I like being surprised by someone when I walk into an interview.
I do not pay much attention to pop music of any kind at this point. I have a few trusted friends who recommend things to me that I might like listening to, and I have older artists whose new work I'll pick up because I'm a fan, and every now and then, something punches through the haze of pop culture and catches my attention. For the most part, though, I know names more than I know the actual sound, and that was certainly the case with Taylor Swift.
I know who she is. I know she's very young. I know she has a reputation for writing songs about dudes who have done her wrong. Beyond that, she's not really on my radar. That's not a negative judgment on my part… it's just a confession that when it comes to blind spots, she occupies one of mine.
So when we sat down at the recent press day for "The Lorax" to talk about her work in the movie as Audrey, the girl whose obsession with trees kicks off the quest by Ted (Zac Efron) to find one for her, I walked in a blank slate. I was there to talk to an actor about her latest film, end of story.
I like being surprised by someone when I walk into an interview.
There are just a few weeks left until the opening of one of the year's most-hyped gambles, the big-screen adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel, "The Hunger Games."
I'm actually seeing the film very soon so I can sit down and interview the cast and crew, and I'm excited to see what they've done. I've said a few times now that I admire the Collins novels, and I think there's real potential here for a film trilogy that is visceral and thrilling and emotional, and it all depends on whether or not they get this first one right.
I will say this… a friend of mine recently got in touch after a screening of the film, and his succinct reaction was "Buy Lionsgate Stock." Seems like a bit of an endorsement, eh?
But you don't care whether a film critic gets to see the film early. You want to know when you get to see it. And if you're in Philadelphia or Chicago, then I am pleased to report that HitFix may be able to help you with that.
Good documentaries have a very simple and direct appeal. We engage because we are watching something true, and often, something we had no idea about. I have always been drawn more towards documentaries about people or places than issues, because I find people endlessly interesting, and documentaries capture us in all our freaky glory.
In the case of "Beauty Day," a Canadian documentary that is arriving on video in that country this week, I was hooked immediately by the the story of Ralph Zavadil, who made a name for himself as a local cable access celebrity in Ontario decades ago. As "Cap'n Video," Zavadil was willing to do anything for a laugh, putting himself in harm's way over and over again before one stunt ended the laughter.
Or… did it? Because the stunt that broke his neck was also the first stunt of his I ever saw, without knowing who it was or what the circumstances were. I didn't realize it was from a show or that this was a guy who did this on a regular basis. I was introduced to Zavadil via the magic of YouTube and a friend who sent me a video in an e-mail with the header "OMG THIS IS THE STUPIDEST PERSON ALIVE EXCEPT HE MIGHT BE DEAD NOW!!"
The three friends who kick off the avalanche of bad behavior in "Project X" are played by J.D. Brown, Oliver Copper, and Thomas Mann, and the three of them together sat down to talk to us about the wild ride that was the production of the film.
In addition, I sat down with the lovely young ladies who represent the angel and devil on the shoulders of Thomas, the main character in the film. Kirby Bliss Blanton plays Kirby, the girl who has been friends with Thomas for years. He thinks of her as "one of the guys," which is a convenient way of keeping his shameless crush on her at bay. And Alexis Knapp plays Alexis, the rich bitch bad girl who decides that she's going to give Thomas the best birthday present a teenage boy can ask for.
As you can see, they're playing with pretty familiar teen movie archetypes here, and in our conversations, it feels like all the young actors are aware of what they're playing, and aware of the tradition that these roles fall into.
Zac Efron and Rob Riggle are an odd couple, and in "The Lorax," they go head to head in a battle for the environment of Thneedville.
I'm sure most teenage girls, faced with the choice between Efron and Riggle, would find themselves hard-pressed to make the call. I mean, sure, Efron's so pretty he makes 20-year-old Rob Lowe look like the Elephant Man, but what teenage girl doesn't dream of a hilariously sarcastic slab of 42-year-old Kentucky ham?
I kid because I think Riggle is awesome, and a near-total cartoon character in person. What I find most interesting about his role in "The Lorax" is how completely opposite his character in the film is from him physically. They couldn't have designed a more different character for him to play if they'd tried. Riggle fills a room with his booming voice and his carved-from-beef physicality. He's a big guy. His character in "The Lorax," however, is about as tiny as can be, with a weird creepy haircut and a classic case of little-man syndrome.
If you're going to market your movie to me, have fun with it.
That's really all I ask. I think the key to great movie marketing is that you have to figure out what movie you've made, and then crack the way to present that film to the public. Don't lie about what movie you've made. Don't hide the movie you've made. Don't shroud the thing in mystery so completely that no one knows what the movie is. And for god's sake, don't ruin it as you try to sell it to me.
So far, I think Fox has done a fairly masterful job with the actual materials they've released from "Prometheus." Their one sheets are interesting. The trailer that evokes the original 1979 "Alien" trailer without ever explicitly saying "Alien" anywhere on it is effective. They're trying.
And today, there's a very cool new puzzle piece that they've dropped in the form of a fake TED talk. Luke Scott directed the piece, which was conceived and designed by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof. You'd barely know that from the actual TED page, though, which plays it all very straight-faced.
I must confess that I am fascinated by the new film "Project X." It's not a particularly complicated film, in either concept or execution, but maybe that simplicity is what I like about it. At heart, "Project X" is a John Hughes movie from the '80s, right down to its final shot, but it's wrapped in a level of chaos and decadence that sums up the career of producer Todd Phillips with a gleeful degree of anarchy.
This may be the biggest budget found-footage film I've seen so far, and this and "Chronicle" both suggest that the language of found-footage is finding its way into the mainstream in a very real way, and that there are ways to crank it up. This is the story of Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann) and his 17th birthday party, as thrown by him, his friend Costa (Oliver Cooper), and their friend JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). It is strictly forbidden by Mom (Caitlin Dulany) and Dad (Peter Mackenzie) before they leave town, but Costa browbeats the much more pliant Thomas, convincing him that this is for his own good. Costa overplans this thing on a scale that is like mounting a full-sized D-Day to take control of a playground. This party isn't just big. This party isn't just crazy. This party is the end of the goddamn world.
Danny De Vito is a hardcore fan of home video, and has been for at least 20 years, so it's good to hear he's preparing Blu-ray special editions of his films "Hoffa" and "War Of The Roses" right now.
I met DeVito for the first time when I was working at Dave's Video in the early '90s. There were three customers at that store who bought everything that came out, and I'm not exaggerating. Danny DeVito, Ivan Reitman, and Steven Spielberg were voracious fans of laserdisc, and they all had the same standing order with the store. Whatever we ordered, we were to order them copies for purchase as well. I can't even imagine what DeVito's laserdisc collection must have looked like, but I know he took it seriously.
When it came to transferring his own films, he went above and beyond. Both "Hoffa" and "War Of The Roses" got the deluxe treatment from Fox at the time, and when we sat down to talk about his work in the new film "The Lorax," I couldn't resist asking him about Blu-ray, and he told me that he's getting ready to bring those films out again, with new features added just to take advantage of Blu-ray.
There are days where I think the Internet is one great big snark machine designed to take everything and transform it into this non-stop barrage of one-liners and attitude and irritating self-satisfaction, and I'm sure I'm as much a part of that as anyone, and then there are days where the Internet coughs up something so human and wonderful that it wipes away any complaint I might have.
I didn't see this until yesterday, but it's actually been bouncing around since Friday, and I think author Harry Turtledove might have just won me as a fan permanently.
By now, we've become used to the idea of Make-A-Wish and the way they reach out to help people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. I've seen some pretty remarkable acts of giving since I moved to LA from people who were deeply moved by their encounters with the kids they came in contact with, and I think if you're in a position to help someone whose life is about to be cut brutally short, there's an obligation to try and do it.
3:00 PM: "Drew, I'd like for you to live-blog the Oscars."
That was the e-mail this morning. "Oh, no," I thought. "I just RT'd my link from last year about why I don't report on the Oscars or watch the Oscars or anything. Besides, with both Awards Campaign and In Contention in the HitFix family, we've got awards covered like crazy." I was filled with a sudden dread at the idea that I might have to eat some crow and suddenly spend my day reporting on this thing that I so studiously avoid all year long.
Then there was a knock at the front door. HitFix is, of course, positively swimming in it. I mean, look around the website. Swanky, right? I had no idea how dedicated Greg Ellwood was to the idea of me doing Oscar coverage until I opened the door and found his ultimate weapon waiting there for me. He arranged for Apple to deliver a prototype Apple TV to the house for me to watch the show. And I'm not talking about the box you hook up to your existing HD screen. I'm talking about the long-rumored but not-remotely-confirmed actual 70-inch all-included HD television that Apple's developing. I'm not sure how he got it delivered, but an Apple representative, dressed like a Secret Service agent and built like a cartoon superhero, informed me that he was going to have to stay and take the device back at the end of the show.
But for now, I figure I have no choice. I just got everything hooked up in the playroom and turned it on. There are so many apps and possibilities in the programming on this thing that just finding the channel for the Oscars is a bit of a science project. I found one onscreen icon that has a picture of the E! logo and "Alternate" written underneath it. I figure anything that is established as an alternative to the sort of coverage that drove me away from watching the Oscars in the first place is a good thing. And since the whole set appears to be driven by Siri controls, all I had to say is "Alternate, search Oscars," and about ten seconds later, I was watching a red-carpet feed.
I was surprised to see Albert Brooks as the first face I recognized on the red carpet. Surprised, but pleased. I didn't realize he'd be at the show even without his nomination. What was stranger was seeing Lars Von Trier behind him on the carpet, being interviewed by someone else. And it looks like Kirsten Dunst is with him. So... what the hell?