July 24, 2014

When Whiplash premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it shocked everyone. Nobody expected a movie about an aspiring jazz drummer and his demanding teacher to be one of the most gripping films in recent memory, but by all accounts that’s exactly what it is. The film went on to win the festival’s top two prizes, and awards buzz for its dueling leads, Miles Teller as the student and J.K. Simmons as the teacher, has already begun. Now we have our first look at the trailer, and it’s a punishing, insanely absorbing look at what promises to be a punishing, insanely absorbing movie. Check it out below.

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July 24, 2014

I don’t know why people spend the time editing supercuts like this one of every brand ever mentioned on Sex In the City together, and I don’t think I really want to know. But as long as they keep doing it in such a way that corresponds to the specific demographic interests of popular culture websites like this one, I’m going to post it on the internet.

The video, posted by YouTuber Pierre Buttin, is over nine minutes of brands strung together in an orgy of consumerism and status, encompassing 324 brands mentioned 838 times. You will probably watch most of it.

Buttin has also included the most frequently mentioned names:

Most mentioned brands:
1. Vogue (36 times)
2. Martini (34 times)
3. Yankees (26 times)
4. Knicks (25 times)
5. New York Times (24 times)
6. Manolo Blahnik (16 times)
7. Dolce & Gabbana (15 times)
8. Prada, Post-it (14 times each)
9. Chanel (13 times)
10. Gucci (12 times)

People are weird.

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July 24, 2014

Here it is, the moment that some people but not everyone has been waiting for: the first full trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey. It features an extended version of that druggy redo of “Crazy in Love” that Beyonce teased a few days ago, and it gives you a glimpse at the chemistry between its much discussed and fairly inexperienced two leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. The trailer spends most of its time setting up its central relationship–we do not get a glimpse at Rita Ora’s acting debut–and only at the end does it give us a hint at what’s to come: hardcore fucking bondage. Check it out!

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July 23, 2014

At the age of 51, French auteur Michel Gondry has explored more cinematic terrain than most of his contemporaries ever will. His penchant for eclecticism has drawn him to a plethora of varied projects—some good, some bad, all fascinating. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Block Party (a documentary on David Chappelle) to The Green Hornet to Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (an animated conversation with perennial philosopher Noam Chomsky), Gondry’s voice seems to have no bounds. Unable to be tamed or help captive to one kind of movie, the latest addition to his colorful and assorted filmography is Mood Indigo, which serves as both a futuristic love story and a love letter to jazz music. We recently spoke to Gondry, who discussed his affinity for Duke Ellington, the inspiration behind Mood Indigo, his story behind The Green Hornet, and whether style often replaces substance.

Starting from the title  onward, this is very much a jazz film. From Duke Ellington to Boris Vian, how much has this genre of music inspired you and your work?
Well I grew up listening to a lot of jazz music. I remember the day Ellington passed away in 1974. We didn’t speak at dinner table—my father was really upset. I always liked jazz music. When I did Be Kind, Rewind that was sort of the spirit of the film. It always has important to me. I think it’s the root of the pop music we listen to now. Most of it comes from jazz music. This music modernized French culture.

It’s funny because in the film your protagonist hates pop music, especially when the song “The Rest of My Life” by Etienne Charry comes on.
That’s sort of an inside joke because Boris Vian invented this commercial song. It’s very much used now to talk about the successful song. That’s why he wants to break it. He sort of hates commercial music, because it’s more refined and he likes jazz music better.

But you don’t hate commercial music, right?
No, no, not at all. But this character is not based on me.

When you and Luc Bossi adapted the screenplay from the book, how much in the scripting did you insert and imagine the imagery? In every frame of Mood Indigo there are about 20 interesting items to look at.
Bossi wrote a first draft and thought a lot of ideas in the book were not achievable. I sort of challenged myself to put some of those ideas back in and add some from my imagination. But in a way, my imagination has been improved by Bossi for years. It was natural for me. Though it’s hard for me to distinguish between my imagination and Bossi’s.

You certainly have one the more inventive imaginations in contemporary cinema. Just looking at your varied filmography, it’s hard for me to pinpoint a through line.
I hope there is a sort of kindness I try to have my characters possess. I don’t like movies that take themselves too seriously or anything that’s pretentious. Sometimes it works better and sometimes for like The Green Hornet people resent it because America doesn’t like superhero movies to be very bizarre.

The Green Hornet is your one really tried and true studio film. What compelled you to make that?
I had been working on this project well before in 1996 when I moved to America for the first time. I had worked on the first draft with Edward Neumeier and Paul Verhoeven from Robocop. Our draft was really modern and much more imaginative and crazy. But then the studio (Universal) shut down the project. But when they brought me back they allowed me to bring some of my original ideas. I had a lot of attachment to this project. But it was more Seth Rogen’s film in the sense that was a writer, actor, and producer. Not that I resent anything from it. I think it was a great experience.

Did the movie turn out how you wanted it to?
It’s hard to say. I think yes. I think it ended up in 3D and liked the 3D. I did a lot of fun experiments with the 3D. Some comic book fans were a bit angry with us because there were a lot of codes that I didn’t want to respect in this movie. And they were very active on the blogs to try to destroy it. They dedicate their lives to superheroes. But I think some kids liked it. In France people liked it.

Do you ever worry, especially with something like Mood Indigo, that the style replaces the substance?
Well some people worry about that but I don’t really feel this way. It’s hard. I don’t know, maybe it does. I think some writers don’t understand that you can express ideas through images not only words. But I think it depends how genuine you are in what you do visually. Who is to say a movie is just words? Many directors believe that the talking movies destroyed the art of filmmaking.

Do you believe that?
Well you know yes. When movies introduced speaking they stopped going outside for a while, it was like a play or theater. There are movies from the 1930s that look like you’re going to the theater on Broadway. It doesn’t use the language that was invented for film. So sometimes when people complain a movie is too visual they just regret that what makes the essence of movies. But maybe they’re right, that too much detail is drawing away from the story. I don’t know. I think it’s good to go as far as you can. At least I try something different.

What filmmakers, working or deceased, propelled you into this field of work and informed how you made Mood Indigo?
Well I think there is a director in Louis Malle who made this film called Zazie dans le métro. He experimented a lot with silent movies, visual elements, and the film has a lot of absurdity. So it could be apart of that. Of course I love Jacques Tati. And of course Chaplin and Buster Keaton influenced me. Some of the animated films I liked to watch from the Czech Republic. I tried to follow my inspirations and memories from the first time I read Vian’s book, and not to worry about if it looked like this movie or that movie. The book is very visual. The story is linear. There is not a plot.

So what is next for you?
A movie called Microbe et Gasoil. It’s about two teenagers who don’t want to stay in Paris for the holidays so they build a car from scratch and use it to cross France.

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July 18, 2014

At the Television Critics Association press gathering in California, Showtime just dropped the gauntlet. The cable network has revealed the release date and first footage for its cornerstone show, Homeland. The fourth season of the spy thriller will premiere on October 5, and will find Carrie working at a station in the Middle East (which is actually South Africa) and facing a new, still unknown foe. When we last saw her, she was pregnant with Brody’s baby, the same Brody who was publicly hung in a Tehran square. Based on the footage below, it looks like Carrie has given birth, which enables her to return to her wine guzzling, pill-popping ways. Regular cast members Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend, Nazanin Boniadi and Laila Robins, are all returning to the Emmy winning show, which many feel lost its way in Season 3. Can Homeland course-correct in Season 4? Only time and TV recappers will tell!

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 4.44.24 PM

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July 18, 2014

By now, Brit Marling has told her improbable Hollywood origin story many times. In a nutshell, the 31-year-old writer and actress left an unfulfilling job in finance to pursue an unlikely career as an actress and filmmaker with a couple of like-minded friends. If you’re curious how that worked out, look no further than the gripping sci-fi drama I Origins, Marling’s latest collaboration with director Mike Cahill (Their first, 2011′s Another Earth, launched their careers). In the film, Marling plays lab assistant to an ocular biologist (Michael Pitt) who together make a far-reaching discovery that has implications for their relationship and the world at large. It’s yet another addition to a filmography that is becoming equipped almost exclusively with small, intelligent movies for  adults. That is not a bad thing. We recently spoke to Marling, who went into great detail about the decisions, moments, and people that got her to where she is today, and what she’s learned along the way.

With Another Earth and now I Origins, what about Mike Cahill’s writing and direction intrigues and inspires you to hitch yourself to him?
Well Mike and I have known each other since we were kids. He made a short film with our friend Zal (Zal Batmanglij, director Sound of My Voice, The East) that I saw when I was 17, and I was so moved by the film that it ended up being a sort of terror in my life. It led me to overthrowing my Economics degree and banking job to go make movies together. Mike and I went to Cuba and we co-directed this documentary together called Boxers and Ballerinas. We were in this sort of tidal pool together as young people wanting to be artists and figuring out whether we could be artists and whether we had something to say. We read all the same books and watched all the same movies and were heavily influenced by one another, and then got to make these first works. 

I really wanted to act and Mike wanted to direct and Zal wanted to direct. I think we all thought the way to get to do these jobs is just to start writing and start making stuff. It’s always been an amazing process with Mike because he’s not intimidated by failure. When we were out making Another Earth, there was this day where there’s this really beautiful fog and I had gone out running earlier in the morning and we had other things that we were going to shoot that day. But I came back from my early morning run and I was like “Mike, there’s this fog, come look at it.” And he wandered outside and I said, “Isn’t it incredible?” He responded, “Yeah, let’s shoot the ending of the film.” And I said “No are you crazy? We haven’t shot anything else yet, we can’t shoot the ending.” But Mike’s so no intimidated and he just said, “Let’s just do it, and if it’s bad, we’ll do it again.” So we shot the ending to the film and he kept good to his promise. We later reshot the ending of Another Earth but never held up to whatever mystical thing was going on that morning with the fog.  We’ve found ways to be open to one another, to trust one another, to encourage one another, to inspire and move one another. There were times on I Origins where I know Mike so well that I can feel his energy. I know when a take has really moved him and when it hasn’t. So there’s this incredible amount of trust and intimacy because you grew up together and you’re interested in the same ideas and exploring the same stuff. 

At the point where you, Mike, and Zal drove across the country to go to Los Angeles, did you envision making movies like Sound of My Voice or I Origins or The East, or were you just winging it?
We were just winging it. Zal had gotten into film school and was going to go to the AFI. Mike and I had made the documentary and were hoping to finish editing it in LA and then hopefully submitting it to film festivals. We’d never even been to a film festival outside of the one on campus so we were totally flying by the seat of our pants. I worked for a long time as a camerawoman, Mike worked as an editor on other people’s documentaries, and I started acting.

I had been very into that in high school, I just didn’t think there was any real way to make a living at it, and then out in LA I really fell in love with it. I couldn’t figure any way to go about it other than us just making stuff the same way we made it in college. Because we didn’t go to an arts school, we weren’t under the pressure of our films having to compete in art classes. We were just making that stuff because we loved it. We were studying economics and anthropology. Filmmaking was the freedom. Getting to tell stories was the thing we did with our weekends. We did that instead of partying, or we’d throw a party then shot the party. I think we eventually realized out in LA that we shouldn’t be coming out here trying to infiltrate the system or get people to think we’re good or talented. We shouldn’t try to audition our way in or beg for scripts. We should bring our sense of filmmaking here and just make stuff on our own in this collective because we know other young people that want to make stuff too, and if we just start making it, other people will jump on the bandwagon.

That’s incredibly bold. Most people usually try to fit the mold and adapt. Most artists don’t even have a voice at that age.
We didn’t in the beginning. We were scared and confused. I was going on auditions in the valley for weird horror films and then getting really sad when I didn’t get the part. I got lost in it. When you’re young, you really think that somebody’s got to validate you before you can make the work, because you don’t trust yourself. I think at some point we just hit a wall, and it was like, “Wait a second. This doesn’t make any sense. Nobody here knows better than we do.” I think the first time I realized that was when I studied economics in school, and then I went to work at an investment bank and I entered the real world. And I thought wait, “These are a bunch of really bad ideas that are being used to run the world.” So if the old dead white guy that came before us didn’t get it right maybe we should think about reinventing the model to make it better.

At Goldman Sachs, was there a sort of light bulb moment for you? This blinding revelation where you realize you’re living your life completely wrong?
I think there actually was. There was an event that crystalized it for me, which was when Mike and Zal came to New York, and there was a 48-hour film festival. I was working at Goldman, and they came to my uncle’s apartment where I was staying, and said, “We’re doing the 48 hour film festival.” And I told them, “You guys have lost your fucking minds.” I’m in the business suit and briefcase phase, and I’m going to work every morning at 7 and never leaving the office before midnight, seven days a week. And they said, “Well, we’re crashing at your uncle’s apartment and we’re going to shoot it here. So we’re making this film in your apartment whether you’re going to be in it or not.” And I came home from work on Friday and they were there with the equipment, and little piece of paper they had been given with the idea, and they were like “We got 48 hours to make a film. We’re going to stay up and do it. You can do with us, are you in or are you out?”

I was exhausted, so tired, and staffed on two companies that had IPOs at the same time, and this insane workload. And yet, I just couldn’t say no. So I said, “Okay. I’m in you fuckers.” I did with them and didn’t sleep for the weekend and we made a film and it’s not even a good film. But we had an amazing time making it. We begged, borrowed, and stole everything, and we broke my uncle’s kitchen table and the cops came and we convinced the cops to be in it. It was insane. We made something that isn’t very good but is the beginning of people trying to make something good. And that was beautiful.

Is directing something you would want to do?
Maybe at some point. I was reading Kieślowski on Kieślowski last night. Have you ever read that?

I haven’t.
You should read it. Someone gave me it in college and I didn’t want to read it because I was being a dummy, and I liked how I felt about the films and didn’t want to know about them. But he’s amazing as a thinker, and what he was trying to do with filmmaking and his deep love of collaboration. There’s some quote in there where he says, “The director isn’t holding anything in his hands. He’s not holding the camera. He’s not holding the sound equipment. He doesn’t have the script. He just shows up and he’s there, and your job is to just help everybody. To bring this concert of people together to achieve something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.” That’s actually the hardest job to do I think, to not have anything in your hands. And yeah I’d love to try it some day, but I don’t know if I’m ready for it now. I think that acting for me presents way too much of a challenge. 

Have you been in a situation where a film collapses? It seems like you pick your projects very strategically and you’re sure of what you want to do and where you want to go with your career.
That’s a funny thing to say. I don’t know if it’s as true from the inside. I try to just make choices based on things I write and with people I really believe in, or because I read something like this great film called The Keeping Room that’s coming out in September at Toronto. This young female writer Julia Hart wrote it, and the moment I finished that script I immediately started reading it again. I’ve never done that. It was like 6 AM by the time I had read it three times over. I kept thinking, “Who is this voice? Who is this female character Augusta?” And I thought, “Oh my god I want to be her for awhile.” I don’t know if I’ve had a soufflé experience yet. I may. At best, a film is a fraction of what you hoped it would be, but that’s okay because I think you keep reaching out for more and keep attempting and you sort of know that you’re never going to fully do it. But the process of continuing to try, and to continuing to try with people is like a really lovely life, if you can manage to eat. 

Food is kind of imperative.
As it turns out, I never really understood the “starving artist” thing until I tried it. And now I can tell you that food is an imperative.

What do you even eat? I just figured ramen is the go to meal.
Totally, I ate a lot of ramen. When I came out to LA I got really into these boxed lentils at Trader Joes. If you mix them with the really hot cheap mustard, you couldn’t really taste them and how terrible they were. So that was actually my trick, fry your taste buds and it doesn’t really matter.

Are you still doing that?
At least now I don’t have to put hot mustard on my lentils. But I am ready to go back to that at any moment. They don’t pay actors anything anymore, I don’t know if you’ve heard about that.

You should’ve stayed at Goldman Sachs if you wanted to make money.
I probably should’ve. The funny thing is, I think it’s a real question of how small you keep your life, and I’ve kept my life really small. I literally have no stuff in my apartment. I literally just have a bed in there. People come over and they just sit on the floor. I’m not even joking, because there’s not a fucking couch. So they come in and I say “I can make you tea, or you can have some whisky.” But I don’t even have much in the fridge either, except for something that’s rotting in the freezer.

Is Fox paying you that badly?
(Laughs) No, no … but I mean, I think if you keep your life small then you never have to make choices you don’t want to make. I don’t have family or kids so I’m fortunate enough. My parents are in good health so I don’t have to worry yet about how I’m going to pay for education or how I’m going to pay for this weird experimental surgery to save this person’s life that I love. I’m in a lucky place, getting to just choose because I think something’s good or I want to do it, instead of like, “Oh yeah, this money is going to pay the guy that comes to change the filter in the pool.” I don’t have a fucking pool. So not a problem.

Do you plan on living that way for a while?
Yeah, I was having this conversation with Zal yesterday and we were laughing about this and he was saying, “Well, isn’t that kind of the shape of capitalism? Isn’t that just capitalism 3.0 what you’re doing?” Like, stuff isn’t cool anymore. So yeah, you can just not have stuff because the new stuff is like how many Twitter followers you have. And I thought, “Oh god, it’s true.” Capitalism is such a wiley beast that it keeps changing its shape. It used to be cool to decorate your house to look like the chicest hotel room. But that’s already on its way out. Soon that’s not going to be cool anymore. 

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July 18, 2014

The battle to become our favorite Franco just took a massive swing in Dave‘s direction, after an appearance on Conan last night in which the budding movie star took to Tinder with Conan O’Brien to cruise for babes. The two of them create fake profiles, and eventually both match with a 71-year-old woman named Gloria. We won’t spoil what happens next, but it’s a lot of fun.

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July 17, 2014

It’s probably not a shocker that a movie casting call would be so frank about the expectations for beauty standards in Hollywood, but seeing it all laid out here, like a frog carcass shriveling in the sun, is telling all the same. This notice, posted by Sande Alessi Casting (h/t Gawker), lists the four different type of women they are looking to cast in Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic. It’s pretty direct!

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80′s. Shoots on “Straight Outta Compton”. Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show – and don’t tell me you are willing to fly in.

SAG OR NON UNION FEMALES – PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR SPECIFIC BREAKDOWN. DO NOT EMAIL IN FOR MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY:

A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: A GIRLS

B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: B GIRLS

C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: C GIRLS

D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: D GIRLS

So, there you go. If you fit one of those categories, go ahead and submit your picture. Just make sure you have a really specific and accurate sense of self appraisal. Jesus, being a woman in show business must really suck sometimes.

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July 14, 2014

Émilie Richard-Froozan and Rémy Bennett just got back from the Marfa Film Festival, where the two filmmakers screened their very first feature, the psychedelic fever dream, Buttercup Bill. Shot in New Orleans, the film follows old childhood friends Patrick and Pernillia (played by Bennett) across a surreal, Southern Gothic landscape, as they engage in psychosexual mind games. Richard-Froozan and Bennett, met at an NYU Tisch special program for acting and directing in Dublin, both have educations in the arts, and have made Brooklyn their creative base. We recently caught up with them to discuss their filmmaking process, drawing from personal experience, and shooting in New Orleans. 

Describe the nature of your collaboration. How do you two work together?
It’s sort of regimented in a way, actually. At this point we kind of follow a certain structure when we sit down to start on a new project. We usually develop an idea together then go away to sort of let it gestate in our minds separately then come back to each other and workshop it and then start to exchange inspiration and then slowly build on things from there. We also produce together, so there is a lot of delegating what we do between the two of us.

How would you describe Buttercup Bill in one sentence?
Dreams are dangerous.

Where did the idea for Buttercup Bill come from?
The story came from what we felt was vital to us at that time in our lives. The unresolved things, what broke our hearts, sort of the fatal flaws in both of us that we wanted to exercise.

How essential has your education been to your film making process?
Remy: To me constantly educating yourself is the most important part of any of creating, whether it’s writing, directing, or acting. The research is what interests me most. Feeding myself with art outside of what I’m working on is what sustains my inspiration.

What were some of the experiences you drew on to write Buttercup Bill?
We drew on experiences from our childhood. Those all encompassing friendships that are so strong when you’re young, the heightened other worldliness of those bonds.

What is the most difficult part about making a feature length film?
In general I’d have to say just getting a movie made, you know, finding the backing for it and getting through the initial stages of development and into actual production is always the ultimate challenge. Showing up on set the first day always feels like a miracle.

The producers of this film are Blonde to Black Pictures. How has working with them helped your creative process?
Remy: They believed in us enough to allow the freedom to make the movie we wanted to make. For someone in the industry to look at a script as a story that needs to be told as opposed to a commodity that needs to be packaged is a rarity and something that we were really lucky to have in them.

Where do you see your film careers going?
No idea, to be honest! As long as we keep on doing work that matters to us we’ll be happy.

What was shooting in New Orleans like? What did that city add to your film that maybe wasn’t on the page?
We wanted to find an ambiguous rural setting as a backdrop for the film. We have amazing friends down there who we stayed with while we were writing and developing the script so we always knew that that’s where we would inevitably shoot the film. New Orleans has a palpable energy that I think permeates through the screen. It’s a really special place in the world.

What were some of the visual references you used when making this movie?
Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles was a big inspiration, also Nan Goldin’s Variety film stills.

You surround yourselves with creative people. Is that essential to being creative yourself?
It’s definitely an advantage to have people around you who are constantly working on creative things. It’s inspiring to have that surrounding you.

What is your ultimate goal in the film industry?
To keep on writing stories that are meaningful to us.

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