Robert Downey Jr. on the Musical Talent of His Ex Wife

Robert Downey Jr. Photo courtesy of BFAnyc.com

Singer/songwriter Deborah Falconer approaches music the way she approaches life, she takes it as it comes. Her latest album, Lift Your Gaze (available now on iTunes and Amazon) is a bit of a mantra for her, something she turns to when she gets bogged down with herself and all the details of life. “There are so many ways to lift your gaze,” the songstress mused. “It means something different for everyone. A god of your own understanding opens it up in a myriad of ways to get there, and my appreciation of it all has become pretty expansive over the course of this life.”

DEBORAH-FALCONER-IMAGE
Deborah Falconer

Falconer has been a musician for most of that life, including the time spent with ex-husband, actor Robert Downey, Jr. The former couple have one child together, Indio, now 21, and have remained close regardless of their divorce. Downey is still one of Falconer’s biggest fans–so much so that he agreed to chat about this latest album, and what his ex-wife’s music means to him.

Deborah’s always been a musician. When you were together, were you part of the creative process?

I just remember the loft parties in Culver City in the early ‘90s where people like Adam Duritz would be there. He was kind of the legitimate breakout singer/songwriter guy who actually had a band. Friends of mine like Michael Wincott, or our neighbor was Eddie Van Halen, there were always known musicians around. Maybe we started doing some co-writing, but it became pretty clear right away that she had her own path with this and was a complete natural singer/songwriter.

Let’s talk about Lift Your Gaze. What are your thoughts about this particular body of work, overall?

I think Deb’s definitely caught up with her potential. And you know that popular Outliers saying now about ’10,000 hours’ to reach mastery of something? She definitely put in the time and this feels like a pretty complete statement. I think the album title and the song title, Lift Your Gaze is great but it really is the smartest flow of songs she’s created.

It has a very folky, California vibe to it — it’s very representative of where we live.

I think from the very beginning she had her own phrasing, and this album is very lyric — or rather, very in content driven in its entirety.

You sing. Do you also play an instrument?

I’ve had records out before, and composed a bit, but to be honest with you, once Indio revealed himself as just being this, natural musician…it’s really their thing. I have definitely hung up my hat for the better part of a decade.

Is ‘Iron Man 3’ Just ‘The Avengers 2?’

Don’t let the beard and social deficit fool you – I’m actually not all that into superhero movies, unless I’m seeing one to win a bet with my friend about how bad it will be (Jesse, you still owe me for Watchmen). But the Iron Man franchise, deftly done by Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau and others, is a nice exception. They’re breezy pop films with humor and heart and little Christopher Nolan bombast. All the same,  Iron Man 3 suffers one notable hiccup.

It’s not the script or direction by Shane Black of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, though I am starting to think the man can’t write a movie that doesn’t take place over Christmas. Nor is it the villains – and the twist on Ben Kingsley’s role that is so good you have to be glad the trailers didn’t spoil it. Even the 140-minute run time didn’t cause scenes to drag very much. The only issue with it is: all the characters keep talking about the events of The Avengers

Look, I get it: you want to have this immersive Marvel world where none of the blockbusters contradict each other. It’s a noble idea, but it just doesn’t work in a field where characters are rebooted every six years regardless. Iron Man 3 does an okay job of wittily conveying the nature and consequences of what happened “in New York” for those who don’t know, but when you begin to build on The Avengers – which itself builds on Thor – you lose out to the comic book geek’s idea of overnetworked narrative when you might have done something a bit looser, which is what Iron Man has always been about. 

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ Shooting This Month With Robert Elswit as DP & WB Backing

Back in January, we shed light on Paul Thomas Anderson’s next feature, the long-discussed adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. As the first authorized cinematic revisiting of the author’s work, the project was announced back in 2010 and has since made its way around the rumor mill, with various speculations as to who would comprise of the cast, just when it would begin production, and who would backing the film.

And today, Cigarettes & Red Vines announced that shooting is set to go underway this month, thanks to finding its backing from Warner Bros. It was assumed that Annapurna Pictures, who financed and saved The Master would be taking on the project. But in an "amicable" decision, WB has taken the reigns and will mark PTA’s first time working with the studio. With Robert Downey Jr. initially as the leading candidate to take on the role of  Sportello—a stoner detective in Pynchon’s counter-culture noir—Joaquin Phoenix is now slated for the role, after he and Anderson’s impressive work together on The Master.  As for the rest of the cast, nothing has been announced but it’s safe to assume we’ll be getting a deluge of updates on that later this month as production kicks off.

In addition, although Mihai Malaimare Jr. gave us the incrediblly vast and stunning world of Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd, Robert Elswit will in fact be reprising his role of cinematographer on this one. After working on all of PTA’s films, save The Master, the Oscar-winning DP will be reunited with his old pal, shooting Inherent Vice on 35mm—no digital. Centering on the story of said Sportello uncovering a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer in 1960s Los Angeles, the film will apparently be PTA’s "first foray into comedy." However, as we noted a few months back: 

Lest we forget, Punch-Drunk Love—an early-Altman-esque film about an emotionally inept man who collects pudding to amass frequent flyer miles and has a crying problem, who falls in love with an equally bizarre woman, in a world where aesthetics and mood go hand in hand while pieces of Jeremy Blake’s abstract art are spliced like tonal cue cards between moments—was Anderson’s attempt at a mainstream romantic comedy. 
So yes, if this is comedy, full speed ahead. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one. And in the meantime, let’s watch some videos of young PTA talking about movies because, what better way could you spend your morning?
 

Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix in Talks to Team Up Again for ‘Inherent Vice’

According to Variety, Joaquin Phoenix is looking to collaborate with PT Anderson once again after their extensive and impressive work together on The Master. Set to adapt and direct his version of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, this would mark the first authorized adaptation of one of the writer’s works and has been part of the Hollywood discussion for a while now, with Annapurna Pictures backing the film—and we’ve been hearing fora while that Robert Downey Jr. has been linked to the film for the leading character, Larry "Doc" Sportello. But now, it appears that Phoenix is looking to take over the role of Sportello, a stoner detective in Pynchon’s counter-culture noir. As of earlier this month, word around town was that Charlize Theron was also looking to join the project, which centers on the story of Sportello uncovering a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer in 1960s Los Angeles. Variety also went onto say that this will also be the first foray into comedy for Anderson.

But lest we forget, Punch-Drunk Love—an early-Altman-esque film about an emotionally inept man who collects pudding to amass frequent flyer miles and has a crying problem, who falls in love with an equally bizarre woman, in a world where aesthetics and mood go hand in hand while pieces of Jeremy Blake’s abstract art are spliced like tonal cue cards between moments—was Anderson’s attempt at a mainstream romantic comedy. So whatever realm of comedy this is in, I’m all for it.

Let’s just watch some great scenes from Punch-Drunk while we’re here.

Afternoon Links: Chris Brown’s Returns to the Grammys, Snooki and JWoww Are ‘Strong Women’

● Chris Brown will return to the Grammys this year — and as a preformer, no less — for the first time since his infamous and almost career-stunting fight with Rihanna in 2009. [Idolator]

● Snooki and JWoww aren’t entirely clear on what it means to be a "feminist" ("I thought feminism was derogatory in a sense. Have you ever seen Borat?"), but they do consider themselves strong women. [PopEater]

● Liza Minnelli and Jay-Z, together at last! Swoon. [TMZ]

● The stark Mad Men promo posters have inspirated many  subway artists. Here, the Best Week Ever blog runs down their 32 favorite edits. [BestWeekEver]

● Robert Downey Jr. and his wife, Susan, welcomed a little bundle of joy named Exton Elias into the world this morning. [People]

● If Justin Bieber’s body guard took out an aggressive pap and TMZ was not there to catch the injustice on camera, would we even care? [TMZ]

● This Lana Del Rey/Hunger Games mash-up neatly ties up more or less "The Internet" at present. [Flavorwire]

Breaking Down the Extended ‘Avengers’ Super Bowl Trailer

We’ve been hearing about The Avengers movie for the better part of the last five years, but to see last night’s Super Bowl trailer grounds all of the speculation in a firmer reality: it is real, and it seems good enough to probably make boatloads of money. Fortunately, there weren’t just thirty seconds of typical Super Bowl air time — there was an entire minute, just waiting to be picked over on the Internets.

"The world has changed," Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury grimly intones over a slo-mo procession of average New Yorkers running through the street against a backdrop of explosions. From there, the trailer goes into a fast-paced montage, cutting to the first Quinjet, Thor summoning lightning atop the Empire State Building, Captain America and Tony Stark saying each others’ names really importantly, the first Iron Man transformation, Scarlett Johansson doing some side kicks, a slew of Norse baddies jumping from the sky, Iron Man heading upwards and onwards during an alien dogfight, and in the primest/gooiest money shot, a revolving camera around the six Avengers, teamed up and ready to fight. "I have an army," villain Loki says at the end. "We have a Hulk," Tony Stark replies, cutting to a mad Hulk punching things out of the sky. Goosebumps! 

There are two big tent superhero movies coming out this summer — this one and The Dark Knight Rises, diametrically opposed takes on the whole comic movie genre. You will probably see both of them, because that’s the way the world works. And to be honest, even though it would upset our French Diaspora Filmography professors? You will probably see them twice.

Will You Forgive Mel Gibson for Robert Downey Jr.’s Sake?

Robert Downey Jr. has risen to the top after being hooked on drugs and locked up in prison. The guy knows a thing or two about the value of forgiveness. But can he seriously think America could open their hearts to Jew-hating, wife-beating, super-racist Mel Gibson? Apparently, yes. And he’d like to help the healing process along.

Last night, during the American Cinematheque tribute honoring Downey Jr., he asked the crowd of Hollywood elites to “forgive” Gibson, whom he starred with in Air America and who was on hand to present the award.

“Unless you are without sin – and if you are, you are in the wrong [expletive] industry, you should forgive him and let him work,” Downey said. “This is my fuckin’ time. Mel and I have the same lawyer, same publicist and same shrink. I couldn’t get hired and he cast me. He said if I accepted responsibility – he called it hugging the cactus – long enough, my life would take meaning. And if he helped me, I would help the next guy. But it was not reasonable to assume the next guy would be him.”

The crowd applauded. Which, what? We are a nation that loves second chances, that roots for the underdog, that can embrace someone after they get caught with a hooker or speed down Sunset Boulevard with a Magnum while high on heroin and cocaine. Bad judgement, but hey, he wasn’t really trying to hurt anyone but himself. But can the public actually forgive someone who has battered a woman, and spewed mountains of vitriolic hate just because they made a couple of good movies?

Chris Brown seems to be doing alright, so who knows. Maybe? Brown makes decent (according to album sales) music for his demographic, but even without all Gibson’s crazy, morally reprehensible behavior, will people forgive him for Signs? What about The Beaver?

Roundup: All the Famous-People Stuff that Happened at Coachella

While you were sitting in your unfashionable apartment trying to watch a choppy stream of The Strokes’ set at Coachella this weekend, Christopher Mintz-Plasse was busy at the actual Coachella, gladly assuming the role of McLovin’ and getting mega-laid because of it. But he isn’t the only human being who used their celebrity to have an above-average time in the desert. Here’s a breathless roundup of the kooky shenanigans those crazy Hollywood kids got into at the annual music and arts festival.

While Russell Brand handled Arthur promotional duties overseas, Katy Perry dressed like a flower child and caught the Sleigh Bells set. She also dug sets by Robyn, Empire of the Sun, and Kanye. Vanessa Hudgens potentially did MDMA, while her boyfriend, Josh Hutcherson, potentially got a tan. Danny DeVito furthered his reputation as Coachella’s most legendary attendee. Lea Michele acted like a total B. Lindsay Lohan showed up with a camera and a smile. Robert Downey Jr. went incognito behind Tony Stark’s facial hair. Ke$ha hawked Converse and protested American imperialism, all at once. Camilla Belle ate BBQ! Penn Badgley ate pizza! Leo DiCaprio marked the occasion by blinging out his standard outfit with a glow necklace. Rosario Dawson popped by the Belve Music Lounge, where Chad Hugo, Taryn Manning, and other spun beats. Everyone else went to the neon carnival and presumably got bombed. Fun times!

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Defanged Awards Show Jokes: Mean-Spirited & Sinister vs. Smarmy & Tedious

How do you make the same jokes in two different awards shows, and yet inspire two opposite reactions? Ricky Gervais made fun of Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. at the Golden Globes; both Sheen and Downey Jr. were mocked at the Oscars as well, for exactly the same reasons. The answer is simple! Gervais made jokes about the truth, while the Oscar jokes targeting the same people were basically lies. And unfunny lies at that.

At the Oscars, James Franco appeared onstage in Marilyn Monroe drag. Leaving aside the century-old chestnut that a man in a dress is somehow automatically funny, Franco’s joke was that “I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen.” Hah! What? Is the joke that Sheen likes trannies? Or drag queens? No, he appears to mostly like porn skanks and cocaine, actually. But it’s all part of the same debauched lifestyle, right?

Contrast with Gervais’ joke about Sheen at the Golden Globes:

It’s going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking — or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast. Wow, so let’s get this straight, so what he did was, he picked up a porn star, paid her to have dinner with him, introduced her to his ex-wife — as you do — went to a hotel, got drunk, got naked, trashed the place while she was locked in a cupboard, and that was a Monday. What does he do New Year’s Eve?

Medium rimhsot, sure. But all true, according to press reports anyway. And given how Sheen subsequently went off the deep end so far as to redefine both “deep” and “end,” Gervais might as well have been treating him with kid gloves.

So Robert Downey Jr. enjoyed a little featherweight ribbing from desperate Sherlock Holmes costar Jude Law, who admonished Downey Jr. for his disgust at special effects people, saying that without F/X pros, “your closest association with a superhero would have been in 2001. When you got busted in a cheap hotel with a woman dressed as Batgirl.”

Saucy! But equally harmless and nonsensical and not even close to true. Downey Jr. may not have Sheen’s thing for insane monologues, but let’s rewind to his imperious disdain at the Oscars, where he sniffed that Gervais had ruined the evening by making it “hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones.” Those undertones were no doubt in reference to Gervais’ intro for Downey Jr, i.e. “But many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail.” Ouch! But, too bad, also 100% true. Downey Jr. did in fact spend time at Betty Ford for his many phases of drug addiction, and he also enjoyed several months at the Los Angeles County Jail for his various bizarre transgressions under the influence.

These are really pretty minor violations in a telecast that was astoundingly tepid even for the Oscars. But the message is clear — Hollywood stars can take a joke as long as it’s not really about them, at all.