Check Out the Hour-Long Writers Interview Featuring Michael Haneke, John Krasinski, and More

The Oscars may still be months away, but award season buzz has been in the air for months. One of the perks of the season is always getting to watch some of the year’s best talent sit down together and talk cinema. These good ol chats bring together the most unlikely of folks, giving us a truly unqiue conversation that we perhaps would never see otherwise. For example, Jim from The Office and Michael Haneke just hanging out talking about Schindler’s List. Now obviously John Krasinski is more than just Jim—he’s a fantastic writer, actor, and director—but it’s still funny to think about. Brought together by The Hollywood Reporter for this year’s discussion, John and Haneke are joined by four other writers who have penned some of 2012’s most celebrated films.

Krasinski’s had a big year, between starring in Ry Russo Young’s Nobody Walks and, most notably, penning Gus van Sant’s new film Promised Land with Matt Damon. Michael Haneke’s emotionally devastating Amour took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year and has been praised by critics and audiences alike since. The other writers include: Judd Apatow who penned the much-anticipated sort-of-sequel comedy This Is 40, Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal for the enigmatic upcoming thriller Zero Dark Thirty, Chris Terrio for the Ben Affleck-directed Argo, and David Magee for his Life of Pi adaptation. Yes, this is a group of men whose films have stood out for the year, but these type of year-end round tables tend to always be very male-centric, continuing to beg the question: why aren’t any female writers involved?

Check out the hour-long full uncensored video below:


Oh, Great: James Franco Has Something to Say About ‘Girls’

If there’s anything that makes me more exhausted than talking about Girls, a show that I actually very much enjoy, it is James Franco. Yes, James Franco: actor, artist, author, possible asshole, probable automaton, and various other words that begin with the letter A. Sadly, it has come to my attention that Franco has something to say about Girls and its creator, Lena Dunham.

Here’s just the first paragraph of his Huffington Post op-ed:

I don’t watch much TV, but strangely I have watched most episodes of HBO’s new series Girls. Of course, the show is produced by Judd Apatow, the man who gave me my first good acting job, playing a freak on the television show Freaks and Geeks, and my first great comedy role, Saul Silver in Pineapple Express, but that’s not why I’ve been watching. I got pulled in at the beginning simply because it seemed to portray my world — the one inhabited by struggling creative types in New York. I’m not saying I have to struggle to pay the rent like Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, but there was a point, right before Judd cast me in Freaks and Geeks, when my parents cut me off because I wanted to go to acting school instead of UCLA. I worked at McDonalds, and my first suggestion to Hannah would be this: get a fucking job. If you really want to have experiences to write about, go to work; and if you really want to be an artist, take responsibility for yourself and wait some tables. You might mature a little in the process.

First of all: "first great comedy role"? I did a quick looksee over on Franco’s IMDb page and, uh, I don’t see many other great comedy roles listed there, unless we’re supposed to be counting his laughable portrayal of Alan Ginsberg in Howl. But I digress! Looking at just the first paragraph, which is the only part I read because I was worried about tearing out my own eyeballs, I can say that perhaps Franco does not realize that, yes, young creative types who are trying to be creative in New York City (or even other metropolitan places, such as L.A.) are generally averse to working at McDonalds, whereas Franco, the Great Savior of Art, is not. Also, Franco was not a college graduate when he was working at McDonalds, because he dropped out after a year. It would be nearly a decade before he went back to school to study EVERYTHING. I can imagine that a 19-year-old Franco was not much more mature than the 23-year-old protagonist of Girls.

Not to mention that this link-baiting post (congrats! you win!) is pretty late to the game, can’t we all agree that, just because the main character of a show is generally unlikable, it does not mean that it necessarily reflects the opinions and views of that character’s creator and the actor who plays her, even if they are both Lena Dunham? You know who has a couple of Masters degrees and might be able to figure that out? Mmmm, James Franco. 

Oh, shoot. I continued reading:

I feel the same way. The guys in the show are the biggest bunch of losers I’ve ever seen. There is a drip who gets dumped because he bores his girlfriend; a dad who hits on his babysitter; a bevy of wussy hipsters who are just grist for the insatiable lust of the too-cool girl with the British accent; and the king of them all, the shirtless dude who talks funny and hides his stomach all the time. I know this sorry representation of men is fair payback for the endless parade of airheaded women on the West Coast male counterpart to Girls, Entourage, which in turn was fair payback for the cast of male dorks on Sex in the City. (They seemed like dorks to me, at least, on the occasions when my ex-girlfriend tuned in while I happened to be around.)

And here is all I have as a response to James Franco’s breed of feminism:

Alison Brie Graduates to the Big Screen in ‘The Five-Year Engagement’

“You are immortal,” whispers the barista to Alison Brie as she hands her a steaming mug of antioxidant-rich tea. At Café Gratitude, a vegan restaurant on Melrose, drinks are named after affirmations. It’s an exceedingly Los Angeles conceit—even regulars like Brie admit it’s a bit silly—and while her immortality is still uncertain, Brie is at least having a very good year. The doe-eyed, petite actress already stars in two critically adored television shows, Mad Men and Community, and she’s about to hit the big screen, summitting the Mt. Olympus of comedy typography: a Judd Apatow production. This one is called The Five-Year Engagement. It stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as a long-suffering engaged couple—like The Breakup in reverse—and features Brie as Blunt’s younger sister, Suzie. As Brie heads to our table to ingest her own immortality, I lean in to the barista and say, “I am gorgeous.” “You are gorgeous,” she answers and hands me green lemonade infused with kale.

Though only 29 years old, Brie has quickly come to represent a certain feminine ideal of comedy—quirky but never irksome, relying neither on Liz Lemon’s klutziness nor on Sarah Silverman’s potty-mouth misanthropy. Brie is just plain funny. She’s had nearly three decades to practice.

“When I was a little girl, I was always trying to make my family laugh,” she recalls, breaking into a wide smile. “I would perform little SNL-type skits with my sister. My signature sketch was about edible wieners. Picture me, a skinny little eight-year-old girl in Pasadena wearing a trench coat. I’d break into the room and open the trench coat to reveal a hot dog between my legs, and I’d burst into this advertisement. ‘You’re walking down the street and you get hungry, and you don’t have anything to eat. New edible wieners! It’s your wiener, but you can eat it!’” She sips her frothy brew between laughs.

In between appearances as Toto in a local Jewish Community Center production of The Wizard of Oz and, later, working gigs as a clown at birthday parties, Brie found she had a talent for making people laugh: namely, herself. It’s a trait that has served her well on the freewheeling set of NBC’s Community. “[Community co-stars] Donald [Glover] and Danny [Pudi] make fun of me because they say, ‘You just have this amazing ability to make yourself laugh regardless of how funny the joke actually is.’” Brie says. “I literally bring myself to tears because I’m laughing so hard.”

Though Community is a scripted comedy, it is one that leaves plenty of open space for improvisation. Over the last three seasons, Brie, along with co-stars like Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs, have become adept long-form improvisers and comedic collaborators. This, in turn, has allowed for a free and easy set. “If you’re not shooting for some big laugh with every word that comes out of your mouth, then there’s less disappointment,” Brie reflects. “It’s more like a delightful surprise when something really funny does happen.”

“To deliver any kind of joke, you have to get the joke,” says Brie. Thankfully, Community members do. “I feel like the scripts were so funny already, and then the cast developed our own language, just like in any circle of friends. I feel bad now for guest stars that come on the show, because it’s like we’re talking in quotes from the show that we’ve changed and morphed into some other joke. It’s like an inside joke of an inside joke. How is anyone able to penetrate this at all?”

If the slang and shorthand of the cast has rendered the comedy of Community illegible to guest stars, the semi-obscure references can seem even more inaccessible to some viewers. (Community fans worry that Season Three may be the show’s last. And sadly, that decision lies in NBC’s hands.) But for many, it’s that tangible insider quality that makes the show compelling. “What keeps people coming back to watch the show,” says Brie, “is that these people are constantly growing and changing, and that those relationships are evolving. You can go see stand-up and laugh, and that’s fine, but it’s the story that should keep you coming back.”

If the Community set resembles the basement theater of Upright Citizens Brigade, the vast machinery of AMC’s Mad Men is a stately penthouse apartment. Brie, who plays Trudy, the ambitious young wife of upstart ad man Pete Campbell, calls the feeling “a bit more quiet and focused.” Actors are given weeks with the script as opposed to the fast turnaround of Community. “Mad Men is so much more about the subtext,” she says. Not that that subtext can’t be funny; it’s just that its humor is found after the fact. “When we’re shooting the material on Mad Men, it seems like it would never play into comedy,” she says, “because the circumstances in any scene are usually so serious and are taken seriously when we shoot them.” Take, for example, a scene in which Trudy laments the fact that she and her husband Pete (played by Vincent Kartheiser) can’t conceive. This, one might imagine, is a set-up completely devoid of any humor. In fact, on set, director Matthew Weiner stressed the sadness of the moment. Brie was instructed to dab her tears away with a napkin. (The tears were real. Though known for comedy, Brie has done drama. Her Ophelia in a Rubicon Theatre production of Hamlet was called “deeply moving” by the Santa Barbara Independent.) It was only later, when she watched the scene cut together, that Brie realized it was “hilarious.” “You’re looking at these two people, and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, they’re ridiculous.’” Pete and Trudy are the only people taking Pete and Trudy seriously. But, of course, that’s part of the genius of Mad Men. “It’s just written in there, and these characters are just that way,” says Brie.

Both Annie and Trudy, the twin roles for which Brie is best known, are perfectionists: they’re driven to please others. But in her role as Suzie in The Five-Year Engagement, Brie plays against type—an “irresponsible party girl,” says Brie, to her uptight, permanently engaged sister, Violet. “It’s really the most flighty I’ve ever played,” she says, even though it still falls firmly within the wheelhouse of hilarity. Though Brie has found her place in the comedic world, she’s still interested in exploring her range and knows she can’t be an ingénue forever. She confides an interest in trying action, an urge that arose after shooting Community’s action-heavy paintball episode. Her attitude seems to be that if she has fun filming something, the audience will have fun watching it. It matters little to her if she trades on her stunning good looks—which situate her somewhere between cherubim, girl next door, and hippie chick—or if she subverts it. Sex appeal is fleeting; comedy is forever.

“A big part of comedy to me is looking stupid and being comfortable looking unattractive,” she notes. “Comedy comes before vanity.” When I ask about her evident sex appeal, she claims she’s “middle-of-the-road attractive” and worries less about the sexualization in comedy. “Being objectified, if it’s for the sake of the joke, is not such a terrible thing,” she offers. “We do it to the men on our show, and we do it to the women.” Whether Brie veers toward the Cameron Diaz/Jennifer Aniston School of Hot Comedy or follows the Amy Poehler arc; whether she forsakes comedy altogether for ammo, guns, and glory or the thrill of the theater (with three syllables) is anyone’s guess. Happily, she has an eternity to decide.

‘The Five-Year Engagement’ Trailer: Jason Segel Grows Up

Jason Segel’s starred in a number of movies where, for better or worse, he plays a slightly regressed man-child. But his newest role in The Five-Year Engagement looks to break that trend. Here, he’s the good-natured fiance to Emily Blunt, who must watch as her ascension up the career ladder means an increasingly indefinite hiatus for their wedding. Along the way, there’s deaths in the family, arrow-related knee injuries, and the typical rom-com pitfalls. 

Behind the camera is Nicholas Stoller, who also helmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall. That was one of the sweeter Judd Apatow-related movies, focusing more on adult issues rather than the way bros need to get down. There doesn’t seem to be much broing down in the Engagement trailer, just quippy conversations about wedding dates and so forth. (Check out Community‘s Alison Brie doing a British accent.) Parks & Recreation‘s Chris Pratt also stars, and the whole movie  looks like it will be charming in the typical Apatowian way.

The movie comes out on April 27, 2012. I know The Three Stooges is coming out earlier in the month, and it’ll be really hard to not to outspend your movie budget, but I trust you can figure it out.

See the Trailer for Kristen Wiig’s Sleeper-Hit-to-Be, ‘Bridesmaids’

Paul Feig is the unsung hero of the Judd Apatow Boys Club. He co-created Freaks and Geeks with Apatow, and has since gone on to small-screen successes, directing, writing, and exec-producing for such shows as The Office, Nurse Jackie, Bored to Death. Arrested Development, Parks and Rec, Weeds, and pretty much everything else worth watching on TV that’s come out in the last five years. Well, now he’s got a movie on his hands, Bridesmaids, which is being marketed as a femme-centric addition to the Apatow oeuvre.

Judging by Feig’s excellent track record, and the fact that Kristen Wiig is damn funny, the movie should, in theory, be great. But unfortunately, the trailer doesn’t provide much evidence in support of that postulation. In fact, it looks just like a regular chick-flick, with the addition a couple Rogen-esque fart jokes. Not a great combo. But who knows, maybe they saved all the good jokes for the film.

Judd Apatow Brings Jews & Gentiles Together

As a Jew whose strongest connections to the faith come via an affinity for Philip Roth novels, a fear of under-cooked meat, Dr. Cuddy from House, and a giant vibrating dreydl, I do my best to avoid covering too many Jew-tinted stories for secular publications as a point of respect for the separation of church and state, which my own home state’s depressingly ignorant senatorial candidate didn’t even know about. But sometimes a YouTube clip‘s too good to pass up.

American Jewish World Services is a “nonsectarian humanitarian assistance” group that gives “emergency relief to disadvantaged people worldwide.” Translation: they do good things for everyone, not just the Chosen few. They also got Judd Apatow to direct this awesomely ridiculous PSA, which features lots and lots of famous Jews and non-Jews alike, including such incongruent characters as Tracy Morgan, Brian Williams, Don Johnson, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis Dreyfuss, Sarah Silverman, John Mayer, and, of course, Lindsay Lohan. Apatow makes them all say one word in Hebrew at the end. It’s funny. For extra points, be sure to navigate the newly relaunched Jewcy from some pretty hot articles on adult circumcision, the religious background of Sesame Street characters, and the pleasures of thinking about hairy men while you masturbate.

Movie Reviews: ‘Greenberg’, ‘She’s Out of My League’, ‘Happy Tears’

Happy Tears – We grow old. It goes without saying, and yet, we don’t say it much. Happy Tears contends with this inevitability. Parker Posey and Demi Moore play sisters who return home to care for their increasingly delusional father (Rip Torn). Mitchell Lichtenstein, director of vagina dentata classic Teeth, honors his own father, late pop-art star Roy Lichtenstein, by crafting whimsical fantasy sequences that mimic his work. Posey and Moore aren’t always believable as kin and, poetically, it’s left to the old folks to steal the show: Torn’s peculiar brand of crazy — unlike his character — never gets old, while Ellen Barkin is downright resplendent as an aging sexpot who claims to be his nurse. (Think: Elle Woods in 30 years, rocking a prop stethoscope.) — Eiseley Tauginas

Shutter Island – In the latest offering from Scorsese-DiCaprio, the legendary director quells his epic ambitions (The Aviator, Gangs of New York) and goes straight for the jugular (Goodfellas, The Departed). The ageless DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate (Emily Mortimer) at an insane asylum. Less cerebral than what we’ve come to expect from the creator of Taxi Driver, it’s still a thrill to watch him revel in B-movie jolts. Anchored by strong performances from a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, Shutter Island mines suspense thriller tropes all the way down to the twist ending. It’s a popcorn movie from a master. — Ben Barna

She’s Out of My League – Following Judd Apatow’s not-so-secret recipe — equal parts fart and heart — is harder than it looks. Director Jim Field Smith serves up the story of a dorky string bean (Jay Baruchel, an Apatow protégé) who lands himself a Maxim-ready dream girl (newcomer Alice Eve), and it doesn’t go down easy. Peppered with recycled ingredients, League features the stereotypical abusive quarterback brother, trashy ex-girlfriend and obligatory body-hair-removal scene. There’s even a final breathless run to the airport. Baruchel is charming and self-deprecating enough, but he can’t seem to figure out why his curly-haired best friend isn’t Seth Rogen. — B.B.

The Exploding Girl – Let’s just come right out and say it: despite its title, not much happens in The Exploding Girl. (Still, don’t Google the title, ever.) It’s a languid, dreamy two-hour nap, in the best possible way. Zoe Kazan commands each scene as a college co-ed whiling away her summer break. Torn between an existing relationship with her distracted boyfriend and new feelings for her best friend, she captures with glorious lethargy the stumbling hesitance of young love. With the exception of her character’s epilepsy, which does give the film a streak of Degrassi, there are no histrionics, just plenty of minor disappointments, quiet kindnesses and inarticulate dialogue. — Nick Haramis

Greenberg– Do overgrown man-boys inspire your compassion or ire? Do you empathize with lost, emotionally stunted, over-privileged, brutally honest 40-somethings — or do they make you want to throw popcorn at the screen? These are some of the questions raised by Greenberg, the latest therapy session from The Squid and The Whale director Noah Baumbach [see page 48]. The film stars an extremely convincing Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg. A bumbling, neurotic New Yorker with an ambition deficit, he returns to Los Angeles to behave awkwardly while dating his brother’s much younger dog-walker Florence, the immensely appealing mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig. True to Baumbach form, the film feels oppressively honest. — Willa Paskin

How to Dress Like an Apatow Man

Judd Apatow is a man who creates miracles. He made Adam Sandler funny again. He turned Michael Cera into a quirky-cool sex symbol (the backlash that followed not withstanding). And most astonishingly, he himself was able to convince the insanely attractive Leslie Mann to marry him. As a consequence of his success, the “nerd look” is in … and it’s an unkempt nerd look, at that. As Seth Rogan, Cera, and their dorky brethren teach us, bathing is optional, video gamers are endearing, and toy collections are an indication of a good father figure. Forget everything you learned watching Hitch and Swingers: if you’re looking to snag a nerdcore lady, it behooves you to follow the way of the Apatow.

Links: Heidi Montag as Michael Jackson, Mischa Barton’s New York Feeling

● Spencer Pratt says wife Heidi is the Michael Jackson of 2010, whatever that means. [Celebuzz] ● Kim Kardashian will produce a reality show on what she knows best: public relations. The series will follow Kim’s pals, the heads of bicoastal agency Command Public Relations. [People] ● The lawyer of Michael Jackson’s dermatologist’s Arnold Klein reveals that Klein is “well aware” that he is the biological father of Jackson’s two children, Prince and Paris. [USMagazine]

● Judd Apatow hints that an Anchorman sequel may be in the works, possibly picking up with Ron Burgundy in his golden years. [Empire] ● Alicia Silverstone has taken a break from acting to start an eco-friendly/cruelty-free cosmetic line — something Cher Horowitz could get behind. [ContactMusic] ● Mischa Barton downplays her police-assisted hospital stay and involuntary hold: “The funny thing is, if all this happened in New York, no one would care.” [Yahoo]