Kevin Smith

“Social media–Twitter, especially–allows me to shine my best. It took me 20 years to learn how to move a camera around. I’m not a born film-maker; I’m a born storyteller. The idea of having to show people a story with pictures took me a long time to learn. It was like punching through water. If I can just get out of the water and tell you the story, we can get it done way more entertainingly. Filmmaking is the only art form where you say, ‘I wanna express myself. Give me $10 million and Ben Affleck.’ As the years went on I got better at telling stories visually. But all along what I could do was talk. If podcasts were movies, I’d be up there with Spielberg, dude.”
~ Kevin Smith

Nayman on Seinfeld

“Maybe it’s that grin, Jerry’s default setting as both character and actor, which explains why I hate ‘Seinfeld’ (and Seinfeld). It’s the thin rictus of a frontrunner whose indifference and ignorance is never feigned. Instead, it’s triumphal, overlaid by the faintest hint of self-deprecation. Jerry and George are such vain, self-centred assholes that they can’t hold on to the beautiful girlfriends who keep falling at their feet, or else they beg our sympathy as they scheme to extricate themselves from these women’s interchangeable embraces. It may also be that my antipathy to ‘Seinfeld’ comes out of the same sense of recognition that makes others love it: that I feel implicated by all the glib, shallow goings-on. But the reason I love ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Louie’ is because they present a gallery of human types. Homer Simpson doesn’t change, but that doesn’t keep Lisa from trying to move that needle; Louis CK has taken the basic Seinfeld model of a successful stand-up ‘playing himself’ in New York City and torqued it into a strangely humane vision of human frailty which locates cruel comeuppance as just one of many points on its moral compass. And ‘Broad City,’ a spiritual sister to Louie, reclaims the lazy misogyny of Seinfeld in its vision of twin Elaine Beneses who wouldn’t be caught dead wasting time with the likes of George Costanza.”
~ Adam Nayman Gives Good Jerry-Hate

Paul Schrader, via Facebook

Speaking last night with Criterion’s Peter Becker about the democratization of artistic expression. We are not only all artists, we are socially compelled to communicate our artistry. Everyone publishes their writing (facebook, twitter), makes music (music maker apps), is a photographer (instagram), can dance (rave), sing (karaoke, rap), write criticism (ten best lists), make movies. It’s getting hard to hear each other above the noise we’re making. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but is, as we now say, a thing.
~ Paul Schrader, via Facebook

Bilge Ebiri On The “Refinement” Of Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road is, yes, a fantastic piece of action filmmaking–breathless, beautiful, and bold–but it’s also something else. Through its sheer, spectacular drive, it puts me in the same kind of reverie that slow cinema does. One of the great pleasures of watching the static long-take aesthetic–in a film like, say, Tsai Ming-Liang’s What Time Is It There? or Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant–is the way it focuses our attention on small details that gain monumental importance: a pair of wet socks on a radiator, or an otherwise irrelevant small fish swimming around in an aquarium. I would argue that for all the sublime beauty of the nonstop action in Fury Road, it possesses a similar kind of refinement.In movies like these, the absence of conventional dramatic development makes us lock in on the smallest of gestures and incidents–not out of poverty, mind you, but because great filmmakers teach us to see all over again. Their work transforms us, changes our inner rhythms and points us in all sorts of directions we may never have noticed. And yes, a film by George Miller at his best does that same thing. Even if, instead of long takes of people staring off into space, he’s giving us fast cuts of trucks and motorcycles flying through the air.”
~ Bilge Ebiri On The “Refinement” Of Mad Max: Fury Road

Manohla Dargis on The Wolfpack

“In its intense personal quality and complex family dynamics as well as in Ms. Moselle’s disregard for (or lack of interest in) the questions that some of her methods raise, The Wolfpack can bring to mind Albert and David Maysles’ Grey Gardens. It’s important to underscore that there’s never any question as to the mental health of the Angulo brothers, unlike with the mother-daughter duo in Grey Gardens, another documentary that benefits from closing the traditional divide between filmmaker and subject. The Angulo brothers come off as smart, well-adjusted and charmingly eccentric; in other words, they’re New Yorkers. And while they’re movie mad, they belong to the same great tribe that many of us do, a tribe that finds joy and sustenance being transported into other worlds. Given how much the brothers share, candidly and obliquely, and given their ages, it never feels as if Ms. Moselle is exploiting them; she never prods them, at least on camera, to reveal more than they seem to want to. Documentary has a tradition of trafficking in the misery of other people’s lives, so it’s a relief that The Wolfpack doesn’t drag you down or offer packaged uplift, but instead tells a strange tale with heart and generosity.”
~ Manohla Dargis on The Wolfpack

Manohla Dargis On Jurassic World

“Mr. Spielberg may not have directed Jurassic World, but his fingerprints—and anxiety over his influence—are all over it. He’s one of its executive producers and gave his blessing to the director Colin Trevorrow, who has just one other feature on his résumé, the indie Safety Not Guaranteed. As is the case with every filmmaker hired to lead an industrial brand to box-office domination, Mr. Trevorrow was principally tasked with delivering “Jurassic World” in salable shape, which he has done. Actors repeat their bad lines without smirking, and digital dinosaurs stomp, scatter and gulp amid product placements for Triumph motorcycles and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville chain. There are so many plugs for Mercedes that you may wonder if the targeted viewers are studio executives.”
~ Manohla Dargis On Jurassic World

Vince Mancini on Aloha

Aloha is the movie equivalent of a man in a donkey suit with a tree branch growing out of his forehead. I don’t know what the fuck this movie is. It feels like Cameron Crowe tried to make some Pynchonesque contemporary riff on Casablanca, then either or he or the studio chickened out halfway through and tried to turn it back into Jerry Maguire. But don’t confuse Aloha with hackwork. It’s more like a mad scientist had 10 beakers bubbling, and instead of unlocking cold fusion, he blew up his lab and melted an ear. I swear, this movie is like some bastard offspring of Casablanca, Inherent Vice, ‘Goosebumps,’ and ‘Baywatch Hawaii.’ My takeaway? Making movies is hard, yo.”
~ Vince Mancini

George Miller

“We don’t defy the laws of physics: There are no flying men or cars in this movie. So it made sense to do it old-school: real vehicles and real human beings in the desert. We shot the movie more or less in continuity, because the cars and the characters get really banged up along the way. The biggest benefit of digital technology for me was that the cameras were smaller and much more agile, so you could put them anywhere. We also spent a huge amount of time on spatial awareness—making sure the viewer could follow the action and understand what was happening. There has to be a strong causal connection from one shot to the next, just the same way that in music, there has to be a connection from one note to the next. Otherwise it’s just noise. Too often, if you just cram a lot of stuff into the frame, you get the illusion of a fast pace. But there’s no coherence. It doesn’t flow. It comes off as headbanging music, and it can be exhausting. We storyboarded the movie before we had a script: We had 3,500 boards, which helps the cast and crew understand how everything is going to fit together. Movies are getting faster and faster. The Road Warrior had 1,200 cuts. This one has 2,700 cuts. You have to treat it like a symphony.”
~ George Miller

“I was having issues with my script for It’s All About Love, so I called Ingmar Bergman and we ended up talking about everything but the script. He said, “Well, Festen is a masterpiece, so what are you going to do now?” At that point, I had not decided if I was going to make It’s All About Love, so I answered, “Hmmm, I don’t know. Maybe this, maybe that.” There was just a long pause, and then he said, “You’re fucked.” I said, “Well, how can you know?” “Well, Thomas, you always have to decide your next movie before the movie you’re doing presently opens.” And I said, “Why is that?” “Well, two things can happen. One thing is that you fail, and then you’ll feel scared and humiliated. It’ll get into your head. Second, and even worse, you have success, and then you’ll want more of it, or you’ll want to maintain it. But if you decide on your next film while you’re in the middle of editing, it becomes a very nonchalant choice. And then it’s shorter from the heart to the hand.”
~ Thomas Vinterberg

Oliver Sacks To Lawrence Wechsler

“When the writing is flowing, I am powerful and cheerful and can’t imagine it ever being otherwise. And when the writing becomes blocked, I am crestfallen and palsied, and there, too, I can’t imagine it ever being otherwise. In either case, my visions of the future are at all times characterized by a spurious permanence.”
~ Oliver Sacks To Lawrence Wechsler

Susan Sontag

“By literature, I mean literature in the normative sense, the sense in which literature incarnates and defends high standards. By society, I mean society in the normative sense, too—which suggests that a great writer of fiction, by writing truthfully about the society in which she or he lives, cannot help but evoke (if only by their absence) the better standards of justice and of truthfulness that we have the right (some would say the duty) to militate for in the necessarily imperfect societies in which we live. Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent. This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate—and, therefore, improve—our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgment.”
~ Susan Sontag

Robert Downey, Jr.

“I’m one of those guys where I’m always kind of assuming the social decorum is in play and that we’re promoting a superhero movie. This has nothing to do with your creepy, dark agenda that I’m feeling like all of a sudden ashamed and obligated to accommodate your weirdo shit. What I have to do in the future is I just have to give myself permission to say, ‘That is more than likely a syphilitic parasite, and I need to distance myself from this clown. Otherwise, I’m probably going to put hands on somebody, and then there’s a real story.'”
~ Robert Downey, Jr.

Shia LaBeouf

“As a celebrity/star I am not an individual—I am a spectacular representation of a living human being, the opposite of an individual. The enemy of the individual, in myself as well as in others. The celebrity/star is the object of identification, with the shallow seeming life that has to compensate for the fragmented productive specializations which are actually lived. The requirements to being a star/celebrity are namely, you must become an enslaved body. Just flesh—a commodity, and renounce all autonomous qualities in order to identify with the general law of obedience to the course of things. The star is a byproduct of the machine age, a relic of modernist ideals. It’s outmoded.”
~ Shia LaBeouf

Joss Whedon On Making Avengers: Age Of Ultron

“I have been to the other side of the mountain. I gotta say, it’s been dark. It’s been weird. It’s been horrible. About a month and a half ago, I said goodbye to my kids, and I’ve been living in Burbank next to the studio. I feel every day like, I didn’t do enough, I didn’t do enough, I didn’t do enough. I wasn’t ready. Here’s failure. Here’s failure. Here’s compromise. Here’s compromise. I’m now coming out the other side, realizing that once again, for all its many varied and soon to be heralded flaws, it’s my movie. It’s the movie I set out to make. And I have the honor of saying, it’s fucking bonkers. So there’s that.”
~ Joss Whedon On Making Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Renata Adler and Catherine Lacey In Conversation

CATHERINE LACEY: Do you think that your writer DNA was sort of shaped by how your family was displaced by the Nazi regime before you were born?
RENATA ADLER: It’s funny that you should mention that because I think it affects a lot else, specifically being a refugee. I wasn’t born there. I didn’t experience any of it. But they were refugees. So then I was thinking of this business of being a refugee, no matter in what sense.

Prenatal refugee.
Prenatal refugee and actually postnatal refugee. And I thought there are probably things in common between being a child and being a refugee and being an anthropologist.

It gives you a sense of curiosity.
But also a complete displacement. You’ve got to read the situation. You’re the new kid in school all the time. But I wasn’t aware of it then. I’m aware of it now because language affects you differently, or not. But I used to talk to Mike Nichols about it because he was a refugee. Do you envision an audience when you write? Do you envision a particular person? 

Every once in a while I think: Now, what would Mike say to that?

There’s that idea that when you’re blocked, you can always just write as if it was a letter to one specific person.
Oh, that’s good. That’s a wonderful idea. Mine is more in terms of criticism. If someone was to say, “I know what that is. Do you really want to do that?” But anyway, about Mike and his attitude toward language, I remember him saying—it was a question of whether something written was fresh or not—and he would ask, “Why not smell it?” Which, from an English speaker’s point of view, is hysterical.

~ Renata Adler and Catherine Lacey In Conversation 

David Fincher, 1992

“Oh it was just hellish. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It would be stupid for me to say that I didn’t know what I was getting into. It has taken me five years to decide on a first film and I always held out for something like this. The lesson to be learned is that you can’t take on an enterprise of this size and scope if you don’t have a movie like The Terminator or Jaws behind you. Because when everybody’s wringing their handkerchiefs and sweating and puking blood over the money, it’s very nice to be able to say, ‘This is the guy who directed the biggest grossing movie of all time, sit down, shut up and feel lucky that you’ve got him.’ It’s another thing when you are there and you’re going ‘Trust me, this is really what I believe in,’ and they turn round and say ‘Well, who the hell is this guy?’ If I make ten shitty movies, I’ll deserve the flak and if I go on to make 10 great ones, this’ll probably be looked upon as my first bungled masterpiece.”
~ David Fincher, 1992


Louis C. K.

“I was a brat back when I made Pootie Tang. I was dealing with people every day whose pressures I didn’t understand, and I wasn’t very nice about how I said no to them. I put myself in a position I didn’t have to be in. A lot of what makes this kind of stuff work is empathy. If you’re taking money from somebody, they have a right to look after it. It’s all just trying to be clear about the arrangement. That’s why when I set up ‘Louie,’ I just said, ‘This is what I’m comfortable doing, and if you don’t want to do it, I don’t blame you. But in exchange, I’ll take very little money.’ I was only getting $200,000 per show from them, which is insane, and it goes up just by tiny increments every year. The other part of the arrangement with FX is that if this stops working for them, they should just tell me and we’ll stop doing it. Contractually, FX has a right to demand that the scripts be filtered through them before I shoot them, just like any other show. But from the beginning, they haven’t read anything, and they like the show. If I start turning in shit, then they’re going to start asking to see scripts, and that’s perfectly fair.”
~ Louis C. K.


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“At one point in the comedy dead zone known as Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2, the title character—a stuffed toy bear voiced by Mr. MacFarlane—and his dimwitted best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), visit a comedy club to engage in a favorite pastime: throwing bleak improv ideas at the comics onstage. So, seated in the back of the auditorium while cloaked in darkness, the friends start shouting out suggestions like 9/11, Robin Williams and Charlie Hebdo to the unnerved comics. The topics don’t mean anything to Ted and John, who, like Mr. MacFarlane, take great pleasure in making others squirm. They could have just as easily yelled gang rape, the Holocaust and dead puppies.”
Manohla Dargis on Ted 2

“You never expect a movie to hurt you. Disappoint? Dismay? Depress? Fine. But when a movie has a field day asserting the humanity of a fake toy bear at the expense of your own, it hurts. I was led to believe, in part by the posters, that I was getting a movie about a character who’d be masturbating or urinating with his back to us. They should’ve turned Ted around since the emissions are aimed at the audience… MacFarlane doesn’t appear to believe in anything. He just likes to mess around with things that still have value without seeming to get whether that value is greater than his jokes. It’s as if he doesn’t really know what he’s laughing at or care what race and sexuality and gender are. It’s as if he doesn’t know women or black people — just white comedy writers who love to make fun of them.”
~ Wesley Morris On Ted 2