Archive for November, 2011

David Cronenberg Talks About Freud, Keira Knightley and ‘A Dangerous Method’

British film critic Alexander Walker once slammed David Cronenberg’s movie “Crash” as “beyond the bounds of depravity.” Ted Turner reportedly did everything in his power to bury the NC-17-rated film here in the States. The movie’s sex scenes showed less skin than your average rated-R romantic thriller, but it was the flick’s unsettling juxtaposition of sex with car crashes that drew the ire of culture warriors on both sides of the pond.

Of course, Cronenberg has made an entire career out of bringing provocations to the silver screen. This is the guy who famously blew up a head in “Scanners,” had James Woods copulate with a throbbing television set in “Videodrome,” and had Jeff Goldblum morph into an insect in his spectacularly disgusting remake of “The Fly.” Unlike other cinematic enfants terribles like Lars Von Trier or Gasper Noe, Cronenberg doesn’t shock simply to goose the audience. He has a worldview that is genuinely subversive. His characters are constantly transmuting and transgressing in ways that roil the subconscious. He has an uncommon ability to induce the willies. Continue reading ‘David Cronenberg Talks About Freud, Keira Knightley and ‘A Dangerous Method’’

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Indie Roundup: ‘The Descendants’

The Descendants,” the latest film by Alexander Payne, is an indie film in only the loosest sense of the term. The movie was released by Fox Searchlight, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox, and its headlining actor is one of the biggest movie stars in the world: George Clooney. Hollywood used to crank out movies like “The Descendants” in spades — movies about grown-up problems geared to grownups. These days, though, studios realized that there are a greater profit margin in flicks about superheroes and sparkly vampires, making movies like “The Descendants” something of an endangered species. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘The Descendants’’

‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ Director Sean Durkin Talks About Cults and Elizabeth Olsen

Martha Marcy May Marlene” is the breakout indie flick of the year, winning top prizes at Sundance and garnering near universal acclaim from critics. The film is a taut psychological thriller about Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), a young woman who at the beginning of the movie escapes a back-to-the-earth-style cult and moves in with her older, upper-class sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), and her new husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy). The transition is not easy. Cutting deftly between her time in the cult and her time at her sister’s lake-front house in Connecticut, first-time director Sean Durkin ratchets up the tension in the movie as Martha spirals down into paranoia and delusion. If you’re a fan of early Polanski movies or last year’s “Black Swan,” you’ll probably enjoy this.

I had the opportunity to talk with Durkin about the movie, cults, and working with Olsen. Continue reading ‘‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ Director Sean Durkin Talks About Cults and Elizabeth Olsen’

Indie Roundup: ‘Melancholia’

Last year, Lars Von Trier hyped his latest movie, “Melancholia,” as the first of his movies with an unhappy ending. This is from a guy who ended his Palme d’Or-winning movie, “Dancer in the Dark,” with his lead actress dangling from the end of a rope.

Von Trier has a real gift for inciting controversy, as his cringe-inducing spiel at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where he compared himself to a Nazi, proves. His movies are no less divisive. You might love his movies or hate them — I’ve gone back and forth — but Von Trier’s works are never boring. I’d much rather see a flick that infuriates me, as “Dancer in the Dark” did, than something as tasteful and tepid as, say, “J. Edgar.” (And by the way, when did Clint Eastwood go from being a Hollywood badass to making the cinematic equivalent of Pottery Barn furniture?) Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Melancholia’’

Indie Roundup: ‘The Catechism Cataclysm’

The Catechism Cataclysm” opens with a meandering shaggy-dog tale about an old woman with a gun. The story is being relayed by Father William Smoortser (Steve Little), who can’t seem to draw any kind of religious relevance or meaning from the tale, leaving his parishioners baffled.

Smoortser is an unlikely priest. He’s an emotionally stunted man-child who seems more interested in heavy metal than in the Good Book. In fact, he claims that he got ordained because he really dug Judas Priest. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘The Catechism Cataclysm’’

Jason Biggs Talks About Marriage, Pies and ‘American Reunion’

Jason Biggs went down in cinematic history as the guy who defiled a dessert in the first “American Pie.” He was, of course, playing the hapless and ever-randy Jim Levenstein, a high school student who, along with his friends, vowed to lose his virginity before high school graduation. The movie was a massive hit that spawned two sequels along with a quartet of straight-to-DVD spinoffs. It also redefined the level of raunch acceptable in a comedy. It’s hard to imagine the “Harold and Kumar” movies or “Bridesmaids” without “American Pie.”

For the movie’s third official sequel, “American Reunion,” Jim, Michelle, Finch, Oz, Stifler and the gang are getting back together for, you guessed it, a high school reunion.

I recently spoke with Biggs over the phone. He confessed that I was one of the first journalists he’s talked with about the movie, and his responses had the free, conversational air of someone who hasn’t talked about a subject ad nauseam. Continue reading ‘Jason Biggs Talks About Marriage, Pies and ‘American Reunion’’


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