealing conversations, Kevin Smith talks Slacker; Danny Boyle,…

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The Gronvall Files: Good Company: A Conversation with The Company Men Director John Wells

As this year’s Sundance Film Festival unfolds, one of the films that made a splash there a year ago, The Company Men, John Wells’s feature directorial debut, is gathering steam in its commercial rollout. The acclaimed writer-producer behind TV hits like ER and The West Wing, as well as Southland (which found a new home…

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Interview: In Arm’s Way With Danny Boyle

In 127 Hours, Danny Boyle doesn’t present Aron Ralston as any kind of idealist of the great outdoors, or as a man surmounting the wilderness. Rather, the climbing enthusiast who was trapped for days in a Utah canyon by a fallen boulder is a blithe young man who may have reached the limits of his…

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Digital Nation: Four Lions

Besides December 7, 1941, two other dates will live in infamy as long as wars against tyranny are fought. Americans will continue to mark September 11, 2001, for as long as there are people who can recall the sight of New York’s World Trade Center crumbling into ash and dust. For Britons still wary of…

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Interviews

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin