Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Side by Side

Where did longtime production manager and novice director Christopher Kenneally get the cojones to turn so many masters of the art of cinema (Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, David Fincher, Ellen Kuras, Vilmos Zsigmond, Walter Murch…) into uninterestingly shot talking heads for his visually prosaic, narratively clayfooted film? Well, thank goodness he did. His frank, sometimes funny, and always knowledgeable subjects say enough interesting things to make this documentary worth seeing—if only just, and probably only for those of us with an unhealthy interest in movies.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Talking to Mike Birbiglia: Why Comedy is the New Punk Rock

Sleepwalk with Me, a first movie by comedian and now writer-director Mike Birbiglia, seems at first to be a string of funny anecdotes about his (or his alter ego’s) early slog as a stand-up comic and this really weird thing he’s had to deal with: a form of sleepwalking that has caused him to do some serious damage to himself while sleeping. But it turns out to be a pretty heartfelt and very likeable story about holding onto a relationship longer than you should because you really, really like each other, even if you aren’t quite in love. I talked to Mike this week at the Crosby Street Hotel, where he was promoting the film, about movies versus other formats, what dreams are really like, and why comedians make great directors.

I have this theory that times of great technological changes make for periods of creativity in filmmaking, because a lot of people start playing with the new toys before things have time to solidify into a rut. And one trend I see coming out of how cheap and easy it is now to shoot and edit something and get it out there, if only on the internet, is that there’s a groundswell of comedians making really good movies and TV shows. I’m thinking Bernie Mac and Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham and Tina Fey and Jon Stewart on TV, and Judd Apatow and the people he’s helped spawn, including Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, in the movies. Do you feel like that’s a trend you’re part of?
Yes, I do. That’s really true what you say about technology. But comedians have always made movies—back to Buster Keaton, Woody Allen.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Disney draws a big fat bullseye on the fast-growing infertile-couple demographic with this airless misfire.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Talking to Spike Lee: We Had the Crystal Ball in Do the Right Thing

Red Hook Summer, Spike Lee’s latest movie, is the most recent entry in what this often great and always interesting director calls his “chronicles of Brooklyn,” which also includes She’s Gotta Have it, Do the Right Thing, Clockers, Crooklyn, and He Got Game. I talked to Spike this week about his new movie and more in his Fort Greene production office.

What they say about journalism, that it’s the first rough draft of history, could also be said of most your films. Plus, you’ve popped up as a sort of an expert witness on black history in other people’s films, like Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings, and Brooklyn Boheme.
[laughs] Yeah, I’m trying to cut that down. Can’t talk on every documentary. Can’t do it!

How much of that comes from having a conscious desire to correct the record because so much of black history has been pretty much swept under the rug, and how much is it just that these are the stories you are interested in?
I think artists reflect who they are, their culture. That’s what it is. I mean, Kurosawa, what’s he gonna do? He’s not gonna make a movie about Eskimos. What did Fellini do? Visconti? Satiyajit Ray? Artists tend to do stuff about what they know, who they are, how they grow up, their environment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Red Hook Summer

The flaws I attributed to little experience and less money in Spike Lee’s often brilliant feature debut, She’s Gotta Have It, have turned out to be hallmarks of this sometimes great but wildly uneven director’s work. Some of them—the wooden acting; the overlong amateurishness of set pieces like that earnest dance segment—are jolting but forgivable lapses in judgment from a filmmaker whose work is generally distinguished by enormous style and life. But the tendency for some of his characters to harangue each other and us has gotten harder to shrug off over the years.

When people in Red Hook Summer go on about the evils of gentrification or the links between poverty and childhood asthma, I get that antsy feeling I got as a child when some humorless teacher lectured the class about something we already knew. I feel bored. I feel patronized. I feel like Spike doesn’t trust me.