Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leap Day: One Extra Day, One Extra Post

This year is the one in every four years that’s a leap year, meaning February gets one extra day. I don’t remember the last Leap Day very well, but apparently its a new national holiday. It would be next in line for a movie with the caliber of “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day,” but “30 Rock” already beat Hollywood to the chase. Don’t forget to wear blue and yellow and thank Leap Dave Williams today.

While a lot of people are deciding to use this extra day to do something spontaneous and unpredictable (I smell a rom-com!), I’ve just decided to write an extra blog post. This Leap Day, you will be treated to a new clip promoting Ridley Scott’s upcoming “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus.” It shows Guy Pearce, Australia’s new national treasure, in character at the recent TED Conference. I am not one to be sucked in to Hollywood’s obsession with sequels and prequels but when I do, it’s for “Prometheus.”

Happy Leap Day to all, and happy fifth birthday to all of my friends turning 20 today. Watch the “Prometheus” clip below, so you can feel educated about Greek Mythology today:

Now That The Oscars Are Over…

…I can finally start talking about important things again, such as the return of “Mad Men” on March 25. The show has been on hiatus for almost two years ago, and that unbearably long time almost made me forget how great this show is. “Breaking Bad” has taken over the spotlight as AMC’s best show, but one does not simply forget about “Mad Men.”

I bring this up because today, a very provocative teaser poster was revealed for the next season. Usually, teasers don’t mean much to me, but “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner can brilliantly tell the story of the entire upcoming season in just one image. From what I can tell, we will be entering a much less sheltered era. Things will become much more exposed, including Don Draper (Jon Hamm) himself. Weiner ambiguously says that by the end of this season, we will know what the show is really about. This fifth season could be the show’s best one yet. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves yet. For now, take a look at the new poster. Discuss:

Read more over at The New York Times.

Oscars 2012 Wrap Up: Let the Dog Speak

And now, I conclude my incessant takeover of your Social Media newsfeeds with my very last blog post of awards season. As predicted, “The Artist” took home the top prize and a few more. Most surprisingly, Meryl Streep beat out Viola Davis for Best Actress, because apparently people were outraged that she only won two. Most disappointingly, George Clooney lost Best Actor to Jean Dujardin. I have respect for Mr. Dujardin and he gave a great performance, but his transformation was nothing like Clooney’s.

For now, Clooney will just have to live with the fact that he’s George Clooney.

The Oscars can be called many things: lavish, glorious, and a waste of time and money. It would be great if it could be called entertaining, hasty, and innovative instead. To be fair to Billy Crystal, he is not the world’s worst host, but a very safe choice. However, he has already stirred up some controversy for putting on black face in order to play Sammy Davis Jr. during the show’s introduction. The highlight though was when he tried to read people’s thoughts. It was a simple idea that was pulled off with perfect execution.

Like the host, this year’s ceremony certainly wasn’t terrible. It was something that could be considered even worse than terrible: it was meh. Nothing very memorable happened, and many of the winners and nominees will not stand the test of time. How is it that both “50/50″ and “Young Adult” were totally shut out? How is it that “War Horse” walked home empty handed? The real Oscar winners are the ones that stand the test of time, and I have a feeling that some years down the road, “The Artist” will feel artificial. This is not to say that I didn’t like “The Artist,” as my review will show. I just feel that its achievements will seem less impressive in the future. It will just be another silent movie. A very entertaining one at that, and one that manages to fall apart towards its ending.

Should we stop valuing movies just because they win awards? Probably. Awards don’t mean everything, especially when they are only voted on by a small group of old white men who probably ask their grandchildren if they should open every email in their spam folders. However, no matter how little the Oscars mean, I will never stop watching them. They unite everyone, from all walks of life, to come together  and root for movies that they may or may not have seen. If they tune in, they could actually learn something. The most moving part of tonight’s ceremony for me was the Best Editing category, in which each editor got to speak about the methods behind their madness. If the Oscars want to win everyone back, this is what they should be like: less of a night of politically driven competition, and more of a night of film education and enlightenment. With a good host. I vote for Zach Galifianakis.

Three More Things:
1) After last year’s Oscars, I declared Natalie Portman as my future wife. Now, that honor will have to go to Emma Stone.
2) Next time I watch “Community,” I will smile, knowing that Dean Pelton is an Oscar winner.
3) For anyone who tried out my Oscars Drinking Game, I hope you are still alive.

It is also important to know that the guy in this image is the cinematographer of “Hugo”:

Thank you as always to FilmDrunk, the source of just about every funny image I get.

The Oscars: The Drinking Game

Given my age, I cannot officially endorse any drinking of any sort. So I will say that this game is for the 21+ readers out there (or if you are overseas, 12+ most likely). If you’re underage, then I guess you’ll just have to have a fun night with grape juice or something. Use your imagination. Many people have made Oscar drinking games in the past, but I would like to think that mine is at least slightly original. Here are the cues to drink. Feel free to add in any of your own: 

  • Billy Crystal makes a joke about how old Christopher Plummer is. 
  • Sean Penn addresses a humanitarian crisis.
  • A montage honoring old movies.
  • A montage honoring a bunch of movies that came out in the past year that nobody liked but still get a mention at the Oscars anyway. 
  • In their acceptance speech, an award winner tells their kids watching at home to “go to bed.” 
  • Someone makes a joke about George Clooney.
  • George Clooney says something really funny and charming.
  • George Clooney makes a reference to a humanitarian crisis or a political cause in his acceptance speech.
  • Someone makes a joke about Meryl Streep.
  • Someone appears on stage in a “War Horse” costume.
  • A dance number dedicated to silent movies.
  • Someone makes a joke about how many movies Ryan Gosling has been in this year.
  • Sean Penn goes on stage saying the previous joke about Ryan Gosling wasn’t funny, and that he is a talented and valued actor.
  • A nominee mouths something at the camera, or makes a Jim Halpert face
  • Two talented actors get on stage and perform a terrible bit of scripted publicity for their upcoming movie.
  • Someone makes a joke about the amount of Jews in the room. 
  • Someone makes a joke about Republicans, to which the entire audience cheers.
  • Fox News runs a new story about liberal bias in Hollywood the next day (this one is for the morning after). 

The Oscars: Who Will Win

Best Picture: The Artist

            Thanks to a strange new voting system, there are nine Best Picture nominees this year. “War Horse” might have won in a different year, and “Hugo” merits much consideration for transforming 3D into a viable art form. This year, the nostalgia of “The Artist” has been contagious in various awards ceremonies. Look for it to be the second silent movie ever to win Best Picture.              

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)

            With just a few rare exceptions, the Best Picture and Best Director choices go to the same movie. Hazanavicius will be victorious along with his movie for bringing the art of silence to typically noisy 21st century movie theaters. Plus, he already picked up the Directors Guild of America Award. So far, only 6 directors who have this honor have not gone on to win the Oscar. Hazanavicius will not be a part of this statistic.

Best Actor: George Clooney (The Descendants)
            Jean Dujardin could capitalize off of the success of “The Artist” and the SAG Award he won. However, George Clooney shed his A-list persona for the most vulnerable and human performance of his career. For that, he will pick up his first ever Best Actor trophy.

Best Actress: Viola Davis (The Help)

            Meryl Streep seems like the obvious pick here. She has already won two Oscars, but some claim that isn’t enough. The weak reception of “The Iron Lady” overall will hurt her chances of winning. Instead, Viola Davis, who has swept the precursors, will pick up her first Oscar.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

            Christopher Plummer has an iconic acting career that has lasted over 60 years. It is perplexing that he has not won an Oscar to this day. Consider his win for “Beginners” to be a long overdue Lifetime Achievement Award.

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)

            She has won just about every other award she was nominated for her performance in “The Help.” This win is basically a shoo-in.

And the Rest:

Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Editing: The Artist
Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Costume Design: The Artist
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Art Direction: Hugo
Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Foreign Film: A Seperation
Animated Feature: Rango
Makeup: Albert Nobbs
Original Score: The Artist
Original Song: Man or Muppet
Sound Editing: Hugo
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Live Action Short Film: The Shore
Documentary Short Subject: Saving Face

Horrible Decisions: The Ten Best Movies That Weren’t Nominated For Best Picture

As I get older, I feel that I get more and more pessimistic about award ceremonies, especially the Oscars. Unlike sports-related competitions, the Oscars are not about which movie is best, but rather which movie had the most lavish ad campaign. The recent revelation that Academy voters are none too diverse certainly did not help. To think that some of the most revered movies of all time weren’t even nominated. They are the bold outsiders. Some were completely overlooked, others were just too damn “hip.” Many on the proceeding list would be chosen by many, and a few I exclusively would have chosen had I been a voter. I present with you the ten best movies that deserved a Best Picture nomination, arranged by year of release:

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

“Singin’ in the Rain” is more than just an old-fashioned Hollywood musical: it is about the movies themselves. Think of it as “The Artist” without the Act Three problems. As someone who puts musical just slightly above romantic comedies starring Ashton Kutcher, it is hard not to fall under the spell of “Singin’ in the Rain,” from “Good Morning” to the titular musical number. “Singin’ in the Rain” is about why movies needed sound, and it’s also about why we need the movies in general. The Oscars have a reputation for awarding musicals that became stale with time, so why didn’t it nominate one that has become an everlasting part of popular culture?

Rear Window (1954)

Most of Hitchcock’s best movies were dissed by the Oscars. Even “Psycho” and “Vertigo” didn’t make the Best Picture shortlist. His “Rear Window” is his most entertaining, most satisfying movie. “Rear Window” is the master in his absolute element. It crams as many stories as it can into one movie without actually cramming them in. “Rear Window” is suspenseful in any scene, even if it is just a couple seen fighting through a window, and not Grace Kelly running from the murderer. On top of that, it displays Hitchcock’s genius black comedy. In the scene in which a husband and wife have difficulty moving a mattress into their apartment, Hitchcock switched the headsets feeding instructions to the two actors, so they would move in the wrong directions, and create a brief sigh of slapstick relief. Oscar winners should be influential in any year, and I can’t even count the amount of sitcoms who have knocked off this plot.

The Searchers (1956)

It seems unbelievable that John Ford’s greatest movie didn’t get a single Oscar nomination, and the winner for Best Picture that year was “Around the World in 80 Days” (which was later remade into a movie with Jackie Chan). For the time, “The Searchers” was a change of pace from the typical Western, and Oscars are all about tradition and stability rather than change. Monument Valley has never looked this stunning, and John Wayne never felt as racist and as human in any other role of his career. “The Searchers” would not only fo on to inspire future westerns. Without it, there would be no “Taxi Driver,” “Saving Private Ryan,” or even “Star Wars.” “The Searchers” figured out that the western hero (or in this case, anti-hero) can exist in anytime, in any place, but will always remain an outsider.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Yet another masterpiece that went totally unnoticed by the Academy. “Touch of Evil” will leave you in a speechless state of thrill from the moment the camera first pans through a busy street, to a bomb going off. You know it’s going to happen, but the best part is that you don’t know when. “Touch of Evil” contains some of Orson Welles’s best work as both an actor and a director, and it was the last truly great film noir of the classic era. Its greatness cannot be dampened by the fact that it includes Charlton Heston playing a Mexican.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

It is actually understandable why “Once Upon a Time in the West” was a flop when it first came out. Paramount chopped down its epic running time for its US release, and American audiences were not treated to the masterpiece they deserved to see. I will argue that “Once Upon a Time in the West” is better than any western either John Ford or Howard Hawks ever made. Its opening conveys so much without saying a single word. For its regard for silence, sweeping score, and the pure scope of it all, “Once Upon a Time in the West” will be one of the greatest movie viewing experiences you’ll ever have. It even has Henry Fonda, doing a flawless job going against-type, ruthlessly shooting a child in the face. Tom Joad, no more.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Oscar voters had no interest in taking a trip into another dimension. Their loss. “2001: A Space Odyssey” is essential viewing not just for any film buff, but for any human being. Stanley Kubrick probably knew that this movie wouldn’t answer the question of what the meaning of life is in one simple word. I like to think that Kubrick truly knew and hid it in any frame of this movie, and after a certain number of viewings, maybe it can be found. But until that happens, let the jaw dropping visuals unfold before you. After the credits roll and the star baby has faded, you might cry, you might throw a fit, or you could do anything else in between. Best Picture seems to be about the movies with mass appeal. It’s about time to pick a nominee that not everyone can get behind.

Easy Rider (1969)

Understandably, the Academy wasn’t too pleased with a movie about hippies taking over. The motorcycle riding outlaws of “Easy Rider” was the New Wave coming in to save Hollywood from a crumbling studio system. The rednecks, meanwhile, were the cranky old voters, minus the shotguns. “Easy Rider” proved that filmmakers no longer needed the system; all they needed was a story, a camera, and maybe a good weed hookup. This movie broke ground in so many ways, perhaps most memorably for its soundtrack, which started off with Steppenwolf’s attention-grabbing “Born to Be Wild.” The messy, handheld camerawork actually adds to the movie. Never has imperfection seemed so perfect. But most importantly of all, “Easy Rider” includes a very high Jack Nicholson talking about aliens. It is just as good as it sounds.

Animal House (1978)

This might not be the pick you were expecting, but “Animal House” really deserved the love. Unfortunately, Best Picture is never kind to comedy but had this one been nominated, it would have set a great precedent. Think of some of the funniest things in the movie. Could you ever watch them and not laugh? The most important question here may be as to why John Belushi himself didn’t get a nomination. The dining hall scene, in which he takes at least one of every food item (and takes bites of some, and leaves them behind), is the model for quiet, subtle comic brilliance. Comedies suffer when they are over-analyzed, so just watch this clip and you’ll understand:

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Hollywood loves message movies, but for some reason they only enjoy the preachy ones. “Crash” won in 2005 for informing the world that racism is bad, and it makes a few rich white people living in L.A. feel sad. Sixteen years earlier, Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” was released amidst a storm of controversy. It earned ecstatic praise from critics, but it barely made a ripple at the Oscars. To this day, it remains the most provocative, daring, and funny movie about racism that I have ever seen. The best part about it is that it is not necessarily about racism, but a movie about situations in which race may or may not have been the ultimate cause of them. Of course, the Oscars want definitive answers, not ambiguous ones. And especially not ones with this much energy pumping through them.

Children of Men (2006)

Some movies that earn respect over time might take over two decades to do so. “Children of Men” elevated itself in just a few years. “Children of Men” is the most realistic portrayal of a dystopian future ever to be put on film. It strikes so many emotional chords and in the end, it is a movie about life, not death. It also has some cinematography that is downright groundbreaking, with the camera moving at the nonstop and unpredictable pace that mankind’s fate is headed in. The world may very likely be approaching the future “Children of Men.” But until now “Children of Men” is your’s for the darkest futuristic road movie you’ll get to see.

And a Few More: Night of the Hunter, Pan’s Labyrinth, Kill Bill (1&2), Rosemary’s Baby, The Wild Bunch, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Magnolia, Blade Runner

Horrible Decisions: The Ten Best Movies That Didn’t Win Best Picture

Every once in a while, I ponder why the Oscars even exist, and why I should care. Sure, they have no monumental impact on the world, but for me, the Oscars are a little like Super Bowl, just a little less dramatic. Voters have a bad habit of picking the wrong winner, year after year. Sometimes, the real winner is obvious. Other times, people won’t realize it until 50 years later. Click after the jump for my list of the ten best movies that should have won Best Picture (sorted by year of release):

Citizen Kane (1941)

“Citizen Kane” may not be my favorite movie of all time. However, the claim that it is the greatest movie ever made is completely warranted. There is something about revolutionary movies that causes the Academy to not reward them Best Picture. Instead, “How Green Was My Valley” won that year, giving people the only possible reason to ever hate John Ford. To this day, Orson Welles’s experiments with the camera, and his radically non-linear story-telling, are as fresh today as they were in 1941. Without “Citizen Kane,” the most revered filmmakers of our time would not have made some of their best work. The snub of “Citizen Kane” set the unfortunate precedent for voters to choose safe, comfortable stories over those that actually had an impact on the artform or were actually, well, good. It really is time for the Academy to stop letting old white people choose all of the winners.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

“I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” It’s hard to believe this classic was passed over for Best Picture, especially when John Huston took the Best Director trophy for this film. “Hamlet” ended up being the winner in 1948. No disrespect to the Bard or Laurence Olivier, but “Hamlet” adaptations seem to come and go every few years. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is something that could never be repeated. Sure, that beheading at the end looks really fake, but Humphrey Bogart gave one of the best, most despicable performances of his career. Maybe the Academy just couldn’t deal with a protagonist this reprehensible. 

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

“The French Connection” took home the gold in 1971. It was certainly a daring choice back then, and the car chase scene still goes pretty unmatched. However, that movie has lost some of its luster in the sea of cop thrillers that have been made ever since. Over 40 years later, “A Clockwork Orange” is as intriguing and audacious as it was the day it first came out. It would still create a stir if it was released today. The Academy never honors movies like “A Clockwork Orange,” but they would be a lot cooler if they did.

Taxi Driver/All the Presiden’t Men/Network (1976)

Some people called 1939 the banner year for movies. The real banner year was 1976. That year’s Best Picture winner, “Rocky,” is a classic in many ways. It’s a nice movie, it’s about the underdog overcoming the odds. I like that idea, I always root for the underdog. However, when the Best Picture category also includes Martin Scorsese’s unflinching masterpiece “Taxi Driver,” the seamless political thriller “All the President’s Men,” and the still relevant to this day satire of “Network,” you’ll realize that you were rooting for the wrong underdog.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

1979 was the rare year that the Academy chose a small, socially aware drama over a big epic for Best Picture. “Kramer vs. Kramer” was the first movie to handle divorce so honestly. The big catch is that it beat “Apocalypse Now.” “Kramer vs. Kramer” is a very good movie, but “Apocalypse Now” is the kind of magnum opus that only comes around every once in a while. Upon its initial release, Francis Ford Coppola’s meditative take on Vietnam was not regarded as the masterpiece it is today. The film was likely still recovering from all of the bad press revolving around its infamously disastrous shoot. Claims of the film’s greatness are undisputed today. With the passing of time always changing perception, perhaps an award like Best Picture is pretty useless. How do we know what will be the true Best Picture years down the road?

Raging Bull (1980)

Hailed by many as one of the greatest movies of all time, “Raging Bull” probably suffered from boxing movie fatigue at the time (thanks for that one, “Rocky”). There is no way that anyone could not admire this movie. Everything from its boxing sequences, which are as violent as they are beautiful, and the performance by Robert De Niro, a monster in everyman’s clothes, is a cinematic achievement. “Ordinary People” might have won the gold, but only “Raging Bull” would end up on most critics’ lists of the best movies ever made.

Goodfellas (1990)

I have not seen “Dances With Wolves,” so I cannot make fun of it as much as I would like to. One day, my cousin described a movie starring Kevin Costner as “reeking of Costner.” I’d like to think “Dances With Wolves” is the same way. But I digress. 1990 saw a safe, politically correct big frontier movie sweep the Oscars while Martin Scorsese’s shocking, hilarious, and radically different “Goodfellas” took a backseat. Scorsese’s mob classic got the last laugh though: when’s the last time you saw someone incessantly quoting “Dances With Wolves”?

Pulp Fiction (1994)

1994 was the year that “Forrest Gump” won basically every award in its path. It is certainly a hard movie to dislike. However, that year also included “Pulp Fiction.” One movie was a heartwarming story about a mentally challenged man overcoming the odds and finding love. The other revived the career of John Travolta, re-wrote every rule of writing a screenplay, and inspired a million knockoffs that could never match it. The battle between “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction” is the classic battle between the safety of traditional Hollywood, and the radical change of New Hollywood. “Forrest Gump” might have won the Oscar, but more people have a “Pulp Fiction” poster hung up on their wall.

Choosing one scene to represent this movie is nearly impossible. This one makes me happiest.

Fargo (1996)

There is no way a movie like “Fargo” could ever win Best Picture. Yet, it could. Sure, its totally snarky. Sure, its intensely violent. Sure, a guy ends up in a wood chipper. But in the end, it has one of the most moving and affirming touches of life you’ll get to see in a movie, shared in such a brief moment. Movies like this should be winning Best Picture more often.

The Social Network (2010)

And the final, most recent, perhaps most infuriating case of Old Hollywood pretending they can stop New Hollywood with a naked golden man. “The King’s Speech” is a fantastic movie that tells a moving story and has some pitch perfect performances. But it wasn’t “The Social Network,” which became the first movie to so accurately pin the Internet Age. “The Social Network” itself is about a group of guys who fought the system and toar down age-old institutions. That is probably what the Academy was so afraid of, and why they passed up another movie that is already being hailed as a modern masterpiece. Hell, many other choices would have been better than “The King’s Speech” that year. Might I remind you that “Black Swan” was also nominated.

And a Few More: L.A. Confidential (beaten by “Titanic”), “Inglourious Basterds” (beaten by “The Hurt Locker”), “Saving Private Ryan” (beaten by “Shakespeare in Love”) 

Morning Madness: Nicolas Cage’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes

I took this video, like most of the videos I post, from FilmDrunk. The first thing I can think is, I guess this video had to get made? It is the 100 greatest movie quotes from Nicolas Cage.

Cage is known sometimes for being a great actor who takes great rolls (“Adaptation,” “Raising Arizona”) and other times the complete opposite (“The Wicker Man”). He also seems to belong to the acting camp that believes that shouting a line will make it better. For whatever reason, my favorite quote here is, “What’s in the bag? A shark or something?”

No more words are necessary, time to watch for yourself:

The Reel Deal Interviews: Sarah Koskoff

Sarah Koskoff (far left) with the rest of the cast and crew of “Hello I Must Be Going” during opening night at Sundance.

Movies set in a filmmaker’s hometown can evoke feelings of pain, longing, or joyful nostalgia. Perhaps it all started when George Lucas set “American Graffiti” in Modesto, California at the end of the summer of 1962. All of the people, places, and music felt so heartfelt and familiar that it only could have come out of one’s memory. Richard Linklater did the same thing to 1976 with “Dazed & Confused.” Even the fictional town of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” is based off the small town in Washington that he grew up in.

Months ago, I heard the news that a movie would be filming in my hometown of Westport. That movie was called “Hello I Must Be Going” and months later, it became a hit of the Sundance Film Festival. “Hello I Must Be Going” is directed by Todd Louiso, based on a script by his wife Sarah Koskoff.

Koskoff grew up in Westport and is an alumni of Staples High School. This is her debut feature length script, after years as an actress in various productions. I caught up with Sarah, and got some insight into her motivations as a writer, growing up in Westport, and the many challenges that went into getting this movie made. Yes, one of them was a natural disaster:

1. Congratulations for the success at Sundance. How would you sum up the entire experience? 
Thanks!  It was really thrilling to share the film with audiences and to be a part of such a vital community.  At times it was also overwhelming and chaotic, honestly.  But overall, it was inspiring and invigorating. 
2. Tell us a little about your background. Where did you go to college? What got you into movies in the first place?
I studied Literature and Anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College.  After that, I moved to LA and started working as an actor in film and television.  I got lucky early on with jobs and an agent, and the sporadic well-paying work gave me a lot of free time.  I started writing plays.  I had no interest in screen writing at the time, but I got to the end of what I felt I could do in Los Angeles as a playwright. I wrote Hello I Must Be Going just to try out the form.  And I loved it.  It felt very natural.  
3. Hello I Must Be Going is your debut feature film screenplay. What inspired you to tell this story? Have you written any other screenplays in the past?
My husband is a film director.  I thought it would be fun to do something on a small scale, together, to get back to the heart of the work — to remember what we both loved about it.  I had the intention of writing about a relationship between an older woman and a younger guy.  But I wanted it to be from her perspective, and I wanted it to start out as a sexual relationship and really grow into something more.  I didn’t have any grandiose intentions in writing it.  I just wanted to tell a story about personal transformation, and to see if I could track that transformation moment-to-moment.   
4. This film was shot in your hometown of Westport, CT [all of it, I'm guessing?]. How do you feel the town reflected your story and characters? Do you think it could’ve taken place anywhere else?
It didn’t have to take place in Westport, but I wanted to film it there, so I set it there!  It was really a very practical thing.  I know the town so well, and I know so many people, I just felt it would be so much easier than going to a new place.  We ended up shooting a lot of it in South Norwalk and Fairfield.  But everyone was incredibly helpful.  In terms of the story — the characters are very defined by their status in a specific way, that Westport lends itself to.  They’re trapped by it, really.  They’re so identified with appearance that they can’t access a deeper level of happiness — an experiential happiness.  At this point the film and Westport are really inextricably linked. 
5. How did growing up in Westport impact you as a writer?
I actually went to elementary school in Wilton, and those long, long walks in the woods, they definitely gave me space to think.  I still call on that space to write. 
6. Your husband, Todd Louiso, directed the movie. What was it like collaborating with him? Did it make it easier for the entirety of your original vision to make it into the final product?
It was great collaborating with Todd.  We actually met on an acting job — we were both acting in a television pilot.  And we’ve worked together a lot over the years.  This was the first time I was the writer and he was the director, but it was an easy transition.  And, yes, I have a lot of say with him, and I had a LOT of say with the project.  It’s uncommon as a screenwriter to have a say. 
7. Did any movies in particular inspire you when writing Hello I Must Be Going? If so, how? 
Originally I was thinking about the films of Eric Rohmer, the French director.  His films are about the smallest events, so much subtlety and character detail.  But as I got more invested, and after going through the Sundance Screenwriting Lab, I wanted to challenge myself to make bigger choices.  So, I went back to films I love by Woody Allen and Mike Leigh and even Bergman’s films — simple stories with a lot of vulnerability and humor.  And, yes, there is humor in Bergman’s films!  
8. What was the most challenging part of getting this movie made?
The most challenging part was the shoot itself.  We had 20 days!  It was extremely hard on the actors, especially Melanie Lynskey. 
The character she plays is in every singly scene and has to go through so many emotional ups and downs–a real challenge for an actor in any circumstances.  But in 20 days it really pushes the limits.  She was a amazing about it, (and she is amazing in the film) but it was really hard to see her go through all that–and to feel responsible for it.  On top of that Hurricane Irene hit Westport toward the end of the shoot.  We lost locations and a day of filming…it was a lot.  But I have to say it really gave the whole experience a kind of urgency and reality that I think shows up on screen.  We all had to stay very awake!
9. Where do you do your best writing? In other words, what place gives you the most inspiration and motivation as a writer?
I live in Los Angeles, and I’ve found it to be a great place to write.  But mostly for me it’s about time and quiet.  
10. Do you have any future projects in mind? What lies ahead for you?
I have quite a few scripts I’m working on at once.  I’m looking for some time.  And some quiet.  
A still image from “Hello I Must Be Going” taken from the Sundance catalogue. 

Valentine’s Day: The Best Romantic Romance Movies

1. Harold and Maude

A person committing suicide is never funny. A person who keeps trying to kill themselves in the most elaborate ways (hanging, burning, etc.) is dark comedy gold. “Harold and Maude” has always been a cult classic, and it was once called “the greatest love story of our time” in “There’s Something About Mary.” This may be the only time that won’t feel at all creeped out by two people 70 years apart falling in love. This is one of the few movies about romance that doesn’t feel shallow. “Harold and Maude” is that good, and you can never go wrong with a soundtrack filled with Cat Stevens.

2. When Harry Met Sally…

We can thank Rob Reiner for setting the bar high, and then setting the template for 20 years of horrible romantic comedies. “When Harry Met Sally…” does it right for so many reasons. Maybe that’s because it turned a rom-com hater into a believer, at least for its 96 minute running time. Maybe it’s because it never tries to create some implausible, cosmic true love to bring the characters together. Rather, it shows love as something that takes time. Mainly, “When Harry Met Sally…” hasn’t aged a day. Any references involving the 80s have only become funnier.

3. Punch-Drunk Love

Finally, a movie about love that isn’t about people who need to be together, but rather people who make each other happy. As deeply troubled and neurotic Barry Egan, Adam Sandler gives the best performance of his career. Despite shying away from all of the romantic cliches that typically define this holiday, this is a model story about love. Perhaps love isn’t about a card, a box of chocolates, and a lavish dinner. Maybe it’s just about playing the harmonium for your lover and telling them the truth, even if the truth involves you getting into trouble with a phone sex hotline.