For 208 episodes (and counting) Simon Helberg has killed it as the egomaniacal aerospace engineer whose pickup lines are always left wanting on the megahit TV show The Big Bang Theory. For his new film, Stephen Frears’s Florence Foster Jenkins, Helberg, an accomplished pianist, plays the real-life accompanist Cosme McMoon, who played alongside the flamboyant Ms. Jenkins in the 1940s. Jenkins (played by Meryl Streep), a very wealthy New York heiress with a great love of music, believed herself to be a fine opera singer, as egged on by her much younger husband (Hugh Grant), though in reality she was absolutely abysmal. Full of moxie, Jenkins arranged a live concert for herself at Carnegie Hall, an event her young pianist absolutely dreaded. Helberg recently spoke with Ticket about his musicianship, the delicate nature of ego, and working with one of the towering artistic figures of our time. Read more »
Filmmaker Todd Solondz has been packing the art houses and subsequently bumming out his audience since the release of his 1995 dark comedy Welcome to the Dollhouse. Since then he has made the disturbing ensemble Happiness and its follow-up Life During Wartime, Storytelling, and Dark Horse, among other heavy works; call his particular brand of awkwardly confrontational humor Dispirit-Com. His new film, Wiener-Dog, follows along a similar trajectory of jet-black humor and despair. It uses a guileless dachshund to link together four different vignettes of characters suffering from one depressed malaise or another. In Solondz’s vision, the characters are invariably on the outside looking in, hoping for things to be different, but becoming more and more twisted around by their crippling loneliness. For all his on-screen bleakness, however, the director himself comes across as well-spoken and quite sociable. He spoke with Ticket about the quality of dogness, his disparagement of film school, and the small glimmer of hope he slips into the film. Read more »
In 2014, documentary filmmaker Ido Haar had an idea to shoot a film about the unwitting group of YouTube musicians Israeli compositional artist Kutiman was planning to use for his next large online project. Kutiman, whose work has been performed all over the world, creates his musical compositions by layering YouTube clips from various amateur musicians and looping their snippets over one another. In advance of the video release, the musicians have no idea that their playing will be featured in one of his pieces — as he receives no money for the compositions, he claims no one has ever complained about his process. Read more »
Whit Stillman has been making films since his sparkling debut, Metropolitan, back in 1990, but it has taken until now for him to find the perfect literary muse for his brand of hyper-verbose, witty ruminations. Critics who first questioned the pairing of the modernist filmmaker and the writing of Jane Austen didn’t see how deeply connected their work was. Both are droll and keen observers of human nuance, but they also share a love of characters who use their loquaciousness either to mask their true feelings or to reveal far too much of them. His new film, Love & Friendship, based on a very early Austen novella that was never published in her lifetime, stars Kate Beckinsale as the wily, conniving widow Lady Susan, who hatches a plan to marry her daughter off to someone of wealth, while reserving a second rich husband for herself, in the form of the doofy, brilliantly confused Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett, in a command performance). Based in New York, Stillman trekked the short distance down to Philly and spoke with us about his Austen connection, casting an anti-heroine, and the joy of watching Tom Bennett at work. Read more »
Considering the bloody, jarring material he often works with, Jeremy Saulnier is an almost absurdly normal and unassuming seeming man. His new film, Green Room, follows the violent travails of a callow, dead broke punk band who get a gig booked at a mysterious club outside of Portland that turns out to be a white supremacist stronghold, lead by the terrifyingly calm Darcy (Patrick Stewart). When a body suddenly turns up in their dressing room, things go from bad to worse in a hurry. Soon, the band is fighting for their lives just to survive the night.
Despite the distinctly B-movie set up, Saulnier, who showed a penchant for such violent meditation in his previous film, Blue Ruin, never lets the material move into slick silliness or flamboyant gore. Instead, it’s a dark, gritty, scarily realistic account of survival. The director spoke with us on the topics of violence, visual storytelling, and finding an audience. Read more »
Richard Linklater, the director perhaps best known for 2014’s stunning Boyhood, has a long and varied filmography since he came out swinging with Slacker back in 1991. One of his most popular early films, Dazed & Confused, featured a largely unknown cast (including one Matthew McConaughey in his first screen appearance and a callow Ben Affleck) who played a group of mixed stoners, jocks, and misfits on the last day of a Texas high school in 1976.
His new film, Everybody Wants Some!!, plays on a similar sort of riff: It has a largely unknown cast playing the crew of a college baseball team on the weekend before classes start at a small Texas university in 1980. Linklater has said the film is one of his most personal, and the 56-year-old visionary seems very much in his element working with his young, vibrant cast, whom he invited to his Texas ranch compound before shooting in order for everyone to bond together. We spoke with three of his young cast members, Quinton Johnson, who plays the laid back Dale; Wyatt Russell, who plays the gentle hippie Willoughby; and Juston Street, who plays arguably the film’s most wildly comic character — the smack-talking, self-professed “raw dog” pitcher, Jay Niles.
So, tell us what happened at Camp Linklater?
Wyatt Russell: It was camp: Rick [Linklater] had a game room. My idea was we could go to rehearsal and do this. [But] then we get to the ranch and, we can just, hang out? Go swimming? Go to the library and talk a little bit, then go and play ping-pong if we want. Free range. Read more »
Writer/director Charlie Kaufman has long been known for his quietly gonzo sensibility. His career highlights include grappling with both the comically metaphysical (Being John Malkovich) and the emotionally metaphoric (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), as well as a predilection for questions of the self and the reality we choose to inhabit (Synecdoche). But even Kaufman’s most ardent fans – and they are quite legion – weren’t quite ready for his latest project: Anomalisa, a stunningly beautiful stop-motion elegiac about a miserably lonely corporate speaker (voice of David Thewlis) finding a potential life-partner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a weekend work trip to Cincinnati. Working with co-director Duke Johnson (Community), a young veteran of the medium, Kaufman creates another one of his indelible portraits of the fragility of the human soul, only this time with small, remarkably articulate dolls. The two men, in town for a sold-out screening of the film during the Philadelphia Film Festival, spoke with Ticket about making puppets emotionally gripping, their choice of cityscapes, and the intricacies of stop-motion sex. Read more »
This year was a rich phantasmagoria of features and strong performances, capped off by a slate of better-than-average prestige pictures into December. Some years we get lucky, I guess. Here’s one critic’s take on the best the year had to offer (and the worst, which you can skip to here). Please note a couple of these films have not actually been released yet. Their opening dates are listed where applicable.
The economic meltdown of 2008 came from a number of factors, but the single most glaring one was the banks’ reliance on the subprime mortgage loan. Some years before the collapse, one group of canny investors bet big on the eventual housing market meltdown, a maneuver that ended up making them very, very rich. The Big Short, a fact-based drama based on the book by Michael Lewis, comes from Malvern-raised director Adam McKay, known primarily for his work with Will Farrell on comedies like Anchorman, and Talledega Nights. While the film is concerned with serious, mostly dry, material, the Temple alum infuses it with amusing asides, fourth-wall breakage, and other comic staples. Here, he talks about how he made high-finance approachable, the way DraftKings emulates Wall Street, and the one piece of advice he learned about playing the Market.
We’re very quickly charging into what is the most family-intensive season of the year. Thanksgiving’s cattle drive draws together crazy aunts, grumpy uncles and too-cool-for-school cousins from all over the globe to sit at a table while packing carbo bombs into their mouths and relentlessly talking over one another. Maybe you are blessed enough to have a family that is loving, supportive, and totally in sync with your needs; for the rest of us, here are five dysfunctional family movies available on Netflix streaming that should make you feel a lot better about your own brood.
August: Osage County (2013)
We might as well start this list with one of the more exhaustively dispiriting offerings: John Wells’s adaption of the Tracy Letts play is loud, brutal, and only occasionally relenting (mostly in a tacked-on “happy” ending for co-star Julia Roberts that literally makes no sense in context of what came before it), but it also features a stellar cast, including Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Meryl Streep — each pitted against one another in an emotional sort of Hunger Games. Just do yourself a favor and kill the picture immediately right after the last shot of Streep up on the stairs looking bewildered in order to preserve the vibe of abject misery.