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Entries in Freaks and Geeks (3)


Ann Dowd: Quick Notes on Six Roles

The Film Experience is proud to turn today over to the great actress Ann Dowd. Enjoy... 

The cast of "Garden State"

- by Ann Dowd

Nathaniel tells me these are his favorite characters from my filmography and since I've taken over The Film Experience for the day, here are quick notes on each.

"Olivia" in Garden State (2004)
Loved. Zach Braff really had it together- wrote, directed, starred in. He was very clear about what he wanted which is always a pleasure.

"Cookie Kelly" in Freaks and Geeks (2000)
Hysterical. Writers, actors, everybody was talented and young and funny. I love that role - she was delicious and twisted.


"Sister Maureen 'Mo' Brody" in Nothing Sacred (1997)
Sister Maureen was a wonderful role, so well written, a lovely cast. I have two aunts who are Catholic Ursuline sisters so I know something about that world – how educated they are, how generous and caring and complicated they are. The way the role was conceived by Bill Cain reflected the truth about that world and it was a pleasure to work on it. 

"Sandra" in Compliance (2012)
Another beautifully written role. I have tremendous empathy for that character, not having a guidance system of her own. How derailed her life became. Great director Craig Zobel.

"Estabrooks Masters" in Masters of Sex (2013)
Oh my gosh, what I remember most about the first season is just the feeling of hitting that ground running. Michelle Ashford's writing is great. A really terrific cast - Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Caitlin FitzGerald. The stories were very strong and I love the character of Estabrooks. She's clear and unfaltering and also able to admit her mistakes, apologize and then move forward. Loved her.


"Patti" in The Leftovers (2014)
We already spoke at length about this role but there was a lot of camarederie on set with Amy, Liv, and Justin. The atmosphere was so surreal -- keep in mind that sometimes we were shooting in the middle of the night in the cul-de-sac somewhere 45 minutes out of the city -- no sense of time or space. On one of the first days of shooting the first A.D. Vebe Borge didn't speak in solidary with the Guilty Remnant. How's that for commitment?


Nashville: Chatting with Sam Jaeger and Sarah Hagan

I'm back in NYC, yo. So let's wrap up Nashville coverage with some odds and ends, starting with two familiar television actors who had movies in the festival, Sarah Hagan and Sam Jaeger.

Sam Jaeger
, you may recognize as "Joel" from Parenthood or series regular stints on short-lived series like Eli Stone and Girls Club. We spoke in the late afternoon on a day when the VIP tent was strangely empty. Without competition for attention (his world premiere was the next evening and he'd just arrived) I yanked him my way, verbally. He was super amiable, funny and made no attempt to escape the conversation. (Ha! See, I always wonder if actors dread the constant need to be "on" while they talk to press, fans, or industry types.) We talked about his directorial feature debut Take Me Home, which is about a down on his luck photographer who ends up on an emotional roadtrip with a stranger in his part time gig as a cab driver. I revealed my surprise to him that when I got to the end of the screener I was surprised to see his name everywhere: writing, directing, producing in addition to acting. (The best thing about festivals for me is seeing films without any buzz, hype or information clouding the experience.) He had a self-deprecating sense of humor and revealed that he figured no one else would star in it with the amount of money he was planning on paying the lead. Heh.

From there we talked about Parenthood and I told him about my skeptical initial reaction to his character: 'oh i know exactly where this is going. TV is so conservative and the stay-at-home dad always morphs into a cheating villain' (see Brothers and Sisters for a recent cliche example). To my great surprise his character didn't turn out like that at all. He was not suddenly a "recurring" character instead of a regular. He laughed...

I'm glad they didn't fire me, too!

Parenthood is still awaiting word on renewal for its third season but he says he's feeling confident that they're getting picked up. If you watch Parenthood, you should read this piece at Vulture about what it does right and a few areas where it needs more work. I rarely agree so whole heartedly with an indepth analysis such as that. (Though I fear any attempt to "complicate" the Joel & Julia characters would result in some clichéd cheating that I have no interest in seeing as a plot development.)

Sarah Hagen I didn't recognize quite as immediately. But when she walked past me I did one of those 'I know this person' double takes. It took me a few seconds before I was like "Slayerette! Millie!" Though she's always a welcome small screen presence she is one of those actors who looks quite different offscreen, more traditionally glamorous and pretty than she ever is in onscreen since she's often playing "geeks" (hence: Freaks and Geeks).

Sarah Hagan in (fromt left to right): Buffy, Freaks & Geeks, and Jess+Moss

After we chatted briefly she walked me over to meet her director Clay Jeter, who is originally from Tennessee (hence the "Spirit of Tennessee" award announced yesterday). I congratulated him on Jess+Moss's recent festival win (Dallas) and asked if they'd found distribution yet. They hadn't but the awards notice and reviews had them feeling positive about a pickup. Her director wanted to know how I'd recognized her. I told him Buffy the Vampire Slayer and he said that's the number two response but he hears Freaks and Geeks most often. That was the clincher, I tell him, a one-two punch. And only two of the best television series of all time, lucky girl! Hagan, who turns 27 next month, plays Jess, a recent high school graduate in a memory piece film about a shared summer with her cousin Moss (Austin Vickers).  I asked her if she's eager to move on from the mental association we have of her as a highschooler. "Play young as long as you can, right?" she says with a smile and shrug and I guess that's true for actors of all ages. Unfortunately I was unable to fit a screening in before I had to catch my plane back so Jess+Moss remains unseen... for now. But it certainly looks intriguing in stills and was apparently shot on degraded film stock.


Reader of the Day: Jamie

Today's Reader of the Day is Jamie who lives in LA.  I've never met her but she once volunteered as a magical Film Experience elf to give us a few articles direct from the Cannes Festival (this year's lineup is announced very soon, so stay tuned). So let's start there.

Nathaniel: How did your Cannes journey come out? What's your favorite memory from it?
JAMIE: I had the privilege of attending twice (2008, 2009) through my university. Unlike many college programs, our mandate was simply to see as many films as possible. Simply getting to worship at the altar of film that frequently over the course of two weeks is irreplaceable.

My favorite memory was not seeing one of the many award-winners or much-hyped titles, but rather attending the world premiere of the restored print of The Red Shoes. Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker hosted the screening, and hearing Scorsese talk at length about the passion the film inspired within him, as well as Thelma's relationship with Powell, made me feel like I was part of some exclusive club of cinephiles. I ended up having to miss the premiere of Precious to attend, a decision that bewildered my fellow festival-goers, but it was so worth it. I had never before seen The Red Shoes and seeing it in that environment was almost a holy experience.


A holy experience.

First movie? First movie obsession?
I do not remember my first movie (for shame), and I had a lot of strange obsessions when I was younger. Due to my father's job, we always had access to all of the premium cable and pay per view channels, so I would just re-watch the films I loved on some type of continuous loop until I could move on. That's why I still know all of the dialogue to Selena.

However, my first informed obsessions came toward the end of my high school career. I impulsively bought a Miramax Best Picture DVD set that included The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love. I fell madly in love with each of the films and became obsessed with the narratives that emerged around them and their unfairly maligned legacies. It's when I first became aware of the many intricacies and politics of Oscar season. The films fostered an obsession with Harvey Weinstein and Miramax that eventually led to my first film internship, my honors thesis, and my current not-allowed-to-talk-about job.

Which current director are you rooting for in a big way in the next few years?
Lone Scherfig earned my eternal devotion with An Education. I think she has the potential to become a vital, female commercial directing voice. I don't usually root for the directors I love to sell out, but I think we need more ladies working within the studios. And Armando Ianucci made me laugh harder than I feel comfortable admitting with In the Loop. I love that he doesn't treat politics as sacrosanct and doesn't allow the humor to get in the way of making a resonant point.

Tell us about the biopic of your life. Who will it star, etcetera?
I will have to anger the movie gods and instead opt for a television series. I want Paul Feig and Judd Apatow to create an updated version of Freaks and Geeks based on my high school experience, still starring the lovely Linda Cardellini. The one thing that always bothered me about that show was that Lindsey was forced to choose between being completely straight-laced with Millie and the mathletes or a burn-out with the freaks. I too went to a suburban public high school rife with the usual parties and drama, but it was also extremely competitive and the popular kids were amongst the highest achieving. I'd love to see someone meaningfully tackle the intricacies of being a seemingly "normal" but hyper-ambitious teen still negotiating the pain and angst of growing up.

Freaks and Geeks is so genius. It takes place in a Michigan High School and name-checks places we actually went while in high school in Michigan. The clothes, the language, the "types" ... everything brings back memories -- more than any other movie or high school set show ever has for me. The show reminds me of my sister (although we were far enough apart in age that we didn't actually go to high school together like the brother / sister in the show) and all my Michigan friends so I it so hard. I really do.

Oops BIG TANGENT! Ok. Let's wrap up. Your favorite movie in the following 5 genres: musical, drama, romance, Woody Allen, and last year (yes, "last year" is a genre). Go.
Due to some unknown childhood trauma, I've always been wary of traditional musicals but I absolutely love All That Jazz and Dancer in the Dark. Regarding the former, the recent news about Bryan Singer directing a Fosse biopic infuriated me. What can any biopic reveal that All that Jazz didn't already cover? 

Network is my all-time favorite film, so it easily takes the drama category. As much as I tired of Aaron Sorkin's tear through Oscar season, I couldn't help but smile at every Paddy Chayefsky reference. Romance: Before Sunset. Even though I think it's Woody Allen's least favorite, I adore Hannah and Her Sisters. The "not even the rain has such small hands" moves me every time I see it. Having said that, I was raised on Woody Allen films and would jump at the opportunity to watch any of them at the slightest notice.

Finally, despite my previous Sorkin slight, The Social Network was by far my favorite last year. It felt like one of those special movies made just for me.