MB Cool. I was really interested in the aerial photography from Enter the Void and how one could understand that conceptually as a POV, while in fact it’s more of an objective view of the city where the story takes place. So it’s an objective and subjective camera at the same time. I know that you’re interested in Kubrick. We’ve talked about that in the past because it’s something that you and I have in common—
GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.
MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?
GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.
“A Haunted House 2 is not a movie. It is a nervous breakdown. Directed by Michael Tiddes but largely the handiwork of star, producer, and co-writer Marlon Wayans, the film is being billed as yet another Wayans-ized spoof of the horror movie genre, à la the first Haunted House movie and the wildly successful Scary Movie series. (Keenen Ivory Wayans and his brothers were responsible for the first two Scary Movie films; they have since left that franchise, which may explain why a new one was needed.) And there are some familiar digs at recent horror flicks: This time, the creepy doll and the closet from The Conjuring, the family-murdering demon from Sinister, and the dybbuk box from The Possession all make appearances. But this new film is mostly an excuse for star Marlon Wayans to have extended freak-outs in response to the horrors visited upon him—shrieking, screaming, crying, cowering, and occasionally hate-fucking for minutes on end. Yes, you read that last bit right. A Haunted House 2 puts the satyriasis back in satire.”
~ Ebiri On A Haunted House 2
“I wanted to make you love a murderer. There’s no way of redeeming him. He’s a drunk and a killer. He killed at least seven people (that we know of). But there were reasons he was a bad guy. He was surrounded by evil in those days. A lot of people were killed building modern Florida—modern everywhere. Watson had plenty of opportunities to see how rough those guys were playing and he thought he could do it too. At least he rationalized it that way. He had the devil beaten out of him and became a very dangerous guy. And he couldn’t handle his liquor, which is one of the worst aspects of him. And he went crazy. Understanding how that happened is useful, I think. There’s no reason any one of us couldn’t be Edgar Watson.”
~ Peter Mathiessen On Writing “Killing Mister Watson”
“Objects and their manufacture are inseparable, you understand a product if you understand how it’s made.”
~ Jony Ive
“There’s an old text from India that gives three rules for the theater: (1) That it must be encouraging and amusing to the drunk; (2) That it must respond to someone who asks, ”How to live?”; and (3) That it must answer the one who asks “How does the universe work?” What do you think?”
~ Federico Fellini To Jonathan Cott
“If the precise nature of an obscenity, vulgarity or other offensive expression is essential to the reader’s understanding of a newsworthy event — not merely to convey color or emotion — editors should consider using the term or a close paraphrase; readers should not be left uninformed or baffled about the nature of a significant controversy. In such cases, a single reference is generally enough to provide the information. (A similar standard applies to reporting of strongly offensive racial or other slurs.)
“If, for example, a high-ranking government official uses a strong vulgarity to address a political rival in a public setting, readers may need to know the exact words to assess the behavior. By contrast, to convey a profile subject’s penchant for vulgar language, a general description will invariably suffice. The argument that reproducing a vulgar expression is necessary to convey atmosphere or intensity of feeling is not compelling.
“The use of strong vulgarity in the name of a website, business, book or movie does not compel The Times to repeat it. Such blunt efforts to grab attention, while increasingly common, need not dictate The Times’s standards. If necessary, describe or paraphrase the name.”
I entertain most nights. In the afternoon you wear the mud mask of your being. And then the guests arrive and you are a new thing. It is the unspoken promise of nightfall. It takes time. Time that hunts you, time that is calamity.
These are dinner parties.
Barbecues, mainly. And this is part of it. Calling the dogs in, all limbs and sinew, the vermicular homebound patterns they weave in the scorch of the grass. The glint of the grill in the sun’s fire ellipse, its entirety as it bends toward hyphenate unyielding horizon. I like to soak the mesquite chips for at least half an hour. Then there’s the marinade for the brisket, or the dry rub, the laying on of hands. A replication of primeval violence. In your fingertips the harm of generations, the wish to make right, the failure to cleanse and absturge. Raw matter. Chile ancho, dried chipotles, paprika and salt, pulverized plant and rock, the sad spice and crumble of the earth’s red crust. I put the beef in a plastic bag for two hours before my guests come.
Your guests—these are other writers?
The meat is all talk. It murmurs and sibilates. We stand and watch the conflagration of charcoal. The flame maze, the char, the sauce and slaw. In the glowing embers of the mesquite, the old dead wood, you see the incipient sting of godlessness. The smokehouse and the smoke and the burn in your eyes with which to fever it.
“I realized that if you could write, you could have complete control. All these people I admired—Woody Allen, Jim Brooks, Preston Sturges—directed and wrote. When directors would come to the school and talk about their movies, eventually they’d have to talk about the fact that someone else had written it. To me that was like the dirty secret.”
~ Matthew Weiner, The Art Of Screenwriting No. 4
“The priority is absolutely on the best take for performance, and frankly I don’t understand why people get so hung up on these issues, because if you look at films throughout history, you will see enormous continuity errors everywhere, particularly when you’re talking about the Academy aspect ratio where you see more in the frame. Even in The Red Shoes, a film that nobody ever has complaints about, there are enormous continuity bumps, and it doesn’t matter. You know why? Because you’re being carried along by the power of the film. So throughout our history of improvisational cutting, we have decided to go with the performance, or in this case particularly with the humor of a line, as opposed to trying to make sure a coffee cup is in the right place. I remember that when I was nominated for an Academy Award for GoodFellas and we lost to Dances with Wolves for editing, the editor of that movie said to me: “Why did you make that bad continuity cut?” And I said “Which cut? Which continuity error? We have tons of them.” He was talking about a scene with Paul Sorvino and another actor who was an amateur, but wonderful, though he didn’t know about matching. It was much more important for us to get this beautiful performance by this untrained actor than to worry about where the cigar is in Paul Sorvino’s hand. One [wouldn't] want to do that, one would hope not to do that, but if the choice comes between a beautiful, clean line and a laugh, we would always go for the laugh.”
~ Thelma Schoonmaker on continuity and editing
“Everybody has a hard job. All real work is hard. My work happened also to be undoable. Morning after morning for 50 years, I faced the next page defenceless and unprepared. Writing for me was a feat of self-preservation. If I did not do it, I would die. So I did it. Obstinacy, not talent, saved my life. It was also my good luck that happiness didn’t matter to me and I had no compassion for myself. Though why such a task should have fallen to me I have no idea. Maybe writing protected me against even worse menace. Now? Now I am a bird sprung from a cage instead of (to reverse Kafka’s famous conundrum) a bird in search of a cage. The horror of being caged has lost its thrill. It is now truly a great relief, something close to a sublime experience, to have nothing more to worry about than death.”
~ Philip Roth
“It is pitch dark when Ron Bass rises each day, four A.M. at the latest. Dressed unvaryingly in a flannel shirt, corduroys, and Weejuns, he pads through the halls of his home in Brentwood as his wife and two daughters are sleeping upstairs. In his office, he walks to a pine lectern near the window and places a sheaf of yellow foolscap on it, beside which he props “the Book,” a fat vinyl binder that holds the DNA for his current screenplay. Clipped inside the Book are two pencil cases: one filled with newly sharpened No. 2 Sundance pencils, made by Blackfoot Indians, and one to receive those that grow dull during the morning’s work. Bass selects a fresh pencil and flips through the binder’s thousand pages of “blocking,” suggestions made by the six writers who work for him—his “Team”—about incidents or “beats” for each of the script’s sixty-odd scenes. Bass mulls over the blocking for his next scene and paces, muttering his characters’ lines aloud. If it is a sad scene—a mother with cancer saying good-bye to her children; a man rising at an AA meeting to testify about his love for his alcoholic wife—Bass’s murmurings grow husky, and he may pause to weep.”
~ Tad Friend’s January 2000 Profile Of Once-Prolific Screenwriter Ron Bass
“Lindsay is so fucking charismatic. You can’t take your eyes off her. She has that thing that we watch in movies – which is all the more pity that she can’t separate her personal from her professional life and discipline her professional life. Even actors who have erratic personal lives learn to discipline their professional lives, because they want to work so much. But the moment you start not showing up and the moment you cause trouble where no trouble needed to be caused, people start wondering whether the fucking they’re getting is worth the fucking they’re given.”
~ Paul Schrader On Star Acting
“There was a storied time when people really did take movies—and movie reviews—seriously, when the internecine struggles between Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Stanley Kauffmann, and John Simon spilled out into arguments at countless bars and dinner parties. Not coincidentally, this relentless chattering, applauding and bickering coincided with a particularly brilliant period for American movies. Today, passionate debates about culture are more likely to revolve around the sexual politics of “Girls” or the power struggles in “Game of Thrones” than the movies. The heat has correspondingly disappeared from writing about film. If there are any burning points of difference between Anthony Lane of the New Yorker and David Edelstein of New York Magazine, they are not readily apparent. The review blueprint was drawn many years ago. But these days, fewer and fewer people read reviews to find out what a film is about or whether they should go see it—they have Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes for that. If critics want to avoid irrelevance, they might relinquish their duties made redundant by the internet, and focus on reviewing film in terms that draw from their deep knowledge of film as a unique artform. Almost every review—whether in newspapers, magazines or websites—currently follows a similar blueprint: plot synopsis, recap of director’s work, brief appraisal of the acting and/or writing, cursory sentence about the camera work and/or score, and then a long dissection of the narrative and themes. Take out a few details and one may as well be reading a theatre or book review.”
~ “Film As Film,” Malcolm Thorndike Nicholson
“Forty-four years ago near this date I was running around getting ready to go to the Oscars because I was nominated – TVTV was doing a special on it and they were there at my apartment near Franklin and Highland, filming me pulling away in my new Fiat convertible with a faulty oil gauge; my hair didn’t turn out at the hairdresser so I stuck my head into the sink, rinsed it and started over, then went to pick up the most expensive dress I ever bought, at Giorgio, with curlers in my hair; finally got ready, brother Stephen on one arm and a camellia behind one ear, in black with a white fox thrift store stole, held hands with John Carradine on the way in a black limousine, his long, delicate fingers large next to mine; when they called my name, I leaned over to Robert Altman on my right, so the cameras showed Susan Sarandon on the screen instead – she was seated behind me next to her husband Chris; when Army Archerd greeted us for an interview, I said cluelessly, Army! what are you doing here? Lily and Keith were there and are still working their magic, but many from the movie Nashville are gone: I will toast them tonight and remember them well, for what they were as artists and for what each gave me and taught me personally. How time slips away into memory’s shadow and light, flickering and replayed like film itself, our glorious moments upon the stage flame up candle bright, before the wick burns down into itself, shedding a gentle glow as it melts into the past. (Thinking of you in New York.)”
~ Ronee Blakley
“To writers of my generation, who grew up in the age of Penguin books, vinyl records and the BBC, it’s as if a cultural ecology has been wiped out. For as long as most of us can remember, every would-be writer knew the landscape of the printed word. This Georgian square was home to publishing grandees (now retired). On that high street were the booksellers (now out of business). In those twisting back streets, you could expect to find literary agents working the margins with the injured innocence of pickpockets at a synod. It was a mutually dependent ecosystem. Publishers were toffs, booksellers trade and printers the artisan champions of liberty. Like the class system, we thought, nothing would change. The most urgent deadline was lunch. How wrong we were…
“I get the impression that people are sick of being lied to by corporations and governments,” Joanna Kavena says. “Writers have nothing but their integrity. They are disaffiliated. They can tell the truth. Anything doing that might just get an audience, whether it comes as a physical artefact like a hardback, or as an e-book. You don’t write unless you hope for that. And you always hope.”
~ On An End To The Writing Life
“Every film festival, every film magazine, every university is asking, ‘What’s the future of film criticism in the age of the internet?’ They are overestimating the revolution, I think. The smell of gunpowder has gone to their heads. Criticism is about first-order things like creativity, knowledge, expressivity, protest, play, advocacy, enchantment, passion, activism and art. None of these were invented by the internet. Most of them are what it–the internet, a second-order thing–yearns for. To see what I mean, think of the relationship between the critic, the text, the criticism and the world. The critic looks at the text–a film, for example–compares it to the world and then, out of this comparison, makes the criticism. She says that the text is a good one because it relates to the world well and is also somehow–because of its wit, or speed, or slowness or interiority, or surprise or sorrow–beautiful in itself.”
~ Mark Cousins Looks Upon Navel-Gazing
“I’ve always thought that comedy was just another dramatic expression. I try to measure the amount of truth in a work rather than just looking at the generic distinction between comedy and drama. There’s a lot of bullshit drama out there that leaves you totally cold. And there’s a lot of wasted comedy time too. But when you get something honest, it doesn’t matter what label you give it. Look at a movie like Sideways, which is funny and still so painful. It points to the idea that life is full of ambiguity. Most people live somewhere on the spectrum of anxiety and depression.”
~ Harold Ramis
“I think David Foster Wallace is a complete fraud. I’m really shocked that people take him seriously. People say the same thing about me, of course, and I’ve been criticized for saying these things about Wallace due to the very sentimental narrative attached to him since he killed himself. But it all ties into Generation Wuss and its wussy influence on social media to a degree; if you have a snarky opinion about anything, you’re a douche. To me, that’s problematic. It limits discourse. If you just like everything, what are we going to talk about? How great everything is? How often I’ve pushed the Like button on my Facebook page? Is it BuzzFeed who said they’re not going to run any negative reviews any more? Really, guys? What’s going to happen to culture then? What’s going to happen to conversation? It’s going to die.”
~ Bret Easton Ellis
“Every act of regulation by authority is an erosion of liberty. That tells us what liberty is, and that you can have too much of a good thing. Liberty pushed to extreme is anarchy. Regulation pushed to extreme is dictatorship. Millions of words have been devoted to finding the balance, and the question remains open. The collective drift towards more regulation in the western liberal democratic model is driven by good intentions and by a mad dream of perfect fairness in which individual discretion and individual responsibility are intrinsically subversive. Infants and madmen used to be the traditional exceptions to the general notion that people should be trusted to make their own accommodations with each other, and that authority is not there to do our thinking for us. We are all halfway to being treated like infants and madmen now. As civilisation advances in complexity, liberties give way. So be it, but it’s as well to know and name the retreat of liberty for what it is, and not to call it something else, before the retreat becomes a rout.”
~ Tom Stoppard On Freedom
“My parents hatched me here. It’s a cool locale. As it happened, Raymond Chandler wrote about this place and preceded me. The likes of Double Indemnity were shot at Paramount–I grew up just south of there–and the movie features the market where I used to shoplift. My parents were quintessential L.A. arrivistes from the Midwest and East Coast. My mother was murdered here. Kevin Starr addressed the city from the left-hand side of the plate and viewed it as a dystopian nightmare, but I love this place. Now I live here because it’s where I come when women divorce me. The people I love are here, and I need to write movies and TV shows to earn a living. Plus, I love cars, girls and Mexican boxers. The winters here are great. My L.A. isn’t down and dirty. The fondness some people have for dives I don’t share. I can’t stand even a hint of discord or squalor. I’ve always preferred the more affluent parts of LA. I’ve always loved Beverly Hills. They used to have great movie theatres there when I was kid and you could lose yourself in a matinee.”
~ James Ellroy’s L.A.