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.
Traveling to film festivals throughout the year, I’ve seen some of the best and most intriguing films of 2015 in theaters all over North America. Now it’s Philadelphia’s turn to get a crack at ‘em. Running from October 22nd to November 1st, the Philadelphia Film Festival has culled an exciting and varied line-up for its 2015 edition. My list is by no means comprehensive (there are some 100-plus features playing at the fest, many of which could well be tremendous) but it does represent a batch of films you absolutely should be adding to your screening calendar. Here, 10 films not to miss, in alphabetical order:
Having just returned from the Toronto International Film Festival, I can confidently report there will be some pretty good stuff coming to screens over the next couple of months, but for the impatient, there are still some quality offerings available right in your own living room. Here are some of my picks for the best and most interesting flicks on Netflix streaming this month.
Boogie Nights (1997)
If I may, here’s what I wrote about Paul Thomas Anderson’s breakout film when it was first released in 1997: “Boogie Nights lovingly recreates the look and mood of that most innocently tacky and self-fulfilling decade and spins a lush Scorsese-like tale of loss and redemption, chronicling the (ahem) rise and fall and rise again of a talented porn actor. Much time and attention has been paid to the look of the film, from the outfits which were meticulously recreated and found in vintage clothiers, to the music, to the actual mood and tempo of the times. Behind it all is the twenty-six year-old wunderkind writer/director Anderson, in only his second feature. It is a tour de force from this immensely talented artist, standing far apart from his contemporaries in scope and almost astonishing in its dramatic credibility. This film establishes it’s young creator as a new cinematic force to be reckoned with.” If you ignore the last sentence ending in a preposition, it seems just about right on.
Mayor Nutter has suggested treating this weekend—when the Pope and an estimated 1 to 2 million of his most devoted followers (and almost just as many Port a Potties) descend onto Philly—like a winter storm. That means one thing: Start using the words “hunker” and “down” in the same sentence and cozy up on the couch with a few good flicks. To help you decide what to watch, I present you five of my favorite new entries to hit Netflix instant streaming this month.