By Ray Pride

Hillary Weston

You’ve mentioned working on a new project with John Ashbery. How is that taking shape?
MICHAEL ALMEREYDA: Sean [Price Williams] and I went to his house upstate and did a little interview with him, shooting in 16mm. Basically, because he’s old—he’s about to turn 90—it’s not as big a project as it might have been if we’d leapt in ten years ago. But I discovered a poem—it’s not like it’s hard to find, but there are so many Ashbery poems—called “The Lonedale Operator,” which refers to a remarkable D. W. Griffith movie. It’s a prose poem, and John matter-of-factly runs through the first movies he ever saw when he was a kid and goes on for about a page, and then veers into a discussion of loneliness, chance, and change. The poem suddenly has a whole different weather to it, and it’s a very moving summation of why we fall in love with movies, and how movies and life interact, how they support each other, even or especially when life happens to be out of control.
~ Hillary Weston

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What’s up with your people mover shot, where it seems like people are kind of floating along?
Oh, my signature shot? That’s just a new way for people to move! It’s really become my Alfred Hitchcock cameo. I did not invent that shot, but Ernest and I did it on the set of Mo Better Blues, when Shorty had to walk [through the park], and I thought, “Let’s try it.” But after that, we tried to have a reason for it. For example, that wonderful sequence in Malcolm X where you hear the great song, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” The final scene is like that, Malcolm floating along to his destiny. In 25th Hour, after Philip Seymour Hoffman has kissed Anna Paquin, we did a shot like that, and it shows his state of mind. In Inside Man, after Denzel thinks he’s witnessed the murder of a hostage, we did the floating shot there.

So you just like the way it looks?
~ Spike Lee To Matt Zoller Seitz

“I never accepted the term contrarian. I think that’s offensive, frankly. And my response to that is: if I’m a contrarian, what are other reviewers? What I strive to do is be a good critic, not somebody who simply accepts the product put in front of me. I guess it scares people to think that they don’t have any originality; that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

“There’s a line a lot of reviewers use that I don’t like at all. They say ‘accept the film on its own terms.’ What that really means is, ‘accept the film as it is advertised.’ That’s got nothing to do with criticism. Nothing to do with having a response as a film watcher. A thinking person has to analyze what’s on screen, not simply rubber-stamp it or kowtow to marketing.”m

“To me, everything does have a political component and I think it’s an interesting way to look at art. It’s one way that makes film reviewing, I think, a politically relevant form of journalism. We do live in a political world, and we bring our political sense to the movies with us – unless you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and shuts off the outside world. I’m not that kind of person.”
~ Armond White to Luke Buckmaster