Generally speaking, a nature documentary can go one of two routes: it can celebrate the dynamism of an animal, educating viewers on the lifestyle, paramount importance, and ecological strifes of the species at hand... or it can go for the cute factor. Disneynature's latest film Bears does not disappoint in either area. The beautiful, clever, and warm film from returning directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey has a mission to engage America with an animal that often gets a bad rap in the media, and which has faced the brunt of human cruelty for too long. Having renowned ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall on board with production bodes pretty well for the movie, too.
Now in theaters, Bears is not only aiming to help the cause of its titular creatures by spreading the good word, but it is also donating a portion of its box office intake to the National Park Foundation. If you attend a showing of the Disneynature movie during its first week in theaters (Friday, April 18 through Friday, April 25) part of your ticket proceeds will go toward the all-important cause of making this world a safer place for animals.
We got a chance to talk with directors Fothergill and Scholey, as well as Dr. Goodall, on the importance of the Disneynature films, the state of the natural world, and the majestic creatures of bears themselves.
Ever since watching the film, I've been thinking about the way that the media has depicted bears. I'm kind of unsure on this — do you think the media has been unfair or irresponsible in the portrayal of bears?
Alastair Fothergill: I think it depends which. There is a scattering and certainly some, I’d say almost notorious films, have been very anti-bear, and you can probably name a few. So I think this portrayal of bears as these big sort of dangerous animals... there’s no doubt bears can be dangerous. The issue with bears is that if you find bears in the wild, where they’ve had no bad experiences with people, and the relationship between people and bears has been managed well, which is exactly the place we filmed, in Katmai National Park, you don’t have a problem with bears.
And I think the film, well, we’re not interested in depicting in our story the relationship of people. In the end credits section, in the end, we do tacitly to deal with that issue, because we wanted to make sure that people knew our film was genuinely filmed in the wild, and when you actually see images of cameramen really close to bears and having a subtle relationship, I hope it sends a message out that absolutely, that’s all right. We have to be clear though, that bears, in some places, you know, have had bad experiences with people and the wrong relationships are dangerous. There’s no two ways about it. But it’s not the bear’s fault. It’s nearly always the circumstances.
Offering this more positive viewpoint of bears — in a light we don't often see, that they can be peaceful if they have been unharmed by people — I'm wondering what the larger benefits of that are? In an ecological or just psychological way.
Dr. Jane Goodall: Well, hopefully, these films, movies, they create for people a sort of intimate connection with animals that they’re unlikely, most of them, ever to find for themselves. Because most people don’t have the luxury of going for weeks and weeks out into wild places. Hopefully young people might then be persuaded to go and spend more time outside, because there really is such a terrifying disconnect between young people and nature today, with all of the electronical gadgets. Living in virtual reality is so different, and the big screen gives you the feeling of being out in a big, wide space. Hopefully it will stir some young people to want to do that themselves.
What do you guys think are the actual benefits that come with spending so much time with nature, or interacting with animals? I'm sure there are countless.
AS: Oh, golly, that’s a very big question. Obviously for us, who have grown up with a passion for nature, it’s sort of our life blood. But actually, I think it extends towards humanity. I think that even the most urban people need proximity to the natural world. You see, here in New York, people plant grass on rooftops, you know, the High Line is a place to go and see some plants. And I think it’s absolutely rooted in our psyche. One of the things I’ve found working in the wildlife business, whether they’re scientists or filmmakers or conservationists, I think they’re better people for it. They’re nicer people. It’s one of the things I love about my job. I genuinely think people who are fortunate enough to have a lot of exposure to nature... it’s part of our soul. It’s oxygen, I think, and a lot of people are cut off from that natural oxygen. And if we can give them an artificial shot of natural oxygen right in the cinema, then I think it’s very, very precious. And as Jane says, “How can people care if they know?” Keith and I don’t make environmentally – overtly environmental films, but I’m absolutely certain that films that we have made are important in raising people’s awareness.
Certainly. Especially children, I think.
JG: They’ve actually studies to show that children benefit psychologically from experience with nature. I think it was Chicago, they took two areas of high crime in the inner city, and one of them they greened — in other words, they put plants in vacant lots, window boxes and so forth — and the crime rate just dropped.
That kind of leads into something I was thinking about while watching the movie: what can these animals teach us about ourselves? We see the hierarchy of the bears' social structure — the dominant male, the pariah.
KS: I don’t think what we’re trying to do so much is try to tell people what to think about ourselves. I hope that the film is trying to say, “Look, this is how bears live, so understand the life of the bear and respect the life of the bear.” I think we’ve been very true to what it’s like being a bear, you know, some bears do things that we would consider bad, even on biological terms and there is no bad —
JG: I’m not so sure about that. [Laughs]
KS: [Laughs] It’s a tricky area. But anyway, there’s a sense of being true to what that story is and how they live. But I think fundamentally, what we’re always trying to do is to show – now, you look at this mother bear, you look at what she has to go through to raise those cubs. Look at what those cubs have to go through to become adult bears. So, whenever you see adult bears, you’re looking at a superhero. You’re looking at an animal with a huge history, who’s been through all sorts of amazing things. And wow, isn’t it important, then, to protect that superhero? I can’t believe personally, that someone could get a high-velocity rifle and shoot a superhero. If they knew that story, and what that animal had been through, I don’t think anyone would contemplate doing it.
And part and parcel of the film is to try and say all these animals are really special because of what their lives — understand their natural lives. I don’t think it necessarily tells us about ourselves, but it does say, “Wow, those are special.” I have to say, it’s like a piece of art. Would anyone rip up the Mona Lisa? Well, if you didn’t know what it was, you might.
JG: Somebody did.
KS: Somebody would, if they didn’t understand it. But if you do understand it, you go, “No, I won’t do that.”
JG: Somebody stabbed the Mona Lisa. I think they did. To destroy it —
AF: That’s why it’s got glass in front...
KS: Oh, okay.
AF: There are idiots in the world. [Laughs]
JG: Sports hunting.
That only furthers your point, I think.
KS: But I think if you understand bears, I think you’d have a different view. Hopefully the film will do that.
For me, having not studied bears in any significant way, the movie definitely gives them an empathy. I know that in a lot of your work, Dr. Goodall, a lot of people have found reasons to question whether or not we should empathize with animals. But I think that, clearly, you are all on the side that it is beneficial to.
JG: Yeah. There’s been a big danger with science saying that we should be wholly objective and not have any empathy. That’s lead to some very, very nasty happening. And I think we need to work with left and right brain in harmony. And that’s what we have to learn to do. Nature helps you to do that.
Animal Planet via Everett Collection
I know you said earlier that it wasn't a purpose of the film to teach us about ourselves, but I noticed that there was a little bit of a feminist message at the end. Scout realizes that the "tough bear role model" that he was looking for was actually his mother...
AF: I think, it’s quite interesting none of our Disney nature films have made — one called African Cats, I believe — females do tend to turn out to be the good guys...
KS: Girls. The good girls.
AF: The good girls, yes. [Laughs] Yes. I think the biological facts are raising cubs, it is females who have complete responsibility for this, and ultimately, if you look at their struggle or the struggle of any female animal raising a youngster to adulthood, it’s the greatest struggle on Earth. You’re always going to end up feeling, empathizing with her. And often males have their own biological agendas that do not fit with the cubs and youngsters’ agenda, in terms of raising them. [Laughs] So I think there’s a natural. We had no...
KS: We weren’t trying to make a feminist... It’s just reality of the situation.
JG: That's America for you.
AF: It’s just organic. And I think the other thing is, so far all the movies we’ve made — African Cats, Chimpanzee — have centered around a young animal growing up. Actually, we regularly discuss “Is there another story we can tell?” The problem is that the babies tend to be very, very cute, and the first few years in the life of the babies tend to be one of the greatest danger and drama. That means, though, they tend to be centered around female heroes, because in lots of animals, in nature, the male tends to do very little other than contribute his genes. One of these days, we need to make a pro-male movie, because in all honesty...
AF: Actually, males in chimpanzee certainly have a fantastic role in protecting the other females. Male bears, you know, once they’ve done the deed, they’re gone.
KS: Nothing on the horizon about the seahorse, then.
AF: My next movie’s about penguins, actually...
KS: That’s a 50/50.
AF: Yeah, that’s a 50/50, actually.
JG: Birds are 50/50.
AF: So we’re trying to – we don’t want the men to come out too badly. But a lot of women really love that line, the line you mention. That’s really rung bells with them. And you, know, that's good.
And I'd just like to know what you think is the responsibility of the average person to make this a better world for animals and for people.
JG: If we think each day about the consequences of our actions we make more ethical choices. And I know that’s true because so many people have told me. What do you buy? Where did it come from? Where do you eat? How did it affect the environment and animals? What do you wear? Was it child slave labor? When it comes to bringing it home to bears, it’s a little bit more difficult. It comes to the general thing of bears, they’re part of a beautiful ecosystem, they’re part of the planet, and we should respect them as such and try to work to ensure that the places where they live are saved. And through our youth program — we already have programs teaching people how to behave. If they have pushed into bear habitats, mainly black bears — and so the bear is trying to get, they raid trash cans. So if people have absolutely bear-proof places for their trash, the bears are much less likely to get into it.
AF: I think the thing that’s changed in our lifetime is that when we started in this business, conservation was very about saving pandas, saving chimps — and it still is and so it should be — but actually, it’s reached another level of recognition that even if you don’t care about animals, the planet is in such a state... this is our only planet. And that’s the good news. David Attenborough said to us, when he started the word green meant naïve. The word green means something totally different now. And I think there’s an awareness of the need to protect chimps, bears, the wilderness, forests for us to breathe. It’s no longer down the bottom of political agenda. It’s almost at the top of the political agenda, really.
JG: In some countries.
AF: Yeah, in some countries. I agree with you, Jane. There’s a lot where finance and money still rules, but we have to be optimistic. And I think you have to get out of bed and say, "We’re saving a planet." You’re not saving the Serengeti, you’re saving a planet. And of course, the Serengeti is a very important part of that planet, but I think it’s reached a completely high level. It’s not fluffy bunnies anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with fluffy bunnies. [Laughs]
JG: When I started back in 1960, there was no need to conserve chimps. Their forests stretched right across. There were a million chimps.
KS: I know. I think this is what’s so shocking is how fast the situation’s changed. For a biologist it’s ridiculously fast. One understands evolution, biology, it’s almost like a meteorite hit the planet, it’s so rapid, and it’s just kind of trying to contain the situation, for want of anything else to try. I think for all of us now, time hasn’t quite run out, but it’s getting very, very close.
JG: And the thing which nobody will talk about, because it’s politically insensitive, and that’s human population, which underlies everything. We’re not supposed to talk about it. Tanzania’s been congratulated by the government for taking the lead on family planning in that part of Tanzania. Because governments are starting to get it. Because there ain’t 'nuff space.
Get your tickets to Disneynature's Bears now (while you can still contribute to the cause!)
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Paramount via Everett Collection
This just in: nothing is sacred. That's right, Indiana Jones is possibly being considered for a reboot. The classic adventure series, created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg has become a classic in the cinema world, and according to a rumor from Latino Review, the series might come to resemble another classic film staple in the coming years. The site reports that while the original Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford, is still being considered for a possible Indiana Jones 5, the series could simply reboot with a new actor a la the James Bond series if Mr. Ford in unavailable. If all that wasn't enough, Bradley Cooper is at the top of their list of possible candidates to take over the role. Since a new crop of Indiana Jones films seems like a definite possibility (yes we live in that awful world), we decided to make the best of the situation and share our thoughts on what the new films should bring back, improve upon, or ditch with regards to the first four films of the series.
Things They'd Need to Bring Back
The SettingMr. Jones would do well to keep to his original decade. With World War II right around the corner, the 1930s were wired like a stick of dynamite ready to blow. With several conflicts brewing, and several chances for Indy to mix it up with different enemies, the decade was the perfect place to set a world spanning archaeological adventure.
The CostumeThe tan fedora, the leather jacket, those boots. Indiana Jones' outfit is a bona fide classic, and changing one iota of it would be pure cinema sacrilege. Several things need updating in bringing Indy back for a second round of adventures, but the outfit is off limits.
The Tone With the original Raiders, Lucas and Spielberg crafted the perfect tone for their hero. The first film of the series was loose and pulpy adventure that hearkened back to classic film serials, and dime store novels. It was a load of swashbuckling fun. Sure the series needs its darker moments (as we'll see later), but the camp should be plentiful.
The Exotic LocalesAlmost like a rustic James Bond, Indy was at its best when he was traveling to far off places in search for adventure, and uncovering the secrets history forgot. The new Indiana Jones should find himself going even further into the unknown than his predecessor did, going to places we've never seen Indy visit.
The MysticismThe Indiana Jones series has always blended history and myth into one, and things shouldn't change there either. The new films should have one foot in the past, and the other breaking ground on new myths to cull from.
The Darker MomentsIn the middle of all that swashbuckling, there still needs to be a real sense of peril in Indy's new adventures The series' darker moments like the terrifying images of melting Nazis in Raiders, or pretty much anything that had to do with the cult from Temple of Doom gave the films a sense of danger, and that danger should show up in the reboot.
The NazisIs there an enemy more fun to foil than the Nazis. They're the quintessential movie villain, and it's no coincidence that the series has gone back to that well for three out of its four outings. The series should explore some new foes, but it would be remiss if we didn't see at least one Nazi getting the business end of a whip to the tune of the classic Indy Score.
Things They'd Need to Fix Up a Bit
The Depiction of Other CulturesFor all of its efforts to be worldly and exotic, the Indiana Jones series could be pretty insensitive towards other cultures. More often than not, the Indiana Jones series fumbled when it came to displaying foreign cultures in a positive light, and many depictions of non-European people slipped into the realm of caricature. The Indians in Temple of Doom were either evil or too weak to help themselves until a white man came from on high to save them (and do these Indians eat some weird stuff or what?). Also, as much as we love Short Round, if we're being honest with ourselves, his image is a tad insensitive. But hey, it's a film set in the '30s and made in the '80s, so it was to be expected. This new reboot should try to steer clear of those pitfalls. Foreign cultures should be fascinating and strangely beguiling, not something to point and laugh at.
Add Some Satire/Self-referential HumorTo be frank, we already have a set of perfectly good Indiana Jones films sitting in our DVD cases already. In order to improve on what's already a terrific formula, this new movie should probably try to poke some fun at itself and the genre. The latest James Bond film Skyfall had some funny and poignant things to say about James Bond mythos, and this new Indy reboot should follow suit.
All New SidekicksThe sidekicks throughout the series range for terrible (Willie) to great (Henry Jones Sr.), but it's for the best if the film starts out fresh and abandons the lot of them for new characters. This new reboot needs to create its own legacy, and becoming a slave to the past is not the way to do that.
All New ArtifactsLikewise, we need all new artifacts for these new movies. That means no Holy Grails, Crystal Skulls, or Arks of the Covenant allowed (thought the melting Nazis will be missed).
A Deeper IndyThe film should be kept loose and fun, but a new series wouldn't hurt from changing things up, and delivering a deeper Indiana Jones for audiences to chew on. These days, our action films require a little bit more character in them. We don't want Indiana Jones 5 to turn into a deep character study or anything, but some more depth would be welcome.
Things They'd Need to Cut Altogether
The "Sword Swinging" SceneThe most prolific scene from Raiders should really be left on the cutting room floor. As funny and iconic as it is, the film shouldn't get to cute with the references.
Harrison FordNo one will be Indiana Jones quite like Harrison Ford was. He gave the character such a cool confidence that catapulted him into legendary status. With all that said, and with all due respect, it's time to put the old version of Indy to bed. We should only remember our heroes at their best, and having Harrison Ford do yet another version of the character would be a mistake.
Heavy CGI UseAs we saw in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, bad CGI can be a serious detriment to a film. The reason the original trilogy feels so timeless is because the actions scenes were created using practical effects. CGI in this new film should be kept to a minimum.
The Sci-fithe line between sci-fi and fantasy can be razor thin, but Indy’s adventures are better when they’re steeped in lore rather than science fiction. Crystal Skull tried to blur the lines, and came up short.
Summit Entertainment, LLC
Escape Plan, the movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, remained stuck in prison, only raking in a measly $9.8 million in its opening weekend. Both actors probably used that for a weekend getaway in their heyday. But now, it just seems to show that the moviegoing public has had enough of these two former legends.
Let's face it: both Stallone and Schwarzenegger are in their mid-60s and we seem to be asking ourselves if we want to see these guys pummel each other and run around trying to be action heroes. If we wanted to watch old guys duel, we'd pop Grumpy Old Men into our DVD player. Chances would be higher of one of those guys possibly hurting themselves trying to throw a punch than actually landing one. Actually, both guys are in good enough shape to break my face with one punch, so let's just forget I said that...
Sure, Stallone can still get people to see movies that he's in, but only if he's playing the part of someone he first made much more iconic when he was younger: Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. I don't think he'll be bringing Cobra out of retirement or making Demolition Man II, though. Arnie looks like he might be going to not just one well (Terminator and Conan), but will be in the Twins sequel as well (Triplets). In that case, some might argue that Danny DeVito is more famous now because of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The two of them are actually much better in ensemble movies, which is why everyone loves The Expendables franchise. They should get more comfortable in doing things like that, because the 1980s and '90s are long, long gone (which the gray hair on my head attests). But both of them have enormous egos and we may even see another Rocky and Conan movie decades from now: Rocky and Conan in Their Nursing Homes.
We'd rather see them blend into other movies instead of fading away from the failure to accept what is happening to them.
It’s time for another season of MTV’s hit reality show Teen Mom, which means young people everywhere are tuning in to receive valuable information about safe sex and the realities of raising a child when you’re still a child yourself. Only that’s not what’s happening at all when folks tune in to the show. So I make this plea to people the world over — myself included — please. Can we all stop supporting this terrible series (that is also strangely addictive if you like to watch things that make you really, really angry)? Here are a few reasons to boycott this madness.
Actually, Teen Pregnancy Looks Pretty Awesome
Wait. So, if I’m a teenager in America, and I get knocked up, there’s a chance that I might end up on television? And if I have enough drama, and get into enough Twitter beefs with my fellow co-stars, I could get my own spin-off series? Oh, and then there’s the part where I’ll get paid as well? Sign me up (10 years ago).
Parents Everywhere Achieve A False Sense Of Superiority
Confession time. How many of us watch this show and -- 15 minutes in -- are suddenly parenting experts and/or the best parents ever, because we never once demanded that our Mom babysit for us so we could go on a date with some guy who was not the father of our child? And how many of us pat ourselves on the back because we never got into a screaming match with our babydaddy on the side of the highway? This show makes even the most mediocre parents look top-notch, and turns the rest of us into judgmental, unsympathetic, know-it-alls.
The Adult Parents Of The Teen Parents Are, Often, Equally Horrible
While there have been some parents on the show (teen and otherwise) who were actually not so cringe-worthy, most seasons are just filled with bad parenting left and right. Now, granted, the label of ‘bad parenting’ may be complicated, but let’s just say that many of the teens receive so much “help” from their parents, one gets the sense that they’re not even getting the full brunt of [teen] parenthood, and -- as a result -- neither are the viewers.
An Entire Demographic Of Teen Moms Are Inexplicably Left Out
After years of this show being on the air, you’d think there would have been a handful of teen parents from inner city neighborhoods. Not that diversity would necessarily make up for everything else that is problematic on Teen Mom, but the fact that so many of the girls live in decent-sized homes, in decent neighborhoods adds to a certain glamourized depiction of teen motherhood in America.
Teen Moms Get Turned Into Reality TV Stars
Granted, we are living in an age where fame is not necessarily relative to possession of a particular talent or skill. But one of the most devastating truths about the Teen Mom series is that it turns young, often troubled mothers into celebrities. It’s like taking a troubled child star and handing her a baby, and then sitting back to videotape the results. We’ve seen many of these girls (Jenelle Evans, Farrah Abraham, Amber Portwood, etc.) become walking trainwrecks and fodder for the tabloids. And in all that drama and junk entertainment, it’s easy to forget the children.
More:Farrah Abraham Is Now A Porn Star Casting The Movies For Our Fave Reality Shows 10 Big TV Letdowns
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
During the romantic dry spell between Before Midnight and The Spectacular Now, cinematic audiences were forced to seek new outlets to feed their fix for candy-coated lovin'. Against all odds, we turned to reading — don't worry, it wasn't a book, it was just a website. New York twentysomethings Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman instituted the social experiment 40 Days of Dating, in which the longtime friends retooled their relationship and attacked their own romantic follies by agreeing to date one another for 40 days straight. The result: a nasty breakup, a return to platonic civility, millions of strangers talking nonstop about the endeavor, and a movie deal from Warner Bros.
As reported by Deadline, the real life experiment will be transformed into big screen form by director Michael Sucsy, the mind behind Grey Gardens — hey, this might actually be good! — and The Vow — oh, dammit.
Therein presents the worry: how will the interesting nature of 40 Days carry its penache into the film medium? We've seen dozens of romantic comedy movies with plots strikingly similar to 40 Days of Dating and have been marginally unimpressed by most of them. What made the project so stimulating is that we were dealing with real people and situations, not a scripted Matthew McConaguhey and Kate Hudson.
Sure, the 40 Days movie might attempt to recreate this authenticity (banking on the "based on a true story" element for an added bonus). But... well... we just can't seem to stop worrying about The Vow. Sure, Sucsy has the potent documentary Grey Gardens to his name, but that's all but overshadowed by his pseudo-Nicholas Sparks/Channing Tatum/Rachel McAdams picture The Vow, the rom-commiest of last year's healthy line of rom-coms.
We're not saying that Sucsy will bastardize 40 Days altogether for his adaptation. We don't expect an ending wherein Jess and Tim tie the knot beneath the Eiffel Tower. But some of the intricacies that made their relationship feel so palpably real could dissolve in the face of the basic machinations of the Hollywood formula: the perilous miscommunication, the couple's agonizing aversion to compromise, the frustrating distance between the parties' values — yeah, it all sounds dreadfully unpleasant. More often than not, it was. But in this, it was valuable.
Among the movie industry's endless supply of perfect couples, it's healthy to have one that just shouldn't be (like Jess and Tim, for instance). To have instead an odd look at something that leaves its audience not ensconced in envy and an idealization of modern romance. It would be unfair to say that we're completely without romantic movies of any great authenticity, but the The Vows have a stronghold over the Before Midnights by a wide margin. What we need are more of the latter — perhaps an even more aggressive step into the territories of imperfection. That, if nothing else, is what 40 Days of Dating brings to the table.
With the fan base it has mustered, 40 Days has the kind of celebrity it needs to deliver an effective story with romantic hopefuls and worn out cynics already engrossed. The opportunity Sucsy has here, with so many eyes affixed, is to deliver a story that really channels all of the sour elements of Jessica and Tim's experiment. Theirs is a relationship that no one can idealize. That no one can envy. That will make no one feel inadequate about his own partnership, nor long painfully for one so magical. And, perhaps, one that will make some misplaced individuals take note of familiar struggles, maybe deciding that the man or woman they have been courting is not at all right for them. And that's okay. It didn't work out for the spotlit folks onscreen, so how can we get down on ourselves if it doesn't work out for us?
Somewhere in between the Vows and the 40 Days of Datings are real relationships, healthy and happy and inevitably flawed and challenging relationships, to which we can and should aspire. But with such a surplus of Vows and hardly enough of those middle gems, it might help to have a 40 Days movie — something veritably toxic — to remind us that romantic relationships don't have to be perfect (or even perfectly imperfect). Often, they might suck. Your next one might not be the be-all-end-all, the one that works out. With heroes like Jesses and Tims at our disposal — heroes to whom we can relate, but not aspire — it'll be all the easier to approach every new fling and breakup with healthier, more grounded, and more self-efficacious expectations.
More:'Drinking Buddies' Is the Rom-Com AntedoteJoe Swanberg Talks Deconstructing Romantic ComediesTribeca's Gay Rom-Com 'GBF' Avoids a Hollywood Ending
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
If you've seen The Spectacular Now, then you know it is no ordinary teen drama. Not a bit like most other "last day of high school" movies with which you're well acquainted. And while the genre is filled with fun, moving, and otherwise memorable entries, the new endeavors taken on by The Spectacular Now are more than just inventive, they're invaluable. In speaking with director James Ponsoldt, we touched on how he made his film so "special," what the powerful story means to him, and where the genre is heading as a whole.
First off, I want to know, did you come onto the movie based on a relationship you had with the book?
I had known of the book because it had been nominated for a National Book Award a couple of years before. I hadn't read it. The producers of Spectacular Now approached me after Sundance 2012 — I had a movie called Smashed there — and they said, 'Hey, we loved your movie. Do you want to read this script?’ Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber adapted it.'
I never really thought that I would direct someone else's script, but I was open to it. It sounded interesting, and I was profoundly moved by it. I read Tim's novel immediately afterward and loved.
Was there something specific about the way that they write that made you more willing to take on their script?
I had always been interested in writing something that had dealt with adolescence, and dealt with some stuff that I was dealing with as a teenager. I had never gotten around to it. And then with Tim's book — this character, Sutter, is kind of who I was when I was that age. It was kind of like, 'Oh my God, someone wrote my story.' So it was very much just loving that character and feeling that I had to tell it. Also, the producers were very open. If I was going to do someone else's script, I wanted to do it in a very specific and personal way. I wanted specific actors, I wanted to shoot it in my hometown of Athens, Georgia — there were a lot of things I wanted to do that I thought they would probably… I wanted to give them every reason to say no. But they're like, 'We want to make this with you. Make it in whatever you want. We love it.'
I like the way you use the phrase "my story." There's an authenticity to this that I haven't seen in a movie about adolescence in years. Can you put into words how you guys worked to achieve that?
I think it started from [the fact that] the novel and the screenplay respect the characters and don't passing judgment over them. They allow the characters to not be overly clever or overly cynical. There's an earnestness to it, I think, in the casting. Across the board. I cast actors who I think are unbelievably natural, and who I, and I think the audience, want to spend time with. But who also can really handle dramatic scenes, bring levity to the dramatic scenes, and, in more comedic scenes, can ground them. You never know exactly, emotionally, which pitch or valance a scene's going to have — if it's going to go dark or light. And then really recognizing who these people were as actors, and not micromanaging them. Planning a lot with the actors. Talking about the scenes a ton. Really allowing the freedom for there to be happy accidents — almost seeking those things out.
I feel like a lot of these types of movies are being attempted. Perks came out last year, The Fault in Our Stars is in development now. There have always been movies about teenagers. But is there something about this era that is more conducive to open, honest, and biting movies like these? Or that really needs them?
I think people always need books and films to make them feel less alone. A world where they can connect. I think that everyone has that experience — whatever that book was for them. Whether it's a Judy Blume book, or whether it's Catcher in the Rye. Whatever it is, when you were 13 or 14 and thought, 'Oh my God, I thought I was the only person who was dealing with this.' You really connect strongly [to firsts]. When you get your heart broken for the first time, or you 'break up' with your best friend. You feel like, 'I'm gonna die.' You don't have an elaborate system of coping mechanisms that you develop as an adult to deal with these things. The truth is, if you look at European films or Asian films, they've always been making movies about young people. And they dignify them and take them seriously whether they're six or 16 or 60. As for the American Hollywood studio system, maybe there needs to be a financial incentive for them. At some point, it seems like they decided that these movies aren't financially viable. Or that we need to really go for blockbusters. And these movies are never going to be huge blockbusters the way a four quadrant tent pole comic book movie will. Though I think people can actually articulate now, 'Holy shit. It's been almost 30 years since John Hughes was making those movies.' Say Anything came out in '89. A lot of people who grew up watching those movies are now running studios. So hopefully, they'll realize there is a financial viability. And then actually, I think it's just having a fundamental respect for your audience. Respect for a younger audience. Realizing, 'No, no, they want to see movies about them where it's just them. Not them turning into werewolves. Just them.'
Do you think the movies of John Hughes, or the people who grew up with them and are now making these movies, do you think they lent to them
Yeah, John Hughes… there are some things that I like, but there are things in those movies that I don't like, too. I didn't grow up in a rich white suburb in Chicago. Race and class in those movies I don't really relate to. I grew up in the Deep South, went to a public school. There was a lot of poverty in my school, more black than white. It was very different in that regard.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an amazing movie, but it is a fairy tale. It's a fantasy. There's no consequence. You can do anything. The pain and fear and anxiety in something like The Breakfast Club is real. Cameron Crowe — I think his movies are really tonally spot-on. Richard Linklater, of course. Dazed and Confused is a masterpiece. I think those are movies that you watch at a certain time and they are meaningful. For myself … Lukas Moodyson's first movie Show Me Love is really meaningful. Kes, Ken Loach's film, is really meaningful. Over the Edge. River's Edge. There's a lot of other movies from the '70s and '80s that are more meaningful to me. They go to darker places and don't get as goofy. Humor is great, but it has to be earned. Injecting an emotional scene in the middle of a sitcom isn't really my thing. It's bits and pieces. I'm pretty democratic, I'm not a snob about it. I love having a good time when I see a movie. You know, I'll go back and watch Sixteen Candles. Anthony Michael Hall is still amazing in that movie. Still really, really funny. Amazing in that movie. When you see Robert Downey Jr. in Weird Science, you see that guy is electric. You can just tell: "That guy is going to be somebody!"
What's interesting about this movie is that you don't often have a movie with a character like Sutter. He's dynamic. On the surface, Sutter is what you'd have in a normal teen movie. And then you combine that with a more sensitive character that you'd see in, say, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I'd like to know what you think is achieved by showing that these heroes, these class presidents, also have this darkness and pain.
I think part of what Tim Tharp's novel does, and what the screenplay and the film try to achieve… one thing they deal with is gender politics, and the false notions of masculinity that I think especially young men have been forced fed. If you look at Hollywood studio comedies of the past 15 years, there's an archetype of this crazy, wacky 45-year-old guy who won't grow up! And then he meets a girl and he grows up, or something. And it's kind of absurd. Those movies are fun — they're fairy tales, they're fantasy, they're goofy and not grounded in reality — but the fact is, a lot of these characters are kind of raging narcissists. And if you've ever been raised by a guy who is 45 but still thinks he's 20, that's a horrible person to raise you. That person would abandon your mother, because he's like, "I can't settle down! I like ladies!" Or whatever the thing is. It's kind of a corrosive role model. And I think, at the end of the day, this is a story about a kid who worships a father who abandoned his mother. And he kind of hates his mom for it, for no good reason. He has this idea that this guy is who he should be as a man. And consequently, he treats his mom kind of bad. He's not really that great to the women in his life in general. And all that crazy social drinking he's doing, he's actually medicating pain or deflecting. He's got that laissez-faire "Live in the now, bro!" attitude. It sounds great, it sounds kind of Zen. But it's also ethically lazy. It means, actually, "I don't care what I do to you, or how it affects you in the future, because I'm just living in the now." Actually thinking about the future and being concerned about other people is not such a bad thing. It's actually pretty great.
Do you see that sort of epidemic, the carefree mentality, as a big problem in how it is portrayed in movies?
I don't know. In movies or in life… I just think a lot of movies, in most big movies, I don't connect with them emotionally. I don't connect with the characters. The characters feel totally two-dimensional. I can't see myself in them. I don't think they really think about the characters. I think they're thinking about the action figures. About the plot and the effects. And that's fun. I watch big, dumb event movies. I love 'em. Give me some popcorn and some 3D glasses and I'll have a blast. I do feel that there's an appetite in audiences for a different type of movie, though. Where the characters still live on in their imagination, and people can actually see themselves in them. And they can relate, and access the movie as a compass for what they're doing. I don't know if, or I hope I would never make a "message" movie, or anything like that. I don't know about epidemics. I think there is a lot of lazy filmmaking out there. I think the world needs more films with characters who we can really root for and find ourselves in. That's where it should start from. Start with simpler stories but more complicated characters. That's what I want to see, personally, as a film buff.
I think my favorite line in the entire movie is the final line Sutter says to Bob Odenkirk's character. I'm interested in how you managed to keep such a dramatic scene from fleeing too far from the naturalistic feel of the movie.
It's of note that the guy who delivering that [scene] is Bob Odenkirk. People know him now from Breaking Bad, but he's one of the creators and costars of Mr. Show with David Cross. If you want to cast a really funny, boring-looking middle-aged white dude, you couldn't do much better than Bob Odenkirk. He's almost like this sad, middle-aged clown, saying something very sobering and very serious. I guess it sort of stems from my value system. I've never understood, even from a young age, when I would see in a video store: here's the drama section, here's the comedy section. That's just a movie that I love, and life as I know it doesn't function that way. Some of the funniest people I know are epically depressed and suicidal. And it goes all ways. I like populating movies with really funny people who can do drama, and vice versa. And just taking the characters seriously. Taking the wants and needs very seriously. Figuring out how to create a story and make the scenes have real stakes. It's really important to these characters — if there's no stakes, then who cares? Why watch the movie? Why waste people's time?
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
More:'The Spectacular Now' Review'The Spectacular Now' Trailer'Spectacular Now' Does the High School Drama Right
From Our PartnersBattle of the Bikini Bodies (Celebuzz)Complete Guide to Strippers in Movies and TV (Vh1)
It's a good thing we don't have adamantium claws getting in the way, because we found ourselves scratching our heads pretty vigorously after seeing The Wolverine. Does Hugh Jackman's Logan have an endless wardrobe of wife beater tank-tops? Did Hiroyuki Sanada really make the right choice in leaving Revenge to play a walking example of generational decline? Could we possibly be any more excited for Days of Future Past? Well, we can't really answer those questions for you, but we do take a stab at these eight. But beware, major SPOILERS are ahead.
1. Is the plot of The Wolverine eerily similar to the plot of Prometheus?Well, both movies feature a quest that's spurred by an old man obsessed with immortality (Will Yun Lee in The Wolverine, Guy Pearce in Prometheus) who is presumed dead before it is revealed that he faked his death and is surviving due to extreme artificial methods. (I love the idea of Will Yun Lee's Yashida at some point announcing, "Okay, I'm going to fake my death. But I'll continue to run my multi-billionaire dollar company from inside the comfort of this Silver Samurai suit!") In their respective quests to live forever, both men also seem to have become a bit homicidal.
Also, the heroes of both movies (Hugh Jackman's Logan and Noomi Rapace's Dr. Elizabeth Shaw) discover they possess unwanted parasitic intruders in their bodies. And they must surgically remove them. All by themselves. Luckily, Yashida's medical scanners are on par with the late 21st century technology seen in Prometheus.
2. What is a "love hotel"?"Love hotels" are lodgings geared entirely for short stays. As in, couples check into a room for a tryst and then check out. They're geared entirely around sexual encounters, so love hotels may not have the amenities that hotels that accommodate longer stays might have. But they do have themed rooms like "nurse's office," "police station," and "mission to Mars," as seen in The Wolverine when Logan and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) rent one in which to hide out. Love hotels have existed in Japan in one form or another since the late 1800s, but became particularly popular in the '60s. Free love, baby!
3. Wolverine showed off some mighty wood-cutting skills. Is that just yet another opportunity for Hugh Jackman to flex his muscles, or something more?You might be excused for thinking that moment when Wolverine picks up an axe to clear away a fallen tree is a pretty self-indulgent excuse just to see his ripped biceps. Not so! This was a nod to Logan's on-again, off-again career as a lumberjack, as seen in the comics over the years.
4. Was that "I didn't know there was a pool there" joke ripped off from Diamonds Are Forever?Both movies feature somebody getting thrown from a great height into a pool. Both movies then crack a joke about somebody getting thrown from a great height into a pool. You draw your own conclusions.
5. What's the Silver Samurai like in the comics?The depiction of the Silver Samurai in The Wolverine is wildly different from that in the comics. There, he wasn’t the father of Shingen Yashida, but his son. He was also a mutant with the ability to charge his katana — kind of like what Gambit can do to playing cards — which, in combination with his silver armor, made him pretty much invincible. In the movie, it seems like his charged katana is the result of technology more than natural ability.
When he made his first appearance, in Daredevil #111 in 1974 fighting the blind hero, Silver Samurai was a professional criminal by trade. He'd end up fighting Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and, yes, Wolverine over the course of his career. And just like in The Wolverine, he'd team up with Viper, who in the comics was more of an international terrorist. But rather than being her employer, he usually served as Viper's bodyguard. He totally needed a promotion to make the jump to the big screen.
6. What is Trask Industries?In the post-credits sequence, it's two years later and Wolverine is standing in line at a U.S. airport. He's watching a TV monitor and is greeted by an ad for Trask Industries. It's the kind of ad you'd expect from a major security contractor and weapons manufacturer — it's all about how it's going to keep you safe. But given what we know of Days of Future Past, we'd bet that they're talking about protecting the rest of humanity from the mutants. And that they intend to do so by building giant Sentinel robots.
7. Is Svetlana Khodchenkova's Viper the campiest comic book villain since Sharon Stone's cosmetics mogul in Catwoman?Since Viper's villainy is pretty much defined by her ever more ridiculous array of costumes, we'd say yes.
8. Wait... Magneto has his powers back and Xavier is alive? How did this happen?Who cares? As long as it erases the horrible plot turns of X-Men: The Last Stand that saw Magneto robbed of his abilities and Xavier exploded by the Phoenix, we'll take it. And Bryan Singer, while you're at it, why don't you bring back James Marsden's Cyclops? Dude deserved better than an offscreen death.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt | Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
More: Hugh Jackman in ‘The Wolverine’ Joins the Ranks of Serial Wifebeater Wearers James Mangold Says ‘The Wolverine’ is a ‘LifeSavers Roll of Japanese Culture’ ‘Iron Man 3’ Burning Questions: What’s ‘Westworld’? And How Does Extremis Work?
From Our PartnersBattle of the Bikini Bodies (Celebuzz)Complete Guide to Strippers in Movies and TV (Vh1)
By now, we know what we're getting ourselves into when we sign on for a new buddy cop movie: One's a hardnosed, by-the-book professional with a no nonsense attitude and a suffering personal life. The other's a fun-loving renegade who uses alternative methods to get the job done, but incurs the wrath of all those trying to uphold protocol. Oh, and they're both dudes. We don't know why that is part of the regimen, but it is an element that has been rigidly maintained through the Lethal Weapons, the Rush Hours, the 48 Hrs, and good ol' Starsky and Hutch. But Paul Feig's The Heat lays waste to this arbitrary pattern, casting Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a pair of officers who do wonders with the age old trope.
Vexingly, a great deal of cinematic traditions are dominated by male actors and characters. When you think of mob movies, of crime thrillers, of screwball comedies, of science-fiction and fantasy, or of animated adventures, you're bound to think immediately of the vast number of men who have brought these stories to life on screen. But scattered throughout an industry that seems to opt for old hat over new and inventive are the outlying gems that prove that women can deliver these sorts of films with the same majesty and entertainment as their male counterparts.
The Silence Of The LambsGenre: ThrillerHeroine: Clarice Starling, played by Jodie FosterThe theme of gender provide quite a hurdle for Clarice Starling. But in and beyond her universe, she trounces these barriers, becomingperhaps the most memorable FBI agent in cinema history.
The Quick and the DeadGenre: WesternHeroine: Ellen, played by Sharon StoneThe Western is likely more male-dominated than any other genre, which is why Sharon Stone's turn at the head of the 1995 film proves all the more riveting,
AlienGenre: Sci-fiHeroine: Ripley, played by Sigourney WeaverSurrounded by male officers, secret cyborgs, and homicidal aliens, Sigourney Weaver is still the most gripping aspect of Ridley Scott's classic Alien, her strength and nobility never waning as she treads into the most dangerous and horrifying territories imaginable.
Thelma and LouiseGenre: Outlaw movieHeroines: The titular characters, played by Susan Sarandon and Geena DavisEarning audience yehaws no lower in volume than those conjured by Butch and Sundance, heroes Thelma and Louise make for one of the most cherished outlaw films in recent history, not to mention the most moving.
FargoGenre: Crime dramaHeroine: Marge Gunderson, played by Frances McDormandWe love William H. Macy, ya, and that Steve Buscemi is a hoot, dontchaknow. But Fargo is far and away Frances McDormand's movie.
Kill BillGenre: Assassin/martial arts movieHeroine: Beatrix "The Bride" Kiddo, played by Uma ThurmanQuentin Tarantino's female characters have always been impressive, with his sword-wielding Beatrix topping the lot in her martial arts adventure. The character exhibits an all-powerful love for her daughter, which drives her through countless bloody missions in the modern classic two-parter.
UnderworldGenre: Vampire movieHeroine: Selene, played by Kate BeckinsaleTrue, there were female heroines in the vampire genre before Beckinsale (yes, we want to give Buffy her rightful nod). But the first true and traditionally dark vamp flick with a badass lady at the center was indeed the Underworld series.
HaywireGenre: ActionHeroine: Mallory Kane, played by Gina CaranoFilled with nonstop action, thrills, gasps, bone snaps, and run-for-your-life moments, Steven Soderbergh's Haywire allows Gina Carano a platform to kick the crap out of every man with whom she crosses paths... which she could very well have done, just as easily, in real life.
BridesmaidsGenre: Screwball comedyHeroines: The lead ensemble, played by Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Rose ByrneFinally, another from Feig, and a fan favorite at that. Launching McCarthy's career and giving Wiig her first turn as a movie star, Bridesmaids re-opened the discussion of whether women could handle all sorts of comedy as well as men can. Anyone still on the fence has got to watch this movie again, and fast.
More:'The Heat' Review'The Heat' Guide to Law EnforcementHow Sandra Bullock Almost Died on the Set of 'The Heat'
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
When we last left our heroes, Michael was fleeing for sanctuary from his family with a shame-stricken teenaged son in tow — George Michael had recently succumbed to his romantic feelings for cousin Maeby (only to find out that she was not, in fact, his biological cousin). The Bluth men, on a maritime road to salvation, had the highest of hopes for their futures. And once we heard that we’d be catching back up with them, so did we. And while there might well be a good deal of shining light ahead, all parties are going to have to wade through a bit of disappointment first. (If you're not watching at all, we've prepared an Arrested Development counter-programming guide for you.)
With so much catch-up to play, the first of Arrested Development’s Netflix episodes doesn’t quite have time to give you every bit of laughter you might have been anticipating from the revival of the near perfect comedy. And since this premiere ep is tailored to Michael Bluth, with the others said to be adapting a similar formula in regards to the other characters, we might find ourselves sneering a bit at the season’s overall laugh output. But we have to remember: these stories were constructed as an introduction. Their purpose isn’t to stand alone, but to set up the movie… the movie that we’re still not entirely sure will ever actually happen, but that we’re at least closer than ever to believing jut might.
Michael’s Arrested Season 4 ep, “Flight of the Phoenix,” does delve back into a handful of beloved old running gags — “You’re a crook, Captain Hook” being a personal favorite — but they serve more as “Remember this?” tangents than actual punchlines. Again, we can’t expect much more, especially from the first string of these new episodes. Arrested doesn’t just have to live up to its old funny, but to reinvent its old universe, an extremely intricate and specifically ordained one. And in reintroducing us to Michael, to (briefly) the other family members, and to the sort of mismanaged reality that we loved ten years back, the first of the new eps does succeed. In that way, it’s enjoyable and engrossing. As funny as we remember? Hardly. But before it can really get to that, it has a job to do, and it’s doing it.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow Hollywood.Com On Twitter @Hollywood_Com
More:How to Pretend You're and 'Arrested Development' FanPlay the 'Arrested Development' Game of LifeMitch Hurwitz Says to Watch New 'Arrested' Eps in Order
From Our Partners:Zoe Saldana Strips Down For Magazine (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
You're all right, Timberlake. Sure, I might have scorned you back during your breakout years, when my sixth grade crush would divert her attentions to magazine clippings of your ramen tresses. But the JT of late has amounted to much more than his boy band roots might have suggested: he's a bona fide artist.
Justin Timberlake's newest accomplishment comes in the form of a music video for his 20/20 Experience track "Mirrors," a song meant to pay tribute to the 63-year marriage of Timberlake's grandparents Sadie and William Bomar — the latter of whom passed away in 2012 — as well as his new wife, Jessica Biel.
Video and film director Floria Sigismondi, who helmed the biographical drama The Runaways, visits Timberlake's story via a variety of vantage points. The "Mirrors" music video, which you can watch below, chauffeurs the viewer through straightforward depictions of the meeting and lasting relationship of Sadie and William, time jumps juxtaposing the young and old versions of the couple, and a slew of perplexing images pinpointing their shared emotional experiences.
RELATED: Justin Timberlake Says '20/20' Part II Is Happening
And although the emotion is palpable, you're bound to be left wondering what a good deal of the video means. A few choice scenes stick out in our heads, with questions ringing loudly:
Here, we see an elderly Sadie (or, the video's adaptation of Sadie) folding and packing the articles of a man's suit as William stands and moves parallel to her. Is he literally with her at this point, or has he already passed on and the man here only represents the essence of a husband who will stay with his wife long past his earthly life?
A bit easier to apprehend is the initial union of Sadie and William — an archetypal 1950s scene, with pool being shot, jukeboxes being leaned upon, hairstyles being maintained apparently without the use of any reflective glass.
Shortly after we find ourselves appreciating the connection between the Sadie and William surrogates, we're treated to the consummation of their relationship... but beyond that, we're treated to the above shot of Sadie clutching her shirtless stomach. On a bed, no less, right next to her sprawled out mate. That's cinematic shorthand for pregnancy...
RELATED: Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon's Summer Camp Sing-Along
So why, then, are we never introduced to a baby? We're not here to make any suggestions about the actual hurdles that the real Sadie and William faced — we can expect that Timberlake and Sigismondi took some creative liberties with the story for the video. In a follow-up shot the vivid sorrow is piercing and our minds jump to the worst: Miscarriage. Infertility. The sort of nightmares that this concrete couple wages together. And when the realism of this hardship translates to the near fantastical notion that these two people can, will, and are meant to be together forever, we enter the dream sequence...
And here's where a few more brows are likely to spring up a few degrees. The video's heroes enter a carnival world, traversing through the domains of fun house mirrors, circus-strong men, and the masquerade creatures we see above. You might have to dive deep into your Freudian theory to extrapolate exactly what "Mirrors" is representing here — the pair holding fast against a world of distant strangers? The power of their love launching their relationship to otherworldly levels ? Did they just go to a bunch of carnivals together?
Probably the most visually resounding shot in the entire video is the above: a gypsy-type's bestowal of a slide of photo booth photographs, which she pulled from inside her mouth, of the old Sadie and William unto the young Sadie and William. Again, go nuts with your theories, here; is this fate telling the pair that they will, in fact, stay together through the decades to come? Is this Timberlake and Sigismondi's means of showcasing the passage of time for the adherent couple?
Back to a more straightforward image: the wedding dress, though hardly delivered in a straightforward way. There is something terribly haunting about the video's choice to make its Sadie a mannequin upon the first mention of the pair's wedding. Is the union robbing something from her — her humanity, her independence? Or is this simply a probing method of introducing the next chapter of the narrative?
RELATED: Justin Timberlake Propels 'SNL' to Record Ratings
Two-thirds into the video, we meet Timberlake. A clutch of his grandparents' dropped wedding ring (symbolizing, almost certainly, William's death), his subsequent dance through the fun house hall, and a final shot of him glaring into the eyes of a mirror that wavers between his reflection and the image of a translucent circus performer with a moreover obscured face.
The second half of the video, the conclusive scenes especially, leave us with a lot of contextual questions. But pervading through our bewilderment is an emotionally piercing love story, delivered by an artist with more of an appreciation for the human heart than we might give him credit for.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: RCA Records(8)]
You Might Also Like:15 Oscar-Winning Nude ScenesYoung Jack Black Is Totally Unrecognizable
Documentary that explores what it means to be a hero by highlighting the stories of four diverse women who have undertaken heroic efforts, large and small, to make a difference in the lives of those around them.