Category: Interviews

Mar 28 2014

Animals to Arks, How ‘Noah’ the Movie Compares to the Bible

The new movie Noah, director Darren Aronofsky’s $130 million epic retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood, carries this advisory: “While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.”

Russell Crowe in Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah'

Noah has been banned in some Middle Eastern countries, and attacked by some Christian critics for taking liberties with scripture. Aronofksy told the New Yorker that “Noah” is “the least biblical biblical film ever made,” hardly the kind of comment to calm the faithful

Fair disclaimer, but it’s likely not one that will reach all filmgoers who see “Noah” with the expectation that the Aronofsky’s version will closely mirror the biblical series of events. For a little scriptural background and film fact-checking, Steven D. Greydanus, a film critic for the National Catholic Register and his own website, Decent Films, and a Bible student at the Archdiocese of Newark viewed the film before its release. The experts’ general verdict: there’s a lot that closely mimics the epic story, but some liberties are taken. Warning: Spoilers for the film obviously follow.

Is the word God missing from the film as some critics have charged?

No, says Greydanus. “For the most part, God is referred to in the film as ‘the Creator’ and this is a creative choice that I think does a lot for the film. It helps to defamiliarize the language somewhat, it makes the figure of God a little more mysterious to us.” But His name is clearly spoken when Ham, second son of Noah, says to Tubal-cain: “My father says there can be no king. The Creator is God.”

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Mar 25 2014

From Nollywood to New Nigerian Cinema: Obi Emelonye interviewed

Nollywood—Nigeria’s direct-to-video industry of scruffy, cheap films cranked out on hurried schedules and dumped onto the market at low prices—became the third largest producer of movies in the world in the 1990s. Obi Emelonye is one of the filmmakers challenging the Nollywood paradigm with the New Nigerian Cinema, a concerted effort to create domestic films strong enough to bring audiences back to the cinemas and good enough to be exported to other countries.

Emelonye, who practiced law in Great Britain for two decades, returned to Nigeria to follow his dream of filmmaking. His 2011 feature, The Mirror Boy, was a critical and commercial success and one of the few Nigerian films to be seen in film festivals outside of the country and his follow-up, the homegrown disaster film Last Flight to Abuja, was one of the top-grossing films in Nigeria in 2012. Unlike the fast, cheap, and out-of-control melodramas cranked out by Nollywood, Emelonye’s films took on more complex stories, complicated characters, and themes that cross cultures.

Last Flight to Abuja

Last Flight to Abuja follows the model of Airport and other American and European disaster dramas of strangers tossed together in a crisis, but frames it within a distinctly Nigerian context. Though inspired by real events, it tosses a bit of everything into the ensemble: romance and marital conflict, comedy and crime, a murder, an affair, a little Nigerian star power (and it’s clear who the stars are simply by their confidence and command on the screen), and of course a crisis on an airplane. And along with the array of stories and experiences, the film presents something not seen in many Nigerian films: strong, confident, successful women in the professional world.

Emelonye took Last Flight to Abuja to film festivals all over the world, including the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival, where the film made its American debut, and along with discussing his film, Emelonye showed a shrewd and necessary understanding of the business and culture of Nollywood, the efforts to create a cinema culture in Nigeria and the challenges in taking on the entrenched Nollywood industry.

Keyframe: I understand that before you started directing films you were a lawyer in Britain. Is that right?

Obi Emelonye: It’s more complicated than that. I actually studied theater and drama and film in Nigeria before I went to the U.K. And when I arrived in the U.K. I discovered that it was a bit impractical to make a living as a theater artist starting at the lowest of the lowest ranks, so I had to make a pragmatic decision to find a different career that would allow me the time to still practice my craft and also that would have transferable skills. And I thought law was that. I learned my trade and honed my skills as a filmmaker while still practicing as a lawyer until a few years ago, in 2008, when I decided to concentrate on filmmaking. So in a way I’ve gone full circle with a different career. A friend of mine says ‘Everything we are goes into everything we do.’ The more varied my life experiences are, the more varied my skill set and my knowledge is, the better I will be at whatever I decide to do. In this instance, it makes me a slightly better, more complete, more eclectic filmmaker.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Mar 24 2014

Watching with Larry Fessenden, director of ‘Beneath’

Larry Fessenden Premier

Larry Fessenden

Larry Fessenden loves horror movies. As a director he has brought his own unique approach to the classic horror stories and conventions in such films as Habit, Wendigo, and his animist ghost story / environmental thriller The Last Winter. Through his production company Glass Eye Pix his has produced or co-produced dozens of films, including Kelly Reichert’s Wendy and Lucy and Night Moves, Ti West’s The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, Jim Mickle’s Stake Land, and the recent documentary Birth of the Living Dead, a tribute to one of the holy grails of modern horror.

Apart from an episode of the horror TV series Fear Itself, Fessenden hasn’t directed a film since the 2004 The Last Winter, an eco-twist on the ghost story in the culture of big oil, so the arrival of Beneath, about a group of teenagers, a rowboat in the middle of a lake, and a giant, hungry, man-eating catfish looking for its next meal, is reason to celebrate. It begins as a classic tale of teens behaving badly, and more importantly stupidly, but what first appears to be a lazy set-up to stake out its victims for the movie menace turns out to be an insidious insight to the true nature of its characters and the basis for the real conflict of the film. It’s a smart, savage film that plays with the familiar conventions and then twists a knife in them, and it’s all done with a small cast, a confined space, and a script that reveals the worst in humanity.

While it received a brief theatrical release, Beneath was actually financed by and produced for Chiller, the cable horror channel sibling to SyFy. You say you’ve never heard of Chiller? Yeah, that’s the problem. The film just hasn’t been seen by many folks. Now that it is available on digital and VOD platforms and this week arrives on Blu-ray and DVD, I hope more people have an opportunity to discover one of the most surprising and insidiously clever monster movies of the last year. On the occasion of the disc release, I had a chance to speak with Fessenden about his career as a director, his love of old-school special effects, the real horror of Beneath, and of course what he’s been watching.


I have a 14-year-old kid who loves movies so we watch a little of the old and a little of the new. We’ve seen all the Oscar stuff and we also watch movies from the seventies and I get him up to speed on Scorsese and Polanski and the heroes of my youth. Oddly enough he doesn’t care for horror so we don’t watch those except for the occasional time. Myself, there’s only so much time in the day so I’m more going on the journey with him. But recent films: Let the Right One In, District 9, The Mist. Those are all a little old but they are recent favorites.

And genre films too. When you are watching for yourself, are you going back to horror films?

Oh yeah, I’m pretty entrenched in genre movies. I grew up watching the old Universal films and it’s fun to watch some of these things again—and again and again—because they really are iconic. The imagery is truly… it’s what I grew up on and it’s interesting to watch them now as you’re older and try to understand what struck you, because of course we’ve become more sophisticated so the images don’t have the same impact, but they do have a strange quality. I love, for example, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, such a strange, beautiful creature design there. I like all kinds of movies.

What inspired you to take on the classic horror movie themes in a series of movies that turns the stories inside-out?

It’s exactly just what I was describing. I grew up on the old Universal films with Frankenstein played by Karloff or Dracula played by Lugosi and obviously then came the Hammer films and whatever, these were the movies you saw on TV when you were a kid in the seventies. But then I also became incredibly turned on by the cinema of Scorsese, these more realistic portraits of people’s psychology and the violence became more visceral and I wanted, in my own mind, to revisit the movies that I loved so much, like Dracula, and put this modern seventies spin on it.

Continue reading at Cinephiled

Oct 19 2013

Watching with Nathan Fillion & Clark Gregg

Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion at the Seattle International Film Festival

Back in May, as the Seattle International Film Festival launched with the opening night gala screening of Joss Whedon’s modern-dress Shakespeare take Much Ado About Nothing, I had the pleasure of talking with two of the film’s stars, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg.

Fillion, of course, is best known as Richard Castle on Castle and as Captain Mal on Whedon’s short-lived but much-loved Firefly, while Whedon decided to spin Gregg’s supporting role in the Marvel Universe movies into a leading part in the new TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Which meant the conversation was ready to go in all directions, and did, thanks to their playful sense of fun. They met on the set of Much Ado and you could still see that they were getting to know each other, but it was also apparent that they were fast friends the way they bounced off one another, tossing quips back and forth, lobbing tongue-in-cheek insults and self-effacing rejoinders, and diving into pop-culture trivia like boys on the first day of school. Boys will be boys indeed.

Sean Axmaker: Let me begin by asking you: what have you been watching?

Nathan Fillion: I just saw Iron Man 3. I had a great time. (to Clark) You haven’t seen it yet?

Clark Gregg: (laughs) I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been promoting the new S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. I have to watch it.

NF: For your thing that you do? You’re killing that whole thing.

CG: Until they bring me back to life, I’m not going to watch any of the movies.

NF: You can’t watch it!

CG: I’m gonna watch it. I actually tried to get back to New York last night but I had one last appearance to do.

NF: You should read the file on it. Then your character will be right on track with that.

Continue reading at Cinephiled

Sep 02 2012

Watching with Gary Lockwood, star of Gene Roddenberry’s ‘The Lieutenant’ and Kubrick’s ‘2001′

Gary Lockwood isn’t a name that your average filmgoer might remember, but to film buffs and genre fans, he is legendary. He was the astronaut “murdered” by HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and played Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell, an officer given god-like powers, in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the second pilot that Gene Roddenberry made for “Star Trek” (“The one that got it sold,” as Lockwood puts it). He’s been retired for fifteen years now but spoke to Videodrone in support of the home video debut of his 1963 TV series “The Lieutenant,” the show that made him a leading man for the first time. It was also the first series created by Gene Roddenberry and Lockwood talks about Roddenberry, Kubrick, how his start acting career sprung from a stunt gig, and his favorite movies (hint: one of them is in the new Sight and Sound poll of the Best Films Ever Made).

What are you watching?

I’m not a person who has a lot of DVDs. I have maybe four or five. I have “Kill Bill 1″ and “2,” “2001,” “Blade Runner,” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” I really enjoyed “No Country for Old Men” a few years back. I grew up on a ranch and going to the movies was salvation.

“The Lieutenant” was not your first TV show.

Yeah, I did a show called “Follow the Sun” where I played a young newspaper reporter, back in the days when you did 40 shows in one year.

How did you get the lead in “The Lieutenant”?

Basically they just invited me to come to the studio. They sought me out. I didn’t audition for it. I think it was body type. I always tell people this and it gets boring for them to hear it, but most of the time you’re making a movie or television show, you’re shooting reactions, and if you have a character that looks like what he should be, then your story moves forward. And I think there’s something to typecasting.

How did you  get your start acting?

I went to see about doubling an actor in a movie called “The Tall Story” (1960) starring Jane Fonda and Tony Perkins [as a college basketball player] and my legs were much too big. Tony Perkins had pencil legs and I had powerful legs, so the director [Joshua Logan] turned to the technical director and said “This guy looks like he could be Slavic,” and I am Polish and German. So the director turned to me and said, “Have you ever done any acting?” I said “No,” but I’d always been a bit of a character. I was a quarterback and I happened to be an art and English major — there were only two of us on the football team in that department — and so I had been reading all my life, and acting was really kind of a piece of cake. He asked me if I could use a Russian accent and they gave me some sides [lines] and the next day I came back and read them and I sounded like a Russian. So I started acting.

Continue reading at Videodrone

Aug 07 2012

Watching with Matthew Modine, star of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Matthew Modine as Pvt. Joker

Matthew Modine has been making movies for thirty years. After making his big screen debut in a small role in John Sayles’ Baby It’s You, he quickly became one of the most in-demand young actors of his generation, with major roles in Robert Altman’s Streamers, Alan Parker’s Birdie, and Gillian Armstrong’s Mrs. Soffel, before landing the leading role in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. The film’s 25th Anniversary is marked by a special edition Blu-ray release, with the new documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes and contributions from Modine himself. Photographs that Modine took on the set of the film are included in the disc’s booklet and he wrote an essay for the edition.

I spoke with Modine by phone in June, catching him between a visit with a programmer developing an iPad app based on his book “Full Metal Jacket Diary” (“The reason I’m excited about it is that he just showed it to me this morning”) and a meeting with John Scully (“the man who fired Steve Jobs from Apple”), who he’s portraying in the upcoming Steve Jobs film. Since then he’s been seen by millions of viewers in “The Dark Knight Rises” and premiered a new film short film at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, and he’s currently developing his second feature as a director.

We talked about Kubrick, Altman, making movies, and what he’s been watching.

What are you watching on home video?

The only thing I watch on television is sports and right now I’m enjoying the Oklahoma Thunder is one game to nothing against the El Fuego. That means The Heat, if you don’t speak Spanish. I don’t like saying the name of the team because I really, really can’t stomach them. So it’s just El Fuego to me. [Note: the interview was conducted weeks before the Olympics]

Do you still go to the movies?

Absolutely. I go to see as many movies as I can. That’s my profession. I go to see as much theater as I can – that’s one of the pleasures of living in New York, we have the greatest theater in the United States – and watch as many movies as I can.

You had taken substantial roles in films before Full Metal Jacket, but taking the lead role in a Kubrick film must have had an effect on your career.

It’s flattering when any director asks you to be the star of their film and there’s a tremendous responsibility that comes with that invitation. But yes, absolutely, to be invited to work with someone who had previously worked with Jack Nicholson onThe Shining” which I really enjoyed, who worked with George C. Scott and Peter Sellers, two actors I think are just brilliant, James Mason, Kirk Douglas twice, Malcolm McDowell…. To work with Stanley and know his history as a filmmaker, it was a tremendous invitation and a wonderful opportunity. Not just as an actor and an artist, but as a man, having the opportunity to work with somebody who is going to teach me about  filmmaking, who is going to teach me about writing, who is going to teach me about being a human being. This extraordinary experience, this brief moment that we have that we share on this planet, I think of all the people that I’ve met and worked with in my life, probably Stanley understood the brevity of time better than most.

How did you get the part and what was the audition process like?

There was a funny thing about Full Metal Jacket. You were supposed to send a videotape audition to an address in London. And I didn’t. It’s not that I couldn’t afford one, really, but I didn’t have the ambition to go find someone with a video camera or spend some money to hire a casting director  to videotape me, because video in 1984 was something that was not so readily available like it today. To tape yourself, you had to make a real investment of time and effort and money. And  I didn’t. I was busy working and I thought that things were coming to me pretty easily so I didn’t videotape myself and it was quite by accident…

Continue reading at Videodrone

Jun 18 2012

Watching with Susan Sarandon, star of ‘Jeff Who Lives at Home’

By her own admission, Susan Sarandon considers herself a character actor. She’s interested in being challenged by roles, in playing different characters, and in the messages of her films. After a career spanning over forty years, five Oscar nominations, and a Best Actress Oscar for “Dead Man Walking,” it’s still a challenge to find those roles. And yet she does. Case in point: “Jeff Who Lives at Home” (on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount), where she plays the widowed mother of two estranged grown sons whose lives have gone off track.

Videodrone talked to Ms. Sarandon about working with directors Jay and Mark Duplass, her own life as the mother of two sons, and what she’s watching when she’s not making movies.

What are you watching?

I don’t have a television set so all I watch are things I get. I just finished watching a number of seasons of “Breaking Bad,” which I thought revolutionizes television. I haven’t watched a lot of television so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I was blown away by the acting and direction. It was major for me. So I tend to get things like that, I get a lot of documentaries, I watch the TED talks and animal specials. I tend to see movies in the theater, especially foreign films that I think maybe won’t be available later. I like the experience of being with a group of people, watching movies that way.

That’s an experience that is being lost as more people watch movies at home, on disc or On Demand or streaming video. There is something special about the shared experience of watching a film in a theater with an audience.

I like that, and I like being able to lose yourself in a big, dark room. I think that films have a responsibility and have the challenge of reframing people’s perspective, even if it’s just briefly, and I think it’s easier to do when you’re outside of your living room.

Continue reading at Videodrone

Apr 19 2012

Watching with Brad Bird, director of ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’

Brad Bird and Oscar

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) is fun. It’s that simple. The fourth film in the high-tech super spy series finds Tom Cruise’s Agent Ethan Hunt a little older  and a little more mortal, scrambling to put together a rogue mission off the grid with a makeshift team, unreliable equipment, and no tech support. The set pieces are spectacular and the ingenious locations are like nothing we’ve seen in spy movies before, but a lot of the film’s success can be attributed to the director: Oscar-winner animation director Brad Bird, making his live action debut.

Cruise showed a lot of faith in trusting a first-time live-action filmmaker with his blockbuster franchise and Bird came through with a clever, inventive, high-energy trip. While he had never directed a film like this, Bird was no stranger to big, complicated productions thanks to his days at Pixar, and more importantly, Bird had proved himself one of the best storytellers around, no matter the medium.

To mark the release of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol on Blu-ray and DVD, Brad Bird took the time for a few brief phone interviews. Very brief, it turned out, for a filmmaker who has plenty to say about making films. As usual, we began by asking him what he’s been watching.

What are you watching?

The last one I saw was actually a movie that I’ve seen several times before but I love it, which is “The Red Shoes,” which is just a great, weird, fantastic movie. It came out on Criterion Blu-ray fairly recently and I just showed it to my sons, who had never seen it before. They’ve been prompting me to show them movies that I think are great, so every once in a while I’ll get them in there and I’ll show them “Yojimbo” or something that they would not normally see and they are loving it.

As an animation director, your involvement begins at the story level. When did you get involved in the process of developing “Mission: Impossible.”

J.J. and Tom had been working with the writers, Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, for almost a year on this script but the script was in happy flux when I showed up, meaning that I asked to see a script and J.J. kept dodging me and then finally I said, “Look, if I’m going to do this, I gotta see a script, ” and he said, “Sure, I’ll show you a script. Which one do you want to see? I have fifteen scripts and we just keep rewriting it and redoing it and throwing new ideas in there.” He said, “It’s probably better if I just pitch the movie and then we talk about set pieces and we can talk about where it’s going because it’s in constant flux.” So I got sold the overarching idea of the story that Ethan Hunt is thrust together with a team, rather than a team he picks, and then that team is isolated. They had the ideas for the set pieces in but other than that, it was up for grabs, and some of the set pieces, like the car park thing at the end, they literally had a photo of a car park, a really unusual car park in, I think it was Germany, and they said, “He chases the bad guy and they have a fight in a car park.” And that’s literally what I had, so I got to really shape, shot by shot, what that car park would be: First they do this and then they kick the case under the car and then they do this. I got to basically riff on that very basic idea.

Continue reading at Videodrone

Apr 04 2012

Watching with Robert Towne, Oscar-winning writer of ‘Chinatown’

Chinatown is an American masterpiece, a great film released in a year full of great films. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but in the face of “The Godfather Part II” (among others), it won only a single Oscar: Best Original Screenplay by Robert Towne. It is a magnificent original script, a great American novel written directly for the screen, and it confirmed Robert Towne as one of the finest screenwriters of his generation.

“Chinatown” makes its long-awaited Blu-ray debut this week from Paramount in an edition with commentary, interviews, and featurettes, and Robert Towne agreed to a few interviews to mark the occasion. So for a brief ten minutes, I had the pleasure and the honor of asking him about the film, the disc, the collaborative nature of the production, and of course what he’s been watching lately.

What are you watching?

I wouldn’t want to tell you the last movie I saw because I walked out on it. I so disliked it. I mean the thing that I guess I could say I’ve been watching lately is what a lot of people have been watching, which is “Downton Abbey.” Have you seen it?

I missed the first season and caught up with it in the second, which took them through World War I.

You really should start with the first, it’s really quite wonderful. But that’s what I’ve been looking at lately. There are some movies I want to see but I still haven’t been there. I still like going to the movies but there are so many movies that are depressing without being revealing of much of anything and I sometimes wonder how we can hold on to an audience with films like that. But there are certain films and filmmakers I still like. I like very much “The Social Network,” I like Fincher very much, as you can tell. I mean, we worked together on the commentary.

The commentary track on the “Chinatown” disc is superb, and I appreciate that someone with Fincher’s insight was brought in to engage you on the film.

I think it was particularly good to work with David on that. But the people that were on that disc were so thoughtful. Steven Soderbergh… There were a lot of good people associated with that.

Continue reading at Videodrone

Mar 14 2012

Watching with Ralph Bakshi, Director of ‘Wizards’

Before he embarked on his impressive but unfinished adaptation of “Lord of the Rings,” maverick American animator Ralph Bakshi createdWizards (Fox), a futuristic fantasy set in the aftermath of the apocalypse. A mix of Tolkein-esque quest epic and seventies attitude, it was like a PG version of an underground comic book made for the big screen, and was Bakshi’s first effort to reach a mainstream audience. It was a hit that got overlooked when another 20th Century Fox science fiction film, a little thing called Star Wars, opened just a few weeks later, but a cult following kept it alive through revival house, college campuses, and video releases ever since.

Wizards debuts on Blu-ray this week in illustrated Blu-ray book with commentary by director Bakshi and the excellent interview featurette “The Wizard of Animation” (both originally produced for the DVD release).

To mark the film’s 35th Anniversary, Ralph Bakshi, now 73 years old and long retired from animated features, talked to Videodrone aboutWizards, his career, and what he’s been watching from his mountaintop home in New Mexico.

What are you watching?

Ralph Bakshi: Japanese, Korean, and oriental films off of Netflix. I don’t remember the names, but the ones that are subtitled are the good ones and the production values and the shooting and the camerawork is incredible. And there are also some low budget detective films that they do. I think it’s sensational filmmaking. I’ve been watching an awful lot of that, and I’ve been watching British street films, films made in England about the working classes and their problems, and they’ve been very, very excellent. I’ve been doing a lot of that because they are films I never would have gone to the movies to see. I’m watching no animation.

You say you’re not watching animated films. What’s it like revisiting “Wizards” again after all these years.

How do I say this? My complete budget on “Wizards,” to make the entire film, is spent in a Pixar film in the first minute and a half. What they spend on a minute and a half of a Pixar film, I made my complete movie for. It’s hard looking at these movies that had so many problems. I had no money to do it the way I saw it in my mind, so I get very edgy looking at it. The fact that people are still finding it and enjoying it after all these years is kind of stunning to me. To be quite frank, I thought that they would never be shown again, they were so low budget, so I’ve come to the conclusion that though the work is important and quality is important, what films say might be more important than how they look and what their production values are. The Pixar films and the Sony films and the Fox films are all done incredibly well, visually, and it’s so hard to compete against that with my $1 million “Wizards.” But somehow it does and I don’t quite understand that except maybe it’s content. They’re hard to look at, is what I’m trying to say. They’re hard to look at it.

Continue reading on Videodrone and see clips from the film

Dec 15 2011

Watching with Todd Haynes – director of ‘Velvet Goldmine’

Todd Haynes’ 1999 film “Velvet Goldmine” (Miramax) reimagines the Glam rock era and the iconic influence of David Bowie through the kaleidoscopic lens of “Citizen Kane” and the fictionalized persona of rock legend and bi-sexual pop icon Brian Slade (played by Jonathan Rhys-Myers). A young, fresh-faced Christian Bale plays the reporter digging into the mystery of Slade’s rise and fall and Ewan MacGregor almost steals the film as the punk pioneer Curt Wild (equal parts Iggy Pop and Kurt Cobain), the genuine article to Slade’s calculated, coifed image of glitter stardom.

It’s a blast, with bouncy music, flamboyant costumes, a fab sense of period, and a complex narrative interweaving of flashbacks, shifting perspectives, public personas and private personalities with Slade as the film’s slippery Charles Foster Kane. But it’s also a study in reinvention and the fluid definition of identity and sexuality embraced by the subculture around the music, the first youth movement to openly accept and embrace ideas of bisexuality and homosexuality.

Haynes revisited the film in November when he recorded a brand new commentary track with producer Christine Vachon for the film’s Blu-ray debut and talked with Videodrone about the revisiting the film, its reverberations with his other fictionalized biography “I’m Not There” and, as always, what he’s been watching.

What are you watching?

Todd Haynes: I’ll tell you one really cool thing I watched. I recently met Stephen Sondheim, who is an *intense* movie buff, and he asked me what my favorite Douglas Sirk movie is. And he said, “I have mine,” and I said, “Well, I want to hear yours.” And he said, “Mine is ‘Scandal in Paris’ from the late forties,” which is one of his very first English-speaking films that Douglas Sirk directed in the United States. You can get it on Amazon. I had read about the movie and I had seen a lot of more obscure Sirk films over the years but it was fantastic. It knocked my socks off. And you can see a connection between the great director Max Ophuls and Sirk like you never have before in this film. That was a complete surprise.

Otherwise I have been watching some of the screeners of new movies that have been coming out bit by bit. I just watched “Young Adult” last night, which I thought was pretty interesting.

Are you a voting member of the Academy?

Haynes: I am.

What are some of the films this year that you have most liked?

Haynes: I had the treat of watching “Hugo,” Scorsese’s new 3D movie, on Thanksgiving Day at the Ziegfeld Theater. And it was just such a complete and total treat, just visually in its aesthetic, just such a tribute to early cinema and the origins of what obviously started to make Scorsese’s mind tick with this love poem to the Méliès story. That was a really fun one. But I’m still waiting to see some serious films that are still emerging. It seems like it’s backloaded this year from Christmas so there are still a lot of stuff I haven’t seen that I’ve been hearing about.

Continue reading on Videodrone

Nov 22 2011

Watching with John Landis

John Landis had his finger on the pulse of pop culture – and in particular the intersection of comedy, horror and music – from the late 1970s through the 1980s: “Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers,” “An American Werewolf in London,” the epic music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This week “¡Three Amigos!” (HBO) debuts on Blu-ray, a film that was (at least by Hollywood standards) a “disappointment” upon original release but found an audience on home video.

All these years later, this affectionate tribute to old Hollywood and innocent matinee westerns is just as funny, thanks to a knowing script (by Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman), engaging performances (by Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short) and Landis’ savvy direction, which is larger than life in all the ways that those original westerns were. Landis has a real affection for this film and shared in a brief interview where we discussed the film, his love of horror movies and what he’s been watching.

MSN: What are you watching?

John Landis: I just was given the new Blu-ray of “Ben-Hur” which I’m very curious to watch because I think the most gorgeous Blu-ray I’ve ever seen is the DeMille “The Ten Commandments.”

MSN: That’s a stunning disc.

JL: It’s magnificent. I was really blown away by it.

MSN: Comedy is such a product of its time. In the eighties, you and Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis dominated with madcap antics and energized comedy. Now there’s a whole new comedy aesthetic, which is focused on gross-out humor and arrested adolescence. What do you think has changed?

JL: A lot has to do with the movies the studios are making. It’s a different time and they won’t take the risk that they used to take. Things are a lot more conservative. But having said that, I thought “Bridesmaids” was funny. I mean it wasn’t perfect but it made me laugh and that’s what you want from a comedy.

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