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New This Week

From Beyond, Anna Karenina, Killing Them Softly, Wake In Fright

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, License: N/A

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

From Beyond

FROM BEYOND Decapitation, flesh eating, and a dash of S&M go down in an attic/laboratory in this 1986 film adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), this horror flick will have you worrying about your pineal gland through the holidays. Presented by Night Zones with Jimmy Joe Roche at the Charles Theatre Nov. 28

ANNA KARENINA Tom Stoppard himself wrote the screenplay for this British take on Leo Tolstoy’s novel. Period-piece darling Joe Wright—notably of Pride and Prejudice and Atonement—directs Keira Knightley (again) as Anna. Opens Nov. 30

KILLING THEM SOFTLY Brad Pitt plays a hitman who doesn’t like to kill up-close in Andrew Dominik’s third feature film. Pitt is flanked by James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta (as mobsters, surprisingly enough). Opens Nov. 30

WAKE IN FRIGHT An Outback schoolteacher’s Christmas holidays go awry when he gets severely sidetracked by drinking and gambling. This Australian film received worldwide critical acclaim when it debuted in 1971 but went unreleased on VHS or DVD for decades, becoming Australia’s great “lost film.” The movie’s editor, Anthony Buckley, found its negatives in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2004, allowing for its restoration and re-release. At the Charles Theatre Dec. 1, 3, and 6

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Film Review: Dom Hemingway

Director Richard Shepard finds Richard E. Grant and lots more

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Jude law drank a lot of soda and smoked to play Dom Hemingway. Acting!

Dom Hemingway

Directed by Richard Shepard

Opens at the Charles Theatre April 18

Richard Shepard directed The Matador, one of our fave-rave films, starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, for fuck’s sake, and when we heard we could talk to him on the phone about his new movie, Dom Hemingway—starring Jude Law as a choleric, profane, and highly violent London safe-cracker released from jail after doing 12 years, and boy, is he angry—we were all about it. We got the call from the Movie PR person, and she did some boops and beeps to connect us to Mr. Shepard.


City Paper: Hello, this is Joe MacLeod.

Movie PR Person from Fox Searchlight: Hi Joe.

CP: Hi.

MP: Hi, lemme grab Richard for you, could you hold on please?

CP: Sure.


Richard Shepard: Hello?

CP: Hello Richard, are you hearing me well enough?

RS: I am indeed, are you?

CP: OK, good, I am very excited, I saw the movie, I’m very excited to be talking to you, I really super-dug The Matador.

RS: Thank you.

CP: That’s one of those movies I can check in with at any time when it’s running, and from way, way back, The Linguini Incident, which is nuts.

RS: [laughs] You have a clearly distorted and weird film knowledge, but I appreciate it.

CP: So I just wanna say, this movie [Dom Hemingway] grabs you, right off the fuckin’ rip. I mean, let’s call it an arresting soliloquy.

RS: It certainly—you know, it’s intended for that, and it is a good barometer of if you’re gonna like the movie or not.

CP: [laughs] Yes!

RS: In a way, it was also, as a writer, the first thing that I wrote, and by the time I was done writing it, I kinda felt like I completely understood Dom. In a way that sometimes it takes an entire script to understand a character, I felt like I completely understood him just from writing that monologue. And it was very freeing, from that moment on, to write him. It was very easy, because I sort of completely got him.

CP: Yeah, it’s weird, I dunno what the musical term for it is, but there’s a lotta songs, have kind of like a preview of the entire song at the beginning?

RS: Right, it’s like the overture, and it is in a way the overture to the movie, and in fact the movie is bookended by monologues.

CP: Did you fucking halfway kill Jude Law, having him do that stuff? I expected him to have a heart attack!

RS: Well, it’s funny because he gained all this weight, and then he had to sort of, on certain days he kind of wanted to accentuate his potbelly, so he would be drinking 10 sodas at a time, and then of course he couldn’t drink real beer, so he’s drinking the fake beer.

CP: Uckgh.

RS: Which is some sort of cruelty—

CP: It’s awful.

RS: And then, he was smoking like, you know, I mean, if the American Cancer [Society] was watching how many cigarettes he smoked, they would have died. So it was this horrible combination of health for him, he was huffing and puffing a lot, but of course now he’s skinny and in perfect shape and hasn’t smoked in—you know, he is an actor and he basically got into Dom completely, and that was what I think is why you see such joy and deepness in his performance, is that he definitely grabbed on to this guy and approached it with the belief that if he didn’t give it 110 percent, there would be nothing. Dom is not someone who does anything halfway, and in playing Dom, you can’t do anything halfway either, so I was very lucky to find an actor who was ready to embrace everything, ready for that opening scene and everything else.

CP: He was all in, it was just like you’re watching this, and this guy is all-in on this movie. It was amazing.

RS: I think it’s one of his very best performances, and certainly something you haven’t seen from him before, which is also exciting. And part of independent film and making movies for less money than normal is, like, what are you doing that makes people actually want to see your movie? What is it that is interesting? I purposely wanted an actor who had never played a role like this before, and they’re not that many, because everyone in London is in some sort of Guy Ritchie movie, so the list isn’t long, and I also wanted someone who was like—please don’t make me sound pompous when I say—there is like a Shakespearean element to Dom, if nothing else, just in his failure. So I wanted an actor who could bring that sort of energy to it, and Jude and I talked about that alot, he is sort of, I can imagine him in some sort of supporting role in a Shakespeare play, because he’s so tragic.

CP: Yeah! He’s absolutely, there’s this inexorable sense of tragedy with many of the decisions that Dom makes in the movie, it’s like “Oh God, what are you doing?”

RS: At a certain point I’m hopeful that audiences in some way are literally like “please don’t do that.”

CP: Yes!

RS: They know at a certain point that this is a guy who literally will shoot himself in the foot at every turn. Part of the tension and the fun is, you know, hoping that he’s just not gonna ruin whenever he takes one step forward, it’s like “please don’t ruin that.”

CP: Getting back to the cigarettes for a minute, I just came off of binge-watching True Detective, and watching Matthew McConaughey smoke a half a cigarette every time he pulls on it, and then I’m watching Jude Law smoke a million cigarettes.

RS: I’m a humongous fan of True Detective, so, nothing, you’re not gonna get one word negative about it from me, but I do feel that sometimes it does make sense for who the character is, I think we’re in a world now where you just can’t lightly smoke a cigarette. In fact, you can’t even get a PG rating if, I mean, if you’re making a PG movie, you literally can’t have someone smoke a cigarette, which is tremendous, crazy censorship in some sorta way, but Dom was never gonna be a PG movie, and Dom is not a PG guy. Especially since he was in prison for 12 years, I like this idea that he’s sort of in a time warp, the world has passed him by, and as he says in the movie, he’s a dinosaur, so he’s doing stuff that, you know, it’s over, that generation, people have changed and he hasn’t. All of that was important to his character. Meanwhile, the actor himself had to smoke a fuckload of cigarettes, and you know, I was having him run up and down mountains in the south of France, and run after mopeds, and he was huffin’ and puffin’.

CP: Also, I wanna commend, uh, in the film, the use of sound, a lot of times it’s not used—there’s a scene where he’s watching someone sing, and there’s a band, and the sound of the band does not necessarily connect with the singer, but the way the sound is isolated, and the way it drops out, it really worked to emotionally connect what was going on, I thought that was really nice.

RS: Oh, thank you, I’m definitely someone who believes that you should have an interesting sound design as you do everything else in your movie, and it’s sometimes given short shrift, but I have been lucky to work with some excellent sound designers. Even if it’s a movie without car crashes and big explosions, there’s things sound-wise that very smart people can do, and stuff like that is definitely a case where—how do you get inside of Dom’s brain as he’s watching his daughter sing, you know? What is it, how do you emotionally do that? And one way we thought—and that wasn’t always the intention in the scene—but after editing it, it became clear that might be an interesting way of going about it.

CP: Yeah, it really worked well, and then you talk about, you talk about stuff like car crashes, and you kinda stood that on its head too, which was really cool.

RS: Well, ultimately, there have been so many brilliant car crashes in the history of movies, that to try and do one even as remotely as brilliant, with one-twentieth the budget, seemed to me, you know, an exercise in futility, I figured. The whole movie has been from almost from Dom’s point of view, we’ll just continue that in the car crash, and I do believe that when you’re having an accident, even if you’ve tripped and fallen, as you’re falling, it all feels very slow, so that was sort of the thing that got me going with it. I bet in some cases it might actually feel very slow, and I also thought it would add a nice little bit of comedy as Dom watches his best friend’s hand fly by him.

CP: Oh! Which brings me to that guy, oh my God, it’s like, because, Withnail and I, Richard E. Grant, is in Withnail and I.

RS: I know, I wrote this movie for him.

CP: [laughs]

RS: Withnail and I is my favorite film comedy.

CP: Oh, man.

RS: I think it’s about as perfect a movie as you can get, and I’ve always been a gigantic Richard E. Grant fan, he sorta dropped off my radar for the last 10 years or so, and I was wondering where he was, and I do a little research and I found out he was still, you know, alive and kickin’, and as I was writing this movie, I was like, you know what? I’m gonna write—who knows if I ever even get the movie made, or if I’ll have a chance to get Richard E. Grant, but I’m just gonna write it for him, in my mind, I called the character Dickie, obviously, so I was thinking of him, and just the way the magic of good luck sometimes works, he was available and excited. He’s just an incredibly funny actor, and if you watched carefully, he doesn’t even have that many lines, it’s just more his reactions to what Dom is doing that gets major laughs.

CP: Yeah, most of the time it’s posture and his face.

RS: Exactly, he’s got one of those faces, it’s crazy.

CP: He’s great. He’s changed, since Withnail and I, physically, not tremendously, but enough, and I was just like, What am I getting here? It was just kinda that, and I guess it’s just because he was there, that I got that Withnail vibe, I dunno.

RS: Well, the fact of the matter is that if you really wanted to push yourself into some way of thinking, you know, Withnail is never gonna be, like, a small-time crook, he was an actor, and a scaredy-cat. But there is a world where you could imagine a failed Withnail sitting in a bar all day, and in a way that’s what Dickie is, he’s a mid-level crook who sits in a bar all day and this is his best friend, who gets him into a lot of trouble, but also, is one of the best times to be had in the world. And that’s how we treated Dickie, but also how we looked at Dom, which is, Dom is someone who you’d wanna get two beers with, but you probably wouldn’t wanna get a third beer with, and if you got a fourth beer with, you might end up in jail. But if you had a fifth beer with him, you’d probably have the greatest night of your life, and if you had a sixth beer, you’d probably end up in a car accident.

CP: And you look at this, and it’s kinda like, you know, it’s a movie about a guy and part of it is about a relationship to a child that he lost touch with and stuff like that, and you could say maybe, “It’s a guy’s movie,” and stuff like that, and I’m looking at stuff you’ve done, and you direct Girls!

RS: Yeah. You know, the fact of the matter is, I feel so lucky I get to dive into so many facets of my personality. I had just directed two episodes of Girls right before we started production on Dom, I mean literally finished one night and got on a plane the next day. It is strange to go from one world to another world, but that is sort of the charm of my profession, and one of the things I actually like most about it. And while Dom is not much like Girls at all, clearly the two worlds meet somewhere in between with me.

CP: I gotta say a lot of the performers on Girls just leave it all out there, man, so that’s a connection.

MP: Last question.

RS: OK, thank you. You know, this season on Girls, I don’t know if you watch, but Richard E. Grant is in this season of Girls.

CP: Yeah!

RS: Because Lena had seen a rough cut of Dom Hemingway to give me some notes, and she was like “oh my God, Richard Grant’s so great, let’s put him in the show!”

CP: No shit? Wow. Wow! That’s crazy. He’s great on Girls. One thing, the flooding of red—

RS: Yes.

CP: What’s that all about, is that just because, it’s like, I remember, one of my visual memory of The Matador is all this lush, luxurious, lurid color, you know these just big frames of just, you know, visual. What’s up with that? I love that, just like boom! The whole fuckin’ frame is red. What’s that about?

RS: I think that it’s just a way to keep the energy up, of the movie, I mean Dom has a lot of red in his life, he’s a bloody guy, on every level, emotionally, he lets it all hang out there and he’s caused wreckage on every level, with his daughter, with his friends, with himself, and so red is significant in that way. And when you cut to red and have an image that’s striking on the screen, it gives the movie another level.

MP: Hate to interrupt, but we have to go to the next interview.

CP: OK, wait, one sec, you there?

RS: Yup.

CP: OK, real quick, where are you and are you enjoying a beverage or eating anything right now?

RS: I’m sitting in a hotel room drinking an Evian, slightly hungover, and this is the first of what will be a long line of interviews, but it started out with a bang, I really enjoyed this one.

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Film Review: Jodorowsky’s Dune

A film about a film that never was

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A sketch from “the Dune book,” a relic of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s stillborn project

Jodorowsky’s Dune

irected by Frank Pavich

Opens April 25 at the Charles Theatre

Imagine a world in which Star Wars was just a successful B flick, and where a different sort of space opera colonized the brains of two generations and counting. Imagine a world in which children play Fremen warriors rather than Jedi knights, and where few recognize the name George Lucas but everyone knows Alejandro Jodorowsky. That’s the world that Frank Pavich’s new documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, hints at while entertainingly tracing how it might have come to exist.

In our world, only film nerds and counterculture connoisseurs are likely to light up at the mention of Jodorowsky’s name. While his El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973) have emerged from decades of samizdat scarcity, his crypto-mystic psychedelic tales of spiritual gunfighters and alchemical hero quests remain a minority taste. And yet, as Pavich’s polished blend of talking heads and archival imagery relates, the films were successful and buzzed-about enough internationally in the mid-’70s that French producer Michel Seydoux wooed the Chilean-born Jodorowsky by telling him to “do whatever you want” and he would help him make it. As Jodorowsky recounts for Pavich’s camera, he immediately responded “Dune”—Frank Herbert’s smash 1965 sci-fi novel, which at the time he had not read.

He not only went on to read it, he immersed himself in its story of an exotic galactic empire, a mind-expanding spice, and the noble scion who leads an interplanetary religious revolution. And he came to see in it a chance to expand not only artistic vistas but human ones. As he tells Pavich, he aimed to create a film that would create LSD-like hallucinations without LSD and that would change the world. (On camera, at a spry 84, he says such things with great passion and wit and little or no delusional glint.)

Jodorowsky soon pulled key collaborators into his obsession. He drafted the late French comics artist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, to help him imagine Herbert’s worlds and characters, and to storyboard the script shot by shot—a process that led to more than 3,000 drawings. He recruited British illustrator Chris Foss and obscure Swiss artist H.R. Giger to further expand his unprecedented vision, liberally documented here. But this wasn’t mere Hollywood-movie development. The uncompromising Jodorowsky recruited only true believers—“spiritual warriors”—to work on his “sacred” film, rejecting visual-effects titan Douglas Trumbull for the latter’s lack of world-changing fervor. He cast his teenage son Brontis as the saga’s hero, Paul Atreides, and put him into a vigorous martial arts/swordplay training regimen for six hours a day, seven days a week, for two years.

Jodorowsky had more notable figures lined up for his cast too. He talked to Kung Fu star David Carradine about playing Paul’s father. He says he clinched Orson Welles to play villain Baron Harkonnen by promising him a personal chef. And he got insane arch-surrealist Salvador Dalí to play the emperor of the galaxy by promising him $100,000 per minute of screen time and a flaming giraffe. Then he headed to Hollywood to try to raise the last $5 million needed to put it all on film.

Jodorowsky notes casually that Disney said no, as if there could be any way that a studio then producing the likes of The Apple Dumpling Gang and Freaky Friday would say otherwise. Everyone else said no too, which gets to the essential disconnect at the heart of Jodorowsky’s project, and of Jodorowsky’s Dune: For all of the director’s passion and for all the bracing richness and depth of his vision, he had set himself a task that would be almost impossible to achieve on any budget. One of the highlights of Pavich’s doc is a discussion/ad hoc recreation of Jodorowsky’s planned opening shot, a tracking shot that would travel across the entire universe before arriving at the planet Dune. As critic Devin Faraci points out in his interview, there may have been no way whatsoever to do that given the effects technology of the time. And in the end, no bottom line-minded studio executive who had seen The Holy Mountain—or been subject to one of Jodorowsky’s fervid pitches—was going to pull out his checkbook for a relatively conventional take on the material, much less a cosmic mindblower the director suggested could be “12 hours, 20 hours” long. Pavich’s film seems to cede to the fanboy perspective that Jodorowsky’s Dune never went into production mostly because of timid bean counters, rather than its daunting impracticality.

David Lynch would go on make a Dune adaptation, released in 1984. Jodorowsky describes to Pavich his dread at the prospect of seeing his dream project realized by a director he respected, and his glee when he forced himself to go and quickly realized “the picture was awful.” And maybe in the end Jodorowsky wins anyway. Pavich’s film makes a good case that the Jodorowsky version’s behind-the-scenes influence was huge and long-lasting despite its stillborn status. In the most obvious example, visual-effects coordinator Dan O’Bannon recruited Foss and Giger to work on a new film he was co-writing; the result, Alien, would go on to redefine what space travel and otherworldly nightmares looked like onscreen. And the work that Jodorowsky and his collaborators did still survives in “the Dune book,” an inches-thick bespoke volume featuring the conceptual sketches and Jodorowsky and Giraud’s detailed storyboarded script (only two copies are known to exist).

Pavich draws heavily on the Dune book to give an inkling of what the finished film might have been like, with his subject’s enthusiastic participation. Director Nicolas Winding Refn discusses having dinner with Jodorowsky and having him grab the book and talk the film through, as he does here. Refn contends that’s as close as anyone will come to seeing Jodorowsky’s Dune. Elsewhere, illustrator Foss opines that the actual film perhaps never could have lived up to Jodorowsky’s detailed, enthusiastic description of it. Perhaps Jodorowsky’s Dune, then, is something more than the next best thing.

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White Girls

Marlon Wayans talks about his new movie and his desire to play Richard Pryor

Photo: cp_20140409_film1, License: N/A


Lee Daniels: Hire this guy!

What the hell happened to the Google Maps thing you use on your iPhone app-thing? It used to work pretty good, but there have been some “updates” to my phone and Google and stuff, and I used it to guide me to the place where they do all the “press events” in Washington, D.C., because I always get lost in D.C., and the Google put me in ever-widening circles around my destination when I was a few minutes away.

So: I was late for my interview with Marlon Wayans, who is a member of the Wayans family of famous comedic entertainers, and he is currently starring in A Haunted House 2, but I didn’t see AHH 1, and they (and you know who They are) didn’t let me see a preview of this 2 film, but c’mon, it’s a comedy about a haunted house, another one, or the same one, anyway, you get the picture, and you probably already know if you want to go see it, but in the interests of furthering my career as an interviewer of people who want you to go see their Filmed Entertainments, go see this movie! Even if you don’t want to!

After the MOVIE PEOPLE moved stuff around and I waited a bit in the swanky hotel lobby, it turned out Marlon Wayans’ schedule had five minutes left for me. Usually you get like, 20 minutes. I was late, so I’m not complaining, just saying. I rolled into the hotel interview-suite with my SONY PCM-M10 running, along with my backup SONY ICD-P330F and my phone, recording. I am paranoid about forgetting to push the “REC” button properly. I don’t remember what Mr. Wayans was wearing. He looked very relaxed. There had been some earlier disturbance out in the hall about acquiring some plastic bags, so I resisted the urge to make some sort of hotel room asphyxiation joke, until now. Anyway!


City Paper: This is good, like, the last one was eight minutes, with Rancic.* This one’ll be five minutes.

* I interviewed Bill Rancic, who was on The Apprentice, and has a new teevee show about Kitchen Casino on the Food Network, but this publication “passed,” so if you are interested, I could let you have—at a Reasonable Rate—eight captivating minutes of me with Bill Rancic of Kitchen Casino.

Movie Publicity Person: Yeah, you can make it work. Your “key questions!” Better than just turning around and going home!

CP: Yeah. I woulda been fine with that too, though. (Laughs)

MPP: (Laughs)


MPP: [to another movie person] (Unintelligible whispering) . . . plastic bags (unintelligible) checking the bags they don’t have single bags. [To City Paper] (Whispering) Joe, hi, you’re literally gonna have five minutes.

CP: I know.

AMP: (Unintelligible whispering)

CP: I’m goin’ in hot, goin’ in hot.

Yet Another Movie Person: Joe?

CP: Yep!

YAMP: Come in with me?

CP: ’kay.

YAMP: Mr. MacLeod; Marlon Wayans.

CP: Alright, I’m comin’ in hot, I got five minutes!

YAMP: Five minutes.

CP: (Apologizing for being late) Sorry.

Marlon Wayans: How you doin’ bro?

CP: Google Maps steered me wrong, and here I am, and I got five minutes and I hope you got your plastic bag situation straightened out.

MW: You’re actually on time, for me.

CP: OK, good.

MW: I’m black.

CP: (sotto voce) Oh, really, we’re goin’ there?

MW: (Laughs)

CP: Oh, man, you always have, though, White Girls.*

*A 2004 comedy about a pair of black male FBI agents who dress up as white girls to protect some white girls, but that’s not even the name of the movie exactly. Also: It grossed 70 million dollars in the United States.

MW: Yeah.

CP: White Girls woulda been a much better “R” rated movie, though.

MW: White Chicks.

CP: White CHICKS, I’m sorry—

MW: Actually, no, because—

CP: (Repeating title again as if somehow that erases saying the title incorrectly two times, but what does Marlon Wayans care, that thing grossed 70 mil!) White Chicks.

MW: —it may have been too crass for women. Guys woulda liked it better, but a large part of the female audience really liked the fact that we walked the line.

CP: Because you were gentle.

MW: Yeah, if we went to “R,” it woulda made it a boys movie, and that was more of a chick flick—but not really—but I just think it made us behave. And I think it had a broader appeal because of that if we went ‘R,” it’d have been funnier, in some places—

CP: But it wouldn’ta done as well.

MW: Wouldn’ta done as well.

CP: Yeah.

MW: No.

CP: Yeah, because of course, I just wanted to see the whole Terry Crews thing, go to—

MW: Go all the way down? (laughs)

CP: —its logical extreme, so to speak.

MW: (Laughs) You wanted to see that, I didn’t.

CP: Well, I want to see it happen to somebody else.

MW: That’s one scene I wouldn’t. (Laughs)

CP: So, um, you’re like Hollywood royalty, and I wanna commend you and your entire family for uh, doing your work, and your entertainment and stuff, and not being a buncha fuckups who end up in the paper or in publicity, organs, magazines—

MW: We try not to.

CP: You guys are amazing. What is your secret to doing that, is there like a tremendous faith center here or is it just a good family of level-headed people?

MW: I think two—three things. One, great parenting. My mom and dad are wonderful, they’re still here, so we’re very responsive and very respectful to our parents.

CP: Were they artsy?

MW: My mother is artsy, my dad, he’s just a hard worker. So I think we got the combination of the two. Two, I don’t think we do it for fame? We do it for the fun, we do it because we love it. We’re like Alaska, we haven’t really dug into the oil reserves yet.

CP: (laughs)

MW: And, you know we’re not, we’re known for what we do, we’ve never been known for who we do. Who we date, and all that stuff. That’s unimportant, my personal life is not important.

CP: That’s great, I don’t, there’s a certain amount of attention that gets paid to that stuff, that filters into your head anyway, and you guys are like: Nothing.

MW: Fame has changed. People are doing things to be loud and be boisterous, and be crazy, because they want that kinda fame, and that’s the trend right now, but I’m a believer in things coming back, they reset, they balance out, everybody wants to go do the new trend. I’m a guy—it’s like the flattop—I knew it was comin’ back—

CP: Really?

MW: —but I’m just gonna stay with this haircut—naw, I’m just joking—we never seek that kind of fame, plus, we check each other, if I’m out there my brothers call me, I still feel like—I’m 40—I’ll get punched in my chest, so out of respect for each other, we check each other, like, “Yo, you can’t do that.” We often do. So it’s good, it’s good to have each other, because we understand what one another’s going through and we can empathize, and we respect each other because we’re all in the same situation.

CP: You guys are amazing for staying off the radar, man. Just showing up when it’s time to get paid.

MW: When it’s time for a movie, I go to the press, when it’s not time for a movie, I’m a pretty chill dude, I don’t even show up to red carpet stuff. And I’m not running from press; oftentimes, TMZ will see me, they’ll ask me a question, I’ll say something funny, and I’ll leave. I don’t need to get caught up in scandals and all that, punchin’ people and beatin’ up paparazzi, nah, I’ll hit a paparazzi, and he’ll kick my ass, you don’t want the wrong press! (laughs)

CP: Have you done any serious stuff?

MW: I did Requiem for A Dream with Darren Aronofsky and I thought that was a great dive into drama, I worked with the Coen Brothers on The Ladykillers, it was more of a comedy, with a little hint of drama in it, but, I’d love to do, like, the Richard Pryor story. I did a great drama with my brother Damon that he never released, and it was a tragedy, a dark drama about comedy. And it was such a dope film, it was a great—if I say so myself—great performance, but he just decided he wasn’t gonna put it out. It was called Behind the Smile. So I feel like, either way, that didn’t happen, it was that, and doing standup now as preparation, if I ever wind up doing the Pryor role, if I do Richard Pryor, then everything happened, I believe, in alchemy—it happened for a reason.

CP: Is that, I mean, are you angling for that?

MW: I had it, and then they changed directors, it’s Lee Daniels now (Precious, Lee Daniels’ The Butler), and Lee’s gonna have his choice, and make his choice on who he wants, and I learned a long time ago, the one thing I can’t change is a director’s mind. You gotta kinda respect their vision, and honestly, you can’t get upset, if it’s not you, you just gotta go, “That wasn’t his vision.” As an actor, you are a mannequin in a director’s world, and a producer’s world. Whoever he wants, that’s who it’s gonna be, I just know I’ve been preparing for it, and if the day happens, I’ll rock it.

CP: Wow! OK, [LOOKS AT YAMP] you’re tellin’ me we’re done, huh? [LEANS IN TO RECORDING DEVICE] Lee Daniels! Hire this guy for this Richard Pryor biopic, please, OK?

MW: You heard the man, Lee!

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Film Review: Noah

Aronofsky, trying to please both the religious and the agnostic succeeds in jeering at both.

Photo: , License: N/A

“I forgot my umbrellaaaaaaa!”


Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Playing at Various Theaters

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is an excellent example of the modern tendency to cram religion and reason into amiable coexistence and, in doing so, to butcher both. And though the Old Testament remains quite safe from those like Aronofsky, anyone who values literature will bristle at the puerility of the script. Had the biblical story been retooled as farce, satire, or intelligible commentary, it might have amounted to a work of value, but the viewer is left with a slur on religious traditions and characters for nothing more than an action-movie cash grab.

Noah starts off with a recap of the beginnings of humanity—the serpent, the expulsion, Cain and Abel—and explains that the cursed descendants of Cain have spread across the planet (a weird, Pangea-like continent) helped by the Watchers, a number of fallen angels that chose to educate humanity about survival through technology after the fall. The descendants of Cain have degraded the world—denuding the environment in search of a mystical mineral called zohar. In their unceasing quest for this zohar, they slew many of the Watchers in a Hobbesian glut of violence. Fast-forward to the in-film present, and Noah (played by Russell Crowe) wanders the wilderness with his wife and children in cautious solitude. This Noah is something of a pure naturalist combined with a reluctant warrior—think Al Gore as a samurai.

A vision beckons him to see his grandfather, Methuselah (played by Anthony Hopkins), in some far-off land. Accompanied by his exceedingly pretty wife, Namaah (played by Jennifer Connelly), and his children, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah sets across the ashen world toward his grandfather’s mountain. Along the way, he meets a rogue Watcher (played by a CGI rock creature) who elects to assist Noah. More visions and the bland “wisdom” of his grandfather convince Noah that “the Creator” is planning to annihilate the world in a flood and Noah must build an ark to save the animals and his family. Aronofsky tries to keep one foot in the secular world by declining to show or let the audience hear from God directly and, by placing a veil between the viewer and God, he allows the skeptic a chance to accept the bizarre events as having natural explanations.

The results of this strategy are muddled. In Genesis chapter six, Noah is described as a perfect and just man. God tells Noah that he will be destroying all life on Earth, but that he will establish a covenant with Noah and keep his family alive. Much of the drama of the film revolves around Noah’s certainty that God has commanded him to make sure that his family will not procreate after the waters subside, resulting in the end of humanity, rather than its salvation. Which makes the whole journey pointless. Why not just let them die in the flood? Instead of the just man described in Scripture, the film gives us a homicidal lunatic chasing after his son’s wife to stab her two newborn daughters to death. Of course he doesn’t, but he vocally regrets his inability to follow the creator’s orders to commit infanticide—an order found nowhere in the Old Testament (unless you count Abraham). If this is Aronofsky’s way of portraying the story of the Bible, he’s only insulting the source material.

The second insult is to try and couch the Creation in secular imagery. On the ark, Noah gives an elaborate story of how “the Creator” made the world. As he gives an unpoetic version of the first chapter of Genesis, we’re shown galaxies forming, the accretion of the earth from dust, the primordial seas, primitive life taking shape, and the disjointed evolution of apes. The ape never “evolves” into a human. Instead, man is shown afterward, standing in the garden, glowing and naked in his pure state. Besides some unintentionally stupid scenes, like Noah insisting that these things are taking place over “days,” or birds coming into existence before land animals, the Aronofsky story is not brave enough to take a stand between evolution and biblical creation—leaving man as a created entity among evolved animals. Thus, by trying to please both the religious and the agnostic, Aronofsky succeeds in jeering at both.

The strongest moment of the film is also the bravest. Aronofsky lets us see the people left behind, awash on the last remaining crags of earth, with the seas rising around them. We don’t meet any of them—that might sour the mood too much—but at least an acknowledgment is made of the suffering of the unchosen. As an aside, it was admittedly clever of Aronofsky to have the only humans trying to climb aboard the ark be murderous thugs. Instead of Noah shutting the door on a pleading crowd, he beats them down, axe in hand, as their legions charge him. But, in the end, Noah is a cheap, unprincipled, irreligious, and offensive movie. It refuses to confront any serious philosophical issues in Genesis, degrades the source material, and slaps the moviegoer in the face. Like Noah, you’ll want to get soused and stumble around naked afterward just to get the film out of your mind.

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