Archive for category Film
Aaliyah, the young, determined teen with a magnetic style and powerhouse vocals rose to fame quickly at 15 with her multi-platinum album Age Aint Nothing But a Number. It sold 3 million copies. The niece of Gladys Knight [Elise Neal], her uncle Barry Hankerson [Lyriq Bent] worked at Jive Records and started his own label Blackground Records. Aaliyah had connections but also talent or she wouldn’t have sold millions of albums. She dated and married R. Kelly who produced her first album. He was nearly twice her age at the time. She insisted on developing her own style which was a crop top, baggie low-ride pants and a thick headband. Very Gwen Stefani. Later she dated Damon Dash [Anthony Grant], eight years older than her but at that time Aaliyah was 21. She died in a plane crash while filming a video in the Bahamas at age 22. Lifetime’s Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B skims over everything. There’s no depth and not much to care about.
The R. Kelly [Cle Bennett]/ Aaliyah romance races past. One minute they’re in the studio, the next minute they’re married. Kudos to the production team for showing her parents horrified reaction to the union. Her father says: “I can’t understand that a grown man would be with a young girl. It’s statutory rape.” Her father forbids them any further personal or professional connection or he’ll have R. Kelly arrested. I wonder how many other young woman would’ve been saved from R. Kelly’s predatory actions if that had happened 20 years ago. Someone as driven and confident as Aaliyah certainly possessed qualities making her seem older than her 15 years but there’s no excuse for R. Kelly’s actions. She was still 15. This knocks Aaliyah into a funk for a while. But then for her second album Aaliyah insists on working with producers Timbaland [Izaak Smith] and Missy Eliot [Chattrisse Dolabelle]. Then unknowns. “It’s my career. It’s my album and I think it should be my decision,” Aaliyah stresses when her label balks at this request.
Alexandra Shipp turns out a vibrant, heartfelt performance as Aaliyah. She sinks into the role. It’s a treat to watch the potential. Everything falls flat outside her believable and invested portrayal. My top complaint is a typical one for Lifetime movies: it’s written and directed by men. A biopic about a young woman always turns out better with a female screenwriter and female director.
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B premieres Saturday, November 15 on Lifetime.
“I am the industry-wise transition girlfriend to his soon to be model-fucking teen heartthrob.”
“I’ve decided to embrace my defects. It’s all part of the package.”
–Ellie [Toni Collette]
there are quite a few great films out there on DVD/Netflix. highly recommended. Here’s a round-up.
Kelly & Cal 
starring: Juliette Lewis, Jonny Weston, Josh Hopkins
directed by: Jen McGowan
written by: Amy Lowe Starbin
Juliette Lewis [Kelly] is fantastic as a former punk rocker turned suburban mom. Kelly’s not thrilled to be so isolated and away from her friends and life in the city. She’s second-guessing being a mom and thinking about her lost youth. She befriends a neighborhood high-school student named Cal [Jonny Weston]. A bond develops between the two over their love of music and art. It’s sweet and genuine.
starring: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins
written and directed by: Kat Candler
This one is dark, harsh and sad with outstanding performances by Aaron Paul [Breaking Bad] and Juliette Lewis. It’s about a teenage boy [an impressive Josh Wiggins] who’s behaving badly after his mom died. Such awful behavior that he’s jeopardizing his younger brother as well.
Lucky Them 
starring: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church
directed by: Megan Griffiths
written by: Emily Wachtel and Huck Botko
In a stand-out performance Toni Collette plays the superbly flawed GenX music critic Ellie Klug. Ellie’s still figuring it all out. She hooks up with artists she interviews. She’s messy. She’s unapologetic. And it’s absolutely fantastic. As a music critic I could see myself in this character. Her editor [Oliver Platt] assigns her a story about her ex, a renowned musician who disappeared a decade ago. She takes along a strange old friend Charlie [Thomas Haden Church] who plans to film a documentary about her search for the elusive Matthew Smith [Johnny Depp]. It’s funny, smart, moving and one of the best films I’ve seen about music journalism in a long time. At one point, Charlie and Ellie are talking about how it’s impossible that Charlie doesn’t like music. She says that she’ll play him music at her place. He admits that there is one Canadian artist he likes.
Ellie throws out a few artists like Rufus Wainwright, as she’s all about alternative music. Turns out it’s Bryan Adams.
directed by: Jillian Schlesinger
Just see this inspirational documentary about a brave teenage girl, Norwegian Laura Dekker, who at 14 sets out to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. It’s filled with a lot of footage that Laura shot by herself on the boat. Also interspersed with some interviews and her background into how she got into sailing. She’s a fun teenager. When she lands in one country she colors her hair from blonde to red. She meets cool people along the way, makes stops in beautiful places like Cape Town, St. Maarten, the South Pacific islands and Australia. She enjoys her solitude and grows up out on her own. A beautifully edited must-see documentary that shows just what girls can do when given the opportunity.
Youth, beauty, it all seems so meaningless now.
–Lamia [Michelle Pfeiffer]
“Hi Guys! Are you freezing? It’s so cold in here,” Claire Danes exclaims as she wraps her vintage jacket about her lithe frame. The jacket is tan which complements her long, honey blonde hair and it has cool orange swirls on it that gives it flair. Not that Ms. Danes needs any. She wears jeans, a gray shift and great clunky stone rings on her fingers. Actually, I take note of three on one finger.
She wraps her legs under her and sits down, bending forward, with a smile, to speak
about her latest film, Stardust, at a local Boston hotel a few weeks ago. Known for her roles in Romeo and Juliet, the summer’s very moving Evening, Shopgirl, The Family Stone, Les Miserables and forever as Angela Chase from television’s My So-Called Life, Danes will makes her Broadway debut in Pygmalion this fall.
Stardust is a wonderful, if sometimes goof-ball, fantasy film. It’s often Shakespearean in tone: think Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Princess Bride. This delightful escape relishes in clever and witty dialogue, off-beat, quirky, layered characters, unexpected moments and thrilling, dream-like sequences. Danes finds herself in good company: Michelle Pfeiffer, as an unattractive, deliciously wicked witch with piercing eyes who seeks everlasting beauty and youth brings an exuberance and fervor to her character. Robert DeNiro, in really not that much of stretch considering the Meet the Parent films, plays a cross-dressing pirate. Adding to the fun: British actors Jason Flemyng, Sienna Miller [nearly unrecognizable] and Charlie Cox. Danes plays a star, Yvaine, who fell to the ground and wants to go home. Who wouldn’t love this film and this role? A star personified! And Evie is happy but also a bit pensive being a star. You’d think she would be conceited and powerful but she’s at times insecure and very sweet. An endearing, bright-eyed gentleman named Tristam [Cox] travels across the barrier to this “forbidden” but special and magical land and finds Evie. Together they go on an amazing journey which, naturally, becomes one of self-discovery. Stardust really charms, remaining unique while it addresses: age/youth, beauty, love, and destiny with all the magic, intrigue, adventure and humor of any smart film.
What did you like about this project?
Claire Danes: “I loved the story. It’s charming and engaging. The dialogue is witty and wry and Evie has a trajectory. She changes which is appealing. She is knowing and wise because she’s ancient but unbelievably naïve.”
What do you like best about acting?
Claire Danes: Laughing: “The costumes are fun. I really like the challenge of imagining what it is to be another person and exercising empathy and stretching the imagination.”
What do you do for fun?
Claire Danes: “walk my dog, draw [takes life drawing classes in down time], dance.”
Do you think you will always live in New York?
Claire Danes: “NY is home to me. I travel constantly for work.”
What is the best part of working on this film?
Claire Danes: “The rewarding part of this movie is working with Charlie [Cox]. He’s a special guy—appealing, honest, expressive and great person.”
What attracts you to a role?
Claire Danes: “exploring new territory and new genres. Characters with dimension and complexity and who undergo change. And grow and transform. Usually women exist to facilitate change and growth in male characters.”
What are some of your favorite films?
Claire Danes: “Waiting for Guffman, Sophie’s Choice, and I know everyone says it but, Citizen Kane.”
What are some favorite films of your own?
Claire Danes: “Romeo and Juliet, Stealing Beauty, Shopgirl and Brokedown Palace.”
Originally published in The Harbus, the Harvard Business School student newspaper.
“A real road comic works in cities that even mapquest doesn’t know.” —Oni Perez
“I should call myself four market Norton. I’m great in Boston and Cleveland. I do good in Phillie, New Jersey.” –Jim Norton
“I’ve been living out of a suitcase for over a decade.” –Nikki Glaser
“There’s something about drunk women. They love me.” –Alonzo Bodden
Several years ago, filmmaker Jordan Brady put out the documentary I Am Comic which illuminated the realities of being a stand-up comic.After being offered an out-of-state stand-up gig, he decided to make I Am Road Comic in order to document the costs of doing a road gig. He teamed up with his friend Wayne Federman and they traveled to the site. Interspersed throughout Federman and Brady’s experience on this stand-up gig are interviews with a variety of comics about life on the road. The success of I Am Comic allowed Brady a larger pool of comedians from which to cull interviews this time around. Since making I Am Comic, Brady’s met a lot more comics and could bring different voices and representation from the comedy world to the screen in I Am Road Comic.
I spoke with Jordan Brady by phone last week. We’ve been twitter friends for a while since I watched/discovered I Am Comic. We started the conversation by talking about interviews by phone vs. Skype. I said I was hesitant to interview a band on Skype because I didn’t want anyone to see me and the delight that Jordan is, he replied: “I’ve seen your avatar, you’re a pretty woman. Why don’t you show it off.” Very sweet.
Amy Steele: After doing I Am Comic what made you decide to do I Am Road Comic?
Jordan Brady: The success of I Am Comic led comedians that book shows—there’s this new trend that comedians often book their own nights at bars especially—they brand their own show. They mistakenly thought I was an active stand-up comedian because of I Am Comic. When I was asked to do a show. At first I said “no, no, no I’m a filmmaker now.” They said, “just come and do a set.” Finally I said yes. They booked me and I said I don’t have 45 minutes. I figured it would be a great documentary.
Amy Steele: So you were a stand-up a long time ago.
Jordan Brady: 20-something years ago I stopped but I’d started as a stand-up comic when I was 18 and did the road for 14 years. Colleges. Even though I knew this would be a good story of being on the road and I would take my good friend Wayne Federman with me, I knew it wouldn’t be the crux of the documentary. The meat of it would be the newer guys like TJ Miller, Marc Maron. The people that have rose to prominence in the last five years. People like Doug Benson and Marc Maron I’ve know for 30 years but TJ Miller, Maria Bamford, Jen Kirkman I met by going to clubs and they said they loved the movie. I Am Comic paved the way for these interviews in I Am Road Comic.
Amy Steele: What was your goal in making this? What’s the difference between I Am Road Comic and I Am Comic?
Jordan Brady: Economics was the difference. I was squeezing 80 comedians into 80 minutes. This time I wanted to approach it gorilla-style, as just me and a camera. Me on the road. I had to film it and also remember my comedy material.
With I Am Road Comic I wanted to specifically point out low-level road comedians and how you have to be so cost-effective. The only thing I knew was I was going to keep a tally of the expenses. For a gig you get a couple hundred bucks per show which is decent money for a bar gig. As soon as I had to buy a plane ticket I would only break even.
Amy Steele: How did you decide who to interview and how did you get people involved?
Jordan Brady: Less people because I realized if I had less people they’d get more screen time. I wanted to get more in-depth. There were a lot of old white guys in I Am Comic and I think the world has seen its share of old white comedians. I tried to get more females and I tried to get more minorities. A comic is a comic whether they’re a man, a woman, straight, gay, black, white, Puerto Rican. I don’t delve into that.
But I wanted younger hipper guys who are more relevant. Doug Benson and Marc Maron put out a couple of podcasts every week. I wanted to talk to comedians who were more personal in their material rather than jokey jokers. I wanted comedians that were honest in their material and their comedy was based on life experiences and based in reality. Some guys are road warriors like Alonzo Bodden. I think he works 45 weeks a year. Nikki Glaser is kind of a throw-back to the old-school road comics. There are only two guys who are famous for being comedians—Louis C.K.—but it took a television show to make him famous. Jerry Seinfeld played himself on Seinfeld. But until they had a scripted vehicle on television it’s hard to make it as a comedian.
It takes a series– and of late podcasts– to put people on the map. And radio is still big in the Midwest. If I had a thesis it was how relevant was the road to being a comedian today. The fact that Seth Milstein took a bus for 16 hours to perform his first road gig—and he wanted to be in a documentary—the answer was yes.
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on her upcoming film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Chastain told The Wrap:
“I don’t mind if the character is a small character, but I would just like her to have a journey in the film. Sometimes the characters are just there as a prop to further the man’s story. The great directors I’ve talked to, I’ve said listen, I don’t mind playing a woman that is a tiny part, but how does the story affect her? What can I play in the end that’s different from the beginning? Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense, because it’s just like being a prop.”