BOFCA INTERVIEW: 8/6

Jesse Hassinger and Mark Anastasio are the programming coordinators at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, one of the Boston area’s premiere movie houses for both first-run and repertory releases. In addition to all the hottest indie fare (they have BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, MOONRISE KINGDOM, and TO ROME WITH LOVE on their screens at the moment, among others,) they also program a number of exciting and innovative repertory series. The Science on Screen series pairs expert testimony and conversation with related films, the @fter Midnight series presents cult classics to rabid late night audiences, and the Big Screen Classics Series, screens on Monday nights at 7PM, brings canon classics to the big screen from pristine prints.

And that series is gearing up for one hell of a month. It all starts tonight with Woody Allen’s MANHATTAN, which is certainly his most beautiful film, if not simply his best. (for what it’s worth, it also makes a great double feature with last week’s screening selection, THE APARTMENT.) Coming up later in the month is THE BIG LEBOWSKI, THE WILD BUNCH, and RESERVOIR DOGS – certainly, there is no shortage of American classics at the Coolidge this summer, all in 35mm presentation no less.

BOFCA film reviewer Jake Mulligan spoke with the team about their dedication to film presentation, and about the new directions they hope to chart with their repertory programming. Be sure to check back later in the week for more with Mark and Jesse about their midnight series and other upcoming events.

Question: You’ve spoken before about how you won’t let the studios abandonment of 35mm stop you guys from exhibiting everything you can on film. I was hoping you could speak about how you hope to do that.

Jesse Hassinger: There are collectors and archives around that we have worked with in the past, for genre titles especially. For the midnight series it can be difficult to find prints of things – sometimes we’ve been able to book DVD rights through a studio, then we find a print through a collector so we can play it on film.

We have a handful of collector’s lists, and we go through those, and we keep abreast of new additions. And there are some great archives around the nation as well, ranging from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Archive in Los Angeles all the way down to University archives that have really interesting arrays of movies. There’s one in North Carolina that we work with, they have a very interesting set of genre films along with classic films – even some 70’s era Hollywood movies.

So if there ever comes a time when the studio will no longer make prints available, or will ditch their prints, or just not make any more, we have avenues to explore.

Question: You also seem to be making some changes to what gets programmed and when – a year ago I would’ve pegged PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE as more of a Midnight than a Big Screen Classic, but it’s certainly deserving of the latter title.

JH: That’s the whole thing, if you look at the Coolidge Institution and our programming right now. For the last year or two – three, maybe – we’ve been really trying to open our doors for a younger audience. We want to introduce people who are just coming to Boston for college to a great theater like us. We really are trying to get more of these interesting programming choices into our series. Like Ishiro Honda’s GODZILLA, BOOGIE NIGHTS, RESERVOIR DOGS, more 90’s fare.

Mark Anastasio: With a lot of these, the Big Screen Classics, it’s based on the quality of the filmmaker. That was the biggest decision behind BOOGIE NIGHTS – Paul Thomas Anderson, he’s my favorite American filmmaker, I think he’s fantastic. But for years, no one would check into this office when programming prime time series. Things have changed, with new management, it’s become much more democratic, and inclusive. This is the “programming office” – it meant “you guys do the schedule, work on the day-to-day clockwork stuff for this place, and do your little fucking funny series on the weekend.” That was with the previous administration.

Now that things have changed, I get to screen things like THE ROCKETEER….

JH: And I get to wish and pray that someday we find a KING OF NEW YORK print. I wanted KING OF NEW YORK as a Big Screen Classic this year.

Q:  There’s none?

JH: No prints. That was my #1 with a bullet. I was like “Listen, this is in the canon, we need to screen this.

MA: But we ended up replacing that with RESERVOIR DOGS. Which it’s been 6, 7, maybe even 10 years since we last played that. So that’s not a bad result.

BOFCA INTERVIEW: 8/2

If you watched MTV at all during the 1990’s, chances are you’re already very familiar with the work of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. This husband and wife team directed some seminal, constantly re-run videos for R.E.M., Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins and even The Ramones. Dayton and Faris made the leap to features with 2006’s surprise smash LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

They’re back this week with RUBY SPARKS, an off-kilter romance about a writer who falls in love with his fictional creation. Dayton and Faris sat down last month with BOFCA’s Sean Burns.

Q: I was wondering about your approach to this movie, because it is based on such a literary conceit. How did you decide on a visual language to express that?

Valerie Faris: That’s a good question. We haven’t been asked that one yet! The first starting point was finding the house. We knew the house should be mostly white, because the script described his house as a blank page. We were looking for the typical L.A. 80’s house, which are all kind of white boxes on the hills. We wanted to create a space that felt maze-like, referencing M.C. Escher with stairs and multiple levels.

Jonathan Dayton: It was like the inside of Calvin’s head.

VF: A little lonely, a little cold and empty. We thought it would start very much like the blank page, and then Ruby would bring colors in as she got more involved with Calvin.

JD: Because it was such a fantastic premise, we wanted to treat it in a very matter-of-fact way. We didn’t want to use a documentary filming style but we did shoot most of it hand-held, so the camera is breathing and responsive. It’s not a formal frame where you have a locked-off camera.

VF: Especially in that house where there are so many right angles. It would get very sterile.

Q: It sounds like such a comedic premise, but the movie’s tone is much darker than I expected.

JD: That’s what was exciting to us. Like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, we felt there was a real interesting mix of humor and…

VF: And pain. There’s a lot of humor that comes from pain, which was definitely the case in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and in this too. This struggle to try and get a relationship right, even though it is high-concept, the issues that are raised are very relatable.

JD: Also just getting the audience to accept this premise…

VF: And then forget about it. We never wanted to explain how she got there or make much of the magic in the film. The tone was the trickiest thing, how to keep it real at every turn. It’s funny because when you envision a film, the difference between what works on the page and what works when you’re shooting… and then in the edit when you see the whole thing altogether you realize how much you really need.

Q: There’s an old saying that a movie is written three times, on the page, in front of the camera and in the editing room.

VF: It really is. We spent every day in the editing room, and it really comes down to every frame. Now with the Avid you really can shift things – actors don’t like to hear this – but you can take dialogue from one scene and put it over picture from another. There’s a little bit of puppetry in editing.

JD: A little bit?

VF: Okay, a lot of it. So it’s incredible to have actors who trust you, and they let it go. That’s a really nice feeling and we had a great collaborative relationship with these guys.

Q: So when I was a wet-behind-the-ears freshman back in film school, I went to see a picture you produced for Perry Farrell called GIFT.

JD: OH NO! Oh my God!

Q: I saw it at midnight at the Angelika and had no idea what the fuck was going on.

VF: Neither did I!  Yeah, that was the beginning of our relationship with Perry Farrell.

Q: I think it ended mine.

JD: HA! Well, we weren’t involved in shooting a lot of that. We shot all the concerts, but then they came to us with this pile of footage and said: “Help?”

VF: We worked with Perry and an editor and just tried to…

JD: There were some great elements to it. Perry’s mind is just… we’d be cutting and pasting graphics in the editing room and he’s saying: “I’m gonna do this little thing, I’m gonna call it Lollapalooza.” That’s been the pleasure of filmmaking all these years. You collaborate with amazing artists.

VF: I miss working with musicians. Nick, the composer on this film, has a band, and we’d worked with him on LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. We really enjoyed making the score with him. It harkens back a little bit to working on music videos, and we miss that. You just got to work with some really great artists. It never felt so much like a business back then.

Q: So you’re not doing music videos anymore?

JD: We get asked all the time. But we had such a good time doing them in their heyday, they aren’t really a force now. They’re seen on the Internet, if you’re lucky. As nice as it is to be able to pull up a video any time you want to see it, it’s really fun to have them broadcast.

Q: I do miss sitting in front of MTV for hours wondering what was going to come up next.

JD: Exactly. 

VF: They were curated for you. I think MTV could be successful if they started showing videos again.

JD: But they make more money now with their shows.

VF: Yeah. Their crappy reality shows.

RUBY SPARKS opens Friday, August 3d at Boston Common and Kendall Square.

 

BOFCA INTERVIEW: 7/5

Drew Goddard at SXSW 2012. Photo by Monica Castillo

Co-writer and director Drew Goddard’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS returns for late shows July 5th through 8th at the Brattle Theatre. Last March, BOFCA’s Monica Castillo sat down with Goddard at the SXSW Film Festival. As a TV screenwriter, his name can be found in long-running series like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, ALIAS, and LOST. Goddard made the leap to the big screen with a script for CLOVERFIELD before teaming up with BUFFY creator Joss Whedon for a thoughtfully spooky film that became THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.

Q: So CABIN was on the shelf for a while, wasn’t it?

A: Yeah, well, we were at a studio that went bankrupt. We got delayed a bit, but so did the last James Bond film, THE HOBBIT. But we’re out now!

Q: How did you come up with a horror story that weaved together pop culture and mythology?

A: We just love horror movies, so we started to explore why we loved horror so much. It started to suggest bigger things. Why do we like watch kids getting butchered on-screen? What is it that we enjoy about being scared? It just made us look beyond the horror movie and at the people we are. This sort of sacrificing of youth — that’s been happening forever and that bears a lot in the movie too. We have to go to the mythology because so many of our stories are based off of that. Those roots are very much a part of the horror genre.

Q: How about the basic idea of a house of horrors that other people controlled?

A: You know, it wasn’t a lot more complicated than, “You know what would be cool? This…” Joss had this original idea of people upstairs and people downstairs, and we just pitched that and said let’s explore this. That was fun to see where the story would take us. We didn’t do anything more than to set out to write a movie.

Q: What would you say were some of the horror movies that influenced you?

A: I didn’t try to get any one influence. I wanted to give the film a very elegant look to counteract the ridiculousness that happens. I wanted it to feel grown-up. I wanted to balance the mundane and the simple with the operatic.

Q: So this wasn’t your quick and dirty B-movie?

A: We shot for a while actually, about 40 days. It was some hard months in Vancouver, with a lot of rain and a lot of snow. It was not hard for the actors to look distressed.

Q: How did it feel to work with a cast of young, fresh actors and older, more experienced ones?

A: It definitely felt like I got to shoot two different movies. It was a totally different vibe. What was interesting is that the veteran actors were much more fun than the kids. The kids were way more serious. I think that comes with experience, they know how to let their hair down a little better. But I didn’t expect that.

Q: How was it collaborating with Whedon again?

A: We just got along right away. I love his writing, he’s my favorite writer in the world.

Q: With quite the cult following.

A: Oh my God, I was a part of that. I think that our voices are very similar. It’s very easy for us to write together because we just like each other. We had so much fun writing BUFFY and ANGEL; it felt like the next thing to do was to do when the shows had gotten out. Let’s write a movie. Let’s try to write something fun and fast. We had this original idea and we decided to write it for ourselves. Just a movie we’d like to see. We’ll figure out if anyone would let us make it later.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS shows Thursday, July 5th through Sunday, July 8th at 9:30 PM. The Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge MA 02138

 

BOFCA INTERVIEW: 6/21

Screenwriter Lorene Scafaria has toiled in the Hollywood trenches for over a decade, penning eight screenplays before her ninth (a lovely adaptation of NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST) was finally produced in 2008. Her directorial debut SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD takes an even more sideways glance at romantic comedy tropes. Starring Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley, the movie daringly tackles conventional genre expectations while a giant asteroid just so happens to be hurtling towards Earth.

Scafaria recently sat down with Boston Online Film Critics Association members Monica Castillo, Sean Burns, Jake Mulligan and Greg Vellante.  Here are some highlights from their conversation:

Q: Is it hard trying to end the world on such a small budget?

A:  For sure! When writing it I wanted the scope to stay pretty small, and I never wanted to see the asteroid or the sky or anything like that. At the time I was also thinking:  you can make a movie for what they give you. I just had to sort it out.

Q: So after MELANCHOLIA, TAKE SHELTER and 4:44: LAST DAY ON EARTH, the world seems to be ending in an awful lot of movies lately…

A: Yeah, there have been a lot of end-of-the-world films.  But I saw it more as a backdrop for a romantic comedy… or at least as a relationship movie.  I remember so many from the late 90’s, when like DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON came out at the exact same time. The one thing in DEEP IMPACT that got me was Tea Leoni and her father standing on the beach when the big wave is coming, and I cared about them.  I cared about this relationship that was happening. And those movies continued to come out, but during THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW I cared more about Jake Gyellenhaall having a crush on a girl more than his father in the tundra. So I really wanted to explore more what people’s behavior would be like, and how that would be changed.

I moved from New York to LA a week before 9/11. So I was stranded out there knowing nobody and desperate for human contact. I found myself calling up old friends I hadn’t talked to in a long time. It was that feeling of this cataclysmic event, and it changes your own individual behavior and your relationships with people. New York was actually a really friendly place for a while afterwards.  It didn’t last!  But for a little while it felt like a community again. People were looking each other in the eyes. Everybody was equalized by this horrible thing, and we were all in the same boat.  Or the same sinking ship?  Still, there’s something beautiful about humanity coming together like that.

Q: When you were writing was it always Steve Carell in your head? He’s kind of got a monopoly right now on the melancholic goofy guy.

A: There aren’t many comedic actors who can garner that much sympathy. There’s something about Steve that is tragic. On THE OFFICE Michael Scott is this amazing anti-hero who goes from zero to sixty, and yet you can see this pain behind his smile. When I write I never really picture any actor until after the fact, but this character I had always been trying to get out there felt so much like Steve.  I had been wanting to work with him for a really long time, I just never imagined we’d get him.

Q: You’re right. Everyone else now seems to be busy playing stunted man-children.

A: They really are! There are many great comedians, but only so many guys who can fill out a suit. He really is a particular person, and I do think of him as like Jack Lemmon or Peter Sellers – those old comedians who did so much with a look or a word. I suppose he’s been playing a sad-sack for a while, but this character felt more guarded and more internal, so I was happy to see him push that even further. With Steve, I root for his happiness.  And who do you want to see face the end of the world? You want somebody that you want to be happy.

Q: You want him to be happy, but you still killed him?

A: Yeah, I still killed him. The end had to be.

 

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD opens Friday, 6/22 at Boston Common, Fenway and in the suburbs.

 

BOFCA INTERVIEW: 6/12

Rockin’ good news.

The Brattle Theatre is about to be overwhelmed by eleven of the wildest and weirdest performances of the past twenty-odd years. Nicolas Cage: Greatest American Actor showcases this singular performer at his most boffo bizarre. While researching a recent article in The Improper Bostonian, our own Sean Burns spoke with The Brattle’s Creative Director Ned Hinkle about the series. Here are some highlights from their conversation:

Q: Why Nicolas Cage? Why now?

A: Do you really have to ask? He’s not only a cultural icon, a legit movie star, and a talented actor, but he’s also a magnet for the crazy, the weird, and the wonderful of cinema. ­And he has a sense of humor about it!

He’s basically a very famous, very handsome super-nerd; which I think is just awesome. It also helps that he’s in two of my favorite films of all time (WILD AT HEART and RAISING ARIZONA) and one of the all-time best guilty pleasures (CON AIR.)  While it’s admittedly facetious to subtitle the series “Greatest American Actor,” I mean it when I say Cage’s range is something to behold and his ability to leave it all on the screen is just amazing. I personally think that his talent is overlooked far too often and that he gets written off as a goofball in some silly movies because he needs a paycheck.

Hell, I like Nicolas Cage so much that I can even forgive him for appearing in that remake of WINGS OF DESIRE…. but only just barely.

Q: Interesting that you have programmed so many of Cage’s iconic 1990′s roles, and yet not his brief, Oscar-winning window of respectability, LEAVING LAS VEGAS?

A: I’ll put it out there: I am not a fan of LEAVING LAS VEGAS. I’ve never liked it. Probably because I appreciate Cage the best when his roles have a bit of humor to them, and that movie is just so joyless. Aside from that, I wanted to focus mostly on the Cage films that weren’t taken seriously. Or, as I have affectionately dubbed them: “The Crazy Cage Films.”

Q: So is the goal to send audiences home with a deeper, more un-ironic appreciation of this (ahem) National Treasure?

A: I do think that if people can see past the joke that Cage is in danger of permanently becoming they will truly, un-ironically appreciate him as an actor. I mean, the chances he takes are just phenomenal. And no, sometimes they don’t work out. Hello, WICKER MAN! But often they do. In VAMPIRE’S KISS he eats a live cockroach for Chrissakes! It’s easy to say that Cage’s best days are behind him and that he’s his own punch line now, but look at BAD LIEUTENANT. That movie is brilliant, and his performance is what makes it. He’s goofy but scary, unhinged but in control, and not afraid to look ugly.

 

Nicolas Cage: Greatest American Actor. Runs June 11th through June 21st at The Brattle Theatre. 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. For a full schedule, visit http://brattlefilm.org