Director Dan Trachtenberg: Idea

Movie: More Than You Can Choose

Where did the idea come from?
Dan Trachtenberg: I’ve always really wanted to do a gritty cop drama with a supernatural perpetrator. When I was approached by Tony Valenzuela, who runs Black Box TV, to do a ‘Twilight Zone’-esque short for the series, it made sense to have the “supernatural-ness” be our reveal.

How long was the shoot?
The shoot was one-and-a-half days. We shot it over Super Bowl weekend. So instead of having to wrap before the sun goes down, on our last day we had to wrap in time for everyone to make their Super Bowl parties. Even with the tight time constraints, I must say it was a pretty easygoing shoot. I’ve been directing commercials for six years now, and I’ve never had a shoot that was this fun and relaxed.

Would you ever want to turn this into a feature-length film, and do you already have an idea for it?
As luck would have it, since the release of the short I have signed myself a manager and a great team of agents. Priority number one is developing the feature version. Our twist sets up a fairly unique and exciting world. What ‘Bourne’ did for the spy film or ‘District 9’ did for alien movies, we could do that for our genre. (I’m being vague in case people are reading this before watching the short.)

What’s next for you in terms of directing?
I’m still involved in commercials and I have another big short film that I actually shot a year ago, well before ‘Chew,’ that is almost ready to be released. It’s based on a very unique video game and is riddled with special effects, hence the amount of time it has taken to come out. But those effects have been worth the wait, as we’re nearing the finish line and they are looking pretty kick-ass. I can’t wait for everyone to see this. So that’ll be out soon, and then who knows. I’ve had some exciting meetings in the past couple weeks since the short came out. Hopefully I get put up for some cool films.

‘Tyrannosaur’ Review:

“No one’s safe around me,” seethes Joseph in one scene with Hannah, as he reveals the sad details of his relationship with his late wife. (The title of the movie is taken from his endearing nickname for her.) But it would be more correct to say that in this movie, no one is safe, period. There’s really no word for these characters — Joseph’s drinking partner Tommy (Ned Dennehy), his dying friend, his young neighbor Samuel and Samuel’s mum and her crappy boyfriend and his vicious dog — except miserable. There is a glimmer of hope, of course, at the very end after all the blood and death and even urine has been washed away, but at what cost?

It’s hard to deny there’s a certain power to Considine’s film; there is a terrible urge to see what happens next, if only because we’re curious how it could get bleaker. (And it does. Oh, it does.) There’s artistry in the performances and in Considine’s writing and direction, but the movie brings up bigger questions — what’s the point of a movie that you simply stomach? That leaves you feeling bludgeoned afterward? Is Hannah’s abuse exploitative, or is there more to her than a martyr who uses Jesus and booze as a balm for her wounds? Joseph is given moments of grace, but Hannah only finds relief in yet more (and I’d say totally justified) violence.

While the film moves towards a sort of higher meaning about damaged people finding solace in each other or some such mumbo-jumbo, the ending feels like an empty coda meant to placate the viewer, as if to say, “See, it’s not that bad.” But you can’t have it both ways; you can’t brutalize the audience for the majority of the film and then pat us on the head at the end and tuck us into bed. Either go all the way with the sort of relentless sadism of, say, ‘Martyrs’ or give us something more to cling to than a postscript.

Framed: Bright Star

We follow their romance largely through the letters they shared while Keats traveled abroad. Brawne becomes a well of inspiration for the poet, who creates some of his best-known works while with his lady love, including the sonnet the film is named after, ‘Bright Star.’ Their courtship doesn’t end with the dream it began and remained unconsummated (Keats was too poor — and eventually too ill — to marry Brawne), as the pangs of Campion’s parting image — Brawne in mourning garb haunting the woods and reciting the poem written for her — won’t let you forget.

Like one of Brawne’s garments, ‘Bright Star’ stitches together the structure of design and the dreaminess of Keats’ poetry to bring the Romantic’s tender words to life. It’s a balance similar to the way Brawne biographer Joanna Richardson describes Keats’ poem, ‘Endymion:’ ” … the very symbol of beauty, the reconciliation between real life and his poetic quest.” Campion’s mantra was to “find the images in the poetry.” The director and cinematographer assembled their intimate and emotional portrait, relying on the light and air of their “interior/exterior studio” to do so.

Any given frame from ‘Bright Star’ could be an Impressionist painting or a watercolor brought to life. This week’s image of Brawne reclining in bed, luxuriating in the warmth of her romance with Keats is no different. The whispering air and soft light from the window are as palpable as the emotions felt during this scene. The gorgeous, natural lighting for the interior scenes were shot as organically as the passing weather. Fraser explains, “At the start of a take, we had someone watching the sky, and they’d say, ‘We’ve got about a minute of clouds.’ So we’d go for it, and then, in the middle of the take, the sun would come out and light the whole room.”

Fraser did his homework, studying the rhythm, repetition, and symbolism of Keats’ words to compose the movie’s visual feel. “Understanding Keats’ poetry was like learning how to read again. I tried to come to a good understanding of not only what was being said, but also the colors those words conjured up and what those combinations of words were saying to me. I read the script, studied some of Keats’ poetry, read more about him and then read the script again, and it felt really fulsome.”

Fulsome perhaps, but Fraser and Campion’s aesthetic translation of Keats work is subtle, drifting over you like the air from Brawne’s bedroom window.

From Emma Roberts On Horror

It felt like ‘Homework’ was a very personal story, and I was wondering if you got any indication that there was a real-life Sally.

Sally’s very similar to me; that’s why I really responded to it, is I really felt like I knew her and I’d felt the things that she’d felt. She’s probably one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played. I have her very close to my heart.

She’s really smart and likeable but also she’s confused. She doesn’t really want to hurt George but she kind of does…

Well, it just shows that she’s a real person, ’cause in real life, people aren’t just one thing or the other. They’re a mixture, and I like that with her it showed that she is a good person but she [does] not always make the best choices. And she is popular and pretty and whatever, but there’s a lot more going on than just that.

It’s an interesting look at a certain subset of New York teenagers.

I felt like this showed teenagers in a real light. Like, yes, they go out, they drink, they talk about real life things, not just clothes and boys. I really liked how teenagers were portrayed in this movie ’cause I felt like it wasn’t ever forced or cheesy.

So you’re like the new female badass in the ‘Scream’ series…

It’s an honor. I mean, I’ve been a ‘Scream’ fan… Also, I love Wes Craven, and I love Neve [Campbell],Courteney [Cox] and David [Arquette]. I thought [they] have been fabulous in every ‘Scream’ movie, so to come in and kind of take on this new role — I play Jill Roberts, coincidentally her last name’s Roberts, Sidney Prescott’s cousin, and it’s just cool because if you had told me five years ago, “You’re gonna be in ‘Scream’ in a couple years,” I would be like, “Okay, whatever, I don’t believe you.” So it was just really surreal.

It’s an interesting return for the horror genre, because it originated this sort of meta-horror trend —

Well, ‘Scream’ has always kind of changed horror; it’s always kind of taken a new spin on it, and this one, I think, is going to open the door for a lot of new different movies. Not so much ‘Scream’ but I think it’s gonna really inspire people, because it’s just insane. I wish I could say more, but it’s utter insanity. I mean, when I was reading the script, my jaw was dropped the whole time.

Because it was…

Because every time you think that you’ve figured it out and that’s the end, it’s not.

So, you’re helming the new generation of the ‘Scream’ team. Are there plans for more? You’re kind of set up to be the final girl.

Who knows? I guess we’ll see. I mean, that would be awesome.

I’m sure everyone is asking you this, but do you like horror movies? What’s your favorite?

‘The Ring’ scarred me for life … Scarred me for life, but my favorite. I also love ‘Shutter Island.’ I read the book and saw the movie. I like horror movies — well, I like scary movies like that because it’s just like a mind eff, you know? It’s one of those things where you blame yourself for not figuring it out. You’re like, “How could I not have seen that coming?” So I love those kinds of movies. I get really scared, though. I can’t see ‘Saw’ or any of those movies. It really freaks me out.

Does that make it easier to be in a horror movie, then?

Yeah, because I would get an adrenaline rush every time someone would chase me or anything. I have a thing about — even just with friends, like if someone’s running up behind me, it really makes me uncomfortable. So in ‘Scream,’ when we were shooting, we’d be doing chase scenes or whatever, running around, people jumping out, and I would genuinely be so scared. People were trying to play tricks on me all the time.

Film Events: DB

Chicago

In order to properly celebrate Punxsutawney Phil’s favorite holiday, the Max Palevsky Cinema is screening Harold Ramis’s terrific comedy starring Bill Murray, ‘Groundhog Day.’ Because Murray has created such a mythic persona for himself in recent years by showing up at events unannounced, it seems vaguely possible he might end up in the theater with attendees, but make sure you check out the Eventful website for additional screening details and ticket information.

Over at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Feb. 5, absolutely make sure that you check out Georges Franju’s classic horror film ‘Eyes Without a Face,’ one of the greatest films this writer has ever seen. (And no, it’s not related in any way to the Billy Idol song of the same name, although we like that pretty well too.) The screening begins at 5:15, but make sure you check out the Siskel Film Center website for additional screening details and ticket information.

Dallas

The Texas Theatre is well-known for its high-profile repertory screenings, but this week it offers its clientele a special treat with amazing presentations of two Alex Cox films, ‘Straight to Hell‘ (on Feb. 2) and ‘Sid and Nancy‘ (on Feb. 3). Most amazingly, after ‘Straight to Hell,’ Alex Cox himself will conduct a Q&A with attendees (via remote) and talk about what he’s been up to during the last two decades. ‘Straight to Hell’ starts at 8:00 PM, but make sure you check out the Texas Theatre website for additional screening details and ticket information.

Los Angeles

While you should always take advantage of any opportunity to see nouvelle vague film in any format, especially make sure you head over to the Egyptian Theatre on Feb. 3 to see a double feature of Godard’s ‘Contempt‘ and Truffaut’s ‘Shoot the Piano Player,’ two films paired together specifically because of their use of music by acclaimed French composer George Delerue. The double feature starts at 7:30, but make sure you check out the Egyptian Theatre website for additional screening details and ticket information.

For a double dose of indie cred on Feb. 4, head down to the Cinefamily for a double feature of ‘Citizen Ruth‘ and ‘Flirting With Disaster,’ which will be introduced and discussed by their respective directors, Alexander Payne and David O. Russell. The program starts at the Silent Movie Theatre at 7:30, but make sure you check out the Cinefamily website for additional screening details and ticket information.

New York

At midnight of Friday, Feb. 4 and Saturday, Feb. 5, Sunshine Cinema is showing Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece ‘Rear Window.’ Because the film was restored a few years ago, the 35mm print for this should be wonderful, but make sure you check out the Sunshine Cinema website for additional screening details and ticket information.

San Francisco

Whether or not you saw his latest film ‘How Do You Know,’ make sure you visit the Castro Theatre on Feb. 1 for a screening of ‘Broadcast News,’ which will be introduced and discussed by writer-director James L. Brooks in person. The conversation with Brooks will be moderated by actor Danny DeVito, but make sure you check out the Castro Theatre website for additional screening details and ticket information.

Seattle

At the Egyptian Theatre in Seattle on Feb. 4 and 5, check out midnight showings of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park.’ Make sure you check out the Egyptian Theatre website for additional screening details and ticket information.

Jane Austen Today

In 1995, 55 years after the last film, everything changed. The BBC offered up ‘Persuasion’ while Ang Lee dug into his first fully English film, the Emma Thompson-adapted ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ There couldn’t have been a bigger hammer to fall on Hollywood’s collective head and stress the promise of Austen’s work. The film earned seven Academy Award nominations and one win, for Thompson’s screenplay, and started a pervasive vein of Austen appreciation.

It also led to an outcry of “Why now?” In a blink, Austen was everywhere on the silver screen. After a dry spell that lasted more than a half century, we were hit with three films hit in just two years. (The third being the Gwyneth Paltrow-starring ‘Emma.’) ‘Jane Austen in Hollywood’ discusses how Time Magazine ran a headline asking: “Sick of Jane Austen yet?” Wall Street declared the mania to be “cash driven.” Her immediate impact was so far-reaching, in fact, that ‘Austen in Hollywood’ details how the Socialist Workers’ Party Marxism ’96 Conference featured a session on “what is so great” about the author. Austen had become not only a cinematic icon, but also a social force to be reckoned with.

It helped that the mid-90s rush also included ‘Clueless,’ Amy Heckerling’s ‘Emma’-twisted tale about one girl finding love, after she tries to romantically link everyone else. But ‘Clueless’ is also an obvious marker in a more subversive Austen influence. There are nods to the late writer’s work everywhere you turn. Some, like ‘Clueless’ or ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ are obvious, striving to applaud Austen’s work to modern viewers. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ not only played on the literary dalliances in Austen’s work, like the direct reflections of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ but it also set forth to relay the carefree v. reliable romance in ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Even more relevant today, the entire ‘Twilight’ universe is entrenched in Austen’s romantic sensibilities. Though started in a dream, Stephenie Meyer’s world is directly influenced by these novels, from how she came up with names and story lines, to how Bella prefers to read Austen than deal with the real world, to how the basis of the story is deeply entrenched in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as well. And as Bella digs into Austen, Jemima Rooper’s Amanda Price gets to literally live Austen’s romantic world in the British miniseries ‘Lost in Austen.’ In the last 10-15 years, Austen has not only had a resurgence, but become the signifier of youthful modern passion.

The question, once again, is “Why now?” It’s no longer merely a Hollywood trend overflowing from the screen. Writers and filmmakers are influenced by Austen’s work. It’s quoted and referenced, either obviously or subtly. We’ve now got extra Austen ‘Prada,’ not to mention the possibility of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ which started the historic supernatural trend that’s about to wash over us.

Some call it a nostalgic yearning for the past, to wipe away the complicated and difficult nature of modern times, to go back to something “simpler,” even if that so-called simplicity’s price is the release of gender freedom. Many see the trend as a turn towards the conservative, to praise and uphold traditional ideals in the face of modern society, upheld by feminists like Camille Paglia who see the resurgence as a sign that culture is “turning backwards” (‘Jane Austen in Hollywood’ pg. 161).

Essentially, it seems that Austen offers enough of any world that either the most conservative and traditional figure, or the most liberally modern-minded one, can thrive in Austen’s writing. Those who yearn for traditional values cling to the notions of romance and place — the quest to find love, financial security and someone with the appropriate lifestyle. For the more progressively minded, Austen offers an alternative glimpse of women during a time when they had little freedom, her pen having created a diverse roster of heroines, even if they were all romance-minded. To quite firmly grasp moviegoers on both sides of the spectrum, Austen becomes just about the most relevant creative source for women there is today.

As a moviegoer, I must admit, I never understood the attraction. Austen’s worlds are rife with diverse females, yes, from the mirth of Emma Woodhouse to the strict decorum of Elinor Dashwood. But they’re always so focused on their men and lives, that it’s easy to be pushed away. Yet we must remember our modern sensibilities, and also the wry commentary Austen — a woman who never experienced this literary love — relays. The women ultimately fit into society, but they also hint at something more, while chastising the world they must live in.

Austen’s women are completely foreign, yet ultimately relatable.

Are we clinging to the past? Does Austen offer a sense of release? Why is Jane Austen so beloved today?

Remembering John Barry Movies


‘The Ipcress File’

This 1965 Brit spy tale is kind of a downbeat anti Bond — underscored by the title theme, ‘A Man Alone.’ Harry Palmer is a kitchen sink spy, and Barry ingeniously uses the sound of a Cimbalom (an Austro-Hungarian dulcimer) to evoke a sense of melancholic disquiet. This was a perfectly paranoid partner for director Sidney J Furie’s skewed vision of London Town.


‘Zulu’

This 1964 historical war drama starring Michael Caine proved that Barry was accomplished at working on an epic scale — creating powerful, sweeping orchestral scores for this Boy’s Own tale of imperial valor.


‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’

The sixth installment of the Bond series may have featured the worst 007 in the secret agent’s history (George Lazenby), but it had one of the best scores. The grandiose bassline — featuring Barry’s signature brass melding with Moog synthesizer — is to die for.


‘From Russia with Love’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’

It’s a toss-up between these two beauties. Barry’s work set the tone for spy movies in a way similar to Morricone and spaghetti western. The cool, elegantly menacing twang of Vic Flick’s guitar allied with thrilling brass set sail for a raft of pastiches throughout the decade. Bond’s overseas jaunts allowed Barry to devise exotic orchestral backdrops for seductive sleuthing — adding an air of refinement to Sean Connery’s gentleman assassin. His space music track ‘Capsule in Space’ from ‘You Only Live Twice’ is wonderfully dramatic and ethereal.

Suave, moody and menacing — it’s impossible to conceive of classic Bond without Barry.