Archive for category Film
When the USO offered writer/director Jordan Brady [I Am Comic and I Am Road Comic] an opportunity to perform stand-up comedy to the troops in the Middle East, he decided to take his camera along on the tour which included stops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bahrain. The result is a heartwarming, funny and honest glimpse into a USO tour. Brady intersperses tour footage with interviews with various comics including George Lopez, George Wallace, Jennifer Rawlings and Shawn Halpin [a U.S. Marines veteran].
It can get lonely in these desert countries so remote from the American experience [there is a tiny Dunkin’ Donuts in Kuwait and a Pizza Hut in Afghanistan!] and troops savor entertainment. The USO distributes care packages and letters from school children. The comedians hold meet and greets and hang out in mess halls with troops. Jennifer Rawlings explains: “It’s really about sitting down in the chow hall listening to the soldiers like a mom, like a sister, like a friend and hearing their stories.” An emotional Slade Ham recalls that Sgt. Jose Valez became a fan in 2003 and gave new people arriving on base copies of his CD. After Valez was killed in action, Ham received a package with the unit coin and the patch off Valez’s jacket. He says: “If I get to take that kid away from that situation … why not? How many chances do you get to do something that cool?”An officer sums it up quite well: “being so far away from America it takes us back to America for a few hours.”
It’s such a rewarding experience that many comedians return repeatedly to entertain the troops. I Am Battle Comic provides tremendous insight into this experience as well as showcasing entertainment’s powerful ability to connect and inspire.
Here’s the link to screenings for I Am Battle Comic. 100% of tickets sales to these screenings support military charities. On June 2 I Am Battle Comic will be available worldwide on VOD.
I’m not a film critic although a had a stint as one when I worked at Harvard Business School from 1997-2000. I reviewed films and interviewed actors and directors for The Harbus. I see a lot of films in the theaters as well as on DVD and Netflix.
Here’s my list of the 16 best films of 2016:
written and directed by: Barry Jenkins
starring: Mahershala Ali, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders
gorgeously filmed. intense, heartbreaking yet hopeful film which follows a young black man from childhood to adulthood. Like most of us, Chiron’s searching for connection, acceptance and a sense of place. He’s starting from a much lower point than most as his mom’s a drug addict and neglects him. Chiron ends up finding guidance, protection and a sanctuary with drug dealer Juan, played by the wonderfully talented Mahershala Ali. Visually stunning and devastatingly honest and poignant.
written by: Chan-wook Park and Seo-kyeong Jeong
directed by: Chan-wook Park
starring: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Tae-ri Kim
wow. stunning, strange, enthralling, amusing, beautiful, erotic, intense, thrilling, twisty. SEE IT.
written and directed by: John Carney
starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy
I adore John Carney’s other films Once and Begin Again plus I appreciate films about music. In 1980s Dublin, Conor faces challenges at home and at school so why not form a band to impress a girl. Conor’s parents argue incessantly at home while at school he finds himself not fitting in anywhere. He gathers together an earnest collection of misfits to form the band. He seeks advice from his older brother who exposes him to all the classics as well as popular music. He tells Conor that he needs to create “happy sad” music like The Cure and Joy Division. He says: “Your problem is you’re not happy being sad. But that’s what love is, happy sad.” That music draws me in as it embraces 80s alternative/ mod. This film is a pure delight that actually makes me smile, makes me happy.
La La Land
written and directed by: Damien Chazelle
starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend
A modern day musical/ love story set in Los Angeles starring the magnetic pair of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as an actress and a jazz musician looking to break out. Infectiously entertaining and bittersweet.
Love & Friendship
written and directed by: Whit Stillman
starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry, Tony Bennett
Oh Whit Stillman I adore you and your cleverness. If you haven’t seen his Metropolitan trilogy you must. Based on the Jane Austen story “Lady Susan,” Love & Friendship is a witty, darkly amusing and smart film. While temporarily residing with her in-laws, Lady Susan Vernon seeks to make a match for her daughter and maybe one for herself as well. Because it’s all about money and position during this time period. Kate Beckinsale dazzles in the lead.
Hell or High Water
written by: Taylor Sheridan
directed by: David Mackenzie
starring: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges
didn’t expect to love a modern Western as much as this one about two brothers plotting to save the family ranch in West Texas.
written by: Noah Oppenheim
directed by: Pablo Larrain
starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
outstanding, gorgeous, moving. I cried! Always a sign of a brilliant film if I’m moved that much. Natalie Portman should win the Academy Award for her stellar performance as Jackie Kennedy in the days following JFK’s assassination.
written and directed by: Andrea Arnold
starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LeBeouf, Riley Keough
this one’s difficult to describe. gritty and riveting. exploring Heartland poverty, the film focuses on scrappy young woman who joins a group of street hustlers selling magazines door-to-door (who still does that?) throughout the country. they form a community of sorts. it’s eye-opening, engrossing and heartbreaking.
written and directed by: Kelly Reichardt
starring: Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart
quiet intensity. amazing cast. women in control, women space and exhibiting a modicum of control in the Midwest in three intersecting stories.
written and directed by: Jeff Nichols
starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton
how can you not be both moved and compelled by the story of Mr. and Mrs. Loving who took their right to interracial marriage to the Supreme Court, paving the way for many others. Nothing’s easy about the couple’s relationship but their love endures.
written and directed by: Rebecca Miller
starring: Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader
having second thoughts on her marriage, Maggie concocts a plan to reunite her husband with his ex-wife. witty. clever. brilliant script and impressive cast.
A Bigger Splash
written by: David Kajganich
directed by: Luca Duadagnino
starring: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson
when an old friend and his daughter interrupt a rock star’s vacation with her lover, lots of naked debauchery ends in tragedy.
written and directed by: Lorene Scafaria
starring: Rose Byrne, Susan Sarandon
my mom would never become this involved in my life. she wants me to be happy but she’d not going to take an active role in making sure that happens.
Queen of Katwe
written by: William Wheeler
directed by: Mira Nair
starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o
for a film based on a true story about chess this one’s inspirational and impressive.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
written by: Robert Carlock
directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
starring: Tina Fey, Margo Robbie, Martin Freeman
Tina Fey plays and earnest, determined reporter who thrives on the adrenaline rush filing stories in Afghanistan. The film delves into the treatment of female war corespondents and the challenges being a war reporter.
written and directed by: Elizabeth Wood
starring: Morgan Saylor, Brian Marc, Justin Bartha, Chris Noth
shocking, gritty glimpse into a college student’s summer when drug binges, partying and an unexpected romance take her a bit too deep and collapsing into danger and uncertainty. It’s as far from Homeland’s Dana Brody as Morgan Saylor may get.
strong documentaries expose you to subject matter in a novel and enlightening manner. it might be a subject of which you know very little or a subject with which you’re familiar. the best documentaries make you want to read and research, discuss and debate. that’s why I’ve belonged to a documentary film group for five years. I tend to favor biographical, political, social justice and music documentaries.
directed by: Ava DuVernay
written by: Spencer Averick and Ava DuVernay
–our criminal justice systems needs serious reform. this documentary painstakingly delves into our prison system. It’s a moving, upsetting and infuriating call for change.
directed by: Mat Whitecross
–while I classify myself a Blur girl, I also love Oasis. I love Britpop and alternative music. I didn’t know all that much about how Oasis formed or how brothers Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher grew up with an abusive father. I know music was a way out for many British bands in the 90s. The film documents the band’s meteoric rise to fame and its collapse. There’s a moment on tour when Noel quits the band in Los Angeles and takes off to a female fan’s place in San Francisco. He ultimately re-joins the band and ends up writing a song about it. Being a long-term music critic this film hit all the right notes and all the right emotive spots. I laughed. I cried. I stood in the theater lobby with four strangers discussing it all.
directed by: Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn
written by: Matthew Hamachek and Brian McGinn
–going into this one I definitely had an opinion. it’s like the OJ Simpson case, how can you not? I’d read Amanda Knox’s riveting memoir and still learned quite a bit about the Italian judicial system and being locked up abroad (don’t do it) watching this documentary. Nearly a decade ago in 2007, Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were arrested, charged and convicted of the murder of Amanda’s roommate Meredith Kercher. Remember the supposed orgy and its aftermath as well as Knox’s nickname “Foxy Knoxy.” Because of course if someone’s sexually open she *must be a murderer. Amanda serves prison time until the conviction is overturned but then there’s another trial. While the United States criminal justice system remains a mess the Italian one seems outrageous. It’s not what one expects in a European nation. There are so many flaws in the investigation and numerous questions about the process that this documentary attempts to address.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week– the touring years
directed by: Ron Howard
written by: Mark Monroe
–it’s always cool to learn something new about music legends. while I’m familiar with the music I don’t know as much about the band’s history and specific historic moments. There’s an excellent cross-section of fans interviewed from Whoopi Goldberg to Sigourney Weaver to Eddie Izzard. It’s a sweet love letter to a band from a genuinely sincere Ron Howard. It’s not messy or scandalous or a sexy film but wholesome family fun that one expects from Ron Howard.
“Rap was about rage not beauty. Rap hated most women.” –Michel’le
After Straight Outta Compton premiered in theaters last year, many remarked how the film completely avoided depiction of N.W.A.’s violence against women. Here’s the counterpoint. It’s hip-hop artist Michel’le’s powerful and courageous story. As Michel’le narrates the film, this is her truth. Raised by her grandmother in Compton, Michel’le learned to expect men to hit women. That it was just something men did and that women should avoid provoking men and if he hits you to “fix it.” There’s this tragic conditioning of women and acceptance of violence against women. This is Michel’le’s story about her experience in the rap world, particularly her relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight.
Plucked from a department store, Michel’le [adeptly portrayed by Rhyon Nicole Brown] starts singing on N.W.A. albums. She’s a surprise as she speaks in a high voice like Minnie Mouse but sings in a deep, gorgeous tone. She almost immediately attracts Dre’s attention and the two start dating. Michel’le remarks: “We were like family. They were like my brothers. Except for Dre of course.” Dre [Curtis Hamilton] had five children and “didn’t take any of these girls seriously.” Almost every guy that Michel’le knew had a baby. She said it was nearly a “Compton right of passage.” She and Dre move in together and she records her first album.
In the studio, Dre comes up and punches her hard. Repeatedly. It’s a disturbing scene. Being young and in love and not understanding love, Michel’le stayed with Dre. Another time he chokes her and exclaims: “Sing the song stupid bitch now.” They’re together for several years and have a son together. Here’s this distorted perception on love and loyalty. Women are afraid of men who control them. It’s often difficult to leave. Many women don’t feel self-confident enough to do so. She’s also young, inexperienced and swept up into this wild scene with drugs, booze, parties. In order to numb the pain, Michel’le started drinking and doing drugs. She also starts becoming successful apart from Dre. She opens for MC Hammer on tour in 1990. She also becomes an alcoholic and drug addict. Death Row Records co-founder [and Dr. Dre’s business partner] Suge Knight [R. Marcos Taylor] becomes an ally, a protector of sorts, and offers to get her into rehab. While Suge’s in jail, they marry. She has a baby. She takes her child to her grandmother because she doesn’t feel confident enough in raising her own child. When Suge beats her, Michel’le leaves him.
See this film. It provides a memorable and potent first-hand female perspective on the rap world. Although a music critic, I only know what I read in the news about the rap world. Alternative music has always been by genre. It’s literally about a woman being knocked down and picking herself up and carrying on. Tremendous respect to Michel’le for this film.
Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge and Michel’le premieres Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 8pm ET/PT on Lifetime.
Lacombe Lucien: the screenplay by Louis Malle and Patrick Modiano. Other Press| May 2016| 160 pages | $14.95| ISBN: 978-159051-765-9
I adore books and film but I don’t often read screenplays. Lacombe Lucien is a film about the evils at play among French Nazi collaborators during WWII. It’s an early work by Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano and director/screenwriter Louis Malle. Apparently the film was quite controversial at its release as it depicted the dark underside of war, showing some French nationals doing despicable things to other French nationals. It’s harsh and raw.
Lucien Lacombe, a poor boy in Nazi occupied France, becomes involved with Fascist collaborators who join the Gestapo and inform on their fellow countrymen in horrific ways. There’s torture, murder, imprisonment. Lucien wanted to join the Resistance but his teacher rejected him. He told him he was too young. He added: “And anyway, this is serious business. It’s no lark, Lucien, like going out and poaching . . . . It’s like being in the army, you know. . . .” So Lucien joins up with the bad guys. He carried out small tasks for the Gestapo. This makes the young man feel powerful and indomitable. He’s rather content with the brusque lifestyle and its payouts until he falls for a Jewish girl named France. Will Lucien betray her and her family?
There are some callous remarks about Jewish people. Jean-Bernard: “There are some Jewish girls who are incredibly beautiful. . . . Compared to them, other women look like mares. . . . (Turning to Lucien) That’s right, old boy: mares. . . . I had a Jewish fiancée once, some time back. . . . Incredibly stacked, and incredibly wealthy. . . .” Marie: “Dirty Jew! . . . They all have the syph! . . . Do you hear that? . . . She’s going to give you a case of syph!” Then France herself, likely echoing the sentiment of those persecuted at that time: “Lucien. . . I’m so tired. I can’t stand it anymore. . . .I’m so tired of being a Jew. . . .”
Reading the screenplay definitely makes me want to watch the film. Seeing the film will add vividness. I need to see these characters interacting. The arch in which Lucien and France fall in love seems incredibly quick although I cannot judge without seeing the actors chemistry.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Other Press.
Do not expect to find gossipy stories in Illeana Douglas’s memoir I Blame Dennis Hopper: And Other Stories From a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies . Instead this reads as a genuine love story with film. Infused with passion and enthusiasm, actor/director/producer Illeana Douglas discusses her journey to become an independent voice in cinema. Illeana reveals disappointments and achievements with equal parts humor and honesty. She recounts her early and ongoing love for classic films and the art of film-making itself. She writes: “That’s how movies change us: in ways we cannot even remember. Those images of movies stay in our brain; those fragments become shards in our memories.” She recalls working with directors such as Gus Van Sant, Martin Scorsese and Allison Anders. Illeana has starred in a ton of films including Grace of My Heart, Picture Perfect, To Die For, Goodfellas, Wedding Bell Blues [check this one out. it’s so much fun], Ghost World, Return to Sender, She’s Funny That Way, Factory Girl, Happy, Texas, and Cape Fear. She directed Illeanarama and Easy to Assemble as well as several short films.
Not only did she study acting but she questioned every moment while on a film set and dissected various films to completely absorb and comprehend the film-making process. She voraciously read books about film. Illeana explains: “To me, a movie is like a roulette wheel with a series of problems where the numbers should be. The wonderful mystery of a movie is that you can never predict those problems, so fixing as many things beforehand as possible, such as answering questions in the script, is a good idea.”
I truly enjoyed this memoir. It provided so much insight and Illeana possesses such a passion for film and a respect for the entire process. She’s a great storyteller and she remembers details about everything. We met briefly when she screened Devil Talk at The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Grace of My Heart is my all-time favorite film so I ask Illeana lots of questions about it.
Illeana took the time to answer some questions by email.
Amy Steele: Why did you decide to write this book now?
Illeana Douglas: We are in a period where-although movies are readily available to see-we have no context with which to talk about them. I was lucky that I had my grandfather Melvyn Douglas talking to me about working with Greta Garbo and Peter Sellers. Now that’s context! I always saw and wrote about movies-but it wasn’t until I started working with Turner Classic Movies that folks became aware of it. Yes, I’m an actress, and I do talk about my own career/life story in the book but the focus is that I am a fan of movies as much as being in them. These are 15 stories about movies or movie stars that changed my life.
Amy Steele: Why the title?
Illeana Douglas: It’s called I Blame Dennis Hopper because I wanted to tell a memoir through the movies because the movies have defined who I am. In 1969 my parents saw Easy Rider. After seeing the movie they rejected their middle class life style and became hippies. The title pays homage to him because it’s how the power of that film– Easy Rider— changed my destiny. I am an actress because of Dennis Hopper—because as a child I was raised on his philosophies—which were based on the film Easy Rider. Later on of course I met and worked with Dennis Hopper—in the movie Search and Destroy— and had my own profound experience which is what I write about in the book.
Amy Steele: You talk about films at the drive-in being a major part of your childhood and teen years. Is that how you developed such an interest in classic film and film-making in general?
Illeana Douglas: I learned about classic film I think because I was spending time with my grandfather and sitting across from Myrna Loy or Robert Anderson or Diane Baker at the dinner table. I knew they were in the movies. I wanted to be able to impress my grandfather so I started reading more about classic film so I would have something to say at the grown ups table! Then when he brought me to the set of Being There I started to get an interest in the behind the scenes making of films. He picked up on my eagerness to learn, and started sending me movie books.
Amy Steele: Your childhood did surprise me. The hippy factor and uncertainties. How did this influence your acting and shape you as a person?
Illeana Douglas: My childhood seemed like a movie. It was all out of my control. I became obsessed with movies—somehow I knew this was my way out. Movies were—when I was growing up—how you could define yourself. You looked to the movies. I wanted to be Liza Minelli, or Ruby Keeler, or Richard Dreyfuss. I looked up to these icons– still do. I knew if I could be in the movies I would be happy and that has been very true!
Amy Steele: Your grandfather [Melvyn Douglas] was a well-known and Academy-Award winning actor [Being There, Hud]. What kind of relationship did you have with him and how did he influence your decision to act? Did he know that you wanted to act and what kind of advice did he give you?
Illeana Douglas: He was of course my first mentor and my first fan. He believed in me. He gave me structure. He encouraged me to read and to learn. He said, “When you find someone to learn from don’t let go of that person”. I have tried to honor that. To respect the craft and the history of acting. He also pushed me to write. So writing has been my way of making him happy.
Amy Steele: Then your grandmother was the first democratic woman elected to Congress from California. What did you learn from her?
Illeana Douglas: She was so confident. She believed strongly in her principles-which were very liberal. Politically- it was her opinion or you were on the wrong side. She also had great taste in art, music, and antiques. These are all qualities I admire. She also loved to hear little poems or songs I had written. Pictures I had painted. She created a world that I very much wanted to be a part of.
Amy Steele: How has acting influenced your directing?
Illeana Douglas: I love acting-love it-but my heart lies in directing. Acting made me want to be a director. When I work with actors I obviously know through experience what they are going through. I have a certain empathy. They are not in control. My goal as a director is to tell the stories of emotional triumph.
Amy Steele: As with many industries (journalism for one), film is quite white-male dominated, what has been your greatest challenge as a woman in the industry?
Illeana Douglas: The greatest challenge is that an “actress” will always be treated with gender bias. It’s sad because I love acting and actresses but you will never get respect as an actress if you have opinions. Shirley Maclaine has said she’s played a hooker 8 times in movies. What does that tell you about being an actress in Hollywood?
Amy Steele: Hollywood also has issue with aging actresses. Seems once you’re over 40 you get the mom roles. What do you think could change that?
Illeana Douglas: I don’t think generally it will change. All you can do as a woman is write a great part for an older woman and try like hell to get it made. In the meantime there are other areas in show business you can work in and a lot of actresses—I’m one of them have branched out to writing and directing.
Amy Steele: As Grace of My Heart is my all-time favorite film, I adored that section and found out many things I didn’t know like that you and Allison wanted to make a film about Anne Sexton. Is there no possibility to make that film?
Illeana Douglas: We would love to collaborate on a film. I don’t think it will be Anne Sexton.
Amy Steele: Of you and Allison you said: “Allison and I both felt like female artists who didn’t quite fit in a mold.” I would think that’s a good thing. Can you explain how that shaped the film as well as your relationship with Allison?
Illeana Douglas: I wanted a collaboration with a female director in the way that male actors did with male directors. Allison is so knowledgeable about films. That was the surprise. We just clicked because we both loved movies—especially melodramas. We wanted Grace of My Heart to be a musical melodrama and I think we achieved that. We got that movie made, and I am awfully proud of it. We are friends to this day. I love her. I loved co-hosting with her on TCM and the Trailblazing Women series.
Amy Steele: You’ve worked with mostly male directors. How are things different working with a female director?
Illeana Douglas: I have actually worked with many female directors. Allison Anders, Nancy Savoca, Kathy Bates to name a few. I sought a collaboration with Allison Anders. She was the quintessential female director I wanted to work with because I felt she would bring out the best in me and she did. What I have found is that once you are on set everyone is very supportive– it’s getting to the set.
Getting a female-driven film set up and made that is the challenge. I know when I am directing a project—I get more personally involved in the hiring of women in all departments. There are more women physically on set. I have also worked with two female D.P.s [cinematographer/Director of Photography and I have found no sexism directed towards them once they are on set. Again it’s getting the job that is the problem.
Women directors tend to write their own material. It usually feels, as in the case of Grace of My Heart that the story is very personal and very real. Everything I have written for film and directed—my shorts etc. are all based on real experiences or feelings and I have turned them into a narrative. I’ve said this before and it’s widely quoted but I believe women shoot better sex scenes than male directors. They are just prettier to look at, and certainly more arousing. Some of the male depictions of sex scenes turn my stomach a little—they seem about power—not so much about love.
Amy Steele: As you worked in the Brill Building for one of your first jobs how cool was it to make a film about its history?
Illeana Douglas: I worked in the Brill Building in 1987 and continued to work there throughout the 90’s and became fascinated by its history. I’m a big music buff—so the idea that this was Tin Pan Alley fascinated me. I started to read a lot of books about it as my grandfather’s parents were actually song-writers themselves. There were so many stories of these great song-writing teams at the Brill Building. Of course the Carole King story resonated with me—as it did Allison Anders. She’s an expert on the girl groups. I was merely a fan. We would have loved to film in the actual Brill Building.I did film there with the movie Picture Perfect. The halls are square and have linoleum on them so you could move pianos around. I liked the idea of that much creativity happening in one building. We tried to create what it would have felt like to be a singer/songwriter in that era. One of my favorite scenes is writing a song with Howard (Eric Stoltz). It felt very organic. Of course it helped that Elvis Costello had written the song for us.
Amy Steele: You also stated that the 90s was the “height of independent film-making”—how and what has changed with independent film since then?
Illeana Douglas: We don’t have enough time! The 90s represented the best of that mid-range indie film—3 to 5 million dollars. Now you can either make a big budget movie that will have to have big big stars or make a movie for under a million. It might get into a festival and it will not be released in theaters, it will be VOD. We are making a lot of movies– not as many people are seeing them. Also it was filmed. Everything now is digital. Doesn’t have the warm quality of film.
Amy Steele: Why do you think you’re more of a comedic actress than a dramatic actress?
Illeana Douglas: I enjoy satire and irony. I think funny. Situations in life I find comic. I find life absurd—like a Fellini movie. I really enjoy making people laugh, it makes me happy.
Amy Steele: Illeanarama is so funny and so is Easy to Assemble –where did those ideas come from and what has doing a web series allowed you to do these days?
Illeana Douglas: I had a couple of pilots that I made that didn’t go anywhere and then I was approached by IKEA in 2007 to create some branded interstitials. Easy to Assemble came out of my feeling of wanting to do more comedic writing. I had made a number of shorts but my directing was always put on hold so I could act. Easy to Assemble which came out of Illeanarama was a way to act in projects I had written and to have a voice comedically. I had five years to write/produce/direct because of IKEA. I was able to learn how to produce, handle budgets work with actors and write scripts without the pressure of failing. I knew I would be writing and directing films and this was a fantastic training ground. We were pioneers and I will always be proud of that and thankful to IKEA.
Amy Steele: You stated: “I’m a bit of a rebel. It’s true. I challenge the system and I question authority.” I am the same way and it hasn’t helped me much. People don’t appreciate that. Has this been problematic or beneficial for you?
Illeana Douglas: I do not like unfairness, and when something is wrong I will speak up. Does it rub people the wrong way to be outspoken– yes it does. You also have to question authority because they want to corral everyone into the same thinking. I am for the individual. Women have to rebel and risk not being liked. There is no other option for a woman than to have the attitude of “I got this” but that rubs folks the wrong way.
Amy Steele: Richard Dreyfuss seems to be the actor you’ve always admired. What do you like about him?
Illeana Douglas: Everything. He’s one of our finest amd most thoughtful actors. His films in the 70’s shaped a generation. There is no performance like Jaws or The Goodbye Girl. His energy and drive is palpable and yet underneath is strong vulnerability. And he’s DAMN funny. I like what I wrote about Richard Dreyfuss, “Was he cocky… yes… was he right? Always.”
Amy Steele: You developed a special relationship with Roddy McDowall. How much did he mean to you?
Illeana Douglas: Roddy got me into keeping journals and autograph books. He was a student of film history and was one the first people to talk about film preservation. He was gracious and kind and just the epitome of class. Everyone loved him, and he was also a very talented photographer. I never saw him complain or be sad about any blow that life dealt him. His picture is on my desk, and he is always in my thoughts.
Amy Steele: What do you like best about working at TCM?
Illeana Douglas: Working with Turner Classic Movies is a dream. There is not a person who works there who has an agenda other than to celebrate movies, movie makers and to put on a pedestal the giants of the cinema. I have great respect for Robert Osborne who gave the channel a face. They are also in tune with the fans. The fans make TCM a family, and I don’t know a TV channel today that actively thinks about pleasing the fans. I have had the opportunity to interview luminaries like Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry Lewis, Eva Marie Saint.
When I was going to write a book it aligned with what I was doing with TCM—which was shining a light on the importance of films. Our Trailblazing Women series set the agenda for female filmmakers and the contributions of female filmmakers going back to 1896. Many of the films we highlighted are now being recognized –Ida Lupino, Shirley Clarke, Barbara Loden– no one was talking about them– now their films, and the films of many other female filmmakers are being recognized.
Amy Steele: What inspires you?
Illeana Douglas: Amarcord means “to remember” I am the rememberer.
I’m not a film critic although when I worked at Harvard Business School I was the film critic for The Harbus and it was great fun going to screenings and interviewing actors such as Claire Danes, Rose Byrne, Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan, Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell and David Cronenberg.
I’m a music critic and a book critic. That’s my focus. I can’t do everything. Yes, I cover the occasional television program.
I love film. I love indie film. I try to see a new film in the theater each week and my Netflix account [both streaming and DVD] remains quite active. I saw about 200 films this year. I don’t always pick the award winners but I pick what truly moved me. 5/20 of these films directed by women. 9/20 written or co-written by women. Many strong, intriguing female protagonists in these films.
Far from the Madding Crowd
directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
screenplay by: David Nicholls
starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen
directed by: John Crowley
screenplay by: Nick Hornby
starring: Saorsie Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson
directed by: Todd Haynes
screenplay by: Phyllis Nagy
starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
directed by: Marielle Heller
screenplay by: Marielle Heller
starring: Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgaard
directed by: Tom McCarthy
screenplay by: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
starring: Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton
directed by: Sean Baker
screenplay by: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian
directed by: Sarah Gavron
screenplay by: Abi Morgan
starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep
directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
written by: Emma Donoghue
starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers
While We’re Young
directed by: Noah Baumbach
screenplay by: Noah Baumbach
starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver
Love and Mercy
directed by: Bill Pohlad
screenplay by: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner
starring: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks
directed by: Paul Weitz
screenplay by: Paul Weitz
starring: Lily Tomlin, Sam Shepard, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden
directed by: Denis Villeneuve
screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan
starring: Emily Blunt, Benecio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
directed by: Noah Baumbach
screenplay by: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke
directed by: Danny Boyle
screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin
starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
Infinitely Polar Bear
directed by: Maya Forbes
written by: Maya Forbes
starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky
directed by: Niki Caro
screenplay by: Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, Grant Thompson
starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts , Johnny Ortiz
The Age of Adaline
directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
screenplay by: J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz
starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford
directed by: Jennifer Phang
screenplay by: Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Phang
starring: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams
Digging for Fire
directed by: Joe Swanberg
written by: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg
starring: Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Orlando Bloom
I Smile Back
directed by: Adam Salky
written by: Paige Dylan
starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles
directed by: Spike Lee
written by: Spike Lee
starring: Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack
notable performances: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo; Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road; Will Smith in Concussion; Amy Schumer in Trainwreck