Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Summer 2010
Hot Times and Hot Movies!
They’re baaack!! Once again, the Washington, D.C. Film Society’s COMING ATTRACTIONS TRAILER NIGHT, Summer 2010 highlights the blockbuster season’s offerings. The festivities return to Landmark’s E Street Cinema (E Street between 10th & 11th St., N.W.) at 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 8, 2010.
Local film critics and Film Society favorites, Joe Barber and Bill Henry, will host and relate stories of how the studios hope to entertain the summer masses. As always, attendees can vote on the films they gotta see (or wanna avoid); we’ll pass this information on to the studios. Which movies will make you spend your hard-earned dollars and stand in line?
For only $5 (Basic Members) and FREE for Gold Members, you get lots of movie promotional items, movie posters, raffles of movie tickets and DVDs as well as the trailers! This twice-annual event is unique to D.C. For more information and an update on trailers to be shown at COMING ATTRACTIONS TRAILER NIGHT visit the website.
Some of the trailers that we hope to show may include: the long-awaited Toy Story 3, this time in 3-D; Angelina Jolie returning to smokin’ hot kick-ass mode in Salt; the entire early 90s SNL cast (plus Kevin James) reunites in Grown Ups; The Expendables, with just about every male action star in Hollywood (including a cameo by a certain Governor); Sundance hit The Kids Are All Right; The Last Airbender tries to save the world and M. Night Shyamalan’s career; Josh Brolin gets revenge (with help from Megan Fox) in Jonah Hex; Christopher Nolan’s mind-trip Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio; Julia Roberts finds herself in Eat Pray Love; indie stalwarts the Duplass brothers new comedy Cyrus; more “Twilight” vampire teen angst with Eclipse; Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman try to out-cute each other in The Switch; Casey Affleck teams with Jessica Alba in the thriller The Killer Inside Me; Joel Schumacher tries to show he’s more than the director who almost ruined the Batman franchise with Twelve; Will Ferrell plays an inept cop in The Other Guys; while Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd reunite in Dinner for Schmucks. Other secret trailers will entice you!
Director George Romero talks about Survival of the Dead
By Ron Gordner and Annette Graham, DC Film Society Members
A preview screening of George Romero's latest film Survival of the Dead took place at Regal's Gallery Place theater on May 5. George Romero was present for audience questions; Michael Kyrioglou, Director of the DC Film Society, moderated.
Michael Kyrioglou: In the press notes for the film it said you want your films to be about something: "I need them to be about something." You bring some social commentary into your films. What did you underlay in this film?
George Romero: I don't know if it's actually underlaid. It's sort of in your face. It's about war and conflict and the fact that people can't bury the hatchet in the face of a disaster. It's a theme I've used throughout all six films [Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), Survival of the Dead (2009).] Here's a game-changing event, a tragedy and people are their own enemy. Throughout all six films people are the bad guys, not the zombies.
Michael Kyrioglou: Do you look for something that's going on in the world and that speaks to you that you want to bring into a film?
George Romero: To some extent the first four films that I've made were 10 years or more apart from each other and they all were inspired by what was happening in the world. They were a decade apart--the world was different, the culture was different, the style of the films was different. After Land of the Dead I wanted to do something about emerging media--a social citizen journal. So I had the idea of Diary [of the Dead]. I thought I had to do it quickly because someone else was going to do it. There were already all these emerging citizens' social journals. So we made Diary, then it was back to the roots with inexpensively made films, with friends, a non-star cast, and it wound up making lots of money worldwide. So that's why this film. Okay, maybe I'll have to make a couple more of these quickly. I had the idea of taking minor characters from Diary and took them off on their own adventures. And had this little set of films that really describe the zombie world three or four months in, and that was part of the idea. This is the first one. Hopefully--should I hope for this or not?--hopefully there will one or two more.
Michael Kyrioglou: What are your thoughts on this genre you've created? Zombieland was an entertaining movie recently. Any thoughts on those?
George Romero: I actually haven't seen Zombieland so I can't speak to it. But I understand they're not dead. Dead people can't run in my book. I loved Shaun of the Dead; it's the only one I really loved. I thought in Zack [Snyder]'s remake of Dawn [of the Dead] (2004), the movie lost its reason for being, even though Zack's a good director and the first twenty minutes were really hot. But it's not a movie I would have made. Same with The Crazies by the way, which is not a film I would have made. I don't know what to say. My films are slightly different, I think, not part of a trend. Zombies have been my friends for quite a while. I bring them out of the closet when I want to talk about something. They've always been good to me. I don't particularly care what other people do. Steve King is always asked "How do feel about Hollywood ruining your book?" And he says, "The books aren't ruined, they're right here behind me on the shelf." I feel similarly that my zombie films are their own thing. I have been doing it for a long time.
Question: Why zombies and not other monsters?
George Romero: Beats me! I never called them zombies, I didn't think they were. When we made the first film, zombies to me were those guys in the Caribbean, doing work for Lugosi. I never called them zombies, I never thought of them as zombies. It was only when people started to write about it. I've only used the word once--in Dawn of the Dead. I gave it a little nod to the voodoo there with the whole explanation there's no more room in hell when the guy said he was into voodoo. It was a little nod to the voodoo. That's it. My guys--someone changed the rules, god, the devil or whoever. The dead are not staying dead. I don't care why. I don't care why it's happening. What I care about most is how people react to it. In order to be a zombie you have to be dead. In 28 days and Zombieland they're not dead. You don't qualify as a zombie unless you're dead.
Question: What movies were you inspired by when you were growing up? You mentioned [Bela] Lugosi; did you see lots of scary movies? Is it important to you to bring something from the 1930s and 1940s movies that had scare factors? Like when the bird flew off the corpse and out to sea?
George Romero: That's just shock tactics. That's not important for me. I'm trying to do allegorical stories. The zombies could be anything. They are the problem. My stories are more about people and how they are going to address the problem.
Question: What movies scared you as a young kid?
George Romero: The only movie as a young kid that scared me was The Thing (1952). I was 12 and it just scared the pants off me. I haven't tried to emulate that film in any way. I admire it, I still think it's a really well-made film. The first one, Night of the Living Dead, is bit creepy here and there but other than that, I don't think they're scary. From the moment I did Dawn I say don't be scared, have a laugh, have a chuckle. I'm always surprised when people say "that movie scared me." Why? It should be a gas.
Michael Kyrioglou: What other horror directors' work did you see when you were younger that inspired you to want to be a filmmaker, or bring some of what they did into your films?
George Romero: Not horror. Orson Welles--In Night of the Living Dead, I probably stole 20 shots from Othello or Macbeth. People say it's this or that. No, it's Welles. And Michael Powell is still my favorite filmmaker. People ask what's my favorite film. I say, Tales of Hoffman, first of all, nobody knows it. It's a beautiful film, basically an opera. You wouldn't think that this would be my favorite movie but it is. It's also a fantasy, a complete fantasy. It's the film that made me want to make movies. Michael Powell was working with no money. You can see exactly how he did things. I could see even as a young guy how he did it. It made me feel I could do that. It gave me that sort of inspiration.
Question: In Survival of the Dead, the money is a driving force for these individuals. Was the money a general symbol of greed?
George Romero: It is. One of the characters says money will always be money, early on. Basically it is a red herring. Something for them to think about, even though it doesn't matter. Why would it matter? But my real feeling about that is when the character Cisco says "Money will always be money." There's always going to be a draw to that. I felt they needed something to go back to.
Question: I noticed that Plum Island was off the coast of Delaware. Why the use of Irish and midwesterners?
George Romero: The film is about war. I needed to make a choice about who should be speaking. I didn't believe on an island off the coast of Delaware I could have an Arab and a Jew (everyone laughs). I said I'll go with the Irish, it's an age-old choice that's tried and true. So that's where that came from.
Question: In some of the movies, the zombies start to show something more than just being a zombie. But the movie ends right when zombies start to think for themselves. Have you ever thought about exploring that more?
George Romero: I don't necessarily want to explore that more. The question is how smart do I want the zombies to get. Do I want them to take over the world? Not in a movie of mine, no. I don't want to do Omega Man (1971) or anything like that. I've always done this though. Even if you go back to Dawn of the Dead. Everybody says in Day of the Dead, Bub was a smart zombie. But if you go all the way back to Dawn, the main character, Peter, is carrying around a super-rifle that he finds in a weapons store, all the way through the film. Meanwhile another poor zombie has been schlepping around a .22 rifle. In the end he grabs Peter's rifle, he looks at them both, makes a choice, and chooses the good rifle over the bad. It was the first time I said, "Okay I'm going to shown a little intelligence." Maybe it's just memory. I think it's more. So that was the first time. And Bub becomes the hero of that piece. In Land of the Dead, Big Daddy there is the hero. I don't want to tell tales out of school but I wanted Riley Denbo in Land of the Dead to be African American. The first three films I made had African American heroes. But I got completely nixed. There's still this prejudice unless you can get Denzel [Washington]. Everybody said forget about it. So I said okay. I'll make a hero zombie and really make him a hero and make him an African American. That was a choice I made almost in retaliation to the other films that had African-American heroes. In the first case when I made Night of the Living Dead, it was almost accidental. Duane [Jones] was the best actor that we knew. When Jack and I were writing the script, we were thinking of him as a white guy. Then we said, Duane is a great actor. Let's see if Duane wants to do it. When he agreed to do it, all we did was not change the script. But it became so much more powerful. I didn't realize it, none of us realized it, except Duane. Duane said, "This is much more powerful this way." I didn't know if I was insensitive to that. But I didn't realize how much stronger it would make that film. Even though the same shit happened to the guy that we were thinking of as white--the posse came along, they shot him. But when he's African-American it just carries that much more strength, especially at that time in 1968. Duane was more sensitive to it than us. All we did was not change the script. Maybe we get a couple of points for that but we don't deserve all the credit that we got.
Question: It's very interesting that in every movie you've made the zombies all have characters. In modern movies the zombies tend to be a horde.
George Romero: In the remake of Dawn there are all wearing nighties and they're all running as if the first thing they did when they came back from the dead was join a health club. (Everyone laughs). That doesn't make sense. We've tried. This goes down to the wardrobe people when we're working on a film. Much of it is wardrobe. Here you have a bunch of people; wardrobe says, "Let's dress this guy like Santa Claus, let's make this guy a clown, make this guy a softball player." All of a sudden they have character, just simply because of how they're dressed. It's an important little detail that a lot of people don't focus on. I want them to be us. I want us to recognize them as us in a different condition, a different state.
Question: If a real zombie apocalpse occurred would you find it a boring event?
George Romero: I wouldn't necessaily be bored. I might try to get to the highest window I could find and watch it from above. I'm not a Max Brooks fan. Max takes this seriously, he says, this really happened, here's the weapons you need; he says it with a straight face. That's not what it's about. For me, someone changed the rules--god or devil or the Bush administration. I don't care why. I can't think of it that way. To me my stories have all been relatively small, even Land of the Dead which has a bigger canvas. It's a relatively small story about a relatively few people and how they are reacting to it. That's the most interesting thing to me. Take a movie like Signs. This is an alien invasion of earth through the eyes of four people in a basement. That's what Night of the Living Dead was. I prefer that. I'd like to see what these people think about it, rather than the world is blowing up, as in 2012. I much prefer that because then it becomes a story about people.
Michael Kyrioglou: The film opens on 28th of May. There is a Survival of the Dead phone app. Could you tell us about that?
George Romero: It's called App of the Dead. I didn't know what to call this movie. None of us did. All the way through production, even on the back of the director's chairs it said, "[Blank] of the Dead" and we'll think of something later. My suggestion was "Enough of the Dead." But not really, because I'm not finished. We didn't know what to call it. So this is now called App of the Dead. It's really fun. You can take someone and turn them into zombies with terrific graphics which are taken from our films. And then you can shoot them!
Survival of the Dead opened in DC on May 28.
I Am Love: Q&A with Composer John Adams
By Annette Graham, DC Film Society Member
With composer John Adams in town and appearing at the Kennedy Center, the DC Film Society was privileged to hear his thoughts on film music at a preview screening of I Am Love which used Adams' previously composed music. This fascinating departure from our usual Q&As with film directors or writers took place on May 18 at the Goethe Institute. DC Film Society Director Michael Kyrioglou moderated.
Michael Kyrioglou: I know you were hardly involved in the film. When were you were brought into the process?
John Adams: The music, except for the Techno during the party scene at the pool and one little snippet of Verdi, everything else in the film was my music. The pieces are varied. Pieces that go back almost 30 years and most of them are collected in a big 10-CD box which is available through Nonesuch Records called the John Adams Earbox although that only goes up to 2000. But all this music comes from the Earbox. I guess Luca Guadagnino, the director, obviously got ahold of it somehow and just mixed and matched according to how he wanted to shape the film. I didn't know anything about this. A friend who is a film buff and lives in San Francisco, called me up and said, "Tilda Swinton wants your e-mail address." At that point I'd only known of Tilda Swinton being in a couple of Jim Jarmusch films and I'd never seen The Chronicles of Narnia but I'd seen Michael Clayton and long time ago I'd seen Orlando which was one of her early films. But I knew she was a really great actress. I got this amazingly beautiful e-mail. E-mail shouldn't have such beautiful prose. She's every bit as intelligent and articulate and literate as she is beautiful on the screen. She told me about this film and made a brief description of the story. And then she said, "We are terrified. We are so bonded to your music. We are in a panic that you may not let us do this." We agreed that we would get together and I was going to be in London for the British premier of my opera Doctor Atomic. And so she came and Luca, the Italian director. To give you an idea just how completely divorced the opera community is from the film community--no one would allow her backstage. No one knew who she was. She wrote me a note and put it under the door. I was so embarrassed because I was expecting her to come. But I saw the film and thought it was a strong film. I can't quite get my head around that final scene. The piece is called Harmonielehr--it's a piece that I wrote in 1985. The piece itself has a kind of drama to it because it's about blockage--psychic blockage--and that music at the very end when she's rushing to leave the house is the final breakthrough. It's a 40 minute piece and that happens in the last couple of minutes with the orchestra's incredible collision of tonalities and it feels unbearably tense and then this one major chord powers through. In the concert hall, if it's a good performance, it's really quite an overwhelming experience. I think Luca was sensitive enough because what's he trying to show here is that all these characters are breaking through. The fiancee of Edoardo (Eva) is obviously pregnant and Tancredi's mother, played by Marisa Berenson has clearly picked up on that and isn't happy. But Elisabetta's breakthrough is very powerful and of course it's a tragic thing with Emma. Her adulturous affair has caused the death of her son. I think it's a film with a lot of texture. I'm basically very happy with how they used the music.
Michael Kyrioglou: know the film was much longer in its original edit. Did they show you a longer version?
John Adams: I think they did. There are aspects and stories that I think the film could have easily been as long as 1900. My favorite of all Italian family sagas was made for Italian television, The Best of Youth, I think that is one of the most marvelous creations. That's a 7-8 hour epic. And music is used wonderfully in there. Mozart, Astor Piazzolla and many others.
Michael Kyrioglou: Were you asked for any consultation or opinions about some of the music?
John Adams: No. If I had said something they would probably have. I felt it was a fait accompli. I basically thought they did a good job of it. The use of the Shaker Loops with its big climactic moment--I've been waiting for 20 years for someone to finally use it for a sex scene. The music from that same piece, that string piece with the bugs pollinating the flowers--the first time that music appeared in the film was a movie with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway called Barfly (1987). There's a scene where this very classy woman who works for a New York publisher, tries to coax this deadbeat poet (supposed to be Charles Bukowsky), who is a great poet but spends all his time drinking in bars and skidrow in Los Angeles. She figures the only way to get him to sign a contract is to get into it with him. He draws her down and they start living together. And they have a horrible fight and she smashes him in the face with her pocketbook. And he's covered with blood, and it's soaked his T-shirt. That gets him off and he sits down and starts writing poetry. And she storms out and he puts on this weird music which is Shaker Loops by John Adams. It's going really loud. And there's a knock on the door. He opens the door and there's two medics with a stretcher and they say "Where's the body?" He says, "Ain't no body." They say, "We were told there had been a fight and someone died here." And he says, "No, get out of here." And then they say (about my music) "Well buddy, will you please turn that down?" So that was my initiation into my film career which was someone on the screen asking one of the characters to turn the music down.
Michael Kyrioglou: I know some of your operas have been filmed. Have you been approached over the years to score films?
John Adams: Yes, I've been approached quite a few times. The first time when I was a very young composer I was asked to score a movie called Clan of the Cave Bear (1986). The producer called me and said they had contacted Olivier Messiaen and he couldn't do it. I passed on that. The most interesting request I got was from Francis Coppola who wanted me to score a movie called Megalopolis. But he's yet to make that. So, I'm still available.
Michael Kyrioglou: Is this something you're interested in?
John Adams: I am. The problem with scoring a film is that I work two years in advance. I have a project like a large scale orchestra piece or an opera and at minimum one year and often two years in advance. It takes two years to write a big stage work. If someone comes to me and says "Would you score a film?" my question is always, "Yes, when?" And they can never say when. That's just the nature of the beast, that for films--because of funding, availability of actors, scheduling-- the music is usually the very last thing that gets put on. Although film directors always work with what are called temp tracks. Temp tracks are very dangerous things because film directors get completely 100% bonded to them. They can't see their film without the temp track that they've been using. Then they find out that the producer can't afford the rights to it, or maybe in some case the producer wouldn't want it to be used. Then they hire a Hollywood composer and if it isn't basically similar to whatever the temp track is... Usually the temp tracks for all films are Carmina Burana, Barber's Adagio for Strings, and something roughly resembling Star Wars.
Question: I heard a snatch of vocal music in English. Was that yours?
John Adams: That was a strange choice. That was Pat Nixon reminiscing over her happy days when she actually could tolerate her husband. "Oh California, Hold Me Tight." That was a weird choice. She's opening a CD that Elisabetta had.
Question: Was that CD something of yours?
John Adams: No.
Question: Is there a central tenet that you turn to in your music? There is an atonal quality to your music but also incredible lushness. Is there something that you always return to?
John Adams: No. I think of creative work as a mirror of your existence. When I was 25, the music I wrote really was a mirror of my personality and psyche, and I've gone through a lot of different phases. With creative people, people often talk about their blue period, or rose period. In the case of Beethoven, his early, middle or late period. I've gone through periods where my music has been a little more aggressive and a little more dissonant. I wrote a opera about terrorism called The Death of Klinghoffer back in the early 1990s. You couldn't write an opera about a terrorist event without having a very powerful musical palette. I also wrote an opera called Doctor Atomic about the creation of the atomic bomb. It isn't so much dissonant but it's just really in your face and very powerful. And I'm going to do a symphony that I made from Doctor Atomic with the National Symphony Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I've also written music which is very tonal and very accessible. The last stage work I did was a setting of a folk tale from Southern India about a young peasant girl who discovers that she has the magic ability to turn herself into a beautiful flower and tree. As with a lot of folk tales, beautiful things and then horrific things happen to her. My model for that was Mozart, actually the piece was written to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. I tried to take the simplicity of Mozart's music; Mozart is amazing because on the surface it's so appealing, and it's so simple and yet even the most sophisticated musician never tires of Mozart, because there's such subtlety. There's pain in it but the pain is a very subtle and sublimated kind of pain.
Michael Kyrioglou: You have music inspiration from your parents. Your father taught you clarinet when you were younger. Are there other artists whether composers or musicians or writers that have inspired your work, either early on or now that drive what you're doing?
John Adams: Of course. My father was a painter and my daughter is a painter. My mother was an amateur but extremely talented actress. My first appearance on the stage was not as a conductor but as a little boy in a sarong in South Pacific. I read a lot. I love literature. I write--words as well as music. I'm actually working on a novel right now which is about a composer. I don't know what I'll do when I finish that. I'm inspired by all kinds of things. I don't think I'm quite as visual as other composers. I had an interesting experience recently. I don't know how many of you here have heard about the Red Book by Carl Gustav Jung that just came out. It's a collection of paintings that he did when he was going through a very profound psychological crisis. The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City invited people to come and interact with these images. They invited all kinds of people--Jim Jarmusch and Lori Anderson and a Tibetan monk and they invited me. And I think I did a really bad job because I didn't interact with it on a visual level. So I think I'm a very verbal and musical person but less visual. On the other hand, I watch movies all the time and I do love movies.
Michael Kyrioglou: Do the stories that you want to turn into a symphony or opera come more from you or do you find working in collaboration with someone like Peter Sellars changes the direction?
John Adams: Yes. Funders always love collaboration and people like to write about it and make documentaries about it because they think collaboration is just such a groovy thing. It's like double your money. But anyone who's an artist knows that collaboration is an incredibly painful process. Because it's not a negotiation. You don't come into an artistic collaboration and say "Okay, I want this and I'm going to ask for this and know that I'm going to get that." You don't. You come in and say, "I want this and I'm not budging." And it ought to be that way. If you are a great artist, what you do you care deeply about. And you don't want it hacked away, or carved away or twisted. But ultimately you have to make compromises. It's painful and very difficult. And that's why a lot of collaborative teams don't last very long. But I've worked with theater director Peter Sellars who also made a movie that uses my music. Not a well-known movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez (1991). He's a wonderful stage director and particularly great with opera and music. He has a very open and wonderful way of collaborating. I've often said he's the sperm and I'm the egg. He comes and he's there for a very brief time and we get a really great idea and then he leaves and I'm nine months working on it, or two years. But it's been wonderful to work with him.
Question: You mentioned that you see a lot of movies. If you are watching a movie and listening to the music, are you seeing it like everyone else does, how it relates to the movie or are you hearing it through your composer ears and thinking about how it works as a musical piece on its own?
John Adams: I think probably both. More often than not, and I hope I don't sound like a snob when I say this--but I think music is used really badly in movies. There isn't a lot of original film scoring now. Usually if you see a movie now, you'll see not "music by" but "music consultant." Someone like T-Bone Burnett who is a very influential music consultant in Hollywood and a guy with a lot of good judgement. But he'll basically say you need Lightnin Hopkins here and Billie Holiday there or Johnny Cash. So you'll get movies that have film scores that are really a mix and match of pre-existing music. There are some people like Thomas Newman who write original scores. And when I listen to them, I'm critical. If something works I'm thrilled. But I think it's always difficult scoring. And it's always been difficult scoring. Because you do something you care deeply about and then something happens. A producer comes in and says, "I don't like the way her hair looks, so let's get rid of that scene." Something that you've sweat blood over for weeks is just simply on the floor. And when you think about that and then you think, "Gee I could have been writing a symphony or something that's really mine," then you really wonder about whether you want to spend your time with film. Aaron Copland wrote some film music. It's very simple. They weren't big-time blockbuster movies; they were slightly under the radar movies. One was fairly well known, Of Mice and Men (1939). Philip Glass has been very successful. Part of his success is that first of all he writes very quickly so I think he has a certain distance. "Here's the music" and then he's done with it. And also he has a certain kind of highly identifiable style so people sort of buy it. When you have a Philip Glass score, you immediately recognize it. That's quite an impressive achievement, that you could have something like a Mondrian where you know immediately when you see it. But he's also tended to work with just a handful of directors that he trusts and that he knows won't abuse his music.
Michael Kyrioglou: Are you doing any campaigning with Mr. Domingo while you are here so that we can get one of your operas? I think Nixon in China was the only one performed here, back in the 1980s.
John Adams: I'm having a really good time here. I'm amazed at how enthusiastic the audiences are for my music and for the other music that I'm doing here.
Question: What exactly is a film score?
John Adams: I don't know where the term "score" came from. It's such a strange word. Scoring a film means adding specific music, writing it for the film. And this is not a film score. This is music that already existed that was put to the film. Someone like John Williams, when he writes music for Born on the Fourth of July or Star Wars, he sits and sees the rushes and writes music to it.
Question: Were there any particular moments in this film where the scoring or matching bothered you that you felt it was a misuse or misrepresentation of your music?
John Adams: No. I'm a little uncomfortable with the ending only because I mean something else with that music. I understand what the director is doing but...
Michael Kyrioglou: You need to be a little more flexible and fluid. You are going to interpret a play different from someone else. You have to let go on some level.
John Adams: It's really okay. A great contemporary composer who died a few years ago, Gyorgy Ligeti, who was Hungarian. Nobody knew who he was except for a few music students like me. Until Stanley Kubrik used his music in 2001. Then overnight he was famous and everybody wanted to know more about him. I think that's wonderful. I'm not looking for this to suddenly launch me into fame, but if people who aren't familiar with my music want to go out and listen and learn more about this music, then I'd be thrilled.
I Am Love opens in DC on June 18.
Winter's Bone: Q&A with Director Debra Granik
By Annette Graham and Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Members
A preview screening of Winter's Bone was held at Landmark's E Street Cinema on May 4. The film is based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell and was filmed in southwest Missouri's Taney and Christian Counties. Director Debra Granik answered audience questions.
Moderator: I would like to say a few words about Debra Granik. She attended the graduate film program at NYU where she won awards for her short film Snake Feed (1997). She also attended the writers and directors lab at Sundance Institute where she developed Snake Feed into a feature film script. Her first feature film was Down to the Bone which premiered at the Sundance festival in 2004 and won the best director award. Down to the Bone also went on to screen at film festivals around the world and won the International Critics' (FIPRESCI) Prize at the Vienna Film Festival among other honors. And in 2009 Ms. Granik filmed Winter's Bone in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. It was shown at this year's Sundance film festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize as well as the Waldo Salt screenwriting award. Congratulations to you for that and congratulations on creating a truly marvelous film full of thought-provoking ideas, poignant and lyrical. I'll ask the first question to get us started.
Moderator: The film is in some ways almost fairy tale like. You have these women who are almost like witches. It's almost mythological--in that river scene you can't help thinking of the River Styx. But it's almost incredibly natural and you really transported us to this subculture of the United States where not just the way of life and the code of ethics is different but the language is different and so much so that it could easily have come across as stilted and strained and yet there's not a false note in this film. It feels so true. I was struck by that when I watched it and afterwards reading a book about your work I learned that in the neorealist tradition you had in fact employed local guides and people to appear in the film in addition to your professional actors. What was the thinking behind that decision? What is it like to film in that way? What did you learn as a result? Anything surprising to you? How do you think it informed the final production that we saw tonight?
Debra Granik: I would say that as outsiders the fact that crew and people behind the film were coming from coastal regions it was imperative to find a way to collaborate profoundly with the people in the region and specifically the Forsythe Missouri area and the counties where we were filming. And the way that took root was through repeated visits. Finally after we did have a connection to help introduce our concept, our idea, we found a few people were willing to have us come onto their property. A few properties stood out just because the amount of dwellings on them worked so well for the story, we could flesh out the geography where Ree traverses hills and hollers. But with that property comes advice, teaching, showing us how to dress a squirrel, how to operate the wood splitter. How to fuel a home on wood. Every step of the way we needed the people who were of that particular piece of land to instruct us. We were filming in a house that belongs to Ashlee Thompson who plays Ree's younger sister. In the book she has two brothers and the screenplay was written that way as well. But as Ashlee became our six year old guide and as the city slickers had to learn from her, it became so attractive to have her be that character. We had really talented kids from a neighboring city. They didn't look of that land but Ashlee really did and Ashlee actually really felt comfortable in that house which was hers. Those dogs were her family's. The accent and dialect of the primary cast was infused by having people willing to rap with them before filming started, take them places, explain things. It was a kind of form of deep instruction. And then brave souls were willing to be in front of the camera as well.
Moderator: You did a great job and discovered a new talent. I wanted to ask about the role of women in this movie. With the notable exception of Ree's mother, for the most part although the men are the scary ones and they even seem to be in charge nominally, at the end of the day over and over again you see that it's the women who seem to be holding it together; they can ultimately get their way in certain respects. And this kind of slightly dysfunctional but yet to some extent functional society is only there but for the women. And there's a great line at the end of the film where Ree says, "I'd be lost without the weight of you on my back." Was that something you were exploring in general in terms of women's roles or do you feel there is something specific to the Ozarks or this kind of society where there is this meth problem, absence of government and people having to create a functional society within a dysfunctional situation where women emerge this way?
Debra Granik: I don't know enough about the Ozark's history but this would be a good question for Marideth Sisco, the woman who sings in the film and who is a scholar of the Ozarks. She also has a wonderful podcast. Some of the women she has written about are people who affected the whole town. I think there is some lore and legacy of women that could be put down over time. I think one inspiration that Daniel Woodrell (author of novel) had was in a convenience store. He told me that in a convenience store, at the cash register was teenage woman-girl with two younger children. He was trying to figure out by watching the interaction if it was their mom or their sister. He was not able to figure this out. And this person not much older than the other two appeared to be entirely responsible for their well-being and their life. They have backbone in the absence of certain things. I think he was attracted to the more tantalizing powerful females in storytelling, like the three witches. Ree has some Antigone in her, commitment to certain things ("I'll bury him"). He must have been in a very pro-woman state of mind when he penned this novel.
Question: What was your process for adapting the novel to screen? Did you take a copy of the book, highlight what you need, cross out what you didn't want, white it out, type it in a final draft?
Debra Granik: Where you there? (everyone laughs). The process for adapting it is so much as this person described. With a book that's written like Daniel's book was written, which is extremely cinematic, it's broken down into these scenes that hold together. It has a very forgiving structure. She's going from place to place and she's a very followable protagonist. That kind of adaptation is really a quite gentle process. It's a faithful adaptation; most of the book is in this film. The thing that gets lost immediately is inner life, any monologues, any dream states that Ree has, anything that an author includes that you cannot use in a movie unless you have voiceover in your film. Other than that, it was a very ripe book for adaptation.
Question: Was the dialogue true to the book?
Debra Granik: The dialogue is very close to the book. A couple times we slightly modernized or made something easier to say. Children developed their own language; they couldn't keep to the script as written. That was fine because their interactions with Ree were generalized. John Hawkes was very meticulous. He really liked how Teardrop was speaking in the book and he was fastidious about that. A screenplay always has to be more concise, a novel has all that space to play out but we did try to adhere quite closely. We could not have come up with phrases like "come to nutcrackin'." That's not how I grew up in Washington talking.
Question: Is "crank" crystal meth?
Debra Granik: Yes.
Question: You see movies like Die Hard with action throughout. This movie didn't have a lot of action yet you couldn't take your eyes off the screen; there was anticipation throughout the movie; you are mesmerized. The music was also fascinating. Was it something you found down there or was it written for the movie?
Debra Granik: I appreciate your first comment so much. It would be wonderful to think that there could be more American storytelling where suspense is created through other means besides being addicted to every couple of minutes something detonating. Sam Fuller made the comment that the most powerful bullet is the bullet of emotion. We forget that. It's underutilized now. There was a time when there was a greater knowledge about how to deploy that. But the music was a big gift to the film. It is no cliche, no stereotype, music is alive and well in the Ozarks. It's prevalent, picking sessions do occur, and they occur for no often greater gain than the joy of making music. It's not like there are pockets of thousands of people conspiring to get on the commercial blue grass circuit. It's a different kind of music playing. We used a lot of public domain materials, traditional hymns and ballads from the region. Marideth Sisco was the guiding light, she's the one that sings in the picking session in the film. She has her own radio show as well. She ended up drawing in a lot of her friends from a life filled with playing music, some of them appeared in the film. They also augmented by singing. We used it not just on screen but in other places in the film.
Question: Did you have any problem with any people who didn't like the filming?
Debra Granik: People definitely let us know if they weren't interested in participating. Because we had a local person interpreting for us, we didn't show up where we weren't wanted. We were warned. We learned in a very polite way. Everything was done by permission. But it would not be advisable to roll into town and think you could just start up without a certain protocol of people getting to know you. Curiosity is entirely mutual. As much as we may ask questions about certain parts of their daily life, questions come back right at us. Some of the things city dwellers do is so odd.
Question: I always thought crystal meth was a more profitable enterprise.
Debra Granik: Nick Reding is a Missouri journalist who wrote very important informative book called "Methland." It chronicles not just the development in the Ozarks, but where it spread, where it's gone, why it happened, big players in it. Like so many drug enterprises there can be a very intense ruse involved. After all those ingredients go in that filter what's left is so small. Often it may end up only keeping certain people in the drug itself. The lure is that there could be great money. It has to be made on widespread levels for profit to become something palpable. In so many communities it's much more like an old form of moonshine where it's very scrappy. Profit is come and go. So often things go wrong between family members and community members with the dangers in this production. I don't think it ever blossomed into something fantastic that could be counted on the financial level, not ever in these remote places. Once larger manufacturing gets involved the stakes are changed.
Question: Were you changed personally while working on this film?
Debra Granik: I would have to say yes. We were filming in the Bible Belt, a region that I had never been in. I came with my attitudes and narrow way of seeing certain things, and my comforts. One night I found myself in a church called the biker's church. It was a church where bikers are very committed to the positive aspects of their biking, and their brotherhood. They are encouraged to wear their full regalia in the church. The pulpit is part of a Harley. Everyone is dressed in biker gear. The sermon was really beautiful. It was mostly about strength that comes from treating each other well. They were getting prepared to take a bike trip across the country. A lot of things happened to me. I went by a lot of billboards for churches. This church was unexpected to me. I also happen to be a prototype of a vegetarian liberal east coast person. The fact is I learned a lot about hunting. It was very powerful to see someone six years old learning from her dad, learning precise and careful ways of hunting and understanding it, revering it, respecting it. During hunting season the entire county has no school so the children can help. These were things I had to open my eyes to.I didn't come down knowing anything about that. So, yes, the changes were big. And also discovering a lot of music that I'd never been exposed to and now that is under my skin.
Question: You used the red camera. How did this compare to other technologies you used in your previous films. How long did the shoot take? What was your budget?
Debra Granik: Red camera is powerful excellent instrument. It's a democratizing instrument. It's so strong and it can record such high resolution imagery. And yet it's available to ordinary filmmakers. You don't have to get in line for it. You don't have to have huge backing, you don't have to have enormous resources. It's a great instrument and I think it will get better and better. We were really pleased with its performance on the shoot. It was a workhorse. Because it is very high resolution, it can be transferred to 35mm film and it really holds up. It's a far cry from the last shoot. This camera is great. The shoot was 24.5 days. The budget was publicly under 5. Way under 5.
Question: Did you screen movie where it was filmed? What was reaction?
Debra Granik: The screening is coming soon (May 13-15) in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri in four different towns. There will be panel discussions at the screenings, we'll be able talk about it.
Question: You had support from the Missouri Film Commission support. What was their reaction?
Debra Granik: They were very supportive. Daniel Woodrell is an author who is prominent in state. I think they want productions to come. They feel excited about it, the music of the Ozarks being out there in the world. They know that southern part of state is very photogenic. Stories don't often get shot down there. This is not supposed to be a generalization of anything. It's just one man's tale of a particular place. I don't think they worry that it's a generalization about their entire state or about all the Ozarks or all of Taney County or all of Christian county. I think they saw it as a attempt to bring to light the work of a native son.
Winter's Bone is scheduled to open in DC on June 25.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
Celebrate Akira Kurosawa's centennial year with a retrospective of films. Part I starts May 15 and runs to June 21 and Part II runs through July. Titles in June include Rashmon (1950), The Idiot (1951), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1954) with Part II in July.
"Michael Caine: A Class Act" is a 20 film retrospective of Caine's 50 year career. Titles in June include Billion Dollar Brain (1967), Mona Lisa (1986), Sleuth (1972), Children of Men (2006), Little Voice (1998), The Quiet American (2002), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Educating Rita (1983), and The Italian Job (1969), Dressed to Kill (1980), The Prestige (2006), The Cider House Rules (1999) and Last Orders (2001).
A Michael Nichols retrospective begins May 14 and runs through July 1. June titles include Working Girl (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Birdcage (1996), Closer (2004), and Charlie Wilson's War (2007).
The AFI takes part in the 6th Annual Korean Film Festival Titles in June include Mother (Bong Joo-ho, 2009), A Brand New Life (Ounie Lecomte, 2009), Thirst (Park Chan-wook, 2009), and Like You Know It All (2009).
Other special events at the AFI in June include the Caribbean Film Festival June 11-13, Silverdocs June 22-27 and the International Disability Film Festival June 7-11.
Freer Gallery of Art
Two restored Taiwanese films are shown in new prints. On June 6 at 2:00pm is City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1989) and on June 13 at 1:00pm is A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991).
The 15th Annual Hong Kong Film Festival starts in June and runs through August. On June 18 at 7:00pm and June 20 at 2:00pm is Red Cliff--Part I (John Woo, 2008); and on June 25 at 7:00pm and June 27 at 2:00pm is Red Cliff--Part II (John Woo, 2009). More in July and August.
National Gallery of Art
A series of films accompanies the Gallery's exhibition "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg." On June 12 at 2:30pm is The Savage Eye (Ben Maddowq, Joseph Strick, Sidney Meyers, and Haskell Wexler, 1959); on June 12 at 4:00pm is The Balcony (Joseph Strick, 1963) preceded by the short film Muscle Beach (Joseph Strick and Irving Lerner, 1948); on June 18 at 1:00pm and June 25 at 1:00pm is Ferlinghetti (Christopher Felver, 2009); on June 18 at 3:00pm and June 25 at 3:00pm is Cecil Taylor: All the Notes (Christopher Felver, 2004); on June 20 at 2:00pm is Pull My Daisy (Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, 1959) followed by Conversations in Vermont (Robert Frank, 1969); on June 26 at 2:00pm is Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place (Henry Ferrini, 2000) followed by Lowell Blues (Henry Ferrini, 2007); on June 26 at 4:00pm is Guns of the Trees (Jonas Mekas, 1962); on June 27 at 2:00pm is Guns of the Trees (Jonas Mekas, 1962); and on June 27 at 4:30pm is Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Stephen Sebring, 2008) preceded by Long for the City (Jem Cohen, 2008) with Stephen Sebring in person.
"Catalunya: Poetry of Place" ends in June with The Silence Before Bach (Pere Portabella, 2007) preceded by Mundanza (Pere Portabella, 2009).
Other special events include En Construccion (2001) with filmmaker Luis Guerin in person on June 5 at 2:30pm; The Wild Swans (Peter Flinth and Ghita Narby, 2009); Monuments (2009) with filmmaker Redmond Entwistle in person; "Manhattan in 16mm," a program of documentary and experimental short films; and J'Accuse (Abel Gance, 1919) with Dennis James accompanying on theater organ.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
"Simian Cinema" is the focus of this year's Summer Camp, with film introductions by Dave Wilt. On June 10 at 8:00pm is Gorilla at Large (Harmon Jones, 1954); on June 17 at 8:00pm is Konga (Herman Cohen, 1961); and on June 24 at 8:00pm is The Mighty Peking Man (Hsing Hsing Wang, 1976).
National Museum of the American Indian
On June 26 at 2:30pm is Spiral (Jorge Perez Solano, 2008) about the migration north of men from a small town in Oaxaca which is now populated mainly by women and children.
National Portrait Gallery
This month's "Reel Portraits" film on June 19 at 2:00pm is Herb and Dorothy (Megumi Sasaki, 2008) about art collectors of modest means Herb and Dorothy Vogel. Discussion follows the screening.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On June 3 at 6:30pm is Islands (David and Albert Maysles, 1986), a documentary about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's wrapping of Florida islands in pink fabric. On June 17 at 6:30pm is Running Fence (David and Albert Maysles, 1978). Both films accompany the museum's exhibition "Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence."
Washington Jewish Community Center
On June 2 at 3:30pm is a program "Moving Pictures: Portraying History's Horrors on Film, a panel discussion with film clips. Guests Ted Leonsis, producer of Nanking; Erik Nelson, producer of Hitler's Hidden Holocaust and Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine, directors of War Dance will discuss the topics.
On June 6 at 11:00am is The Jazz Baroness (Hannah Rothschild, 2008), a documentary about Baroness Pannonica Rothschild and her relationship with jazz legend Thelonius Monk.
To celebrate the Berlin International Film Festival's 60th year is a series of seven films from past festivals chosen by Dieter Kosslick, manager of the Berlinale. June titles include Solo Sunny (Konrad Wolf, 1980) from the former GDR on June 7 at 6:30pm; Trace of the Bears (Hans-Christoph Blumenberg and Alfred Holighaus, 2010), a documentary about the Berlin Film Festival on June 14 at 6:30pm; Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982) on June 21 at 6:30pm and Life Is All You Get (Wolfgang Becker, 1997) on June 28 at 6:30pm. One more in July.
On June 15 at 6:30pm is To Russia with Love: The Great Radio Show (Christian Bauer, 2008) a story of the Cold War told through the perspective of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; this program is part of a series about the role of public media in democracy.
The Goethe Institute takes part in "EuroAsia Shorts." This year's topic is Joy and Sorrow. On June 2 at 6:30pm is the Goethe's program of films from Germany and China. Visit the EuroAsia Shorts website for other locations.
Indian Film Society
The Indian Film Society and IndianVisions present The Japanese Wife (Aparna Sen, 2010) on June 13 at 1:30pm. The screening will be at Georgetown University's Intercultural Center.
On June 22 at 7:00pm is Wedding Cake (Denys Granier-Deferre, 2010). Reservations are required.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
The Japan Center takes part in EuroAsia Shorts 2010 on June 4 at 6:30pm with pairings of short films from Asian and European countries. Short films with the topic of joy and sorrow will be shown from Japan and Spain.
On June 16 at 6:30pm is Azemichi Road (Fumie Nishikawa, 2009), about a Japanese girls' dance team, and winner of several awards.
The National Theatre
This year's summer cinema features "Cary Grant: A Star to Remember." On June 21 at 6:30pm is To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955) and on June 28 at 6:30pm is My Favorite Wife (Garson Kanin, 1940). More in July and August.
To accompany the exhibit "Discovering the Civil War" is Gettysburg (1993) on June 19 at noon, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Shaara The Killer Angels.
On June 30 at noon is a documentary film biography of Patsy Takemoto Mink Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority (Kimberlee Bassford, 2008), shown in conjunction with this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival and its theme of Asian Pacific American Connections.
On June 30 at 7:00pm is "2010 Student Academy Award Winners." Film titles will be available after the official announcement of winners on June 12.
National Museum of Natural History
On June 10 at 6:30pm is Imaginero (Jorge Prelorán, 1969) in a restored print with discussion to follow.
Interamerican Development Bank
Two classic films from Mexico will be featured in June. On June 10 at 6:30pm is Nazarin (Luis Buñuel, 1958) and on June 24 at 6:30pm is Enamorada (Emilio Fernandez, 1946).
The Avalon starts a new series of Greek films on the first Wednesday of each month. A Touch of Spice (Tassos Boulmetis, 2003), on June 2 at 8:00pm, is about a young Greek growing up in Istanbul.
For this month's "Czech Lions" series is Grapes 2 (Vlad Lanne), about two young men in a Moravian village and the vineyard one inherits from his grandfather.
The "French Cinematheque" film for June is Mademoiselle Chambon (Stéphane Brizé, 2009) on June 16 at 8:00pm.
On June 8 at 7:00pm is The Art of the Steal (Don Argott), a documentary about the scandalous power-grab for the Barnes Foundation's art collection.
Anacostia Community Museum
On June 2 at 10:30am is a short 2009 film profile of DC artist Ira Blount with a discussion following the screening. On June 29 at 10:30am is The Third Root (Rafael Rebollar Corona, 2001), a documentary about Afro-Mestizos on Mexico's Pacific coast.
On June 28 at 7:00pm is Tara Road (Gillies MacKinnon, 2005). Films are shown at Flashpoint, 916 G Street NW.
Atlas Performing Arts
Atlas Arts hosts the "Gay 101" series of films. On June 9 is A Star is Born, on June 17 is The Women, and on June 24 is Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. All films begin at 8:00pm. More in July and August.
Contemporary Video Art
The Council of the European Union recently conducted a European video art competition to showcase the latest films and artists from the E.U. Screenings will take place at three locations June 9-12. On June 9 at 6:30pm The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center will show videos with a social and political theme. On June 10 at 6:30pm The Phillips Collection's theme is aesthetic. On June 12 at 2:00pm the National Portrait Gallery's theme is portraiture and identity.