David Cronenberg and Don DeLillo.
Right away, those two names attached to a project guarantee my interest. Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors, a brilliant man with a savage eye for human behavior, and DeLillo is an amazing author. His books are black and painful and funny and horrifying, and each of them serves as a sort of snapshot of a time and place.
So when I read that Cronenberg is going to make DeLillo's Cosmopolis as a film, I'm very interested. Then I read a little further and I see Paul Giamatti and Marion Cotillard are also attached, and that's cool. Good cast, great actors, seem like they'd be a good fit with Cronenberg. And who else is starring?
Oh, yeah… that's right. Robert Pattinson, in his first big role after he wraps work on the last of the "Twilight" films.
It's a huge role for him, and it's an interesting moment for Cronenberg and DeLillo. I may love these guys, but their cultural currency isn't what it could be. Not a lot of teenagers out there are rabidly devouring "White Noise" or "Libra" these days or tracking down DVDs of "The Brood" and "Videodrome." Robert Pattinson has a certain amount of cultural cache that automatically brings fresh eyes to something like this.
David Cronenberg and Don DeLillo.
This one's a little late.
Here's the thing… Edgar Wright is a bundle of energy that is almost unmatched in anyone I know, and an hour of Edgar talking is the equal of about six hours of anyone else talking. This interview caused six different transcriptionists to kill themselves. I became afraid to pass it along to a new one, because every time, they would say, "Oh, no, don't worry about it." Next thing I hear? Dead. Expired. At their own hand.
I stuck with it, though, and now, finally, after all this time, I have an hour with Edgar Wright for no good reason other than I love his film and I thought this was a great conversation. And it'll have to be two articles because there's no way to publish something this big as one article on this site. It's a behemoth.
Actually, I'll get into "reasons" at the end of this piece. First, though, all kidding aside, this is how interviews should work... real time to sit and chat without someone hovering nearby to cut you off after your third question. I understand the realities of time constraints during press tours, but still... it makes a big difference, both as an interviewer and (hopefully) for you guys as readers. With a few interviews here at HitFix, like Terry Gilliam or Rob Reiner or David Fincher, I feel like I got a chance to sit down and chat with someone I've always wanted to talk to but never had the chance before, and by the end of it, I felt like we'd formed a rapport that resulted in a genuine conversation and not just a promotional opportunity. Yes, they're selling something, but the goal from my end is always to try to break through to even a few moments of something real.
I've watched Eric Vespe grow up as a film fan, and my second home in Austin is with my friend Aaron Morgan and his lovely wife, so suffice it to say I'm a wee bit on the excited side to be able to confirm that "The Home," co-written by Vespe and Morgan and set to be directed by Morgan, has been acquired by Dimension Films.
Makes sense. After all, Elizabeth Avellan is one of their producers, and her relationship with Dimension Films has been a long and successful one as the producer of the films of her ex-husband, Robert Rodriguez. Elizabeth has been working with Eric and Aaron to develop the film recently, joining some other producers like Elijah Wood and Voltage Pictures who have been on the film for a while now, and it looks like this combination of people is the right one.
"The Home" is drawn from personal experience for Morgan. His family was in the nursing home business, and he grew up around them, so when he set out to craft a horror film set in a nursing home, he had more than enough material to use as inspiration. Vespe, who you probably know better as Quint over at Ain't It Cool, has been working with Morgan for a while now. The two of them made a short film together called "Blind," and they'd written another feature before this one. That was based on a novel, though, and was larger in scale and harder to set up, so they intentionally set out to make something more contained that they could use as a calling card.
Gareth Edwards made quite a splash with his micro-budget giant monster movie, "Monsters," last year, and while it didn't make my end-of-the-year list, I have real admiration for what he accomplished, especially working on the budget he did. He's a smart filmmaker with a really interesting visual imagination, and it seems like one of the most obvious couplings of filmmaker with material in recent memory to hear that Edwards has been hired by Warner and Legendary to direct their upcoming "Godzilla."
It's an exciting choice in a lot of ways. If you see "Monsters," you'll see how clearly his focus is on character instead of spectacle, even in the moments where there are giant monsters onscreen. His idea of a money shot is defined by the emotion it evokes, not on how "cool" it is, and that's one of the reasons "Monsters" may have confounded people expecting more conventional genre fare.
There's no dramatic situation more inherently manipulative than parents dealing with the death of a child.
Simply put, it's one of the most shattering experiences anybody can ever go through. Of course it's going to be dramatic. Of course it's going to test your characters. For audiences who don't have children, it's a shorthand. People understand that one on a surface level. And for audiences who are actually parents, it's almost too much to bear from the very start. Once you've had a child, you can't imagine your life without that person in it, and you can't imagine sitting through a film about the subject. It's almost too easy in terms of being the engine to drive something forward.
Yet with the new film, “Rabbit Hole” John Cameron Mitchell has crafted something sensitive, funny, powerful, and, yes, at times almost overwhelmingly emotional. He is aided in this by his incredible cast, all of whom do their very best work in this film, and of course by the script, adapted from his own award-winning play, David LIndsay-Abaire. The thing that makes the film work so well is the way it approaches grief not as a subject, but as a cause. Grief hangs over the entire film, and loss is part of it from the first frame to the last, and it's always driving these people forward. They're either rushing to meet it or running to prevent it, but it's always present. What defines these characters is how they choose to handle it, and as much as Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are struggling to deal with it as a couple, as the parents of this four-year-old boy who is gone now, they ultimately have to find personal ways to handle things before they can come back together and even hope to function as a couple.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is the title of the new book by Patton Oswalt. Part memoir, part essay collection, the book is alternately revealing, hilarious and, and livid, a description that would seem to apply equally to his work as a stand-up comedian. That anger is one of the things that I find serves as a dividing point for many audiences. Some people don't want to be infuriated by a stand-up, and other people think that's one of the primary purposes of stand-up comedy. If you're not provoking or poking at the soft spots in things, then what are you really doing? Oswalt is fully capable of a shotgun blast approach to things he finds infuriating or stupid or disappointing, but he is equally capable of turning that same excoriating insight on himself.
In the interest of full disclosure, I've known Patton for a while now. I met him while I was at Ain't It Cool News. One night, I went to see Aimee Mann and Michael Penn perform, and Patton was part of the evening, coming out to speak between songs as the two artists played separately and together. It was a great show, and I was already familiar with him as a stand-up. That night, though, he made reference to Ain't It Cool while he was onstage, which sort of blew my mind. I wasn't used to hearing us referenced anywhere, and when I mentioned it in an article later that week, Patton dropped me an e-mail to introduce himself. Over time, he either may or may not have contributed occasional articles to Ain't It Cool under various names. I am not willing to divulge that information, even if someone like Peter Travers is eager to do so. All I know is I stayed in touch with him because I recognized in him a very similar type of film fandom. He grew up in the same sort of suburban hellscape that I did, although I think I grew up in more of them by virtue of moving so often. And he worked the same sorts of jobs I did in high school, taking roughly the same path to the decision to move to Los Angeles. I'm sure that's a big part of why I have always enjoyed Patton's work as a comedian… we have a common cultural vocabulary.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I guess I should say welcome to 2011, as well, since this is our first column of the New Year. I hope you guys had a chance to check out the David Fincher interview I ran last night. He's got some great quotes in there. I love how excited he gets when we end up talking about George Lucas for a moment. I'm just pleased that somehow our conversation led to David Fincher saying, "You go, dude. That's so sick."
I'd like to say the same to James Franco if the reports of him signing on to write and direct "Blood Meridian" for Scott Rudin are true. That book by Cormac McCarthy is considered one of the great unfilmed books, and it feels like dozens of filmmakers have crashed on those rocks already. Franco's tastes are interesting, and if he does end up making the McCarthy film or adapting Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, those are challenging, dense pieces of material that will test Franco as a filmmaker. I consider his ongoing evolution to be one of the most interesting stories in Hollywood right now, and the jump to writing and directing is one that will define him in a new way yet again.
This is very good news, indeed.
As much as I admire and respect Jodie Foster as a filmmaker, I would always rather have her in front of the camera. I think her presence is missed in mainstream film, and I think she's one of the most intriguing and unusual leading ladies of our age.
I've always had a particular fondness for the work she did in "Contact," a film that seems to still hotly divide viewers (our own Greg Ellwood broke my heart a little when he told me this morning that he hates the film) even now, thirteen years after its initial release. Foster hasn't really dabbled in the "lesser" genres much, so "Contact" remains one of the clearest examples of what sort of SF might actually draw her to participate.
Good to keep in mind, since she's been added to the cast of "Elysium," which is Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated "District 9." This means Jodie Foster will co-star with Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in the top-secret film which starts shooting some time this year.
The last interview of the year was, as it turns out, one of my favorites.
David Fincher's offices aren't in the part of town you'd expect, and from the outside, you'd never realize one of Hollywood's most in-demand filmmakers was working there. On the Thursday before the end of the year, a small group of journalists were invited to spend some time talking to Fincher about the upcoming Blu-ray release of his latest film, "The Social Network." An early copy of the Blu-ray was messengered over so I could check it out before sitting down with him, and I took that seriously, since there's no reason to ask him a question that he answers in the film's supplemental section. I also noticed that they beep him for language several times on the commentary, and also once when he gave out Aaron Sorkin's e-mail address. In the following interview, Fincher is not, in fact, beeped, so be warned.
I watched the film with his commentary track, and then watched the feature-length documentary on the making of the film that was put together by David Prior. It's an excellent look inside the development and creation of the film, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants an unvarnished look at big-budget studio filmmaking.
As I prepared to head into the conference room to chat with Fincher, I saw Steve Weintraub from Collider on his way out. He ran his interview just before the New Year break, and it's interesting how there are a few quotes that Fincher worked his way around to in both interviews, things that are very obviously on his mind. We covered a lot of different ground, though, and reading his, then reading mine, you get a good portrait of where Fincher's head is at right now.
2010 will be over by the time you read this, most likely.
I won't be sad to see the year go. It's been a tough one, creatively and personally, and it's taken a toll on me here in print, I believe. There are things I wish I'd done, things I'd like to have published, coverage I think I could have done better. I know the New Year is an arbitrary moment that we picked to signify the change from old to new, but I like that symbolism. Always have. I like packing a year away, putting a lid on it, and moving on.
One of the things that's particularly nice about the end of the year is sifting out the things that really mattered to you, the pieces of pop culture that you want to keep. I've already published my ten best of the year and my ten runners-up, but there were a few other things that I leaned on this year for distraction and enrichment. Here, then, my short list of...
The Top Five Things That Weren't Movies In 2010
"Red Dead Redemption" (PS3)
The single most satisfying entertainment experience I had this year was the time I spent playing every single square inch of Rock Star's latest game, this exceptional Western simulation that finally gave me the feeling I've wanted from every other Wild West game I've ever played. The gunfights, the stagecoach robberies, the sunsets over the desert… the memories I have from the game aren't about individual moments. They're more like the memories I'd have from an actual physical vacation somewhere, and I suspect that as games become even more sophisticated, these memories will become even more tactile. The age of "Total Recall" is here, and losing myself in this particular story was deeply rewarding.