Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Charlie Says’ flips the script on the Manson girls.

 

Charlie Says

Charlie Says, directed by masterful filmmaker Mary Harron and written by Guinevere Turner, tells the familiar story through fresh eyes—those of Manson’s most devoted girls, van Houten (Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón). Thanks to a devoted prison educator who slowly draws the women out from years of a madman’s mesmerizing and abusive spell (Matt Smith), the women’s story is told in eerily detailed flashbacks, forcing them to reflect on the path that leads them to such unforgivable crimes.

This is not a story about Charles Manson. This is a story about three women who were manipulated by a mentally ill man who convinced them they were loved. Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten, all came to be followers of Charles Manson because they were lost and looking for someone to make them feel important. It’s the performance from Hannah Murray, Sosie Bacon, and Merritt Wever that catapult this story forward. Wever, in particular, is the heartbeat that guides these broken girls into reality. Bacon represents every girl that needed Manson (played by Matt Smith with a quiet but fiercely alarming power) to be their father figure. Murray, as Leslie, is the audience. You feel for these ladies through intercut flashbacks and prison scenes. Each like a peek behind the curtain and into the insanity of a man who thought the Beatles were speaking to him through the ‘White Album”. These women were brainwashed sex slaves. It wasn’t until a feminist teacher Karlene Faith, with enough empathy to teach these women, did anyone begin to realize that they too were victims alongside those murdered. The film is chilling. The structure is disturbingly effective. You end up caring about these women who history has taught us to loathe. Charlie Says is not about Charles Manson. I’ll say it again. Charlie Says is not about Charles Manson. It is about the victims he kept closest to him.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR

Mary Harron is the writer and director of films including American PsychoThe Moth DiariesI Shot Andy Warhol, and The Notorious Bettie Page. Her television credits include episodes of The L WordSix Feet UnderBig Love, and Oz, and, most recently, The Following (FOX), Constantine (NBC), and Graceland (USA).

Tribeca Film Festival 2017 review: ‘Buster’s Mal Heart’ is chilling and downright weird.

An eccentric mountain man is on the run from the authorities, surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes in a remote community. Regularly calling into radio talk shows, where he has acquired the nickname”Buster,” to rant about the impending Inversion at the turn of the millennium, he is haunted by visions of being lost at sea, and memories of his former life as a family man.

Buster’s Mal Heart took everyone by surprise this year. There seemed to be 2 distinct reactions once the credits began to role. 1. That was terrible. 2. That was amazing. I happen to be in the party of the amazing. Rami Malek is the perfect choice for this role. With the incredibly successful run of Mr. Robot, Malek takes on yet another role that is mysterious and mind-bending. Whether you enjoyed the film or not, there was no arguing that it left you wondering what the hell you just watched. The plot is left to the audience’s interpretation at times. There is zero doubt about the talents of Malek in what is a challenging role. Half the film has no dialogue from his character at all. Nuanced and heartbreaking but also filled with innocent humor, you will never be bored and you will be made to think. Buster’s Mal Heart will keep you guessing long after you leave the theater and well, isn’t that what great cinema is all about?
The film is now in theaters and if you’re already a fan of Malek, I highly recommend you catch this film. The 1hr 36min run feels longer but in the best way possible. The film’s themes go full speed ahead, and there is a number of them. From best intentions, living up to other’s expectations, to anarchy and testing one’s own sanity, Buster’s Mal Heart will confuse and provoke you. You’re going to want to watch it over and over. We’d love to hear your thoughts once you’ve seen the film! Check out the madness that is the trailer below.

FILM INFO
CAST & CREDITS
  • Director:
    Sarah Adina Smith
  • Screenwriter:
    Sarah Adina Smith
  • Cinematographer:
    Shaheen Seth
  • Editor:
    Sarah Adina Smith
  • Composer:
    Mister Squinter
  • Executive Producer:
    Mynette Louie, Julie Parker Benello, Dan Cogan, Geralyn Dreyfous, Wendy Ettinger, Samuel T. Bauer
  • Producer:
    Jonako Donley, Travis Stevens
  • Associate Producer:
    William Adashek, Kevin Cannon
  • Co-Producer:
    Erika Kelton, Regina K. Scully, Lesley Ann Skillen
  • Sound Design:
    Paula Fairfield
  • Art Director:
    Tessla Hastings
  • Cast:
    Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil, Sukha Belle Potter, Lin Shaye

‘BROKEN HORSES’ takes your heart strings on an extraordinary ride.

BrokenHoresesPoster

Your parents teach us right from wrong. What if your parents aren’t around? What if we’re molded from something evil instead? In Vidhu Vinod Chopra‘s new film BROKEN HORSES we meet two very different brothers at a pinnacle time in their life. When a manipulative man strolls into their lives, each brother takes a path of his own. 15 years down the road, simple minded and gentle soul Buddy works and does a little too well for himself, while younger brother Jake, now living in the city, is the successful music prodigy from his youth. Buddy reaches out to the newly engaged Jake to give him his wedding gift. Jake is hesitant to return to his desolate, Mexican border hometown, but understands that the love of his brother wills him to do so. Upon arrival, he learns that Buddy is being used as a deadly pawn in a drug lord’s chess match. Jake has no choice but to dedicate himself to saving his brother. 
BrokenHorsesAntonStillThe script takes some truly unexpected turns. I was constantly on my toes, especially emotionally. This engrossing story is only amplified by the stunning character development by Chopra’s writing and the outstanding and moving performances by Anton Yelchin and Chris Marquette as Jake and Buddy. Yelchin, in yet another film in a long line for 2015, plays a caring and protective role. It’s slightly more challenging than his usual boyish, all American vibe. Vincent D’Onofrio is manic in the role of evil puppeteer, Julius. There is very carefully crafted back story that we only get a glimpse of, and frankly it’s just enough.BroeknHorsesChrisVincentStillThe profoundly magnificent acting award, hands down, goes to Chris Marquette. There is a fine line when portraying a person that is not of average cognitive function . It can so easily read disingenuous and forced. Marquette gives us a performance of a career as Buddy. Every beat is perfection. This is one that must not be overlooked. Even if the film were not as great as is, Marquette blows everything out of the water. BrokenHoresesStillBroken Horses is enchanting and thrilling all in one. A game of sick manipulation is slowly built into a war for the soul. The acting is top notch and the scenery is breathtaking. Heart-pounding and gut-wrenching, Broken Horses is a story of undying love and devotion that will resonate with everyone.

Synopsis: Having left town as a child after the death of his father, young music prodigy, Jacob Heckum (Anton Yelchin), returns to his desolate hometown after years only to discover that Buddy (Chris Marquette), the child-like brother he left behind now works for a drug gang. The gang’s ruthless leader (Vincent  has twisted his simple mind and manipulated him into a killer… a surrogate son who blindly does as he is told. He is unable to convince Buddy to leave his new fraternity. Drowned in guilt for having abandoned him, Jacob quickly realizes the only way to save Buddy is from the inside out.

BROKEN HORSES comes to theaters in limited release Friday, April 10th

‘While We’re Young’ and think we know everything.

whilewereyoungposter

Being a grown up… firstly, let me say that phrase is so off putting, I can’t believe I actually wrote it, but I digress. Let’s start again. Being an adult, and by that I mean living by the expectation that we’ve made our path our own and are so brilliantly happy with those decisions that we feel self satisfied, is frankly a bunch of bullshit. Few of us who identify as adults are completely content to say we’ve plateaued at the level of “Everything is Awesome”. Most if us are simply lying. It’s much easier to tell the younger generation that they’re doing it wrong (Because, if we’re being honest, self loathing, fear, and envy throw those words and thoughts into our frontal lobe pretty swiftly on a regular basis. But, are we completely wrong? When I watch some of the “interactions” between millennials these days, I have to wonder: “How do they live this way?!” When did “swiping to the left” becoming any way to meet anyone? How conceited do you have to be to not even give an individual more than a few seconds of attention before writing them off completely? Were we just as annoying, bold, outspoken, talented, brash, lost, self aware, smart, lazy, passionate, and entitled? WHILE WE’RE YOUNG is Noah Baumnach‘s new film starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, and Adam Horovitz. In a day and age where technology makes life easier and harder all at once, a middle aged couple, Cornelia and Josh, think they’ve got it made; no kids, free schedule, and creative passion for filmmaking. When they meet young hipster couple Darby and Jamie, their preconceived notions of what life should be like are thrown into a bit of chaos. Jaime is a huge fan of Josh’s work. The young couple boldly asks if Cornelia and Josh want to hang out with them. What would a middle aged couple have in common with a barely mid twenties couple? Turns out a lot, if a lot meant doing all the things we did in our youth that almost seem ironic to a millennial generation. But fondness might just be an act of manipulation forcing Cornelia and Josh to grow up themselves.

whilewereyoungbenandnaomistill

Ben Stiller gives us a really grounded performance. You know this guy. While still having perfect comic timing, he plays Josh as a genuinely earnest guy trying to reinvent his life and marriage. Naomi Watts as Cornelia is hilarious and heartbreaking. Struggling with fertility issues she attempts to pass off as not so big a deal, she connects with Darby over the simple moments, woman to woman. Speaking of Darby, Amanda Seyfried plays this character with a gentle ease. Her down to earth attitude is refreshing and she remains altogether likable. Adam Driver, whose stock is has taken off since GIRLS began, is fantastic. His combination of perceived sincerity and inflated ego trips are spot on for this generation. Charles Grodin plays Cornelia’s documentarian father, Leslie. He is the father we all wish we had. Loving, guiding, with a hint of cynicism, Grodin is a delight on screen.

whielwereyoungadamandamandastill

In a world where every moment can be edited with an app, Baumbach throws our societal downfalls back into our own faces. He has a habit of injecting personal moments into  his scripts. They play with an elegant ease and familiarity that touch a wide audience.  For Baumbach, writing what he knows has been extraordinarily successful in his previous films like The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming, and Frances Ha. The film has an eclectic soundtrack, with tracks from Vivaldi, The Psychedelic Furs, David Bowie and HAIM. WHILE WE’RE YOUNG is heartfelt, funny, and a real joy to watch. The struggle between Gen X and millennials is a revelation on screen. I highly recommend this film to audiences of all ages. You will walk away one happy camper, I assure you.

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG opens today! (Friday, March 27th)

‘GROWING UP & OTHER LIES’ speaks to the inbetweeners in us all.

GrowingUpAndOtherLies

The city will make you or it will break you. But, perhaps that’s just a myth. How do we survive the rat race that is New York City? The great divide between those living paycheck to paycheck and those who own their own apartment is pretty wide. Do we, as New Yorkers, put that  pressure on ourselves, or is  it the city that places those life expectations on us? In Growing Up & Other Lies, four friends commemorate and commiserate their friendship by deciding to send off one of their crew with a walk along the entire length of the island of Manhattan. It’s the true to life story of Rocks, Gunderson, Billy and Jake. Friends who took their own paths after college. Although they all still reside in the city, like so many of us in our 30’s, life gets in the way and connections become fewer and further between. Jake make a go at living as an artist and now, on the heels of a breakup and a sick father, is a good time to exit the city gracefully. The guys plan to walk the length of the island in one day. Along the way, stopping at points that have meaning or that, maybe, they’ve never stopped to observe before. (Also a common occurrence for natives. You’ll never actually see a New Yorker at The Empire State Building. Ever.) Complications get in the way as they try to ease Jake into making his final decision.

growing up and other lies 1

Written and directed skillfully by Darren Grodsky and  Danny Jacobs, who have been a creative team in the past with the film Humboldt County, Growing Up & Other Lies speaks to anyone who has felt like they aren’t where they planned to be. Life throws you curve balls. Whether you choose to bat is up to you. This is a truly solid ensemble cast. Josh Lawson, Adam Brody, and Wyatt Cenac play Jake, Rocks, and Gunderson, respectively. Danny Jacobs play Billy. Each of these characters is someone you already know. Jake is kind of a self esteem starved mess, Rocks seems like he’s got it together but it’s too good to be true, Wyatt is the smart ass we all need and Danny, well, Danny is the over excited one of the group that sort of makes it easy to pick on. 

growing up and other lies 2

The editing of the film in itself is a beautiful love song to New York. As they travel from one neighborhood to the next, there is a gorgeous “hand drawn” graphic that guide you. The music changes, the view changes, and the guys change. As cliche as it sounds, the film really drives home that life is what you make it. I got the opportunity to talk with Danny and Darren on the phone about the film. (Bare with the Google Voice recording… I heart you so hard Google) Take a listen to our chat below:

Darren Grodsky and  Danny Jacobs talk GROWING UP & OTHER LIES

 

Growing Up & Other Lies is a quintessentially New York film. It’s an homage to the generation surviving between X and Y. Touching and laugh out loud funny, it’s a true testament to the times in our lives we either live to regret or live for.

Synopsis | After struggling for years as an artist in New York City, Jake is calling it quits and returning home to Ohio. On his last day in the city, he persuades his three oldest friends to help him retrace their greatest adventure together: a walk down the entire length of Manhattan.  But their attempt to reclaim the glory of their early 20s doesn’t go quite as planned.

Over the course of the day, buried conflicts emerge as Jake becomes embroiled with his ex-girlfriend and his friends dip into their own crises of manhood. GROWING UP AND OTHER LIES is an anti-coming-of-age comedy.

Written & Directed by | Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs (Humboldt County)

Starring | Adam Brody, Wyatt Cenac, Danny Jacobs, Josh Lawson, Amber Tamblyn and Lauren Miller

Run Time | 90 Minutes

Release Date | In theaters and On Demand March 20th

6 Films to catch at this year’s New Directors New Films Festival

New Directors New Films logo 2015Last year’s fest was a total success in my opinion. I saw some of my favorite films of the entire year there; Buzzard, The Babadook, Fish and Cat, Dear White People, and the #1 film on my Top 10 for 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. This year’s selections were just as eclectic in subject and style. Here is my personal list of things to consider at this year’s New Directors New Film Festival.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRLDiary of a Teenage Girl 1 Original

Minnie is a 15 year old with a coked out mom and little self esteem. When she takes her childish fantasies to an adult level by sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend, emotional hell breaks loose in form of a tape recorded diary and sketches turned animated thoughts. This film jumps off the screen with a breakout performance from Bel Powley as Minnie. She is funny, insightful, and an apparent old soul, all while still just a kid trying not to lose her shit. The added element of the animation only adds to the wonder of this film. Kristen Wiig plays Minnie’s absent mother. She is a revelation in this role. You know, those rare cinematic moments when you forget who the actor is because you’re so immersed in the performance, that it’s a winner. Alexander Skarsgård is the creepy object of Minnie’s affection. This is not a coming if age tale for our lead, but truly for the adults in the film. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl will remind you of your own sexual awakening. All the awkwardness, the curiosity, and frankly, the lies you were told by everyone around you. Rediscover your own past. Go ahead.

VIOLETVioletJesse has been through a terrible trauma. He is despondent after the murder of his good friend, just feet from him at a local mall. Violet is a look into the world of survivor’s guilt. The camera work alone should get you through the door. Breathtaking closeups coupled with soft focus and exquisite sound editing creates a barrage of sense memory moments for both for Jesse and the audience alike. The uncomfortable silence (dialogue wise) is the key to this film. At a tight 82 minutes run, Violet is about what’s not being said.

WESTERNwesternWestern is a documentary that takes us into the world of small town politics up against very large drug cartel violence in the two bordering towns of Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Mexico. Mayor Chad Foster puts on a brave face as violence escalates and threatens the harmony he’s worked so hard to procure in Eagle Pass. Mayor Jose Manuel Maldonado, tries his best to ease the minds of local constituents and the mass media alike. Local cattle rancher, Martin Wall’s, smile turns hard in the wake of a temporary USDA ban on livestock trade over the border. Each of these men is doing their darnedest to maintain peace, safety and the livelihoods of so many others. Pulling the curtain back on what feels like scenarios that only happen in the movies, is eye opening. You have to remind yourself that these folks are living, breathing people with families and loved ones. This documentary is unusually educational and will certainly restore your faith in humanity.

LISTEN TO ME MARLONLISTEN TO ME MARLON (300dpi)This doc opens up in a jarring fashion. Reminiscent of the floating head at Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion, there we see and hear the disembodied “Head” and voice of Marlon Brando. Director, Stevan Riley has granted the world the access he gained to mountains of audio tapes made by Brando himself. Some are self hypnosis tapes in which he recalls childhood moments once kept very close to his chest. Through archival footage and Brando’s own voice, we delve into the personal life of the reclusive star. These confessional tapes reveal a side of this legend not many people were privy to. Acting was somewhat of a spiritual outlet. His charisma was endless, as was his passion for sex and affection. Receiving little from his alcoholic parents, Brando‘s ego was lifted by his enormous talent, perhaps too far for the likes of some. Although, as you listen to him speak, you gather that he was a rather astute, observant, reflective man who struggled with real abandonment issues that never truly get resolved for him. Tragedy followed him in his personal life and the genius and attention swallowed him hole at times. Listen To Me Marlon is a gorgeous portrait. When you stop taking notes during a film and just listen, as a critic, that is the moment of pure magic.

GOODNIGHT MOMMYGOODNIGHT MOMMY_Still 2Give a kid an inch, so they say, and they’ll take a mile. Twins Lukas and Elias have been awaiting the return of their mother. She has just completed facial reconstructive surgery. Longing for her love and affection, the boys are thrown into detective mode when Mom returns a different person. Face completely bandaged and rage on the surface, she forces the boys to maintain quiet and changes all the rules. Something clearly amiss, Lukas and Elias must find a way to make her admit who she really is, while facing the changes themselves. Much like last year’s The Babadook, psychological torture is in the cards. Can you stomach the tactics used by children when they don’t fully understand the consequences themselves? Goodnight Mommy will scare the hell out of you and make you squirm like never before.

DOG LADYdog ladyFollowing a woman surrounded by a pack of discarded dogs, this film highlights the off-grid lifestyle to the nth degree. The film’s subject, played flawlessly by co-director Verónica Llinás, chooses to live on the outskirts of Buenos Aires in a what begins as a primitive lean-to, and progresses in sound structure along with the movie itself. We follow our lady through four full seasons as she forages for food and supplies. Her ingenuity is astounding, taking what is essentially trash and making a home for herself. She has absolutely zero dialogue. The sparse dialogue that does exist comes from what little human interaction she allows; taunting children, a clinic doctor, and a brief sexual encounter with a rather verbose rancher. This film is highly engrossing, perhaps causing the viewer to reassess the amount of material objects we carelessly cast aside. Her sense of survival and her clear warm spirit guide this film along it’s year long timeline. There is definitely something to be said about the it’s wide final shot. It will force you to  come to terms with your true feelings of our Dog Lady.

You can find out more about these incredible films, and so many more, at NDNF. The Diary of a Teenage Girl opens tonight! Screenings during the fest take place at MoMa and FSLC.

 

10 years Later… ‘WTC View’ is being released on iTunes. Liz interviews Director Brian Sloan and star Michael Urie

Michael Urie in WTC View. Courtesy of Brian Sloan.

Everyone has their own story. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they found out about the planes hitting the towers. It was not a good day for our country. Sadness, confusion, fear all still come to mind when allowing ourselves to go back to that day. What many people outside New York will never understand, is what happened the days and months following the attacks on 9/11. WTC View, was released 10 years ago. Tuesday, March 3rd, it is finally available on iTunes. This film is a beautiful glance at the time after the world came to a stop in 2001. What we, as New Yorkers, felt, saw, smelled, heard, and had to process after a day that will never leave us. Read More →

Liz’s review: ‘LIFE INSIDE OUT’ and interview with star Maggie Baird

LIO poster

My mother always encouraged us to have music on in the kitchen. While she baked or did her lesson plans for her art classes, or made dinner. Chicago, Huey Lewis, and Disney soundtracks were blasting in our car rides back and forth to dance lessons, or girl scouts, or my brother’s karate lessons. My mom was a superhero. My mom is still a super hero. If I can be half the mother she is, I will consider myself a lucky woman. In the new film LIFE INSIDE OUT we are privy to the perfect example of how creative mothers reach their children in very different and very special ways. The talented acting/writing team, Maggie Baird and Lori Nasso, bring to life a story of so many mothers who have lost their own identity to raising their children and keeping their families intact. The story comes from Baird’s true life experience with son Finneas O’Connell. When Baird’s husband was forced to take a job that kept him away from the family, it took an emotional toll on then 12 year old Finneas. Once Maggie rediscovers her songwriting roots, Finneas follows suit. Much to everyone’s surprise, Finneas is a bit of a musical prodigy is his own right. Writing his own songs allowed him to creatively process his own angst and bond with Maggie on a new level. Read More →

Liz’s ‘MATCH’ Review and Roundtable Interview with Sir Patrick Stewart and Stephen Belber

MatchPoster

In the arts, like other career paths, but especially in the arts, one must sacrifice quite a bit to succeed. Putting off kids, working extra crappy jobs, and being selfish are all things most artists must do in order to live the dream. Eventually, those decisions can creep up on you, leading to regret.

 Stephen Belber has adapted his Tony-nominated stage play Match for the silver screen. The story centers around just three characters; Tobi (Patrick Stewart), an aging dance teacher, and the Seattle based couple, Lisa(Carla Gugino) and Mike (Matthew Lillard) who fly in to interview him. The set up is simple, Lisa needs info about what it was like during the 1960’s in the NYC dance scene. Hubby, Mike, is just along for the ride. They meet at a quaint neighborhood diner where Tobi is a regular. Once the three are comfortable enough, he invites them back to his apartment for drinks and continued conversation. Slowly, and under the influence of alcohol and a little pot, the hard questions come out. Mike, being a cop, begins to use what seem like interrogation tactics in inquiring about specific sexual partners. Tobi is compliant until it becomes clear that there are ulterior motives in this supposed dissertation inquiry. Finally, at the end of his polite host rope, he attempts to end the ruse. Mike’s aggression escalates as he demands a DNA sample from Tobi. He is certain that Tobi is his father. What happens from there is a startling scene of betrayal and crossed lines.

 MatchStill

Gugino is earnest and vulnerable in her portrayal of Lisa. She is a woman who has lost her self-worth due to her husband’s emotional damage. Her one-on-one scenes with Stewart are breathtaking. Lillard, who I will forever associate with Scream, seems uncomfortable in his own skin, and I do mean that as a compliment. He struggles with his own identity, not sexually, but as a grounded man and caring husband. The dynamic between the three actors worked so well for me. The tension on screen is strong and each beat is carefully timed by Belber’s adaptation and in his direction.

Patrick Stewart is a legend of stage and screen, both large and small. No matter what role he takes on, he is perfection. Watching him is like taking a free masterclass in acting. His stillness speaks volumes and his eyes tell you nothing but the truth before you’ve even realized it. Playing the role Tobi, seems to be more personal by his own admission. And, as for Stephen, well, the genius is evident both on the page and on the screen as he adapts his own work seamlessly.

MatchPatrickStill

The following is the interview from roundtable discussions when Match first screened at The Tribeca Film Festival 2014.

Being that this is the second time he’s adapted one of his plays for the screen. Belber speaks to the challenges of moving a stage play to film:

 Stephen Belber: Obviously, theater is about the dialogue and I was interested in getting in between the words. The dialogue is what it is, but I wanted to use the camera to get in between and chart the emotional landscape of the faces and what’s not said, and where they’re conveying emotion without words. So that was a fun challenge just to set myself, and to know that I had actors who were able to give so much without having to speak it. To be up close in Patrick’s face when he is lying and to compel the audience to know whether it is a lie or the truth. And to see him hear certain information that is thrown at him and to non verbally register it, and deal with it, is very filmic and cinematic in a way you can’t get in a theater. There’s a great exchange that obviously takes place with the theater and a live audience so for this it’s a whole different ballgame. So that’s something I wanted to concentrate on.

 On casting Patrick as Tobi:

Stephen Belber: I wanted someone to go away from the broad comedy and the bigness of it and go to the humanity of it and I knew that Patrick could do that hands down.

Patrick Stewart: This morning has been curious for me, because every interview that I’ve done I have been asked,  “So what were the challenges of taking on what was a stage play and now putting it in front of a camera?” I had never realized until this morning that I never actually gave your stage play a thought and people express real surprise when I said, “I didn’t see the play. I never read it. I never thought of reading it”. Well, what I had was a screenplay and it was always a screenplay but furthermore I had the author behind the camera every minute of the day so why would I need to access something that we were not doing, anyway. It was very successful as a screenplay. I had no answer to these questions I’ve been asked all morning.

Stephen Belber: I’m glad that you didn’t read the play because it is a different piece. I wrote (the play) 10  years ago so I think I’m a more nuanced writer and I knew that I wanted to be different so it is a different ballgame and not a great reference point probably.

Patrick Stewart: The role and the story resonate strongly for me because a powerful theme in the film is about the choices that people can make in their lives, especially if they are people who are passionately, ambitiously building a career and how those choices require that some things get put aside or left behind, forever. The life of an actor, particularly an actor working in the theater, as I was working for decades, 6 nights a week I was not there to tuck my children up and sing a song. It was only Sunday night  I could do that exclusively and so there was a huge part of my life… I was not making choices, those were just the conditions that you had to accept to work, so this theme in the film has related to me. How you feel you’ve made the right choices. You feel that you are where you want to be, but you don’t know until the shock of what happens in the movie comes up, that actually the choices you’ve made were not the best ones and that life could have been very different. You know, the path not taken. I put my work first, always. I remember once at a dinner party in my own home sitting around a table 6, 8, 10 people, some actors, directors, but all people in the arts, this was the topic of conversation. Somebody at the table said, “I love my job, I love what I do, but my family always come first” and I heard a voice in my head, quite distinctly, saying, “Not me! Not me.” I think it was shocking because it was true.

(Liz) Reel News Daily: I had a question about theatre culture in the UK versus the US and since I have you both here, this is the perfect opportunity. I have found that the respect for theatre acting is so much greater in the UK. That is really where you hone your skills and then maybe from there you are plucked to do movies and television. I feel like it’s the opposite in the US. I’m a theater kid and a writer so to have you both here with your perspectives, I was just curious where do you think that comes from? Why do you think theater maybe isn’t as respected or wide as it is in the UK?

Patrick Stewart: First of all I’m not sure that that’s true, but I think tradition has a great deal to do with it. There’s been Theater on stage in England for 700 years and particularly a lot of classical theatre, as I’ve done. You look over your shoulder and you see all these actors going back in time who has been standing exactly where you been standing saying the same lines. I think it is different now in the UK. Most actors leaving drama school, as I hear this from the casting department of the Royal Shakespeare Company, say its not what it was. We don’t have first pick, anymore, of the cream of the drama school because of these guys, they are not interested in doing theater. They see the careers that can be made in film and TV and that’s where they want to be. So it’s different from how it was. All I ever wanted to do was to be on stage. Everything that ever happened to me on film and television was an accident it. I fell over it rather than pursuing it. And it just so happened that you guys are so much better at film acting than we are. For the most part, you are. I loved the cinema when I was a kid! It was, for me, the absolute escape from my really rather not very great life. I don’t recall seeing British movies. If I thought they were British I wouldn’t go see them, and I sort of lost myself in this world that used to be overwhelmed with sadness. The curtains would close and I would have to go back to real life again. So working with American filmmakers and American actors, as with Matthew and Carla, both superb actors, was such a joy to me. I mean we do OK, we got a few actors that do OK. We did not have one hour of film acting in our drama school in 2 years. I think we once visited a television studio which is to say, “That is the camera.”

Stephen Belber: I think he’s right in the tradition and  “Who is royalty?” and I think that film actors became royalty with kids growing up, but “These (referring to Patrick)  are the icons,” and they value their skill. But there are enough kids here that catch the theater bug. Matt has weekly play readings in his living room, in his house in L.A., because he’s a theater nerd. And you grab those people and then cross them over into film.

 What has been your proudest moment, thus far, in your career?

 Patrick Stewart: I think, as I said, all I want to do was be on stage but I couldn’t narrow that down to say what I really wanna be is on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. that was actually my ambition and everything I did for the six years that led up to that wasn’t going into that direction so I did one season with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford upon Avon playing quite small roles, supporting roles, and understudy roles. And thank God, never, ever, ever had to go on. But at the end of that 10 month season, all the company, one at a time, were called to Peter Hall’s office, it’s like meeting the headmaster, “We will review your work”, and I didn’t think mine had been very good or overly interesting or of any real quality but all I wanted was to be asked, given one more chance to come back and do another season, and that’s all I wanted. And it was my turn to go in, and I went in and Peter Hall said, “Well this isn’t going to take long.” And I thought,oh no, this is it and he said, “Look, are you aware that we have three year contract here?”, and I said, “Yeah, I had heard of that.” And he said, “We wanna give you a three year contract.” I was speechless and outside the theater in Stratford there was a telephone box and I went down and I called my wife and she said, “How did it go?” …. and finally, getting the silence she says, “I take it it went well.” That was it for me. Nothing has been quite so thrilling a feeling as that moment.

Match is a beautifully intimate film. It dares to go places that some might be scared to approach.  How have our decisions in our lives affected where we are now? I think that remains to be seen. Bottom line, it’s a contemplative film. You will, perhaps, reexamine your choices when you leave the cinema. 

 Written/Directed by: Stephen Belber Starring: Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino, Matthew Lillard Runtime: 94 min


MATCH opens in theaters January 14th. and is available on VOD. 

Coming Up This Week: ‘Buffy’ alum releases new book- Liz’s interview with Amber Benson

Liz Whittemore and Amber Benson

Liz Whittemore and Amber Benson at Midtown Comics NYC

Let’s be honest, a lot, and I do mean A LOT of us are fans of the Whedonverse.  This past Sunday, Liz had the opportunity to sit down with Amber Benson, actor, director and successful author, best known to some from her iconic TV role as Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Amber’s new book, “The Witches of Echo Park” just became available last week. Stay tuned for a special edition of the Girls on Film podcast for the exclusive audio!!

‘The Sublime and Beautiful’- Liz’s interview with writer/director/star Blake Robbins

SUBLIMEBEAUTIFUL

Grief is a very personal experience. Some of us cry, some lash out at loved ones, some shut down. A few even look at a loss as an excuse to reassess their lives. Either way, it is a loss. Five years ago yesterday, I lost someone very special to me. I had experienced the loss of family members before, but this, this was something altogether different. Tyler was a beloved friend. I guess I never actually knew how close we were until after he was ripped from my life without real explanation. The hole gets smaller each day but just barely. There are moments, songs, pictures, that still take the wind out of me. It’s the most horrible feeling. Grief owns me at times. It’s still a process. In Blake Robbins new film, The SUBLIME and BEAUTIFUL, all those feelings rush back into my brain and heart. Read More →

‘Big Eyes’ Interview: Liz’s chat with screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

BIGEYES

I was lucky enough to attend the press junket for Tim Burton‘s new film, BIG EYES (review coming soon!). Afterwards, I had the opportunity to sit down with the incredibly talented and successful writing partners Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander. Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘TAKE CARE’ – Why I wanna be Leslie Bibb’s best friend

TAKECAREposter

I injured my neck a few years ago. This year, it flared up and I found out I have the spine of an 80 year old. In case you are wondering. In case you are wondering, I am a very long way off from 80. I had to cancel about two weeks worth of meetings, appointments, and life in general because I could not move. It was not fun. Other than my husband, who is essentially legally obligated to care for me (I have a license that we both signed that says so) no one was around to help me do the simplest of tasks. In fact, the only person that offered to bring me dinner was my very own managing co-editor, Melissa. Shout out is official now. In the new film, TAKE CARE, a woman is stranded in the same way I was. Post car accident, she is forced to rely on a person from her past. Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘MURDER OF A CAT’ is a quirky suburban noir.

MURDERCATposter

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a weird gal. It’s fine. It’s sort of my thing. I like what I like and I’m proud of it. That being said, if someone killed my best friend, I’d hunt them down like the scoundrels they are. (Prime example, I use words like scoundrel in regular conversation). In the new film MURDER OF A CAT, Clinton (Fran Kranz) also, a bit of a weirdo, finds his beloved cat-friend brutally murdered. It is his moral duty to find out who, what, when, where, and why.

MURDERCATmouser Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ – A love story you can sink your teeth into

a-girl-walks-home-at-night-poster

I LOVE horror movies. I love an original script. I love a great soundtrack. Put them all together and you’ve got me on your side from minute one. There are few movies ever made that deliver on all of these aspects. The one I am about to describe blows it out of the water. Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD’ is a classic brought back to life

The King and the Mockingbird Poster_Rialto

When I was a child I revelled in my mother and father reading bedtime stories.  I grew up on classic Disney fairytales and Tom & Jerry reruns. As an adult, nothing makes me happier than reliving those moments and sharing that joy with the next generation. At this year’s New York Film Festival, I was treated to a film that has been around for ages, but for me was a brand new tale to pass down. Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘BAD TURN WORSE’ is a love letter to Jim Thompson.

BadTurnWorsePoster

When I was little, I was a fan a Nancy Drew books. My brother had a bookshelf filled with The Hardy Boys collection. I was jealous of that collection. As an adult, I am obsessed with Investigation Discover channel. I’ll straight up have that on in the background all day when I have a day off. I want to know who did it, why, and how. As of late I am a huge fan of NPR‘s new podcast “Serial” (Go do yourself a favor and subscribe now), so when this film came my way, I was more than intrigued.

Bad Turn Worse, a directed by Simon and Zeke Hawkins, grabbed me from the opening scene. Quippy, Tarantino-esque dialogue from the mouths of Texas teens (also reminiscent of Dawson’s Creek… wow, I’m really dating myself now…) made me sit up a little straighter at attention. The plot is not too far fetched. Three friends; two leaving for college in a few weeks, while the third we all know is destined to become a townie in this arid cotton mill town. BJ is a bitter, big fish in a little pond, whose aggressive charm and good looks have gotten him the smart girl next door Sue. Bobby is the best friend to both but his sheep demeanor gets him into some trouble when BJ steals $20K from his sociopath boss. When the shit hits the fan and the three are roped into a heist that is doomed from the start, everything gets turned in it’s head in this noir thriller.

BadTurnWorseCast

Writer, Dutch Southern, deserves praise with his love letter to crime novelist Jim Thompson.

Jim Thompson — ‘There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot – things are not as they seem.’

Sue makes mention of this in more than a few ways throughout the script. Little does the audience know that they are being led down a twisted plot line that is secretly spoon fed to them from the get go. But, seriously, you sort of miss it until the very end. When is the last time a movie played out in a surprising fashion? In true noir style, just when you think you’ve figured out what going on, nope, left turn.

BadTurnWorseStill

The acting is fantastic. Mackenzie Davis, who I had previously been introduced to in Breathe In, is so wonderful. Fully fleshed out girl who is smart as a whip but vulnerable enough to fall for the town “badboy” but still have affection for the shy best friend. She gives the perfect balance of naive and cunning. Logan Huffman, who has one of those, ‘Why do I know him? Yeah, he is hot,” kind of demeanors, nails the role of BJ. That jockish, underachiever bitterness is rife for the taking. Jeremy Allen White is entrancing as Bobby. His endearing fragility draws you in. You genuinely feel sorry that he has such a crap best friend. And then, there is our ultimate baddie; Mark Pelligrino, my mysterious Jacob from LOST. His startling crazy is borderline comical but totally works. Money makes people do bad things, and the character of Giff is no exception.

The music is awesome and the cinematography is beautiful. I say catch this film this weekend. It will keep you on the edge of your nerve from beginning to end. Bad Turn Worse comes out today, November 14th in theaters and on VOD.

Find out why Jon Stewart says “You can’t outsmart crazy” in the press conference for ‘Rosewater’

John Stewart and Maziar Bahari. Photo by Liz Whittemore

Jon Stewart and Maziar Bahari. Photo by Liz Whittemore

Based on a true story, ROSEWATER marks the screenwriting and directorial debut of The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, and stars Gael García Bernal.

Liz attended the press conference and despite the serious subject matter, Jon Stewart kept them all laughing. Are you really surprised? Heads up to all those Big Daddy fans out there, you’re in for a treat. Listen after the jump!

Oh, p.s. Jon Stewart’s reddit AMA is happening today at 11:30am ET / 8:30am PT! Pick his brain and ASK HIM ANYTHING! #RosewaterMovie
Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘Beside Still Waters’ is charming reminder that we’re not alone.

beside still waters posterAt some point or another in time, we’ve all failed to be there for friends. All gotten so wrapped up in our own lives that the ones who most count on us somehow fade into the background. In Chris Lowell’s directorial debut, we find just this scenario.  Best Still Waters is a story about love, friendship and the ties that bind us together.

Daniel has just lost his mother and father. As he spirals deeper into depression, his childhood friends show up for a weekend away at his parents’ lake house. Each carrying their own baggage, they must come to terms with the lies they tell each other and themselves once reunited. Very much inspired by the 80’s classic The Big Chill and reminiscent of this year’s Tribeca Film Fest favorite,  About Alex, Beside Still Waters deals with “what if”s and “what might have been”s. Reality swiftly punching each character in the gut or to be more specific, slapping them in the face.

beside still waters Read More →

Liz’s Review: The Homesman- A long winding journey.

HomesmanPoster

As a child I sat in a hard plastic chair in my town library and played The Oregon Trail until eventually my player died of dysentery. I thought it was cool to put my name on a list, hear it called out, and get to play for a whole 30 minutes all my myself. Little did I know/care that I was actually learning in the process. All of those memories came flooding back when I saw the new Roadside Attractions release, The Homesman. Read More →