beautiful day in the neighborhood featurette

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the latest film by Marielle Heller, best known as the director of quirky and engaging stories such as 2018’s award winning Can You Ever Forgive Me. Her latest project is the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a jaded and fairly miserable investigative journalist who has become a new father and is tasked with a 400 word piece on heroes. His editor tasks him with chatting with Children’s Television pioneer Fred Rogers, and thus begins the story of fathers, sons and the complexity of their relations. 

Tom Hanks plays Rogers, and he perfectly encapsulates the man’s enormous outpouring of empathy to those around him, young and old, but equally his quirky and sometimes highly awkward mannerisms. It’s a gifted performance, certainly the most indelible part in the project, even while most of the story centers of Lloyd’s transformation rather than the central figure of millions of childhood memories. 

Heller spoke to the audience following the film’s World Premiere at TIFF (read our review here), discussing some the challenge of convincing her famous friend to join the project, and how a famous doc paved the way.

The following quotes have been edited for concision and clarity.

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From his work on assembling Woodstock 50 years ago through to his latest doc on Bob Dylan, Martin Scorsese has played as much of a role shaping documentary cinema as he has with his fiction projects. His 1978 film The Last Waltz is one of the greatest rock-docs of all time, showcasing the extraordinary final shows of The Band at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in November 1976. 

With its mix of live performance, studio takes and quirky and intimate interviews, the film is a definitive document of a particular time in popular music, showcasing a wide range of talents at the height of ’70s excesses, and where a group of individuals chose to call it quits at the top of their game. Joined by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, the goal was to not only celebrate this group’s success, but to do so with artists that both influenced and help shaped them as a working outfit.

The Last Waltz show has been revisited for decades, and it remains a show for the ages. It helps define a particular era of music in unparalleled ways, thanks in large part to the documentation of the show both audio-wise and visually as captured by Scorsese and his team. Famously, the doc begins with a simple title card informing the projectionist that “this film should be played loud”, making that single frame one of the most truthful articulations ever set to celluloid.

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Notes From the 2019 Los Cabos International Film Festival

Does it make sense to fly to a tropical paradise and spend your time inside watching movies? Well, it helps if you’re invited to once again cover the Los Cabos International Film Festival, a jewel of Mexico’s fest slate located the tip of the Baja peninsula, home to some of the greatest films of the year making their local debut amongst the sand and palm trees. 

Founded back in 2012 as a showcase for the growing tourist destination, wanting a mix of Miami and Cannes that’s a quick flight for the Hollywood elite, the festival is really split into two major parts. One, at the more palatial Hotel Me and other locales, is home to producers, funders and filmmakers using their time here to do what comes naturally – eating, drinking and talking, often during the many gatherings and adventures organized for the premiere lot. For those here to see (rather than make) films there are the opening and closing galas, of course, but the majority of time is spent in a multiplex located at the Marina’s fashion mall. With dozens of locals, including many school children who attend as part of organized assignments, we watch everything from world premieres to hits from the film circuit, drawn by the intelligent and sympathetic programmers from Sundance, Cannes, TIFF and other A-list stops on the calendar.

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For decades, Anthony Daniels has been hidden by a golden mask, a globally recognized droid with an instantly recognizable voice that’s played by a man few would notice walking down the street. As the man and voice behind the beloved Star Wars character C-3P0, he’s helped usher audiences into this vast space saga like no other performer. At the outset of the release of Star Wars the human contribution made by Daniels was downplayed, with early marketing efforts avoiding how such an indelibly neurotic character was brought to life. After struggling to come to terms with both the massive success as well as his connection to this iconic automaton, Daniels is finally in a space to tell his tale, rivets and all.

His new book, I Am C-3P0: The Inside Story, is a briskly told tale of a young stage actor who found the role of a lifetime, a man who struggled at first to make sense of just how he could navigate the success and anonymity of what brought his creation global attention. The film provides some fascinating insights, and is told with a droll, eminently British dry wit that’s indicative of the man. Like his costume, some of the more burnished moments are matched with events that are tarnished, yet throughout the telling there’s a sense of both gratitude and bemused amazement for what the last four decades have brought this soft-spoken, intelligent performer.

With the calculated odds high that The Rise Of Skywalker promises an even more integral role for Threepio, a capper for a saga that began with lines of dialogue spoken in wonderfully neurotic fashion from that iconic auriferous visage, making this a perfect time to reflect upon this remarkable journey that has shaped generations. 

/Film spoke to Daniels while he was in Toronto for the launch of his book.    

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The Irishman Soundtrack

Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster flick, The Irishman, continues the tradition of pairing fantastic needle drops with his storytelling, making for an aural landscape that uses songs to help accentuate jumps in time and location. Working in consultation with longtime collaborator Robbie Robertson, his latest film contains numerous songs both popular and obscure that help tell the story of Frank Sheeran.

Scorsese has had more than his fair share of iconic musical movie moments, from Mean Streets (The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”) to Goodfellas (the piano outro from Derek and the Domino’s  “Layla”) and Casino (The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’”). The Irishman treats its music in slightly different ways, eschewing some of the bigger montage moments for deeper integration and long periods where there’s gentle underscore rather than wall-to-wall pop songs.

Here are some stories about certain key tracks that Scorsese and his team have used in The Irishman, as well as a complete soundtrack listing in case you wish to replicate it for your own playlist.

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midway trailer new

For much of the 1990s, Roland Emmerich was the king of blockbuster cinema. The Stutgart born director found in Hollywood the perfect toolbox for his grand visions, hitting big with sci-fi thrillers like Stargate and Independence Day, the late-90s Godzilla chapter, and old-school disaster films like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. After 2016’s sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, he returns to the big screen with his Word War II epic Midway.

The film, with an ensemble including the likes of Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Woody Harrelson, Tadanobu Asano, Etsushi Toyokawa, Mandy Moore and Dennis Quaid, tells the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor and eventual battle in the mid-pacific through the eyes of these characters. Splitting the decision-making of the leadership from quotidian bravery (or cowardice) of the regular soldier, the film’s expansive look at the battle rarely descends into dogma, instead tries through its mix of spectacle and character beats to provide a thrilling film that still feels at its core more than mere escapism.

/Film spoke to Emmerich about this push to provide nuance in the telling of the story, how other productions shaped the long genesis of this production, and what how he feels the creation of these kinds of stories have changed over the last few decades.

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guillermo del toro on the irishman

What makes Martin Scorsese’s films so indelible is the world he creates, populated by dozens of characters that all in their way shape our perception of the environment he creates. The main players in his news movie, The Irishman – played by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci – capture most of our attention, yet there are dozens of other performers both known and unknown that always bring their own magic to the big screen.

For years the Israeli-born, New York-raised Danny Abeckaser was a “club guy”, shepherding models to various events, planning massive parties, and making sure that his clients were taken care of. He helped open some of the biggest nightclubs around, and hustled in that world for years. In 2010 he followed his passion into filmmaking, helping produce Kevin Asch’s Holy Rollers, which found critical notice following its Sundance debut. Over the years he’s done a number of independent productions and character roles, including several under the direction of Martin Scorsese.

In The Irishman Danny is credited as “Louie the Deadbeat”, one of those relatively simple roles than in a lesser film would be forgettable. In Marty’s world, however, no scene is superfluous, and thanks to Abeckaser’s unique look and some improv with De Niro, he’s immortalized in this truly remarkable film. /Film spoke with Abeckaser about this role, how it affects his own creative pursuits, and just what it’s like to be working with masters of filmmaking craft. 

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jojo rabbit clip

The ads describe Jojo Rabbit as being from the “visionistical” director Taika Waititi, and somehow there’s no better world to describe this iconoclastic auteur. While the world took notice when he was picked to helm Thor: Ragnarock, fans have long sought out his unique blend of comedy and pathos in films like Eagle vs Shark, Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the gloriously batty What We Do In The Shadows

Jojo is presented as an anti-hate satire, and some loved it – /Film’s Chris Evangelista called it “a workd of strange magic” – while some critics battled against its charms, unable to be swayed by the tonal shifts and mix of whimsy marred by an undercurrent of terror. The audience at TIFF cast the definitive vote, declaring it the best-of-fest People’s Choice winner.

Following the film’s first screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, Taika and his cast took the stage to answer a few questions where they revealed more about the challenges of getting the tone right, of the inspiration for some of the character performances, and how the whole thing came together. The director was joined on stage by Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Roman Griffith Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. Now the that film is in theaters, we have compiled the best and most interesting quotes from this Q&A.

These comments have been edited for clarity and concision. 

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joker review

In less than a week, Joker has amassed a fortune despite a decidedly mixed critical reception. The film took the top prize at Venice, but a large number of critics (primarily American) have excoriated the film as being inappropriate if not downright dangerous, with many other commentators spilling buckets of ink on the topic before they even screened the film.

Given the film’s obvious debts to the works of Scorsese (The King of Comedy above all, with a dash of everything from Goodfellas to Bringing Out The Dead thrown in for good measure), it’s no surprise that the film is littered with needle drops that include show tunes, cabaret numbers, stadium hits, and excerpts from film scores. The evocative musical themes by composer Hildur Guðnadóttir are particularly effective in setting the mood, but there are dozens of other musical pieces used to tell the tale of Arthur Fleck.

Here are the tracks from Joker’s soundtrack, as well as some background on how these songs gained fame, how they work in the film and some surprising connections outside the narrative that shape how we hear these pieces in the context of Todd Phillips’ film.

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Deerskin review

Have you ever loved a jacket? I mean really loved a jacket? Ruined your life for a coat? Destroyed your marriage and your finances for cool-looking cool-weather clothing? Have the fringes on your outfit caused you to live a fringe existence, evaporating your sanity, and driving you to a rampage? And was your outfit made out of Deerskin?

Director Quentin Dupieux’s new film will certainly speak to anyone with a dash of fashionphilia, or even a simple desire to rid the world out of outerwear. It’s a completely bonkers exercise in lunacy and cold, calculated obsession, all revolving around a really groovy suede outfit. Read More »