KCET Cinema Series: “The Ides of March”

Viewed 10/4/11

by Doug Duke

George Clooney’s THE IDES OF MARCH screened at KCET’s Fall Series on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011. As always it was at the American Cinematheque’s lovely Aero Theatre, and I have to say, I loved it! Maybe I’m biased, but I’m a sucker for Clooney. I have enjoyed all of the films he has starred in and/or directed. Especially CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND and GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. Yes, I even enjoyed LEATHERHEADS, though most people didn’t. It’s probably a movie most people don’t want to see, a throwback to old screwball comedies. Well, I was the demographic and I grew up on those comedies. Anyway, his new effort is another great inside look into the world of politics.

If you wanted to look at the story and break it down, I could see people being upset; there are moments of predictability. We have literally seen anything that’s thrown at us at this point, or so we think? Why is it, or could it be, so predictable of a storyline we have heard of before? Well, probably because it happens all the time in the real world that it seems like it’s just another one. I feel like I haven’t seen a film about a president’s campaign like this before, almost as if a camera was just there catching it all go down. I was hooked from the get go. It doesn’t hurt that it also stars Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffery Wright & Evan Rachel Wood. All of them are incredible and have proved so elsewhere, but they really all come together for a great ensemble cast!

If you haven’t seen CONTAGION, DRIVE, MONEYBALL, or 50/50, that’s on you. Add IDES to the list and you have yourself some catching up to do!

Speaking of CONTAGION, its editor Stephen Mirrione also edited IDES. He was on hand for a Q&A and it was amazing. This man has worked with so many great directors and the outcome has been SWINGERS, TRAFFIC, the OCEAN’S films, all of Clooney’s films, 21 GRAMS, BABEL, & BIUTIFUL. Yeah, just seeing that list, at least to me, you know you’re in good hands. He is amazing at what he does and how he works.

The film moves so well, paced just right. It looks great, too. They tested it on film, Clooney insisted, and alas, long live film! The performances, as you would expect with all these Oscar winners and nominees, were superb! I believe Clooney knows how to handle actors and himself pretty damn well. There are quite a few scenes that stand out to me in this film; I’m still thinking about them and they were that powerful. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say there’s that final standoff.

Thank you, as always, to KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre & Staff, Stephen Mirrione, and of course, the man that brings us all these great films, Pete Hammond!

★★★★★

KCET Cinema Series: “Like Crazy”

Viewed 9/27/11

by Jade Luber

Director Drake Doremus and Anton Yelchin joined my favorite audience that Tuesday night on September 27th, 2011, after we viewed their film, LIKE CRAZY. One lady was quick to point out that the reason no one clapped when the credits came up is because we, the audience, felt like we were in on a very intimate moment between Jacob and Anna, as portrayed by Yelchin and the wonderful Felicity Jones.

If you haven’t heard of Doremus (SPOONER, DOUCHEBAG), you may have heard of his filmmaking style. His mother, Cherie Kerr, is one of the founding members of The Groundlings. Naturally, Doremus was influenced throughout his life and it has been implemented in his improvisational filmmaking style.

The film was shot on a Canon 7D and made headlines when it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in January and was sold for $4 Million to Paramount. Yelchin talked about the month of filming (which was shot in LA for two weeks and in England for another two) and how he became Jacob. He mentioned he even felt strange when he saw his real-life girlfriend in the middle of shooting, since he was so invested in living life through Jacob’s eyes. There were many moments, he shared, that he forgot the cameras were even rolling. I’d say that is a great recipe for this type of film: Improv-style director, talented young actors dedicating themselves fully to the characters and story, Los Angeles, England, and a 7D. Fantastic; I’m pretty inspired.

I was very excited to see this film and I was not disappointed. There are so many moments that are honest, real and quiet. The elegant Jennifer Lawrence and dashing lad Charlie Bewley added to Jacob and Anna’s story by giving the failing lovers underlying support and emotional imbalance. By practically pitying them, the ‘other ones’ in Jacob and Anna’s lives, you understand why they tragically will not work out. You’re in on everyone’s inside jokes, their tender moments, their painful love for each other… It’s endearing but discerning, as well. It is, indeed, a portrait of a failing love that we can relate to.

The film is understandably being compared to BLUE VALENTINE, which is one of my favorite films. When MTV asked Doremus about that comparison, he answered,

It’s an honor. I think that’s a very beautiful film. But I think they’re very different. You know, I think this film is a much more romantic, innocent and hopeful and optimistic look at love.

Very true, indeed!

I don’t believe I have to say much more for you to get a sense about how this film is. We all know the amazing feeling of connecting with someone so deeply. I love this film because of the emotional and honest investments I see that every person on the crew contributed to get this film made. I am delighted to see Yelchin mold a perfect-fitting role for him, and it is great to see someone like Felicity Jones breathe life into Anna’s character. Their chemistry is undeniable and I am excited to see what’s next for everyone.

LIKE CRAZY comes out on Friday, October 28th at ArcLight Cinemas – Hollywood (Anton Yelchin will be doing a Q&A after the 8:30 screening on Saturday, October 29th) & The Landmark!

Our infinite gratitude, as always, to KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre & Staff, Drake Doremus, Anton Yelchin, and the fantastic Pete Hammond!

★★★★★

KCET Cinema Series: “50/50″

Viewed 9/20/11

by Doug Duke

I saw 50/50 almost a year and half ago when its tentative title was still LIVE WITH IT, and even then I loved it! I was so happy that on September 20th, 2011 I got to revisit it! It was just as great, if not better than the first time I had seen it. It was really not much different than the cut; definitely tightened up a bit, but the point is this is a great film! It’s hilarious, moving and about cancer. It’s based on real life experiences about writer Will Reisner. The film really packs a punch and I knew right away that Joseph Gordon-Levitt brought the best performance of his career, as did Seth Rogen! Yup, for all you Rogen haters you just can’t in this one. You’ll love him.

A comedy about cancer — who knew? Will Reisner, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen have been trying to make a cancer comedy for years, it seems. They also teamed up with one of my favorite directors, Jonathan Levine. ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE and THE WACKNESS are his credits so I knew I was going to enjoy it. This is an all-star team. I didn’t even mention that Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Phillip Baker Hall & Angelica Huston are in it, too. All-star team indeed. Levine always creates such an amazing atmosphere and his music cues are some of the best. Every film of his moves you at some point with his music and his vision, and everything is on display here. The performances he gets are tough ones, but at times you’re laughing your ass off like you’re watching one of Rogen and Goldberg’s comedies. The film is a great mix of all these different worlds.

The Q&A consisted of Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, producers Ben Karlin and Evan Goldberg and it was hilarious! Goldberg is so funny, it’s like you want to see him in the movies riffing with everybody, but alas, that’s why he’s a great writer (SUPERBAD, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, DA ALI G SHOW). Knowing a bit of trivia about the production, originally James McAvoy supposed to play the lead and Joseph literally stepped in before production began. With the performance he gives, you would have guessed he spent years preparing for this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he worked his ass off and it shows, but it also shows just how good he is! Joseph and Seth together are fantastic; their chemistry is great. I would love to see them do something again.

I can’t wait to watch this movie again. Everyone I know that’s seen it LOVES it. What’s not to love? You have all that charm in this amazing cast, a great writer, and Jonathan Levine. You are in good hands, people. Take time and see this film!

We cannot thank KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre & Staff, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Karlin, Evan Goldberg, and the man with the mic, Pete Hammond, for always inviting us! We love this series!

★★★★★

KCET Cinema Series: “Drive”

Viewed 9/6/11

by Doug Duke

My most anticipated film of the year, DRIVE, played on September 6th, 2011 at the Aero Theatre and I was blown away! Director Nicholas Winding Refn’s American directorial debut does not disappoint. It’s the first film he actually didn’t write but he threw himself all over this film. It’s so stylized; it is an 80’s film no question but made by a master! I’ve seen it one more time since and I loved it even more. I’ve also had the soundtrack since and I have not played anything else for weeks, seriously. I cannot express to you enough in my own words how much I LOVE the film. Funny thing is, I like his PUSHER Trilogy, BRONSON, and VALHALLA RISING more. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Mr. Refn.

Oh yeah, what’s the film about? If you haven’t heard by now Ryan Gosling is Driver. He is a Hollywood stunt driver and mechanic by day and a getaway driver by night. Whatever you need from him, you have a 5 minute window — he’s got your back anytime in that 5 minutes, a minute before that or after and that’s on you. He drives.

It has the old elements of a western: the hero tries to do what’s right and protect a girl and her son, he gets involved, a deal goes wrong. He tries to make it right. You have your hero and your bad guys. Typical things, if that’s how you look at it, BUT it’s the master behind the camera telling you the story that makes it just remarkable. His shots, visions, the performances he gets, the music, everything is masterfully crafted and put on screen for us to enjoy thoroughly.

I knew we were going to be in for a violent ride. The movie is a drama, it’s gotten rave reviews by critics but audiences not so much. It’s possible they expected a FAST & FURIOUS type film, but you’ll get nothing of that sort here. You’re getting a character drama that’s very symbolic, psychological, and emotional. When the action does come though, look the fuck out! It’s gory for sure but it’s ridiculous how artistic it is!

During the Q&A, one older lady asked something along the lines of, ‘Did you guys have a a talk about the violence on how it can reflect on society before you made the film?” One of the producers, Adam Siegel, was on hand and he simply replied: “No.” He even kinda smiled and laughed as he moved on to the next question.

It was funny because just with that gesture right there, you knew that these are guys who love making movies and love using their imagination. This isn’t a film that advocates violence, but it’s brutally there. This is a piece of art, it’s not trying to retell a true story and say something about today’s society. It’s a film that you want to work on as a director, actor, producer, writer, cinematographer, grip, even a PA and you want to make because it can be so much fun it’s an amazing film. It’s something to be proud of at the end of the day. It’s something to be very proud of because it’s probably the best film of the year. In my eyes so far, I think I’m going with ‘yes’.

I didn’t even get into the performances yet. Gosling, I mean is he really ever bad? No. Mulligan so great and beautiful. Ron Pearlman? Oh man, the comic relief and then he has this one scene that kind of just floors you. Don’t forget Albert Brooks, which is who most people are talking about. No reason why you shouldn’t. He’s frightening. He lives by his own moral code though, I guess you got to give him that. They all do actually; everyone has that old moral code like an old samurai film and again, a western. Different psyches, different codes, though.

I believe I’ve said enough. Trust me I would love to go on and on about this film and I already have but let’s be honest have you even read this far?

Thank you as always to KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre & Staff, Producer Adam Siegel, and HUGE thanks to Pete Hammond for picking this film for the series and as always, running the show!

I’ll be seeing DRIVE for a third time very soon!

★★★★★

KCET Cinema Series: “Warrior”

Viewed 8/30/11

by Doug Duke

KCET’s Fall Cinema Series kicked off with WARRIOR at the Aero on August 30th, 2011 and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year! Already a fan of its director Gavin O’ Connor (PRIDE AND GLORY), I figured I was in for an intimate multi- character piece and I was not let down. I have no qualms admitting I’ve paid no attention or have never really been interested in MMA Fighting. That’s changed now.

The story, written by Mr. O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis (who were both on hand for an great Q&A) and Cliff Dorfman, is maybe something you’ve already heard of or seen, but where this film takes you emotionally shows you what a great filmmaker Gavin O’ Connor is. It’s one of those underdog stories that you can’t help but get behind.

Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and especially Nick Nolte will take your breath away. The cast is superb, the cinematography, action, direction and music is all top notch. Anything Hardy touches, he seems to bring his amazing presence to the screen and he completely nails every moment. Same goes for Joel Edgerton; his performance is a bit quieter but filled with so much HEART. Do I really even need to explain how good Nick Nolte is? Last time I can remember seeing him was in TROPIC THUNDER, which I loved and loved him in it, but this is one of those Nolte performances where you say, “Well, he better win!”

I got to speak to both Gavin and Anthony at the end of the Q&A and Anthony had the spirit of a fan. He basically geeked out about how Nolte is an old pro. He told me a great piece of knowledge about Mr. Nick Nolte. He’s not like these new guys, who say their lines they way they feel like saying them. That’s not the case for Nolte, he says every word that was written! I couldn’t help but just smile after hearing something like that. That’s a special thing. That’s why we all want to do this, moments like that.

The movie has already opened wide and it didn’t have great box office numbers, which is sad, but this is a film that lives through time. Maybe people are turned off by the marketing or ads; “Oh, two brothers meet up in an MMA tournament?” How Gavin gets us there is what’s important and it’s not what you expect.

This isn’t just a fighting movie, it’s a character study and a great one at that. People will catch it on DVD, Netflix. Hell, you should catch it at ArcLight Cinemas – Hollywood or Pacific Sherman Oaks 5. I suggest you do because it’s an amazing theatre experience. You’ll seriously be on the edge of your seat, maybe fist pumping, who knows? If you want to see a great movie with great performances get off your ass and go see WARRIOR!

Thank you to KCET, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the American Cinematheque/Aero Theatre, Gavin O’ Connor, Anthony Tambakis and of course our moderator Pete Hammond!

★★★★★

A Q&A with Amanda Bauer

by Jade Luber

THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER features the quietly effervescent and beautiful Amanda Bauer. We highly recommend you see it ASAP.

Amanda was so cool to take some time and answer a few questions we had, to get to know her and the girl behind Claudia. I must admit that when I first saw the film I felt a little uneasy with her character, but I loved her so much, at the same time; the Ouiji Board and breathing scene in the basement are definitely some of the film’s highlights.

Recently, the Fies Sisters featured Amanda in their new short film SCRUTINIZE, shot in two hours on LA’s Metro Red Line.

Please enjoy the following Q&A!

Which film, how old were you, and where/which theatre were you watching at is your earliest memory? Do you still love that film?

I remember seeing ROCKETMAN when I was about six with my dad; we saw it at a theater in town in Lansing, MI. We went to a lot of movies at that particular theater when I was younger, I think it’s now a laser tag place. If you haven’t seen ROCKETMAN, you should, and if you have, you should see it again. I actually just watched it a couple of months ago with my family and we were crying we were laughing so hard. Harland Williams is hysterical.

Give us YOUR synopsis of THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER.

MYTH is a film about four kids on the last night of summer, some looking for love, some a little adventure. They’re all different people at different points of their lives, but throughout the course of the night they cross paths and learn a little about themselves. To me it’s about those profound moments that make you grow up, even just a little bit.

David [Robert Mitchell] mentioned that a lot of the cast and extras doubled as crew members. What were some of your roles?

I doubled as a 2nd AC for an afternoon. It was when we shot Scott talking to Jen in the cafeteria. All I really did was clap the slate, and I’m a dork and would hold it in front of my face while I did it, so David and Julio had lots of takes of me looking like a spazz at the beginning.

Will you describe your character development with Claudia and how you connected with her perspective?

I think that most girls and women could connect with Claudia. It was probably her first big relationship, and she was fully trusting of her boyfriend and he betrayed her. I could totally understand how she would want to get back at both of them, so it all made sense.

For me it was about creating the arc. There were very clear moments in the script where she would make a distinct choice that would change the way she connected with the people around her, like when she first meets Andy and the Ouija board scene. I wanted to make sure that you could see her thought process.

Can you give us the lowdown on the experience of making MYTH during the month of filming? Can you share any stories and fond memories?

Making this movie was such an awesome experience. I just hung out with a couple of the people from the shoot at the Detroit opening and we all had a little bonding moment of how great it was then and now. It really is an amazing group of people that I hope to be friends with for a long time.

Because it was a low budget indie, it was a little more intimate. Between takes everyone would just hang out and there was no line between cast or crew or extras; it was great!

I remember when I first met Drew, who played Andy. The girl who was originally supposed to play Claudia backed out at the last minute, and I was already out in LA so I flew in the day before we started shooting. Everyone had met before and I wanted to break the ice with him since the first scene we were shooting together was the breathing scene in the basement. I’m a bit of a smart ass so I waltzed right up to him and said, “Hi I’m Amanda, do you have herpes?” Thankfully he has a great sense of humor and laughed it off and we got along fine, but thinking about it afterward — that could have gone badly.

You were 17 when you started production on MYTH. How has your experience over the last three years been, and how did you react to worldwide audiences’ receptions?

Thankfully I’ve been working here and there the last couple of years, so I do have a better understanding of filmmaking and how everything works. But, I’m still learning! When we were shooting MYTH, I was just starting out.

It amazes me, some of the responses we’ve gotten. I think it’s great that we’ve been able to play in cities all over the world and have been received well.

I remember being at our opening at SXSW and afterwards I went into the bathroom and overheard two ladies arguing about when the movie took place. They kept going back and forth saying, “It was MY decade! No, it was MY decade!” It was really sweet.

Can you tell us about any projects you’ve got coming up?

I have a short film I did, ANGELA WRIGHT, that is done and they’re sending it off to festivals. I also have a TV movie that I did called NO ONE TO BLAME that should be out by the end of the year. I’ve worked on a couple other things as well, that should hopefully be out soon after.

Top 5 favorite films and actors and why?

  • I adore Meryl Streep. ADORE! One of my biggest things that I would love to achieve with my career is diversity. I want to be able to play different characters and be a part of different kinds of films. I really look up to Meryl Streep because she has done that flawlessly her entire career.
  • Paul Bettany is one of the most underrated actors in my opinion. He also has such a wide range, and he commits completely. I was able to meet him once and I swear I couldn’t breathe; he’s fantastic.
  • I also love Gary Oldman. Again, he’s done such a variety of characters and he’s so interesting to watch. You see his thought process, and his choices. He really takes on his characters.
  • Marion Cotillard is just beautiful to watch. She’s so captivating, I love watching her. I get so caught up in the film and forget everything else. It’s incredible.
  • I’ve always loved Gilda Radner. She has this spark, and she’s hilarious. She has the ability to play so many different characters and be effortlessly funny with all of them. I just love her.
  • Filmwise — I love NOW AND THEN. It’s probably the movie I watched the most growing up, I have the whole thing memorized.
  • I first watched BILLY ELLIOT with one of my cousins when we were probably too young to understand it, but we both loved it and have ever since.
  • BENNY & JOON is such a sweet movie and it’s so well-acted.
  • SLEEPY HOLLOW was one of my favorite stories growing up, so I love the movie.
  • I had heard the music from AMÉLIE before I watched it and I fell in love with it. I love when the music in a film enhances the mood of the story and makes you really feel something and AMÉLIE is a prime example for me. It’s beautiful.

Thank you so much to the wonderful Ms. Bauer, and we cannot wait to see her future projects! You can find Amanda on Twitter and IMDb and please do see and support THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER (★★★★★)!

Finish That Script!

Niche.LA Video Art presents Finish That Script
10-week screenwriting class by Vince McKewin

LOS ANGELES, CA – Niche.LA Video Art presents Finish That Script, a 10-week screenwriting class taught by Hollywood Screenwriter, Vince McKewin.

Over 10 weeks, Vince McKewin will take 10 writers and facilitate the writing of their screenplay. Whether you’re picking up the pen for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro with writer’s block, this exciting ten week workshop will teach you a whole new way of approaching the art of screenwriting. Have a finished script by the end of summer.

Niche.LA Video Art
453 S. Spring St. #443
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Mondays, 7:30PM-10:30PM
July 18th – Sept 26th
$495/10-weeks

Space is limited to 10.  To sign up, please contact Alexandra Chun at aledosius@yahoo.com or 323-739-0137.

Vince McKewin is a producer and writer of both feature film and television.  Feature film credits include The Replacements, Fly Away Home, and The Climb.  Vince has written scripts for Warner Bros., Universal, Disney, New Line, and Paramount.  Vince was a writer/producer on Las Vegas (NBC) and his play, Ad Wars, was performed at the Williamstown Theater Festival.  Vince also teaches screenwriting at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

For me, all writing is personal. In writing over thirty screenplays for hire, whether it was a re-write, an adaptation of a book, or even if it was someone else’s original idea, I always tried to put something of myself into the characters and plots. Method actors understand this better than anyone. (I also spent eight years as a working actor.) We all have specific experiences to draw on. Those experiences are different for everyone. And that’s where we find the gold… Let’s trust that the strongest impressions of a lifetime are the great stories yet to be told. And let’s tell them out loud in a supportive atmosphere where there are no wrong answers.

Vince McKewin

KCET Cinema Series: “Page One: Inside the New York Times”

Viewed 6/21/11

by Doug Duke

Another week at the KCET Summer Series and another film that blew me away! PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES is remarkable! As soon as it opens, it starts with a montage showing all the newspapers that had to close down due to irrelevance, basically. Newspapers are dinosaurs just like VHS, CDs, and soon DVDs. We have the internet now. We are digital. Who needs a physical newspaper? At first I thought, oh boo hoo the newspapers are closing, big deal. Perhaps they should have been more informative and actually cared about giving us real news. THEN, the film starts…

It’s a documentary but it feels like you’re watching one of your favorite single camera shows on TV. The cast of characters is absolutely amazing! First and foremost David Carr! We might as well call him a superstar because that’s exactly what he is in this film. You cannot write characters like this and they didn’t. These are real people and more importantly REAL reporters.
The film brings up real questions and is very informative, capturing moments from WikiLeaks and pulling troops out of Iraq. It shows how the best newspaper in the country kept its head above water and kept fighting to the very end to stay alive. Spoiler: They succeeded!

People don’t want a physical paper anymore? Fine; read it on your iPad, your home computer, hell, even your phone these days. Let’s not forget Twitter as well. Brian Stelter brought up an amazing point about Twitter. He cannot believe everyone in journalism is not on Twitter. You can read about something immediately at that moment and not have to wait until the next morning to read your paper. That’s the world we are in today. Information at our finger tips every second of the day. Things are happening and happening fast.

The film flies by at only 90 minutes. You’ll be so engaged in the characters and the journalism you’ll barely notice. Stelter, for instance, started as a blogger and the Times was so impressed by his work that he eventually got an interview with them and passed all their “tests”. He is now a full time employee of The New York Times. David Carr believes Brain is a robot sent to destroy him. This is all true. See the film, have a ball and get a glimpse inside one of the greatest newsrooms in history.

One might think: Oh, this is a documentary about a newspaper, how boring. You could’t be more wrong. Why not take the time this summer to actually use your brain and learn something? It’ll be okay if you don’t go out and see another one of those superhero films and actually watch something worth your time and knowledge.

I cannot express how much fun I have been having at this series. KCET is amazing! Haven’t been let down yet! Let’s keep it rolling!

★★★★★