“I don’t like this whole Skype-speaker thing,” a friend told me, when I asked if they wanted to accompany me to see the IFF Q&A with Jason Schwartzman. “Like, it’d be better if they just got someone less famous, but in person, you know?”
I’m not personally a huge fan of Skype, so it surprises me that I actually strongly disagree. The quirky nature of these Skype presentations has worked almost perfectly for the speakers IFF has brought us via video chat. Last year’s Wes Anderson Skype Q&A, which was broadcast to two auditoriums because ticketing for the first sold out so quickly, was among the more memorable events I’ve been to on campus. Friday night’s chat with Schwartzman, who wore Beats by Dr Dre headphones and a scruffy black beard, followed suit.
Projected onto the screen in Granoff Auditorium.
Listening to Schwartzman felt very familiar because his manner of speaking is so distinctive, and so similar to that of the characters he has portrayed (think: HBO’s Bored to Death). He integrates self-effacing humor, or just bizarrely specific details, into articulate and intellectual sentences. When asked for his favorite works, or those he draws the greatest inspiration from, he replied “Hmm, that’s a great question, like one I’d maybe liked to have in an email an hour ago…” and then proceeded to rattle off Paul Shrader’s Mishima, Francois Truffaut’s work (in particular Stolen Kisses), and Al Pacino as favorites. “I’m trying to think of books, but I’m so embarrassed to even talk about books because you guys have read so many more books,” said Schwartzman, with stacks and stacks of books piled around his office in the background.
Thanks to the brilliance (and enviable sway) of this year’s Ivy Film Festival organizers, we were among the many who were lucky enough to Skype with the director of the beloved Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and most recently, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is now playing at the Avon. Through a list of pre-selected questions — and a decidedly imperfect video feed — we learned just what inspires Wes’ characters, stories, and color schemes, among the other gems we’ve listed for you here:
1. Never has the artificial ringing of a Skype call come with such anticipation and subsequent cheering from any user.
2. Wes neither speaks French, nor is he well-versed in French cinema, but he yearns to direct more French actors, like Romain Duris and Isabelle Huppert. #AmericanDream?
3. Wes claims The Last Picture Show influenced his filmmaking, and he totaled a convertible in the middle of the night as he and a friend drove to the film’s location site in Archer City, Texas. The feed got kind of choppy at this point, and all we heard was “then my friend was trying to get me to look at the stars… and then I looked back at the road, and we weren’t on it!”
Spring break is over, but its memories will last forever. Or at least that’s what half a dozen Facebook album names and airport location check-ins tell me. But I can’t say I disagree. This break I travelled from Napa Valley to Minnesota, to Western Europe, and even back to my hometown of Chicago. Chicago in a future dystopia, that is. While some people may have been counting shots or blackouts (no judgment) this break, I was counting movies, and I’m proud to say that in 9 days I watched 9. Of course within movie viewing experiences, there is a hierarchy and as much as I love Netflix, truthfully nothing short of cold hard cash excites more than seeing movies in theaters–the trailers, the popcorn, the people, the glitz, the glamour. Here are some thoughts on a few of the movies that hit theaters this break:
It truly pains me to speak ill of Jason Bateman. I have stuck with him through Horrible Bosses, The Changeup, and even Identity Theft.“He’s just trying to find himself in a post-Arrested Development world,” I would explain to myself and some inanimate objects. But Bad Words is one of the worst movies I’ve seen recently [Ed–Hey, I kind of liked it…] and I am no longer able to convince myself that he’s simply in it for the paycheck as Jason not only starred in, but directed this film. The plot centers around a 40 year old man who insists on competing in children’s spelling bees much to the bewilderment and chagrin of parents and the bee’s coordinators, as a result of a loophole in the rules allowing anyone to compete who has not graduated the 8th grade. The problems with this movie start with the racism (Bateman’s character continually refers to a 10-year old Indian child as “slumdog”), continues with the sexism, and culminates in a very thin and abrupt plot. The movie seemed to start too late in Bateman’s journey to properly introduce his character to the audience and ended far too early to justify any of his extremely inappropriate behavior. The saving grace of the film is Rohan Chand who is adorable and the only likable personality on screen. I won’t lie and say I didn’t laugh at all, but when I did it was usually strained and against my better judgment. Something like when you see a small child slip on ice. For an hour and a half.
My sister and mother insist that this was a popular book, but I have no memory of them or anyone else I know reading it. This lack of expectation or any conception of the coming plot was the perfect way to go into this movie, and I was genuinely entertained. Set in a dystopian Chicago where society is divided into factions based on defining personality trait, Divergent follows the Hunger Games trend of teaching children about murder and the evils of human nature under the guise of being an age-appropriate young adult novel. Shailene Woodley led the cast and is already getting hailed as the new Jennifer Lawrence both in coming fame and quirky likability. But if Jennifer Lawrence’s quirky move is asking for french fries on red carpets, Shailene’s is bringing her own herbs to interviews.
Sure, she’s a fairly stiff actress, and I’m not sure why people are so willing to forget that she started on Secret Life of the American Teenager, but she does seem like an interesting person and she was good for this role. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize Theo James from his infamous appearance as the lover of one of the British women on the show (I don’t know, I don’t watch it). Humans born on earth in the last 100 years will recognize Kate Winslet from life.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
As much as I enjoyed Divergent, The Grand Budapest Hotel was by far the best movie I saw in theaters this break. Fans of Wes Anderson will love his signature style and stunning cinematography, but even non-fans will enjoy the film’s persistent dry humor. Anderson usuals like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Edward Norton are back, but this time only for brief cameos, leaving room for Ralph Fiennes and the young Tony Revolori. The plot is elaborate and relies on Anderson’s characteristic voiceover narration to keep the audience straight on what’s going on, but The Grand Budapest Hotel in essence tells the story of the title hotel and its employees after its concierge is framed for murder. Overall the movie is both serious, suspenseful and laugh-out-loud funny.
If you can only see one movie in theaters because for some reason you only have 24 hours left to live, make it The Grand Budapest Hotel. And if you only have 24 hours left to live, what’s the point of seeing Divergent? You’ll never know what happens in the sequel.
The film’s storyline reads: “Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down — which might not be such a bad thing.”
A scene from Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's most recent film
Politicians aren’t the only ones who should be worried about their past coming to haunt them.
Wes Anderson, of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, may be experiencing some regret about his college literary adventures. Analecta, the undergraduate literary magazine at UT Austin, recently unearthed his workThe Ballad of Reading Milton. (pretentious title, check!)
Max, sitting alone on the roof of Philly Joe Jonas’ Easy Way Out Bar and Grille, on Bleeker Street, cracked open a Dr. Pepper. He did not immediately drink it, but, instead, placed it deliberately on the back of his left hand. He drew his fingers away from the rim and balanced the can, with tremendous confidence and poise, for thirty six seconds, at which point his concentration broke.