Featuring a cameo appearance by Charlotte Rampling, channeling Mr Oliver Hardy?

December 7th, 2012

Contemplating the career of Ludivine Sagnier, Xan Brooks came up with a striking comparison:

[In her early 20s…] she gave us a 21st-century riff on the French gamine: at once innocent and perverse, beautiful and bent out of shape. The press promptly touted her as "the new Bardot", although that barely scratches at the surface of her wonky appeal. On screen, Sagnier manages to be at once coolly carnal and haplessly gauche. For me, she's like Stan Laurel as played by Marilyn Monroe, though I'll concede that this description may well not catch on.

Not a parallel that occurred to me when I first watched Swimming Pool.

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Interview 2.0 meets Curiosity 1.0

March 13th, 2012

I think I'd have responded the same way Grig Larson did to this job interviewer's question…

Riddled (from Grig Larson)
Not too long ago, I applied for systems administrator job. The interviews were going very well, and I had to return twice because they flew people in to meet me. One of them was a guy who, God love him, seemed like a great person but his interview skills were a little hackneyed. […]

"If you had to move Mount Fuji," he asked, "how would you do it?" I recall thinking, "why is he asking this? What does he mean by Mount Fuji?"

"You mean, Mount Fuji, the volcano in Japan?"

He looked confused I asked. "Er, yes. How would you move it?"

What he didn't know was I was a science fiction author as well. I spent a lot of time asking odd questions like these. […] But like a writer, I had to have a principal motive of the protagonist.

"Why?" I asked.

The man chuckled as if he had never thought about that before. "Just how would you move it?"

I felt I didn't explain my question. "I mean, who is my customer? Why does he or she wish to move Mount Fuji? I mean, to move Mount Fuji seems like the middle of a plan; it's a verb that has an end mean. Like, does my client want the rubble? Do they want to move it 10 meters to the left? What drives such a vast plan?" […]

… which means it's probably just as well that I haven't had to undergo a job interview in almost fourteen years now. If that's the state of the art in interview questions then I'm destined to be a long time unemployed if my current job ever goes away.

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'What the hell is going on? Where are the girls?'

January 13th, 2012

Alan Parker is one of a number of actors, musicians, photographers and directors the Guardian invited to recall their big career firsts:

[On making Bugsy Malone…] We spent a long time developing the splurge guns. I had imagined firing a projectile that was like the custard pie of silent movies. We settled on ping pong balls and some skilful lobbing of handfuls of synthetic cream – all disguised by artful editing. Also, the bike sedans were mostly pushed along by the assistant directors and prop men. On some lower shots, you can see that the sedans have four wheels and 10 legs.

Bugsy Malone is the kind of film you only make at the beginning of a career when you know nothing. The more you know, the less you attempt to do what's difficult and maybe impossible. It never occurred to us that we were attempting the absurd. […]

* For the record, the quotation in this post's title isn't about Bugsy Malone: it's Kristin Hersh's reaction upon encountering the UK audience for Throwing Muses for the first time.

[Via Feeling Listless]

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Just type in 'Ah! The bees!'

November 26th, 2011

The AV Club's interview with Molly Parker was going so well, right up until they brought up her role in the Neil LaBute/Nic Cage version of The Wicker Man:

AVC: You haven't seen the YouTube compilations of Nicolas Cage screaming?

MP: What? No! I'll have to look.

AVC: When you were working on the film, were there any warning signs that this would be the fate of the film?

MP: It was such an odd thing, and I don't know how to talk about it without… [Pause.] I'd have liked… [Pause.] I have been intrigued by… [Pause.] I guess what I had hoped for was that Neil LaBute would have a take on the original that would be interesting, given the films he had made before. I don't know what else to say. [Laughs.] It's really odd, isn't it? A very odd thing. I liked working with Nicolas Cage. I liked that a lot. He's a very interesting man, and a pretty bold actor. He's certainly done some great work in his lifetime. But I'll check out the YouTube thing.

Not her most convincing performance, I'm thinking.

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J.K. Simmons

March 15th, 2011

J K Simmons, talking to The A.V. Club about being cast as Vern Schillinger in Oz:

Homicide: Life On The Street (1996) – "Colonel Alexander Rausch"

AVC: This kicks off your first role as a white supremacist –

JKS: A hugely pivotal moment. It was a nice meaty part, and then it started relationships with Tom Fontana and Ed Sherin that turned into Oz and Law & Order. Within a year or so after [Homicide], they were casting Oz. They didn't even have scripts yet. I'm just a theater actor who's barely making my rent and I'm auditioning for Tom Fontana for, we didn't know at the time, it wasn't supposed to be a regular on the show, but it was going to be a good part. And I was excited about it, but I was also nervous about it, because I had gotten so much attention playing that Nazi white-supremacist murdering bastard on Homicide. I thought, "I really don't want to be stuck playing this character for the rest of my life, and be like the Nazi of the week on every TV show."

I went into that meeting with Tom when I should have just been lying down at his feet saying "Please hire me!", and instead I was like, "I'm a little apprehensive… I'm afraid it could hurt my ability to have the career that I would like to have, being a versatile actor playing different parts, like I've been doing in theater for 20 years." Tom really put me at ease and said "The character is going to start out to be a guy we think is a good guy, and then there's going to be changes. Trust me, you'll love it." And I said "Great!" Of course the character went from being a potential nice guy to a rapist bastard in the first half-hour of the first episode, but it was a fun six years.

It wasn't six fun years for poor Tobias Beecher, but I know what Simmons means. Oz could be distinctly melodramatic at times, but it was also compelling viewing from beginning to end.

The amazing thing was that Vern Schillinger, much as he tortured Beecher, wasn't even the nastiest piece of work on the show: that would be either Ryan O'Reily or Governor Devlin, IMHO.

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Ruin, Space, and Shadow

February 9th, 2011

BLDGBLOG isn't the first place I'd have expected to see an interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, but it turns out that Geoff Manaugh is a big fan:

For half a decade now, I've been an avid fan of the work of Mike Mignola […] It's become an addiction: the incredible old castle interiors and snowbound mountain landscapes of Conqueror Worm, the Mesoamerican design motifs emerging like mazes from pitch black walls of shadow in Seed of Destruction, the graveyards of ships wrecked on rocks before coastal citadels in Strange Places, and all of it shot through with Mignola's dark sarcasm and humor.

Mignola's work outlines an endlessly captivating world, somewhere between H.P. Lovecraft and Norse epics, Dracula – as rewritten by Jules Verne – and the Discovery Channel. Equal parts archaeology and horror fiction, Indiana Jones and The Thing, heretical mythology and conspiracy science, once Mignola's work digs its plot lines and landscapes into you, it seems impossible to shake. […]

The post includes numerous gorgeous examples of artwork from Hellboy, B.P.R.D. and various other stories Mignola has produced over the years.1 All Mignola's work is well worth a look, not just for the lovely art but for the stories and characters he's created. If you have even the slightest interest in rollicking adventure stories featuring Lovecraftian horrors, mythical beasts, ghost Nazis, plagues of frogs or bizarre 19th-century scientific experiments gone terribly awry then you owe it to yourself to pick up one of the trade paperback collections of Mignola's work. Any one of them will give you a decent taste of what Hellboy's all about.2 You will then be ready for the joyous nuttiness that is The Amazing Screw-On Head.

  1. Some of the art isn't by Mignola himself, but by Duncan Fegredo, who Mignola brought on board a few years ago to let him concentrate on writing his stories. It's still worth a look, though there's nothing quite like a Mignola-drawn story IMHO.
  2. I enjoyed both the Hellboy film adaptations quite a bit, but they don't quite give you the full flavour of Mignola's world. They do, however, feature an excellent central performance from Ron Perlman; I just hope that he's still young and fit enough to play Hellboy by the time Guillermo del Toro finds time in his busy schedule to make a third Hellboy film.

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October 25th, 2010

From the New Statesman's interview with Bill Bryson:

NS: Baseball or cricket?

BB: Baseball. I understand cricket – what's going on, the scoring – but I can't understand why.

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Animals in the yard

October 12th, 2010

John Malkovich on making Con Air:

You know, I loved doing Con Air because with all the guys in the airplane, most of them weren't actors, they're like convicts and boxers and hockey enforcers and professional football players and stuff, and it was just like having a pack of animals in your yard. I thought they were hilarious, and I loved being around them. Quite often – a lot of the work I had done had been extensively with women. Most especially in the theater, but also quite often in the movies. That has its own delights, and maybe pitfalls too. But I never really did something like that with all these guys, many of whom should be in jail. And some of whom had been. And I loved it.

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Casting, Coen-style

August 11th, 2010

Richard Jenkins on being cast by the Coen brothers:

[Joel and Ethan Coen] are two of the easiest guys in the world. They move quickly, they know what they want, and they want you to contribute something to the role. They don't talk about their work much. I played the part of the gym manager [in Burn After Reading], and I got a call once on my cell phone from Joel and Ethan, they said "Uh, Richard, could you work out before we start the movie?" And I said "I already do." And there was a pause. Then they said "Could you lift weights?" And I said "I do." Another long pause. They said "Never mind." [Laughs.] I guess I didn't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Cover versions

July 4th, 2010

Tilda Swinton came up with a rather nice metaphor regarding her habit of popping up in supporting roles in high profile films:

[Re her work in Benjamin Button, Burn After Reading, Michael Clayton]

Well, those films of course were not my idea at all; they were people coming to me with a sort of projection that they were slapping on me and asking me to provide, and I was very happy to do so. Those particular films, those what I would call "away games," are projects I was involved in tangentially. They are films that I think of as the invitations to people's parties: I went to them very happily and provided something. Mainly because the people involved I liked very much – I liked the Coens very much, I liked David Fincher very much. I got that out of it, but in terms of those pieces of work I don't think that anyone would think they were very creative experiences for me, because I didn't create them. [Laughs.] They're me covering my own work, maybe; but they're covers.

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