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Entries in interview (96)

Tuesday
Dec092014

Interview: James Chinlund's Evolutionary "Apes" Vision. (Plus a Look Back at "The Fountain")

Production Design James ChinlundThough today's film culture is as as overun with franchises as the decaying cities of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are with unchecked vegetation, franchise movies do have a few beautiful unique pleasures all their own. Chief among those, we'd argue, is the sheer scale of imaginative spectacle they can provide when the right people are hired behind the scenes. 

James Chinlund, the award winning production designer behind the fantastic world-building in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of those people.  Though his filmography was once mostly the domain of scrappy ambitious auteur indies, he's recently experienced a sort of super-size me effect. He credits Marvel's gamble in hiring him to design their biggest blockbuster The Avengers with reinvigorating his film career. This led directly to Dawn of the Apes, one of 2014's most acclaimed giant-sized hits. Though Chinlund undoubtedly has his share of film offers these days, he prefers the mix of small and large scale projects that his still-diverse career provides and opted out of superhero sequels from the time commitment. 

Apes, Avengers, and The Fountain are after the jump... 

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Wednesday
Dec032014

Interview: Toa Fraser and the 'Cool Runnings' of the foreign language race.

Glenn here. If you had ever wondered what a pre-colonial New Zealand western may look like, Toa Fraser's The Dead Lands just may be it. The film's story of revenge taken by a Maori chieftain's son after the slaughter of his tribe and family is very typical fodder for the western genre, but with its use of indigenous languages (a language that itself has been slaughtered throughout history) mixed with local mythology and lore, the film proves an entirely unique proposition. It's only the third foreign language submission in the small island nation's history, and the first to be set before white settlement. I spoke to the director last week, just a few days before his film received the biggest haul of nominations at the New Zealand Film Awards. The Dead Lands received 14 nominations and will face stiff competition from the inspirational chess drama The Dark Horse with 13. We talked about about the festival circuit, Oscar campaigning, being the underdog, historic authenticity, costuming and more.

 You have recently played at Toronto and London film festivals, and now you're a submission for the Oscar, how have these last few months of yours been taking this film around the world.

It's been amazing. We only finished the movie a few weeks before we went to Toronto and I had only seen it once in its entirety before we screened it at Toronto so it was kind of a high stakes game. We had, I think, six cast members come to Toronto and be a part of the experience, so it was a great premiere and we were very happy with the way that it was received. We were very grateful. And then to get back to London for the festival was also great. We had a great big group of Maori come down to the show and stand proudly at the side of the stage without telling us they were coming. They all had a great time. And then back to New Zealand for the premiere there, so it's been a bit of a whirlwind, but I am very proud of the movie and love talking about it. Good times.

Have you by any chance been given any education on campaigning techniques when it comes to the Oscar? Is it a big deal in New Zealand or do you take it stride?

We are the Cool Runnings of the foreign language race [laughs]. You know, I think we're only the third ever from New Zealand…

Yeah, it is, after The Orator (2011) and White Lies (2013).

Yeah, and we're up against some formidable and very established industries that make movies in languages other than English. So, we under no pretense we have… we're the underdog in this game, but in terms of strategy? No. I understand there are very strict rules and so I'm anxious not to suck up. We're from New Zealand, we're very play by the rules types.

More on Peter O'Toole, costumes, and action choreograhy after the jump...

James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare and Toa Fraser on the set of 'The Dead Lands'

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Sunday
Nov302014

Interview: Jennifer Kent on Her "Babadook" Breakthrough and What She Learned From "Dogville"

It's been a banner year for female directors. Two female directors have continually been in the Best Director Oscar discussion, they continue to make inroads in indie cinema (see the Spirit Award first feature and first screenplay citations!) and in many countries outside of the US. And that's not all. The year's most impressive debut stint behind the camera arguably belongs to Jennifer Kent (pictured left) whose controlled, creepy, beautifully designed and acted Australian horror film The Babadook has been winning raves. After a stint on Direct TV it's just hit US theaters, albeit only three of them. May it expand swiftly to unsettle every city.

When I spoke with Ms. Kent over the phone we were experiencing and ungainly time-lag and accidentally talking over one another. A time-lag also happened when I watched her movie the first time; its unique slow build had me more frightened after the movie finished than while I was watching it. It sticks. The tag line is true

You can't get rid of the Babadook.

I mention that I'm pre-ordering the Babadook book as I'm telling this story about how the movie continues to haunt me. "Then you'd better not," she says laughing as we begin our conversation about debut filmmaking, snobber towards horror films, what she learned from Lars von Trier, and the miracles of Essie Davis' lead performance.

 

NATHANIEL: Have you had a lot of weird reactions to the film?

JENNIFER KENT: Yeah, I have. I’ve had the gamut of reactions from people seeking a roller coaster ride with jolts and scares. They've been like  'Ripped off. This isn’t a horror film!' to people like yourself. What’s most surprising to me is -- more than a  couple of people have said ‘I really didn’t like but I saw it again.' Why would you see it again?  And then changing their minds about it. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov272014

Interview: Is Laura Dern Still "Wild" At Heart?

Happy Thanksgiving! What better gift for you on this weekend of celebrating abundance than an interview with one of the most gifted actors in the world. Laura Dern has been shocking and stirring moviegoers with finely carved and often daringly dramatic or weirdly comic performances for the past thirty years.

Laura Dern as "Bobbi" in Wild

Born into showbiz (her parents are Oscar-nominees Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd) she grew up onscreen and around film sets. Her breakthrough came early at the age of eighteen. Her first hit as a blind girl in Mask was shortly followed by a revelatory performance as a young girl treading into dangerous sexual waters with an older stranger in Smooth Talk. The very next year she worked with David Lynch on Blue Velvet beginning a long collaborative and rather genius director/muse duet. Nearly thirty years later she's still delivering buzzy performances. On paper her new character Bobbi in Wild, an incongruously positive dying mother who we meet in wisps of memories as Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) attempts a soul searching hike on the PCT, seems far removed from the reckless spirits that made Dern such a fascinating screen presence. But that's not the way Dern sees it, describing this woman as "wild" and "a pioneer". 

When we sat down to talk in Los Angeles it had been the third time I'd seen her in the past year, since she was such a regular presence on the Oscar circuit last season for her father's nomination. "You were practically his campaign manager," I say, fondly remembering her indefatigable enthusiasm for his work as we settle in sharing memories of a Nebraska reception a year back.

"I mean... I'll always be." she says, beaming, ever the devoted daughter now promoting her own film that happens to be about a deep parent-child connection.  The back-to-back award campaigns seem like a good place to start...

NATHANIEL: Did all that time with your father last year make you hungry for an Oscar yourself?

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Friday
Nov212014

Interview: Jason Clarke on Acting with Apes & Terminators

I wonder aloud if Jason Clarke, the still rising breakout star of Zero Dark Thirty, is feeling a little overscheduled these days. Is he scheduled in 20 minute increments at this point? He claims he's taking a little time off to enjoy himself in the days surrounding our 20 minutes on the telephone, but I'm not sure I quite believe him. Which is a strange feeling because onscreen, the fortysomething Aussie is never less than believable whether he's torturing prisoners in Zero Dark Thirty, totally unnerved by talking armed apes on horseback (who wouldn't be?) in Dawn of the Apes, bootlegging with his Bondurant brothers in Lawless, and so on.

Perhaps more surprising than his authenticity onscreen is his modesty. He didn't so much steal his scenes in Zero Dark Thirty as oxygenate then, detailing the emotional and intellectual and moral gaps between his hardened CIA operative and the newbie in his camp with his duet with Jessica Chastain. And though Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbel do amazing work in their motion capture suits as Caesar and Koba, this still human actor is so effortlessly grounding that he anchors the large excellent cast and behemoth fantastical enterprise that is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes without ever drawing attention to himself.

Thankfully Hollywood has seen through the modesty. Jason Clarke is very busy. As unintentional proof he struggles to recall which order he filmed things in "I did a couple back to back. Terminator and before that I shot Everest. [Pause] What did I shoot before that?" Better Angels, a small black and white period indie which just opened in select cities, is so far back in the "before that" list that you know you'll be seeing a lot of him onscreen.  

Our talk is after the jump...

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Friday
Nov212014

Interview: Director Stefan Haupt of "The Circle" 

Jose here. This year's Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film includes many films featuring gay characters or dealing with LGBT issues, one of them being Swiss entry The Circle, a documentary/drama hybrid that tells the story of the groundbreaking title publication, which became one of the most popular LGBT magazines in the post-WWII era. The film, opening in limited release today, focuses on the story of two members of the network that helped create The Circle, schoolteacher Ernst Ostertag and drag entertainer Robi Rapp, who not only survived the repression of the era (which included a serial killer who targeted gay men in Zurich) but eventually became the first same sex couple to get married in Switzerland.

I had the opportunity to talk to the film's director Stefan Haupt, about this landmark project and what Oscar could mean to help share this wonderful story. Interview after the jump...

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