Lena Dunham Toasts Vaginas, Mormons, and Planned Parenthood at Sundance

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Photo: Emily Hage

Ostensibly, Lena Dunham went to Sundance to promote her upcoming short documentary, It’s Me Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise, but much of her time in Utah has in fact been occupied using her witty, but ever-poignant voice to speak out on behalf of one of her (and our) favorite causes, the hard work done at Planned Parenthood to protect reproductive rights.

The belle of the ball, Lena Dunham, in her supercool Baseman x Coach sweater

Adding to the hype were the exclusive “Sex, Politics, and Film” tee-shirts designed by Rachel Antonoff (sister of Lena’s boyfriend Jack), whom she lovingly refers to as her “sister-in-law.” No need to restart the engagement rumors on this one.

 

Sunday evening at the Wahso Grill in Park City, Dunham addressed a high-profile crowd including Jill Soloway, Tig Notaro, Jessica Williams, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, and Jay Duplass, about the profound influence her ongoing work with Planned Parenthood has had on her. Read the inspiring speech she gave below.

Thank you so much for being here. It’s so meaningful to be in a room full of like-minded people celebrating shared beliefs and a love of film and a love of politics. Caren Spruch has been an incredible collaborator, ushering me into the world of Planned Parenthood with kindness and patience and sensitivity, and I want to thank you.

If you look in your gift bags, you’ll find a very sexy, political cinematic T-shirt designed by my sister-in-law, Rachel Antonoff. You should know that there used to be people 69-ing on it, but we pulled back because we wanted it to be a wearable garment.

I’m so pleased you’re all here to celebrate Planned Parenthood with us. Working with Planned Parenthood was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, as I’ve gotten to witness both their hands-on patient care and their political advocacy. They’ve given me the strength and knowledge to speak on issues that are important to me, and essential to women everywhere. They’ve helped so many women I love out of health and family planning crises, but they’ve also helped me as a filmmaker, and that’s what we’re here to discuss. As storytellers, we have a unique power to spread a message to advocate for the causes that are important to us.

For so many women, for so many people I know, that cause is reproductive health, rights, and justice. There is no overstating how important it is to see honest, non-stigmatizing storytelling that shows women tackling issues of reproductive health and choice. We don’t have to be preachy, didactic, or explicit—just honest. Planned Parenthood has the resources to help filmmakers do that. They have talked me through countless drafts, helped me understand the issues I’m exploring, and made sure that our language helps inform our viewers.

That is a very valuable gift, one I hope we can all benefit from. At the end of the day, depicting these honest stories about women dealing with huge choices should not be a political issue—it should be a human issue. I believe in the power of film and TV to make change. So do you, which is why we’re all here on a mountain surrounded by Mormons, wearing Ugg boots. So let’s put our hands together for what Planned Parenthood has done, and think hard about what we can do to fill our narratives with valuable truths, and of course, vaginas.

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Shopping: Get Yourself on the Best Dressed List at Sundance

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

 

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

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

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

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

Desiree Akhavan on Writing, Directing, and Starring in Her Debut Feature ‘Appropriate Behavior’

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As the old Beckett adage goes, “Nothing is funner than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world.” And in her heartfelt and gutturally funny feature debut, Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan proves that’s certainly true—giving us a genuinely funny and delicately nuanced tale of heartbreak and self-discovery.  As the writer, director, and star of the film, she’s crafted a story filled with a refreshing sense of energy, that’s both poignant and full of strength, as well as simply enjoyable to experience.

Having evolved as the follow-up to her web series The Slope, Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior dances back and forth between memories of her failed recent relationship and the consistent series of missteps in her current post-break up world, as she attempts to navigate the abyss of the future. And as a bisexual Persian Brooklynite trying construct an identity for herself and find a way to articulate her sexuality to her family, Akhavan’s Shirin undergoes an endless series of emotional pratfalls while trying to deconstruct just where it all went wrong with her last girlfriend Maxine.

Filled with a cast of talented actors and strong personalities, Akhavan is brilliant in her role and gives us a complex look at sexuality and the way we relate to the world around us and deal with the love we’re faced to lose. So last week, it was my pleasure to chat with the first-time feature filmmaker to discuss the emotional origins of this story, writing humor with caricature, and taking ownership over your own experiences.

I was at the screening last Friday and before it began, you said this was the first time you were watching it entirely completed. How was seeing it for the first time and to have everyone there for that?

It was really strange, but really exciting. I was very surprised by the jokes that landed. It was interesting how the slapstick humor really communicated more than some of the more sarcastic or witty comments—I liked that, that was entertaining to me.

So you had made your web series The Slope prior to this, but how did Appropriate Behavior come about for you and evolve from that?

Well, I was working on the web series and during the second season of the show I started writing a feature. It was a very different script back then—at first wanted to adapt the web series into a film. Then when I decided I didn’t want to adapt the series into a film anymore and my co-director and I parted ways, I realized that I wanted to make something completely different and that’s when the family started to play a larger role in the script. I think the heart of the film is really the family and her relationship to the family and her coming out process.

In your notes for the film you say that this is something that’s really been brewing since you were a child. Can you tell me about your background as a filmmaker? Was writing something you were always drawn to?

I really wanted to tell stories in whatever format that took. So I wrote plays growing up—my first play I wrote when I was ten, and I was constantly putting on plays in school. Then when I got to college, I took a film class on a lark and just fell in love very fast. It was a revelation for me. It never seemed like an option for me to make films. I grew up in New York and I thought that theatre was a possibility, a very realistic goal. It was lofty still, but it was something I saw people around me doing and thought I could maybe pursue. But then I realized film would be so perfect and I could have so much more control—it all comes down to being a horrible control freak. So in college I took more classes and added a double major and I went to NYU’s graduate film school. Then I just did a bunch of short projects; it’s just where my voice found itself. I really wanted to make films that reflected the things I was grappling with. At the time I was writing this, I had recently come out to my family and I wanted to find some way to communicate that. I was trying to break down my last relationship and see exactly where it went wrong. So I watched Annie Hall a lot and that film really inspired me to go this route with the narrative.

I really loved and admired the balance between the comedy—which was so strong–and the genuine way in which you dealt with the real pain and confusion of ending a relationship with someone you love deeply. It’s a fine line to walk when portraying something genuine that’s also laugh out loud hilarious, so what was the tone you were looking to strike?

All the filmmakers I want to emulate do that really nicely. I think Noah Baumbach does a fantastic job of balancing that, as does Sarah Polley whose work I really love. But that was a scene by scene struggle, and from every aspect of production—from writing to editing it—we were always like, is this going too far in one direction? It was a lot of pulling it back to where we thought it wasn’t gratuitous. We kept wanting to earn our jokes or earn our sad moments and never be too masturbatory or too self-pitying. It’s also a testament to my editor and producer, who both had a big hand in finding the right balance. I relied on them heavily to look over things and get me out of one schtick or the other.

Had you written it with the intention of playing the lead in the film? For a script that seems to stem from a very personal place, did it just make sense to imprint yourself on it that much more?

After I started the web series, it was a natural next step. I never considered casting someone else. I just knew that if I really wanted to put my money where my mouth was, I was going to have to do it myself—not to say that an actress wouldn’t have done a great job, but it was just right for this project. I don’t know if it will ever be right again, but sometimes you know in your gut how you want to portray something, and for this story it felt right to do it myself.

Was it challenging, for your first feature, to take on the starring role as well as being the director?

It was actually really positive, but it was definitely a challenge, and it took a couple days to find my footing, In terms of how I wanted the work to flow, I really had to detach myself once the camera was rolling. The first few days I kept finding myself tempted to look at monitors. One time we were doing a reverse on on someone I was talking to in a scene, and my eye kept wandering to the viewfinder in the camera, and I kept thinking I can’t do this, I need to be in it 120%. Once I figured that out, the balance between directing and totally throwing yourself into a scene, I felt very comfortable and really enjoyed that experience—but you’ve got to figure it out first. It’s a little bit of patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.

How did you and Allison [Twardziak] go about casting. Eve the minor characters, like Felicia her roommate, were all really perfect for their roles. What were you looking for in terms of the supporting cast?

Allison and I were very much on the same page. We just wanted to keep it as two feet on the ground as possible and as realistic, just to avoid making caricatures. Like I think Annalisa [Rose] (Felicia) is a really intelligent artist and she understood that this was a farcical role, but still a real person. So I never wanted to take the piss out of anyone. And Alison was the same way, she knew this world and she knew what I wanted to put on screen. Our challenge was really finding Middle Eastern people. I’m not involved in that arts community of Iranians and that was my challenge. But when it came to finding people who fit into this world, Alison just knows so many great actors and so many different people. I remember her first day she brought in most of the people I ended up casting—it was kind of beautiful—but we still looked for weeks even though I knew what I wanted and I knew we had it on the first day. But I remember a couple days later a bunch of agents sent us people and they all looked like people in a very glossy film. I wanted to make a very different film, and I thought, if I cast these people, it would be a much more shiny, glossy cohesive narrative. But I had no interest in casting the butch lesbian stereotype either or the freaky artist. I really wanted to keep it nuanced and have you like each of the characters in their own way.

Although the film was a love story and a break up story between two women, the love and the challenges were entirely universal. Did you think at all about people looking at the film as a gay romance or how that would translate?

I didn’t think about that at all actually, and now people ask me if I was worried about that. But I wasn’t at all because I don’t worry in life. When I’m with a woman, I’m not walking around thinking, Oo it’s a gay relationship, we’re gay ladies in love. It feels very much like the relationships I’ve had with men, so I never wanted to shoot it differently on film. And how people react to it is kind of out of my own hands. I’m aware that we may get pigeonholed and I’m aware that we may not. I have faith in the movie going audiences that this would be perceived like any other relationship. It all depends on how others market us and how we’re perceived. I like to think this is just first in a long line of romantic films that treat same sex couples like human beings or not victims.

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What is your writing process like? Were the actors improving at all on set and did the script change once you locked in the cast?

Once I come to set I like my script pretty locked. There were a couple occasions where time permitted and I let people play around, but the final cut is very close to the script. I rewrite a lot—my process is rewriting. I work really closely with my producer and love to act out the scenes. I spent a year just going over it act by act, scene by scene,and  character by character. I write very rough drafts very quickly and then I write a lot of content and then I pair it down. I really try to get in there and make sure each scene is earned. I don’t like to play around if I’m under a time constraint. If I ever have the privilege of shooting for more time, I would love to play around and have a feel—that would be fun.

I loved how the film danced back and forth and jumped from their relationship her present life. It really gave the story an interesting sense of life and kept you engaged. I know you mentioned Annie Hall as a reference for that but were there any other films or writers you found inspiration in?

In Julie Delpy’s films, I think she does a really nice job of dealing with time. I also looked at Scenes From a Marriage, which is very episodic. I love episodic structures and I thought for this story this was appropriate. Another film I really love is Muriel’s Wedding. That’s a film I really worship and looked it, but I feel like these are people who tell stories that don’t follow a classic narrative yet you’re still engaged somehow.

What role did the different spaces and locations in Brooklyn play for in narrative?

I moved to Brooklyn straight out of college and found for myself that each neighborhood as a different personality. Then as I moved around, I felt like I was switching identities with each zip code. If I moved back or visited the old neighborhood, it was never the same. It’s just a place in constant flux right now, and I thought that really suited the film and suited the narrative of coming of age and figuring out your identity. It’s a place where adults live, and in your 20s you’re sort of an adult but still dealing with these ridiculous growing pains, except without the support of your family or any guardian—there’s no guidance counselor.

And how did your character’s job of teaching filmmaking to children come about? Was that taken from your own experience?

I’m glad that that made the film because it that really had the loudest comedic moments in that screening. People really liked it, and it provides a really funny break and perspective from this girl inside her own head. There’s a world outside of her that’s so different from her day to day. But that’s one of the few things that I did steal from life. I did teach filmmaking to five-year-olds and didn’t realize they’d be five when I got the job. They were all boys and I was a terrible teacher. My boss was not a stoner and he doesn’t lose his children, so it wasn’t strictly true to life—but I was really bad at it. And I was writing the script while I was teaching and it found its way into the script and I always wondered if it would stick, but it ended up being such a great vehicle for change and it was just too good to pass up.

Before the screening, you mentioned that you’d been here a year prior and amazed at how the filmmaker had everything all together and something completed. How does it feel now to be in that position? 

It doesn’t feel completed, just having finished days ago. It’s still new to me; ask me in a couple months. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Any second now it feels like I’ll have to go back to nannying or teaching filmmaking to those five year olds. No,  I don’t think I could ever get that job again, I think I’m fired for life.

Is there a reason you’re drawn to telling these very person stories that stem from your own life? Does it feel cathartic for you to have made a first feature like this?

I don’t know how to communicate otherwise. You know, it’s gaining ownership of something that happens to you. It’s like having a sense of power in that situation—any situation, as small as having bad sex with someone or as dramatic as you coming out to your family. It’s feeling like that’s your story and you have a bit of control. The film isn’t true to life. Nothing happened that way, nothing worked out that way or was said that way but this is my reality of the world just entirely skewed. But I like creating that reality. If anyone’s going to engage in it in any way, that’s how I derive pleasure.

I wanted to ask you about the sex scenes as well. I thought you did a really fantastic job of making them so natural and familiar—both the good and the bad. Was that something of importance to you?

That means a lot to me. I really care about how sex is depicted on film. It usually goes one or two ways: it’s either incredibly smooth and effortless and beautiful or incredibly awkward and pained—a they’re both quite one note. In my own experience, usually they move in and out of awesome and terrible, and I never saw that. There’s a filmmaker I really like, Catherine Breillat, she did Fat Girl, I love her work and she really gets into it with sex in a graphic way that I respond to. I didn’t want to go about in quite that way, we’re very different, but I really admire the way that she shows sex and I wanted to do something that danced back and forth a bit and showed the subtle power shifts that happen. Especially when you have sex with a stranger or someone you don’t know very intimately, it’s neither one or the other. There’s a muddy grey area that is clearly shown—especially with women pursuing pleasure.

Are you pretty thrilled and nervous to take the film to Sundance?

It’s a dream come true. I’ve known for a month and a half now, and at first it was just complete shock, and then it was elation, and then this week I think the reality of it sunk it. So this week is when the actual terror of the reality of it is hitting me. It can make or break a film and I’m shocked that we’re in that arena. I’m very, very lucky.

Do you want to continue telling these kinds of personal, intimate female stories? Do you feel like Appropriate Behavior is a good introduction to you as an artist?

Definitely. I don’t think they’ll all be starring me for sure. I have another feature script that I want to shoot next that’s sort of an Election-esque high school comedy that would star a teenage girl and her teacher. But yeah, that story is personal to me as well and inspired by my years growing up in New York City at a very competitive prep school in the Bronx. I really care about these personal stories and particularly these women’s stories and the struggling, ugly stuff that people don’t talk about.

Kings of the Road: Chatting With Directors Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens and the Cast of ‘Land Ho!’

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When you think about ego-driven filmmakers it’s hard to put Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens in that category. Both have had impressive careers thus far, making their own brand of films (Katz with mumblecore milestones like Quiet City and Cold Weather; and Stephens with intimate tales like Passenger Pigeons and Pilgrim Song)—but when it came time to make a film in Iceland that explores the friendship of two retirees, the two decided it would be best to collaborate. It kind of sums up the serendipitous spirit that surrounds their film Land Ho!—with little knowledge of Iceland before heading out and two actors who didn’t know each other, the four would embark on a friendship building experience, that is certainly evident in what you see on screen.

In Land Ho! Earl Lynn Nelson (who has starred in Stephens’ films) and Paul Eenhoorn (This Is Martin Bonner) play former brother-in-laws who meet up after having not seen each other in decades. Nelson’s Mitch is a brash, horny, loud mouth with a heart of gold who loves everything life has to offer, while Eenhoorn’s Collin is quiet, reserved and still hurting from his divorce. But Mitch hopes to change that when he springs a surprise trip to Iceland on his buddy, expenses paid. This leads to a fish-out-of-water journey to some of the most beautiful locals in Iceland filled with hilarious scenes, lush photography and a superb score by Keegan DeWitt.

We caught up with Katz, Stephens, Nelson and Eenhoorn at a bar in Park City days after their premiere at Sundance to talk about the experience making the film and why this may not be the last time we see this gang together.

What inspired this?

Katz: Martha texted me in January of last year and said, “Do you want to make a movie together?” And I wasn’t sure, so I called her and we talked and thought we should take Earl Lynn to Iceland. I said those two things sound great, and then we saw our friend Chad Hartigan made a film that was here last year called This Is Martin Bonner that starred Paul and we saw that and said let’s get him too and do this.

Nelson: But Aaron had never met me before.

Stephens: But Aaron had seen Passenger Pigeons and Pilgrim Song.

Katz: Yeah, we all met for the first time when we shot for the first five days in Kentucky back in May. We drove up and were shooting the next day.

Stephens: We were all bunked up in Earl Lynn’s house and it was getting together and having a big party all weekend.

What were some of the challenges shooting this?

Stephens: Weather. Making a film in a foreign country. A lot of things were different, like the price of fuel, it’s like $10 a gallon, food is two to three times as expensive as it is here. Other than the weather, and we shot all over the southern coast, so it was packing up and moving around a lot. It wears on you.

Was there a certain time of year you wanted to go there, just for the look you wanted?

Stephens: We knew we needed to be there anytime before winter because there is no access to many of the places where we shot. I mean, we were a week away from a lot of those roads closing.

Katz: And I think one of the biggest challenges for Paul and Earl Lynn is in the order of the movie we start to move farther and farther into the countryside, but because of the weather concerns we shot it backwards.

Eenhoorn: Completely in reverse.

Katz: So we really would get everyone together and focus on what we had to do that day.

Paul, did you and Earl Lynn talk at all about the characters?

Eenhoorn: I don’t really do any backstory. I worked a lot with Earl Lynn in just improvising and these guys let us figure it out.

Nelson: I didn’t need any backstory. But it was interesting, the first part of the movie we’re getting personal and the characters were going in as friends of twenty years, but after chopping some onions together we ourselves found a connection with each other.

Katz: One reason we did the shoot in Kentucky was, I’d never met Earl Lynn and Martha and Paul had never met each other so we just wanted to see what it would be like all working together. So what we found out was Paul and Earl Lynn have a perfect balance for each other. The movie is about opposites in many ways and I think Martha and I are opposites in some ways, and the two characters are opposites, so shooting in Kentucky gave us an idea of what it was going to be like.

How was it sharing the directorial reigns?

Katz: We didn’t talk about any of that. You know, “Martha is going to do this, I’m going to do that.” It wasn’t like that. We just did it and because we had both made our own features we were comfortable doing anything. We exchanged glances on set and that was enough.

Martha, looking back is this what you imagined when coming with Aaron with the idea?

Stephens: Yeah. I went and scouted Iceland with my husband and chose all the locations through our experience traveling around. Looking back I don’t think there’s much I would have done differently.

Katz: I wouldn’t have done anything differently. We couldn’t have expected every single thing that happened, but part of what we wanted to do was set up circumstances where we didn’t know what was going to happen.

What elevates the film is the music, talk a bit about developing that.

Stephens: The music is really an ode to buddy comedies like Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Tommy Boy, so we wanted the music to capture that era of film. We went for a almost Bruce Springsteen “Tunnel of Love” meets Paul Simon “Graceland” meets cheesy ‘80s score and really wanted to embrace global music. So there’s Celtic stuff and some Australian stuff. I mean, Keegan DeWitt [who did the music] had no time and made something magical in a week of work (Read more about Keegan’s work on this and fellow Sundance entry Listen Up Philip). And the pop song we were able to get was Big Country’s “In A Big Country,” which was a childhood favorite.

Will we see a sequel?

Stephens: I’d love to do a sequel.

Nelson: We’ve talked about a sequel. We talked about Hawaii.

Katz: Of course I’d do it. There are so many unknowns in this and that was part of the challenge and for me what was exciting, but I think it was a really great experience.

Stephens: I think our sequel could be The Muppet Movie where we have cameos by famous people.

Eenhoorn: No, it’s going to be like Fast and Furious. But seriously, sometimes in this business there’s serendipity and this is that.

8 Things Richard Linklater Told Us About ‘Boyhood’ At Sundance

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Last night at the Sundance Film Festival, Richard Linklater unveiled a preview screening of his long-awaited, 12-years in the making film that looks at a family’s life titled Boyhood.

With a running time of just under three hours, the film is an incredible piece of filmmaking that follows the lives of Mason and his sister Samantha from their troubled childhood into adulthood. Actors Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) grow in front of our eyes as they deal with their mother’s (Patricia Arquette) numerous failed marriages, their immature father (Ethan Hawke) and the usual awkward existence that is your teenage years.

To call this a labor of love would be a gross understatement. Through constant support by IFC Films, Linklater has finally come to the end of a magnum opus that started 4,207 days ago (yes, he counted) and will add to the numerous iconic titles he’s already given us.

Following the screening Linklater, along with his cast, took questions from the audience at the Eccles Theater. Here are eight things Linklater talked about that we thought were fascinating.

HOW IT STARTED

“I wanted to do something about childhood. But I couldn’t pick one [thing]. I got this eureka moment of why don’t you do little bits throughout [someone’s life]. I did talk to some producers about doing it and they were like, “No, we don’t know how to do that.” But with IFC we had just done Tape and they were down to do it.”

ETHAN HAWKE’S REACTION

“We were sitting in a café in New York and he had a weird look on his face and said, ‘It’s the craziest thing, but yeah, I’ll do it.’”

THE PROCESS

“The structure of the film was worked out [early]. By the second year I knew what the last shot was. Every year we’d shoot. It would be intensive 3-4 day shoots… 39 days total.”

LORELEI’S HAD ENOUGH

“I remember, like, year three, Lorelei came to me and asked, ‘Can my character, like, die?’”

CHARACTER EVOLUTION

“It was always going to go eventually where they went. The early conception of the characters became them [as they got older]. But they aren’t autobiographical.”

SHOOTING ON FILM

“From the start I wanted to shoot on 35mm. We ended in October and it felt like the end of an era. It was getting harder to use, there weren’t a lot of labs. But I didn’t want to shoot Hi Def. We would have gone through five different evolutions through filming and I didn’t want it to be technologically different.”

EDITING

“We’d edit every year and make it fit from the previous segment we shot. Transitions were important. In the early years I tried to make [the transitions] more clever, but as it went on I went to them being more seamless.”

FINISHED…BUT NOT REALLY

“Music is such an important part of your life so we knew that would be important. We would take stuff that Patricia was listening to at the time or Lorelei was listening to. We tried to take from all their interests. But we haven’t cleared all the music. We barely got here.”

Here’s some examples of the songs currently featured:

“Yellow” – Coldplay

“…Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears (sung by Lorelei)

“Soak Up The Sun” – Sheryl Crow

“Hey Ya!” – OutKast

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd (performed acoustically by an actor)

“Get Lucky” – Daft Punk

The Most Hated and Loved Man’s Birthday & The Vinatta Project Gossip

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All the unusual suspects will gather for DJ-club god Michael T’s birthday. I have never loved or hated someone as much as Michael, and that’s in the first 10 minutes every time I meet him. He can be oh-so-sweet and oh-so-sour, but his heart is always in the right place. There was this one time — I’m going to stop there, as we all have stories. He remains my favorite DJ who isn’t named Paul Sevigny. How can someone so ageless have so many birthdays? He’s celebrating two on one day…tonight.

The first of Michael’s birthday parties, according to the invite, is from 8pm till 1am at La Bottega at Maritime Hotel, 363 W. 16th St. The second runs from 11pm till 4am at Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St. There seems to be an overlap, and I suspect that the wily Mr. T is employing one of those Tupac hologram thingys or something like that. I’m always confused if it"s Michael Tee or "T.” In either case I will show up at one of these soirees to celebrate my friend’s fabulousness – probably at Beauty Bar so I can dine at IHOP right after. Michael is so thoughtful like that.

Everybody I know (from some circles) is off to Sundance to overpopulate the tiny hamlet of Park City, Utah. I spent a year there one night. I am being inundated with invites, but everyone knows I gave up the snow years ago. I’ve actually never gone to Sundance, as ski slopes and roller coasters and jumping from airplanes are for my next incarnation. I do love a good film though, and I hear they’re showing some in between, before and after all those parties. Noah and his Strategic Group have taken over some underground garage facility, decorated it, and snazzed it up, and are ready to show all how it is done. I would love to check out Park City Live, the newly renovated hot spot that always books national acts. My pal Kathryn Burns is living her dreams there.

Monday (after BINGO) I will attend the Benefit Concert for Animals hosted by Wesly Wang, Geri Gongora, Dava She Wolf, and sponsored by Alacran Tequila and Forever Young wine at Sullivan Hall, 214 Sullivan St.  The Bashers – featuring musicians from Guns N’Roses, Soul Asylum, X-Pensive Winos, Uptown Horns – and others will lead the way. The Planets will also perform. Bands start at 9:30pm and they’re asking for a minimum of $10 at the door.

On Sunday the rockers will descend on Manitoba’s for the 14th annual anniversary extravaganza. It’s billed as the first great party of ’13 – and I’m a believer (unless someone actually plays that track). It’s running from 1pm to 4am, and is a "15-hour rock and roll party at 100MPH.” There will be munchies and drink specials, and the football games will be shown. Handsome Dick Manitoba and his lovely wife Zoe Hanson will host.

The other day, a reliable source whispered to my always open, rather large and sometimes naive ears that the building where The Vinatta Project thrives was bought by Matt Levine. It simply isn’t true. Matt reports: "I have no involvement at 69 Gansevoort at this time. Let me get The Rowhouse Inn open first before myself and Michael start opening up more spaces in the Meatpacking, haha."

Well, at least my boy got that Rowhouse part right. Rael Petit, a friend of mine and partner and manager over at Vinatta, 69 Gansevoort, asked me to clarify. He’s at Sundance doing diners for his Mulberry Project and Vinatta. I caught up with him before he jetted off. He told me Fridays and Saturdays are slammed at Vinatta with a great crowd listening to resident DJ Mok. He tells me the Tuesday-through-Thursday crowd are filled with the locals and are for my tastes. I’m summoned to check it next week when he’s back. The official line from them is :

“The Vinatta Project opened its doors in November 2011 in the bustling Meatpacking District. In the constantly evolving restaurant statosphere, The Vinatta Project embodies all of the components of a perfect night out–delicious food, complete beverage program, friendly service an a hip yet inviting atmosphere.  The menu features a selection of Contemporary American dishes including Paella Spring Rolls, made with Shrimp, Chorizo, Jalapeño and Smoked Paprika Aioli, Tuna Tartare with a Crispy Wonton and Wasabi Greens and NY Strip, served with Chimichurri, Polenta Croutons and Pickled Red Onion.

Vinatta also features a robust beverage program, complete with hand-crafted bespoke cocktails created by some of the best mixologists in NYC, and a selection of artisan spirits. Vinatta is open for weekend brunch, special events or even catered parties.”

Yesterday,  my very secret whisper-in-my-ear source, who obviously is right most of the time but not all (the price of being fast and first), says that The Shadow space on W. 28th St. has a new operator. Shadow was owned and operated by the old-school, wonderful Steven Juliano.  He, according to my source, has settled on a buyer which my source says is one of the premier operating  groups. I know who it is, but I’m going to double and triple check before I tell you.

Watch a Trailer for Sebastián Silva’s ‘Crystal Fairy’

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We’ve already seen some footage from Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Silva’s first collaboration with Michael Cera, Magic Magic, which hit the festival circuit and will be released on DVD later this summer. This week, we have a new trailer for the second collab, a film called Crystal Fairy, which won Silva the Sundance Directing Award for World Cinema (Dramatic). You can probably guess by its name, does indeed involve drugs and a certain kind of whimsical female stock character.

Taking a spiritual journey abroad the way many truth-seeking, young-people do, narcissistic, boorish Jamie (Cera) finds himself in Chile, but doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about the language, or anything else except for that he wants to party. He meets another American, a free-spirited sprite named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann!), and together, they head out with some friends to experiment with drugs and find themselves along the coast. At one point, Michael Cera steals a cactus from a woman’s front lawn. The film will be released on July 12th, but in the meantime, watch the Manu Chao-packed trailer below.

Watch the Gorgeous First Trailer for David Lowery’s ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

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This spring has been rife with fantastic films, and with summer on our heels it looks as though we’re in store for some truly great cinematic moments—from both directors we worship and those who are at the precipice of their careers.  And when it comes to the latter, David Lowery is one of the most refreshing and wonderful new voices in filmmaking to appear on our radar in recent memory. After editing the stunningly brilliant Upstream Color with Shane Carruth,  Lowery blew everyone away at Sundance with his crime drama / tragic Texas romance Ain’t Them Bodies Saints which will roll into theaters come August. The lens-flared and sun burnt film is as aesthetically alluring and well-crafted as it’s moving performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster who take on the story of:

Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration.
 
Set against the backdrop of 1970’s Texas Hill Country, first time director David Lowery paints a poetic picture, evoking the mythology of westerns and saturating the dramatic space with an aching sense of loss. Featuring powerful performances by Affleck and Mara as well as Ben Foster and Keith Carradine, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is a story of love, motherhood and searching for peace while faced with an unrelenting past. 
And with a first trailer for the film we get an lovelorn voiceover from the always wonderful Affleck, set against the sun-drenched Texan landscape and the action that follows, as well as a taste of the sweeping yet delicate score. See the beautiful first trailer for yourself HERE.
 
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See a New Set of Stills From David Lowery’s Texas Drama ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

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As one of the most anticipated films to come out of Sundance this year, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a beautifully painful southern drawl of a film. Starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Keith Carradine, it has the touch of Terrence Malick with the bite of 1970s crime dramas. And Lowery has had quite the prolific year—between shooting this, editing Shane Carruth’s stunning Upstream Color, finding himself attached to numerous other projects in the works, and now heading to Cannes next week where the film will screen as part of the festival’s Critic’s Week. 

 
And today, The Playlist has a new batch of stills from the gorgeous feature before it hits France next week. Arriving in theaters August 16th thanks to IFC Films, you can also catch Ain’t Them Bodies Saints at BAMcinemaFEST this June. The official synopsis of his film reads:
Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration.
 
Set against the backdrop of 1970’s Texas Hill Country, first time director David Lowery paints a poetic picture, evoking the mythology of westerns and saturating the dramatic space with an aching sense of loss. Featuring powerful performances by Affleck and Mara as well as Ben Foster and Keith Carradine, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is a story of love, motherhood and searching for peace while faced with an unrelenting past. 
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