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Monday
Nov282011

Scene Work: 'JBJ' in "Win Win"

We kicked off this new informal mini-series about key scenes we love in this year's movies chatting with Demián Bichir from A Better Life. Let's move on to another early release that is fighting for year end "remember us?" honors as precursor season begins. If Thomas McCarthy's well liked Win Win will compete anywhere it's likely to be in Original Screenplay category which still appears to be a free-for-all. Precursor prizes will undoubtedly narrow Oscar's focus but right now several combinations of the year's well received originals seem possible there.  

I was stunned to hear directly from Amy Ryan at a party that my favorite scene in the movie, wasn't even in the first version of the script. McCarthy added it later knowing something was missing and his instincts were spot on. So when I received the screenplay in the mail this weekend (swag pictured to your left) I opened immediately  to see that it was there in the "official" screenplay.

Up until this point in the movie Jackie, the plain spoken wife of Mike (Paul Giamatti as a lawyer/high school wrestling coach) has been trying and failing to make a connection to the young wrestler (Alex Shaffer) who is staying in her basement. They finally bond over tattoos after she sees several of his at the wrestling match. The dialogue in the scene (which I'd already transcribed) is mostly the same as in the official screenplay though the actors were obviously encouraged to play it as naturally as they could so there are a couple of different beats on screen.

Jackie: Okay so I gotta ask. Those tattoos must have hurt, right?
Kyle: Not really.
Jackie: Don't lie to me. Look.

Jackie lifts her pant leg. She has a small tattoo on her ankle.

Jackie: I got it on Spring Break. Hurt like hell.
Kyle: What does it say?
Jackie: "JBJ". Jon Bon Jovi. I'm a fan.
Kyle: Really?
Jackie: Yes, really. I'm a Jersey girl. You got a problem with that?
Kyle: No. I do not.

Jackie: That was fun today. You're good. I'm glad you started wrestling, again.
Kyle: Yeah, me too.
Jackie: No quitting this time, got that?

(The actors must have added the endearingly sarcastic "Really. Yes, really" exchange since it's not in the screenplay.)

At this point in the scene Kyle explains that he didn't quit his old wrestling team but was kicked off after stealing a teacher's car.  After telling him how stupid that was Jackie registers that Kyle already knows this. She softens and you can see in Amy Ryan's terrific performance (ordinary people portrayed with this much verve is all too rare at the movies) that she knows that he's basically a decent kid and feels pride in finally connecting with him.  

Jackie: Hey, we all do stupid things. The good news is you got another chance. And you're kicking butt. That's the way to do it.
Kyle: Yeah, I guess.
Jackie: Oh it totally is. You know who would agree with me? 
Kyle: Mike?
Jackie: No. JBJ. 

That scene sure is a winner. The next cut is to a wrestling meet, and we see Jackie newly enthused about the team and cheering Kyle on (to the tune of Jon Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day"). It's a perfect coda that plays way less sappy than it sounds; you want to pump your fist right along with her and JBJ.

Sunday
Nov272011

She's Just Not That Linked To You

24 Frames Carey Mulligan nervous about expectations surrounding The Great Gatbsy
Felix in Hollywood Liz, Judy & Monty together. Love this photo.
Hollywood News We Bought a Zoo early positive reactions
Interview Magazine Scarlett Johansson covers the December issue. You can't call it a comeback as she's never been away but will her new films revive her heat as an actor ? What'cha think?

Cracked Speaking of ScarJo. Remember when we were talking about the difference between the way male and female heroes are portrayed -- here's a new illustrated parody/reminder with The Avengers.

La Daily Musto Charlize Theron is a "director slut". Love this exchange. 
Awards Daily a Q&A with Steven Spielberg post War Horse screenings.
Joblo a new role for Juliette Lewis in a thriller called Blood or Water
In Contention is there any revival coming for Nick Nolte's Best Supporting Actor chances for Warrior?
Adeilade Now good interview with Ryan Gosling who believes he thinks like a girl. I love the bit about returning to directors (Derek Cianfrance, Nicolas Winding Refn) with whom he's already had creative success. 

I feel like I've been dating all these film-makers and now I just want to get married." 

just 4 fun
Boing Boing a rollercoaster staircase. Whaaa? love. 

Got two hours?
Here's Boyd Van Hoeij, a friend of ours and terrific critic, interviewing one of our favorite filmmakers Todd Haynes for a film festival "master class" at the XIIth Queer Film Festival Mezipatra in Prague. If you'd like to hear this conversation in podcast form you can do so over at Mezipatra's official site.

Sunday
Nov272011

Box Office: No Turkeys at the Box Office, Unless You Count Gonzo.

...but he's less a bird than bird-like. It was a genuinely happy Thanksgiving chez moi (so much fun and good food) and I hope it was for you, too. Did you hit the movie theater? Most of the newbies and the holdovers did solid business despite abundant competition.

Kings and Queens of the Thanksgiving box office

Box Office (U.S.) Baker's Dozen -Estimates

01 THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 $42 (cum $221.3)
02 THE MUPPETS new $29.5 (cum $42)
03 HAPPY FEET TWO $13.4 (cum. $43.7)
04 ARTHUR CHRISTMAS new $17
05 HUGO new $11.3 [Scorsese & Team] (cum $15.3)
06 JACK AND JILL $10.3 (cum. $57.4) 
07 THE IMMORTALS $8.8 (cum. $68.6) 
08 PUSS IN BOOTS $7.4 (cum. $135.3)
09 TOWER HEIST $7.3 (cum. $65.3)
10 THE DESCENDANTS $7.2 [Michael's review] (cum. $10.7)
11 J EDGAR  $4.9 [Nathaniel's review] (cum $28.8)
12 MY WEEK WITH MARILYN new $1.7 [Nathaniel's review] (cum. $2.0)
13 A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR CHRISTMAS $1.6 (cum. $31.6)

Talking Points
The Artist (review) and A Dangerous Method (review) both opened in very limited release on the coasts to strong per theater response, each earning almost a quarter of a million in their first weekend. Both are undoubtedly hoping for year end kudos to boost interest as they expand. The Artist in particular will be an interesting case because  

Martha Marcy May Marlene (review) and The Skin I Live In, two of the year's most provocative films, acquitted themselves well but are sadly already fading after $2 ½ million.. so they didn't quite cross over in a larger way.

•  Arthur Christmas suffered the most from the glut of family film programming but it didn't have the name brand of Scorsese or The Muppets to push it through. Next weekend should tell us more about how it will fare word-of-mouth wise.

Sunday
Nov272011

Interview: "Rampart"'s Ben Foster. He's Dying for a Musical Comedy

Ben Foster photographed at Sundance in January.Ben Foster doesn't like to talk about himself.  This becomes clear immediately after we've begun talking about Ben Foster, though he won't admit it until we're wrapping up.

"Press is very difficult for me," He explains fifteen into our conversation. Some actors do like talking about themselves, I remind him, amiably. "That must be nice for them," Foster quips back sarcastically. On the subject of Rampart and its leading man Woody Harrelson, though, he is much more effusive. "It's so easy to talk about him." the actor says with relief, combining his roles as co-star, friend and first time producer.

"I'm absolutely amazed by the work he did," he offers when the subject of Woody's acclaimed and Oscar buzzing performance as a corrupt cop pops up. "He dropped 30 lbs, he was living the cop lifestyle, he disappeared on set - it was disturbing quite often to see your friend coming unglued. We all know that it's for a movie but there are those moments where you get a bit concerned... that's just a tribute to what a brilliant actor Woody is." 

The two actors co-starred previously in Oren Moverman's The Messenger (2008) which netted both Moverman and Harrelson Oscar nominations. They've since formed a production company with more projects currently in development. 

Foster as "General Terry" informs for corrupt cop "David Brown" (Woody Harrelson) in Rampart

What's it like to wear a new hat suddenly as a producer? Foster likens it to "going into the boiler room" to understand the whole mechanism operates.  "I've been doing this for 18 years so to be let in on all the almost disasters that come up every single day was actually thrilling. Actors are so insulated and spoiled on set. It's amazing how much they're protected... and need to be to some degree."

Foster was on set nearly every day but for the week preparing for his small role in the film. He praises Moverman's sets for being collaborative, creative and safe for the actors. The Rampart screenplay was initially much broader, closer to co-writer James Ellroy's traditional pulp noir before Moverman's rewrites. And there's no rehearsal -- some actors don't even meet before the first take.

'No rehearsal?' I ask in disbelief considering the nuanced work Moverman pulls from actors in both Rampart and The Messenger. How else do you get a scene like my favorite in The Messenger, one long continuous shot were Foster and the newly widowed army wife played by Samantha Morton (Foster calls her "an exquisite actor and beautiful human being")  become emotionally intimate in her kitchen; Moverman used their first take.

"Well, rehearsal is a big word," Foster clarifies, explaining that they don't do much in the way of the traditional theatrical approach of hitting your marks hard. On Moverman's set there are handheld cameras and  actors are encouraged to drop lines if they feel they should or move around as they wish, even free to leave the room. All of this adds to an environment that demands that the actors really listen to each other while performing. The rehearsal, such as it is, is not the traditional kind. "Oren does extensive work with each actor building the characters, their past where they're going, who they are, what they do and then sitting them up with a specialist -- someone who has a job similar to that and who has lived a life similar to the character -- and then you [as an actor] do your homework. That's kind of the miracle of good casting that these people know how to listen and know how to play."

Woody & Ben at the Academy's Governor's Ball earlier this month.On the subject of casting, he sounds a bit like a producer already. So one has to wonder what he thinks of his own typecasting these days. If filmmakers are looking for a dark, twisted, maybe violent character, Foster's name always seems to crop up. Why is that? His succinct answer: 

I don't know. I don't know. I'm dying for a musical comedy right about now!"

Musical comedy is actually where it began for Foster, though that seems radically against type for the actor as we know him now. He was doing middle school musicals in Iowa when his father taped him just "just being a goof" Disney got a hold off the tape and the next thing he knew he was in California auditioning and moving to Toronto to star in a television series. "I didn't even know what a mark was." Foster recalls, confessing that he learned everything on the job.

Despite his urge to mix things up with something lighter, Foster admits that he "takes great pleasure in the intense and disturbed". Even his fall back term of endearment fits with his dark persona; the word "beast" keeps peppering his conversation. He uses it to describe talented actors and director's he'd like to work with: David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Gaspar Noe... "Lars von Trier for sure. There's some real beasts out there." He'd just seen Melancholia before our conversation. Did he always know that his Get Over It (2001) co-star Kirsten Dunst had this kind of work in her?

Ben Foster and Kirsten Dunst in "Get Over It" (2001)

"Oh she is a beast of an actor, always has been." he says, suddenly animated, always happier to praise other actors and avoid the Ben Foster topic. "It's just about the stars aligning for her to really show what she's got. There's so much more to come with her. I'm absolutely a silly fan of Kirsten's."

Before our conversation wraps up he describes Melancholia as a knockout. "Few films have made me happier than Melancholia" he adds with endearing absurd sincerity. It's a beast of a movie, we heartily agree, but apocalypse-induced euphoria might not be the best thing to admit while searching for a good musical comedy.

Related Posts
Interview Kirsten Dunst | TIFF Rampart Review | Rampart After Party | Best Actor Oscar Race | Take Three: Ben Foster

Sunday
Nov272011

Pepe for President!

Craig here with a small post for one of the smallest Muppets: the most appetising member of the crew, Pepe the KING Prawn. (Don’t call him a shrimp.)

Pepe (short for Pepino Rodrigo Serrano Gonzales) is one of the next, or later, generation Muppets. Obviously he doesn’t carry the cultural cache of Kermit and co., yet, but he’s eked out a place of singular significance for himself with fans of entertainment and seafood alike. He’s not called a Crustacean Casanova for nothing. He stands out from the crowd of other ‘Muppens’ and is living, swimming proof that four arms are better than two. His story is a true classic decapods to riches tale.

His behind-the-scenes work on film and TV makes him the most hard-working, the most alive-to-the-possibilities-of-the-business, Muppet there is. He’s a prolific profiler and an interviewer extraordinaire, one to test the resolve of any leading chat show host either side of the Atlantic (a place he’s quite familiar with). He’s an all-round auteur in my book. As an accomplished actor he’s a safe bet for a future Oscar win (For Your Consideration Best Supporting Actor 2012: Pepe as Pepe in The Muppets), but as an entrepreneurial entity he’s matchless. He interviewed Jodie Foster for Flightplan (which was miles better than actually watching Flightplan), shook his “bon bons” at Ricky Martin and has extensively worked the behind the scenes on The Muppets’ movies, producing riveting on-set insights next to none. Tireless, he is; talentless, he’s most certainly not. All that and he’s fathered 1,500 children. He’s busy and he’s happy, okay?

In a piece of radical casting perfection, Pepe was the first non-dog to star as Toto in The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz. This was my introduction to him. He gave the film’s best performance – he certainly out-acted Queen Latifah and Quentin Tarantino in the film – stealing the thunder right from under Kermit’s, Fozzie’s, the wizard’s and even Miss Piggy’s noses. Any sea creature who has the tenacity to confidently say, "Si, I'm so gosh darn sexy, it hurts," is worth a million. He’s quick-fire, he’s crazy, he’s capable of anything. I can’t wait to see him in The Muppets, okay? After that, it's certainly Pepe for President!

Saturday
Nov262011

"Fifty Goodies"

Saturday
Nov262011

Alice Doesn't Link Here Anymore

The Hairpin "Our Bella Ourselves" is one of the best pieces I've read on The Twilight Saga and the communal anger over its terrible central role model.
Paper Mag cute piece on future Oscar nominee Jean Dujardin, describing his character George Valentin in The Artist.
Nick's Flick Picks has revived his top 100 project
Inquirer Christian Bale praises Tom Hardy & Anne Hathaway on their work in The Dark Knight Rises
Towleroad George Michael hospitalized for pneumonia and not doing well. 
Sunset Gun "I Am One of Your Fans" on actresses playing other actresses
Little White Lies interviews Eddie Redmayne of My Week With Marilyn. I love it when actors actually talk about the career management portion of their job:

Informally you’re part of a group of up-and-coming British actors making waves in the States right now. Is there a sense within that group of having made it?

Yeah. Well… Working and spending time in the States, it’s interesting to see the group of actors and actresses from my generation, who all started around the same time, getting so much respect. It’s wonderful, and at some point I’d love to work with some of my mates in that capacity, because it’s exciting, having started off as jokers trying to get a gig, thinking that our paths could meet.

Who are we talking about, exactly?

Dom Cooper, Andrew Garfield, Ben Whishaw, Charlie Cox… We’re not best mates, I’d say more close peers.

And what a fine group they are, right?

It's a Marty Marty Marty Marty World
THR Hugo looks to be overperforming a bit at the box office in a nice surprise.
Awards Daily Samples from the Hugo soundtrack. Do you think Howard Shore will see another nomination? 

Finally, Sons of Norway reports that Martin Scorsese may take on the adaptation of the novel The Snowman soon. But a word of caution before you race out to buy the book in the hopes of getting a jump on a future Scorsese. This is one busy busy busy 69 year old man. The IMDb, while not 100% reliable on such things as future projects, lists over a dozen projects on his current docket and since he's not as fast as Eastwood and Allen, he'll be in this 80s before we've seen them all. I respect the author Jo Nesbø's approach to a film adaptation; he wouldn't sell without director approval. Scorsese was at the top of his dream list of five.