#RIPBillHicks (Dec 16, 1961 – Feb 26, 1994)

American_The_Bill_Hicks_Story

It’s pretty difficult to think its been twenty years since a great American patriot, philosopher & stand-up comedian Bill Hicks died. For those who are unfamiliar with his art & comedy, do yourself a favor and seek it out. He was a shining light of truth in the darkness of Reagan America. He was a real comic’s comic who played from his fucking heart. His passion for justice & thirst for knowledge continue to inspire me on a daily basis. Sadly, much of what he railed against has only metastasized in the intervening years since his passing. When you listen to him talk about Bush I it could just as easily be about W.

There’s lots of  albums to listen to, loads of videos to watch and a great documentary (AMERICAN – THE BILL HICKS STORY).

This clip is a great introduction while also serving as a perfect distillation of his world view.

#RIPBillHicks

#GoatBoy

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  1. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS – Gorfein’s Cat steals the show.
  2. LEVIATHAN – We are all vegetarians now.
  3. A TOUCH OF SIN – Once Upon a Time in Modern China.
  4. 12 YEARS A SLAVE – Unflinching look at the past.
  5. THE GREAT BEAUTY – Once Upon a Time in Modern Italy.
  6. FRANCES HA – Millenials can be damn funny too.
  7. UPSTREAM COLOR – Well worth the wait from PRIMER.
  8. VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR – Typical Canadian Lesbian thriller.
  9. COMPUTER CHESS – Brilliant slab of odd 80’s delight.
  10. SPRING BREAKERS – Conflicting emotions & dazzling visuals.
  11. POST TENEBRAS LUX – Best home movie ever.
  12. HER – My favorite post-apocalyptic hipster horror movie.
  13. BASTARDS – Elliptical genius crime flick.
  14. THIS IS MARTIN BONNER – Not one false note.
  15. GRAVITY – Best 3D roller-coaster ride ever.
  16. NEBRASKA – Honest road movie about growing old.
  17. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR – Just a confused teen in love.
  18. STRANGER BY THE LAKE – Beware of good-looking sharks.
  19. YOU AINT SEEN NOTHING YET – Acting as life.
  20. IN A WORLD… – So damn funny.
A great year for movies is one where it’s tough to put together a Top 20 without leaving lots of highly-deserving films.
- HONORABLE MENTIONS – 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, ANCHORMAN 2, MUSEUM HOURS, REALITY, MUD, GIMME THE LOOT, BORGMAN, EUROPA REPORT, 12 O’CLOCK BOYS, TO THE WONDER, LION ARK, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
- MOST OVERRATED MOVIES – THE ACT OF KILLING, AMERICAN HUSTLE, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES & Anything with a superhero in it.
- WORST MOVIES OF THE YEAR – RUNNER RUNNER, DIE HARD 4, EVIL DEAD, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, THIS IS 40, IDENTITY THIEF, MAN OF STEEL
- BEST UNRELEASED MOVIES – ASPHALT WATCHES, A STRANGE LITTLE CAT, STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS, TOM AT THE FARM – to name just a few gems I can’t wait to revisit in 2014.

ANCHORMAN 2 is Coming

Having held out as log as we could, the Smokin Monkey staff finally broke down to watch a trailer for one of our most highly-anticipated films of the year – Anchorman 2

First thoughts…

- The gang has definitely moved from San Diego to Rotten Apple.

- 70’s fashions bled over into the 80’s much like the 80’s did to the early 90’s.

- One of the story-lines appears to be an inverse Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, interesting…

- Kristen Wiig as female Brick should work though the two might cancel each other out.

- Didn’t see much of Appelgate’s Veronica Cornerstone what with Ron dating means her role is small?

- It’s just over a month away until one of the most hyped comedy sequels since Austin Powers 2 debuts.

David Lowery Interview

Courtesy of IFC Films

Courtesy of IFC Films

I conducted a phone interview with the writer/director of Sundance hit Ain’t Them Bodies Saints a few weeks before the film opened up nationwide. It opens today at the Sie Film Center after a week at Landmark’s Mayan Theater.

KDR: Do you ever get confused for the lead singer of Cracker? (Who also shares the name David Lowery)

David Lowery: It happens more and more. As more people talk about the movie, it comes up quite a bit. I only know one Cracker song. It definitely happens more and more.

KDR: You set the movie in the 70’s in Texas yet there seems there seems to be an almost timeless quality to the movie as it could be from the 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. It gave the movie a certain timeless, mythical quality. Was that something you were specifically going for with the movie?

DL: It was very intentional. You hit the nail on the head with mythical. I wanted it to have a very mythical feel. I felt that by depriving the audience of a hard, temporal context it would have an more immediate feel to it. It would feel like it could have taken place during any time period. For the sake of practicality we said it took place in the early 70’s which allowed us to say we could use this car but we couldn’t use that car. We were always striving to make it feel older, so if we had something that was new from the 70’s we would age it down to look older. If we had something from the 40’s we would jump on that. We tried to create a blend of time periods that made it impossible to tell when it took place. There’s never any real sort of indication as to what year it is. If someone had turned on the tv and there was a report about the Vietnam war then all of the sudden it would contextualize the movie in a very specific way. I wanted to remove that specificity in every way possible and have the movie placed in the abstract.

Courtesy of IFC Films

Courtesy of IFC Films

KDR: One of my biggest pet peeves is a movie set in the 70’s where everyone drives a new car from the period and all of their clothes look like they’re going to the disco. I read that you really worked hard for a world that had a “lived-in” feel to it.

DL: We really wanted the world to be a character in and of itself. The texture of everything in the movie was very important.

KDR: When you had written the script and started the casting process, you’ve said that you wanted to convey a specific, elegiac tone. In order to do this you showed your cast photos that depicted the tone you wanted. Dorothea Lange’s WPA photographs seems like an obvious influence, especially if you look at the photo used on the poster for the film.

DL: Her photography was something that we absolutely used as a reference point even though it’s was a different era, that’s exactly what we wanted this movie to look like. Those photographs she took of the Dust Bowl and of America at that time period. That was very important to use to have images like that not only made a time and place but emotion. They have such deep feelings, you don’t have the complete story when you look at them. You don’t know where that person came from or where they’re going but you have get this feeling of what’s going on in your life. That was the type of thing we were trying to do with the movie. A very deep sense of feeling that was important to the plot.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

atbs poster

Detail of the Poster for ATBS
Courtesy of IFC Films

KDR: Bradford Young’s cinematography seemed to evoke Edward Hopper paintings. His paintings have such strong characters in them that I can think for hours about them.

DL: Andrew Wyeth, Hopper, all of those guys were on our minds when we were coming up with these images. You can look at their paintings and there are complete stories. There is some much depth of feeling in those single images. We were thinking ‘Why can’t a movie do the same thing?’ Our movie is not made in that same way, we are trying to do something slightly different but these paintings were on our minds, how such a singular image can carry so much information. We really wanted this movie to be made up of images similar to that.

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Detail from Edward Hopper’s ‘New York Movie’ (1939) painting
Courtesy of MoMA

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Courtesy of IFC Films

KDR: The score of the film is fantastic, as many people have already commented on. You have mentioned before that you played for the cast before filming. What was some of the music you played for them to help get across the tone of the movie?

DL: A really important one to me was Joanna Newsom. Her music has been very important me personally in my life, it has gotten me through a lot of rough patches. That was something when I started writing this movie. I wanted the movie to make people feel the way I do when I listen to her songs. Specifically for Rooney [Mara], I would give her songs from her records and tell her that this is what her character feels like and what her character is going through. For other characters, songs by Bonnie Prince Billy, who is also actor, he is one of my very favorite musicians. Nate Parker  who plays Sweeney in the film, I gave him a specific song that Bonnie Prince Billy sings that is so precisely in tune with character’s relationship with Casey Affleck that I gave it to him and I was like “This is all you need to know, this song. Listen to it and carry it with you as you perform the part.” Everybody had songs like that which informed their characters. Casey got a lot of Bill Callahan records, Ben Foster had a lot of old country music like Waylon Jennings. He went out and bought more of the music on his own as he felt it really spoke to his character.

KDR: Overall the movie with its mythical vibe reminds me of a Bob Dylan tune, such as Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts and several songs off of Desire, specifically Romance in Durango. The movie seemed more akin to those songs that say other films. I’m not sure if you a big Dylan fan like I am.

DL: I am a huge Dylan fan. I was listening to Blood on the Tracks a lot, I know that’s kind of a cliché to say I was listening to that while I was writing this movie but I was. One of the things that was really exciting to me was to hear songs of his that I thought was an original only to find out it was a cover. There’s one song in particular called Love Henry. I heard that song covered by Nick Cave first and it was called Henry Lee and I love that song. I didn’t realize it was a folk song and that Bob Dylan had covered it. I listened to his version and then eventually traced it back to these old blues recordings of it. It was interesting to see how the song evolved and how Dylan participated in that folk tradition of storytelling through music. That was a huge influence on what this movie was. I wanted this movie to feel like a cover of a song that someone like Bob Dylan would’ve sung. Everyone knows the Dylan version but there’s other versions, ones that are from decades earlier. It sort of traces through history. It has its roots in American history but it has been transposed hundreds of times by other artists.

KDR: One element in the movie that I have not seen discussed much is the role of handwritten letters between Bob and Ruth. Letters are such a dying art form that it’s like your film, no pun intended, is a love letter to an older, more romantic time when lovers wrote letters to each other.

DL: Absolutely. I love the art of letter writing. I deeply regret that I don’t do it as much as I used to. I used to write letters all of the time. I would write them to my grandparents, to my friends. As soon as email came about I started to gravitate towards that. I do write very long emails so hopefully that makes up for some of that. I love hand-writing. I love the meaning that can be conveyed by the act of hand-writing. I love watching someone write something by hand, there’s something so beautiful in that and meaningful. When I met my wife and before we were married, at first when were courting each other we communicated almost entirely through letters. Some of those were through the post office, some were online, it was all done by hand, through the written word. We didn’t talk on the phone for months. It was so meaningful for me to dot hat because letters have always reminded me of my childhood. I kept a box full of letters in my childhood, anything that anyone ever wrote or sent to me I hung on to them. I wanted this movie to honor that. I wanted there to be a love of the written word of ink on paper and what that means when you give someone something that you have written down. That is such a beautiful gesture to me and I wanted to celebrate that.

aint-them-bodies-saints-rooney-mara

Courtesy of IFC Films

James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) – Twitter Interview

Director James Ponsoldt

Director James Ponsoldt

Here’s my Twitter Interview with The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt.

spectacular-now-final-poster

Be sure to go see The Spectacular Now – it’s a wonderful coming-of-age movie that is a real crowd-pleaser.

ELYSIUM – REVIEW

elysium

Neill Blomkamp’s new big-budget sci-fi thriller Elysium fails to deliver on the promise of the first-half of his wildly-overrated debut District 9. While there are laudable things about the film, they are minor when considering the average plot, uninspired action sequences, weak acting, horrible accents and overall blandness of the whole endeavor. Kudos to Matt Damon for finally branching out into full-on sci-fi, The Adjustment Bureau was close to sci-fi, you just wish he would have picked a better project. Many people have slammed the underrated sci-fi movie Southland Tales for having too many ideas and sub-plots, one could make the exact opposite claim on this film – not much really happens until the wholly-undeserved ending, complete with it’s facile social commentary.

Read the rest @ DONNYBROOK WRITING ACADEMY