Summer 2019

The Kindest Denial

“Life is not just about what you do but how you do it,” says Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou) to Billi (Awkwafina), her New York–based struggling writer granddaughter, toward the end of writer/director Lulu Wang’s triumphant sophomore feature, The Farewell. It’s the type of aphoristic advice passed on by an elder that, on its face, may not seem like much. But given where it’s placed in Wang’s film, after all that has come before and what Billi is certain will come after, it lands with disarming, laconic gravity. And as much as it subtly refers to the film’s central storyline—Billi travels […]



Mansion on the Hill: Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot on The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot, the creative team behind The Last Black Man in San Francisco, have the kind of backstory that’s the stuff of publicists’ dreams, a compact anecdote that grounds their feature debut. Both are native San Franciscans and met around age 10: Talbot had gotten into a fistfight, and Fails came onto the street just in time to help. The two became lifelong friends, a relationship that mutates into new form in their film. Fails (who cowrote the film’s story with director Talbot; the script’s cowriter is Rob Richert) stars as a version of himself: a lifelong […]

  • Seamless Transitions: Remembering Stanley Donen

    In 2003, I was at Columbia University getting a masters degree in film and television. A friend who had just graduated called me with a rather unusual offer. Stanley Donen—the prolific and award-winning director of Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, who died this February at age 94—was looking for a producer. My friend had been talking to him about taking the job, but when Stanley found out he would be graduating in a few months, he asked him to find someone who was still a student. “It’s a student film,” he said. I didn’t get […]

  • Act Naturally

    On the first day of any given screen-acting class at Northwestern University, it’s not uncommon for me to be facing down a bifurcated group of eight theater students and eight film students. As I sit on the receiving end of nerve-wracked glares, listening to introductory tales of middle school plays and high school short films, of little to some to no experience, I seek to comfort and calm with one simple statement: Everything you need to know about film acting you can learn in 30 seconds. It’s only now that I realize I’ve been lying to them.  It is one […]

  • The American Way: Writer/Director Rick Alverson on The Mountain

    Divisive. Vexing. Hilarious. Disturbing. Stimulating. Exhilarating. However one feels about the films of Rick Alverson, one thing’s for certain: the adjectives used to express that opinion will be strong. From The Builder (2010) to Entertainment (2015), Alverson has relentlessly challenged his audiences to confront—and dare to release—their preconceived notions of narrative cinema. At a time when the independent festival circuit has begun to feel more like a breeding ground for the major studios and television networks than a showcase for brash, defiantly original stand-alone works of art, Alverson is providing a desperately needed jolt—a reminder of what truly independent cinema […]


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Also: Revision Mode: Co-creator Leslye Headland on Russian Doll Birth of The Son Lens Flair

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