Ari Folman By David D'Arcy

"Waltz With Bashir is a memoir, a history lesson, a combat picture, a piece of investigative journalism and an altogether amazing film," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Directed by Ari Folman, an Israeli filmmaker whose struggle to make sense of his experience as a soldier in the Lebanon war of 1982 shapes its story, Waltz is by no means the world's only animated documentary, a phrase that sounds at first like a cinematic oxymoron. Movies like Richard Linklater's Waking Life and Brett Morgen's Chicago 10 have used animation to make reality seem more vivid and more strange, producing odd and fascinating experiments. But Mr Folman has gone further, creating something that is not only unique but also exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power."

David D'Arcy talks with Folman about what makes an animated film vital long after its technical wow-effect wears off.

Blog entry 06/23/2009 - 7:46am

 By John Esther

What is a Sundance Film Festival without a Parker Posey movie? This year the unofficial Queen of Sundance starred in writer-director Ryan Shiraki's Spring Breakdown, about three women "holding on for one more day." At the festival, I caught up with Posey's co-star Jane Lynch, one of the funniest character actresses around; her previous credits include being part of Christopher Guest's ensemble -- Best in Show, For Your Consideration -- plus Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin and other scene-stealing roles.

For the most part an amusing movie performed by amusing women, and yet with no theatrical release to speak of, Spring Breakdown should see more life on DVD. (It arrives on disc this week.)

Lynch has also been doing some fine work on the small screen as of late, including the Starz Network's Party Down (about a catering company), and Fox's cheery new Glee. The film's director, former Saturday Night Live producer Shiraki, also chimed in on our conversation as we all drove together -- as will become abundantly clear at the end of the interview.

Blog entry 06/01/2009 - 5:35pm

By Kevin B. Lee and Keith Uhlich

John Gianvito spent much of the '90s burning through credit cards to produce and direct The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein, a multi-layered critique of the First Iraq War. Though mostly neglected upon its release, in hindsight it is one of the most relevant films to describe the political and psychic traumas of this decade. Financially and emotionally exhausted by the endeavor, Gianvito planned a more modest follow-up, a short film inspired by Howard Zinn's populist study A People's History of the United States. That project evolved into Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, an hour-long feature guided by a deceptively simple premise: a chronological tour of the gravesites of victims of social oppression as well as the activists who stood up for their rights.

The steady procession of historical narrative (as told by the tombstones), graced by a soundtrack consisting of the ambient surroundings, transforms vérité documentary into a hypnotic aesthetic that combines a meditation on nature, remembrances of past heroic struggles to better the lives of others, and a stirring call to carry their legacy into the present. These three themes permeate the following interview with Gianvito, conducted by Kevin B. Lee and Keith Uhlich at the film's 2007 Toronto Film Festival premiere.

Blog entry 05/05/2009 - 4:28pm

Gonzalo Arijon By David D'Arcy

"Because the story has already been told in Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, the 1974 best seller by Piers Paul Read, and retold in its 1993 screen adaptation starring Ethan Hawke, why again?" asks Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "The short answer is that in [Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains], all 16 of the survivors, now middle-aged, tell the story in their own words." And Salon's Andrew O'Hehir finds the resulting film "intimate, terrifying and positively riveting... One way of explaining Stranded is that [director Gonzalo] Arijon's after not just the objective facts of what happened and when, which are dramatic enough, but also the subjective reality, the psychological and physiological desolation of the experience."

David D'Arcy talks with Arijon about why he's retelling a well-known tale.

Stranded is now out on DVD.

Blog entry 04/28/2009 - 12:34am

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Darren Aronofsky, the director of mind-benders like Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000) and The Fountain (2006), and Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei, of My Cousin Vinny (1992), In the Bedroom (2001) and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) dropped by to discuss their latest film, The Wrestler, which is something of a departure for both of them. 

Mickey Rourke, winning rave notices for the film, stars as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, a former superstar of 1980s still wrestling on a small-time circuit for tiny paychecks and little glory. Tomei plays Cassidy, a stripper, and his only true confidant over the years. (Both actors won San Francisco Film Critics Circle awards this week.) Rather than a high visual style, Aronofsky directs with a more documentary-like immediacy, and the result is an impressively rich character study, set in a unique, sad and fascinating world.

The Wrestler is now out on DVD.

Blog entry 04/21/2009 - 2:02pm

 By John Esther

Trouble the Water [trailer] looks deep and hard at America before, during and after Hurricane Katrina led to the flooding of New Orleans and, in particular, the Bush Administration's typical gross incompetence in responding to the catastrophes.

Directed by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary category this past year. "Save for some righteous indignation at the close," wrote Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, "Trouble the Water makes its points without didacticism. [The film] ebbs and flows like great drama."

A producer who has worked with Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), Martin Scorsese, Bob Dylan and others, Trouble the Water is Lessin's feature debut. A co-producer on Fahrenheit 9/11, Deal's other credits include being an archivist for Bowling for Columbine, God Grew Tired of Us and Murderball. The film premieres on HBO Thursday, April 23, before making its debut on DVD this summer from Zeitgeist Films.

In this exclusive interview, John Esther spoke to Deal and Lessin about Trouble the Water.

Blog entry 04/21/2009 - 8:39am

Tell No One By James Van Maanen

"Hitchcock's 'Wrong Man' scenario gets an invigorating French update in Tell No One, a long-winded but gripping thriller based on American author Harlan Coben's bestseller," writes Nick Schager in Slant, reviewing "a film whose entertainingly fleet (and sometimes downright harried) pace... and enticing central mysteries deliver the tangy kicks one craves from juicy pulp."

James Van Maanen talks with Coben and actor-director Guillaume Canet about their César Award-winner. Tell No One is now out on DVD.

Blog entry 03/31/2009 - 1:10pm

"Why are drunk chicks so funny?" asks Aaron Hillis, kicking off this lively interview with the extremely talented and hilarious actress.

Anna Faris, OBSERVE AND REPORT [As my annual Austin adventure finally comes to an end tomorrow, I leave you with one last podcast. Stay tuned for my SXSW "Films of the Week" reviews later this weekend.]

Quickly becoming one of the go-to heroines of screen comedy, Anna Faris (Smiley Face, The House Bunny) handily and hilariously steals each of her scenes in writer-director Jody Hill's Observe and Report, which screened as the centerpiece film at SXSW. Like others who have pointed out the similarities, it really does play like the comic analogue to Taxi Driver, its disturbing "jokes" provoking mostly nervous laughter, with a doozy of a punchline.

Blog entry 03/20/2009 - 12:13pm

Steve McQueen By David D'Arcy

"Historical dramas often suffer from a certain stodgy remove, but in Hunger, conceptual artist and first-time feature filmmaker Steve McQueen takes his audience deep inside a particular place and time: Her Majesty's Prison Maze in Northern Ireland, circa 1981," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "McQueen wields his directorial control so tightly that at a certain point, his long takes start to look more like a stunt than the ideal way to convey information. But honestly, when a director has the eye and the feel of a McQueen, he earns the leeway to go down some blind alleys."

David D'Arcy talks with McQueen about the film that's won the Golden Camera in Cannes, among several other awards at festivals around the world.  Hunger opens in the US in NYC March 20 and in other cities soon thereafter.

Blog entry 03/20/2009 - 9:01am

Co-winner of the Audience Award at the Cinequest Film Festival, The Village Barbershop is one of those little indie films you can't help but root for. Variety's Dennis Harvey wrote: "Feeling as crustily comfortable as its titular environ, Village Barbershop is an old-hat story -- curmudgeon grudgingly takes in brash youth, with eventual life-enhancing benefits for both. But in this case, the old hat is well worn, and debuting writer-director Chris Ford has blown most of the dust off. Result is a cannily low-key charmer."

It stars John Ratzenberg (still most famous for his long-running role as Cliff Claven on Cheers, but who has also made quite a career out of doing fine voice work for many Pixar features) as that curmudgeon, a small-town haircutter whose melancholy, and rigid, life is altered when a woman shows up looking for a job as his other barber. The film was shot in Reno and Northern California and looks quite good given it's small budget.

We chatted by email with filmmaker Ford, lead actress Shelly Cole, and supporting actor Amos Glick (who plays Ratzenberg's Scrooge-ish landlord.) Each were quite candid with us about the trials and rewards of making a "small" film like Village Barbershop.

Blog entry 03/10/2009 - 11:35am

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