Tag Archives: JJ Abrams

SXSW: The Disaster Artist

Before we talk about this movie, we have to talk about another: The Room. Not Room, the Brie Larson kidnap drama, but The Room, the worst movie ever made. Even better: the BEST bad tumblr_megxu99K4x1ry10fwo1_500movie ever made, the Citizen Kane of bad movies, a movie so bad it’s achieved cult status. Tommy Wiseau was obsessed with movies and had enough cash to get one made, so he did. And he did it with such earnestness and such a complete lack of talent that people love to watch it. Ottawa’s own Mayfair Theatre, one of Canada’s oldest surviving independent movie houses, an official heritage building in our fair city, champion of 35mm film, screener of indies and classics, has been showing it for 92 consecutive months now. Each midnight screening is a riot; this cult film draws fans that know the drill. Matt wrote a great review of it a while back, almost nothing about the movie itself, which defies reviewing, but about the experience of seeing, the rituals that go along with it, the things you yell at the screen, hell, the things you chuck at the screen, it’s all a wild ball of fun.

Greg Sestero, co-star in The Room and Tommy Wiseau BFF wrote a book about making this weird movie with its even weirder director. It’s called The Disaster Artist. Ever a sucker for a great Hollywood story, James Franco read this book one day and immediately got a boner. He brought the script to Seth Rogen on the set of their ill-fated movie The Interview, and the rest is history. Well, future history. I saw the one and only screening of The Disaster Artist at SXSW where it was still billed as a “work in progress.” Tommy Wiseau was in the house, and also seeing it for the first time. Big gulp.

Two things struck me about The Disaster Artist: 1. This film was made with love. It could easily mock The Room, as many have, but it doesn’t. This is a loving ode to The Room, and to the friendship that gave birth to it. 2. This film is fucking hilarious.

Even having never seen The Room, The Disaster Artist is still accessible and relevant. Tommy Wiseau is a goddamned character and James Franco is just the man to play him (although Wiseau pushed for Johnny Depp). Franco got into the part so deeply that he directed while in character too. He was in deep enough to fool Seth Rogen’s grandmother when she visited the set, and in more than deep enough to constantly annoy his little brother “Davey” who co-stars MV5BMjA4ZDZkNjEtNTFkZi00YjhjLWFjZTctNDZlOWVmYzZmZjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM2Mzg4MA@@._V1_with him.  James and Seth debuted Sausage Party at SXSW last year, and for me it was a disappointment. The Disaster Artist, however, gave me continuous giggles. They’ve amassed an impressive cast, some with just bitty walk-on parts, which only proves the love Hollywood has for underdog Tommy Wiseau. Or perhaps for James “I’ll try anything once” Franco. Or maybe James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. In any case, I laughed until I cried, and then I slammed some Diet Pepsi just so I could cry-laugh some more. And I did! This movie will make you rabid for The Room but it stands on its own, a complete movie that probably benefits from NOT being written by Franco or Rogen. It’s an affectionate behind the scenes look at Hollywood gone wrong, but it’s also a kind of heart-warming tale about outsiders who can’t break in so they plow their own field, and even if it’s bad, at least they have potatoes. Know what I’m saying? Oh, hi Mark.

 

 

 

p.s. Check out the comments section for a delightful Q&A with James, Dave & Seth.

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For The Love of Spock

I know very little\almost nothing about the Star Trek universe, but I do know Mr. Spock. He’s a pop culture icon who transcended the television show with his message of peace and reason. William Shatner soon learned that though the captain’s seat was his alone, the spotlight would have to be shared. The man behind the pointy ears and the Vulcan salute was none other than Leonard Nimoy, hand-picked by Gene Roddenbury to portray this cool and calculated character.

tumblr_nv1msf7Hdg1ug3pr6o1_400The documentary For The Love of Spock was originally a collaboration between Leonard Nimoy and his son Adam but Nimoy Senior got sick and died very quickly, leaving his son to alter their plans somewhat, honouring the character, but also his father. It’s clear Adam Nimoy’s knowledge of the Star Trek universe is encyclopedic; the footage of the original series is a lot of fun, but also well-chosen and well-timed. A part of me badly wants to gush about all the cool things I learned watching this documentary, and I’m barely restraining myself so that you’ll have your own joyful moments of discovery upon seeing it for yourself.

Almost all of the original cast members are interviewed, and most from the new Star Trek movies as well (including J.J. Abrams), and everyone’s got glowing things to say. It’s nice when the man behind such a beloved character is a nice guy himself. In fact, the only person who seemed to have a problem with him was his son, the film’s director. So no, this isn’t a puff piece. It’s an honest look at intriguing and sometimes enigmatic man who put a lot of himself into his character, and gave a lot of himself to his fans.

Watch this documentary to see Jason Alexander to a spot-on Kirk impression, to hear Shatner Spock_Good_Evilpronounce who was the better singer, to get George Takai’s take on the Spock-Kirk slash fiction, to find out who came up with the Vulcan salute, to hear how Harry Belafonte inspired the character, to learn where Nimoy’s kids had to watch the show’s premiere, to note who once called it a “treadmill to oblivion”, and to discover who spent hours responding to Nimoy’s fan mail. You don’t have to be a Trekker to enjoy this movie, but by the end of it, you might just be one.

Adam Nimoy says that his father was eternally grateful to have created this character, never jaded by the experience or the fame. Clearly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the Vulcan tree. Though Leonard’s work kept him away from the family and Adam often felt he was competing tumblr_inline_nkfyuoaAP21rlqxn6with fans for his father’s attention, he still describes Star Trek as “hitting the lottery.” Creating this film was an act of mourning for the son, and absolutely an act of love. At the end of the documentary, Adam asks the many interviewees to describe his father in one word. People offer: hope, integrity, love, but the final word comes from Zachary Quinto who plays Spock in the rebooted version, with Nimoy’s blessing. Quinto throws it back to the documentarian and the son, asking “What’s yours?” Adam Nimoy was at the screening of this film at the Fantasia Film Festival, and he was able to answer that question for us in person.

He said “Passion.”

The Screening Room

You may have heard that Sean Parker is hoping to get his latest venture, Screening Room, into your living room sometime soon. What is it? It’s a little black box that you’d have to purchase for, say, $150, and that box would enable you to spend yet more money! Sound good?

For about $50, you’d get to watch a new movie in your home on the day it’s released in theatres. No more waiting for months for it to be out “on video”. Throw a few bucks at the problem, and there you are, eating snacks you bought for a reasonable price at the grocery store, pressing pause to pee, with all the elbow room you can finscreeningroomagle from your spouse and your dogs, and even a faux-fur throw to keep you cozy on the couch. You don’t even have to wear pants!* (presumably – no guarantee)

But don’t worry: if you love the experience of sitting in a theatre with a few hundred gassy strangers, that option is still open to you, because cinemas aren’t going anywhere. So either way, you’re covered.

Unless James Cameron has a say, and since he believes he does, he’s already said it. Cameron, along with his producing partner Jon Landau, have said screeningroom3they’re “committed to the sanctity of the in-theatre experience” which sounds a little creepy seeing how we’re talking about a dark room with sticky floors and seating that I’m afraid might have lice. “We don’t understand why the industry would want to provide audiences an incentive to skip the best form to experience the art that we work so hard to create.”

You seriously don’t understand it? You don’t understand that $50, while pricey, is still a bargain compared to an average night out at the movies? That inflated prices are keeping people away from your precious “art” and that with vangoghthe rise in quality of home theatres, your sacred blue people will view just as well at home, and more comfortably. I’m sure Van Gogh isn’t thrilled that his most famous paintings are reproduced on coffee mugs, but do you hear him complaining? No. Because not everyone can afford a trip to New York City to the Museum of Modern Art, where The Starry Night is currently displayed (price of admission: $25). So now the masses can enjoy works of Van Gogh just about everywhere – on shower curtains, on umbrellas, on postcards, and Google. If Van Gogh can be a big boy about it, James Cameron, so can you.

Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson all support the technology, becoming stakeholders in the company. So this is causing quite a rift in the film community, a real Hollywood civil war, if you will. And what gives – don’t Spielberg and Abrams direct the same kind of blockbuster movies that demand big screens?

Sure they do. And tent pole movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens will continue to see lots of people swarming to cinemas to have their bones rattled and their eyeballs go dry. But smaller movies struggle to get any theatre release at all. Often I’ll mention a movie I think is great and people write “sounds good, but that will never come to my small town!” and that’s true – if your small town has a 6-theatre Cineplex, chances are, 4 of those screens are playing the super hero movie, one is playing an animated film for families, and then you have just 1 screen left to divide up between all the worthy films.

M. Night Shyamalan, who nobody asked but still likes to pretend he’s relevant in the world of movies, came down decidedly against the startup. “I am completely against the Screening Room. Film is one of our last communal art forms. There are other ways to experience art on your phone and laptop. But screeningroom2cinema is a group of strangers sharing stories and it belongs in a theater. Once filmmakers and theater owners open the door to this idea, there is no going back. The movie going experience is something to fight for! Watching a movie by yourself & watching a movie in a theater are two very different experiences. Film is meant to bring people together.”

The worst thing is, I don’t even really disagree with him. That’s why I still go to movies, like all the frickin time. But “bring people together?” C’mon, man, let’s be real, unless by “bring people together” you mean communally shushing someone, because how dare some random movie goer talk over an important plot point of Transformers? I’ve been to movies that are made funnier because the whole audience is laughing together. I’ve been to movies screeningroom1where the audience spontaneously burst into applause at the end because we were so moved. But I’ve been to too many movies where I’m disturbed by someone’s candy wrappers, hacking coughs, crying kids, deep abiding need to state obvious, observable facts, and an increasing inability to sit for 90 minutes without checking their goddamned phones. Is that part of your “art”, M. Night?

Movie attendance is down, way down, and all theatre owners can think to do is keep jacking up prices without offering a more pleasant experience. The people are already downloading the movies illegally just to avoid overpaying for a subpar experience – why not offer a legal service that will fill the need? Peter Jackson feels that while he opposed other similar ventures, he’s behind screeningroom4Screening Room because it doesn’t “cannibalize” theatres – “Screening Room is very carefully designed to capture an audience that does not currently go to the cinema.” And that’s a pretty big audience. Because movie watchers aren’t just people who prefer theatres or not, they’re also made up of people who don’t have a choice. I missed a bunch of movies when I had back surgery and was attached to too many machines to travel. I still miss them intermittently (and always have, and always will) when my back is acting up and I don’t want to risk those shitty chairs. Parents with young kids who can’t get a babysitter will rejoice. Canadians who get snowed in or iced out will benefit. And people who are immobile, and families that deal with all kinds of physical and mental health problems who just aren’t able to tolerate a public theatre. Shouldn’t they have a venue for great “art” too?

To recap:

Pro Screening Room:                                            Anti Screening Room:

Steven Spielberg                                                      Chris Nolan

JJ Abrams                                                                    M. Night Shyamalan

Martin Scoresese                                                      James Cameron

Brian Grazer                                                              Brett Ratner

Peter Jackson                                                             Jon Landau

Ron Howard

Frank Marshall

Whose side are you on?

 

 

It’s Oscar Nomination Day!

Directors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams are announcing the first half of the nominations. This the-oscarsis the first time that ALL nominees will be announced at the podium (not just the celebrity-driven ones).

Cuarón most recently won Oscars for directing and editing “Gravity” and has also been nominated as producer for Best Picture (Gravity), Best Original Screenplay for “Y Tu Mamá También,” and Film Editing and Adapted Screenplay for “Children of Men.”

Animated Feature Film: Big Hero 6 \ The Boxtrolls \ How To Train Your Dragon 2 \ Song of the Sea \ The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Documentary Feature: Citizenfour \ Finding Vivian Maier \ Last Days in Vietnam \ The Salt of the Earth \ Virunga

Documentary Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterens Press 1 \ Joanna \ Our Curse \ The Reaper \ White Earth

Film Editing: American Sniper \ Boyhood \ The Grand Budapest Hotel \ The Imitation Game \ Whiplash

Original Song: Everything is Awesome, The Lego Movie \ Glory, Selma \ Grateful, Beyond the Lights \ I’m not Gonna Miss You, Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me \ Lost Stars, Begin Again

Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel \ The Imitation Game \ Interstellar \ Into the Woods \ Mr Turner

Animated Short Film: The Bigger Picture \ The Dam Keeper \ Feast \ Me and My Moulton \ A Single Life

Live Action Short Film: Aya \ Boogaloo and Graham \ Butter Lamp \ Parvaneh \ Phone Call

Sound Editing: Birdman\ Unbroken\ American Sniper \ The Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies \ Interstellar

Sound Mixing: American Sniper \ Birdman \ Interstellar \ Unbroken \ Whiplash

Visual Effects: Captain America: The Winter Soldier \ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes \ Guardians of the Galaxy \ Interstellar \ X-Men Days of Future Past