It was only a few weeks ago that I flew out to Los Angeles to talk with filmmaker Spike Jonze about his adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are. I really wasn’t expecting to hear back from Spike until the next film, probably a couple years down the line. Last week, Jonze’s new short film We Were Once a Fairytale leaked online, and the filmmaker wanted to touch base again and talk about the new project. So I got on the phone with the man himself, on his birthday no less, to talk about the short film starring Kayne West, which is now officially online on iTunes in both standard and high definition video (download it now). I also snuck in a few unrelated questions from Twitter, including a joke question from Up in the Air director Jason Reitman.
Spike Jonze: Peter. Hey, how are you doing?
Peter Sciretta: Hey, Spike. Good. How are you doing?
Spike Jonze: Good, good.
Peter Sciretta: Happy birthday.
Spike Jonze: Thanks. Yeah, it’s– I’m just leaving on a vacation. So I had a great birthday, and then, I’m going to have a birthday trip. So it’s all good.
The Dana Carvey Show is now on Hulu. What’s the big deal? Well, when the sketch comedy show premiered on ABC in the mid ’90s—following a family-safe block of programming—millions were in awe at the stuff it got away with. It was too good to be true, giving SNL an irreverent elbow. When Carvey spoofed President Bill Clinton by whipping out countless flabby breasts to proudly nurse babies and puppies, it was the beginning of the end. Ratings were steady but still used as a scapegoat, and it was axed after eight episodes. Parents and middle school teachers exhaled in unison.
Knowing that Robert Smigel‘s “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” debuted right after Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s stupid girl troubles on Home Improvementremains incredibly surreal and relevant in the current climate.
After the jump is a screen-shot that captures the show’s insane roster of writers: Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell andCharlie Kaufman for starters…
Have any feedback? You can always e-mail us at slashfilmcast(AT)gmail(DOT)com or call and leave a voicemail at 781-583-1993. Join us next Wednesday night at Slashfilm’s live page at 9 PM EST / 6 PM PST as we review Fast and Furious.
In September, I had the opportunity to sit down with Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter behind Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine and his directorial debut – Synecdoche, New York. Interviewing Charlie Kaufman is like playing a tennis match that you just can’t win. I went into the interview with questions about symbolism and themes, but one of the first things he said was that he doesn’t want to talk about the meaning of the film. And that’s fine. So the interview became more about the process of screenwriting and the transition into directing, than it did about the movie itself. Synecdoche, New York will be in a few theaters beginning this weekend.
Peter Sciretta: Do you typically write your films hoping that audience will require multiple viewings?
Charlie Kaufman: Yes. Well, I think it makes it more interesting for an audience to have some complexity in the material, and also, I’ve got this sort of thing where I’m trying to make it feel like it’s a living piece of theater, as opposed to a set, sort of a pre-recorded thing. And it’s sort of a tricky thing to try to make film feel alive because it isn’t. So this way, it can change when you watch it again at a different point in your life, or just seeing it for the second time, you’re going to see things you couldn’t possibly see the first time because you didn’t know something until the end. But, also, you get to look at details. You can watch things that are happening in the background of scenes that are informative that you probably don’t see the first time through when you’re just trying to get the thing. So that’s why.
Peter Sciretta: I’ve talked to a lot of people that they have that moment of realization or something a week or two after they see one of your films.
Charlie Kaufman: Yes, well, I mean I’ve heard that with this movie, in particular, that people tend to have a delayed reaction, that it sort of sits with them and becomes more affecting over time, which is kind of nice for me to hear that there’s a continuing relationship with the work in someone’s brain. It’s still processing over time. I think most movies aren’t designed to do that; they’re designed to get people into the box, into the theater on the opening weekend and make a lot of money. I guess it’s kind of an unfortunate sort of direction for something that’s an art form, or it should be or can be.
Peter Sciretta: What are the origins of Synecdoche?
Charlie Kaufman: I started to talk with Spike Jonze. We were going to do a horror movie for Sony, and we were talking about, well, what’s really scary rather than what horror movie conventions are that were scary. So we were talking about aging and dying and illness and family and loss and regret and loneliness and kind of went in to Amy Pascal and just pitched a kind of a general sort of direction, and she just wanted to work with us because we’d done adaptation there, and she liked us. So she told me to go off and write it, and I did. And it took me a few years to write it, and then Spike had become involved with Where the Wild Things Are, and I asked him if he would let go of it so that I could direct it, and he said yes.
Peter Sciretta: What made you to want to direct this film? You’ve written a lot of films for Spike that show… Read More »
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has described his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York as his version of a horror movie. It’s a film about death, and man’s fear of mortality. I had the chance to se the film in Toronto, and I’m still unsure of what I saw. It is either brilliant or completely insane. It’s the type of movie that requires repeat viewings to understand the many layers of complexity. But it’s also one of those type of movies that is very dark and depressing in tone, so you might not be as inclined to see it the required amount of times. It’s also one of those movies that grows on you with time. The more I think about it, the more I want to see it again. I rarely give props to Sony Pictures Classics, but this is an extremely well cut trailer. Check it out and tell me what you think in the comments below!
Official Plot Synopsis: Synecdoche, New York explores nightmares that are all too realistic and human. Its hero, Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a 40-year-old local theater director in Schenectady whose life is collapsing around him. His marriage to his artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) is on its last legs while at the same time he is stricken with a series of increasingly catastrophic illnesses. He is afraid he will die any moment having never accomplished anything important in his life. When he receives a MacArthur Grant, he decides to use the windfall to stage a massive theater piece in NYC, determined to create The Great Piece of Art and leave something as true, honest and heartbreaking as life itself. It’s one of those rare films that deals with death, excruciating illness, gross bodily fluids, despair, heartbreak and bad sex but can still bring a twinkle to the eye.
You can watch the trailer in High Definition on Yahoo. Synecdoche, New York hits theaters on October 24th 2008.
WiReD Magazine has been blogging the process of their profile on screenwriter turned director Charlie Kaufman. Not only is it amazing to see how much work goes into one of these WiReD cover stories (we’re talking about months and months of work for one story) but the interactions with Kaufman are insanely interesting.
I caught Kaufman’s directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, last week and I’m still not sure what to make of it. It’s either brilliant or a disaster, I’m not sure which. I think I’ll need to watch the film a few more times before I even begin to understand some of the complexities and develop my final opinion. I also got the the chance to interview the man while in Toronto, and can attest that he is a very nervous and difficult interview (look for that interview in October).
Jason Tanz has posted the audio file for his complete 2 and a half hour interview with Kaufman. If you’re at all interested in the man behind such movies as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, then you might want to check this out. I was going to post this interview last week, but forgot in the madness of my travel. Thankfully AICN reminded me, or it probably would have been forgotten.
Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (read about the reaction here). In the last couple weeks, we’ve brought you production photos and video clips, and now IonCinema brings us the movie poster. I love the imagery of Hoffman overlooking the endless tables of papers. It gives you the feeling of exactly how much of an undertaking it would be to recreate New York City inside a warehouse.
Synecdoche, New York stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director named Caden Cotard, whose life in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his body’s autonomic functions. Worried about the transience of his life, he moves his theater company to a warehouse in New York City. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside. Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and Tilda Swinton co-star.
Charlie Kaufman‘s Synecdoche, New York aka If You Can’t Pronounce My Title, You’re an Effin’ Plebe!!! showed at Cannes and the reviews are hitting the Web like steaming intellectual veg patties. We’ll include the plot synopsis at the bottom, but for now just imagine it’s about a former disgruntled employee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of Rockstar Games who spirals into an existential crisis and rebuilds New York City in pixels as a set, and you should be okay. If I had Slashfilm’s psychic pitching machine, it would spit out “a brilliant mess,” “mindf*ck,” “abstruse,” “enlightening,” “Red States won’t get it, but it’s pretty good,” and “[P.C. allusion to] bong rip.” But since I don’t (Peter has it for the long weekend), let’s get to searchin’ and pasting (interns, it’s all yours)…
Non-linking, old people media outlet, Variety, goes the “it’s for smart people, and outside of New York and L.A. it will be dust…” route…
“A wildly ambitious and gravely serious contemplation of life, love, art, human decay and death, the film bears Kaufman’s scripting fingerprints in its structural trickery and multi-plane storytelling. …it will intrigue Kaufman’s most loyal fans but put off fair-weather friends on the art house circuit, where a venturesome distrib will have its work cut out for it to move the film commercially beyond cult status.”
Oh, wow, they used the adjectives “obscuritanist and incomprehensible,” too. This will make a nice segue into the NY Times and the vetted Mr. A.O. Scott, who says that Kaufman, as a first time director, absolutely skullbangs the cool films made from his screenplays like Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…
“Like his protagonist, a beleaguered theater director played by Hoffman, he has created a seamless and complicated alternate reality, unsettling nearly every expectation a moviegoer might have …But though the ideas that drive “Synecdoche, New York” are difficult and sometimes abstruse, the feelings it explores are clear and accessible. These include the anxiety of artistic creation, the fear of love and the dread of its loss, and the desperate sense that your life is rushing by faster than you can make sense of it.”
“Abstruse”! I swear to Bill Maher’s God I actually called it. Thanks A.O. This is better than winning at Scrabble for a prolonged sexual favor. In a wise move, our friends at Cinematical provide the definition of “synecdoche” preceding a positive review…
“The directorial debut of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation), Synecdoche, New York is a sprawling, messy work of inspired brilliance and real humanity, a film that enthralls and affects even as it infuriates and confounds. …Kaufman wedges every frame full of set design, side notes, visual tricks, subtext, , deadpan jokes, prosthetic makeup, voice-over, post-modern inventions and old-fashioned melodrama.”
Okay, after this post is done, I’m going to go scream the following pull-quote from Cinematical into the streets: “It’s Jacob’s Ladder for New Yorker subscribers!” Yes! I’m sold like Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut. Moreover, it seems that bringing pot is essentially like bringing glass-ridden sand to the beach: “Synecdoche, New York, might be easier to analyze than enjoy, easier to think about than feel.” There are so many reviews popping up right now and they’re all riding the same WTF rocket, so if you like what you’ve heard, go see this flick. And if you aren’t an original urban outfitter, no worries, just illegally download it and put it on a disc with both Ches. Support! Here’s the Slashfilm plot synopsis…
Synecdoche, New York stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director named Caden Cotard, whose life in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his body’s autonomic functions. Worried about the transience of his life, he moves his theater company to a warehouse in New York City. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside. Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and Tilda Swinton co-star. Running time is 124 minutes. Your life is in minutes as well.
Definition of synecdoche: noun, word that you had to look up for a movie that .001% of the world saw, but that .004% said was brilliant.
Discuss: If you comment, you MUST USE at least one $10 WORD. Do not blow it.