And the 2013 IFP Gotham Award Winners Are…

This year’s Gotham Awards not only celebrated some of the best independent films of the year but a handful the year’s greatest cinematic achievements as well—from Shane Carruth’s beautifully confounding Upstream Color to Steve McQueen’s visceral and fearless 12 Years a Slave. And tonight, the 2013’s winners were announced. Check out the full list below:

BEST FEATURE
Inside Llewyn Davis – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

BEST ACTRESS
Brie Larson in Short Term 12
(Check out our interview with Larson HERE)

BEST ACTOR
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR
Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station

 BINGHAM RAY BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR
Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station

BEST DOCUMENTARY
The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer, director
(Check out our interview with Oppenheimer HERE)

EUPHORIA CK SPOTLIGHT ON WOMEN FILMMAKERS LIVE THE DREAM GRANT
Beneath the Harvest Sky – Gita Pullapilly, director

AUDIENCE AWARD
Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings – Tadashi Nakamura, director

*Personally I would have awarded Lupita Nyong’o for Breakthrough actor, considering her performance in 12 Years a Slave was absolutely brilliant and devastating. Amy Seitmetz would have done well to take home the award for Breakthrough Director as well with her anxiety-ridden post-crime delirium drama Sun Don’t Shine. And finally, Upstream Color will always remain the best film of 2013—in my opinion and considering I’ve seen it a total of 23 times. Although, Before Midnight and 12 Years a Slave were equally just at vital and wonderful and more than deserving.

 

From David Lynch to John Cassavetes, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in New York

Sundays may be a "wan, stuff shadow of a robust Saturday" or a day of "forced leisure for folks who have no aptitude for leisure," according to Tom Robbins, but a weekend is still a weekend. The pleasure of a Friday night, the knowing the burdens of work week have a brief respite carry themselves into the following two days of leisure, and what better way to indulge in that leisure than heading to the cinema.  

And this weekend, there are more than enough wonderful films showing around New York for you to disappear into. Whether it’s your favorite Cassavetes or Lynch, the best of NYFF, or some of the most stunning new releases, there’s surely something to satisfy every cinematic appetite. I’ve founded up the best of what’s playing around the city, so peruse our list, and enjoy.  

 

IFC Center

Mulholland Drive
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Blue Caprice
Frances Ha
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D
Muscle Shoals
The Getaway
I Used to be Darker
A River Changes Course
A Touch of Sin
Una ncohe
Walter
The Big Lebowski

BAM

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Enough Said
Gravity
Blue Jasmine
Opening Night
A Woman Under the Influence

Landmark Sunshine

A.C.O.D.
We Are What We Are
In a World…
Short Term 12
The Summit
Monty Python
The Room

Film Forum

The Young Girls of Rochefort
Newlyweeds
After Tiller
Let the Fire Burn
Une chambre en ville
Lola
West Side Story

Nitehawk

Deliverance
Don Jon 
In a World… 
Legend
Bloodsucking Freaks
Muscle Shoals
Brazil

Film Linc

Inside Llewyn Davis
Burning Bush 
The Wind Rises
American Promise  
NYFF Live: Claire Denis
L’Age D’Or
The Lusty Men
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
They Live By Night
About Time
Abuse of Weakness
Bastards
Gloria
Jimmy P.
Written on the Wind
The Immigrant

Museum of the Moving Image

All Cats Are Brilliant
Man’s Favorite Sport?
Tiger Shark
Today We Live
Hello Anatolia
One Step Ahead
The Tree and the Swing
Kiss the Children

MoMA

An Autumn Afternoon
The Dead Man and Being Happy
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Casino
The Night in Varennes
Shutter Island
Hugo
The Name of the Rose

Top 10 Films of 2013 So Far

Ignore the 12 month calendar, when it comes to movies, the year is divided into two seasons: before the fall, and after the fall. We get mid-level genre fare from January until May, along with a couple of second-tier blockbusters. Summer brings out the big franchise sequels, and a few well-reviewed indies as counter-programming. But any studio—large or small—that has a promising movie made with artistry and intelligence, usually holds it back till the unofficial beginning of Oscar season, heralded by three festivals (Venice, Telluride, and Toronto) that take place in early September.

In Hollywood wisdom, this is where anything aimed at adults begins the four month race toward Academy Award nominations—without which, box office prospects are considered severely impaired. So, what this means for moviegoers, is that for right months we bemoan the lack of anything good in cinemas, catch up on all the quality cable TV shows, then find ourselves scurrying to catch up with a sudden embarrassment of riches, many of which get lost in the hustle. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s the way things are, and hey, at least we get a few months when loving movies is not a zero sum game.  

And yet, 2013 has been a schizophrenic year. On the one hand, the multiplexes have been filled with the usual bloated lowest-common-denominator dreck, but on the other, indie movies have been much stronger than usual, and I can count at least 10 films released thus far that I would heartily recommend without reservation. So, without further ado, my personal best of 2013, at the unofficial half-way point before the quality onslaught begins.  

Honorable Mentions: Pacific Rim was dumb as a brick, and yet, a movie aimed at 12-year-old boys that made me feel (and cheer) like one. The Great Gatsby was an over-stylized mess, and yet a bold and unique interpretation of a classic text. Spring Breakers‘s hallucinatory fever dream eventually fizzled, and yet contained a balls-out brilliant performance by James Franco. World War Z was instantly forgettable, robbed of the novel’s socio-political satire, and yet an undeniably exciting thrill ride with some fantastically realized set pieces.  

10. Stories We Tell

While I wasn’t a fan of Sarah Polley’s first two directorial outings, there’s no denying the emotional power and skilled construction of her very personal documentary essay—which interweaves an entire family’s memories and secrets into a fascinating rumination on the various facets of  so-called "shared truths" and the different ways people construct narratives from the seen and unseen events of their lives.   

 

9. Mud

Though not as transcendent or mind-blowing as Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols’ third feature is a well-told, laid-back Southern yarn, that blends Twain and Dickens for a sweet yet unsentimental coming of age story set in the swamplands of the Bayou, as a young boy’s chance encounter with an ex-con brings his ideas and notions about love crashing into reality.  

 

8. Frances Ha

Like an episode of Girls directed by Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach makes his best movie since Squid and the Whale, with this rarest of beasts—a romantic comedy with no romance. Greta Gerwig creates a vivid, completely unique character, whose growth and maturation has, refreshingly, absolutely nothing to do with finding a man.  

 

7. The East

Brit Marling writes herself a great role in this smart, complex thriller set in a grass roots eco-terrorist cell. The moral nuances are embraced, the characters are believable and fully realized, the pace is exciting, and the themes urgent and relevant without ever being preachy.  

 

6. Blue Jasmine

Woody’s best movie since Vickiy Cristina Barcelona is a searing indictment of 1% entitlement, and in Cate Blanchett’s performance, contains the best special effect of the year. Her performance is a thing to be amazed by—a slow motion breakdown that is never less than utterly hypnotic, and no matter how despicable, still manages to somehow, strangely retain our sympathies due to its unavoidable, messy humanity.

   

5. The World’s End

Edgar Wright’s third and final film in the loosely connected "Cornetto Trilogy" (`after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) is hysterically funny, riotously entertaining, mind-bogglingly ambitious, and actually, genuinely about something: the dead end nature of nostalgia, the corporatization of culture, the effect of time on friendships, and the self-destructive yet utterly unique nature of the human ego, that sets us apart from all other species, animal or alien. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers beating up the The Big Chill after a dozen pints at a stand-up comedy night, The World’s End is two completely different films unapologetically smushed together to make something brilliant and unique, and the final ten minute epilogue is the most brazenly left-field and inspired ending I’ve seen this decade.  

 

4. Short Term 12

Depicting the lives of a young couple as they navigate a roster of damaged, abused kids in a foster care facility, this absolute gem navigates truly treacherous terrain and somehow manages to avoid cheap sentiment and predictability, achieving its own kind of clear-eyed grace without ever hitting a false note. Brie Larson is a revelation as a woman whose no-bullshit  compassion with her young charges conflicts with her struggles to heal her own past, but the entire cast does stand-out work in this hard-hitting, deeply humane, genuinely important film about the actual skill it takes to love others, and ourselves.

   

3. Upstream Color

Shane Carruth’s second feature after the Sundance-winning Primer, is one of the boldest American art films of this young century, that practically invents its own cinematic language. There are elements of plot, there are characters, but the narrative follows the logic of dreams and emotions, which, if you surrender to their flow, provide a truly unforgettable trip (in all senses of the word). I’m not sure I can tell you what it all means—it involves identity-theft, fear of intimacy, alienation, love, and ur… pigs—but it made sense to me at a deeply sub-conscious level, and there are images and scenes forever burned into my brain, that still have me in awe. An uncompromised work of art by a true visionary auteur—this is the future of independently financed, independently made, independently distributed film, that breaks the mold of all pre-existing cinema within the prevailing, and failing, current system. A one-of-a-kind masterpiece, pure and simple.

   

2. Before Midnight

The perfect end to a perfect trilogy. Richard Linklater’s third and final rumination on romance is one of the most mature, realistic, yet deliciously enthralling depictions of a long term relationship, beyond its characters’ fantasies and idealized expectations of what love should be. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are mesmerizing in their conversational dance around each other’s alter egos, who, after 20 years and sojourns in three European countries, reveal layers and complexities that most films daren’t even attempt. Before Midnight works as a great stand alone movie, but as the third part of a larger whole, completes one of the strangest and genuinely romantic cinematic experiments of all time.

   

1. The Grandmaster

Absolutely avoid the dumbed-down butchered version currently screening in US cinemas, head down to Chinatown or `yes.asia.com’, and buy the full, uncut, 130 minute Chinese version, in all its overstuffed, culturally specific glory. This jaw-droppingly beautiful movie is like Dr. Zhivago with martial arts, an elegiac tone poem for the honor-bound, highly coded world of kung fu before it spread its reach to the outer world. Ostensibly a biopic of Bruce Lee’s teacher, Ip Man, it is above all, another masterpiece from Wong Kar-wai, and like the rest of his oeuvre,  a highly stylized, achingly romantic mood mosaic about beautiful, heartbroken smokers, with the added bonus of the most hands down awesome fight sequences since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  

 

 

And that’s it for the first eight months. The rest of the year begins with a bang now, as I head down to the Toronto film festival. Stay tuned for thoughts on Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, The Past, Prisoners,  and many, many more, as we collectively forget the calamities on most studios’ slates, believe in a world where art and commerce happily co-exist, and let the fall feast of films begin.  

Daniel Hardy lives in a cabin in the woods, watches a lot of movies, and occasionally writes screenplays for a living. 

From Godard and Hawks to Ozu and Kazan, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in NYC

As summer ends and we begin the descent into our winter of discontent, what better way to pass the time than in darkened theater? And this weekend, cinemas around New York are screening a generous amount of fantastic films—from French New Wave classics to the best in ’90s American indies—so there is certainly something to satisfy your need to escape into another world for the evening. And although you may be sitting at your desk lamenting the fact that you’re not in Toronto soaking in fifteen films today, take comfort in knowing this weekend is replete with screenings just around the corner.

To make your life easier, we’ve rounded up the best of what’s playing throughout the New York, so peruse our list, grab your sweater and an extra large bag of M&Ms, and curl up in the theater for the next few days.

IFC Center

Reality Bites
Passion 
Our Nixon 
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints 
Best Kept Secret 
The Canyons 
Frances Ha 
Fire in the Blood 
Il Futuro 
The Holy Mountain
I Am Breathing 
Museum Hours  
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Una Noche
Written on the Wind

Museum of the Moving Image

Rear Window
To Have and Have Not
Rio Bravo
Fig Leaves
The Cradle Snatchers
Fazil 
Senna

BAM

Gleaming the Cube
Blue Jasmine
Skateboard
The World’s End
The Grandmaster
Freewheelin’
Thrashin’
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

MoMA

Tokyo Story
Salvatore Giuliano
The Earrings of Madame de…
The Actress
On the Waterfront
East of Eden
To Catch a Thief
Mr. Arkadin/Confidential
Report

 

Nitehawk

The Grandmaster
Drinking Buddies
In a Word…
Passion Planet of the Apes
City Slickers

Landmark Sunshine

Short Term 12
Drinking Buddies
In a World
The Spectacular Now
The Room

Film Forum

Contempt
La Maison de la Radio
Russian Ark
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

Film Linc

Interior. Leather Bar.
Blackfish
Concussion 
In a World…
In the Name of…
Passion
Short Term 12
Twenty Feet From Stardom
Geography Club
It Came From Outer Space
Love Me Not
Pit Stop
Newfest Shorts Program 1 & 2
The Last March
Free Fall
The Most Fun I’ve Had With My Pants On
You and the Night

Angelika Film Center

Salinger
The Grandmaster
Blue Jasmine
Closed Circuit

Director Destin Cretton on His Powerful New Film ‘Short Term 12’

Since its premiere at South By Southwest this past March, Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 has been garnering the kind of attention every young director dreams about—and rightfully so. And as only the second feature-length film under his belt, Cretton has shown us how even the most dark and painful of circumstances can be translated onto the screen with authentic emotion and tenderness, in a film that’s as much about the necessity of love as it is about the struggle of allowing that into our lives.

Written and directed by Cretton, Short Term 12 is adapted from a thesis short made in 2008. Centered around a home for at-risk youth who’ve been removed from dangerous living situations, the inspiration for the film came from the Cretton’s own time spent working at a these kids. But in making his short, he had no idea just how well his personal story would impact an audience, and after the recognition gained for the work, set out to expand his experience for a broader audience. 
 
Having screened now both at home and internationally, Short Term 12 has been embraced across the board, enchanting audiences with its subtle strength and wisdom. The wounds of its characters are recognizable, just as the desire to love and be loved haunts throughout, and although those that populate Cretton’s film may have experienced far greater trauma than we ever might encounter, you find yourelf emphathizing with their struggles in a way that feels less removed from your own life than you’d imagine. But not only has Short Term 12 given us a new director to be excited for, it has also provided a fantastic dramatic vehicle for some incredible young men and woman—namely its stars Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr.
 
Back in July, we sat down with Cretton to talk more about the challenge of writing in a female voice, the meaning of love, and building a family on set.
 
How did you go about adapting the film from the short you’d originally made and what would you say was the biggest difference for you in the two?

The short film was based on experiences I had working at a place similar to that group home, which was the first job that I had out of college. It was basically doing what Grace and those characters do, but I wasn’t the supervisor, I was much more like the Nate character—the new guy who’s scared out of his mind. So those experiences stuck with me all the way through film school, and so for my thesis, I did Short Term 12 the short.
 
The response from that short film and the encouragement was so surprising, just how many people connected to that subject, which I didn’t expect because it felt like such a personal, weird world. So that unexpected surprise was kind of what inspired me to do the feature. But there’s a quite a bit that’s change in the feature. The most obvious one is that in the short it’s a male supervisor and the feature is a female. That was primarily my attempt at keeping myself interested in writing it. And it was a huge challenge for me to write something from a female perspective. It was really scary.
 
For all the characters’ very specific struggles, it is something that people can connect to so strongly because the baseline is really about love and allowing yourself to accept that in yourself and in other people and knowing if you have that ability, life might just be okay.

I’m really glad to hear that because that’s what I felt when I was working there. We tried to create moments of connection to all the characters in the movie, because I had so many moments working there that I realized, I am just like these kids. Even with a kid where I felt removed from or felt like I didn’t understand what they were going through, at some point realized that I am exactly like that in so many ways and am struggling with something very similar. So we hopefully allow people to connect with each other the characters in some way like that.
 
You say it was difficult to write from a female perspective but you did it incredibly well and with an acuteness for genuine emotion. It’s not often you see a young female character that’s this dynamic and has that dichotomy of strength and vulnerability so present.

Originally, I had a supervisor who was young, petite, and pretty and she was also a little shy, and there was something instantly vulnerable about her when I met her before we started working. But she was a supervisor and as soon as she stepped onto the grounds of that place, she was like a kick ass supervisor, she put on this cloak and the kids respected her. She was really strong and wouldn’t take shit, but actually really cared. So that was the initial inspiration for that character. But I also pulled a lot from my three sisters who are all extremely strong and equally open and vulnerable. Guys or girls, I wish we were all able to be strong and vulnerable at the same time; it’s healthy to be both or strive to be. One of my sisters is a social worker and she also reminds me a lot of aspects of Grace.
 
The relationship of Grace and Mason had a maturity and honestly that you don’t also see with young couples onscreen. It was refreshing because it was challenging but showed that love isn’t about things being perfect and doesn’t just end when something is fractured, it’s about working together to make it better.

I think Mason says it best—and I believe this with everything in me—he says it about his relationship with Grace but I think it pertains to any relationship, when he says: That’s what this is about. We talk about it so I can hold your hand and walk through shit with you. I think that’s what love is. It has a lot to do with feeling and emotion, but it’s a mixture of that and, I am here with you, like through the shittiest times when you’re psychotic and crazy, I’m still going to be there until we get through the other side. That’s the theme of most relationships in the movie.
 
And of course casting was a key element to getting that real sense of chemistry and honesty between the characters. Had you known that Brie was someone you wanted as your lead?
We started with Grace and worked everything off that. Grace needed to be able to say a lot without saying a lot; she’s a very contemplative character. The whole movie, she’s got some intense stuff on her mind and Brie’s just pretty incredible at doing that—you can see the clock ticking in her head through her eyes. And John, he had to have an innate huggable quality, like an innate goodness that without even trying is seeping out of his pours. I saw those characteristics in them in Skype conversations and it got me really excited just hearing them talk about the characters and how they’re connected to it. 
 
With a film of this subject matter, I feel like you might fall prey to these very melodramatic or intense moments without the proper build up. But here, everyone was so nuanced and these characters weren’t stereotypical and those larger emotional scenes really only came when they were inspired to be there. Was that something you were conscious of while shooting and editing, how to escape falling into those traps?
That actually was a big part of the creative and editing process—which happened from the very beginning. I knew from the very beginning that those moments were the most—the ones in when the characters in the movie are revealing something about themselves—would be the most difficult things to pull off, because all of these characters don’t want to talk. It’s just a common theme that nobody wanted to talk about the shit that’s going on inside, but it needs to come out in certain ways.
 
So the big challenge was figuring out how they would reveal clues to each other, because deep down they want it to come out. And a lot of time, in my experience it would come out in art, not blatantly way but through drawings or stories I’d read. I sat next to a kid and he did rap, like, this crazy, very personal rap to me and I didn’t even know he was processing through the stuff that he had gone through until I heard that. But that was definitely something we were worried about and conscious of the whole time, not making those scenes feel melodramatic.
 
Do you have any inspirations as a filmmaker or anyone you particularly look to? 

When I was doing my thesis film, part of my thesis was studying the Dogma movement and Lars von Trier. I love his early work—especially Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark. This movie doesn’t go to those depths and make you feel depressed for three days afterwards but I do love just his quest in those movies to reach some type of mimicking of reality.
 
And expose painful emotional truth.

Definitely that. And I definitely I took a lot from documentaries. I love Hoop Dreams and Stevie, I just love the heart that behinds it. I do think a lot of the time filmmakers are afraid of real human emotion because it can often come across as melodrama and fake, but I love it when people are able to pull that off in a realistic way.
 
You’ve been working with the same crew on all your films, was it nice to come into this with that sense of trust?

Yeah, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without that team. It’s a movie about family and the people who made it, we really are family, including all the actors that came onboard. It was nice that when they came onto set it already felt like a family. So I do think a lot of that attitude and the way that people were treating each other off-camera found its way onto the screen. 

BlackBook Giveaway: Win Tickets + a Poster for Destin Cretton’s ‘Short Term 12’

As one of our most beloved films to premiere this summer, Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 is certainly not to be missed. With tremendous insight into the human condition and a genuine sense of nuanced drama, Cretton’s powerful new film crafts a universal story about the power of love and acceptance. And with its wealth of dynamic characters, Short Term 12 also provides a showcase for the remarkable young talent that populate its cast. 

Written and directed by Cretton, Short Term 12 tells the story of Grace (played brilliant by Larson),  a supervising staff member at a foster care facility for troubled minors , who finds herself forced to deal with her own past and psychological issues when a new member of the facility arrives. But with Cretton’s profound sense of emotional insight and authentic drama, the film becomes a complex look at the way we interact and connect with those around us and the challenges we face when learning to accept ourselves. Beautifully done and compelling to the last moment, Short Term 12 is rife with well-rounded and fully-realized characters whose struggles are not just there to pull at your tear ducts but to illuminate a human condition and engage you, bringing you straight to the heart of Cretton’s story. As Grace, Larson leads the drama with absolute strength of character, in a performance that shows just how young women of Hollywood should be doing it.
This weekend begins the film’s theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles and to coincide with your excitement, we’re giving away a pair of tickets to see the film at Landmark Theatres in either city, redeemable from Monday through Thursday of next week. In addition to the tickets, one of the film’s lovely official posters will be included in the giveaway. So how do you win?
 
TO ENTER:  Follow us on Twitter, RT one of our stories, or tweet at us and say why you want to see #ShortTerm12. You can also email us (editorial@bbook.com) your name, address, and Twitter handle and tell us why you’re interested in the film.
 
The winner will receive the poster below. Good luck!
 
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Love, Self-Acceptance, & Letting Go: A Conversation With ‘Short Term 12”s Brie Larson

“I cried this morning, I was just so excited,” says actress Brie Larson. “I woke up early and was lying in bed and they delivered coffee and the The New York Times to my room, and I was like, how could I ever be upset, life is so grand right now.” And for the 23-year-old actress, she’s right. Although Larson may not be a household name yet, she’s certainly on the tip of everyone’s tongue, proving herself to be one of the most talented and refreshing actresses to appear on our cinema screens.

With a subtly potent acting style and a knack for selectively choosing unique roles, she has been working since her early teenage days in film and television—from starring alongside Toni Collette in The United States of Tara to Oren Moverman’s Rampart—but in Destin Cretton’s powerful new drama, we finally see Larson emerge in a leading role—begging the question: why has she been hiding in the wings for so long? And with Short Term 12, Larson takes center stage amongst a brilliant ensemble, in a film that’s as raw and genuine as it is teeming with emotion and pain, yet filled with a compassion that makes you ache with a desire to love.

Written and directed by Cretton, and starring fantastic cast of John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, and many more, Short Term 12—in its simplest form—tells the story of Grace, a supervising staff member at a foster care facility for troubled minors , who finds herself forced to deal with her own past and psychological issues when a new member of the facility arrives. But with Cretton’s profound sense of emotional insight and authentic drama, the film becomes a complex look at the way we interact and connect with those around us and the challenges we face when learning to accept ourselves. Beautifully done and compelling to the last moment, Short Term 12 is rife with well-rounded and fully-realized characters whose struggles are not just there to pull at your tear ducts but to illuminate a human condition and engage you, bringing you straight to the heart of Cretton’s story. As Grace, Larson leads the drama with absolute strength of character, in a performance that shows just how young women of Hollywood should be doing it.
 
Back in July, I got the chance to sit down with Larson for a candid chat about her incredible experience working on the film, the plight of modern female roles, and learning to let go.
 
You and I are the same age, and for me, it’s rare to see a woman my age play a role that I genuinely love. But walking out of this I was like, thank you, this is something I want to see more of. I imagine wading through scripts is a pretty cumbersome thing, so how did you come across this film?

It’s just one of those things that it was a script that was sent to me. I was in Georgia at the time working on another project, and I’m at the point where I will get sent scripts directly but I’m also not at the point where I’m getting the roles that I really can sink my teeth into because they really don’t exist that often. But this was one that I was really pointedly told to read quickly because I would devour it and love it—and I did. I hadn’t even finished the script before I called and said I have to meet on this, I believe in this. Every so often you read something and you think: I’m the only person that can do this, I know how to do this for whatever weird reason, and that’s how Short Term was. So we did a Skype call and in my fear that Destin would think I was unqualified to play the part, I had applied for a bunch of volunteer jobs in Georgia to work with abused children. And he hired me. I don’t know if it was that, I’ve heard him say that that was a piece of what was impressive, that I’d already taken the time and already gone out on a limb to show that when I sign on to do something I go all the way with it. I just don’t see any other reason not to. 
 
Did you feel that you could really relate to Grace? Her struggles are very specific and what she’s been through is not something we can all relate to but there’s something in her mix of vulnerability and strength and her passion that feels universal.

I really related to her and it’s still something that I’ve been piecing together after the fact because the script and who she was to me was so clear and so obvious. I knew that person but I didn’t understand why because she’s not like me. But the more that I think about it, and the couple of times I’ve watched the film, I’ve realized she is, for me, like the wounded, sad, childlike vulnerable parts of myself that need tending to. Then on top of that, she is a representation of the callous that you put over it and how dust ourselves off and say, in a way, “I’m not human, I’m fine, there’s nothing that can touch me.” 
 
And especially as a woman, and a woman in the industry, I realized that I’d experienced a lot of pain and a lot of feelings of being abused in ways of being objectified. In time now I’ve been able to pinpoint a few experiences in my life that are nowhere near as painful as what Grace has gone through, but they are the same feelings I have felt, and that other women have felt, and other human beings have felt. We all know what it’s like to love something and have it be taken away from you, we all know what it’s like to feel like the rug had been pulled out from under us, and that what we believe to be life or reality is completely different. 
 
Towards the end you kind of get a clue into her, but for the most part, I feel like she becomes this weird emotional crusader for a lot of people. And it’s interesting, after the film you have every age, shape, size, color, that have come up to be and said, “I’m Grace.” I’ve had men come up to me and say, “I’m Grace.” It’s a testament to Destin’s writing and a testament that the film is metaphorical in a lot of ways. It’s very easy to say, Grace is a social worker and she was abused and that’s really sad and there’s also hope involved. But it would be unfortunate if someone walked away and just saw it as that. People get really emotionally charged about this thing because they see it in themselves—they see the child in them, they see this kid that’s not tended to. 
 
What I really admired about the film and took away from it in the end is that, yes, there is a cathartic moment but there’s no clear resolve. The only thing that is made clear was that if you can accept people into your life and accept love and show that love and share that, then there’s some hope in the world.
The movie has meant so many different things to me but right now, and ultimately, the idea of believing in and accepting in yourself that you are worthy of being loved, is such an emotional thing. I feel like I’m getting upset even just talking about it now, but that’s such an important aspect of the human experience that gets missed because we’ve never seen it. My parents were divorced and until recently, I wasn’t able to look at myself and go: you know what, I haven’t really experienced what it’s like to watch a healthy, combative relationship, I’ve never seen what that looks like. Every time someone fights I go, oh my god that’s the end. 
 
Yeah, because that’s all you’ve ever known and seen, and you don’t realize of how engrained that fear is.
But you start to realize that it’s this whole beautiful push and pull, and it all starts with yourself. I had spent much of life not wanting to be the lead of a film because I didn’t think that people would want to watch me for an hour and a half. Part the experience for me of doing the film was opening myself up to it and saying, you know what, maybe I can. Maybe this is okay, maybe just because I’m repulsed by my face when I look in the mirror it doesn’t mean that that’s the reality, that’s my skewed perception and that’s the point that I want people to get. The people in this movie are so beautifully flawed and it’s a very incredible experience for people to watch it and really relate on the human level with these people—not like “I just love that top that they were wearing or I want that haircut.” It has nothing to do with that except the true essence of a human. 
 
And speaking to that connection, the relationship between Grace and Mason was really wonderful and felt much more honest than the modern portrayals of young couples that you see on screen, you can really identify with both of them.

It’s hard finagling a life with another person. But I also appreciate, in watching that relationship,  it’s amazing that it’s not something that we have really seen before. I feel like the closest things are like when I watch Scenes From a Marriage or like something that’s older and foreign is the closest I get because they’re okay with exposing that side of it.
 
Or even someone who portrayed relationships like Cassavetes did.
Or Mike Leigh. But for whatever reason, we are here and so obsessed with keeping a strong front, and that everything is cool and everything is okay, and look at how nice my clothes are and these are the places that I go and these are my friends and this is how everything is supposed to look. But inside it much feel…
 
Terrible.

You must just feel worried all the time because you’re not in touch with who you actually are.
 
And it’s much better to feel things and be more miserable than to deny yourself that ability to have emotion, and as an actor it must be an incredible experience to be able to step into these roles and allow yourself that emotional experience in a different way every time.

It takes a lot. It’s a very trusting experience. And Short Term 12 was the most trusting I’ve ever had to be.
 
Did it take time to build that trust with Destin or was it something that felt natural right away?

We didn’t have the luxury of that much time. We only had a couple weeks because I was shooting this other thing. We met up maybe twice with the intention of going through every beat of the script, and instead we just were silent. It’s interesting because I’ve also heard him describe the same situation with Keith, where they’d end up just kind of existing with each other but not actually saying anything. I think that reflects upon the film that we made, that Destin has something in him and it’s just who he is, but you can get it without every speaking a word with him—you can trust him and he’s not judging you and perhaps it comes from the time he did spend working in foster care facilities. But it’s just good parenting. There have been a few times where I’ve worked with directors and walked away thinking—you fathered me, you accepted me, and allowed me to go to these far off places and I was able to do it because I felt supportive. I couldn’t have gone as a dark as I had to with Grace if I didn’t feel like there was a really strong hug at the end of it.
 
How does it feel watching the film now? Do all of those feelings come back to you?

I cry. Pretty much everyone involved in the film cries every time we see it. It’s the movie and what it represents, and also the feeling that actually transcends and comes through the screen—which is how much love was on set and how much care was put into it and how much fun we had. I think all of us agree that it was one of the best times of our lives, one of the most fun times, it was like camp and so productive and everybody was so ready for it. We were all together and had the same idea of what this film, which is a miracle it ever happened but everybody was in it for the right reasons. I’ve never enjoyed watching myself but for whatever reason, Grace is in it enough that it just starts to become like wallpaper to me, I don’t feel so jarred by image any longer. It’s also that I don’t wear makeup and I didn’t brush my hair and I wore my own jeans and things like that that feel comfortable watching it because it’s just an extension of myself, it’s not a facade of myself. I don’t like how I look with makeup and curled hair and a party dress on. It makes me itchy. I don’t feel good, I feel like a lie, so I think because of that an that I showed up and we shot things and I went home and I didn’t even really need to wash my face. 
 
g
 
It must be important to have a separation between your character and yourself, your home life and your work life, and not bringing Grace’s struggles with you at the end of the day. Was that ever a problem?

It has been in the past, but it wasn’t with this because I was ready to not do that anymore. I thought that to be a good actor you had to live it all the time, and it’s fine for comedies if you want to be funny all the time and you’re learning to improvise all the time and that’s great, but when you’re doing something and it’s a very sad person or a tortured character or someone whose not dealing with themselves well, it’s impossible. You have to be really aware of yourself because you’re playing into that, you’re changing your mindset for 12 hours a day for weeks, months, who knows how long. You can’t help that those things just start to stick, you can’t help it, it’s scientific, it’s the way that our brain feels. 
 
When I shadowed at the foster care, you’re instantly shocked by how emotionally charged those places are and you have to cut through and navigate through all this emotion and pain and it’s just non-stop. So I said to the woman I was shadowing, how do you do this, how do you get through this day and go back and do it again and you’ve done this for seventeen years for 15 dollars an hour. How do you do it? And she just said, “You let go.” You are here, you do the best you can for these kids, you are as supportive as possible and then you go home and you don’t keep fighting for them when you’re at home, you use it as a time to fight for yourself, you use that as the time to decompress, to relax, and get yourself back to yourself. And I thought that was absolutely brilliant and the thing that was missing from my life. I would come home and I’d still be in the headspace of work or want to talk about what happened at work, and it was my world and my identity—I didn’t know anything else other than it. 
 
I realized I felt so much happier, so much more comfortable, and had better relationships when I came home and the stuff I had done that day was irrelevant and it was about cooking me and my boyfriend a nice dinner, watching the latest episode of SNL, or talking about his day and getting into his world a little bit more and keeping things light—that saved me. And I didn’t have to like, go to therapy or anything afterwards—which has happened before. There’s been times where I’ve done a three week shoot and then it’s like, oh great, and now I’ve just spent thousands of dollars on therapy from that experience. We have a hard time differentiating between reality and fiction, the whole world seems fictitious to me, the whole thing seems like make-believe, so it’s really hard for the brain to go, no this is real and this is not real. 
 
This is the person you are and this is the character you’re playing.
Yeah, because I would be playing a character that has ripped tights and the next thing I know I’m wearing ripped tights to work and I’m like, I never did that!
 
You’ve also been working since you were very young, which is when you’re supposed to be developing your own identity and who you are at your core, but as an actor you’re thrown into so many different people’s skin and I imagine that’s very confusing.

It’s really confusing! That was a realization I had a couple years ago when I had some photo shoot where someone asked me: I want you to come in your own clothes, in what makes you feel like you, I want you to be you. And I remember going in my closet and going, holy shit, I have no idea. I have clothes from every period, I have clothes that are grungy to preppy to vintage to the latest in trend, and I just was confused. I realized it was because I was all of these pieces of things and they were pieces of people that I had lived in for a while, and none of it made any sense. It really inspired me to start focusing on my true essence. The complicated part is that my true self is changing, it’s growing, I’m becoming more of a woman everyday and that’s a whole new level of cleaning out the closet—which I just did. It was a weird experience to be like oh, about three fifths of my closet I can’t wear anymore because I’m not a child. 
 
It’s a bizarre but liberating thing to realize.

Yeah, like why did I ever wear something that short ever in my life—what was I thinking? So many things like that where you realize how long we spend not understand what it is to be an adult, but seeing it other people and trying to emulate it, and seeing what that sounds like or looks like. The more time I spend doing these types of roles, it’s so important that I feel completely myself. If I’m sitting here in my princess attire it doesn’t work. 
 
And stepping onto the set in this role and being older than these kids, how did it feel to be in that position for the first time?

It was the best. I’m just ready for it and I feel really lucky that growing up in the industry that I did, that I’m really normal. I got the opportunity to be with people that were so gracious and so incredible and I was able to learn from them. But I also got to work with some people that were really self-centered and egomaniacal, and was able to clock, oh that’s not a cute look. And when I’d had enough time being on the sideline—I had been acting for 13 years or something silly like that before I was the lead of anything—I realized there are things I believe are important to bring to work and things that you don’t bring that are important to understand because no one can teach you those. And kids are sponges, so I really wanted to be sure, and it was Destin and John and the producers and all the adults on set, we wanted to create an environment that was hard working and really open and filled with positivity. Even though we were doing this thing that could be really dark, we wanted it to be a learning experience, and that carried onto the film, and it had to be that way. Those kids were going to naturally look up to me because I’m older and in the profession that they want to be doing, and they have the spirit that we want to keep forever—a pure, innocent hunger. So I just thought they were brilliant and loved them. 
 
j
 
Are there any female actresses you really admire? I’m sure Toni Collette is one…
Yes, Toni. It’s weird that you say that, she was in my dream last night. I just realized that actually. I had a dream she saw Short Term 12.
 
Did she like it?

Yeah. That’s a weird dream to have, that someone I really admire liked a movie I did. But Toni Collette is a big one, Annette Benning’s a big one, Tilda Swinton, Diane Keaton, Julie Christie—those are the ones for me. I feel like they came from a different period in film; they played some really interesting, complex, and strong women.
 
And it’s rare to see roles like that nowadays.

Which is crazy because we all talk about it and people say that we want it and it still doesn’t get made—so what are we doing? 
 
I’ve seen Don Jon and The Spectacular Now and those were good roles, but not as meaty and unique as this one.
It’s really rare and I have no idea why. I think that if we were able to actually bring more complex roles to the surface, it would kick a lot of our butts in shape. A lot of actors I see just skate their way through things because they’re not challenged, like the kid in school who is really smart but they’re not challenged and so they fail. These are very talented people, we just have to really ask for it and not accept anything less than that. Movies are too influential of a medium and can be manipulative and if done the wrong way.
 
And so powerful if done the right way.

Exactly. It’s nice to be with Short Term 12. I feel like I’m spreading hope and love and compassion across the world versus doing some piece that at the end of the day is like having McDonalds. That wouldn’t feel good.
 
I’m sure it’s tiring to do tons of press but this seems like an amazing group of people to be around all the time.

We’re having an amazing time. I cried this morning, I was just excited. I woke up early and was lying in bed and they delivered coffee and the New York Times to my room, and I was like, how could I ever be upset, life is so grand right now. The cool thing is everybody involved in this film is really not concerned with the business side of it, we just want people to see it because we’re proud of it, but it really has nothing to do with anything else. So we find our ways to entertain ourselves.

Watch the First Trailer for Festival Favorite ‘Short Term 12’

Brie Larson is a serious catch. If you were unsure of that, just peruse her Criterion Collection Top 10 for a moment. And until this year, the subtly brilliant and exceedingly talented 23-year-old actress who we first fell in love with in The United States of Tara, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Rampart, had yet to lead a film of her own. In an interview with the Huffington Post back in March, Larson said, "I kept bumping up against this weird thing where I couldn’t imagine myself being the lead of something. I didn’t buy it, so I didn’t think anybody else would." But with her latest film, the emotionally powerful festival award-winner Short Term 12, Larson’s starring role fears can certainly dissipate as she leads the drama with absolute strength of character in a performance that shows just how young women of Hollywood should be doing it. 

Written and directed by Destin Cretton and starring a fantastic cast of John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, and many more, Short Term 12 tells the story of Grace, a supervising staff member at a foster care facility for troubled minors , who finds herself forced to deal with her own past and psychological issues when a new member of the facility arrives. It’s a beautifully done film that feels honest and fully-realized, it’s characters rich, not just there to pull at your tear ducts but to engage you and bring you into their compassionate story.
 
 
And now, with the film’s premiere later this summer, a theatrical trailer has been released. Check it out below.