Marion Cotillard on Her Oscar-Nominated Performance in ‘Two Days, One Night’

Originally run during NYFF ’14

“I have conversations with myself,” Marion Cotillard tells me. “When I said yes to Macbeth I was like, ‘My god, here you go again. I really thought we had this conversation before when you told yourself, okay drama is enough, you’ve experienced a lot a drama can you have fun, please, so that we can have fun all together within yourself?’” But for the French actress, it’s her emotionally daring and beautifully raw performances that have made her one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors. From her Academy Award-winning turn as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose to her portrayal of a defiant Polish woman coming to America in James Gray’s The Immigrant, there’s always an honesty and dramatic weight you can expect from watching Cotillard on screen.


And with her latest film Two Days, One Night, Cotillard lends her talents to legendary filmmakers Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne to tell the story of woman, Sandra, just recovering from a serious depression, who returns to work to discover her coworkers have voted for a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal. In the Dardenne Brothers’ compassionate and socially relevant film, we follow Sandra as she spends a weekend going door-to-door in an attempt to persuade her coworkers to sacrifice their bonuses in order for her family not to fall into disparity.

While fighting for her family, in her race against the clock she falls back into her past illness as she anxiously awaits her fate. And in portraying the character’s inescapable pain, there’s a delicate yet haunting power in Cotillard’s performance that resonates with the Dardenne’s incredible ability to expose an epic humane investigation in such a stripped down and beautifully intimate portrait.

I sat down with Cotillard to chat about turning away from dark roles, working with the Dardennes, and her desire to just have some fun.

How did you get to know the Dardennes and were you surprised when they approached you about starring in one of their films?

I met with them once when I was shooting Rust and Bone because they were producing the Belgian part of the movie. I met with them very briefly and I was very impressed. I have a huge admiration and respect for their work and they were one of my favorite directors before working with them, and after, even more. When I was told they wanted to meet with me to offer me a job, I was very surprised because they’re not used to working with actors with much experience, or French actors because they usually work with Belgian actors. So I was very surprised and very excited that I would have the opportunity to work with someone that, for me, had always been unreachable.

You play a very fragile and vulnerable women in this film, and it seems like those very intense roles are what you gravitate towards. How do you go about deciding on which projects you’re going to pursue?

Of course the directors are very important, but the story is very important too. A few weeks ago I said no to a director that I was the one to come to even though it was one of my biggest dreams is to work with him. He offered me the most beautiful role in a film with an amazing script, and I had to say no because I just finished Macbeth, which was really dark and really dramatic and right after this film.


This was a director that I dream about, but the role he offered me was super, super dramatic, and I said my god it’s kind of crazy that I say no to you when I was the one that begged you, please, please I want to work with you. I told him the problem was that it would six months shooting and I cannot live for six months with the pain of his person and the despair and the dramatic life of this person, and he understood. So deciding on a film, it depends on a lot of things. Of course the director, of course the story, but also where am I in my life, you know?

It’s funny because this director, I could have done anything with him and I didn’t do it because my life has changed, because I’m a mom, because when you do a lot of dramatic stories with very intense characters it’s a big part of my life. Two Days, One Night was a month of rehearsals and eleven weeks of shooting and then Macbeth was a lot of rehearsals too, and suddenly it’s like seven or right months of your life you’re living with this darkness.

Do you find that the characters you play bleed into your own life or do you have to shake that off now that your life has changed?

Yeah. I have to now, but it’s hard. Before I was a mom it was okay for me, I would enter a world and if I had to stay in this world for six months it was okay. Today it’s not, I have to go back home and be myself. Sometimes it’s hard and I can feel that I’m myself, but I have to be very careful not to let weird emotions overwhelm me. So yes, today it’s definitely different. Three years go this director would have come with this script and I would have gone crazy and I would have said yes right away with no question. 


How did you approach portraying Sandra’s depression and what was your process in creating a backstory for who she is before we meet her in the film?

When I start working on a character I don’t have a specific technique. I never use the same thing each time and the way I’m going to work takes its roots in the project itself and how the director will want me to work. In the case of the Dardenne Brothers, we had a month of rehearsals and very deep rehearsals. Even if it was not deep in acting, we wore the costumes and we worked on every location, so it was more like theatre rehearsal process than what we usually do in movies. The way I will work is based on what I need to create this character, and in this case I needed a lot of background stories, which I didn’t have.

In the script you discover her and you know she has just recovered from a depression and she goes back there right away with this bad news, but you don’t know where it comes from. You don’t know who she is and what does she like and what does she not like, or how was it when she was at the highest peak of her depression and how did that affected her kids, her husband, and her friends.


So I had to create all this, and I really enjoyed doing that. So to create a life I wrote scenes that nobody knows about, not even the Brothers, and I needed this suitcase of drama to open sometimes and to use. Depression makes you act in a certain way and sometimes in the middle of a conversation you will burst into tears, and so I needed to feel this, and it’s not really easy. I don’t know how to burst into tears like that, so I needed a lot of background to use. I needed something so that, with one word or even one thing to look at, this will remind me of a scene that happened and bam I will burst into tears. I really needed a lot of material.

Having done upwards of 80 takes for a lot of the sequences, did you find that emotionally exhausting?

No, that was not exhausting. I needed to be in a state of creation, because let’s say I have this scene and we shot it 82 times—we often did 82 takes or sometimes 95 and sometimes 100—and I know what I’m going to use in this notebook that I have where I wrote very dramatic scenes, and I knew that this would help. But at a certain point after 30 takes, this thing that worked doesn’t work anymore, so you take another one and then another one and then another, and then you’re out of material. So then you have to create more, and I loved it. Actually, sometimes I would ask for more takes when we were on take 80 and when I did that, the crew was like, okay she’s definitely totally out of her mind.


I’ve worked with directors who would do a lot of takes and you don’t understand why and it’s super frustrating. You lose a little bit of your character because you yourself are like, again, but why? With the Daridennes, each new take I knew why I would have to do it again, and even when we did 95 takes it was okay for me because I understood why. So you’re in this energy of creativity and I actually loved it. Of course now today when I’m talking with you and saying we did 82 takes I’m like, did you really do that? But at that time I never felt exhausted, on the contrary, I felt this energy that was holding me.

You were at the NYFF last year with The Immigrant, which I loved, but was surely a much different process than this film. How was your experience working with the wonderful James Gray?

Well, that was one of my dreams to work with him, and I actually couldn’t believe when he asked me. We met through my boyfriend because they worked together, and I met him and was like, oh my god this is James Gray, he’s one of the greatest directors I would love to work with him, but because I’m not the person who would say that to him, he didn’t really know that I loved him so much. And we started to become friends and suddenly the relationship more of, I love this guy he’s my friend, he’s funny, he’s smart. Then you don’t even think anymore that it would be possible to work with him, it’s a different relationship. So when he asked me if I wanted to work with him I was very happy. That was a challenging shoot because we didn’t have money, so we didn’t have time, we worked almost like 24 hours 7 days a week.


You turned down the film you mentioned earlier because you needed to distance yourself from darkness—so does that mean you’d like to do something lighter next?

Yeah. I’m interested in experiencing something different for myself. I have conversations with myself and when I said yes to Macbeth I was like, “My god, here you go again, I really thought we had this conversation before when you told yourself, okay drama is enough, you’ve experienced a lot a drama can you have fun, please, so we can have fun all together within yourself?” And the thing is, projects come and it’s not my brain that’s making the decision in a way. I feel that I have my place here or there and that’s how I choose my projects. That’s why sometimes I’m like, “Are you really going to choose this, are we really going to go back to drama, drama, drama?” So yeah, I don’t know what’s going to come, but I hope fun is going to come.

Turns Out Director Xavier Dolan Was A Violent Kid—His New Film ‘Mommy’ Channels That Rage

As images from Xavier Dolan’s latest film Mommy flood my mind like memories still hot with emotion, I can almost hear the faint whisper of a line from Marguerite Duras’s essay “House and Home”: Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.

At 25 years old, the prolific French-Canadian filmmaker is at his psychological best when grappling with the complicated nature of the everyday intimate relationships that make up our lives. With his films—from I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats to Laurence Anyways and Tom at the Farm—it’s not one traumatic inciting incident that flares off the narrative and brings us into the story, but a series of everyday hardships we’re forced to endure, be it through the pains of familial drama, romantic love, abject obsession, or inescapable fear.


As a more mature and intelligent continuation of themes explored in his debut feature I Killed My Mother, Dolan again presents a harrowing mother and son relationship with Mommy, starring newcomer Antoine-Olivier Pilon and the phenomenal Anne Dorval, (a frequent Dolan collaborator), as Steve and Diane aka Die. As an out-of-work, widowed, single mother, Die finds herself with full-time custody of 15-year-old Steve, whose ADHD makes him nothing short of a terror to live with.

His violent temper and disinterest in school leave Die struggling, until one day they meet their quiet new neighbor Kyla (played by the extraordinary Suzanne Clement), a school teacher on sabbatical who begins to heal the family’s open wounds and provide a sense of balance in their lives. But as is often the case with a Dolan film, it’s not only the dramatic nature of the storyline that guides us, but also the amalgamation of sight and sound he creates—roller coaster-like in its velocity of highs and lows.

Projected in a 1:1 aspect ratio, as if shot on a cell phone, and enlivened by a soundtrack featuring everything from Celine Dion (a staple of his films) and Counting Crows to Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding, Mommy feels like Dolan’s most evolved film yet. So with Mommy rolling into theaters tomorrow, we sat down with the talented filmmaker to discuss the thrill of experimentation, his deep connection to music, and the fascinating women that populate his films.


When I go into a film, I’m looking to have some kind of visceral reaction that’s going to engage my emotions completely. I appreciate your films because I know that experience, for me, is always a guarantee. Is that something you’re conscious of and something you look for in the films you watch? 

That’s great. Yeah, you know I don’t think anyone seeks a passive reaction or indifference. There is nothing worse than that, and I feel like so far my movies have elicited a very passionate reaction, whether it’s negative or positive. It’s always a blessing because then you know that you don’t bore people at least or that things don’t just slide off their backs. So I’m happy you have that kind of reaction because that’s the best thing I could hope for.

I was really glad that I was able to catch Tom at the Farm when MoMA screened it last winter—

It’s going to get distribution in the U.S. in some theaters and on VOD. I’m happy it’s finally happening, I was really sad that it did nothing for a while. I’m really proud of Tom and glad that people get to see it. It’s one in which I act and I love acting. 

Thinking about the trajectory of your work, I feel like Laurence Anyways was the perfect amalgamation of your first two films: the potent emotion and psychological anguish of I Killed My Mother infused with the aesthetic pleasure of Heartbeats to create your most fully realize film to date. But then with Tom, that was a real departure from those three ad felt like an experiment of its own. 

For me, Tom is a separate experiment entirely because it’s walking off the path. It’s walking into the wood, really. So that’s great, and something I’ll keep doing all my life, because I love that challenge. I think what I loved about Tom was really resisting my automatic temptations and my most basic instincts. There is something very inspiring in that resistance, something very satisfying when you feel that you have achieve resisting that.


As a writer, director, and actor, I’m sure it must be inevitable to put a part of yourself into each character you write.So with Mommy, how much of yourself is in that script and how much of you is in Steve?

I put very much of myself in every character. It isn’t only Steve that I can relate to, but he is the character whom which I’ve injected the most of myself and instilled my personality the most. We have this very rageful angst and this anger that builds up in ourselves. When I was a kid I was extremely violent, and still am I guess, so I can understand him. Fortunately, I have found a way to challenge and channel these vices, which isn’t the case for Steve who has no vehicle for these emotions.

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The relationship between Steve and Die felt like a continuation of the dynamic established in I Killed My Mother. What I find interesting in both of those relationships is the cycle of emotions these people go through on a daily basis. They have this violent blow-outs, grieve for their relationship, feel the guilt of the way they behaved, and then snap back and are joking around with each other and cooking pasta the next moment. 

For them, we can’t have them react or digest these arguments and this crisis like we do as an audience. For them it is very much part of their routine, it’s petty and trivial to them. If they were making a big deal out of these scenes they’d be telling us how to feel, right?

Music has always been a key element in your films, and especially in Mommy where there’s an established mix tape soundtracking it. Do you write certain scenes around specific songs?

As I very often do. Music comes very, very early on for me. When I write, some scenes are excuses for songs, but you want them to be worthy excuses though, not only a display. I’ve written a film after having heard a song once, which is very telling of how music can be influence me. It’s not a movie that’s been released. 

My favorite song in the film is Ludovico Einaudi’s “Experience.” It’s a song I’ve loved for its all-encompassing emotion and sadness and the scene you chose to pair it with couldn’t have been more perfect.

When I heard that song, I did experience something very powerful. I thought that this song is just so beautiful and coveys all the notes, melodies, and tonalities that echo the emotions, feelings, and sensations that I love and that speak to me. There’s nostalgia, melancholy, the Fall, the leaves, and all these sensorial things that I cannot describe very eloquently but are things that I try to feature into my films. And once they’re there, it’s either invisible or more visible, and a song like “Experience” was holding all of these things.


Did you write Mommy as a stage for these actors? Your films tend to have such fantastic roles for woman, and in this, Anne and Suzanne give some of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. How did you work with them to build who these women were and differentiate from the roles they’ve played for you before?

Yes, I wrote it for the actors, as I often do. I don’t do it for every role because I love working with new people, but I don’t audition a lot. I do for some parts, but the lead roles are written for the actors. The pleasure in writing these roles specifically for them, is in finding and curating every little detail so that they really exist outside of the their main narrative lines and psychological and physical arcs. Every gesture and every detail has its place and is carefully and meticulously found with the actor—how they laugh, how they cry, etc.

Knowing Anne and Suzanne in real life, and I’m pretty sure it would be the same even if e weren’t friends, the point of any character is to escape who you are. It’s not always a possibility, and not every role is a complete composition, but the idea is not always that people won’t recognize you. Sometimes a good performance will exist in a very simple way if the lines are good and the acting is good. You don’t always become someone else.


But in the case of Anne and Suzanne, what was interesting was that they had already embodied similar figures in my films–those of moms and teachers. So the point was really to step as far away as possible from those characters. That’s something I know, as actors, they would want to achieve. But where it’s even more interesting, knowing them in real life, I know how they cry and laugh and fight and scream and walk and talk, so having these details is important so that even themselves in the end can be surprised with their performance.

That was the most challenging, but they ended up being proud of certain scenes. I’m talking about women who won’t look at themselves and hate themselves when they look at themselves on screen. Suzanne literally could not look at herself when she came for ADR. I would show her some other scenes and she would be all excited, but with hers she didn’t want to see herself.

Speaking of fantastic actresses and someone who is very vocal about female roles, I was just interviewing Jessica Chastain and she spoke about how excited she is to have met you and to be working on The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.

She’s the best, isn’t she? She’s so sweet and she’s been so sweet to me. She was really a blessing in my life. My film with her is a take on Hollywood’s impact on the private life of celebrities and how, through the prism of the media and journalism, actors are seen, as well as the responsibility of fame. It’s a take on Hollywood, but not really from an inside point of view, but its impact is in a very private, very intimate way. So it’s how a celebrity’s life changes as soon as they become famous.

The 20 Sundance 2015 Films Everyone Will Be Talking About

Every January, the cinematic year begins in Salt Lake City, Utah as the independent film community gathers for Sundance. From renowned veteran directors to newcomer directors making their debuts, the festival always premieres a wealth of the most interesting and unique films of the year and offers a taste of what we have to look forward to.

Last year, films like Whiplash and Listen Up Philip went on to be some of our favorite films of 2014, and some of the most acclaimed. And as the lineup begins to roll out at the fest starting tomorrow, we’re excited for new movies by everyone from Guy Maddin and Noah Baumbach to Leslye Headland and Andrew Bujalski. So before it all begins, here’s a closer look at what we’re most anticipating at Sundance 2015.


As potbellied, satin robe-clad Marv opens The Forbidden Room, he instructs us on the history and significance of bathing. One might never guess what’s in store from Canadian auteur’s Guy Maddin’s ode to the lost movies of the silent era, honoring classic cinema while electrocuting it with energy. Bursting with playful cacophony, Maddin’s opus takes us high into the air, under the sea, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia, captivity, deception, and murder.

A game cast including Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Rampling, and Maddin perennial Udo Kier embody a cavalcade of misfits, thieves, and lovers, imbuing passion and humor into Maddin’s new epic (co-directed by Evan Johnson). Visuals, sound, even story are layered upon themselves, color schemes morph into and over one another, as each element heightens the joyful delirium of the kaleidoscopic viewing experience. The film also contains copious amounts of the filmmaker’s trademark twisted whimsy and absurdist eroticism—from a lusty crew of female skeletons to an exceptionally catchy musical celebration of the derriere.



Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke—a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town—she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes. Mistress America is Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s new comedy about dream-chasing, score-settling, and cat stealing.

Ten years ago, The Squid and the Whale premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and Baumbach won the directing and the screenwriting awards. In 2012, he teamed up with Gerwig to create the enchanting Frances Ha, and their magic continues with Mistress America. Gerwig elevates her craft to new heights and imbues Brooke with fragile confidence and infectious charm. As Tracy, newcomer Lola Kirke is a revelation. Featuring incisive dialogue and boundless wit, Mistress America is a ride through New York that captures the hopes and dreams (some shattered) of those who are drawn there.


THE NIGHTMARE, Rodney Ascher

You are very tired. The pillow is soft. It’s late at night, and you start to drift off in your bed. Snap—your body locks up, totally frozen. But you are not asleep. You can see and hear everything. That’s when the shadow men come.

Following his exploration on the deep effects of cinema in his feature Room 237, director Rodney Ascher now investigates the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. In this documentary-horror film, we experience the terror that a surprisingly large number of people suffer when they find themselves trapped between the sleeping and waking worlds every night. What should be explained by science gets complicated as sufferers from random backgrounds have very similar visions. The Nightmare enhances the stories with eerie dramatizations of what (and who) the subjects see. Ascher, who has also experienced the condition, treats the subject with respect, combining a primal horror movie with an existential terror in the lines between reality and the imagination.


I AM MICHAEL, Justin Kelly

In 2007, Michael Glatze, the gay-rights advocate who embodied queer identity, shocked his friends and followers when he publicly renounced his homosexuality. What could have led to such an extreme change of belief?

Justin Kelly’s piercing exploration is as compelling and complex as Michael’s transformation. The film depicts the years when an idealistic Michael, with his long-term partner, empowered a new generation of gay youth through their writing and films. When a nerve-racking brush with death triggers his need to reconcile faith and sexuality, Michael embarks on a zealous search for answers that eventually leads him to Christianity and the absolute conviction that “homosexuality is death.”

Kelly’s intricate non-linear structure engrossingly magnifies each step and draws seemingly incongruent thematic and character thru-lines. It also elicits a maddening sympathy (portrayed with aching effect by Franco). With an acute sense of storytelling, Kelly raises much more complex questions about one man’s startling capacity to create, destroy, and reclaim his truth.



RESULTS, Andrew Bujalski

Recently divorced, newly rich, and utterly miserable, Danny (Kevin Corrigan) would seem to be the perfect test subject for a definitive look at the relationship between money and happiness. Danny’s well-funded ennui is interrupted by a momentous trip to the local gym, where he meets self-styled guru/owner Trevor (Guy Pearce) and irresistibly acerbic trainer Kat (Cobie Smulders). Soon, their three lives are inextricably knotted, both professionally and personally. 

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess, 2013) returns to the Sundance Film Festival with a fun, intimate fable that’s utterly grounded in real life. As wrinkles turn into complications, then blow up into full-fledged issues, the talented ensemble keeps the pensive tone light and the complex plot breezy. The end result is a charming shaggy-dog tale that’s been hitting the gym: taut, limber, and powerful.



An aging comedian tours the California desert, lost in a cycle of third-rate venues, novelty tourist attractions, and vain attempts to reach his estranged daughter. By day, he slogs through the barren landscape, inadvertently alienating every acquaintance. At night, he seeks solace in the animation of his onstage persona. Fueled by the promise of a lucrative Hollywood engagement and the possibility of rekindling a relationship with his daughter, he trudges through a series of increasingly surreal and volatile encounters.


EXPERIMENTER, Michael Almereyda

In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the “obedience experiments” at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. Despite pleadings from the person they were shocking, 65 percent of subjects obeyed commands from a lab-coated authority figure to deliver potentially fatal currents. With Adolf Eichmann’s trial airing in living rooms across America, Milgram’s Kafkaesque results hit a nerve, and he was accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster. 

Experimenter invites us inside Milgram’s whirring mind, beginning with his obedience research and wending a path to uncover how inner obsessions and the times in which he lived shaped a parade of human behavior inquiries, including the “six degrees of separation” findings. Constantly subverting expectations with surprising structural and stylistic choices, writer/director Michael Almereyda transmutes the crusty period biopic form into something playful, energetic, and deeply satisfying—taking bold risks to yield profound insights, like all great experiments.



Years after impulsively losing their virginity to each other in college, Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) meet at a support group in New York (“What’s a nice girl like you doing at a sex addicts meeting?”). A spark resurfaces, but they’ve walked this road before. Abject failures in romance who lead lives of serial infidelity and self-sabotage, they agree to a platonic friendship to mutually support their recovery—and what’s more supportive than teaching your friend proper self-stimulation? Can love bloom while you’re sleeping with other people?

Leslye Headland’s hysterical follow-up to Bachelorette upends the romantic comedy genre by putting love in the hands of self-avowed sluts. She brings intelligence, cinematic flair, and subversive wit to this screwball romp about soul mates in denial of their coupledom—an ironic homage to the “men and women can’t be friends” theorem of When Harry Met Sally. Lainey and Jake appear good-natured, even charming, but their characters are deeper, truthful, with darker, more damaged cores. Headland takes the romantic lacquer off the romantic comedy but leaves the heart intact.




In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another male survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature.

This is director Craig Zobel’s third feature to play at the Sundance Film Festival but his first in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. With his prior two films, he showed a commanding ability to find tension in the mundane and humanity in the horrific. In Z for Zachariah, he utilizes his full repertoire as a director, unleashing a forceful drama that searingly explores the nature of man . . . and woman. Boasting an exceptional cast whose impressive talents are on display,Z for Zachariah is a gripping tale that subverts expectations and works on many levels.



Sending a burning arrow into the stunting effects that the compartmentalization of culture has on how creativity manifests, visual artist Doug Aitken embarked on an experiment exploring a less materialistic and more nomadic direction of art creation, exhibition, and participation. Station to Station involved a train that crossed North America housing a constantly changing creative community including artists, musicians, and curators, who collaborated in the creation of recordings, artworks, films, and 10 unique happenings, across the country.



It is the summer of 1971. Dr. Philip Zimbardo launches a study on the psychology of imprisonment. Twenty-four male undergraduates are randomly assigned to be either a guard or a prisoner. Set in a simulated jail, the project unfolds. The participants rapidly embody their roles—the guards become power-hungry and sadistic, while the prisoners, subject to degradation, strategize as underdogs. It soon becomes clear that, as Zimbardo and team monitor the escalation of action through surveillance cameras, they are not fully aware of how they, too, have become part of the experiment.

Based on the real-life research of Dr. Zimbardo (who was a consultant on the film), The Stanford Prison Experiment is a dramatic period piece that remains relevant over 40 years later. Along with an impressive cast, including Billy Crudup as Zimbardo, Kyle Patrick Alvarez (C.O.G., 2013 Sundance Film Festival) delivers an intense, visceral film about the role of power that plays to both chilling and exhilarating effect.


THE OVERNIGHT, Patrick Brice

Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, have recently moved to Los Angeles’s Eastside from Seattle. Feeling lost in a new city, they are desperate to find their first new friends. After a chance meeting with Kurt at the neighborhood park, they gladly agree to join family pizza night at his home. But as it gets later and the kids go to bed, the family “playdate” becomes increasingly more revealing as the couples begin to open up. 

Writer/director Patrick Brice’s second feature is a painfully funny take on thirtysomething sexual frustration and parenthood. Featuring memorable lead performances by Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche, each actor nimbly balances the script’s sudden emotional turns from surprising honesty to complete embarrassment.




Experience Kurt Cobain like never before in the first fully authorized portrait of the famed rock music icon. Director Brett Morgen expertly blends Cobain’s personal archive of art, music, and never-before-seen home movies with animation and revelatory interviews with his family and closest confidants. Following Kurt from his earliest years in Aberdeen, Washington, through the height of his fame, a visceral and detailed cinematic insight of an artist at odds with his surroundings emerges.

While Cobain craved the spotlight even as he rejected the trappings of fame, his epic arc depicts a man who stayed true to his earliest punk rock convictions, always identifying with the “outsider” and ensuring the music came first.


SLOW WEST, John McLean

Jay is a lovelorn 17-year-old Scottish aristocrat who travels to the American West at the close of the nineteenth century to track down his former lover. Confronted with the harsh realities of the frontier, he falls in with a rough and mysterious traveler named Silas (Michael Fassbender), who soon discovers that the focus of Jay’s affection has a price on her head. Together, the two navigate a vast, untamed wilderness while attempting to stay one step ahead of a bloodthirsty posse and colorful bounty hunter. Their search leads to a bloody confrontation where Jay’s romanticism is the first of many casualties.



If you’ve ever found yourself on the outside looking in, then you are probably familiar with the coping strategy of acquiring the identity of a movie character in order to gain legibility within the situation. The central character of Jenni Olson’s mesmerizing essay film is a gender dysphoric, Midwestern tomboy who is drawn to borrowing masculine personas from Hollywood characters as a mode of understanding how to deal with being drawn to unavailable women.

A fascinating and unlikely reinvention story, The Royal Road simultaneously explores cinematic spiritual channeling, the conquest and colonization of Mexico and the American Southwest, fading historical Californian urban landscapes, and the passions found in butch identity to achieve an achingly beautiful and poetic defense of remembering. Probing roads from El Camino Real, to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, to the road right outside the front door, Olson crafts a deeply intelligent and transcending observation of the human condition that reaches for redemption in the embrace of history, nostalgia, mindfulness, and sheer beauty. If you give yourself over to it, it will crack you wide open.



Amid the seismic cultural shift of the 1970s, American comedy got a sharper edge when a newly minted magazine named National Lampoon stuck its middle finger up at the establishment. Spawned at an Ivy League school by the wonderfully warped minds of Douglas Kenney and Henry Beard, National Lampoon rose from a counterculture rag to a revered comic institution. Bound by a passion for the absurd and a mistrust of authority, Lampoon’s irreverence spanked nearly every available social taboo from weak-kneed politics to heated racial tensions. This unique cocktail of high satire and gallows humor exploded onto America’s cultural consciousness attracting visionary talents such as Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase, whose comedic force helped expand the magazine’s spirit to stage and film. Director Douglas Tirola unearths never-before-seen archival footage and brilliantly weaves it together with the magazine’s beautiful and often shocking art, reliving National Lampoon’s meteoric rise from go-to magazine of the counterculture to a brand synonymous with Hollywood’s biggest comedies. Energetic, revolutionary, gently perverted, and often hilarious, DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD elevates nostalgia to a roof-raising experience.



END OF THE TOUR, James Ponsoldt

In 1996, shortly after the publication of his groundbreaking novel Infinite Jest,acclaimed author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) sets off on a five-day interview with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). As the days pass, a tenuous yet significant relationship develops between journalist and subject. Lipsky and Wallace bob and weave around each other, revealing as much in what they don’t say as what the say. They share laughs, expose hidden frailties, yet it’s never clear when or to what extent they are being truthful. The interview is never published. Five days of audio tapes are packed away in Lipsky’s closet, and the two men never meet again.

The End of the Tour is based on Lipsky’s critically acclaimed memoir about this unforgettable encounter that he wrote following Wallace’s suicide in 2008.

Deeply emotional, insightful performances from Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg lay bare a heartbreaking screenplay by Pulitzer-Prize winner Donald Margulies. Directed with humor and tenderness by Sundance Film Festival veteran James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, Smashed) and befitting the troubled soul of Wallace himself, The End of the Tour is profound, surprising, and compellingly human.



James White (Christopher Abbott) is a troubled twentysomething trying to stay afloat in a frenzied New York City. As he retreats further into a hedonistic lifestyle, his mother’s battle with a serious illness faces a series of setbacks that force him to assume more responsibility. With the pressure on him mounting, James must find new reserves of strength or risk imploding completely.

James White is a confident and closely observed directorial debut that explores loss and the deep relationship between a mother and son. It marks Martha Marcy May Marlene producer Josh Mond’s first appearance at the Festival as a writer/director. Abbott’s strong central performance is aided by a stellar supporting cast featuring Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, and Ron Livingston (Drinking Buddies). Shot on location in New York City with an intimate visual style and a driving contemporary soundtrack,James White follows its lead into deep, affecting places while still maintaining its fragile humanity.


H., Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia

In Troy, New York, two women, both named Helen, carry on seemingly complacent existences with their respective partners. Middle-aged Helen lives with husband Roy and finds comfort from a “reborn” baby doll. Meanwhile, successful young artist Helen is expecting a child with her noncommittal partner. Foreboding signs begin to appear: a meteor reportedly crashes nearby; people go missing; and inexplicable, life-altering changes spiral the Helens’ inert realities into a terrifying journey through unknown terrain.

Writing/directing partners Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia show remarkable ingenuity in crafting a disturbingly phenomenal world grounded in the fears of reality where subconscious tensions collide with the tempestuous forces of nature. Insanely creative, ambitious, and enigmatic, this spellbinding odyssey also makes an astoundingly perceptive and soulful observation about humans’ irresistible fixation on doom and beauty.



A classically trained musical genius, chart-topping chanteuse, and Black Power icon, Nina Simone is one of the most influential, beloved, provocative, and least understood artists of our time. On stage, she was known for utterly free, rapturous performances, earning her the epithet “High Priestess of Soul.” But amid the violent, day-to-day fight for civil rights, she struggled to reconcile artistic ambition with her fierce devotion to a movement. Director Liz Garbus sensitively explores the constant state of opposition that trapped and tortured Simone—as a classical pianist pigeonholed in jazz, as a professional boxed in by family life, as a black woman in racist America—and in so doing, reveals a towering figure transcending categorization and her times. The film stays true to Simone’s subjectivity by mining never-before-heard tapes, rare archival footage, and interviews with close friends and family. Charting Simone’s musical inventiveness alongside the arc of her Jim Crow childhood, defining role in the Civil Rights Movement, arrival at Carnegie Hall, self-imposed exile in Liberia, and solitary life in France, this astonishingly intimate yet epic portrait becomes a non-fiction musical—lush tracks and riveting story resonating inextricably.


Star of ‘Selma’ Carmen Ejogo’s 5 Films Everyone Should Watch for MLK Day

 In honor of the 32nd year of observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it’s the perfect time to see Ava DuVernay’s incredibly powerful new film Selma. Starring the amazing David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, DuVernay’s Selma chronicles MLK’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 as part of his campaign to secure equal voting rights for African Americans.

Last week, the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and now, we are pleased to share Carmen Ejogo’s personal list of five films to watch on this day. From movies that explore the lives of iconic political leaders who changed the course of history to tales of everyday horror and injustice and the lessons we learn from hatred, check out Ejogo’s picks and where to watch them below.


BOYCOTT, Clark Johnson


Clark Johnson’s 2001 television film starring Jeffrey Wright as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. Based on Stewart Burns’s Daybreak of Freedom, the film mixes visual styles of newsreels, home movies, documentary, and stock footage to tell the story of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, beginning December 1, 1955 and ending in 1965.


(Watch now on iTunes)

Ryan Coogler’s 2013 drama based on the events surrounding the death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old man killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, and Melonie Diaz, Coogler’s incredible film also features Spencer and Forest Whitaker as producers.


(Watch now on iTunes or Amazon)

Robert Mulligan’s classic 1962 film based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title. Starring Gregory Peck and considered one of the best and most important movies ever made, To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of a a lawyer in the Depression-era South who defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge.


GHANDI, Richard Attenborough
(Watch now on Netflix, iTunes, or Amazon)

Richard Attenborough’s 1982 biopic about the life of non-violent leader of India’s non-cooperative independence movement, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Starring Ben Kingsley, the Academy Award-winning film follows Gandhi’s life from 1893 to his assassination and funeral in 1948.


MILK, Gus Van Sant
(Watch now on iTunes or Amazon)

Gus Van Sant’s 2008 drama about the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Starring Sean Penn, the movie begins in 1970 and explores Milk’s personal and romantic relationships, his rise into politics, and his assassination in November of 1978.


For more thought-provoking MLK Day culture check out:

Genius Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates Shares A Playlist to Get You in the MLK Day Frame of Mind

Social Justice Writer and Activist Rebecca Carroll’s Cultural To-Do List for MLK Day

Filmmaker Stephen Winter’s Cultural To-Do List for MLK Day

Watch the Trailer for Every 2015 Oscar Nominated Movie Here

Earlier this morning, the 2015 Oscar nominations were announced. It’s been an interesting year for film, as we see big features such as American Sniper and The Theory of Everything garnering attention, but also giving recognition to incredible features like Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Although it’s a shame to see no actors from Selma nominated, nor any appreciation for female directors.

There’s a little over a month now to get caught up on all of the films nominated before the awards ceremony on February 22nd, so take a look at all of the trailers for the movies nominated and get excited.



Nominate for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing.



Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score



Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Costume, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design.


BOYHOOD, Richard Linklater

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Film Editing.



Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Best Original score, Production Design.


SELMA, Ava DuVernay

Nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song.


BIRDMAN,  Alejandro González Iñárritu

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing.

WHIPLASH, Damien Chazielle

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing.


IDA, Paweł Pawlikowski

Nominated for Best Foreign Film.


LEVIATHAN, Andrey Zvyagintsev

Nominated for Best Foreign Film.


TIMBUKTU, Abderrahmane Sissako

Nominated for Best Foreign Film.


WILD TALES, Damián Szifrón

Nominated for Best Foreign Film.


TANGERINE, Zaza Urushadze

Nominated for Best Foreign Film.


FOXCATCHER, Bennett Miller

Nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Makeup and Hairstyling.


STILL ALICE, Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Nominated for Best Actress, Julianne Moore.


TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, Jean-Pierre Dardienne and Luc Dardienne

Nominated for Best Actress, Marion Cotillard.


GONE GIRL, David Fincher

Nominated for Best Actress, Rosamund Pike.


WILD, Jean-Marc Vallée

Nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.


THE JUDGE, David Dobkin

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Robert Duvall.


INTO THE WOOD, Rob Marshall

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Meryl Streep


INHERENT VICE, Paul Thomas Anderson

Nominated for Best Original Screenplay.



Nominated for Best Original Screenplay.


CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras

Nominated for Best Documentary.



Nominated for Best Documentary.


VIRUNGA, Orlando von Einsiedel

Nominated for Best Documentary.


FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, John Maloof, Charlie Siskel

Nominated for Best Documentary.



Nominated for Best Documentary.

Downtown NYC’s Biggest Stars Pose for Olivier Zahm’s New Iceberg Campaign

Kim Gordon for Iceberg SS15, art directed by Olivier Zahm

For its spring 2015 campaign, Iceberg CEO Paolo Gerani turned to the time-proven inspiration of the company’s original designer, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, whose admiration for Andy Warhol in the 1970s spawned collaborations with the downtown figures at the time, namely the Factory.

To implement the campaign, Gerani brought in editor in chief of France’s Purple magazine Olivier Zahm to art direct. This isn’t the first time Iceberg has collaborated with star creative figures, so Zahm was able to look inward at Iceberg for inspiration — from Oliviero Toscani‘s I Contemporanei campaigns from the ’80s, which then featured figures like Andy Warhol, Vivienne Westwood, Franco Moschino, Ettore Sottsass, and Elio Fiorucci, to Steven Meisel‘s ’90s take with the Gente di oggi campaigns, photographing Farrah Fawcett, Sofia Coppola, Iggy Pop, and Isabella Rossellini. What emerged is a mash up of Iceberg’s fashions for spring 2015 and archival 1970s pieces that tell the story of the brand’s 40 year history through, as Zahm put it, the “iconic faces of  today’s New York.”

Artist Jeanette Hayes, musician Donald Cumming and his partner, actress Georgia Ford, writer Glenn O’Brien, legendary founder of Sonic Youth Kim Gordon, artist Olaf Breuning, Stella Schnabel, photographer Sandy Kim, artist Rita Ackermann, writer Karley Sciortino, and rapper and performer Mykki Blanco all sat for Zahm (who also posed) and photographer Gianni Oprandi for what resulted in Iceberg’s “Downtown Gallery.”

Take a look, then watch the portraits modeled on Andy Warhol’s screen tests, below.

Kim Gordon

donald-georgia-002_03 donald-georgia-008_03
Donald Cumming and Georgia Ford

glenn-004_02 glenn-005_02
Glenn O’Brien

jeanette-004_02 jeanette-005_02
Jeanette Hayes

karley-002_02 karley-007_02
Karley Sciortino

mykki-004_02 mykki-007_02
Mykki Blanco

olaf-003_03 olaf-007_03
Olaf Breuning

stella001_03 stella006_03
Stella Schnabel

rita-003_02 rita-005_02
Rita Ackermann

sandy-001_02 sandy-005_02
andy Kim

olivier-004_2 olivier-005_2
Olivier Zahm

Watch the videos:

Sandy Kim, photographer

Stella Schnabel, actress

Jeanette Hayes, artist

Karley Sciortino, writer

Mykki Blanco, rapper and performance artist

Kim Gordon, musician

Glenn O’Brien, writer and creative director

Margiela Changes Its Name + 5 Fashion Meltdowns to Remember

Maison Margiela Artisinal Spring 2015, Courtesy of Maison Margiela

With regard to everything except the clothes, John Galliano‘s much-talked about return, the debut collection for Maison Margiela was a drama free affair. The location? The 4th floor of a new London office tower. As Vanessa Friedman put it for the New York Times, In case you missed it: new building, new businesslike beginning.” All of this quiet professionalism is intentional. The clothes will speak for themselves, giving Galliano a chance to cement his status of “in recovery” from the infamous drunken, anti Semitic rant of 2011. 

Something else happened too, almost silently. What’s been “Maison Martin Margiela” since 1988 became “Maison Margiela.” It seems a wise choice to make this move with little-to-no fanfare–after all the noise surrounding the Saint Laurent rebranding was louder than anything else, for quite some time.

The name change has avoided controversy, perhaps because Galliano himself is already enshrouded in it. With the demands of a countlessly expanding seasonal schedule (spring, fall, resort, pre-fall, couture, and so on,) immense financial pressure, and fierce competition, fashion can break one down and chew one up ’til there’s nothing much to do but pitch a fit. Here’s a look back at a few designers who did:


1. John Galliano’s Anti-Semitic Rant

First up in our short history of fashion tantrums, let’s revisit the incidents that led to Galliano’s firing from Dior. In 2011, Galliano went on a drunk tirade, one he later said he remembered nothing of, verbally attacking a couple in Paris, starting with ethnic slurs and moving on to criticize the woman’s clothes, thighs, and more.

At trial, he cited the immense pressures he felt on the job and said he was addicted to alcohol, sleeping pills, and valium. The judges disagreed, deeming him to have had “sufficient awareness of his act despite his addiction and his fragile state.” 


2. The Saint Laurent vs. YSL Debacle

This infamous name change must have had public relations professionals everywhere shaking in their boots, and probably paved the path for Margiela’s approach to rebranding — a what not to do.

Hedi Slimane’s entrance at the house formerly known as YSL was shaky on many grounds. Around 2012, it was a straight-up disaster though. Business of Fashion‘s founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed wrote extensively about the ongoing interactions with the communications team after they were asked to edit a tweet (as BlackBook’s social media manager, I know very well that this is impossible) and ultimately neglected invitations to Slimane’s debut collection “because they were unhappy with the ‘tone of voice’ that we have used when writing about YSL.” There was also mass confusion over the name and to how the company would be referred. A lengthy press release was concocted to divvy up appropriate nomenclature.


3. Christophe Decarnin Ordered to Stay in Bed

The crowd was confused when the 2011 Balmain show closed and then-designer Decarnin was nowhere to be found to take a bow. Immediately, conflicting reports emerged. Had the designer suffered a mental breakdown, was his absence due to drugs, or had he simply stayed up too late the night before, putting finishing touches on the collection?

Reps for Balmain cited “Doctor’s Orders” to account for his absence. Decarnin was reportedly recovering from nervous exhaustion, reigniting a frequent discussion about the potentially dangerous pace of the fashion industry today.


4. Cathy Horyn Calls Oscar de la Renta a “hot dog”

After a harsh review with a colorful if misunderstood quasi-insult from Cathy Horyn (“far more a hot dog than an éminence grise of American fashion,”) the late ODLR wasted no words nor money to address his response, which he issued vis-à-vis a full page ad in WWD, entitled “An Open Letter to Cathy Horyn from Oscar De La Renta.”


5. Is Jil Sander at Jil Sander?

Jil Sander founded her eponymous house in 1968. Since then, she’s exited and re-entered so many times that her comings and goings are both hard to keep track of, and met with incredulity.



What You Need to Know From Last Night’s Golden Globes

Last night’s Golden Globe ceremony was one of the most enjoyable award shows in years. Women ruled, as Amy Poehler and Tina Fey played wonderful hosts, Boyhood swept the show, and some of our favorite stars took home trophies of their own. Of course there were some awful moments, like Margaret Cho playing “Cho Yung Ja, an American entertainment-obsessed North Korean soldier,” in a recurring bit that the hosts even seemed displeased wit. But overall the night was a boozy and delightful success. Take a look at the standout moments.


To our hearts dismay, this year marks the last year that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the Golden Globes together. Their monologue last night was perfect—from their game of Would You Rather and their jokes about Amal Alamuddin being too good for ol George Clooney to their Bill Cosby impressions (echoing a bit they did on SNL’s Weekend Update years ago) and their cracks about women over 40 only getting roles when they’re hired in their 30s, take a look at some of the best of Poehler and Fey from last night.



Last night’s show was perhaps the most feminist Golden Globes yet. But it’s not only Amy and Tina reigning over everyone and their brilliant jokes that ran throughout the night, it’s was all the women—be it presenters or award-winning totally taking charge and proving that men are not the ones running Hollywood anymore. Not only did an incredible group of women take home awards, such as Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette, but female show runners Sarah Treem and Jill Solloway snagged Best TV Drama and Best TV Comedy, respectively, for The Affair and Transparent, respectively. Even Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin showed up to crack jokes about men’s assumptions that women aren’t funny.


To everyone’s delight, Prince showed up! He and his shining suit presented the award for Best Original Song to Common and John Legend for Selma’s “Glory.” Common chose the platform to turn his acceptance speech into one of solidarity, saying: “As I got to know the people of the Civil Rights Movement I realized I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. Selma has awakened my humanity.” Watch for yourself above.


I’m sure George Clooney is a great guy, but bless you Amy and Tina for pointing out the fact that his fascinating, brilliant, and insanely beautiful wife is really the one who should be celebrated. “Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person UN commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza strip,” Fey reminded us. “So, of course, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.” But to be fair, in his bleary-eyed speech he did thank her, saying: “I’ve had a pretty good year myself…Listen, it’s a humbling thing when you find someone to love—even better when you’ve been waiting your whole life. And when your whole life is 53 years, Amal, whatever alchemy it is that brought us together, I couldn’t be more proud to be your husband.”


Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have both always shared a sense of fearlessness when it comes to their comedy, not shying away from topics that matter and presenting them with their unique biting bent. And last night, they harkened back to their Weekend Update roots for a bit in their opening monologue about Bill Cosby. Facing off Cosby impressions, the take away line was surely: “Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.” Woof. Again, bless you ladies.



Gina Rodriguez, aka Jane the Virgin took home the award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, beating out Lena Dunham, Taylor Schilling, Edie Falco, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The Hollywood Foreign Press always love to shock with their favoring of newcomers, and this one was no exception. Naturally, when Rodriguez took to the stage, she first thanked God.

Boyhood cleaned up! Well, it won three awards, but three massive awards, and that means a lot for Richard Linklater and IFC. For a company that put total faith in a film for 12 years with no idea how the outcome would be received, this is a pretty wonderful win for everyone and so, so deserved for Linklater’s Best Director award, and Patricia Arquette’s Best Supporting Actress. Not only that, but it took home Best Motion Picture for Drama, beating out the expected winner Selma and year’s Hollywood heavyweights. Let’s hope this only gets even more people around the country into theaters and enjoying the movie.

Wes Anderson actually come to the Globes—and like Amy and Tina said, probably on a “bicycle made of tuba parts.” The Grand Budapest Hotel took home the Award for Best Screenplay which, of course we hoped for, but was definitely unexpected. Shockingly, this was somehow Anderson’s first year for receiving Golden Globe noms. And as the camera panned out to the audience, I swear I saw a team in frequent collaborator Bill Murray’s eye.


11 Books You Should Read Right Now

Photo: Toby Hudson

The following selections come from tiny indie press and big publishers alike, and the prose styles range from functional to stylized to decidedly unorthodox. The protagonists are varied, too: a Chinese Muslim immigrant, trailer park teens, an abused Irish girl, a celebrated New York novelist, a serial killer. What these books have in common is they are not boring, and it’s likely at least one of them is the kind you would love, and gladly suggest to a friend.

Ugly Girls, by Lindsay Hunter

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like voice-y prose, compelling plots, and/or memorable characters

Lindsay Hunter, proven purveyor of entertaining short stories featuring un-prissy, gloriously undignified characters, delivered in a prose style that is verbal, slangy, and slyly poignant, has written her first novel, and it is, happily, quite absorbing. Two young trailer park girls and head-butting best friends, Perry and Baby Girl, sneak out of their trailers, steal cars for thrills, and fall victim to a mysterious stalker, who claims to be a high school boy named “Jamey.” Hunter’s work is all about voice, and the voice of this book really draws me in. Also, the characters are what they call memorable — you feel as if you get to know them reading this book. #FP

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like James Joyce and aren’t squeamish about violent sexual content

This book has been widely praised and laureled after the author, a Liverpool-born Irish woman, struggled for nine years to find a publisher. The word on Half-Formed Thing is that it reads a bit like Joyce, which is understandable, because the language of the book lives in a fragmentary conscious mind, that of an unnamed young woman whose father abandons her, mother berates her, who struggles to communicate with her brain-damaged brother, and who survives violent sexual abuse by strangers and family alike. You may find its prose hypnotic or you may find it repetitive and annoying. To me, the book is a unique marvel, and the protagonist and author are both, in a way, heroines, prevailers. #FP

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like absorbing classic storytelling involving friendships and romance

The third book of the Neapolitan series of novels by pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante is available, assuming you’ve already read and enjoyed the first two volumes. The series, and the mysterious Ferrante herself, are becoming an international sensation, with fans that include the great John Waters. The books are told by a narrator named Elena and mostly concern her tempestuous relationship with a childhood friend, Lila, and their changing fortunes as time passes and lovers come and go. Ferrante appears to be both a classic storyteller and a committed artist. #FP #T

Women in Clothes, Edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You want to read many different women’s perspectives on what they wear and how it shapes their lives

A survey about personal style passed around among friends of the editors has evolved into a book filled with stories and thoughts about dressing and style from a diverse group of writers, activists, and artists, including Cindy Sherman, Kim Gordon, Kalpona Akter, Miranda July, and Roxane Gay. This book inverts the focus of the fashion/celebrity media, which relentlessly presents women’s outer appearances but typically not their personal histories or the thought processes behind their self-presentation. Includes interviews, essays, photos, and more. #FP #POC #LGBTQ

Preparation for the Next Life, by Atticus Lish

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like carefully stylized prose and reading about non-bourgeois people

Here is an acclaimed debut novel published by Tyrant Books, which is run by the great Giancarlo DiTrapano and has an impressive track record of publishing not-boring books about which people actually give a shit (the press’s roster includes Marie Calloway and Scott McClanahan). Adding to the pedigree, Atticus is the son of Gordon Lish, Captain Fiction, tyrant of prose style. But Atticus has earned this book’s rave reviews with his own distinctive voice and a compelling love story involving a Chinese Muslim illegal immigrant and an Iraq War veteran. For me, the main attraction is the confident, spellbinding prose. #POC #MP

Letters from a Seducer, by Hilda Hilst

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You are down with provocative, formally challenging literature

This book, one of several by the celebrated avant-garde Brazilian author to finally be translated into English, is from a controversial tetralogy written toward the end of her life that was widely condemned as “pornographic.” Its content and form are equally challenging: the book consists of three different sections, the first of which is a series of highly sexual letters from a wealthy, amoral, depraved man named Karl to his chaste sister, Cordelia. The second part concerns a poet named Stamatius, who finds Karl’s letters and relates to them in a surprising way, which you’ll have to read the book to find out about. #FP #POC #T

Rome, by Dorothea Lasky

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like unpretentious, personal, clever poems

Dorothea Lasky has been celebrated for a while now amongst online poets and small-press people, but more recently she has had poems in big-deal magazines and seems to be becoming ever more popular — you can check out “Porn” from this collection in the Paris Review as a good taste test for the book. Lasky often talks reflexively about the making of poems in the poems themselves, and in 2010 released a polemical chapbook called Poetry is Not a Project, which argues that writing poetry is an intuitive act moreso than part of an intellectual enterprise. I’m down with that idea, and I admire a great deal of these poems, which are approachable but also quite sly. #FP

300,000,000, by Blake Butler

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: A dark, violent, weirdly-written book about an insane serial killer sounds appealing to you

Blake Butler, as co-founder of the now-defunct website HTMLGiant, has done a lot to build community amongst online-fluent authors and poets, especially the experimental writers who don’t fit in the mainstream. Butler’s consistent advocacy for dark, strange, experimental art as a critic at HTMLGiant and more recently as a columnist for Vice also bleeds into his fiction, never more so than in his recently published magnum opus, 300,000,000, which was inspired by, amongst other things, Roberto Bolano’s 2666. Butler’s book involves a serial killer named Gretch Nathaniel Gravey, who is piling up his victim’s bodies in his home, called the Black House, and a detective, E.N. Flood, who is charged with decoding Gravey’s bizarre and chilling diary entries. The way the book alternates between the diary entries and Flood’s sane analysis makes for an engaging reading experience, as long as you’re down with ceaseless carnage and Butler’s unorthodox prose style. #MP

Even Though I Don’t Miss You, by Chelsea Martin

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like uncomfortably honest writing about contemporary relationships

This book, published by the indie press Short Flight/Long Drive Books, is a long confessional prose poem that probes the banality, bleakness, and affection of a contemporary relationship between educated, privileged, but somewhat aimless and broke young people. Some readers will identify in a very personal way with the protagonist’s confusion and constantly shifting emotions toward her boyfriend. And Martin’s deadpan sense of humor reminds me of Daria or Aubrey Plaza. #FP

10:04, by Ben Lerner

Buy it here

You Should Read This If: You like intelligent, ambitious, highly autobiographical fiction

Ben Lerner’s debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, turned an already admired poet into an extremely celebrated novelist, and his follow-up, 10:04, self-reflexively examines the life of an extremely celebrated novelist trying to live up to expectations with his second novel. The meta-ness of the novel’s characters and events is not a gimmick but rather the engine of its ambition to, as Lerner puts it, “work my way from irony to sincerity in the sinking city, a would-be Whitman of the vulnerable grid.” It is a novel of contemporary New York, specifically the contemporary New York big-publishing literary world, and though the book’s interest in and candor about the author’s real life experience is compelling, to me its chief virtue is its smooth, detached prose, which describes with wry precision but carries the reader urgently, uncannily along to a somewhat surprising finish. #MP

Can’t and Won’t, by Lydia Davis

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You Should Read This If: You enjoy creative, witty, non-boring short fiction

This is the book if you’ve already read her Collected Stories and you, understandably, want even more from Lydia Davis, one of the few contemporary writers who seems destined to be remembered many decades from now. Davis has been widely praised for revitalizing and reimagining the short story until it can’t properly be called a “story” anymore — some pieces are merely one enigmatic sentence. What is also refreshing and wonderful about Davis is that she is experimental but not pretentious, and not above writing about recognizably contemporary humans doing common things people do. But her imagination, her stimulating turns of phrase, and her great sense of humor make her work consistently sui generis. #FP


Info Key

FP = Female Protagonist(s) or Author
MP = Male Protagonist(s) or Author
LGBTQ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer Protagonist(s) or Author
POC = Person of Color Author or Person or People of Color as Protagonist(s)
T = Translated from a different language