5 Key Things to Know Before the 2015 SAG Awards Tonight: Seating, Predictions + More

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Photo courtesy of John Salangsang/BFAnyc.com

With the Golden Globes and People’s Choice Awards behind us, Award Season is officially in full swing. Tonight, the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be held in Los Angeles, and we’re anxious to see what stars will be walking away with statues of their own. Although there aren’t too many surprises on the nominees list this year, there will still be lot of close calls to keep us guessing. So to get you ready for tonight, here’s what you need to know before the SAG awards this evening.

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THE SEATING CHART.

20th ANNUAL CRITICS' CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS - ARRIVALS

Photo courtesy of BFA

Thanks to the USA Today, we now know what A-list actors will be hobnobbing with one another tonight, as the seating chart for tonight’s festivities has been revealed. Like a beacon of beauty and talent, Table 8 will have Hollywood heavyweights Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Viola Davis, and Jennifer Aniston. Each actress is very likely to take home the awards for their respective categories, but neither are up for the same trophy.

Table 14 will seat the one and only Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, who both took home SAG awards last year. Beside them will be Orphan Black actress Tatiana Maslanya and the sure to be stunning Reese Witherspoon. Table 20 has a mixed crowd of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Billy Bob Thorton, Rene Russo, and Kevin Costner. Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton and Emma Stone will all be at the Birdman table, as will the stars of The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Theory of Everything will be at their respective film tables as well.

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SAG AWARDS TEND TO PREDICT THE OSCARS.

Although not always the case, last year’s SAG award were certainly an indicator of who would take home awards on Oscar night. We saw the incredible Cate Blanchett win for Blue Jasmine, Leto and McConaughey win for Dallas Buyer’s Club, and Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave all take home awards at both ceremonies. But let’s not hope it’s all the same winners—where would the fun be in that?

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PREDICTIONS.

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Here are our predictions for who will take home the big awards tonight…

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Jennifer Aniston, Cake

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Rosemund Pike, Gone Girl

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Naomi Watts, St. Vincent

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Boyhood

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

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LIVE STREAM THE RED CARPET.

Of course one of the most exciting aspects of any award show is watching your favorite stars traipse down the red carpet in their gowns and suits. So tonight, if your sans television before the actual program starts, watch the pre-show live stream HERE beginning at 6pm.

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DEBBIE REYNOLDS. 

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Iconic actress, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds will take to the stage tonight to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps best known for her first starring role, opposite Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, for over half a century now she has been delivering incredible performances in film and television. You can watch all her of her classic films, including Singin’ in the Rain, Bundle of Joy, The Mating Game, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Tender Trap, Athena, Goodbye Charlie, and many more, on iTunes right now.

How To Play The Flamboyantly Criminal Roommate to Rainn Wilson’s Cynically Misanthropic Detective

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On last night’s season premiere of Backstrom on Fox, we met Valentine. Played by Thomas Dekker, he’s a fashion-wearing, doctor-seducing oddball with a questionable past and an even more questionable present. And he’s the roommate of the shows title character, a police detective played by Rainn Wilson. Wilson’s character Backstrom is himself a bit questionable—drinking, smoking, and making insensitive jokes at every turn. And yet somehow the two create an equilibrium in each others lives, albeit an unsteady one. Therein lies the incredible potential for both these characters, and for the show in general.

For what’s ostensibly a network television police procedural to lead with such fascinatingly bizarre characters says a lot about the wild terrain that lies ahead for Backstrom. So we spoke to Thomas Dekker to get a little insight.

Valentine is the last person you’d expect to find in the cast of a police procedural (although admittedly, this show is a little unusual). So far we only see him in a few scenes, but he is full-on with every word and gesture. What’s it like for you diving head first into such a full blown “character” right from the get-go of a new series?

It’s electrifying. Simply to work beside Rainn Wilson and the rest of the weirdos that have been carefully selected for this seemingly normal but truly unique show. My character was created in total collaboration between myself and our showrunner Hart Hanson which is very rare in television. For an actor to have that much of a say in who he is playing is a true gift. That collaboration took place over the course of shooting the season so in many ways I feel like I finally got to know Valentine properly during the shoot of the last couple episodes.

Probably related to the above, but what drew you to the role?

Valentine is truly one of a kind. He is very hard to define because he is a million things at once. He’s harsh and acerbic yet vulnerable and caring, he’s catty and cutting yet brilliant and protective, he’s flamboyant and outgoing but will kick your ass before you have time to know what happened. All these juxtapositions are just heaven for me or any actor to play with.

Tell us about your audition process.

When I was cast, Valentine changed dramatically from what was originally intended. Originally he was simply a flamboyant comedic character in pastels who’s purpose was to show up every now and again and humorously provide information to push the solving of certain crimes along. However, when I read the pilot script, I focused more on the fact that he had been a prostitute, lived on the street and nearly gone to jail.

So when I auditioned, I took the character in a very different direction from what was written. I did the mohawk, eyeliner, torn leather punk clothes, etc. that eventually became Valentine’s look. My theory was nobody can live that kind of life and survive it without a hard edge. Fortunately, Hart and the rest of the producers latched onto my interpretation and the character shifted accordingly. Again, a very special thing to happen for an actor in television.

When did you first meet Rainn Wilson? It must be a blast playing off of him. Can you tell us what that’s like?

We knew it was a good sign when a lot of the crew kept asking us how long we had spent working on our character’s chemistry prior to shooting when in fact we met literally minutes before we shot our first scene together. Rainn and I share a similar sense of humor, we’re both film and art nerds and we treat each other like siblings do. We’re horrendously mean to each other, rip on each other all day long but truly love and support each other. He is such an insanely talented actor and every scene I get to play with him is an honor. If we didn’t have such a natural chemistry, Valentine would not have grown into such an integral part of the show. That’s a fact.

What can you tell us about the slightly bizarre living arrangement that Valentine and Backstrom share?

Like a lot of things in this series, their living arrangement makes no sense on paper but on a deeper level, once you get to know the characters, it makes TOTAL sense. You’re dealing with two people who’s lifestyles are complete opposites yet they are both equally misanthropic and don’t trust anyone but each other. They keep each other in check, admire each others intelligence and protect one another at all costs. Backstrom keeps Valentine’s criminal affairs secret and Valentine brings Backstrom the aspirin for his hang over. Simple as that.

The rather colorful life and past of Valentine are fairly directly alluded to in the premiere—he’s obviously a guy with a lot going on below the surface. And his relationship with Backstrom looks like its going to be pretty important. Not sure how much you can say, but what are you hopes and dreams for this character?

Backstrom and Valentine’s history of how they met and why they care so much for each other is slowly revealed throughout the season. There are a lot of twists and turns I’m not permitted to reveal at this point but they are juicy, believe me. It’s fantastic that the show may appear to be a procedural when in fact the main focus really ends up landing on the character arcs of all involved. It’s a procedural where it DOES matter if you missed the last episode and I think that’s great.

As far as the future goes, the writers and I have concocted a bunch of fun surprises. Valentine will eventually reveal he’s a musician, he will drag Backstrom to a gay leather bar to help solve a case and he will have a romance with Gravely (Genevieve Angelson). Wait, oops, that last one is just what Genevieve and I want to happen because we love each other. But hey, one can dream.

Danish Singer MØ Reflects on 2014 and Success in Her Early 20s

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MØ tells me she’s tired, but you wouldn’t know it from her demeanor. As she peers into her computer’s camera, I get a glimpse of her arresting blue eyes, which carry a friendliness and warmth not often associated with Scandinavia. She’s genuinely excited to talk about 2014, the most formative year of her career, seemingly taking a ton of pleasure in reflecting on it all.

In March, she dropped her album No Mythologies To Follow, an incredible feat filled with futuristic electro-pop gems like the tracks “Pilgrim” and “Don’t Wanna Dance.” The album was a long-time-coming, and like falling dominoes, quickly led to other huge accomplishments, such as collaborating with Swedish artist Elliphant, as well as currently controversial rap/pop sensation, Iggy Azalea.

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Her sharp tongue, charismatic spirit, musical knowledge and willingness to talk about any subject makes her the perfect interview. Again and again, she shows insights on life that seem beyond the average 26-year-old. If there is anything the artist doesn’t seem to quite get, it is the extent to which the world knows and loves her music. She insists over and over that she is not a big star, and I think she believes it. That’s not to say she’s not thankful. On the contrary,  she’s incredible appreciate of her fans and everyone who has gotten her to where she is.

We talked to MØ about her album, the struggles of being in your twenties, and what it was like working with some of the world’s biggest stars of the moment.

Reflecting back on 2014, what were some of the highlights for you?

This year, it’s been so crazy. Everything has been going so fast, you know? In a way it’s hard to say this stands out, or this stands out, because everything just grew more and more. But so far it has been the busiest and also the craziest and best year of my life. One of the highlights, of course, was releasing the album. Since I was seven years old, my biggest dream was to release an alum…so that was really a fucking big dream come true. And also that I felt like a lot of positive responses came, with the fans being very personal. They were like, “I understand what you’re saying. It makes me feel something that I also feel sometimes.” And that’s the best thing. That’s the best kind of response you can get. I’m very happy that I’ve been able to touch some people, at least.

Now that almost a year has passed since you released your album, do you ever listen to it and reflect on that time of your life?  

Yeah, I do exactly like what you said. The other day  we were rehearsing some of the “Night Versions” that are on the deluxe album. It’s a stripped down show that we’re going to do. Going through all of the songs and really doing them like that, like stripped down and more intimate, it really made me think about all the things I was singing about. It was just like, “Oh my god, that’s just so how I felt a year and a half ago.” But in a way, there’s something very nice and familiar about that because you can feel yourself in it. I can still feel those feelings. I’m still in that mode, even though it’s in the past.

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I read that the song “Glass” is about getting to your 20s and not feeling fulfilled. Despite your crazy success, do you still feel like you want more?

I mean, you know, when I think about it, it is so wonderful. I’m a small fish in the water, but still I really appreciate all these things that have happened. But I think no matter what happens in your life, no matter if you became the biggest star in the world or not, our brains just work like that. We always find something that we’re not satisfied with. We need to always make problems for ourselves in order to keep on evolving. We can’t just be like, “Everything is great!” Because life stops. I think it’s human nature that we need to find some trouble to try to solve. Even though, I must say, I feel really, really happy, I really do.

With “Glass,” you’re right, you know? I was like “Oh yeah, you’re a teenager. It’s a fad or something, it’ll pass.” But you know what, I think that all life is going to be a search and a struggle. But life should be a struggle. That’s what makes it beautiful and that’s what makes it worth living. Because you need those crises to move and to move people and to do something. It’s really important that you have something to fight for, or fight against, that brings out the fire in you. That’s what you want to show. You communicate and you feel accepted.

I’m 23 and can definitely relate to that sentiment. I’m sure a lot of your fans appreciate your singing about this feeling.

It’s funny, because you know, we should all just be like, “Oh my god, we’re in our twenties! We’re all so young and free and we can do whatever!” But everyone is worried. Because everyone wants to be special these days because of Instagram and all of the profiles. Everyone wants to stand out and have this interesting life and an amazing career and beautiful boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s too much pressure to me, man. Like all of us young searching souls, we get all, “Ahh I’m not good enough! I don’t know what to do!” It’s kind of beautiful but it’s also hard. It’s hard to be young, but I guess it’s hard to be old too. Everything’s hard.

Now that you’ve achieved success on an international level, what’s it like when you go home to Denmark, especially because you just won so many awards at the Danish Music Awards.

I get all sentimental when we talk about it because it is so…you feel so honored and proud of yourself because the people in your country, they feel proud. Not that I’m proud of myself.

Well you should be!

(Laughs) Thanks…but you get so happy that all these people that don’t know you, they support you and love you and feel proud about what you’ve done. Again, not that I’m…I’m not a big superstar, I’m just doing these things. In Denmark, I really feel that people are really appreciating, or at least cheering for me. So to win these Danish Music Awards and really feeling that kind of love…it was almost too much. You so much want to show how happy you are and how much you appreciate them for doing that. But it’s so hard to express that because they’re feelings that are so unnatural. You just want to say, “I love you! I love you!”

It’s very overwhelming. And again, I’ve been dreaming of winning these awards since I was seven. It’s the daydream that I’ve had the most in my life, to stand at the Danish Music Awards and receive an award. That’s so sick. So when I finally stood there, I was like, “Fuck man. I’m just this little, stupid girl. I don’t know what to say. Who am I to think that I would have this big great speech? I don’t know how to make a speech.”

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Swedish singer Elliphant is another favorite of ours at BlackBook. Can you talk about the track “One More,” which you two collaborated on,  and how you met her?

I’m so glad that that song is doing well. Like, it’s really doing well! Elliphant is just so inspiring. I don’t know what it is about her. I guess it’s her open-mindedness. You feel like she talks directly from her soul. It’s so refreshing, because everyone has so many filters and are always holding back. She’s just like…I’m like this. Whatever. I think that’s so dope.

I met her in Oslo, in Norway, for the first time I think in the beginning of 2013. We both at that time had just had started our careers or whatever. We were both early in the process and at the beginning of everything. And she contacted me on Facebook and was like “You’re cool, girl” and I was like, “Oh my god, YOU’RE cool!” So we hooked up at this festival in Norway and just hung out, not too much, just that night. But I felt like there was a strange connection, even though I never met her before. But I felt like…I don’t know what it was about her, but there’s something in her that seems familiar to me.

We’ve had this attitude like, we’ve got to stick together. Even though we don’t really know each other. So we hooked up again in LA, we’d been emailing and stuff. So she wrote me, maybe a year ago or something, and was like “Hey man, me and Joel Little made this song. You should sing on it. This should be the song we do together.” And I was just loving the track. So I recorded all of the vocals, actually just in this room. My vocal box is just right over there. So I recorded it and sent it to Joel Little, and then suddenly it was done and it was a single. And to see that it’s going so well for her, it’s so fucking amazing. She just really deserves that. She really fucking does. She’s free man. No one’s free like she is.

There’s definitely something bold and inspirational about her.

Everybody says that. I mean, everybody says she is so inspirational. I mean, her music is inspiring but also her persona, the way she is, it really strikes me every time.

We’re speaking like we both have crushes on her.

Yeah, I know. Whenever I talk about her I always sound like I’m in love with her. But she’s just got to live with that.

What was it like working with Iggy Azalea on “Beg For It” ?

She was really, really cool. I really liked her when I met her. I thought she was actually really down to Earth and strong. Actually, I read somewhere that Kendrick Lamar said something like, “Hey, let her be. She’s doing her thing. Let her do it.” And that’s so well put because it’s like, she’s doing her thing, man. It seems like that’s what she’s born to do. I know that she’s been fighting for that right. She moved to America at an early age and was like, I want to do this.

But actually, the whole collaboration happened very fast. I was on tour in America and I was in New York when my manager got contacted by her management. They were like, “Can MØ give this song a try?” And we were like, “Of course we want to do it.” So I went to the studio like the day after that and recorded it. And then we went on to the next city to do some shows. And then a week after that, they contacted us and said that they would use the song and that I would be featured on it. So it went so fast. And then a week later, it was like, okay, Saturday Night Live next week. And she was just cool. She’s just a human being. Sometimes you think that the big stars are not human. But she reminds me of one of my old friends, just a strong girl.

Can you tell me about the song you just released, “New Years Eve” ?

Like we talked about, last year was the craziest year of my life. And the best year of my life so far. I felt like I wanted to end the year with a present for the fans. “Give something to the people,” or whatever they say. But also to start a new year, to mark an end and a beginning. I guess a lot of my songs are about how the years are going by and you’re always searching for some kind of answer. And the bottom line is sometimes it’s just about letting go of all those thoughts. Just go have some fucking fun with your friends and those who love you. Because, not to sound like a preacher or anything, but you know, close relations and people who really know and love you, those are the ones that in the long term will really make you happy.

Also because this year, everyone’s like, “Everything is going so good for you! You’re so wonderful, you’re so amazing!” And it’s like, you know what? Sometimes inside myself, I mean we all feel sad sometimes. I’m no star. I’m a person, like you. I feel things. So I also just wanted to make a song about a glimpse in my life. Like that song is exactly how I felt when I made it in the beginning of December. So I wanted to express that.

So what’s next for 2015?

Again, the human mind always wants more. You always want to evolve as a person. You’ll always want to do better with everything in life. So that’s of course also what I want. I mean, I want to make better music and if possible communicate with more people. I wanna share my thoughts and be better at it. Right now I’m working on a lot of new songs and it’s very exciting for me because I can feel that it has evolved for me in a way. But also, you never know where the finished product will end. But I feel like it’s building inside of me, and you want to express it in the right way. And that feeling is back, after touring. It’s been such a busy year so sometimes it was a bit hard to really get your thoughts clear about the music. It’s beginning to take form.

Photos by Carlos Santolalla

Exploring Sex, Power, and Perfume with ‘The Duke of Burgundy’ Director Peter Strickland

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When it comes to romantic partnerships, is it more important to please our lover than ourselves? Should we indulge in our own desires and needs above all else, or should we submit to their wishes in hopes that their happiness will make us stronger? It’s a delicate and daunting question, and one that upon first thought seems quite obvious, yet never is just such—because even in the most mutually loving relationships, whether its conscious or not, some degree of power play is always at work. And in Peter Strickland’s new film, The Duke of Burgundy, he examines that question as we explore the intimate needs of two female lovers.

Bringing Italian giallo pleasure into the realm of domestic chamber drama, Strickland’s film places us, “somewhere in time, somewhere in Europe,”  as we enter the lives of Orthopterist Cynthia and amateur Lepidopterist Evelyn, two women entangled in an erotic and emotionally complex affair. Upon meeting the characters, we catch them amidst one of their provocative mistress domination rituals, ending in Evelyn’s punishment and pleasure. Although Cynthia receives her own satisfaction out of pleasing Evelyn, she yearns for a more conventional relationship—one in which she doesn’t have to constrict her body into suffocating corsets and hosiery every night, and can show her affection for Evelyn rather than constantly having to demean her. 

Portraying their relationship with both heartwarming tenderness and feverish kink, Strickland manages to elevate his 1970’s lesbian sexploitation influences to show the sensitive and human aspects of the personas we adopt when coupled with another. As one of the most stylish and deliciously sensory films in recent memory, The Duke of Burgundy melds the perfect cocktail of psychological dread, alluring decadence, and compelling melodrama, reminiscent of filmmakers like R.W. Fassbinder, yet in a way that’s wholly his own.

With the film out in theaters and on VOD today, we sat down with Strickland to discuss the origins of his erotic spell of a film, the paradox of power at play, and the stunningly sexy costumes that brings his characters to life.

As a film heavily indebted to genres of the past, did The Duke of Burgundy‘s stem from your desire to put your own spin on the films you loved or did you see it as a unique way to explore a relationship drama?

It started like a commission at first. The producer wanted to remake a Jesus Franco film called Lorna the Exorcist, but that’s not remotely like The Duke of Burgundy. I was into it at the time but quickly got turned off because it was a remake. I was thinking about the Franco films, and many things in terms of B-movies have been rediscovered and put in the pantheon, especially Italian stuff, but apart from people like Tim Lucas, those movies have been left in a corner somewhere. So I thought, why don’t we take some of the tropes from those films—the sadomasochist female lovers—and put them in a different context, the context of a domestic drama. It sounds quite planed when I say it, but it happened organically when I wrote the script.

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Did you always envision the characters as two women?

Yeah, because of the genre really. It was paying lip service to that sleazy, sexploitation cinema and had to come from that. Being make, it feels weird; the most logical, honest thing would have been to have two men do it, but I’m doing that for another film—which is interesting now to see how difficult it would be to fund it when it’s two men and not two women. I don’t know, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be so easy.

Well, it would depend on the material—

It’s much more explicit, much more than this film. So anyway, obviously the questions came up about having the classic male gaze issue and how to address that without pretending as if I could put on a female gaze. It was just about being aware of the pitfalls of being too mechanical or directional in the way I look at things. It had to be two women, but I wanted to focus only on the dynamics of that relationship. I don’t see them as gay—and I’m not saying that so I can sell it to more people, I’m not concerned about that because this is a niche film anyway. So it’s more just that that has been done before and by having no counterpoint, in terms of gender, you don’t have the issues of acceptance and rejection and so on.

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The film exists in a world that frees you from asking questions. You’re focused on their relationship and the intricacies of their daily routine, not where they are or when it’s set. The outside world, which includes sexual counterparts and perceptions of gender, isn’t of interest once you’re inside their story.

For me, the ultimate thing I wanted to explore was two lovers who have very intimate needs, and how consent veers into compromise and how that veers into coercion. I really wanted to present this scenario, which I hope people can argue over afterwards, about who should compromise. Should it be the one who has to do something they find a bit distasteful and repellent, or should the other person compromise and just shut up about their desires and keep it to themselves and repress it? I don’t know, you argue about it.

The specifics, in terms of what they do, I’m aware that the majority of people watching it might find it unfamiliar, but I’m hoping that it doesn’t matter what that activity is. It could be the more basic sexual act, but if one person finds it distasteful and just clearly is uncomfortable doing it, what happens then if you’re involved in a relationship with someone? Also, there were things that fascinated me about the fear of performing and the fear of putting on a persona, which can also go into social conditioning. I loved all the dichotomies and the paradox of power and relinquishing power and wanting to control the amount you’re controlled by someone else.

Some of my favorite moments were when you see them break from their prescribed roles, when they simply can’t comply with the other’s desire or behavior. In those cracks you see how easily the power dynamic between them can shift and how difficult that can be. I found it to be the most natural element of the film, considering that changes so often throughout any relationship.

I wanted to start the film like one of those classic sexploitation films, with many exceptions, but they usually conform to a sexual fantasy—submitting to the wicked warden, the ice queen, the sinister mistress, and that all. But then I obviously wanted to pull the carpet within the first ten minutes and see this ice queen out of character. I wanted to see her miss her cues, I wanted to see her in her pajamas, I wanted to see her snore, and all those human things that are denied to sexploitation cinema.

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It was very exciting to watch the first scene where everything is so precise and perfected, and then to pull back the curtain and see her pacing around waiting for her next line, constantly drinking water to be ready for the final punishment, etc.

Meanwhile, what happened downstairs. The whole film could have been doe in five minutes with just, “Meanwhile, what happened downstairs…,” captions. For me, these rituals of masochism are a really good theater for exploring power dynamics in relationships and power between directors and actors. It’s something you can really have a lot of fun with, and the hardest thing for me was really the tone. There’s the danger of taking yourself too seriously, but also the danger of hiding behind irony, which is an even greater danger. Also, I don’t want to laugh at the characters and I don’t want to judge them, I want to give them dignity. It’s my job to make them misbehave and give them a hard time, but I don’t want to laugh at them.

So it’s finding some cracks where there’s hopefully some dry humor, and so although it’s a completely unrealistic film, I’m hoping that the pragmatics of putting these scenarios together works. In a film like this you never see, see when someone’s tied up, what happens if there’s a mosquito in the room? What happens if you put someone in a box? When I write, I just put yourself in their situation. You put someone in a box and the first thing you’re going to ask is if you can bloody well breathe in there. However, if you want to be put in a box, you don’t want someone to care about you, so you’re just ping ponging when you’re writing the script. It’s all quite logical in some ways, but it takes time to find that logic.

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Going back to what you were saying about setting the tone of the film, much of that was established right away in both the visual and aural aesthetics. How did you conceive of what you wanted the story to look and feel like?

That happens organically. The script is the script, but when we edit we don’t really follow the script for a whole bunch of reasons. Sometimes a scene just goes wrong and then you take it out. Of course you reassembled everything, and I’m used to that, but there are many happy accidents that occurred. Nick who shot the film, he comes from pop videos from the ‘70s and ‘80s so he always has a haze machine on him, and he just had this wonderful, strange spell-like euphoria, which worked for those specific scenes. It was all in camera, we didn’t need to do anything in post. It reminded me of what I saw in Venus in Furs by Franco, but it was quite organic how that happened. 

The sound I didn’t worry about until the very end. In my mind it was never going to be a sound film because that was the subject of my last film. We had a lot of fun with that but it would have felt gratuitous to do that again and I didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. For me it’s just serving the story, so the original sound mix was quite rich with foley then we stripped a lot away. We wanted it to breathe. We wanted something sensuous and tactile, but really wanted it to be quite understated. There’s only one scene where it really lets loose, when the moths break out, but even that, we didn’t do any kind of effects work whatsoever. We used these very dry recording of adult silk worm moths this mating ritual.

Those recording were like little ambient noise pieces of their own and really rounded out the mood. Speaking further to the opening, I was delighted to see a perfume credit in the title sequence.

Oh yeah! I stole that from an Audrey Hepburn movie Paris When It Sizzles, but that was Givenchy who did the perfume. I thought that was too good and had to steal that. I also wanted to set the mood for the audience as quickly as possible. 

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The perfume we can’t smell, whereas the lingerie credit in the opening is very important because not only are the costumes in the film so stunning, but they’re also a character of their own. What did you look to for reference in working with Anna Flesch?

A mixture. Some where Helmut Newton photographs, not the fetishistic ones, more these gothic foresty ones. There were some album covers, some shots of Cathy Berberian (which were used for the carpenter reference), films like Judex by Georges Franju, Les Biches by Claud Chabrol, which was a general influence on the film. There were also the films of Bunuel, but really all that detail that was her. All I said really was that I didn’t want it to be contemporary. When you get to sadomasochism, people instantly think leather and rubber, so I didn’t want to go there, I waned to try something different. I came to her because she worked with Peter Greenway, and she’s based in Hungary as well, and she has this huge warehouse of stuff that he buys from secondhand stores and makes things. So I was quite blessed to have her.

Shopping: Get Yourself on the Best Dressed List at Sundance

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When traipsing around Park City for Sundance, you’ll want to stay warm, comfortable, and ultimately chic. Whether or not the paparazzi are pointing their cameras directly at you doesn’t matter; you’re bound to photobomb someone famous. You’re going to want to look good. For inspiration, think movie stars, cozy movie marathons, champagne! And plenty of cold and snow. Shop the best coats, boots, hats, and furs right here — we found ’em for you– and think warm thoughts.

 

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(Clockwise from left): Sacai gilet; Dolce & Gabbana hooded cashmere sweater; Fendi mirrored sunglasses; Acne high rise skinny jeans; Common Projects faux shearling-lined suede concealed wedge ankle boots

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(Clockwise from left): The Row sweater; Frame Denim jeans; Moncler padded jacquard coat; Dolce & Gabbana leather biker boots; Maison Michel gloves

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(Clockwise from left): Proenza Schouler oversized sweater; Miu Miu shearling trimmed wool coat; Maison Michel trilby hat; Jimmy Choo shell boots; Frame Denim mid rise skinny jeans; Illesteva cat eye sunglasses

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(Clockwise from left): Fendi paint splattered shearling coat; 3.1 Phillip Lim turtleneck sweater; House of Holland leopard print mirrored sunglasses; Eleven Everything metallic striped wool beanie; J Brand boyfriend jeans; Pierre Hardy platform ankle boots

Shopping: 3 Ways to Dress Like You Just Got Back from Milan Fashion Week

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Milan Street Style. Photo: Julien Boudet/BFAnyc.com

The pitfall of the covetable fashion show? The items on display won’t be available for about six months. The least the shows can do is serve as inspiration, and it’s inspired that we find ourselves, especially by these three major trends: The Luxe Slouch, Monotone Color, and the Long Coat and Sweater.

Here’s how you can dress like you just came back from the shows (and stole all the best looks).

The Luxe Slouch
What: “Baggier pants, luxury sweats, looser-fitting clothes all around. And LOTS of fur (sigh).” — Aaron Hicklin
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(Clockwise from left): Loro Piana beaver and suede-trimmed cashmere cardigan; John Smedley Milan cashmere sweatpants; Rick Owens drop crotch silk trousers; Jil Sander slouchy trousers; Baja East ikat graf hoodie; Baja East printed sweatpants trousers; J.W. Anderson striped wool-blend sweatpants; Heschung Zermat shearling-lined leather lace-up boots; Loro Piana Montgomery suede-trimmed beaver-lined cashmere jacket

Monotone Color
What: “There was a very monotone color palate this year, with the notable exception of Gucci. Grey predominated everywhere.” — Aaron Hicklin
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(Clockwise from left): Incotex reversible cotton sweater, J.Crew striped cashmere sweater; Billy Reid zipped sweatshirt, Club Monaco slim-fit cotton-flannel shirt; Acne Studios merino wool polo; Richard James linen and cotton blend shirt; Dolce & Gabbana sweatpants; A.P.C. wool blend flannel overshirt; Saint Laurent varsity jacket; Saint Laurent slim fit jeans

The Long Coat and Sweater
What: Sweaters and coats were worn long — sweaters well below the waist in many cases; coats below the knees. Notable exception: Calvin Klein, with cropped sweaters and bomber jackets.” — Aaron Hicklin
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(Clockwise from left): Rick Owens long hooded cardigan; H&M long sweatshirt cardigan; Maison Margiela long coat; Transit long cardigan; Comme Des Garcons Homme long corduroy overcoat; Maison Margiela long overcoat; Burberry Prorsum cashmere-blend cardigan; Acne Studios overcoat; Rick Owens long length hooded cardigan

Icelandic Singer Ásgeir’s Guide to Reykjavík

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We first stumbled upon Icelandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, now credited only as Ásgeir, with his awesome cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” back in the song’s hay day. The English version of his studio album In The Silence was released in March of 2014, but yesterday saw the American release of the Icelandic language version, titled Dýrð í dauðaþögn. In 2012, the album broke Icelandic sales records, with one in ten of the country’s residents having purchased it (that’s more than Bjork’s debut, to put things in perspective).

This release will be followed by Ásgeir’s return to the states in February, when he will be touring alongside “Take Me To Church” singer Hozier. To celebrate the soon-to-be international folk star, we asked him to put together a list of his favorite spots in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavík, showing us that there’s more to Iceland than hot springs and the Aurora Borealis. Check out his list below, as well as the stream for Dýrð í dauðaþögn (which you can download below.)

1. Ítalía This restaurant is on Laugarvegur, the main walking/shopping street downtown RVK. It’s in my opinion the best Italian restaurant you’ll find in Reykjavik. The owners are Italian and the restaurant has stayed the same for years. Friendly staff, good atmosphere and good authentic Italian food.

2. Saffran – There are numerous Saffran restaurants around the city. If you’re in a hurry but want an excellent good healthy meal, then that’s the place to go to. Try the Saffran chicken, the place’s “raison d’être” and you won’t be disappointed.

3. Kex Hostel on Skúlagata right below Laugarvegur. A place known for being a great restaurant, music venue and a hostel. The food is casual but great and the place is very relaxed. Ideal for hanging out with friends. The interior design is also something for the eye – quirky, retro, New York loft style.

4. SS Hot dog stand (Bæjarins beztu) in Skeifan or the original and the more popular one down town, across from Harpa Concert Hall, which has been in operation since 1937. When in Iceland you got to do what the Icelanders do and enjoy a great hot dog.

5. Dillon on Laugarvegur – a bar on two floors that only plays rock’n roll. One of my favourite places for hanging out with friends.

6. Prikið – a restaurant during the day, and a bar at night. Try their diner style food or go there for late night drinks and partying.

7. Kolaportið – The biggest flea market in Iceland! Try local food and candy, search for hidden gems or just relax and enjoy watching all the interesting characters that pass by. Only open during the weekends so plan your visit. It’s not to be missed!

8. Tónastöðin – If you’re a musician you may want to pay a visit to Andres in Tonastodin and his great staff. Another music shop worth a visit is Hljodfaerahusid.

9. Rauðhetta og Úlfurinn – That translates as “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf” and you wouldn’t have guessed but it’s a hair salon. If for some reason you want or need a haircut while in Iceland, that’s the place.

10. Íslenska Húðflúrstofan (The Icelandic Tattoo Corp) – I’ve spent many hours there. Excellent tattoo artists.

Check out more music stories on BlackBook–Bjork’s new album, Diana Krall’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over,’ and Kina Grannis’s Video Premier for “Oh Father.”

The Dish and Dispatch from Milan Fashion Week

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Models backstage at Calvin Klein Fall/Winter 2015. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

Gucci was the talk of Milan; it was intended to be Frida Giannini‘s last collection (her departure was announced last December; she has been creative director since 2006). Last week it emerged that she was given a quick boot, and her deputy, Alessandro Michele, charged with producing a new collection in the space of a week. Actually, it was very Frida — feminine and romantic, with dashes of color, contrasting with the somber collections everyone else sent down the runway (this year’s predominant palate: gray). The puzzle was just how much Alessandro Michele inherited, and how much he altered.

The rumor is that Riccardo Tisci will take over just as soon as his contract with Givenchy is up (in about a year), while Alessandro steers the ship in the interval. For what it’s worth, I really loved the collection, but there will nothing there for GQ, Details, Esquire — it’s definitely not what Americans would consider men’s fashion. It was as if all the cute boys raided their girlfriend’s closets.

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Outwardly, Prada appeared to play it safe, drawing on military uniforms in a collection that included women as well as men. The silhouettes were tight and geometric, lots of double-breasted jackets, very tailored, and naval. Epaulets on the shoulders of some of the men’s jackets were echoed in the bows on the shoulders of the women’s dresses. Many of the fabrics were lightweight — nylon jackets, gray mohair sweaters. I loved it, but as usual you would have to be super skinny to get away with it. You’ve got eight months left to diet.

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Military motifs showed up also in Italo Zucchelli‘s F/W collection for Calvin Klein, but this time with a futuristic patina that summoned Blade Runner–an army of sharply silhouetted models in every shade of grey. In fact Zucchelli was more inspired by film noir than sci-fi, but it’s that combination of brooding masculinity and dystopia that makes this collection come to life. Double-breasted coats, parkas, black vinyl jeans, and cropped sweater and bomber jackets, often embossed with animal prints, felt signature Calvin Klein without feeling in any way repetitive.

¡Viva Havana! Cuban Travel Expert Explains How To Visit and What to See

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As Barack Obama assembles his legacy, he seems shrewdly determined to make Cuba a part of it—perhaps hoping leave his grumpy old conservative detractors with a few stinging ideological wounds.

We’re not quite there yet, but Congress is currently reviewing legislation that will, amongst other things, eliminate restrictions for Americans wanting to travel to Cuba. And with the intention of hopping a plane the moment the congressional ink is dry, we caught up with Christian Wolters of Intrepid Travel—who is impressively well versed on the as yet still hermetical Caribbean island.

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Travel restrictions should soon be overturned.

“Right now, US citizens require a certificate, which fall under twelve categories—including things like visiting family, going for humanitarian reasons. We’ve been sending non-US citizens to Cuba for over ten years, and legislation which will eliminate all restrictions for Americans is in Congress right now. But the current easing hasn’t changed anything yet on a day to day basis.”

Once you’re there, you’re fine.

“There really aren’t any major cautions; it’s very safe compared to some places in South and Central America. The people are warm and welcoming and are happy for you to experience their country.”

Skip the resorts for an immersive stay.

“We use home stays, which are a fantastic way to experience Cuba. It’s basically a B&B run by a local family, and they even prepare the food for you.”

(For those who prefer a hotel, BlackBook recommends the Nacional, a journalists’ fave, or the Ambos Mundos, Hemingway’s old haunt. Both are in Havana.)

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Plan to go beyond Havana.

“To really explore Cuba, you need to get away from the resorts and go into the interior. Definitely spend time in Cienfuegos. And Vinjales is where the tobacco fields are, but it’s also a great place for hiking or horseback riding; there’s also a budding rock climbing industry. And I also recommend the city of Trinidad—it’s got cobblestone streets, lots of street musicians, little shops and cafes, and there’s a beach nearby. There’s also a place there called The Cave Bar, which is basically a hole in the ground with a bouncer standing outside. It’s a massive cavern, with stalactites and stalagmites, and there are DJs and dancing.”

Don’t count on public transport.

“Taking public transit there can be a bit complicated, so typically we don’t recommend it. Instead, we hire private cars to take you from city to city.”

Have a cigar!

“You can visit the Cohiba Rolling Factory, right in Havana; they still hand roll the cigars. Vinjales is the heart of the tobacco growing region, and you can go the plantations, see how they pick the tobacco, how they dry the leaves in the barns. They will roll one right on the spot for you to smoke.”

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You can smoke and dance in bars!

“There are so many great bars for smoking cigars—I would just recommend walking the streets and looking for one you like. But one in particular is actually called Castro’s, right in Havana, and they also have Cuban music and dancing. And Cuba doesn’t have the same smoking restrictions that we have here.”

Eat and drink authentic in Havana.

RESTAURANTS

EL CHANCHULLERO  An eclectic mix of people come here. A real hole in the wall bar, small, relatively new, quite cheap.

EL ATELIER or EL STARBIEN  Both in Vedado, both very good food and relatively new.

LE CHANSONNIER  A very hip place at the moment for the elite foodies. Hidden behind a metal wall and with artwork by Damián Aquiles.

LAS JAIMITAS  Japanese food…in Cuba – but recommended!

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FABRICA DE ARTE CUBANO  An awesome place to go, very hip!

EL COCINERO BAR  Also another hangout for very bohemian Cubans.

Leave the “craft cocktail” pretensions at home. 

“It’s still pretty traditional there. Everybody drinks rum & coke, which is made with local rum and also local cola—because they don’t have access to mainstream Coca Cola. They call them Cuba Libres.”

Check out the art scene before someone launches a FRIEZE Havana.

“There’s a thriving art scene all through the major cities, especially around the universities. Las Jaimitas is a Havana artist neighborhood, a place to buy arts. Many artists live in Centro Havana and have rehearsal spaces there. Trinidad artists are buying larger homes outside the town and doing them up into small places to gather and play music. One such place is Casa de los Mangoes; Osiel, a local musician, has an organic farm surrounding his restored old house, making a lot of the artwork and furniture himself out of local timber and bamboo.”

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Pick up a souvenir or two.

“The classics, of course, are cigars and rum. You can actually visit the Havana Club Rum Bottling Factory to see how it’s made. There are also wonderful pieces of pottery I would recommend as a great take home.”

Don’t go looking for the local H&M and Starbucks.

“We use local guides to help our clients have a truly authentic experience. But it’s almost impossible to find a non-authentic experience in Cuba, unless you stay in the resorts. The infrastructure hasn’t been developed since the 60’s. In the old hotels and clubs you can almost imagine a young Sinatra performing there—which he did, of course. It’s one of the most exotic places you can go, and it’s just a three-hour flight from New York City.”

Make new friends.

“Just talk to people. It is incredible the stories you hear when you start to chat because Cubans love to talk. An old revolutionary fighter might just be driving your taxi and tell you about Cuba during those mafia years….”

All images courtesy of Intrepid Travel