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Wavelengths 2019, Program Three: Memory Traces

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It is a lamentable fact that the historical avant-garde in North America was, against all odds, even more chauvinist and provincial than its counterparts across the commercial narrative cinema, whether in Hollywood or the arthouse. And while the situation for new work is undoubtedly improving, much remains to be done to recover the often buried histories of film beyond the accepted routes of circulation, to ensure that our institutional memories are not allowed to remain so riddled with gaps. Sunday evening’s screening began with one such intervention: the first presentation outside of South Korea of 2minutes40seconds, coming more than four decades on from its completion. The film is signed by Han Ok-hee, the leading member of Seoul’s Kaidu Club, a…  Read more

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“If a Director Feels the Need to Move the Camera Simply to ‘Make It Interesting,’ It’s Likely an Indicator the Scene Itself Isn’t That Interesting”: DP Erik Messerschmidt on Mindhunter, Season Two

Erik Messerschmidt on the set of Mindhunter

When David Fincher transitioned from music videos to feature films in the 1990s, the descriptors “glossy,” “slick” and “stylized” were frequently affixed to his work. Those adjectives were often aimed as pejoratives, categorizing Fincher as a technical virtuoso who created shiny but hollow thrillers. Watching the second season of Netflix’s Mindhunter—executive produced and partially directed by Fincher—the evolution of the filmmaker’s aesthetic is striking. As FBI profilers Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) interview America’s most notorious serial killers, the camera rarely moves. Instead, it unobtrusively observes.  What hasn’t changed over the years is Fincher’s unwavering exactitude, exemplified by the show’s almost mathematically meticulous compositions. Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt is the guardian of that precision, carrying season two’s…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 75: Kaitlyn Dever

Kaitlyn Dever’s sophisticated comedic instincts were on full display throughout her teens in the sitcom Last Man Standing. This year she took it to another level, starring with Beanie Feldstein in the hit comedy sensation Booksmart. And now we get to marvel at another side of her incredible acting talent in the powerful new Netflix limited series Unbelievable. In this episode, she talks about how she dealt with the emotional weight of the material in that series, and one compelling monologue in particular where restraint was a key ingredient. Plus she explains how being a “moldy person” helps her work, and the important role music plays in her preparation. Back To One can be found wherever you get your podcasts,…  Read more

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TIFF 2019, Last Days: Uncut Gems, Atlantis, Jallikattu, This Action Lies

This Action Lies

At Marriage Story‘s TIFF premiere, the audience applauded the Netflix logo; a night later, the same happened for A24 at Uncut Gems. The latter makes slightly more sense—rightly or wrongly (no comment), A24 has coherent brand cachet in positioning itself as Art-Fixated rather than purely profit-motivated—but in both cases I felt like I was going mad, and even more so when I heard that the first question for The Lighthouse‘s cast and crew at their first screening was why is A24 is so very special (surely that’s not on Willem Dafoe to answer.) Admittedly, Adam Sandler shaking Kevin Garnett’s hand onstage after both were intro’d by Josh Safdie is peak 2019 the-algorithm’s-gone-wonky, but for sheer weirdness logo-mania that can’t be explained…  Read more

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“Just Keep Asking”: True Crime Filmmakers Talk About Pushing A Classic Genre In New And More Ethical Directions At IFP Week 2019

I Love You, Now Die

True crime has been having a moment, as they say, for a while now. In a way it’s never not been having a moment, but the genre has rapidly evolved in the digital age, when more information is available to more people, when conspiracy theorists run wild on Reddit and 4chan, and when there’s simply more content being produced. All this means not only more crime content, but also shows and movies that are more thoughtful, more creative, and even more conscious of ethical or moral quandaries that may crop up in the process of covering true crimes. The panel “Killer Ideas,” at IFP Week 2019, brought together a mix of the old guard and the new. The former was…  Read more

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“Technology Has Come A Long Way”: Todd Douglas Miller And E. Chai Vasarhelyi On Going Big With Apollo 11 And Free Solo At IFP Week 2019

Apollo 11 (courtesy of Neon/CNN Films)

Documentaries have been making bank at the box office the last couple years, which is heartening for anyone worried the blockbusters are the only game in town. Still, you don’t necessarily have to see small, intimate fare like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG and Three Identical Strangers on a giant screen. You can’t say the same about Free Solo and Apollo 11. One finds cutting-edge cameras hanging alongside mountain climber Alex Honnold; the other unearths 65mm footage of the eponymous spaceflight. Both played IMAX theaters, and they were an even better fit on the world’s biggest screens than the latest Marvel extravaganza. Two of the creators behind these twin achievements came to IFP Week 2019 for a “Tête-à-Tête” chat:…  Read more

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“You Get To Be In Places You Have No Business Being”: Political Filmmakers Talk About Telling Big Stories With A Small Focus At IFP Week 2019

(l to r: Jehane Noujaim, Rachel Lears, Alison Clayman, Christopher Booker)

For documentarians, especially ones who focus on politics, it’s not enough to have a strong and vital subject. You need a way to get audiences engaged. The participants at the “Politically Engaged” panel at IFP Week 2019 know that all too well. Take Jehane Noujaim. Along with her creative partner Karim Amer, she makes docs about hot topics: the Egyptian Crisis in 2013’s The Square, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in this year’s The Great Hack. But they’re not expository info dumps. They’re verité, following people, not merely ideas. Noujaim realized that earlier on. She got her start working with the legendary non-fiction team of Chris Hegedus and the late D.A. Pennebaker. One of her first films with them was Startup.com,…  Read more

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‘100 Percent It’s Not A Fad’: Jon M. Chu And Other Asian-American Creatives On The Post-‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Bump

(l to r, Alice Wu, Teresa Hsiao, Jon M. Chu, Christina Chou, Andrew Chow)

The IFP Week 2019 panel “Staying in the Room,” which brought together four Asian-Americans involved in the entertainment industry, happened the weekend of two milestones. For one, Hustlers, co-starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu, overperformed, nabbing the top spot at the North American box office. The other was news that comedian Bowen Yang was named the first Asian-American to be cast on Saturday Night Live, ever. The latter was overshadowed by footage of another new SNL hire, Shane Gillis, saying racist stuff about Asians, including a slur that was presumed to have died out with the last generation or two. But apart from some obligatory venting — “Yeah, f— that guy,” quipped big time Hollywood director Jon M. Chu —…  Read more

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