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Entries in interview (204)

Sunday
Nov112012

Interview: On 'Head Games' and Reshaping Oscar's Doc Branch with Steve James

Amir here. With an unusually large number of high profile contenders and a recent overhaul in the branch’s voting system, the documentary category is sure to be one of the exciting races at the Oscars this year. There are a few films firmly in the conversation already, but I recently caught up with a contender that has curiously slipped under the radar despite the talent involved.

Head Games, the newest from Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) is based on a book by former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski and takes on the issue of concussion in contact sports, a topic that is increasingly discussed among Football and Hockey enthusiasts in particular. James goes back to a more traditional structure in setting up his film with many talking head interviews and archival footage, but the end result is unexpectedly moving. Given the prevalence of these injuries in athletes, from kids who play Football or Soccer on a regular basis at school to the professionals of NFL and NHL, it’s a film that will be emotionally involving for a lot of people. I choked up a few times.

James’s history with the Oscars is well-known: despite universal critical acclaim, both aforementioned titles were snubbed by the Academy, not to mention his other powerful films. He was nominated in the editing category for Hoop Dreams, but it will be a big moment whenever he finally scores his first nomination for best documentary. On the occasion of the film’s qualifying release, I had the opportunity to chat with him about the film, his passion for sports, the Oscars, and the documentary branch’s new voting system.

 Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters and now Head GamesINTERVIEW, OSCARS & EBERT AFTER THE JUMP

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Friday
Oct192012

Interview: On Casting and Politics of Sex with the Director of "The Sessions"

Amir here. TIFF has been over for more than a month but I still have one interview left to share with you. With The Sessions opening in theaters today, it was the perfect time to share my chat with Ben Lewin, the film's director. We touched upon everything from the politics of sex and nudity in Hollywood to the influence of his own experience with polio on building the character of Mark O'Brien. It's a film I encourage everyone to see because it's surprisingly funny and incredibly heartfelt, and features two of the strongest lead performances of the year. (In case you missed these back in September, here's my review of the film and my interview with one of its stars, William H. Macy.)

 

Amir for TFE: I can’t think of a better place to start the interview than nudity.

Ben Lewin: Neither can I!

Amir: Because, in general I’ve been accustomed to seeing certain types of people have sex on screen in Hollywood films and everyone else’s sex life is barely ever shown, as if, you know, people in their 40s or black people don’t have sex. It’s unbelievable and I really appreciate that we get to see something very different here. Was the film always so explicit since the idea was conceived in your head?

Ben: I think if you read Mark O’Brien’s article, there’s no other way. The essence of it was that he was learning the ABCs, what goes where, what do you do, and I think the explicitness is part of revealing his naiveté and how childlike he was when it came to sex. I was only keeping faithful to his original work, which was really what inspired me. Every time I felt like I was losing my way in the script, I’d go back to his text and rediscover what turned me on in the first place. The first thing that struck me when I read it was the frankness. The explicitness doesn’t make it sexier, it just makes it more ordinary.

My point exactly! Everybody at every age does it. You don’t have to look like a star.

I’d never imagined myself going there though...[MORE]

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Sunday
Oct142012

Good Laughs in "Gayby"

Because of time constraints and interview availability I ended up having to watch the new comedy Gayby, which opened this weekend in NYC, alone a week or so ago. Though comedies are much funnier with crowds, I still laughed out loud. So it was a joy to interview the writer/director Jonathan Lisecki for Towleroad. He also co-stars in the movie as one of the central couple's best friends, "Nelson". He was smart enough to keep some of the best lines for himself.

Here's two bits about his actors that I couldn't fit into the published interview. 

NATHANIEL R: I noticed you're cross-pollinating with HBO's Girls with your casting. 

JONATHAN LISECKI: Some people ask if I cast Alex Karpovsky and Adam Driver because they’re both in Girls – there was no Girls last year. I love Lena. She’s awesome. My short played with Tiny Furniture on the festival circuit. Once upon a time when we were out to lunch she said 'You should be in your own movie you’re so funny.' I was like 'Well, I’m going to take your advice Lena Dunham!'  

She was shooting Girls the same time I was shooting the movie.

NR: I just saw Jenn Harris, your lead, in Silence! the Musical Off Broadway as Clarice Starling.

JL: Oh god she' s amazing in that, isn’t she?

Jenn Harris as Clarice Starling in "Silence! The Musical" and Jenn Harris as Jenn in "Gayby"

NR: Just hilarious. She wasn't just spoofing the movie and Jodie. I swear to god she was also totally sending up actors who are tired of being in the shows they're in. 

JL: I saw it two weeks ago and she really was! [Laughter] She’s so funny. She's such a gifted comedic actor. Especially on stage. One of the reasons why I wanted her to be the lead of the movie is that I’ve been onstage with her and she's one of the few people in the world who has ever made me crack up onstage and lose character. She'll do anything in the moment. Comedy is important to her and it’s an art. She'll go that extra mile which not everyone will do and she's willing to look goofy to get a laugh.

Read the Full Interview @ Towleroad

P.S. I'd love to send you to see "Silence! the Musical" but Jenn recently left the show after a long run so I can't vouch for the new cast members. But I can send you to see 'Gayby'! It's in NYC now and Los Angeles in a couple of weeks. 

 

Thursday
Sep132012

Interview: William H. Macy On "Free Passes" and Trying Too Hard

Amir reporting from Toronto.

One of the films that has played to really strong audience reception on the festival circuit so far is Ben Lewin's The Sessions (opening November 8th). I enjoyed the film quite a lot myself and as I said in my review, it has the potential to go far in this awards season. For the ocassion of the film's premiere at TIFF, I interviewed William H. Macy who plays Father Brendan, an open-minded priest who consults Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes) about his sex life.

William H Macy at the Sessions premiere at TIFF © Kara Dillon [src]

AMIR: I wanted to tell you a quick story. When I was a teenager I had a self-made poster of you pointing the gun to your face from your last frame in Boogie Nights. I guess it was my weird way of expressing my teenage angst. I’m understandably really nervous and excited to meet you in person.

WILLIAM H MACY: [Laughing] Interesting. I’ve had the same experiences as I go through my career, sitting in a room with these people that I’ve just idolized my whole life.

I can’t imagine you’re still fazed by it.

No, I meet some amazing actors. I really don’t know how to handle myself in those situations.

You’re newest film, The Sessions, it’s a really heartfelt and genuine film, but were you aware of Mark O’Brien prior to this? At what stage did you get involved in the project?

No. I wasn’t, and I think Helen and John were both set before I read the script. My agent sent me the script. Many years ago I did a film called Door to Door where I played a fellow with cerebral palsy and I got involved with a wonderful organization called United Cerebral Palsy. I think I was predisposed to like the script that way. I read it and I just thought it was a great tale. Well told, simple. It was the perfect timing for me. I’m doing a TV series and I was on hiatus. It was just a no-brainer. I tend to make decisions really quickly. If it’s good I just say yes right away.

AMIR: Did you have any reservations about playing this character? I don’t know how religious you are in your personal life, but playing religious figures is always tricky... [MORE AFTER THE JUMP]

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Monday
Jul302012

"Vito" and Jeffrey

If you didn't get a chance to see the premiere of VITO last week, make sure to tune in to one of its final airings [July 31st: 12:45 p.m.; Aug. 4th: 3:00 p.m.; Aug 8th: 9:15 a.m.] or find it on alternate HBO channels or HBOGO. The documentary is about the life and activism of Vito Russo (1946-1990) who was the author of the seminal non-fiction book "The Celluloid Closet" the definitive kick off point to the now robust commonplace conversation about the depiction of LGBT people in filmed entertainment. 

VITO RUSSO (1946-1990), Author, Activist, Cinephile

I spoke with Jeffrey Schwarz, Vito's director, for Towleroad last weekend. I'd previously seen Schwarz's documentary about B movie showman William Castle (Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story) and we talked for an hour about a wide range of things beyond Vito including his work as the producer of "added value content" for DVDs. He's worked for a who's who of auteurs (Lynch, Scorsese, the Coens, and many many more) on bonus features and "making of" projects. It's not a subject one hears much about in terms of what goes on behind the curtain -- The Making of The Making of! -- perhaps that's diving too deep down the DVD/Bluray rabbit hole?

But I thought I'd share a few notes that didn't make it into my Towleroad interview for lack of space as well as being slightly off the Vito doc topic.

NATHANIEL R: You run this company Automat Pictures that does DVD extras. You've worked with these legends, almost mythically famous directors.

JEFFREY SCHWARZ: If you love movies, what I do for a living is a like a dream come true. I started doing this in 1998 when I got a job editing and shooting behind the scenes on Gus Van Sant's Psycho. That's how I got into this business. I didn't even have a DVD player yet! The format was first emerging and the studios were hiring independent producers to make added value content. I got lucky because I was in the right place at the right time. I'd actually pitched my William Castle movie to Sony because they own all the William Castle movies. I was a little bit naive thinking that this big studio would want to produce my documentary but they did end up hiring me to produce the DVD extras for The Tingler!

That's really what got me started -- first it was Psycho, then it was The Tingler! and that led to other jobs for other studios. 

Jeffrey Schwarz at screening of SPINE TINGLER! (image via Gay of the Dead)

more after the jump including oscar protests, evil lesbians, and staying angry

Click to read more ...

Friday
Apr132012

Fringe! Interview: Travis Mathews "I Want Your Love"

Craig here, with a preview of Travis Mathews’ debut feature I Want Your Love and an interview about the film with the director.

Jesse Metzger stars in the explicit drama about a performance artist leaving San Francisco

This week sees the return of the Fringe! Gay Film Festival to East London. From the 12th to the 15th of April a wide range of films (new features, experimental shorts, premieres) are showing alongside a host of parties, shows and events. This year’s opening film was I Want Your Love, Travis Mathews’ (In Their Bedroom – Berlin) poignantly affecting and intimately explicit debut feature. It stars Jesse Metzger as Jesse, a love-lost San Francisco performance artist about to leave his life and career frets behind for a fresh start in Ohio. We see him hang out with friends, and follow how their lives reflect, and differ from, Jesse’s as they prepare to throw him a leaving party.

Jesse Metzger and Ben Jasper in a flashback to their relationship

There’s an easy charm to the story of this group of amiable guys. Mathews films in a close, intimate way that allows revealing insights into their easy-going personalities. The characters feel real, unaffected by some of the over-familiar clichés that more mainstream gay cinema offers up. The performances – especially Metzger, as Jesse, and Brontez Purnell, as one of his witty friends – are pitched perfectly and entirely natural. The real sex peppered throughout the film acts more as culminations of built-up feeling than a way to shoehorn overt sexuality into the story.

Mathews emphasizes atmosphere throughout. Some segueing shots are delicately composed to establish an evocative sense of place and time of day: the harbour at dawn, hazy afternoons chatting in shops, empty streets at dusk. You get a feeling for a rich, charming San Francisco that chimes with the film’s plot arc: why does Jesse need to leave when what he has here is so close-knit? What is it that he needs to change in his life? I Want Your Love offers up these questions, and plenty more, for its audience to mull over while depicting 21st century gay relationships in an honest, open way. In a small way, I Want Your Love is an affectionate retelling of Maupin’s Tales of the City in microcosm for the now.

 I spoke to Travis last week about I Want Your Love, the Fringe! and his feelings about his work...

Writer/Director Travis Mathews

Craig for The Film Experience:  I Want Your Love is great. A splendid addition to not just gay cinema, but invigorating filmmaking in general; and early word is hugely positive. You must be very proud.

TRAVIS MATHEWS: Aw, that's really nice of you to say. I'm proud to have just survived it, let alone come out with a movie that I'm excited to share with people. Making features - I'm learning - is like running a small business...

[porn alternatives and terrifying Q&As after the jump...]

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