We have Dave Eggers, who broke into the mainstream with 2000’s A Heartbreaking
Work of Staggering Genius, the idiosyncratic Pulitzer-nominated memoir
about his journey to and living in San Francisco with his brother. Eggers
followed that up with several more books, the script to Spike Jonze’s Where
The Wild Things Are, and founding McSweeney’s, a book publishing arm (also
the name of his quarterly literary journal).
We have Vendela Vida, who has written two acclaimed novels: And Now You Can
Go and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. And Vida, alongside
husband Eggers, acts on the board of 826 National, a nonprofit network of
writing and tutor centers for children and teens, and edits The Believer,
a monthly magazine of alt-culture interviews, think pieces, op-eds, and reviews.
Together, Eggers and Vida have written the screenplay to Sam Mendes’ latest movie,
Away We Go
(currently playing in limited release), starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph
as a young wayward couple, who travel the nation in search of a permanent home
for themselves and their unborn child. Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Vida and
Eggers for their collective Five Favorite Films.
Eggers: We’re going to be doing this on the fly. We might start with The
Vendela Vida: Hal Ashby film.
DE: And we might have [a] half Hal Ashby list because he was our main
hero when we were writing this movie.
VV: We watched The Landlord together. It was sent to us by Sam Mendes
before Away We Go was being filmed. We had told Sam about our love of Hal Ashby
and some of his other films, and Sam was also an Ashby fan. That was kind of our
common entry point, and the reason we knew we were in such good hands with Sam
as director was because he was seeing the same references we were [seeing] and
had the same idea for the look and feel of the movie. He sent us The Landlord
and we watched it together and we loved it. The color and the tone, and the fact
that it was a real movie taking place in a real specific time.
DE: [Anything in Ashby’s] body of work is always recognizably him, but
it’s pretty elastic. Like Being There is very different than Shampoo in a lot of
ways. There’s a little bit of the surreal that can enter in, but at the same
time, they’re very grounded and very of their time, and have a certain gritty
feel to them. They’re not so clean. There’s a naturalism there that he marries
with some very bold moves and even magical realism.
[The Landlord] is this movie that not too many people have seen, didn’t have a
big release originally, and it’s hard to find on DVD, and doesn’t have the
reputation of Harold and Maude and Coming Home. But I kind of think it might be
his best movie. Maybe it’s just because it’s so screamingly brave in a lot of
ways, and it hits so many issues. There’s so few American movies that touch on
class, and this just comes straight at you like a train, talking about class
[It’s about] this young man who’s born into privilege, struggling with his
place. “He is to the manor born,” you know? He has money in his blood, and he
can afford to go buy a building where people are living. Just a young man, Beau
Bridges, and it’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever seen Beau Bridges do,
too. It’s sort of startling to see him in this role as the golden boy, and you
can almost see Jeff Bridges playing it, too. And the fact that this white guy,
automatically, just by the color of his skin and the place he was born and the
family he was born into, has the ability to be responsible for the lives of all
of these far less fortunate or privileged people. [He struggles] with that sense
of responsibility and [tries] to reject it and give up that control, but [also]
do right by these people. I don’t know, it’s so complex.
But [Ashby’s] not afraid to have some very broad comic moments. You know,
there’s a few people who can do it since. Like Alexander Payne or David O.
Russell, a few other people whose work you can see owe a lot to Ashby.
I loved the mood of it, I loved the dialogue, I loved the relationship.
Every aspect of that film, and I didn’t want to leave the mood of it for hours
after leaving the theater. I watch that movie over and over again just because
of the mood. I feel like it’s so hard to put poetry into a movie, but Sofia
Coppola did that. The ending is one of my favorite endings ever.
DE: It [was] unlike almost anything else before it. I think so often
movies try to do too much, especially when you try to adapt a big, sprawling
novel into a film, and you try to compress hundreds of years or generations. It
can work, certainly, if you’re Kurosawa or David Lean or somebody. But a lot of
times, the best movies are not novels, they’re poems. That movie is just this
beautiful tone poem. I don’t know how many pages of a script that is. It’s
probably a very short script, but she used the medium so well. And when we saw
that, we thought, “Wow.” We kept thinking about that movie, too, when we were
writing, although we ended up writing something much more verbose.
VV: When you see Scarlett Johansson walking around in Tokyo and doing
flower arrangement, there’s so much that can be said by just watching her move
through this landscape, and I think we thought about that a lot writing Away We
Go. The image of these two characters moving through a landscape.
Maybe now we’ll split. I’ll have one and Vendela will have one. I’ll pick
Local Hero, Bill Forsyth’s movie.
VV: Not that I don’t love it!
DE: If I had to have one favorite movie that I’ve seen a hundred times,
it’s probably that. I’m not really sure why I first liked it; I must have been
fourteen or something like that when I first saw it. It’s always meant so much
Peter Riegert plays a maybe 40-year-old businessman who’s in the oil business
and is called and sent up to the coast of Scotland to look into buying some land
where they found some oil and he has to negotiate with the local village. [He]
thinks it’s going to be a very tough thing to sort of uproot all these people,
[and] the comedy is that they’re only too happy to sell out. They’re just trying
to negotiate the price up as much as possible. It unfolds at its own pace, and
he falls in love with this town and with the sea and cares less and less about
the deal. He more and more wants to trade places with the local innkeeper and
move to this town and stay there. A beautifully made film and I feel like there
was a rash of movies right afterward that sort of tried to capture what he
achieved. These people sort of coming to some little town and being transformed.
It’s so touching and so funny and warm, and has so many moments of grief and
elegance and delicacy. It’s got beautiful music by Mark Knopfler. That might
have been the first movie that I felt that strongly about at that sort of
formative time. But it’s very strange to feel like that’s the movie, you know?
It doesn’t have some young protagonist. [But] from then on I was obsessed with
Scotland and Ireland. Wanting desperately to go up there, and then when I did,
it was very similar to that feeling. I went [on] a Bill Forsyth binge and
watched all of his movies, like Gregory’s Two Girls, and Comfort and Joy, and
Breaking In, even, with Burt Reynolds of all people. I wish he were still making
I watched it, I think, right before we started writing this movie too. I don’t
know if it’s because my mom is Swedish, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Sweden,
but I love Lukas Moodysson’s Together. I love the realness of it and the people
trying to raise a family in this commune-type environment. I think my favorite
scene is the breakfast scene with people coming down, and they’re naked from the
waist down. I still have that image in my head. It’s just a perfect sense of
reality and shock, and it’s not shocking to them at all, but it’s obviously
shocking to the viewer. But not in a way that’s it’s going for an effect.
They’re all eating breakfast and you’re seeing everyone’s pubic hair.
DE: Did you just talk about pubic hair?
VV: I did.
We always recommend it to our students. We both teach high school classes a lot,
and most of them aren’t aware of this movie, even though it’s the most honest
and accurate depiction of that age. I guess they’re early high school or middle
school, they’re about fourteen or fifteen. There’s almost a documentary feel to
it. At the time, the [kids] weren’t professional actors, though a lot of them
have gone on to acting.
[Director] Peter Sollett did such a beautiful job. It’s so loose and warm and
real and naturalistic and funny and unexpected. So much of it wasn’t rehearsed,
and they let a lot of that process unfold while they made the movie. The kids
sort of do their own dialogue. But I remember seeing it and thinking, “I’ve
never seen it done that well before.” Usually I think teenagers are overwritten,
written by much older people. Sort of reinventing.
VV: Or they simplify it too much. They take out all the complexity.
DE: Even some of the very best movies still have these caricatures of teenagers.
This was a kind of time, and place — these kids are supposed to be, I think, on
the lower east side — that you don’t see very often in film. It’s not like,
“Here’s the jock.”
VV: Here’s the cheerleader.
DE: [Laughs.] Yeah, I mean, all these things obviously exist to some extent, but
this was just, “Here are people.” And these are four main kids who are sort of
just making their first forays into romance and what it means to be young men
and young women. It doesn’t talk down to them, it doesn’t assume things. It all
sort of flows from within these young people and from the actors themselves, and
it has a humanity that I don’t think has been achieved before or after in
depictions of people that age. So I always thrust it on our students, especially
young Latino students who don’t see a whole lot of depictions of themselves in
VV: You also get such a sense of summer in the city. The heat, the pavement, the
flamingo and the swimming pool, how refreshing that feels. It such a hard thing
DE: That’s exactly right. Because, you know, he filmed it in the exact places
where it was set. That’s what Sollett does great, and he did it really well with
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, too, filming everything on location so it
feels true. I think he owes something to French New Wave. I know it seems like a
stretch, but there’s just something so real and true about the way he chooses to
film and find his way on location and with a lot of improvisation. It takes a
real artist to pull that off.
But, you know, we’re in our late thirties now. Maybe we’re too far away. I’m
sure I could show Raising Victor Vargas to a sixteen-year-old student of mine
and they’d be like, “No, no, it’s not like that at all.” It’s all very
subjective. But I thought Nick and Norah felt a bit like Lost in Translation.
The cinematography was similar. We really liked it even though it’s a world away
from where we are now. I can imagine somebody who’s 21 feeling different about
it. But it worked for us.
Another year, another Edinburgh Film Festival, and Rotten Tomatoes is firmly set up in the Scottish city for another fine celebration of film. Running from today until June 28th, it’s a perfect opportunity for members of the public to check out some great films well in advance of their main cinema release and it’s one of the key film events in the UK.
We’re proud to once again be partnering with the festival and will be providing regular updates on what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s going on. We’ll also, of course, host the much-loved Rotten Tomatoes party next week and will present our famous Critical Consensus Award, which in its inaugural outing last year went to the fantastic Let the Right One In. Stay tuned for more on that.
For now though, to tonight’s opening night and the film that launched the festival, the international premiere of Sam Mendes‘ Away We Go. Starring John Krasinski (you’ll most likely recognise him as Jim from the US version of The Office), Maya Rudolph and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Away We Go is a globetrotting comedy drama about a pregnant couple who choose to up sticks and relocate, learning tough lessons about parenthood on the way. Cut from the Juno cloth, it’s a quirky and accessible tale with a soundtrack to die for.
Critics have been mixed on the film. After a US rollout it sits at 60% on the Tomatometer and while UK reviews weren’t forthcoming at time of press — tonight’s premiere was the film’s first local rollout — their counterparts across the pond have been lukewarm on the film’s charms. It’s “a low-key comedy with its lead characters displaying an ambling, laid-back charm,” says Moira MacDonald in the Seattle Times. Roger Ebert describes it simply as “a film for nice people to see.”
Some have hailed it as one of the year’s best comedies, but others still have called its quality into question. It “squanders its genuine assets and ends up not as special as it tries to be,” according to Kenneth Turan in the LA Times, while A.O. Scott was particularly scathing in New York. “Does it sound as if I hate this movie? Don’t be silly. But don’t be fooled. This movie does not like you.”
Nevertheless, a fine Edinburgh crowd gathered for one of 6 screenings of the film that happened tonight — three for invited guests including Sir Sean Connery, Joe Wright and Alan Cumming and three for the public, this is a festival for all to visit — and the throng made their way to a lavish afterparty at Teviot Row House in Bristo Square. By all accounts they’re all still there, for the party was in full swing when RT decided to call it a night at around 1AM. Well, it wouldn’t be a film festival without a few late nights, would it?
Check out our gallery of shots from the red carpet tonight – click here!
Roger Corman Retrospective by Kim Newman
Every day during the festival, Edinburgh will be showing one of B-movie legend Roger Corman‘s classics, leading up to a Q&A with the man himself — hosted by our very own Kim Newman – on Wednesday 24th. In celebration, Kim will be reviewing each of the films playing as part of our coverage of the festival.
– The Fall of the House of Usher – Screening Thursday 18th at 13:00, Filmhouse 1
The first of Roger Corman’s richly-coloured, engagingly overripe widescreen gothic horror films, this introduced name star Vincent Price to the works of Edgar Allan Poe and benefits from Richard Matheson’s literate but knowing script. Four people gloom around the vast interior of a crumbling mansion, waiting for the last reel fire to bring the roof down on their heads, and Price brings just the right amount of camp to suffering anti hero Roderick Usher. The plot covers burial alive, incest, monomania, a family curse and sadism, and a formula was established which would serve for five years’ worth of similar classics.
Keep an eye out for these films amongst those playing at the festival tomorrow, Thursday 18th May.
– High Life — Screening at 18:30, Cineworld
Heist movie fun with Timothy Olyphant.
– A Boy Called Dad — Screening at 20:15, Cineworld
How do you deal with fatherhood at 14? Brit drama with Ian Hart.
– The Private Lives of Pippa Lee — Screening at 20:30, Cineworld
A star-studded drama with Robin Wright Penn, Keanu Reeves and Julianne Moore.
To book tickets for these films and more, click here. Join us again soon for more on these films and the Edinburgh Film Festival 2009.
This week at the movies, we’ve got bachelor party mayhem (The Hangover, starring Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms), space-time continuum wackiness (Land of the Lost, starring Will Ferrell and Danny McBride), and travel travails (My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss). What do the critics have to say?
There’s nothing wrong with frat house comedy when it’s done right. And critics say The Hangover is one of the best in recent years, a wild ride of debauchery and tastelessness that delivers laughs at a frightening clip. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis star as three dudes who just wanted to have a killer bachelor party. However, after a night of hard partying, they have forgotten everything, and the groom (Galifianakis) is nowhere to be found. The pundits say The Hangover is rude and crude, proudly vulgar and often hilarious. It’s also Certified Fresh.
There’s a fine line between madcap and disorganized, and unfortunately, critics say Land of the Lost is the latter — and juvenile to boot. Loosely based upon the 1970s TV series of the same name, the film stars Will Ferrell as a washed-up scientist who’s been sucked into a vortex and plopped into a bizarre world filled with dinosaurs and other strange and/or lethal creatures. The pundits say Land of the Lost is an uneasy mix of slapstick gags, scatological humor, and overdone special effects. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Will Ferrell’s best-reviewed movies. Also, find out Land of the Lost creators Sid and Marty Kroft’s Five Favorite Films.)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon indie hits, and it made its writer and star Nia Vardalos into an unlikely Next Big Thing contender. But her second vehicle, Connie and Carla, was a flop, and critics say her latest, My Life in Ruins, is even slimmer stuff. Vardalos stars as a disheartened woman who takes a job as a tour guide in Greece, where she shows off the beauty of her ancestral homeland to a wacky band of tourists and finds love in the process. The pundits say My Life in Ruins is as sour and charmless as Wedding was appealing, with stereotypical characters, shopworn plotting, and an unconvincing romance.
Also opening this week in limited release:
Krasinski‘s character on The Office, paper salesman Jim Halpert, is
one of pop culture’s most unlikely icons, a hero for nice (if mischievous and
self-assured) guys to model after and for girls of more quirky, sophisticated
tastes to daydream over. Krasinski’s film roles have been thoughtful variations
on Jim, including Burt Farlander of his new film, Away We Go. Directed by
and written by power literary couple
Vida, Burt is an aimless, devoted husband who travels the nation looking for
a new home for his equally aimless wife (played by
On the cusp of Away We Go‘s Friday limited release, RT spoke with
Krasinski about his Five Favorite Films.
was one of those kids who had never seen an indie film before I got to college.
If it wasn’t a big, huge tentpole movie, or if it wasn’t on the radio, I hadn’t
experienced it. Then in college I started getting into independent movies, which
led me to classic movies, which led me to all this different stuff. The 1970s
movies, for me, were only discovered, unfortunately, as little as six or seven
So Kramer vs. Kramer. Some of the greatest writing I’ve ever seen, some
of the gutsiest performances. It’s just so quintessential of what the 1970s were
for me. There’s just this unfiltered, raw energy, and despite how beautiful that
movie is — and obviously, it’s a well done movie — the fact [is] that they’re
not making movies like that anymore. [Kramer vs. Kramer is about] a horrible
relationship. It’s a really tough situation for the father to be in, and yet
[for] everyone who went and saw the movie, there was this weird understanding or
commiseration with anger. I think people might have been angrier, or willing to
see angry movies.
Hutton turns in one of the best male performances I’ve ever seen. And that
family dynamic was so subtle in what could have been a really angsty movie.
Everything from the way it was shot to the way it was acted. John Bailey was
actually the DP on my movie that I directed (Brief Interviews with Hideous
Men) and he was saying that when they shot the psychiatrist scenes he
started out with the camera right over their shoulders, and then he moved the
camera back slowly and changed the lighting, because he said that if you’d been
going to therapy for months, then the lighting would be different every time of
the same day. And I thought, “That’s insane that someone thought of that.” And
then he moved the camera back 100 feet so that they were compressed on each
other so it was a much more intimate scene. I was like, “Wait, wait, wait, this
think it’s probably one of the most inspirational movies for me because of
Newman‘s performance. I think that is, to me, some of the best, [most]
controlled acting in a movie. I think that he has this incredible likability.
Even though he’s a drunk, washed-up lawyer, you’re still rooting for him from
the very beginning.
I’m that sort of weird guy who will watch a movie almost every day if I can.
It’s harder when you’re working on the show. I buy a lot of movies on used DVD
so I can have certain scenes. I was really looking for things to inspire me.
When I got out of college I was waiting tables professionally [and] couldn’t
afford to go the theater [every] night. I think those great movies can actually
make you feel a certain way. Not only emotionally, but if you’re in
this business, it’s one of those things where you see someone do something that
good and it buys you a year of energy. That’s what I was really looking for. It
sounds so cliché,[but I wanted] to bask in the glow some of these amazing
performances, like [those of]
Dustin Hoffman and
Marlon Brando. But it was also
fun. To get back to what I was saying before, that 1970s raw energy, it’s almost
frustrating now that people aren’t making more movies like that because people
won’t go see them.
Even Away We Go is, in a way, a tribute to the 1970s movies, too, but
more of the Hal Ashby thing. Again, I don’t think people are making movies like
this, so for Sam to do it is incredibly cool. And the fact that my name’s on the
poster is totally surreal.
movie for me was my Marlon Brando experience before The Godfather,
before Streetcar. It’s weird to be living in a modern world where
acting has changed. Movies have changed so much, and yet you can still see what
defined [Brando] and his performance. If I told you that so-and-so was the first
person to do something 30 years ago, you’d be like, “Well, I don’t care, because
people do it now all the time.” There’s still nobody doing what he does in that
movie. And so that really changed everything for me. Also, there was something
really exciting and sad about the whole political aspect of that movie. The
whole blacklisting thing.
because it’s everybody’s number one choice. I kinda feel, in this day and age —
not to be sounding bad in any way — we live in a culture where something’s
good, and some people will say it’s awesome, and they may not have even seen it
or they didn’t like it. But they want to agree with the cultural zeitgeist. I
feel like that movie has stood up to time [and] criticism, and yet everybody can
find the exact same reasons as to why it’s awesome. I mean, it’s so
well-written. It’s a slow movie that you’re still riveted by. It’s [got]
character development unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. And of course, the
performances are wild.
Did you use any particular scenes from these movies for your performance in
Away We Go?
No. When we were shooting in Connecticut, I stayed in New York a bunch of the
time, and I had all those DVDs there. I did watch Kramer vs. Kramer
again for no particular reason, because [Away We Go‘s] not about a dysfunctional
relationship. Again, just to get into that particular mindset. I don’t know,
it’s like when you see something in the theater that just blows you away, it
moves you in a different way for a couple of days. I remember when I saw
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I wanted to go out and direct a movie
right there on the streets of Manhattan. Unfortunately, you can’t without
permits. Or so they tell me. [Laughs] But that’s the thing; if you see some
magic show on television, you’re like, “I’m gonna go buy a deck of cards!” Whoa,
just settle down there, guy. So that’s basically what I do with these movies. I
try to see that to just push me to think I wanna rush in and do the scene the