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“I’d Spend 24 Hours with My Family, Fly Back, Sleep for Five Hours and Shoot the Next Day”: Cinematographer Chris Teague on Russian Doll

Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll

On the night of her 36th birthday, New York video game developer Nadia (played by the show’s co-creator Natasha Lyonne) stumbles out of a party in her honor and is killed by an oncoming car. Thus begins a cycle of “resets” in the new Netflix series Russian Doll, with each demise bringing Nadia right back to the same birthday party bathroom mirror on the same night. The Groundhog Day comparisons are unavoidable, yet as Russian Doll unfolds across its eight episodes it reveals layers of emotional complexity and existential angst that extend beyond that Bill Murray classic and its Christmas Carol-esque redeemed misanthrope. The series was shot by Chris Teague, a veteran of New York indie films such as Obvious Child,…  Read more

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SXSW Notebook: E-Scooters, Three Studio Comedies, and the Political Party at the Paramount

Long Shot

Austin may have the highest scooter-to-citizen ratio of all e-scooter inclusive cities in the U.S. While my first impressions of previous editions of SXSW were the abundance of free swag and promotional doodads oozing out of the assorted pop-ups and festival-converted locales, this year it was all the scooters. In a single day, I witnessed a scooter driver get swiped by a car and two others fall clumsily to the pavement. University of Texas baseball star David Hamilton, Kaiser Health News reported, struck a pothole riding an e-scooter and tore his achilles tendon. He’s out for the season. Concerned Austin city leaders asked the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions to investigate scooter-related crashes and injuries. I rode them everyday.…  Read more

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“What I Discovered Was a Unique Bond Between Man and Dog…”: Heddy Honigmann on Buddy

Buddy

For over 30 years the globetrotting Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann has been wowing audiences the world over. Born in Peru to Polish Jewish parents, Honigmann’s been honored with retrospectives at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and also at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where her latest work of cinematic nonfiction Buddy closed this year’s Doc Fortnight. A heart-soaring tearjerker, the doc is an exquisite portrait of the lives of six guide dogs and their owners. But because it’s a Heddy Honigmann film it inevitably transforms into a philosophical meditation — in this case, an exploration of the love affair between mankind and its best friend. Buddy receives its theatrical premiere today, March 20th, at Film Forum. Filmmaker: Your body…  Read more

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Valuable Mistakes of a First Time Film Editor

Kavita Matani and Muder Kothari in Jackson Arms

In 2007, I wrote, produced and directed a microbudget feature film called Jackson Arms. The culmination of a lifelong dream, the film was made possible by the sale (after an extensive rehab) of my own home—a DIY endeavor dependent, for its success, on both hard work and good fortune.  Because I was a first-time everything and the film, a comedic romance, was shot in two weeks (with animal actors and characters speaking Chinese) there were hiccups—and more than a few warts. After the film wrapped, I believed (foolishly, it turns out) that I didn’t need to hire an editor because, well…I could edit the film myself.  This mistake—not my last during editing—would prove costly. Not only was I too close…  Read more

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“Giving Yourself Time to Sculpt”: Pawel Pawlikowski’s Qumra Masterclass

Pawel Pawlikowski at Qumra (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Doha Film Institute)

An initiative of the Doha Film Institute, Qumra is an event that connects Qatari and international directors who are receiving different stages of DFI-funded support with industry delegates from across the spectrum of the film world and master filmmakers who meet with emerging talents and engage in public conversations. The 5th edition took place between March 15th and 20th, 2019. Fresh off the heels of the Oscar campaign for Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski has been enjoying a sustained stay in the international spotlight since his 2015 film Ida became an award-winning critics’ favourite. While tonally distinct from one another, both films are shot in 4:3 Academy ratio in black and white with a meticulous formal approach to composition. However, audiences…  Read more

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Truth to Power: Why CPH:DOX is The Future of Progressive Fests

The Reformist

With the “golden age” of documentary filmmaking still upon us, there’s no shortage of doc fests to attend throughout the year (especially around November, when it often feels like a nonfiction pileup). The Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, however, knows how to set itself apart from the pack. Besides now taking place in March (and thus not needing to fight with IDFA over eyeballs and premieres), CPH:DOX strives to be “the best festival in and for the world.” What this means in concrete terms is that, though CPH:DOX showcases everything from cinematic art pieces to true-crime thrillers, it’s forever rooted in civic engagement. Indeed, I would go so far as to call CPH:DOX a social activist entity — perhaps even…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 50: Michael Mando

Michael Mando is best known for his captivating portrayal of “Nacho” Varga on the hit AMC series Better Call Saul. You might also know him from Orphan Black, Spider-man: Homecoming, or Far Cry 3. In his latest film, The Hummingbird Project, he plays the chief engineer of a massive high frequency trading operation opposite Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård. In this half hour he talks about his interest in the metaphysical aspects of the craft, his beginnings as a hungry but happy acting student, and how he doesn’t let fame get to his head but he’s open to the changes it brings. Back To One can be found wherever you get your podcasts, including iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. And…  Read more

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Filmmaking

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The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2019

Hello! Happy New Year! The fine folks at Filmmaker have invited me back to put together my (now) annual list of the 50 most anticipated American films of the year. I thought about making the list shorter this time around (because 50 blurbs is really…  Read more

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Jan 7, 2019

 

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