(Photo by New Line Productions)
“Know Your Critic” is a column in which we interview Tomatometer-approved critics about their screening and reviewing habits, pet peeves, and personal favorites.
Bilge Ebiri’s interest and diverse taste in film started early. He grew up watching movies that could easily be classified as “movies aimed at kids” – such as Peter Pan and Pete’s Dragon – but he also saw a number of highly stylized and psychologically weighty movies, too, from Apocalypse Now and Aliens to The Deer Hunter.
“I was watching spaghetti westerns from a very young age, I think from third or fourth grade on,” he told Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie he’s seen more than any other is A Fistful of Dollars, a Sergio Leone spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood: “For a while, every day I would come home and just watch my Betamax of A Fistful of Dollars and eat ice cream,” Ebiri says. “I was a latchkey child, so I was just at home doing this by myself while my parents were at work.”
Now, he is excited by Gina Prince-Bythewood’s films (which he believes deserve greater recognition), and intrigued by the works of Lars von Trier (“He’s certainly made bad movies, but he’s never not made an interesting movie,” he says) and Zhang Yimou, some of which Ebiri considers “eternal masterpieces” while others are “middling.”
“The legacy of auteurism is that even filmmakers who don’t necessarily always make a great film, if they’re a great filmmaker, they’ll always make an interesting film,” Ebiri says.
Bilge Ebiri is a movie critic at Vulture and former lead critic at Village Voice. His reviews have been published in the New York Times and Rolling Stone, among others.
What do you think makes a good movie?
Oh, I can’t answer that. It’s all sorts of things. Anything I say would be wrong.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all model.
There are certain things that make one movie good, and then those same things can make another movie bad. There’s no way to answer that question without talking about a specific movie.
An example, I was just talking about this with somebody the other day, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. I love the Lord of the Rings movies. I despise The Hobbit movies. A lot of the things that make the Lord of the Rings movies so special are the things that make The Hobbit movies, for me, unbearable.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about critics?
There are two misconceptions about critics and they’re slightly at odds with each other. One of them is, “Well, all you have to do is watch movies, what a cushy job you have.” And the other one is, “Do you even like movies?” Both of these misconceptions are wrong, and they’re wrong in different ways.
I think critics would love to spend all their time watching movies, but the truth is, you don’t. Often, you’re usually writing or you’re researching or dealing with publicists or dealing with all sorts of other things. And only a very small part of your day, if you’re lucky, is spent watching movies…
And as far as not enjoying movies – different critics are different obviously, but I think most critics, when they go into a film, are looking forward to it. Sometimes you can enjoy the time you have at a movie without necessarily enjoying the movie or without necessarily thinking the movie is all that great. That’s why so many of us love the theatrical experience, even after all that – because in the end, we love the experience of seeing the movie, even if the movie itself isn’t great.
Who is an up-and-coming critic that you want people to check out? “Up-and-coming” is also obviously up for interpretation.
That’s the thing that I’m struggling with because I’m 47 years old. A lot of people are up and coming to me even though they’ve been doing this for a long time…
Monica Castillo is a critic I really like and she’s a friend. And she’s been around for a while. I don’t think of her as a newbie or anything like that, but she’s younger and she’s somebody who I feel deserves to write more and be better known.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
What’s a Rotten movie that you love?
I find myself often in circumstances where I will love movies that get trashed. The Vacation remake from a few years ago with Ed Helms I thought was just one of the funniest films I’d ever seen, and that was just widely loathed by people. Freddy Got Fingered – everyone hated it at the time, although it has since become a classic. And now all you hear about is all the people who love it, but they were nowhere to be found back then, except I think A.O. Scott liked it.
Is there an actor or a director or a screenwriter that no matter what they make, you’re excited to see it and you tend to like their work?
What is your favorite childhood film?
I had different movies that I loved growing up. I was a big fan of Walt Disney’s Peter Pan. But I was a big fan of that movie before I actually got to see it because it was impossible to see in Turkey when I was growing up and I saw it later. When I was 13 years old, Aliens was my favorite movie for about a year. The Star Wars movies certainly had quite an effect on me.
My parents took me to see all sorts of totally grown-up movies when I was a kid. So I was a big fan of Apocalypse Now – saw it when I was seven, twice. I was a big fan of The Deer Hunter, which scarred me when I was nine. But I could watch those, but I could also watch children’s films.
What is your preferred seat in a movie theater?
I actually love to sit in the front row in part because I can stretch out my legs – I’m a sloucher. And if it’s one of those theaters where the front row is way too close to the screen, then I try to sit a couple of rows back. … I hate sitting in the back. I hate sitting in the balcony. I have not gone to movies simply to avoid sitting in the balcony. I hate sitting really anywhere in the rear half of the theater.
Is that because you like to have the screen take up your entire field of vision? What do you like about sitting up close?
I like having the screens take up my field of vision. I know people who go to the movies and are really devoted to going to the movies that they love to sit in the back. This seems to be completely anathema to going to the movies. My TV occupies more of my field of vision if I do that… I like to be overwhelmed by the image. I do want to be able to see it clearly. Again, that speaks to how close the screen is to the front row…
But as a critic, I will say, sitting up close, especially if you’re close enough to the screen, has another side advantage, which is you can use the light from the screen to see what’s on your notepad. I found that that’s actually very helpful.
So you take notes when you’re watching movies?
I hate taking notes, but I feel like sometimes I have to.
Do you have a record for the most movies that you’ve watched in a day?
I don’t keep score. I know I have watched more than six movies in a day at some point.
(Photo by Warner Home Video)
What do you consider required viewing?
You know what movie I’m going to say? It’s not even my favorite movie. It’s not even my favorite movie by this director. It’s not even my second favorite movie by this director, probably. But I feel like All the President’s Men is a movie that everyone should see.
It’s one of those films that is a very interestingly made movie. It’s also about an important period in American history. And it’s the kind of thing that when you watch it, you realize how much we lose by the slow death of journalism and the death of a particular kind of accountability in politics. But it’s also just a really well-made film. It’s a film where, if you watch it, you’ll walk away from it, I think, with all sorts of fascinating questions, not just about the subject matter, but also about how that film does what it does. And it’s a great time capsule.
What’s the hardest review you’ve ever written?
I don’t even know if it was ultimately a review, but writing about Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book at Cannes. Actually, it was funny because I had just seen the movie, and Godard is one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve written about him plenty of times, so it wasn’t like I was intimidated by Godard. But I remember there was a certain point, it was early at Cannes, and I remember I emailed my editor and I just said, “I can’t do this. I should just leave the festival. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this.” And he was like, “What the f–k are you talking about?”
I hadn’t been assigned anything. It wasn’t like I had to review this movie. But I felt obligated to review it. And I just couldn’t. And I thought about it and then I actually met with another critic with whom I had an interesting conversation about the film. And I did wind up writing about it and I thought the piece turned out okay. Honestly, you shouldn’t have to ever write about a film like that after just one viewing.
(Photo by Jessica Miglio / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game) was looking at a banner year, with the pending release of The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second installment to his hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, and the start of production for his next project with the streamer, Midnight Mass. Then the entertainment industry shut down, with TV and film productions suspended as precautionary measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Midnight Mass was two days away from principal photography when we shut down,” Flanagan told Rotten Tomatoes when we checked in with him recently. “I flew my family out of Vancouver just before they closed the border, and I could actually see some of the exterior sets we built from the airplane. A few days before the shutdown, we had a table read of all seven episodes with the full ensemble, and it was amazing. This show is so special to me. It was surreal to just put everything down and walk away from it.”
The series, according to Deadline, follows “an isolated island community that experiences miraculous events — and frightening omens — after the arrival of a charismatic, mysterious young priest.” The series creator has been building up to this show for years now, with it beginning as an Easter egg in movies Hush and Gerald’s Game.
Flanagan may not know when things will pick back up, but he’s confident they will: “Netflix has gone above and beyond when it comes to taking care of the cast and crew on its suspended shows. They’ve been adamant that as soon as it is safe, whenever that is, we will pick up right where we left off and get Midnight Mass back into production right away.”
Bly Manor is a different story altogether.
“We’re in post-production now and on schedule, and have been able to keep post moving by setting up remote editing systems in people’s houses,” Flanagan revealed. “I just can’t say what that schedule represents as far as release before Netflix makes their official announcement, but I can say that there isn’t any talk of changing the plan, at least as of yet.”
Now with some epic downtime on his hands, Flanagan said his viewing habits have been “all over the map.”
“Last night we watched Once,” he said, “and we’ve been bingeing Patriot on Amazon. I’m almost finished with season 1, and the ‘rock, paper, scissors’ scene is absolutely stunning. I’m halfway through War of the Worlds on Epix, and last week I had a positively weird triple-feature of Apocalypse Now, [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and A River Runs Through It.”
While each of those titles — all Fresh or Certified Fresh at 80% and higher on the Tomatometer — is definitely worth a watch, the filmmaker has a few other recommendations for viewers at home. Many may know the man from his horror work in television, but Flanagan’s career began in the indie film world, and that’s where his heart still lies.
“I figured I’d take this opportunity to amplify some independent horror films,” Flanagan said. “My debut feature Absentia was championed by a number of people in the horror community and spread entirely by word of mouth, and it’s entirely because of that support that I have this career.”
While some of these indie horror movies can be found on the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, Flanagan suggests if you can afford to go the extra step and make a purchase, that type of support speaks volumes.
“These are the kind of movies where such purchases make a difference,” he says. “That kind of demonstrable audience helps more films like this get made, and helps these filmmakers have more ammunition to keep making the kinds of films they make. I can speak from personal experience that each and every rental or purchase makes a real and tangible difference.”
Read on for Flanagan’s list of favorite indie horror films, “Each of which,” he adds, “would be well worth your time as we all do our part to mitigate the spread of this real-world horror.”
Issa Lopez’s urban fairy tale is smart, scary, and so beautifully crafted. Part exploration of childhood trauma, part crime-fantasy, and all rendered with skill, heart, and talent that cements Lopez as an auteur to watch. There is a palpable magic to this movie, and the classic feeling of seeing children lost in the woods … in this case, the dark forest is an urban jungle, and the monsters that call it home are decidedly human.
Ana Lily Amirpour is a badass. This vampire tale is impossible to categorize and utterly unique. This is a genre-bending tour-de-force, a hypnotic journey through the desolate streets of a dreamscape. Even accurately describing the film as a “black and white, Persian vampire-Western” doesn’t do it justice. If you haven’t seen it, I’m jealous … you’re in for an unforgettable treat.
This wickedly funny thriller by Rob Grant puts three characters onto a boat, sets them adrift in the middle of nowhere and then lets their individual natures do the rest. Dark, unpredictable, and downright mischievous in its humor, this punches well above its weight. Come for the excellent performances, stay for the twisty, turning plotting. A real delight across the board.
I have been recommending Joel Anderson’s unforgettable film to people for years and used to actually stockpile copies of it to give away. This wonderful ghost story presents itself as a documentary of a family’s haunting, complete with talking-head interviews, but reveals itself to be something else entirely. There is a tragic secret at the heart of Lake Mungo, and for all the chills (and believe me, there are many), I wasn’t ready for just how impactful the tragedy would be. I’ve been waiting since 2008 for the next Joel Anderson film.
Man does this movie hit me in the heart. Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling have crafted a zombie movie unlike any other I’ve ever seen, with a dynamite hook and an emotional through-line that affected me way more than I was expecting. As a parent, this movie seized me by the heart. The final moments are as beautiful and poignant as I’ve seen, in and out of the genre. I was so impressed, in fact, that I had to get these filmmakers involved with The Haunting of Bly Manor (they direct two episodes).
Liam Gavin’s horrific descent through one woman’s hell, toward the possibility of forgiveness, is in a class all its own. What starts as a supernatural revenge fantasy quickly becomes something else entirely: an exploration of the horrors of grief and rage, anchored by Catherine Walker’s devastating performance. Like Cargo, I had barely finished wiping my tears as I tried to track down Liam to offer him some episodes of Bly Manor (he directed two).
I had a hard time choosing which film by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson to include on this list — every film they’ve ever made belongs here. Resolution and Spring are both miracles of low-budget filmmaking. I went with The Endless because of the additional joy I get watching Aaron and Justin act in the film. This time-bending, mind-bending classic is the tale of two brothers who stumble into strangeness when revisiting the UFO death cult they’d escaped as children. I love this movie and all of their work.
Perhaps one of the greatest miracles of DIY filmmaking I’ve ever seen, Perry Blackshear’s debut feature was made with virtually nothing (no crew, no cash, no crafty), just some friends who poured their hearts, souls, blood, and tears into telling a great story. Blackshear doesn’t just do a lot with a little here — he conjures things out of thin f–king air. This creepy, subtle, tragic, and ultimately uplifting tale of insanity and friendship is one of my all-time favorites and an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a movie. You can if you have the heart! This film proves that’s all you really need.
Matthew Holness’ viciously bleak tone poem is one of the most unsettling horror films I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere of dread he creates is so thick it actually seeps into you as you view it, and you feel … well, you feel stained by the time you reach its conclusion. Featuring a tour-de-force performance by Sean Harris and some of the most nightmare-inducing imagery I’ve ever seen in an indie horror film — Holness is a force to be reckoned with.
Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass are magicians to me. In addition to sharing writing duties, Brice directs, and both give amazing performances in one of the most wicked, fun, unsettling found-footage films I’ve ever seen. Watching this movie is like feeling a beartrap slowly close around your neck, and being unable — or unwilling — to free yourself before the final blow. And if you think the name “Peachfuzz” isn’t necessarily terrifying, well … think again. Followed by a sequel that is — no lie — just as good.
Adam Robitel’s found-footage shocker functions just as well as an exploration of dementia and its effects on a family as it does a terrifying story of possession. Performances are stellar across the board, but it is the fearless turn by Jill Larson as the titular victim of demonic activity that lingers with you after the credits have rolled … well, that and the shot. If you’ve seen it, you know the one.
Karyn Kusama’s quiet, deeply unsettling urban nightmare tells the story of a simple dinner party that begins to feel — wrong. To what extent it is wrong, how deep that abyss opens, is one of the most stunning and impactful elements of this terrific movie. The last harrowing moments are something to behold, but it’s the final moment of the film — as quiet and simple as any I’ve seen — that carries with it an implication of true horror. The shot itself is innocuous; it’s what it means that will haunt you.
This movie came completely out of nowhere for me and knocked me down. Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein have crafted a dark sci-fi film that gives Marvel a run for its money. I mean that literally; this film probably had less in its entire budget than a typical Marvel movie spends on snacks. This is a thrilling, dark, scary, and entirely human twist on — well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself. This is a gem, and you won’t be sorry you gave it your time.
Oz Perkins’ chilling and meditative puzzler is one of my favorites. Great performances across the board, what appears at first to be a story about girls encountering a supernatural force when left behind at their boarding school is revealed to be something even deeper by the end. I love this movie for a lot of reasons, but particularly because of how it touches on an unexplored facet of possession stories.
(Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
Phillip Youmans‘ debut film has many likening him to another talented African American filmmaker that burst on to the stage at a young age: John Singleton. Like Singleton did with his debut film Boyz n the Hood, the 19-year-old Youmans, while still in high school, has crafted a deeply personal tale about the Black experience that has audiences, critics, and the industry taking note. Burning Cane uses its story to explore the relationship between the church and African American communities, exposing hypocrisies, tensions, and complexities against the fog-filled swampy backdrop of the New Orleans bayou. The film is led by Treme star Wendell Pierce, who plays a troubled yet undeniably charismatic Southern Baptist minister and personifies a character all too familiar in the Black community: a dynamic leader who preaches “the good word” on Sunday but bathes in sin the rest of the week. With modest resources and limited time, Youmans displayed incredible skill behind the camera of a film that he shot, edited, and wrote.
After winning Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film was picked up for distribution by Ava DuVernay’s Array productions and is streaming now on Netflix. Recently snagging a couple of Independent Spirit and Gotham Award nominations, Burning Cane looks to be this year’s low budget indie with enough legs to break through to the mainstream. When we sat down with Youmans to discuss the feature and his Five Favorite Films, he was unaffected by the hype, quick to give thanks to those who helped him make the film, and eager to pass along his advice to aspiring young filmmakers looking to follow in his footsteps.
First up, Touki Bouki. It’s such a raw experimental work. I love its visual honesty and color palette. It also speaks to such an interesting experience within the diaspora – the idea of feeling sort of alienated by your own home. By Djibril Diop Mambéty, it speaks on a ton of things: cultural domination, neocolonialism, how you can feel alienated from your own culture. A visceral and brutal film made in the ’70s in Senegal. It starts with this beautiful wide static shot. We [the audience] are on sticks looking out as this herd starts to approach, and the color palette is insane. Like I said, it was made in the early ’70s, and they don’t shy away from showing anything. I don’t want to go too deep into what they don’t shy away from, because it’s a lot.
Next up is There Will Be Blood. I gotta say, Paul Thomas Anderson might be the best working director alive. There Will Be Blood was such an interesting balance of showing why Daniel Plainview prospered in the oil rush of California. But it also shows how he’s essentially decrepit as a human being. He’s almost rotting away. He’s losing sight of his own humanity. It’s about dehumanization. Even outside of how gorgeous it looks, especially when the fire ignites the oil derrick and then the camera is rushing in. It’s a low angle tracking shot following Plainview as he’s rushing toward the fire. The colors in that scene are literally just dumbfounding. But the biggest thing is performance, performance, performance, performance, performance! Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing, and Paul Dano as the pastor is freaking insane. Insane! And his dynamic with Daniel Plainview is some of the most compelling s–t I’ve seen on film. The fact that Plainview views Paul Dano’s character as a necessary mechanism to control the people in the town, but he doesn’t give him any bit of respect; Plainview doesn’t believe a lick of what Dano is saying in those church services. But he feels it’s important for the people in the town that are working day in and day out for him to believe it. It’s such an interesting dynamic.
Dog Day Afternoon is next because Al Pacino’s performance is bomb! So is John Cazale‘s performance. Dog Day Afternoon has such a dope condensed chronology, and Sidney Lumet is dope – Serpico, Network, 12 Angry Men – just so dope. But Dog Day Afternoon is probably easily the piece that I would ride with the most. The biggest hallmark of it is, again, performances, performances, performances. From Al Pacino to the guy who plays the cop. Having the need to sort of harmonize with each other on an experience level. It’s so interesting because some of that was improv by Al Pacino and John Cazale. You can tell that they have such a close relationship. They’re so comfortable with each other as actors – it’s organic, and it shows on screen.
Apocalypse Now was one of the first films that I saw that showed film could be a malleable art form, something that could exist outside of a super-traditional three-act structure. Martin Sheen and his character are sort of wrestling with more than just trying to find courage, but also trying to find some reason for why he was there in the first place. Speaking to a lot of Vietnam vets, I know it’s especially prominent in the Black experience. Soldiers felt incredibly disenfranchised about Vietnam because they weren’t being respected back home, but expected to have the motivation to fight for their country. But looking at it even from Martin Sheen’s case, his character is white, but that was part of his motivation.
City of God is kinetic and visceral. The active camerawork is gorgeous. City of God really did try to find those moments where we can pause and view these characters without any judgment. No character in City of God is black-and-white. There are moments when, even though we know some of these dudes are ruthless killers, they show us little hints that showcase their youth and make it clear to us that they’re still 16-, 17-, 18-years-old at the end of the day. One scene in particular I remember is Li’l Zé. He was this ruthless overlord, but he gets turned down at that dance party. And you just see his face where he’s smiling at first, and then you just see the embarrassment wash over him. Oh my God! Literally everyone in the world knows that moment; everyone in the world knows what it’s like to get rejected. But considering that we’ve seen this man brutally kill people at this point, I think it’s so interesting how the filmmaker also never intended for you to judge those characters. But he also never wanted to give a romanticized view of their life. He wanted you to fully understand how difficult and horrifying some of those realities can be. City of God is a masterpiece.
Really quick though, I also want to take the time, and give a special mention to Ava DuVernay’s work. Ava makes the most culturally important work of our time as a filmmaker. 13th is what taught the entire world that we’re essentially living in a re-engineered version of slavery. Ava is committed to promoting awareness. Outside of her being an extraordinarily talented filmmaker, she makes incredibly formative and culturally impactful work. I just want to shout her out as well.
Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: Let’s start with the obvious: How did you make this while you were in high school?
Phillip Youmans: I made this film while I was in high school with the help of my best friends and grassroots community outreach. It was definitely a grassroots production, through and through. Our resources were so limited, in terms of finances, so everything had to be sourced either through my friends or people in Laurel Valley or New Orleans, like free locations. I mean, craft food services were our parents! It took a vision; it took an intention. But in terms of making the film, you need help. You need an army. You need people who can help you make something. Considering the logistical demands that come with making a film, Mose Mayer and Ojo Akinlana were the best producers I could have ever asked for, and they are literally my best friends in the world.
The film acutely examines the African American community and its relationship with faith. I know this is from personal experience, but explain the impetus to put it on screen.
Youmans: Yeah, it’s something that I’ve personally been wrestling with for a long time. I grew up in the church, and I’ve since separated from the church and religion as a whole. I didn’t want to approach this film or any of the characters in it from any sort of judgmental lens, or holier-than-thou perspective. Burning Cane, in a lot of ways, is a cautionary tale. It’s talking about the dangers of fundamentalist religions, the dangers of the Baptist church, and not just the Baptist church but the church in general in our community. We talk about how that can perpetuate a lot of really antiquated traditionalist values. And all of those things are active conversations alongside cyclical vices and toxic masculinity. I knew Burning Cane could help me build a more nuanced perspective about those hypocrisies and fallacies that I recognize. You can’t come at something like this from a judgmental lens, and that’s not the intention of this piece at all.
How did you cast Wendell Pierce?
Youmans: It was a dream from the jump; having him attached to the film felt like something that was completely impossible before it happened. And the way it happened was so random. Wendell added such an interesting element to the piece, in terms of motivating you to want to expand the role of the pastor. He’s a phenomenal actor, and still such a student of the craft. He also taught me something about how I should approach my work as well. Always be inquisitive. Learning never stops. Wendell is a consummate professional. Him being involved in the production just sort of upped the ante for all of us. We had to be accountable to everything that happened on set, for good reason, considering that we had him for only a couple of days. Everything had to run smoothly, because if we didn’t get what we needed, Wendell literally had to go shoot another show the next day. It was kinetic. It was fast-paced. It was so incredibly fruitful. I was connected with Wendell at Morning Call Coffee Stand [a cafe in Louisiana]. I was working in City Park in New Orleans leading up to production. I was waiting on a woman named Lula Elzy, and then I was telling her about my film, and that the Reverend hadn’t been cast yet. She said, “What do you think of Wendell Pierce playing it?” I was kind of taken aback. I said, “That’d be amazing, but I have no way to get in touch with him.” Then she texted him, and it went from there.
It seems strange to ask this given everything you’ve accomplished already, but what’s next?
Youmans: Look, it’s so interesting. The thing that I’m most focused on, this point forward, is making this next movie. I don’t want to say too much, but the next movie is about the New Orleans Black Panthers, and it’s a story that’s very personal to me. I’m so excited about the story. I actually wanted to make that film before Burning Cane, but Burning Cane was the right film to make, emotionally, and in consideration of the resources that I had. It’s crazy because it’s come full circle. I said if Burning Cane works out, then I’ll definitely be able to make that Panther Story with the resources that I need to see it to fruition. And that’s been the case.
What advice would you give another teenager looking to make their first feature?
Youmans: Find people who want to be there with you, regardless of whether or not they can be paid. And don’t be afraid to reach out to people like Benh Zeitlin, a filmmaker that I admired. You also need to fall back into your friends, because they’re the only people at that age that are going to really ride for you regardless. They’re the only people that are going to be there with you and not complain about a 16-hour day. The best resource that we have is the people that you’re closest to, because everyone that was working on the set, outside of my actors, were people that I damn-near grew up with. Also, you don’t have to be in New York or LA to make something happen. I used to be so convinced that I had to go to LA or New York to make anything. But it’s so interesting how falling back into your roots works. When you have a real rooted connection to the material you’re addressing, that authenticity shines through every aspect of production.
Burning Cane is streaming now on Netflix.
Thumbnail images by Miramax Films, ©Paramount Vantage courtesy Everett Collection, Criterion Collection
(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Armie Hammer is not one to be pigeonholed, and a quick glance at his impressive run over the past couple of years proves it. The Golden Globe-nominated star, who caught his breakout role playing both Winklevoss twins in David Fincher’s The Social Network, has appeared in a variety of projects ranging from action comedies and animated films to dark thrillers and historical dramas. Last year alone, he graced the screen in high-profile projects like Boots Riley’s fantasy-tinged satire Sorry to Bother You, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, and Luca Guadagnino’s Oscar-winning romantic drama Call Me By Your Name, for which he earned some of the highest accolades of his career.
Hammer’s next film is Hotel Mumbai, a fictional chronicle of the coordinated terrorist attacks perpetrated in Mumbai, India in 2008. He portrays the American husband of a wealthy socialite who gets trapped in the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel with his family and attempts to guide his wife and infant son to safety. Ahead of Hotel Mumbai‘s release, Hammer spoke to RT about his experience making the film and how he processed the real-life tragedy it portrays, but first, he gave us his Five Favorite Films.
Cool Hand Luke, to me, and I’m not a film historian, but what it feels like to me is it’s in this intersectional point between the glamorization of film and that golden era of Hollywood where everything was meant to look perfect, like all the old Cary Grant movies like His Girl Friday and Arsenic and Old Lace, where everything is supposed to look so nice and everybody’s always impeccably dressed and charming and all that. Cool Hand Luke comes after that, where it’s a more cinema verite realism kind of thing. But also, there are still elements of the older films that you don’t get anymore, like using imagery in a really cool way.
Like, there’s one scene where, to inspire a feeling of tension and stress, there’s just a really slow push in on a whirling fan that just keeps whirling and whirling, and I feel like they don’t do that much anymore. Now they have to really pander to the audience, and make sure that they serve up to you exactly what’s going on, instead of using that kind of stuff. Also, Paul Newman is the f—ing best, and he’s so good in that movie, and it’s just cool, man. It’s just a guy who just won’t get beat by the system, and I really like that. There’s so many layers to that movie. It’s one of the few movies that I make sure I keep downloaded on my iPhone or my iPad, just so that I always have it available.
Fight Club came into my life when I was an angsty teenager who wanted to burn down the entire world, much like the movie, and I was just like, “Yeah, you f—ing get ’em.” It just so perfectly captured every bit of teenage or young adult angst that I felt. It also is so funny. Like, I watch that movie and I just howl with laughter, it’s just so sardonic and funny, and also weirdly romantic. It’s a wonderful love story, too. I mean, obviously it’s a love story between two very dysfunctional people, but who’s not dysfunctional in their own ways?
I think the writing is brilliant, I think that the cinematography is incredible, I think that David Fincher absolutely knocked that one out of the park. It’s a movie that I can watch over and over, and every time I catch a new line, or I catch a new shot, and I’m like, “Oh, wow. I never noticed that’s how they did that before, and that’s such a brilliant way to do that.” Yeah, I just think that it perfectly captures every single feeling of frustration and rage that anyone might be feeling at any moment.
You ended up working with David Fincher on The Social Network. How was that for you?
It was incredible. I got to see behind the curtain at the wizard who makes these amazing films, and the effort that goes into making his films. He is a tireless, tireless filmmaker who will not stop until everything is perfect, which is why he is held to such high regard as a filmmaker. He’s one of the best living directors, I think, and when you see his process, you understand why.
Dude, where do I start? I am a Kubrick fanatic. I think that there may never be another director like Stanley Kubrick. Just the meticulous care that he takes in not only the preparation, but the execution of what he’s doing. The fact that there are Christmas lights hidden in every single shot in Eyes Wide Shut, it’s supposed to be this dreamlike sequence. Just the fact that Tom Cruise’s character wants to have sex so badly, and the only time in the film where it’s actually offered to him and he turns it down, that person later turns out to be HIV positive. There’s just so many little things in that film that are so genius, that can only… none of those things can happen by accident. Those are the manifestations of genius, the manifestations of years and years and years of preparation and work, and you can feel that in every single set up, in every single shot, in every single scene, in every single line of dialogue. You can feel that, and you feel how much Kubrick put into that movie.
Not only that movie, but every movie. I mean, even Barry Lyndon, all of them, all of his movies are incredible, but Eyes Wide Shut to me is this beautiful meditation on what it is to be sort of like a frustrated man. I just think that movie is absolutely incredible. Then you get into, well, what about the conspiracies about it? What about the fact that it’s about this or that? What about the fact that he’s alluding to this or that secret thing, that everyone knows is happening but no one will admit? All that stuff, there’s just so many layers to that film, that every time I watch it, I feel like I just enjoy it for a different reason. And it’s not regarded as Kubrick’s best work, but I absolutely love it, I think it’s a great film.
And look, I just watched 2001 again maybe a month ago, and just sat there marveling again. It’s just like, “Who the hell was this guy? Who gave him the goddamn right to be so good?” But I don’t know, I think that I like the fact that Eyes Wide Shut is like the redheaded stepchild of the Stanley Kubrick films, but it’s amazing. There’s something about the tone of Eyes Wide Shut that, as you’re watching it, it sucks you in, and you really feel like you’re there. Like all of his films. I mean, The Shining wouldn’t be as scary as it is if it didn’t feel like you were actually there in the hotel, but Eyes Wide Shut, there’s just something… It’s a dream. It feels like a dream. It feels like you are watching a dream, and I just think it’s excellent.
That’s my plane movie. Like, I’ve got it stored on my phone, and if I absolutely just need to just be on a plane, I’ll just put on Apocalypse Now. The mania and craziness that Colonel Kurtz is supposed to represent, and what the jungle in Cambodia is supposed to represent — knowing, by watching documentaries and reading about it, that that mania was not only present, it was prominent on set as they filmed this. Just all of that together. The movie itself is incredible, but the knowing of the making of the film, and what happened when they were making that film, knowing all of that just makes it a much more comprehensive experience.
When Colonel Kurtz talks about the horror, and you know what horror he’s talking about, you just feel like you are let in. You’re gifted an audience into true craziness. Every single character in that movie is bats–t insane, and it’s just a matter of how forward it is. So I mean, even Robert Duvall saying, “There’s nothing like the smell of napalm in the morning,” and then taking a pause from it and going, “You know, one day this war is going to be over.” You can just feel how sad he is about that, and how crazy that is.
And then you move on to the othercharacters, and then when they get to that farthest checkpoint where the bridge keeps getting knocked down, and he’s like, “Who’s in charge?” And the guy’s like, “S–t man, aren’t you?” No one knows what’s going on here. What does he say to the guy, Roach, the guy with the grenade launcher? “Do you know who’s in charge here, son?” And he just looks at him and he goes, “Yeah,” and then turns around and walks away. That’s when you know. You know who’s in charge? Craziness. The only thing that is in charge here is chaos. You can feel it, and I love it.
And Lance, who’s tripping on acid, who’s standing on top of the bunker screaming, looking out, where Charlie is screaming back at him like, “F–k you, GI,” and he’s like, “Lance, get the f–k down!” But that’s the thing: Lance is all of us. That’s what I feel about that movie. He first gets up and he’s just like the good old surfer dude who’s just there and serving his thing, doing what he has to, and in the presence of all of that craziness, he is so affected by it. He’s like the frog slowly boiled in water. To the end, where you get there and he’s ready, he’s primed for the gospel of Kurtz, and he’s just there, and that would be all of us. That’s the experience that so many people had in that war.
Big Night, the Stanley Tucci movie. Yeah, it feels like a play. It feels like you are watching this beautiful bare bones version of filmmaking. Especially after all of the big event or spectacle films, it just feels so simple and so beautiful, and it’s a heartbreakingly beautiful story about learning what’s important. Also, I love to cook, and cooking is such a big, pivotal part of that movie, and Tony Shalhoub is amazing in it, as is Stanley Tucci. It’s just a great cast, a great film, superbly written, superbly directed, and just nice and simple and bare bones, and I love that about it.
Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: Hotel Mumbai is an intense film. Knowing what the story was behind it, and knowing what you were able to portray in the film, what was the atmosphere like on set? I can’t imagine there was a lot of laughter and joking around when the cameras were turned off.
Armie Hammer: Yeah, you’re not wrong. It was very different. Call My By Your Name was the film I shot right before this, where we were riding bicycles and drinking wine through the Italian countryside, and then I came to this, where we are in smoke-filled hotel hallways being chased by gunmen screaming at us in Urdu, and had no idea what was going on. It was really intense. The filming experience was brutal. It was a lot of time manifesting just fear and anxiety and adrenaline and all that stuff, and that wasn’t the only reason why it was a more serious and somber filming experience, but also because we’re telling the real story of people who went through these terrible traumatic events.
We wanted to be respectful of that. We wanted to acknowledge that, yeah, we had the ability and safety net of calling “cut” if things ever got out of hand for us. The people in the hotel didn’t. So that was something that was always on our mind. So the days were very heavy — they were brutal — and we compensated at night. By the minute we wrapped, we were like, “F–k. Alright guys, let’s go to dinner. We need wine, we need something. Let’s just chill.” And everybody would just hang out with each other at night, and try to just joke, and try to find some levity, and just enjoy being with each other, knowing that the next day was going to be equally intense and equally brutal, and that we were going to have to do it over, and over, and over.
RT: As harrowing an experience shooting the film must have been, would you say that you discovered anything new about yourself in the process, or was there something you discovered about the story you were portraying that surprised you?
Hammer: I wish I could say, “You know what I discovered about myself? That if I was in this situation I would try to X, Y, and Z. And I would try to be the hero in some way, or I would try to do whatever I could to save myself or save some lives.” But ultimately, the thing that I walked away from it realizing was, these situations happen all the time, unfortunately, and we just had something like this happen down in Christchurch.
This s–t happens way too often. And the fact of the matter is, it f–king sucks. There’s no positive thing about this. I didn’t walk away from the movie saying, “Oh, well now I know this about myself.” I walked away from it going, “That f–king sucks. What do we do to make sure that does not happen again? What can we do as a voting populace? What can we do as humanity? What can we do as people to ensure that this s–t stops happening?”
There’s no positive silver lining to things like this. There’s no big lesson to learn. All you walk away from it going is, “That s–t sucks, and I don’t want that to happen anymore.”
Hotel Mumbai opens in select theaters on Friday, March 22.
(Photo by Jason LaVeris/Getty Images)
Comedy Central’s The Daily Show has been fortunate enough to count some of contemporary comedy’s sharpest talents among its alumni, including Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Robs Riggle and Corddry, and Ed Helms, who stars alongside Jason Clarke and Kate Mara in this week’s Chappaquiddick. Yes, Chappaquiddick is a political thriller based on the real-life scandal in 1969 when senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge, swam to safety, and left his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, to drown, so it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs. But after a starring gig on NBC’s hit sitcom The Office and a string of popular comedies like the Hangover trilogy, Helms is looking to expand his horizons.
With Chappaquiddick opening in theaters today, Helms took some time to speak with RT about his Five Favorite Films, explaining how a Coen brothers classic helped him realize he wanted to be an actor and why he was obsessed with Eddie Murphy as a kid. Read on for the full list!
Raising Arizona. It’s definitely in the top five. I remember seeing that movie as a VHS rental when I was, I think, 12 years old. I’d just had an operation, and I was recovering at home, and my mom just went and got a bunch of movies, and that was one that I could not… I couldn’t even comprehend it the first time I saw it. It was so weird. It was so beautifully weird. At least from my perspective, I had never seen a comedy toned quite like that before, and I just loved it, and I couldn’t get enough of it, and I wound up just watching it over and over again.
It wasn’t just funny writing, it was funny looking. The acting is incredible, and the casting, the production design, the cinematography, the score… Carter Burwell, he wrote this haunting score that’s based on an old traditional tune, “Down in the Willow Garden”, which is this kind of haunting river ballad, and it’s the musical motif through the whole thing. It even plays during the diaper robbery scene in the convenience store. There’s like a Muzak version of that playing, and I caught all those little things. I was blown away by the specificity and the choices, and it was one of many movies that I kind of point to as being a moment that, for me, kind of stood out as, “Oh, this is what I want to do with my life.”
RT: You’re known to be a very musical person, and I’m wondering how young you were when that started, if you were able to pick up on those cues in Carter Burwell’s score at that age.
Yeah, it’s funny. Some of my first music acquisitions as a kid going to record stores were film scores. That and bluegrass albums. I can’t make sense of it either. No, but I always loved how much… Film scores are a very specific kind of composition, and the best film scores are so full of meaning and drama and anticipation, and they’re very powerful that way. They’re very evocative that way. I still listen to film scores when I’m in a creative space, trying to write or work on something, because it gets my wheels turning. It always just fuels my imagination.
Going in a little different direction, Apocalypse Now is an unbelievable piece of cinema. Just the scale of the production and the performances. I feel like, narratively, it’s one of the… There’s a subgenre of Vietnam movies, obviously, and this one just feels so epic and operatic, in no small part because it uses Wagner’s Ring Cycle as the score for one of the great battle scenes. I don’t know, I can’t say enough about it.
And then, of course, seeing Hearts of Darkness, the documentary about it. That just made me love it even more, because you can see the creative depth that Coppola went to, the depth of his soul that he dug into to not just make the movie and keep it together, but to sort of fight for coherence in a chaotic production, and I love the discovery. I mean, clearly, when Brando showed up on set, it was such a disaster, because he didn’t know his lines and he was a hundred pounds overweight or something, and he basically refused to learn his lines. But then Coppola worked with what he had, and to me that is the most… He wound up with something genius and more coherent than what may have even been on the page originally.
There’s a quote by Orson Welles that the absence of limitations is the enemy of art, and I feel like Apocalypse Now is a kind of great tribute to that idea, because Coppola just faced so much adversity making the movie. Not just Coppola, the cast, the crew, everybody faced so much and dealt with so much and then created this transcendent piece of cinema that captures a dark piece of world conflict history and some very intimate stories of young people sucked into it, and then, of course, a meditation on the darkness of the human soul, which is an important thing to explore artistically from time to time.
Trading Places. Like most people, I don’t love the ending of the movie on the train with the gorilla costume, but I feel like even with that, it’s still a nearly perfect movie. What is it about that movie? Well, there’s a few things. For starters, when I was a kid, I watched Saturday Night Live from a very young age. I was obsessed with Eddie Murphy, and I don’t know why. He captured my imagination. I loved his energy, and he was always such an uninhibited performer on Saturday Night Live, and then later in his movies. I feel like Trading Places is a phenomenal performance by Eddie Murphy as he goes through this kind of metamorphosis, but also, it’s just an insanely funny movie. This image of Dan Aykroyd in a Santa suit, pulling a salmon steak out of his suit, which he’s hid, and he hid a salmon steak in his suit and stole it and ran out in the street, starts eating it, and he’s pulling his Santa beard hair out of the fish while he’s eating it because it’s all getting mashed… It’s genius.
So, the physical comedy, the dialogue comedy is top-notch, but also, I think thematically it’s a piece of social satire that I’d love to see more of. I feel like it’s really what storytelling is at its best, where it’s kind of pointing out some social ills. In this case, it’s inequality, it’s corrupt influence, it’s corrupt power, it’s racial tension, racial disparity. It’s all baked into this hilarious comedy, and if you’re paying attention, you’re hopefully maybe learning a little something as well, or it’s just kind of seeping under the laughs, which is the best stuff.
Dan Aykroyd’s character kind of… His performance is so great because it goes from really broad and silly to ultimately very humble and human, and it’s kind of like he and Eddie Murphy are playing these characters that have really great arcs that sort of crisscross right in the middle, right? It gets weirdly poignant, and as soon as it’s poignant, then Clarence Beeks will throw someone down on the pavement and just this explosion of physical comedy, and you’re laughing again.
Rear Window. A little Hitchcock action. It’s just a hell of a good thriller. It’s so simple. It’s such a simple idea. It’s beautifully constructed as a story, and it’s Hitchcock at his best, where it’s kind of scary and building tension, but then also lots of laughs throughout the whole thing, lots of second guessing — Where are we, who’s right, who’s wrong? — and Jimmy Stewart is at his best. He’s wheelchair-bound with a giant cast on his leg, but it’s still one of his great physical performances. I just love how the tension builds and builds, and it’s a real kind of filmmaker’s film because the themes of voyeurism and projecting your own narrative onto things, I think, are baked into filmmaking as a form, and Hitchcock recognizes that and had a lot of fun with it, and I think we can all see ourselves in that a little bit.
Groundhog Day. I can watch that movie just a million times and never get sick of it. There was a whole spate of movies around that time in the ’80s and ’90s where something magical would happen, and sort of screw over a protagonist in some way, and some of those devices were very corny and kitschy and didn’t work as well. Some of them just worked magnificently, and this one is one of those.
It’s just these sort of inexplicable moments where the universe is teaching this one guy a lesson, and they never explain how or why, but you don’t care, because it just kind of makes sense. And the way it unfolds, it’s sort of like it’s one of those things that, I think, if you tasked somebody with writing a story with that premise, where a guy wakes up every day in the same day and he has to relive it over and over again until he learns to be a good person, you’d be sort of overwhelmed, like how can I do that? Then you see this version of it, and you’re like, that’s the perfect way to do it. It’s like, “Oh, it’s so simple.” That’s a brilliant script, when it looks like there was no other way to do it, if that makes any sense. And the performances, everyone from Chris Elliott to Andie MacDowell to Punxsutawney Phil. I mean, they all nail it.
Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: I remember you first and foremost from The Daily Show, where your field correspondent segments were some of my favorite, and then, of course, there was The Office. I think most people know you for your comedic roles, and here you are in this dark, serious political thriller, and I’m wondering what that transition was like for you. Is this the path you always saw yourself ultimately pursuing in your career?
Ed Helms: Great question, and I think the answer is that, for so many years, I never really wanted to do much besides comedy. It’s really why I got into the show business in the first place, was a love of just abject silliness.
RT: And you’re so good at it.
Helms: Well, thank you. It’s all I ever wanted to do for a long time, but somewhere along the line, I think some maturity started to creep in — and I’m very resentful of that, by the way — but you can’t help it. Life just kind of teaches you lessons, and I guess we all have to grow and mature in some way or another, but as a result, I’m much more open-minded about taking on different stories and roles. For me, the most important thing is just, is it gonna be a compelling story, and something that’s a role that I can sink my teeth into? And I just love this, and I really credit John Curran, the director, with sort of seeing me in this role, because he just was so enthusiastic about me from the get-go, and even more so than I was. I wasn’t sure I was right for it, but I saw it as a rather exciting challenge, and I did love the story, and I’m so proud of the result. I just love the movie, and I’d be thrilled to do more things like it. Like I said, I feel pretty genre-agnostic at this point, and I’m just here to chase the exciting roles and exciting stories.
(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Nicolas Cage is the hardest working man in show business. Over the past two years alone, he has appeared in ten films, including the Edward Snowden biopic Snowden and the bonkers horror comedy Mom and Dad. We’re barely two months into 2018, and Cage has already starred in two more: Panos Cosmatos’ revenge thriller Mandy, which premiered at Sundance, and Looking Glass, a psychological thriller about a married couple who take over a desert motel and discover the dark secrets it holds. The man clearly enjoys his work, and the world is all the better for it.
Cage also has a reputation for putting 100% of himself into every role he takes, no matter how small, so it wasn’t too surprising to learn that he had not merely Five Favorite Films he wanted to talk about, but a cool baker’s dozen. As he put it, “I can’t put it all in five. It’s just, there’s different movies for different reasons in different lifetimes.”
And listen, if Nicolas Cage wants to talk Thirteen Favorite Films, Nicolas Cage gets to talk Thirteen Favorite Films. Read on for all of his choices, in which he sheds some light on the ways Dennis Hopper, Bruce Lee, Jerry Lewis, and Jean Marais have all influenced his unique acting style.
Once Upon a Time in the West would come on the million-dollar movie. We had that once a week, I think, when everything was deployed on television. I had a [inaudible] television and I watched Once Upon a Time in the West, and I was blown away by the power in the stillness and silence of Charles Bronson as Harmonica, and I just thought the culmination of Morricone’s score with Leone’s gorgeous style, and then the showdown between Henry Fonda, who is outstanding as a bad guy, and Bronson was one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced in cinema, and it really made a big impact.
East of Eden was the movie that really put the hook in me to become a film actor, because of James Dean’s performance when he has the nervous breakdown trying to get the money to Raymond Massey, playing his father, from selling beans, and he’s rejected. That nervous breakdown affected me more than anything else, and that’s what made me want to become a film actor.
I saw Apocalypse Now really with everybody else, so Marlon Brando was there, and my uncle was showing the movie, and Dennis Hopper was there and [Marc Marrie], and … I don’t think Marrie was there, but everybody … Let’s see. Larry was there. They were watching the movie for the first time, and I must’ve been about, gosh, what was I? 12, 13? I don’t know, but it really put a big effect in me, and I was blown away by the scope of the film. I don’t think there really was a movie like that before with the helicopter sequences, and with Brando’s performance with Dennis Hopper was… I mean, he was really going off the rails in that, and that had a big impact on me as well, in terms of my own later choices with film performance. I wanted to get a little more Dennis Hopper or less Dennis Hopper with some of the stuff that I was doing, so that had a big impact.
Citizen Kane I saw when I was… My dad used to take me to the arthouse theaters, and I grew up on these movies. I was watching Citizen Kane when I was like eight years old, and I just watched it again. I watched it at night and I watched it the next day, and that is the best movie ever made. Nothing really ever comes close to it, and even now, the editing today doesn’t match. I don’t know if Welles did it, but I know he had total authority on the film, and then they took it away from him for The Magnificent Ambersons, and even now, in terms of performance, in terms of film editing, in terms of the cinematography, in terms of the music, all of it just came together perfectly, and it has never really been challenged in any way. I think it stays as fresh today as it ever was.
Was that something you were able to process, even as an eight-year-old seeing it for the first time?
Yeah. Yeah, I was blown away. I think Welles’ performance was heartbreaking, really, and that lands, even if you’re a child. The emotion is there, and you feel it. I mean, little kids can understand music that might seem complex — you can play classical music for a little child, and they will be affected. They know good music, and I knew what I was seeing was a great film, and it was exciting to see it as an adult.
Enter the Dragon was powerful to me because it was like watching a superhero come to life. I’d never seen anything like Bruce Lee, and that movie changed my life, because it made me believe that a man can actually do these extraordinary things physically, and he was a great actor. He had great facial expressions, and he’s also had a big impact in some of my choices as a film performer, certainly not in terms of my style of movement — nobody can move like him — but in some of the facial expressions. If you look at the end of Face/Off, when I shoot the Castor Troy character with the harpoon, my face goes through all these expressions. That was direct steal from Bruce Lee when he jumped on a guy and killed him with his feet. In fact, I went through that slow-motion shot rather recently with Mandy. I stole from Bruce Lee’s facial expressions when he breaks the guy’s neck and the camera goes right into his eyes and he’s got that very ferocious, wide-eyed look. He passed, and I put that in the picture.
The Nutty Professor. So Jerry Lewis, I met Jerry once. We became friends later, but when I first met him, he knew what a fan I was of The Nutty Professor, particularly the Buddy Love performance, and [inaudible] I said to him — and I meant it — I said, “Jerry, it’s just you and Brando,” and he took about a two-minute pause, and he went, “Well, Brando’s good also.” It was hilarious. He was wearing a kimono, if you believe that, a Japanese kimono and tennis shoes.
Something about Jerry Lewis’ direction, he believes in the total filmmaker. He felt that you weren’t really a filmmaker unless you starred in it, composed it, edited it, directed it, all of it, and that’s what he was, and I think that The Nutty Professor has also had a huge impact in terms of my own tone, performance style. I’ve borrowed from the Buddy Love character a million times, and so much so that I’ve had directors tell me I need to get new material. I put him in City of Angels, and I got the good fortune of having him play my father in The Trust before he passed on, so Nutty Professor was a big influence.
400 Blows I saw when I was a kid, and that of course really was heartbreaking. I felt so bad for the kid in that movie, and he went on to become an actor. I think he was in Last Tango in Paris, the actor in that.
War of the Gargantuas was something I just thought was so fantastical and so bizarre that it is my favorite of Honda’s movies, but the effects look great, and all the little toys, and it was just something that transported me. I can lose myself in that movie, and I love the brothers warring, and it has kind of like a personal feeling for me.
Juliet of the Spirits was something I also saw at a young age. It spooked me, but also kind of turned me on, and I found it thrilling and psychedelic and colorful, and it had an enormous impact on my childhood because I would have bad dreams about it. That’s also the case with The Wizard of Oz.
The Wizard of Oz, the witch was always haunting me, the green witch, the Wicked Witch of the West, so Wizard of Oz was also a huge impact film in my childhood, as well as Pinocchio.
I think Pinocchio is Disney’s masterpiece, and I think that it’s such a perfectly put-together film. It has such a beautiful message in it, and so much thought went into it, and of course it’s beautifully drawn, and the colors are extraordinary, and I love Monstro, and the underwater sequences are quite something.
Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Again, very fantastical, very transporting and mysterious, and Jean Marais’ performance as the beast is wonderful. I wanted to have that sound to my voice when I did Moonstruck, and then Norman Jewison got very upset with me and lost his patience with it and almost fired from the movie. He called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that the dailies weren’t working, because he said, “You gotta drop the Jean Marais. I don’t want you sounding like [inaudible] talk like that in the character,” but the irony is that John Patrick Shanley told me that when he originally wrote Moonstruck the title was The Wolf and the Bride, so I thought there was some connection there.
A Clockwork Orange, of course, was like the ultimate film for an adolescent to see. I watched [Malcolm McDowell’s] performance in that, and it had such an impact on me that I would glue an eyelash on my eye and then go to school with one eyelash. My father really lost his patience with that one. He said, “You gotta take that eyelash off. You’re not going to school like that.”
Looking Glass is currently in theaters in limited release and available to stream. Mom and Dad is available to stream and on DVD/Blu-ray. And just for fun, here are Nic Cage’s top 5 movies by Tomatometer:
(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Moviegoers of a certain age will remember the first time they saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which flipped Arnold Schwarzenegger’s villain from the first film into a hero and pitted him against an even more sinister foe, the liquid metal T-1000 played by Robert Patrick. Thanks to James Cameron’s deft hand, some groundbreaking special effects, and, of course, the T-1000’s piercing, ice-cold stare, T2 became a runaway success, and Patrick, who was relatively unknown at the time, earned a spot as one of cinema’s most memorable villains.
Since then, Patrick has enjoyed success in a variety of roles, including the final two seasons of The X-Files as agent John Doggett, and even as Terminator 2 returns to theaters this week with a brand new 4K transfer and 3D effects overseen by James Cameron himself, Patrick has even more lined up for the coming weeks. The fourth season of his CBS drama Scorpion arrives in September, as well as a true crime thriller called Last Rampage, and he’ll also feature in a new paranormal anthology series for Amazon called Lore. Patrick took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with RT about his Five Favorite Films and the impact Terminator 2 has had on his career.
My first film would be Braveheart. I love that film. I have Scots-Irish ancestry, and I was very intrigued with it. I’m actually a part of the Wallace clan on my grandmother’s side, so I was very intrigued with the portrayal of William Wallace, even though I’m not a direct descendant. The subject matter interested me, and I thought that Mel Gibson did an exceptional job. It’s my favorite film. It’s one of those films I can watch over and over and over again. It has comedy, there’s romance, love, passion, love of your country, the pursuit of freedom, and I just think he did an incredible job directing that film and also starring in it.
I think my second favorite film is Apocalypse Now, partly because I’m 58 years old, and I grew up with Vietnam on the television. That movie is just such an amazing journey, and it was really terrifying to watch. There were just so many elements of that film that just left a big impression on me when I saw it. I think I saw it — when did it come out? In ’78, ’79? It was just an amazing film. For me, not having served, it kind of articulated and revealed the fear I think I would’ve had, had I had to go. There were just so many elements about that film that were terrifying. It was fascinating filmmaking, and I love that film.
In my career, I finally got to work with Bobby Duvall, he played my father in the movie I did with Billy Bob Thornton [Jayne Mansfield’s Car], but to talk to Bobby about those sequences and what that was like, and how it was like to shoot… It’s a pretty profound movie.
And Coppola himself, my third favorite film is The Godfather. He’s just such a huge filmmaker of the ’70s, and I admire his work tremendously.
What would be my number four? I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten that far in my categorizing of films. Maybe 2001 by Stanley Kubrick. It’s a film I saw early on with my father that had a really profound effect on me. That movie, I think, is pretty amazing filmmaking. And to see it at a young age — I remember going with my dad to watch it. It was a very, very profound film to watch.
RT: I love that film, but I’m not sure how I would have processed it if I had seen it as a child. How old were you when you and your father went to see it?
God, I don’t know. I wasn’t that old. I wasn’t that old at all. Yeah, it was such a mind-blowing experience. I have to say that I was under 12, and I’m not really quite sure when that one came out, but even to this day when I rewatch it, it was just amazing. I think maybe the power of the cinema really hit me.
I think my fifth choice will blow you away. At a time in my life when I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue, and I had a feeling I wanted to pursue acting as a career, one of the films that really hit me hard emotionally that made me feel pushed that way was An Officer and a Gentleman, with Richard Gere. There was just something about that film that had such a profound effect on me. The line,”I have no place else to go,” that he yells up at Lou Gossett, Jr. resonated. I love that film for the emotional impact it had on me. It’s an amazing film.
RT: So it was the performances that really stood out to you.
Yeah, it was more of the performances. I’m not sure if that’ll ever be on anybody’s top five list, but again, just thinking about it, it’s the power of the cinema and the impact that it has on me as a filmgoer. Certainly there are films that are technically superior and just amazing achievements in film, but also I like that aspect of what kind of an impact can the film deliver. That one definitely falls in that category. It’s a lot like Braveheart in that sense, that emotionally I was connected to it. It hit me profoundly.
Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: You mentioned part of the reason you love Braveheart is your Scots-Irish heritage. Have you ever visited your ancestral lands?
Robert Patrick: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. Three or four years ago, I took my family to Scotland on a trip, and Matt Kennedy was our escort. He’s a part of Best Scottish Tours, and he took us around and showed us. We actually found the home of my family clan, the Lamont clan, that later my descendants became Patrick when they came over to America in the initial immigration to America by the Europeans. We’ve been over here since the early 1600s. It was quite interesting, because everybody was in pursuit of freedom. That’s how I got to be here, and my family had a really, really great time going around Scotland. Yeah, I have never really felt at home anywhere other than America, but when I was in Scotland, I really could feel the presence of my ancestors.
RT: You’ve obviously done a lot of different projects over the years, but the 3D release of Terminator 2 is coming out this week. This was your big breakout role. I’m wondering if you still get a lot of people coming up to you quoting lines from the movie.
Patrick: Oh, absolutely. It’s a huge breakout role for me, the biggest impact on my career. Up until that time, I’d only done Roger Corman films that were somewhat obscure and not really widely seen. No one had any idea who I was, which is one of the reasons why I think the character had such a big impact with the audience. Because I was an unknown guy, they had no preconceived notions, which made them willing to, whether they knew it or not, accept me as the T-1000. To this day, it is the thing that I am the most recognized for. Not a day goes by that I don’t acknowledge someone when they say, “T-1000!” and I say, “That’s me.”
RT: Does it ever get to a point where you think, “God, I’ve done so much other great stuff over the years. Where’s the love for that?”
Patrick: Well, I appreciate you saying that, and secretly I do hope that people are aware of the other work that I’ve done. I’ve been doing it for 34 years, and I would hope that someone has also seen some of the other stuff. But that character’s just so iconic, and I’m so proud of it. I’m really proud of the impact it’s had on our culture, and be a small part in that. There’s a quarter me, quarter Jim Cameron, quarter Stan Winston effects, and a quarter Industrial Light & Magic effects, and they all combined to make that character, so I’m really proud of it. But I’m incredibly proud of some other movies I’ve done, like Cop Land and Walk the Line, you know.
RT: You reprised the T-1000 character in a couple of cameos for Wayne’s World and The Last Action Hero. When they approached you about that at the time, did you feel any reluctance to play up that character again.
Patrick: Yeah, well, there was a give and take with it. There was some give and take, and it was something kind of like… I wanted to prove myself, that there was more to me than just that, and yet I still felt like, “Well, if anybody wants to make fun of it, I should be the guy to do it.” And I did, and I had fun with that, but I tried not to perpetuate it in the sense that I didn’t want to do a role that was similar to it, or I didn’t want to use the celebrity from it to sell beer. I didn’t want to do it in that fashion, but doing it in the fashion I did, in Wayne’s World and Last Action Hero, well, that seemed to be okay with me, because then I was in on the joke. I wanted to explore finding other opportunities for me to do my craft in a different way and remove myself as far as I could from it.
I’m very proud of my career. I feel that I’ve tried to be a chameleon. I’ve really tried to lose my identity in different roles and confuse people, and not let there be the personality of Robert Patrick be what you’re watching. I want you to watch the character and believe the character. I’m real confident that I’ve achieved that goal.
So that was the kind of give and take with it. I don’t want to just be known for this, but I’ll have fun being known for this, and I got to compartmentalize everything and continue as an artist.
RT: There’s a tricky balance to strike there, I’m sure.
Patrick: Yeah, I’m really grateful that my own personality, the personality of Robert Patrick, isn’t the dominant thing when people see me. Usually they acknowledge the work, and I’m much more happy with that.
RT: You have a lot of projects coming up in the pipeline, including this film called Last Rampage.
Patrick: That’s a film I’m very, very proud of, that I co-produced with my director, Dwight Little. My brother does the score — my brother, a multi-platinum recording artist, formerly of Nine Inch Nails, it’s his composition. I think it is undoubtedly the darkest character I’ve ever played in my life. It’s a true life story, a true crime story, and my guy is the devil, just a real monster. I’m really, really excited for people to see this. It’s an independent film, and I’m really, really proud of it.
From peacetime to frontlines, from coming home to left behind: Rotten Tomatoes presents the 100 best-reviewed war movies of all time, ranked by Adjusted Tomatometer with at least 20 reviews each.
It’s the beginning of the month, which means Netflix and Amazon Prime have added a ton of new choices to their streaming collections. Since we love you, we’ve combed through their lists to come up with a solid selection of Certified Fresh choices. Read on for the full list.
Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott star in Robert Rossen’s classic about a pool shark who gets in over his head when he agrees to a high stakes match.
Available now on: Netflix
Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio star in Stanley Kubrick’s Certified Fresh Vietnam War movie, which takes viewers through a grueling boot camp before dropping them directly into the field of battle.
Available now on: Netflix
Monica Bellucci stars in this Certified Fresh drama about a the teenage daughter from a family of struggling beekeepers who becomes obsessed with a mysterious television personality.
Available now on: Netflix
David Lean’s celebrated war epic stars Alec Guinness as an obsessed World War II POW tasked with building a bridge for his Japanese captors, and William Holden as the escapee who vows to return to destroy it.
Available now on: Netflix
Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, and Mark Ruffalo star in Michel Gondry’s mind-bending, deeply yearning sci-fi dramedy.
Available now on: Netflix
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) leads the crew of the Enterprise back in time to prevent the Borg from conquering the Earth.
Available now on: Netflix
Michael Douglas and Benicio Del Toro lead an all-star cast in Steven Soderbergh’s ensemble thriller-drama centered on the drug trade.
Available now on: Netflix
This Certified Fresh documentary presents an in-depth portrait of the life and times of the egendary blues singer and Woodstock fave.
Available now on: Netflix
Kevin Spacey and Gabriel Byrne star in Bryan Singer’s crime thriller about a drug deal gone wrong and the criminal mastermind lurking in the shadows who pulls all the strings.
Available now on: Netflix
Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepard star in a Certified Fresh thriller about a family man defending himself against an ex-con seeking revenge for the murder of his son.
Available now on: Netflix
This Certified Fresh French-Spanish comedy revolves around a grad student studying abroad in Spain who meets an eclectic group of fellow students from all over Europe.
Available now on: Netflix
Francis Ford Coppola’s harrowing Vietnam War drama follows a troubled captain (Martin Sheen) as he traverses the jungle in search of a rogue colonel (Marlon Brando) he’s been commanded to assassinate. Both the theatrical cut and Coppola’s extended version, Redux, are streaming now.
The final chapter in the saga of The Man with No Name, Sergio Leone’s iconic western centers on a trio of gunslingers (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach) in search of a hidden stash of Confederate gold during the Civil War.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Peter Fonda and Patricia Richardson star in this Certified Fresh drama about an aging beekeeper caring for his criminal son’s two daughters who sets out to find his drug addicted daughter-in-law.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, and John Travolta star in Brian DePalma’s horror classic, a tale of a lonely teenager with telekinetic powers.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Paul Dano and John Cusack star in a Certified Fresh biopic of troubled Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson at two key intervals in his life.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
This acclaimed British drama revolves around the residents and domestic staff of a grand English country estate. Season six was its last, so you can now stream the entire series.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
It’s party time! Excellent! Mike Myers and Dana Carvey star in the classic SNL spinoff about a pair of metalheads with a goofy public access cable show.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
George Clooney and Matt Damon star in this political thriller that weaves together several connected stories about corporate interests and moral intrigue in the Middle East.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Henry Rollins, the punk rock legend and Black Flag singer who surprised many by bringing a new audience to the art of spoken word, has so many sides to him that it’s hard to pinpoint him as any one thing. He has been a radio personality on Los Angeles’ KCRW, a regular columnist for publications such as LA Weekly, and is known as a public activist. As an actor, he’s made cameos in many films and TV series and has been a regular on shows The Legend of Korra and Sons of Anarchy.
His new film, He Never Died, masterfully tells the story of an ancient character known to most of us who, well, never died. But this one cooks up brilliant comedy and wonderful characters and relationships that can’t normally be found in your typical vampire film.
Rollins meticulously chose his Five Favorite Films to share with us, and here they are:
The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols. It’s just a perfect film. And it was, I think, the first non-student real film for Dustin Hoffman. It’s just a beautiful, perfectly written… perfectly shot, perfectly acted film, where you have Dustin Hoffman who has bedded both Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross and he breaks up the marriage. I saw it as a little kid because I lived with my mom and she liked to go to the movies. She couldn’t always get a babysitter and so now and then I would get taken to films that were quite adult. There’s not necessarily nudity, because there doesn’t need to be. The thing is so well written; the adult themes and just how screwed up adults are is on full display in The Graduate. You can tell all these people are just so damn talented, and you look at a young Dustin Hoffman and you go, “Damn, man. Look at the career you’re about to have, dude. You’ve got it.” His talent was just so huge yet so innate in that he’s not gonna fail. He’s one of those people like, “Man, you were born to act.” I’ve tried to get to Buck Henry to get him to tell me stories about The Graduate and I’ve hung out with him a couple of times. And I’m like, “You wrote The Graduate!” And he’s always very funny and kinda belligerent to me, “Ah, shut up… Rwagh, Rwagh.” I’m like, “OK [laughing].”
RT: He didn’t tell you anything?
No, no. He just said,”That’s a long time ago, who cares?” I think he’s having fun not answering me. I’ve tried on two different occasions to get him to talk to me about The Graduate. But it’s kind of part and parcel of the films that were happening in America in the late 1960s and 1970s where there’s just so many great scripts and great acting. Hardcore, rip-your-guts-out acting, stellar performances, great lighting. A lot of natural lighting in 1960s and 1970s films, while now everything is just so well lit, it just looks too good. There’s all these things like Serpico and The French Connection where it looks almost indie. You know, kinda grungy. And you’re like, “Damn, man. This is really moving me.”
Anyway The Graduate is that. I just remember the moment, as a little kid, watching when Dustin Hoffman kisses Anne Bancroft — and because he’s so nervous about doing it– and she’s inhaled this cigarette, and he doesn’t know that she’s holding back two lungfuls of tobacco. And when she exhales it, [she] doesn’t lose a beat. You can tell that she’s in charge. That kinda acting, that kind of scripting, that physicality — you come with that. You figure that out in that moment and you make that something really amazing.
Also there’s that scene at the end of the film when Hoffman and Katharine Ross are at the back of the bus. You know, they’ve eloped. They’ve ruined this marriage. And they’re sitting back there and they smile for a minute and then you see them both kinda go away into themselves, like maybe, “We’ve really made the wrongest move of our lives.” The way that that camera locks off and just sits on them as they look at their future. Good Idea? Bad idea? Horrific idea? Hopeful idea? They basically run their whole future, and that’s such a brave thing to do in a film because it’s real… You never know, that relationship might be over in 48 hours. She might go running back to the groom and have a dull ordinary life. So that’s a film that stood out to me as a young person, but I didn’t even understand why it did because I was too young, but then I saw it repeatedly as an adult and went, “Wow, what a beautiful piece of work.”
Here’s another one: Seven Samurai. The great Akira Kurosawa. He’s my favorite director and a lot of his films featured my favorite actor Toshiro Mifune. I never understood a single word he said, but the force and physicality of Mifune [was] just like a damn hurricane on a screen. In Seven Samurai, this epic film, there was a scene where Mifune’s character — he’s drunk — gets hit in the head. Someone whacks him with a stick and her just comes roaring into this scene like, “Who hit me?!” And he’s hilarious and crazy and you find out by doing some homework that guy never took any acting; he just walked into an audition and said, “You need an actor? I’ll act.” He was just this raw, crazily talented guy. I became fascinated by Kurosawa many years ago on a lot of levels — the way he would light scenes, the way he would shoot things, and the fact that he would use many of his actors over and over again. Obviously, Mifune repeats all throughout Kurosawa’s career, and also Takashi Shimura is in this film, and he stars in a beautiful Kurosawa film called Ikiru, which means “To Live.” It’s one of Kurosawa’s more melancholy introspective works. It’s just a beautiful film. Every time I’ve watched it it always moves me. And in Seven Samurai, there’s so much kinda cop-buddy film — you’re like, “Wow, that’s where they’re gonna get Lethal Weapon, Fistful of Dollars, Hang Em High.” I mean they’re just gonna get so many big movies from Kurosawa.
There’s a guy named Seiji Miyaguchi who’s the master swordsman in Seven Samurai, where he goes out on a mission just on his own and comes back holding some dead guy’s gun. A man with a sword takes out a guy with a gun. He just takes the gun, throws it on the ground, and I think he says, “Got two.” He just sits down and goes to sleep. This guy puts his face on his knees and goes to sleep like, “Been a rough night. Killed two guys. Oh, and here’s this gun thing. I don’t know how it works.” There are so many killer moments in Seven Samurai. Meanwhile it’s this sweeping epic [of] good versus evil. And the kind of neutral victory at the end where four of the seven samurai are dead; the farmers are just notably ungrateful for having had their assess saved by these seven selfless samurai. They’re basically rōnin — they are masterless samurai. And they go right back to their crops like, “Thanks, dude.” Really? You barely noticed what sacrifices were made, and you’re all cowards in the face of aggression. And these guys gave you everything and died doing it. There’s a lot of your own life that you could read into that. And I think Kurosawa did that magically from film to film, where he’d tap into human feelings quite often.
[Kurosawa] was just a master movie maker. Master writer. Master cameraman. The dude knew how to make a movie. And Seven Samurai is just a great example of it. It’s not my favorite Kurosawa film. I just think it’s such an amazing piece of work. It’s one of my favorite films just because it’s a massive undertaking. And in my top five I did not put in a Werner Herzog film, which I’m rethinking. I probably would have put in either Fitzcarraldo or Aguirre, the Wrath of God. And so, Herzog gets an honorable mention. But moving on.
All the Presidents Men. Alan Pakula. I lived in Washington, D.C. all throughout Watergate and my mother worked for the government so she was hyper-aware of Nixon and all of this. The Watergate [Hotel] was a bike ride away from my home. It was just a building in a series of buildings that you drove by all the time. And the Howard Johnson’s where the plumbers all had their dinner before break-in? I used to eat at that Howard Johnson’s. This was a local story for me. The Woodward and Bernstein book is a read and a half, and I’ve watched that film I don’t know how many times — it is just perfect. I watched it like 10 days ago. I watched it on the Drake Passage on my way to the Antarctic peninsula. That’s the last time I saw it, like three weeks ago. It was then as it is now — a beautiful piece of work. It’s suspenseful.
Again, there’s Hoffman. I guess I come off as some massive Hoffman fan. It’s merely coincidence, although I do think he’s great. Him and Redford together are just amazing. And again you see the genius of Hoffman. You see just how ready-to-go Robert Redford is as an actor. Handsome, leading guy, believable as hell. And that whole cast — I just love seeing older people in films who don’t necessarily look good, but they’re good actors. And that the entire weather-beaten, hard-chewed staff at the post that were cast in that film. They sit around and have those meetings, “Well screw that; what d’you got?” They’re just these tough newsmen, and I love it. They took down Nixon, these two young guys. I hung out with Bernstein; he’s just a true maniac. It’s an honor to hang out with him. I said, “Man, it’s an honor to meet you.” And he said, “I’m gonna tell my son that and boy, he’s gonna respect me now.” [Laughing] I’m like, “Yeah, right!”
It speaks of a huge moment in American history when every American now had proof that you cannot trust your government, that you’d be stupid to trust the government. Like yes, vote. Elect these people. But you gotta keep a very Jeffersonian jaundiced eye on every politician: the ones you voted for, the ones you voted against, the ones you say you like. As Gore Vidal said, by the time anyone gets to the Oval Office, they’ve been bought and sold at least ten times. And All the President’s Men is a case study of that. Hal Holbrook’s character, you find out 30 years later, that dude did exist. It was Deep Throat. That was a real guy. And the fact that these little clandestine meetings happened in a place I may have well pumped my skateboard by makes that film very relevant to me.
Another film is Apocalypse Now, which I’m sure every male moron you’ve ever interviewed has put in his top five. But the reason I put it in my top five is because Ian MacKaye, my best friend, and I went to go see it, first run, and we walked out not understanding what we had seen. But we walked home with, like, smoke coming out of our ears. And it’s one of those, where you’re young with no car, you get used to walking — like, “it’s only four miles each way.” And you’re so young and so stupid you just do it. Just getting snowed on. No problem. It was one of those massive walks back to our neighborhood and we just kinda walked home in shocked silence. We were, in a way, devastated, and neither one of us could tell you what that film was about. “Was it about the war?” “I guess.” So we went back to see it again later, and we were like 18 or 17. And maybe other 17-year-olds could’ve articulated it, but for Ian and I, we loved it but we were just kinda devastated by it.
As I grew older, now I’m a twenty-something, and I’m watching once a year. And I start to understand it when I start to understand the Vietnam War differently. I’m starting to understand that conflict a little more as a young adult. Then I start reading into the characters more, and the more I see it, one day I feel like I’m Willard, Martin Sheen’s character. And one day I feel like I’m Kurtz, Brando’s character. And then I join Black Flag and our tours — our van was like PBR Street Gang. The highway was the Nung river. We would just go into these hairy situations.
I’ll never forget one night, I’m in the back of our equipment truck with the backdoor kinda open, me and one of the roadies, and we’re looking at the lights of some harbor in Florida and I looked at him and said, “This sure enough is a bizarre sight in the middle of all this s—,” as Clean says when they’re going into that crazy kinda nightclub, DMZ area where Bill Graham comes out and does his amazing scene. And, Apocalypse Now lines from the film became patter between me and a Black Flag roadie, and then between members of the Rollins band, where we would speak in Apocalypse Now. When we’d go into a place where everything was screwed up I’d say, “Chris, did you find the monitor guy?” and he’d say, “No, there’s no f—ing CO here,” which is from Apocalypse Now, which means there’s nobody in charge; this place is a wreck. So, as I got older — I’m 55 now — that film is still relevant to me. And it still speaks to me on a lot of levels. Like when Kurtz says to Willard, “It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means… you must make a friend of horror.” And I never really understood that line until I was involved in a murder [the murder of Joe Cole], where I was almost killed and my friend was killed. I became full of horror. And once you get that, you get it. And so I’ll never think of that line the same way again, because it so describes what happened to me.
I can’t describe what that was like to you. I can describe it but it’s gonna fall short. Unless that’s happened to you, you don’t understand what I’m telling you. You’ll only understand it in a journalistic way. Oh, right, OK, something bad happened. You don’t know the half of it, ’cause I can’t articulate it to you, and you can’t read me. And it’s what happened to all these dudes. These Vietnam vets, Iraq and Afghanistan. They come home and no one can read them. Which is shown so beautifully in The Hurt Locker. When the guy goes home and he’s preparing the meal with his wife, like yeah, “This guy got blown up.” And she’s like “Uh-Huh, cut the carrots.” There’s a complete disconnect. And so what Apocalypse Now — I finally figured it out — it’s just about insanity, which is nothing but what war is. It’s just a bunch of people being completely insane. And it captures the insanity of human conflict perfectly. It could’ve been any war.
The last film is Animal House. Where I [veer] away from intense dramas. This thing is a perfect comedy, and I saw it right when it came out, as many people of my age did. It’s one of those films — I saw it one weekend; I went back to see it the next weekend and the next weekend. It’s a perfect piece of work and I watch it almost once a year. I’m no expert on it — can’t tell you the cast except for the big names — but it’s one of those things where I don’t even know if it’s any good. All I know is, I laughed in the same places, like Pavlov’s dog. “Hey, I’m a zit!” and the food comes out of [John] Belushi’s mouth — to me that is about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Until he does this or until he does that. And you know: “A pledge pin on your uniform,” stuff like that. It’s funny down to my DNA. You know how it is with films. You love them so much, you almost adopt them. Like if there’s a song you really like — you almost kinda wrote it yourself. Because now it’s in your bone marrow. Animal House to me is from a much happier time of my life. As an adult I’m over-serious and worried. But as a younger person, that comedy was just so effortlessly immature and funny. The humor is not the highest brow, but it’s done so well. It works on every human cliche, like the drunk wife of the dean and the dean is over-serious… That was a film I watched usually around Christmas time. Somehow, I always find it in December and I watch it and I laugh sometimes, and I find myself crying because I miss Belushi. I think he was a great talent. I’ll watch him eating the food and I laugh so hard, literally, tears will go down my face. I don’t know the guy but I spoke to him once on the phone, briefly, but I just miss the guy. ‘Cause he’s one of my guys, like Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. All those SNL people — that’s my kind of humor. It’s just a perfect low budget comedy. It’s what you do with great acting and great writing. You don’t need a budget. You just need great acting and great writing.
He Never Died is open in limited release and available on VOD and iTunes.
(Photo by Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty Images)
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who penned the scripts for such classics as E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and The Black Stallion, died Wednesday in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer. She was 65.
Born in Los Angeles, to parents who were both writers, Mathison attended the University of California-Berkeley before leaving to work as Francis Ford Coppola’s assistant on The Godfather, Part II. After another stint as an assistant on Coppola’s Apocalypse Now — where she met future Husband Harrison Ford — she wrote the script for The Black Stallion (1979), a wide-eyed, deeply-felt family film that was produced by Coppola’s American Zoetrope studio. She would later write the script for Black Stallion cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s The Escape Artist.)
However, it was Mathison’s script for E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) that would prove to be her defining work as a screenwriter; she had said she was frustrated with the kinds of films that were typically made for children. E.T. earned Mathison an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay; she and director Steven Spielberg would then collaborate on his segment of the 1983 omnibus film Twilight Zone: The Movie and the forthcoming fantasy adventure The BFG, which is slated for a 2016 release.
Mathison took time off in the mid-1980s to raise a family. She returned to the scene in 1997 with the script for Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, which was influenced by Mathison’s friendship with the Dalai Lama and her activism on behalf of Tibet. She is survived by two children from her marriage to Ford.
(Photo by Getty Images / Mark Mainz)
For just over 20 years now, Matthew Fox has been a bit of a TV icon. On whichever six-year series you may have “met” him, be it Party of Five or Lost, chances are one of his characters was at the center of your pop-culture TV discussion at some point or another. Bone Tomahawk, a new western/horror hybrid film, continues Fox’s significant on-camera travails through the industry. When asked what his Five Favorite Films were, Fox shed light on just a small handful of the movies that make him tick. Here are his responses:
Ever since I read the Heart of Darkness for the first time — I really loved that book and loved the sort of question at the heart of that book, which is, “What is the true nature of the human species?” So Apocalypse Now is just an incredible adaptation of that concept and a movie that I never get tired of watching. There are so many interesting things in it.
I’m a huge fan of the western genre, I really am. I grew up on a ranch in Wyoming; from a very early age I loved westerns. Read a lot of westerns. Went through a period when Louie L’Amour was something that I just read tons of, then sort of moved onto The Virginian, and then movies. I just totally loved that genre. Been a dream of mine to be a part of one.
RT: And now you are.
Yes, it’s one of the things about Bone Tomahawk that’s so exciting.
I loved Drive. Drive is one of my favorites, actually. Yeah, I would put that down. Stylistically, it was like nothing I’d seen in a while. The soundtrack is one of the best soundtracks ever — I loved the soundtrack — and the way that he directed that; there are so many interesting directorial choices there. Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan — their falling in love with each other, the kiss that is in that movie in the elevator, and then the violence that proceeds right after that. And it’s one of the most amazing movie kisses ever because you kind of sense that this thing is coming right afterwards, and it’s so, so brutal. There are so many elements of that movie that I think are really, really well done. Great movie.
Blade Runner goes down as one of my favorite movies and I have to watch it every opportunity that I get to watch it; and it seems to me that every single time I watch it, I discover something that I never knew was there. I mean, the fact that that movie was close to 30 years ago, it’s absolutely astounding. I actually watched it recently again and — you look at it now and it’s just — the set design and the way that thing is shot, it feels… it’s absolutely amazing. You can’t say that of some movies. Like, if you go back and watch Alien — the first Alien — it looks dated now. It really does, because of how much technology is moving forward and the kinds of things that are being done onscreen because of CGI. But if you go back and watch Blade Runner, it’s incredible how well it’s held up over time. It’s amazing.
And then for something light and fluffy I would have to say Trading Places (laughing). Hilarious. Light, and fun, and hilarious, and a lot of laughs. I had to throw one comedy in there. I remember the first time I saw it — I don’t remember exactly where I was; I was young — I think the first time I saw Trading Places I was 15 years old, 16 years old, something like that. Eddie Murphy was just in his comedic prime; I think he came off Saturday Night Live not long before that. It’s absolutely a great premise and really funny, really enjoyable. I just loved it.
Bone Tomahawk opens Friday, Oct. 23 in limited release.
Inspired by The Green Inferno, this week’s 24 Frames treks deep into some of the most dangerous and deadly jungle settings ever captured on film.
There are plenty of performances for which you might recognize Dominic Monaghan. You may remember him as Geoffrey Shawcross in Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, or Merry Brandybuck in the Lord of The Rings films, or even as Charlie Pace on Lost. In his latest film, he plays opposite Raffy Cassidy in Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism as a hypnotist who is taking everyone for a ride, but not the one they were expecting.
RT: What do you think of Apocalypse Now: Redux?
I like the Redux. I’m always looking for more out of Apocalypse Now. I’m not crazy about the French plantation sequence — I think it’s long and strung out — but any more of Martin Sheen or Dennis Hopper or Marlon Brando that you see is always a good thing. It’s a near perfect movie for me. I always see something new, or a new blend of one shot to another, or a new musical cue that says something about what’s actually happening in the film. It’s so well lit and edited — Coppola at his best, and I’m a huge The Godfather fan.
I watched that one night; a friend recommended it to me. I was in my house on my own, at night, was very scared of it, and fell in love with it. I’m not a huge fan of horror movies, to be fair. There’s no reason for me to bring that into my life, that horror element. But with Let the Right One In, it was worth it because the performances and the story were both so brilliant.
I love comedy. This got a lot of flak when it came out, because everyone said it was Monty Python’s diss towards Jesus. But it’s not. It’s looking at the ridiculous foundations of religions in general and how we set those things up to be things of truth. And when you point a finger at them, they can very easily become things of comedy. Great film, and one of those that the more you watch it, the funnier it gets. Like This is Spinal Tap.
Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism is now playing in limited release.
After rising through the ranks of music video auteurs in the 1990s, director Antoine Fuqua has carved out a feature career behind the camera on a series of tough action thrillers, including Brooklyn’s Finest, The Replacement Killers and 2001’s Training Day — for which Denzel Washington took home the Best Actor Oscar. This week he’s calling the shots on the year’s first White House invasion epic Olympus Has Fallen, a sort of Die Hard-in Washington actioner starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart. We caught up with Fuqua recently, where he talked about his five all-time favorite movies.
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972; 100% Tomatometer)
The Godfather was one of those movies where, you know, I didn’t realize what it meant back then when I was younger, and you love it because it’s so gangster, in a way — it’s just as gangster as it gets. But then as you get older you realize it’s about something bigger. The Godfather‘s about choosing business over family; you know [in Part II] when Michael kills his brother in the boat, and you realize what that choice was. It really stuck with me, you know, the bigger picture of what this country was built on and the choices that were made. So that movie I love. And obviously there’s the look of it and everything; that’s just a beautiful film in many ways.
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979; 99% Tomatometer)
Apocalypse Now, to me, is one of those movies where visually, I still watch that now and go, “How did he pull that off?” I’ve heard all the stories — the heart attacks, the house up for sale, you know, them going into bankruptcy — all the craziness, and I still watch that movie and go, “How the f-ck did they do that?” I mean, you’ve got cows being pulled in the air, and the whole military, helicopters flying everywhere… it’s so amazing. It should be a complete disaster. It’s the best example of “Just stick to it, and keep going,” you know. I just love that movie, and some of the memorable performances were just amazing. And it’s still one of the most beautiful films ever shot — no CG; all real.
I love Scarface. First of all, it’s operatic and it’s funny, to me — Scarface is hilarious. It’s got amazing humor in it. I don’t know if everybody really got the humor when it first came out. It’s about the American Dream. I love the fact that it’s like, if they’re not gonna give it to you, you gotta take it. I’ve grown up watching all the gangster movies and that’s really the essence of all of them: if somebody’s not gonna give it to you, you’ve gotta kick the door down. That’s what that movie is really all about. Both of them [De Palma’s and Howard Hawks’ 1932 original] — both of them were about that. So that’s my love for Scarface; that’s the short answer.
It’s another one of those movies that just feels so real. You watch those scenes and you’ve got tanks and armies, you know. It’s the first film I saw, as far as docudrama film style — you know, hand-held, very real, in the streets, in the world. And if I’m not mistaken, he only made a couple of films; the filmmaker made it and then he disappeared. He stopped making [fiction] movies. He made one with Marlon Brando and then that was kind of it. But the fact that he pulled off this movie — it’s a masterpiece. I remember watching the movie and feeling like it was a documentary, it felt so real. It’s so amazing. The performances of the actors, everything — it’s mind-blowing when you watch it.
I just love Mean Streets, period. I grew up in my own version of that. Scorsese is a hero of mine. The movie’s really about him, you know, as a filmmaker — you watch Harvey’s performance when he goes to the church and he’s there on his knees in his version of praying, and you hear the voice-over. What’s amazing about that movie is — now that I’ve met Scorsese a few times — I can see that he was sort of in that world. He’s said it a few times: “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna become a priest or a gangster.” [Laughs] And when you see the movie, you see him, and you get that. You see Harvey’s character is a little bit of a priest, he’s trying to be a good guy but he’s in a world of mobsters and he needs to be accepted by that world. I love the elements that Scorsese captured. I love, again, that sort of brave filmmaking — they didn’t have any money to do a parade, but he just captured that ceremony, you know. They put cameras on the roof and shot down. They put you in the middle of a world and you felt like you were really in it. And De Niro, of course, is genius. It’s ridiculous how good he is. I could go on and on about why I love those movies, as far as technically, and performance-wise — but that’s the basic essence.
Olympus Has Fallen is in theaters this week.