Looks like British film director Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Pride & Prejudice," "The Soloist") will attack another British drama with Variety's news that he's attached to helm "Indian Summer." The film is based on Alex von Tunzelmann's book of the same name, which is a non-fiction work detailing the effects in India and Pakistan of the transfer of British power and their subsequent internal power struggles as new nations, with a biting focus on the main political players in all corners.
Should be a fairly complicated topic, but if Wright could make "Atonement" (and theoretically "The Soloist") into watchable films from their complicated book origins into highly watchable movies then he's likely to work great magic here as well. "Gladiator" scribe William Nicholson is penning the screenplay with no stars attached at this time. The good news is Keira Knightly seems to be booked up with no less than four movies set to open in 2010, including a "My Fair Lady" remake, so hopefully she won't be joining the cast. Or maybe that's just us.
Looks like British film director Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Pride & Prejudice," "The Soloist") will attack another British drama with Variety's news that he's attached to helm "Indian Summer." The film is based on Alex von Tunzelmann's book of the same name, which is a non-fiction work detailing the effects in India and Pakistan of the transfer of British power and their subsequent internal power struggles as new nations, with a biting focus on the main political players in all corners.
Greg Mottola Talks The Bittersweet 'First Romance' Mood Of 'Adventureland'; Not The 'Superbad 2' Some Are Expecting
This article we wrote originally ran on MTV's Movie's blog, but has since disappeared for some reason, so we're keeping it here for posterity.
Like all bright ideas, Greg Mottola inadvertently conceived his upcoming film, "Adventureland" (April 3) while intoxicated with friends. Friends who would go on to be bigger parts of his life later too - the crew of Judd Apatow's ill-fated, 2002 TV series "Undeclared." Years later Mottola would obviously go on to direct a little Apatow-sponsored comedy called, "Superbad."
"We were having that drunken, 'worst job you've ever had,' type conversation, myself and a lot of writers on 'Undeclared'," Mottola recalled, noting that one of them was a young, then-unknown scribe named Nick Stoller (he would eventually direct, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and the upcoming Apatow-endorsed, "Get Me To The Greek").
"I started talking about working on at an amusement park one summer on Long Island and one person, said, 'Those stories are funny and you should write that stuff.' and I thought 'that's kinda the perfect story for my first love tale.'"
The movie turned into "Adventureland," his upcoming dramatic comedy starring an excellent cast of Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Jesse Eisenberg ("Squid & The Whale"), Martin Starr, ("Knocked-Up" and a general Apatow troupe member), and Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Some are calling it a coming of age film, others would love it to be 'Superbad 2,' but Mottola notes the nuanced tale of many emotional and humorous stripes is more than one compartmentalized convenient label. Notice he called it "my first love tale."
"I guess it gets labeled a coming of age movie, but I'm not really sure what a coming of age story is exactly," Mottola said. "Besides it being a catch all. Better than straight comedy I suppose, cause that's not what it is."
Based on his own experiences working a dead-end summer job in Long Island, Eisenberg stars as a similar surrogate who has to forgo his dream trip to Europe because his parents can longer afford to help him out financially. Stuck in the suburbs, he begrudgingly takes a job at local Adventureland amusement park and soon falls for the mysterious and elusive Em, played by Kristen Stewart.
"Adventureland" is comedic, but it also displays the serious underpinnings about the vulnerabilities of opening yourself to love. Or, as Mottola put it, "It's the first real intimacy [Jessie Eisenberg's character] is allowing into his life, [Kristen's] character is complicated and moody, and that's some scary sh*t."
The filmmaker and writer, who counts Woody Allen's blend of the comically bittersweet as one of his favorite movie flavors, says he also learned from Judd Apatow working on "Undeclared" where the two bonded over their similar and character-sympathetic sensibilities.
"[Judd's] the type of guy [who] would throw away really, really funny jokes because they stepped on the scene or an emotion in the story," he said, noting how difficult it is for comedians to discard jokes they know will score an ace laugh. "But Judd's one of those people that has that discipline, he gets that. He's very true to his heroes, like James L. Brooks and [that type of storytelling] feels richer to me."
Set in the mid-1980 when the filmmaker grew up, the excellent soundtrack features an achingly tasteful mixtape of '80s college rock classics, plus a few humorous uses of mainstream pop like Falco's "Amadeus," which becomes an amusing and repetitive theme in the film that drives the characters nuts.
The soundtrack also features, The Cure, The Replacements, The Velvet Underground, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Husker Du, a score by indie rockers Yo La Tengo and many, many more choice cuts. Suffice it to say, music was vital, even from the earliest of stages. "I really thought about the script and story as a pop love song brought to life," he said, noting how each character has a sound. "Kristen's character listens to punk stuff like the New York Dolls and she's a little harder edged. Jesse's character is a little bit more 1980s emo, but f**k it, I'm a little emo," he laughed.
"I just remember how incessantly everyone would soundtrack their lives. it was a survival mechanism. You had your music and you played it wherever you went and it was a way to push out the horrifying silence of teenage suburban living. "
"Adventureland" plays at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas this weekend and opens up in theaters on April 3.
Don't get too excited because the source on this is UK paper The Sun and we all know they'll make up anything to move papers and generate clicks, but they're reporting Freida Pinto was invited to screen test for the next Bond flick. We're certain that right now it's much ado about nothing as The Sun goes on to chat up the Bond franchise handlers' interest in signing up "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle, who's already publicly denied his interested in the franchise.
The Bond folks are said to have seen and liked Pinto already in the casting for "Quantum of Solace" but felt she was too young to be a Bond girl love interest. Amazing what a couple of years and a featured part in an Academy Award winning film will do for a girl.
Of course this is all just wonderful speculation as the next Bond movie is still only known as Bond 23 (one step ahead of "Untitled Bond Project"). It's not Woody Allen, but Pinto would make an excellent Bond girl.
The trailer for the Coco Chanel bio-pic, starring Audrey Tautou ("Amelie") and helmed by French director/writer Anne Fontaine, has hit the Internets. Amazingly enough comic book geeks aren't that into it but we think it looks amazing. Tautou seems to have nailed Chanel's notoriously stoic-bordering-on-harsh exterior. The opening scenes show Tautou as later era Chanel in the iconic Chanel boutique in Paris - great to have a set that is so recognizable to work with. Karl Lagerfeld, current house of Chanel designer, was hired to supervise the re-creation of the original famous Chanel clothing, hats, purses and more.
As the film title translates to "Coco Before Chanel" this bio pic is expected to show Chanel's early life as a seamstress and hat maker, through her early love affair with Étienne Balsan and the opening of her Paris boutique. The focus is on Chanel's rise to fame as a designer. The trailer is entirely in French, however, so feel free to watch repeatedly until you get it.
Variety reports that Penelope Cruz let slip that she's in talks to reteam with Sergio Castellitto on a new film called "Venuto al Mondo" (in English "Into the World"). Castellitto and Cruz worked together previously on 2004's "Don't Move" ("Non ti muovere" for the Italians among you). "Venuta al Mondo" is based on a novel by Castellitto's wife, Margaret Mazzantini, as was "Don't Move." It details the happenings around a single mother in Sarajevo. Sounds like someone's trying to get the whole team back together again.
"Venuta al Mondo" is still seeking financing and not expected to start shooting in 2009.
A sweet, somewhat loopy modest family dramedy, "Sunshine Cleaning," is a well-intentioned, if ultimately not completely satisfying little picture that deserves better than where it ended up.
Directed by Christine Jeffs ("Sylvia" with Gwyneth Paltrow in 2003), the trailer suggest an offbeat, "quirky indie" and while there are those muted notes to call it that would be cheap and lazy. What is really delivered is a more honest and auspicious character-driven indie that eventually and sadly, loses its way. Revolving a motherless family, a struggling single mother (Amy Adams), a slacker sister (Emily Blunt) and their get rich or die trying father (Alan Arkin), the story's underachieving plot kicks into gear when Adam's A.D.D. son is kicked out of school for seemingly innocuous misbehavior. To afford tuition, she concocts a plan to a start an odd biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up business -- brainstormed by the married cop she's sleeping with -- roping in her unreliable sister.
Promising and quietly observed, 'Cleaning' loses sight of its charming spirit when it eventually tries to tie all its loose threads far too perfectly; its not in synch with what we've been given initially. The characters are sympathetic, unique and the performances are keenly compassionate (especially a spectacular Adams), but around the halfway mark it the picture begins to unravel on itself. With its endearing low-stakes it's the type of film that should let the plot chips lie where they may, but it can't resist the urge bowtie wrap and in doing so does itself a great disservice.
There is something charming and beguiling in its first half, there's a great cast here (an excellent Steve Zahn too) for good reason and it isn't the pay (it clearly looks like a labor of love; we swear half the shot is underlit by an F-stop). Megan Holley's script has some wonderfully flawed and imperfectly underachieving characters within it. There is something definitely worthwhile in this picture trying to fight its way out, but its undone by one little cliche after another. Initially you can forgive the false grace notes, the actors imbue it all with highly-affecting heartful humanity, but after the third and fourth transgression in the second act you tend to simply feel resentment; as if the choices are betraying these appealing and winning people.
The cast - rounded out by and oddball one-armed Clifton Collins Jr. - is solid, but Adams shines brightest as the mother and big sister to her aimless sibling (Blunt). She always conveys such an innate vulnerability and fragility its uncannily penetrating. When she quivers with emotions, a flurry of feelings in her face flutter in one pained glance, we too quiver and knows exactly how she feels.
The main hokey part of 'Sunshine' which doesn't ruin it per se, but doesn't help, is the formulaic and near corny metaphor. By cleaning up the passed-on loved ones in other people's lives -- and helping out in some small measure the pain they have to deal with, they begin to dust-off the clues surrounding their mothers death when they were mostly too young to remember it. The little flashbacks are an aggravating uneven choice and its a game of little contriving story inches that eventually stack up against the picture's total grade.
Musically, Michael Penn's score alternates between an winsome instrumental New Pornographers-like drive, a Jon Brion whimsy and a too-pronounced form of templated indie melancholy, it mostly works, but its forefront mix at times could have registered more subtly.
We're still interested too see what writer and director do next. Lord knows its rare that a mother this well rounded and complicated is shown on screen, and there's a ton of promise in "Sunshine Cleaning," its just not quite fulfilled as brightly as it should be. [B-]
As quickly as Samuel L. Jackson's nine picture deal with Marvel Studios had been signed, fans began to speculate over what these nine potential films are.
It's likely Jackson's Nick Fury wouldn't even appear in nine films, and Marvel is probably just covering their bases. However, if all goes according to plan, Marvel Studios has their eyes on a double digit number of releases down the pike by at least 2014. We decided to weed out all the films being gossiped about ("Dr. Strange" being particularly high on Marvel Studios' wish list) to concentrate on the nine we think Jackson would be in, provided Marvel fully exploits his nine-film involvement. Keep in mind their schedule has proven to be over-ambitious and much of their future film line-up has been bumped around and pushed back.
Iron Man 2
Who's In It: Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell , Paul Bettany (voice), Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Robbins, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson
Story: No details yet, though it will probably magnify the fallout from the public announcement of Tony Stark's alter ego, with leaked information suggesting at least one scene dealing with Stark's infamous alcoholism.
How It Fits With Marvel's Plans: Without plot details, people have been forced to check back issues regarding Sam Rockwell signing on as Justin Hammer, a weapons designer/supplier for numerous nefarious Marvel universe villains. Mickey Rourke will appear as the C-list villain Whiplash, and it seems that they have collated him with the character of Crimson Dynamo (which is maybe why Robert Downey Jr. was so coy). While Whiplash would likely be a one-movie bruiser, Hammer's been featured in storylines for a number of Marvel heroes, and could likely resurface, suggesting Rockwell may have signed a multi-film deal. Roxxon, an evil energy corporation in the Marvel Universe whose logo appeared in "Iron Man" could conceivably tie in here somewhere.
Also, there's the ramifications of Nick Fury's words at the close of the original film, detailing the “Avengers Initiative.” It's likely that “IM2” is the movie most dedicated to exploring this idea, that of Iron Man heading a modern day superteam under Fury's watch. However, this might not be too much of a collaboration between the two – in the comics, Stark develops his alcoholism after he loses a significant portion of his publicly traded company to Fury, who needs Stark Industries to continue manufacturing weapons in order to better supply Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. operations.
Scarlett Johansson will play a pretty Russian assistant to Tony named Natasha – fans have speculated this is Natasha Romanova, alias the Black Widow), a character who could eventually headline her own movie. This would not be the first time this was considered a possibility – "Watchmen" writer David Hayter was developing a “Black Widow” movie for Rebecca Romijn to star in 2004, when the character's rights belonged to Lionsgate. Story leaks have suggested "IM2" will also introduce hero archer Hawkeye as well. Finally, there's a portion of the film, perhaps an epilogue, that will feature Howard Stark (Tim Robbins), Tony's father. In the movie universe, he created the revolutionary Super Soldier Serum, which Tim Roth's Emil Blonsky ingests in “The Incredible Hulk” and is said to have helped create Captain America. You can imply he'll also be featured in “The First Avenger: Captain America.”
Random Casting Suggestion: Michael Pena for Hawkeye. Pena's affordable, tough, and, amongst the pretty whitebread Avengers, ethnic! He's about to break out of his serious film streak with a comic turn in “Observe and Report” so Marvel might want to lock him up quick.
Creative Team: Jon Favreau, who EW claims is a better director than half the modern greats of cinema, returns for another go behind the camera. Writing the new film is Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder,” “Dedication”), replacing the first film's writing team of Art Marcum, Shawn Holloway, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby.
Who's In It: Kenneth Branagh, though you can speculate that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson could also be involved.
Story: The Norse warrior Thor battles his evil step-brother Loki amidst the mystical realm of Asgard.
How It Fits With Marvel's Plans: Earlier “Thor” scripts often centered Thor's adventures in the realm of Asgard, a straight-faced epic “Lord Of The Rings” fantasy, but the new script is said to use Thor's alter ego Donald Blake as a conduit to the real world. Depending on what version of Thor you subscribe to, he often took the form of Blake, a disabled medical student unaware of Thor's existence. While they haven't ditched the Asgard angle, there is also said to be an ending that finds Thor arriving in modern day, possibly meeting the other Avengers after his father Odin has banished him to 'Midgard' for his too-prideful ways.
But can the film hit it's target date? No, “Thor”'s July 16th, 2010 release date was pushed back a year to June 17, 2011. Clearly, they weren't ready and will now fail to capitalize off promotional blitz from the May 7, 2010 showing of “Iron Man 2” and also build buzz for the summer 2011 and 2012 releases of “The First Avenger: Captain America” and “The Avengers.” With no cast set (Alex Skarsgard and Josh Hartnett are two recent names being floated) and no start date for a film that's
sixteen months over two years away from release, Marvel should have plenty of pre-production time to hack through the incomprehensibly long new Branagh script (which is probably part of the reason an additional year was needed).
Random Casting Suggestion: One name popping up constantly: Kevin McKidd. Muscular, and with an excellent accent, he seems a no-brainer of a choice. However, McKidd claims he was approached but noted Marvel wanted to go younger, emphasizing the father-son relationship of Thor and Odin, and that McKidd was being looked at to play another older character. Marvel needs to fix that – an age discrepancy can be defeated with an actor as solid as McKidd.
Creative Team: Kenneth Branagh came on as director and immediately started tinkering with Mark Protosevich's script, resulting in a massive tome that execs and producers are currently trimming.
The First Avenger: Captain America
Who's In It: No one, though again, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tim Robbins seem possible.
Story: In World War II, Operation: Rebirth produces one positive result – Captain America, a Super Soldier who helps turn the tide against the Axis Forces.
How It Fits With Marvel's Plans: There is something new and fresh about having a superhero movie set during World War II, something Marvel will no doubt exploit. It's assumed that the film would close with Cap frozen in ice and thawed out in modern day by S.H.I.E.L.D. There was a bit of chatter about a deleted “Incredible Hulk” scene where the beast dislodges Cap from the ice, so perhaps the climax of “Captain America” will feature the emerald bruiser.
The question of casting remains. Early rumors pegged Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey, and DiCaprio might be pretty good, but it's a difficult character and likely too goofy for his career trajectory. They need an actor who starts out young and small, but then becomes a modern day legend that a guy like Robert Downey Jr. feels comfortable taking orders from eventually. Prosthetics are always a bad idea. The idea of Will Smith persists among those who think you can't sell a massively budgeted WWII action picture without a huge name attached, though that would mean the Allied Forces used a black man as their figurehead, making the onscreen Marvel Universe a definite alternate reality and something fans would likely balk at, Obama acceptance notwithstanding.
Random Casting Suggestion: If they don't pick a name for the role, there are few better candidates than Lee Pace. The star of the canceled “Pushing Daisies,” he showed off his action skills with the little-seen fantasy “The Fall.” He's a handsome talent, one that could conceivably play young and old and can tackle the character with a bit of wit and humor.
Creative Team: Marvel has shied away from hiring strong creative types for these films, which is kind of a bummer, but it's hard to complain about Joe Johnston. Sure, he directed the abominable “Jurassic Park III” but in “The Rocketeer” he nailed the aura that “Captain America” should have. The writers are Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who previously wrote the “Chronicles Of Narnia” movies (and, oddly, Ben Kingsley hitman drama “You Kill Me”), but its not known whether they're working on a previous draft which was turned in by David Self, writer of “The Sub-Mariner” and “Deathlok” for Marvel.
Who's In It: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany (voice)
Story: Covert operation S.H.I.E.L.D. forms a massive government-sanctioned strike team comprised of superhumans to take down a massive threat.
How Does It Fit Into Marvel's Plans: Originally, this was the endgame, but Marvel is getting punchy enough to speculate a superhero future beyond the film's now-updated May 4, 2012 release date. Which means, to the cynic, that there's not a whole lot at stake between these characters. Still, there will be a great deal of anticipation, considering the lineup- Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, War Machine and possibly Ant-Man.
Since the movies are taking cues from the Ultimate line of comics, we can surmise that things don't go well for the group, as there is anxiety and infighting. Still, there's bound to be some spectacular action, even if we're talking a budget of over $200 million. With this sort of preposterous firepower, the villain would have to be a heavy duty level of competition, and perhaps they will opt for "The Ultimates" alien invasion storyline that was overshadowed by the foregrounding of issues such as Captain America's detachment from the modern world, the team's skepticism towards Thor's mental health, Ant-Man's sexual insecurities and the Hulk's reckless collateral damage. Good times.
Creative Team: Initially Zak Penn (“Elektra”) was announced as a writer for “The Avengers,” but as Marvel gets a closer idea of what “Iron Man 2” and “Thor” become, expect a more reliable name to do a polish. Plus who knows where the story-threads of the previous films would end? Any screenplay written today would need a rewrite in at least a year. Jon Favreau will be on as an executive producer, but no director has been hired as of yet- we hear Edward Norton is available.
Wait, that's only four five, what about the other five? That happen next week.
We've done some exhaustively compressive (if we do say so ourselves) Most Anticipated 2009 film features, but lots of other movies still interest us, What You Need To Know, will be an semi-regular feature with down and dirty info on other upcoming 2009 films we're looking forward to.
"Untitled" – TBD - Dir. Jonathan Parker
Synopsis: An intellectual relationship comedy with the New York modern art world serving as a backdrop for a commentary on what counts art.
What You Need To Know: The film, which premiered at the Palm Beach Film Festival, centers around a woman (Marley Shelton) working in an art gallery who gets caught in a love triangle with two brothers (Eion Bailey and Adam Goldberg). Bailey (he played Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner in "Almost Famous") is the initial love interest, a commercially successful painter with questionable artistic merit. His brother is a concert pianist whose experimental approach to composing turns off the very few people who show up to his performances. Save for the fetching Shelton, Josh Brolin's wife in "Grindhouse," and immortalized to a generation as Wendy the lifeguard in "The Sandlot."
She's drawing good reviews as the only one who connects with Goldberg's crazy music, which, along with the rest of the score, was composed by the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning David Lang. The film satirizes the art world in New York while not shying away from all the attendant questions surrounding the dichotomy of commercialism versus art for art's sake. Because if that isn't funny, what is? The supporting cast is intriguing, if only because Vinnie Jones as a sculptor ought to be good. Parker directed and co-wrote the film with Catherine DiNapoli, as he did his previous two efforts ("The Californians" and "Bartleby").
Release Date: TBA 2009 ?
This week, the New York Press printed a pretty interesting piece on the relationship between Mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg and "The Squid And The Whale" director Noah Baumbach (they've become buddies and Baumbach has taken the fledgling filmmaker under his wing).
It mostly details the rise of the Mumblecore movement and Swanberg's newest, "Alexander The Last" (which Baumbach produced) but it also mentions a few of the newer projects coming down the pike from him. One sounds particularly intriguing: Swanberg is using Chekov's "The Seagull" for a "quasi-horror" film called "Silver Bullets."
The cast would feature Jane Adams ("Happiness") and two influential faces in the world of indie horror, Larry Fessenden and Ti West. West, who just recently completely what was less of a pleasurable experience on "Cabin Fever 2," is an up-and-coming filmmaker who's crafted two tiny near classics in the genre with "The Roost" and "Trigger Man." Fessenden, his mentor, specializes in a low-fi horror experience that compares favorably to John Carpenter's late seventies-early eighties in his interest in horror shaped by political, social and spiritual views, and has made a nice living as a cameo expert for several friends in the indie community while also serving as producer on efforts such as "Wendy and Lucy."
No word on the plot of "Silver Bullets," but it probably won't be devoid of at least a few good ideas.
Whenever you dissect a cultural phenomenon as large as "Star Wars" you know that you're going to be assaulted with opinions. Such has been the case following the release of the first trailer for "The People vs. George Lucas," a documentary combining professional and fan footage in an attempt to impartially study the fascinating journey of George Lucas, Star Wars and the fans that have both idolized and demonized the director and saga.
We got the chance to talk in-depth with director Alexendre O. Philippe, the director of the documentary. He set the record straight on the intentions of the film (It's not a fanboy whine-fest), the initial reaction to the trailer and whether George Lucas has heard about the documentary. 'The People vs. George Lucas' is slated for release in 2010. You can check out more information about the film at the official website.
The Playlist: There's been a lot of buzz initially over the first trailer of the film. What is your response to some of the comments made on YouTube and other sites where the trailer has been posted. Also, what is the intention behind the film?
Alexandre O. Philippe: I think it's important to say that the intent with this film is not to go after George Lucas, not to criticize George Lucas and not demonize George Lucas. He's someone that we love, that we respect and that we admire a great deal. Anyone who says or thinks that after reading our title that the intent of the film is to be sensational, or to make a documentary of a Lucas hate-fest is, in a sense, missing the point of what the documentary's about. There is a substantial and important cultural phenomenon here, which is the fact that probably the most important, most recognizable, the most powerful figure in the world of entertainment, who was revered by his fans, who could do no wrong, who was a father figure of sorts has fallen from grace on some level.
There have been a fair deal of contradictions and contradictory emotions from the fans. You know, I love George Lucas, I hate George Lucas, I love him but I hate him, do I love him more than I hate him? That has been part of the fan culture for so long now, it's just not going away. It hasn't gone away since the special editiions. It hasn't gone away since Episode I, II and III. In fact, it grew with those episodes and now we've got Indiana Jones 4. So it's a cultural phenomenon that is growing and as a result, as a documentary filmmaker I believe that this is a cultural phenomenon worth examining, and deserves to have it own documentary.
One of the main criticisms we've had, well more of a dismissal is essentially this notion that everybody knows people hate Jar Jar Binks, a lot of people hate George Lucas, and what good does it do (laughs) to make a documentary like this? I have one thing to say in response to this that maybe only some film buffs will really get. I was thinking about this the other day, the criticisms, and I was thinking about something that I find equivalent to this. That's the relationship that existed between Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selnick as a producer.
I think that if you're a film scholar and you study movies like Rebecca and Rope, for instance, certainly you can study the movies in and of themselves. They're great films. But if you start looking at the history behind those movies and start taking into consideration the complex relationship that was going on between Hitchcock and O. Selznick, then you start looking at those movies differently. So if somebody tells me that the relationship between Lucas and his fans is irrelevant, it's not worthy of a documentary or important in the history of film, then we might as well say well, okay, then I guess the relationship between Hitchcock and O. Selznick was not important in the history of film and who cares? So to me, there's an argument to be made here if you look at it in those terms.
So, what I am trying to say is that there is something very significant. There is something relevant and we are passionate about exploring it, exploring both sides of the argument, and understanding where this love comes from. Where does this supposed hatred come from? How does this define George Lucas as a sort of towering figure in the world of cinema, and how does it define his fans? There's so much going on here. It's so complex. I feel like the more we delve into it, the more complex it becomes. It goes far beyond the Jar Jar Binks phenomenon. It goes far behind The Phantom Menace and whether Han or Greedo shot first. I mean certainly that's part of it. You see that in our first teaser trailer. But it's a very complex relationship because you have to take into the notion of was Lucas a father figure of sorts to his fans
If you look at it from a psychological standpoint, if Lucas was your father then you sort of idolize your father. Your father can do no wrong. Then suddenly twenty years later. your father comes back and does something that you don't like. Then how do you view your father? That is sort of what I am talking about with this fall from grace. Is this something that has happened between George Lucas and the fans? Possibly. I don't know but it's something that we're trying to explore.
Then there's this notion of Lucas, the young and idealistic filmmaker who was associated with fighting the system, fighting Hollywood, basically being everything Hollywood wasn't. The irony of it is that he has sort of become this empire that so many fans are complaining about, because a lot of them think he is exploiting them. But you can turn it around ask, 'well, is he exploiting you or are you just ...," the fans don't have to go and spend their money on the next George Lucas film. The fans don't have to spend their money on all the Star Wars toys that come out. It's sort of interesting that in the same breath they will walk out of the store with the latest Darth Vader figure of Millennium Falcon toy, and part of them is happy. But part of them says 'Damn, Lucas got my money.'
We think that the analogy is very appropriate, because there was a childlike wonder and sense of awe when the original trilogy came out. But as you grow up and grow desensitized to your surroundings, you start to grow more aware of your surroundings. You lose that childlike sense of play. George Lucas created an entire universe. Twenty years down the road, we are different people. If The Phantom Menace had come out in 1977, what would our reaction have been then?
Yeah. (laughs) That's a huge question. I think if you start to ask this particular question then you have to also imagine a world in which The Phantom Menace is the very first movie of this particular kind. Now, visually there is a lot of amazing stuff. You've got The Matrix. You've got so many amazing movies out there visually. There's blockbusters. Certainly when The Phantom Menace came out, it wasn't the same element of 'Oh gosh, I have never seen this before.' That's part of it. But then there's the aspect of storytelling.
I do not believe that the storytelling in episodes I,II and III is nearly as clean, as crisp, as powerful, as simply told or as profound as episodes IV,V and VI. I think it's a lot more ambitious. I think he has tried to accomplish a lot more in episodes I,II and III, but I also believe that he should have surrounded himself with other writers, supporting writers like he did with the earlier episodes.
When you think about the Star Wars saga, the original trilogy focuses more on mysticism and the religion of The Force, where the prequel trilogy touches upon politics in a more detailed manner. Whether you loved or hated the prequel trilogy, you have to credit Lucas for trying. He definitely could have stood pat and said, 'You figure it out. Anakin was good, now he's bad. The end.'
(Laughs) Yeah, I think there are a lot of holes in the storytelling, personally. The scene in Episode III in which Anakin kneels in front of Palpatine and suddenly becomes Darth Vader, you just feel like wait a second. One minute he is Anakin. The next he is Darth Vader. I did not understand that transformation at all. It feels like there's a couple of scenes literally missing from the script. It's not organic.
But you're also comparing apples to oranges. If I wanted to be in his defense, Star Wars is a classical story. It has a lot of similarities to classic stories. It seems to be the same story as one that comes in every generation, in one shape or form. We have The Matrix, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz back then. There's a lot of similarities in the hero's journey. It's nothing new, it's just told in a very fresh way. That's what I think is amazing about Star Wars.
Of course, he didn't try and do the same thing with episodes I,II and III, and I don't blame him for that. That was great. That was really bold to do that. But here's where it gets really interesting. We interviewed a number of French scholars in Geneva and almost unanimously they thought, and will explain in their own words why they felt that episodes I,II and III are greater films than episodes IV, V and VI. I'm Swiss-French and so I'm not surprised, because the French like to contradict people. It's part of the culture. But at the same time, it's fascinating to me how someone can go out and defend that Episode I is the greatest episode of all-time. But it's their opinion and it counts. It totally matters. Even if ninety-nine percent of the people will disagree with the opinion, I think it's fascinating to hear someone who is well spoken actually make the argument that Episode I is the best of all six.
Of all the film sagas we have seen, 'Star Wars' above all finds a way to illustrate what type of a person you are. Kevin Smith's "Clerks" served as an extension of that. Whether Dante discusses being more of a "The Empire Strikes Back" guy, or Randall says he's a "Return of the Jedi" person, what film you like in the saga indicates what you as a person are looking for.
AP: It's almost a culture within a culture. It's like you said, when you meet another Star Wars fan it is understood that you're Star Wars fans. But you almost want to immediately ask 'What is your favorite episode?" A lot of fans from my generation, when they are asked what is their favorite episode, will say 'The Empire Strikes Back.' Then a close second is "A New Hope." After that, 'Return of the Jedi' and then episodes III, II and I. That is usually the answer that we get. So when you ask someone from my generation which is their favorite and they say Episode V, it's almost like inside you go ' Whoo! [breathes a sigh of relief] Okay, cool. You're one of us.' In the subculture, when someone tells you that Episode III is their favorite episode, you put them into a different group.
It's interesting. You see someone that says they liked "Attack of the Clones" and immediately you want to say 'Defend yourself. What was so damn good about Jango Fett?'
Right. You call yourself a Star Wars fan. They call themselves a Star Wars fan and yet you're talking about two completely different things.
It's like choosing your favorite Beatle. Someone says they are a John Lennon fan and you put them into a category.
What have been some of the struggles during the process of making the film?
I think one of the struggles that we have faced, and will likely continue to face, is first the fear of Lucas and Lucasfilm. It sounds kind of silly, but there have been a lot of people that turned us down because they feel it might compromise their career. I personally find that unfortunate. It is certainly a testament to the power of Lucas, but at the same time I feel like it's a terrible shame. If you love someone, you love this guy so much yet you're afraid to speak up? There's something wrong. I don't know if it's because they're afraid they're going to say something that is not going to please Lucas. That when it gets crazy and starts to annoy me. We're just making a documentary and want to know what people feel. We want people to tell us the truth and I think that Lucas as a creator, as an artist should be able to hear what people think. That's part of the process.
I mean we're putting ourselves out there as documentarians. We have nowhere near the money George Lucas has. We have nowhere near the resources he has. We're going out on a limb to make this film, and people are going to come out and tell us why we suck. People are going to tell us what we should have done differently, why we should have done it differently and that is why we're releasing this trailer early. Part of it is to listen to the fans and get a feel for what people think.
A slightly different related struggle is that people wonder whether we are making a serious documentary, or is it going to be a Lucas hate-fest. It's a very legitimate concern, but as a result some people are not responding to us. We haven't done real efforts yet to go after some celebrities or high profile people we want to talk to. But it is going to be interesting to see, and I think it's going to be an uphill battle when you go after someone like Kevin Smith, for instance, who is someone we desperately want for the documentary. I don't know how many emails I have received from fans saying 'Have you interviewed Kevin Smith,' or 'Are you going to interview Kevin Smith?' I think it would be great to get his opinion. But how is Kevin Smith going to perceive us? What is Kevin Smith going to think about our efforts and he will actually see the film? So it's sort of a Catch-22. People want to see something before they agree to participate in something, but we need them to participate before we can show them something. I think that is going to be the main struggle. We are grateful for the people we have so far, but we would like to get some faces that the general public will recognize.
How difficult is it to remain objective through the entire filming process?
Let me put it this way. I don't think I need to be objective during the production process. I think I need to be objective during the post-production process. In fact, I try not to be objective during the production. I try to challenge people. Whatever their opinion is, whether they're pro-Lucas, against Lucas, whatever they see in the characters or movie I always try to instantly put myself on the other side and challenge what they say. So I try to be subjective and make sure that they give me an argument that supports their beliefs. Because there is emotional involvement in what they say, and that's fine. That is part of what this documentary is about, but it's also about asking if you can detach yourself from that emotion and specifically tell me why you think you have a case for or against Lucas now that you've put those emotions aside.
I can see very clearly both sides of the argument and that is what makes this topic so fascinating. On one hand, I think fans have a lot of reasons to be pissed off. They're perfectly entitled to vent. On the other side, I think it's crazy for the fans to vent as much as they do. It's crazy for fans to not stop and say 'You know. I really love this man so much,' you know? And they do say it, but it really depends which perspective you look at this from. You definitely can see truth from all angles.
Has George Lucas heard of the film, and will he sign off on it if you need to use footage, clips, etc. For that matter, do you plan to use Star Wars footage?
We don't know for sure if George Lucas has heard of the film, but we hope he has. Last year, when we first began to develop this concept, we contacted Lucasfilm in order to express our intent and request their participation. At that time, they decided to pass. Since then, we haven't had any contact with Lucasfilm. We sincerely hope that as it becomes more and more clear that our intention is to document the unprecedented cultural phenomenon of the relationship between this popular artist and his fans (and not to demonize George Lucas) - that he will eventually grant us an interview.
Regarding the use of footage, it is nearly impossible at this point to know exactly what we might use in the final film. The first step is gathering our original content, interviews and fan submissions; the next is cutting the strongest film together using those materials; and the final step will be determining what elements could benefit from the content, critique, illustration or example provided by the use of such footage. Like most documentary filmmakers, we will ultimately rely heavily upon the Center for Social Media's Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use to make these determinations. However, it goes without saying that it is our desire to have the cooperation of the owners of the original works.
You called this the first digitally democratic film. Can you expand on that comment and how can people submit to the film?
Because of the fact that this film focuses on the cultural phenonmenon that has been born within fandom, and that you find most of these opinions out there on the web, we very quickly discovered this notion of opening up to the fans. We wanted to basically let their voices be heard. Giving them a voice is an interesting way stylistically to deal with this film. On one hand, we have celebrity interviews and our own interviews with some of the fans, scholars and critics that we shoot in high-definition to give as much of a polished and professional look as we can. But we live in a YouTube culture and a lot of people that rant and rave about George Lucas do it on YouTube. They do it rants/ They do it with animation. They do it with puppets. They do it with all kinds of innovative and creative ways. So the idea was to include some of that to really create what we call a digitally democratic film, in which anybody with anything to say has a chance to submit. So it's almost like a film festival. Everyone has a chance to submit their content with a chance to be included in the final product. But one thing I want to stress is that whether or not their content gets in the film, we are going to thank every single one of them in the credits. Of course, we are going to try and include as much as possible in the special features when the DVD comes out.
So, in terms of guidelines and how people should proceed, people can go to www.peoplevsgeorge.com. It's pretty simple. If there are any questions, people can email us. We are always glad to help. People can send the material by mail or they can also upload it on our site. There have been many submissions that way.We try to make it as straightforward for the fans as possible.
While we sort of detest random and indiscriminate features that have nothing to do with the daily, weekly or monthly discourse, we did want to steer the conversation back to music. So every week (or so...) we're going to do a regular feature called, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, where one of our writers is going to discuss an old soundtrack and film, why its great and why you should know it.
The Soundtrack: "Coming Home" (1978) directed by Hal Ashby
The Film: A love triangle representing three different sides of Vietnam: the wheelchair bound veteran turned hippie dissident coping with his paralyzed condition (Jon Voight), the straight-laced Captain looking forward to his first deployment overseas (Bruce Dern) and his innocent homemaker wife (Jane Fonda). While America's solider is away, the naive spouse volunteers at the local hospital for wounded veterans where she meets the paraplegic, forming a connection and beginning an affair, shattered by her husband's return. The movie was loosely inspired by real life 'Nam veteran, Ron Kovic, who would go on to get his own movie based on his life, "Born On the Fourth of July."
What Sets It Apart: "Coming Home" includes an excellent selection of classic rock that's not easy to aquire these days (or... maybe not). Featured in the film are the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon and Garfunkel, The Rolling Stones, and even The Beatles (not covers mind you), which is generally a rare thing. Not only that, but these tracks all come from roughly the same time period, '65-'68, keeping in relation with the Vietnam-era of the film, while the lyrics of the songs, if studied, actually provide the voices of the characters themselves. There is no fluff here (see "Forrest Gump" for that), as all these songs were chosen for a reason, and they serve as a time capsule that will never be matched.
The Money Shot: A lot of the songs are admittedly used as brief background music fodder. But, the film does feature an excellent opening title sequence set to The Rolling Stones' lost classic, "Out of Time," that serves perfectly in distinguishing between the two alpha male leads, the hippie 'Nam veteran Jon Voight and the straight-laced war hero Bruce Dern, while the lyrics suggest that both men are at odds with the world they live in. The film also features one of the most powerful ending sequences we've seen in a movie, as the director cuts between Jane Fonda going to the supermarket, Voight giving a moving, heartfelt anti-war speech, and Dern going for a ritualistic swim at the beach (and to never return?), all soundtracked to Tim Buckley's haunting opus "Once I Was." Again, the lyrics play a big part complementing what you're being shown, and even explain what happened to the characters over the course of the movie. A Powerful, powerful song to a tremendously heartrending moment in film (Voight won the Best Actor Oscar for this role; this scene sealed the deal).
Behind the Music: The Estimable laissez faire director/doob enthusiast Hal Ashby specifically chose the Tim Buckley song to close out the picture well before shooting began. He played the song to Bruce Dern before his final scene was shot, citing the reason for this choice. In 1975, when Ashby was casting his Woody Guthrie film, "Bound for Glory," Buckley auditioned for the role (it eventually and surprisingly went to David Carradine). Ashby wanted badly to use him in the film, but ultimately, that decision was not made. Sixteen days later, Buckley died from an accidental heroin overdose, leaving Ashby to believe he owed the late singer "big time." (*though its also been said over the years, Ashby also wanted Dylan to play Guthrie and he apparently auditioned too).
Bonus Tracks: An official soundtrack was never released for the film, probably due to both the outrageous cost it would require, as well as not really befitting to the subject matter of the film. The film uses six different Rolling Stones tracks (take that Scorsese and Anderson), and in 1983, Hal Ashby directed the Rolling Stones concert film, "Let's Spend the Night Together."
Extra Credit: Hal Ashby's "Shampoo" (1975) also featured a classic rock soundtrack utilizing some of the same artists as "Coming Home," such as Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane, and also included two more Beatles tracks! That's another story though.
Choice Cuts: "Once I Was" - Tim Buckley, "Out of Time" - The Rolling Stones, "Bookends" - Simon and Garfunkel, "Time Has Come Today" - The Chamber Brothers Full soundtrack list.
- Jonathan Helm
Miranda July's script for “Satisfaction” (possibly still an Untitled project) takes precious to a whole new potentially unbearable level. Her characters are somehow so cutesy that they become rather unlikable, turning a kind of interesting script into one that's quite difficult to get through in one sitting, and so you know, we loved her debut film, "Me & You & Everyone We Know." Like all scripts, maybe (hopefully) it plays on the screen.
The Synopsis: Sophie and Jason live together in their happy, crazy and poetic world. One day when wandering in a Crafts Bazaar, they buy the portrait of a little girl made by her own father, Sophie falls in love with the latter, and their lives are turned upside down.
The Longer Gist: The film tells the story of Sophie (July, the only character cast so far) and Jason, a couple trapped in the arrested adultlescence of their early 30s who were each other's first loves. In typical, but exacerbated July-peculiarity/affectedness, Sophie is a more annoying version of Sally Hawkins' character in "Happy-Go-Lucky," only she's a dance instructor for children and she's odd and whimsical as all get out. She dreams of winning a spot in a touring dance troupe. Jason, on the other hand is rather lost in life. He fixes dents in automobiles, but upon growing tired of that, he gets quit-fired and volunteers for an environmental group geared toward saving our deciduous friends. The organization is (naturally) called Tomorrow's Trees, and the non-paying gig consists of going door to door asking people to buy saplings and improve the local environment and quality of life.
The Odd Couple: As a cutesy couple, they do cutesy couple things. They have a choreographed ballet for using the sink at the same time when they get ready for bed and their bizarre, only-couples-understand quirky revolves around putting her head under his old, musty yellow t-shirt for comfort and nuzzling on his belly (they have lots of conversations while she's shirt-buried. To mark major decisions, they put on a familiar IPod tune and line up on opposite walls and walk toward each other with eyes closed. And their conversations are frequently marked by her random Google Images searches for the topic at hand (e.g. when Jason decides to work for the tree group, Sophie searches for “famous trees in history”). They plan to adopt a cat, an old one they dub Paw Paw (remember him), and upon visiting the shelter, they wander into a local arts and crafts bazaar and Jason gets suckered into buying a painting by a little, semi-obnoxious girl, painted by her manly dad for charity (the vapid characterization of him to separate him from our protagonists is that he's "unhip" and wears, gasp!, a gold chain around his neck).
Gimme Friction: Sophie, jealous of Jason's newfound freedom from the four-walled confines of normal work, quits her 9-to-5 to devote herself to coming up with a routine that will guarantee her a slot in a fancy dance company. Unfortunately, she struggles to devise anything at all. As she putters about, in an effort to get around her dancer's block, she happens upon the phone number of the divorced father, Marshall, whose painting of his daughter, Gabriella, Jason was steamrolled into buying earlier. (Marshall and Sophie met-cute at the event, in a fashion reminiscent of “Dharma and Greg;” his disdain for her preciousness is amusingly self-aware).
[ed. note, it's difficult to describe this film in any depth without spoilers, the basic logline is already a pretty obvious "love triangle" but if you don't want to go any further, you can stop here]
An Affair To Remember?
Sophie, somewhat guiltily, has an extended phone conversation with Marshall. Soon after she goes to his place, ostensibly to look at the banners he makes for a living, and where she is wowed by the “adult” life being led (a bit eye-rolling) especially in comparison to her own cramped, underachieving hipster 30-something lifestyle. She visits again and ends up making love with Marshall, something she begins to do on a more frequent basis.
Door To Door Philosophy And Mumbly Existentialism
Meanwhile, Jason, clueless about the infidelity, is happily going about his business of going door-to-door. Initially a complete failure at the job, having countless doors slammed in his face, he is eventually inspired by a conversation with Sophie (and his Tree boss) where she (they) insists that the best way to improve his pitch is to forget the tree details and get people talking. So instead he begins to ask people deeper philosophical — and sometimes nonsensical — questions like, "Are you good at math?" and "Is everything going to be OK?" carefully noting down each response. For Jason, it is almost a life-altering experience, as he seems to find fulfilment in the work, which ironically, is totally meaningless.
THE LOL CATZ CAN HAS WEIRDZ SCRIPT? Sophie finally confronts Jason and moves in with Marshall, perhaps because she’s scared of not knowing how to become an adult and being with Marshall promises to be a ready-made adult one, complete with a house and a kid. Did we mention the cat Paw Paw, that the entire time is waiting to be picked up from the animal shelter and their are frequent, bizarre and preposterous interstitial in-btwn scenes where Paw Paw narrates in a LOL Cats like retarded-cat speak that usually just closes in on his paws? Umm, yeah, not kidding.
WTF? Here's Where Things Get Really Weird
Jason freezes time the moment Sophie tells him and begins a long conversation with the Moon as he walks around the city, which is standing still. Mostly about what is going on now that he has stopped time for everyone. In the real world, Sophie embarks on her relationship with Marshall, though she has trouble adapting to this new life as an adult, balancing responsibilities with fun. Also, Jason's t-shirt starts following her around. As with Marshall’s lunar talks, the stalking t-shirt is a fantastical bent, somewhat discordant from the rest of the movie. But, at this make-or-break juncture of the film where some audiences could possibly walk-out, the script does seem to gel somewhat and nail a lost, genuinely sad and bittersweet tone among the madness. If she can make this work and make it feel heartfelt throughout — perhaps this what she is aiming for throughout — then maybe we've got something here. It's all just a little opaque on the page.
The final act of the movie has Sophie and Jason trying to figure out the lives they’ve created for each other. The reality in which each was living is no more, and they have some trouble adjusting to the foreignness of it all. The problem is that while the rest of the movie may have been building up to these moments, everything is resolved so quickly that the tension could almost feel cheap. Again, there's some truthful emotional moments and some that border on authentic and all-too-real heartbreak (which is what we're meant to assume the stopping of time suggests — a massive emotional shock to the system), but it's going to be tricky to pull off.
Musical Cues: Suzi Quatro's "Stumblin' In" is the couple's IPod routine. Neil Diamond’s “I am the Lion” plays as Jason gets his non-tree-selling swerve on. Unnamed LCD Soundsystem ("electronic dance") songs are sometimes namechecked for her studio dance routines (we suggest re-hiring Michael Andrews, to make another excellent daydreamy score to make these weirdo clouds skate by; Ed Lachman is doing the cinematography, maybe he can help too).
Does It Work? The Good, The Bad: There's an interesting movie in here somewhere, perhaps with more toned-down, nuanced characters and again, perhaps it'll sing and all make sense in a darkened theater where atmosphere can create the suspension of disbelief. Paw Paw, the cat, is perhaps the most intriguing character, though and that perhaps doesn't bode all that well (that's kind of a joke). The rest of the characters just became too much to bear at times. It isn't so much a particular scene so much as a constant buildup of preciousness that obfuscates what the rest of the script has to offer. And don't get us wrong, a lot of people disliked "Me & You & Everyone We Know," but it balanced its twee tones quite artfully. Is "Satisfaction" (possibly untitled) the "Brown Bunny," to Vincent Gallo's "Buffalo '66", i.e. the not entirely successful, sometimes reviled, sequel to a winning debut? The jury is still out. FYI, we would never be so presumptuous to assume anything we said mattered, but if this review were to ever prevent July from making a film, we would cry.
Are you there Studio Gods? It's me, Margaret.
Nico Muhly, recently of "The Reader," has been hired by Fox Searchlight to score Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret." Remember that picture? You probably don't, because it's been delayed for years.
While the involvement of Muhly — who also scored "Joshua," "The Reader" and worked with Bjork and Philip Glass — this may be a sign that Fox is finally going to pull this movie, wrapped in 2005, off the shelf and ready it for some sort of release.
From Oscar-nominated writer-director Lonergan ("You Can Count On Me"), "Margaret" follows the ramifications of a tragic bus accident as seen through the eyes of a high school student desperate to parse the tragedy for a deeper spiritual meaning.
The cast includes Anna Pacquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Olivia Thirlby, and was produced by names such as Scott Rudin, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack. With all those names involved, why hasn't this been released yet?
Early reports had pointed the finger at an unmanageable length and disastrous test screenings, with a script stretching well beyond 200 pages, but there must be something that keeps this promising film, which is said to have echoes of 9/11 survivor's guilt, on the shelf while Steve Martin releases TWO embarrassing "Pink Panther" redos. While Fox Searchlight's web page for "Margaret" insists that the film is set for a solid release sometime in 2007, Muhly's involvement is the first major announcement from the production in years.