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Out in Theaters: ‘THE NUN’ 

‘The Nun’ (a.k.a. ‘Bad Habit’)  is a handsome twinkle of a horror movie that’s never developed into a full-bodied anything. It’s a movie that dangles on the precipice of actually being half-decent for quite some time without ever making the effort to, you know, actually be good. Its mid-century Romanian setting is certainly atmospheric, a nod to the far-flung haunts of golden-age horror; it contains some decent acting, both Taissa Farmiga and Demián Bichir are solid enough to headline, if only they were privy to some superior written material; and some of the visual flourishes and cinematography suggest a horror movie well above the average pay-grade. And yet, it’s all pretty much for nothing as The Nun  never gels into something of any discernible substance.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE’

If you had told me that John Travolta would comeback from his recent Academy Award persona butchery (2014’s “Adele Dazeem”, 2015’s repulsively awkward Scar-Jo sneak-a-kiss) by playing a sand-blasted moral compass in a Ti West Western (a Western, it must be noted, that is of the genre through and through, absent of the horror flair that has, up to this point, characterized the filmmaker’s oeuvre), I woulda spit my cud. But Travolta is as present for In a Valley of Violence as it is a corn-fed, all-American, organically certified Western. Consider my head scratched. Read More

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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE’

If you had told me that John Travolta would comeback from his recent Academy Award persona butchery (2014’s “Adele Dazeem”, 2015’s repulsively awkward Scar-Jo sneak-a-kiss) by playing a sand-blasted moral compass in a Ti West Western (a Western, it must be noted, that is of the genre through and through, absent of the horror flair that has, up to this point, characterized the filmmaker’s oeuvre), I woulda spit my cud. But Travolta is as present for In a Valley of Violence as it is a corn-fed, all-American, organically certified Western. Consider my head scratched. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE FINAL GIRLS’

The premise for The Final Girls – a group of teens are inexplicably sucked into a slasher movie and must survive its 92 minute runtime in hopes of returning to their world – is questionable to say the least. One might think to find such a movie buried deep down in and amongst the filth of Netflix; hidden amongst those low-budget wanna-be’s masquerading as the real deal. It doesn’t take the aid of Sherlock to prove that this is not the case. Not only is The Final Girls not atrocious, it’s rather excellent. As in, it’s goddamn righteous. Read More

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Talking with Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield of 6 YEARS

*This is a reprint of our SXSW 2015 interview

For all the schmaltzy young love that pollutes our movie screens (*cough* If I Stay, Fault in Our Stars *cough*) there comes the ocassional tale of youth and young love that actually merits a watch. 6 Years is that movie. And now that it’s been picked up by Netflix, you’ll actually probably watch it. How novel! From our review; Read More

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Out in Theaters: 6 YEARS

*This is a reprint of our SXSW 2015 review.

In the throes of first love, life becomes exasperatingly disoriented. We convince ourselves that there is but one person who can appreciate, understand and care for us and that that person should not be let go, lest we never experience such a sensation of belonging again. Future aspirations come to head with plans of fidelity and the person you are and the person you want to become begin to be at odds. With 6 Years, Hannah Fidell is able to poke her camera into the epicenter of a relationship at the structural crossroads of graduating from college as they differentiate the needs of the “me” versus the needs of the “us”. Read More

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SXSW Review: 6 YEARS

F55192.jpg
In the throes of first love, life becomes exasperatingly disoriented. We convince ourselves that there is but one person who can appreciate, understand and care for us and that that person should not be let go lest we never experience such a sensation of belonging again. Future aspirations come to head with plans of fidelity and the person you are and the person you want to become begin to be at odds. With 6 Years, Hannah Fidell is able to poke her camera into the epicenter of a relationship at the structural crossroads of graduating from college as they differentiate the needs of the “me” versus the needs of the “us”.

From go, Mel Clark (Taissa Farmiga) gloats to friends about the idyllic nature of her and boyfriend Dan’s six-year affair. Having been together since high school (and having been neighbors even then), they know each other better than anyone else and they’ve got plans to keep it that way . According to Mel, they’ll be married with a baby at 26. Still with one more year to go before graduation, Mel seems to have her life planned out to a T, unfortunately those plans don’t hold much room for variation.

Enter Dan (Ben Rosenfield), a graduating senior with a hooked-up record label internship on the brink of becoming something more. Even after six years, Dan and Mel still have amazing sex, they still laugh and communicate openly, they still have stupid fights about nothing. Fights that blow up into physical confrontations. Confrontations that land one of the parties in the hospital on more than one occasion.

To see a film about young people that navigates the dangerous waters of domestic disputes is an all too rare thing. The borderline physically abusive nature of their relationship is depicted as delicately as such a topic ought to be, raising questions rather than passing judgment with Fidell unwilling to paint in purely blacks and whites. Rather, there’s a calm nuance to Fidell’s voice that’s often absence from that of her characters. Though she can remain cool and collected, Ben and Mel, like the young adults they are, often make rash decisions.

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Because an intimate character study such as 6 Years depends so heavily on solid performances to sell the drama as the real deal, the effect and impact of the film lies squarely on the shoulders of Farmiga and Rosenfield and each handle the material with a kind of preternatural grace and convincing aplomb. When I asked them if they drew from any prior relationships to help define their roles and relationships in the film, both said no. And yet, they tackle the material with vitriol and dexterity, smoothly navigating the dramatically challenging material  and totally able to sell the more noodle-brained “teenagers in love” numbers.

Fidell keeps the sentimentality in check, able to offer a compelling though distanced look at the crumbling facade of “true love.” There are moments of 6 Years that threaten to derail the authenticity of the product but Fidell proves that she knows better than to dip her toe into the salty waters of through-and-through schmaltz. That doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where things get a little overboard.

Emotionally raw though a dash melodramatic, Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years is a bittersweet look at love and sacrifice at the ripe young age of 21. Fidell plants us at the focal point of their oft imploding relationship with truly intimate camerawork that operates in tandem with the film’s unobtrusive technical aspects – like Julian Wass‘ mellow score and Andrew Droz Palermo‘s low profile cinematography work – to create a convincing, and affecting, narrative. Able to share its time equally between the two leads – both of whom offer excellent performances – 6 Years paints an important and empathetic portrait of young relationships without necessarily taking a side. Like Boyhood and Blue is the Warmest Color before it, 6 Years enters a class of independent film that young people should be made to watch before making any major life decision.

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Talking with Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield of 6 YEARS

F55192.jpg

For all the schmaltzy young love that pollutes our movie screens (*cough* If I Stay, Fault in Our Stars *cough*) there comes the ocassional tale of youth and young love that actually merits a watch. 6 Years is that movie. And now that it’s been picked up by Netflix, you’ll actually probably watch it. How novel! From our review;

Emotionally raw though a dash melodramatic, Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years is a bittersweet look at love and sacrifice at the ripe young age of 21. Fidell plants us at the focal point of their oft imploding relationship with truly intimate camerawork that operates in tandem with the film’s unobtrusive technical aspects – like Julian Wass‘ mellow score and Andrew Droz Palermo‘s low profile cinematography work – to create a convincing, and affecting, narrative. Able to share its time equally between the two leads – both of whom offer excellent performances – 6 Years paints an important and empathetic portrait of young relationships without necessarily taking a side. Like Boyhood and Blue is the Warmest Color before it, 6 Years enters a class of independent film that young people should be made to watch before making any major life decision.

Speaking with 6 Years stars Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield, we discussed morphing technology, favorite flicks, American Horror Story, dream directors and getting advice from their older generation.

 

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So first of all, congratulations! Your film was just picked up this morning by Netflix!

Taissa Farmiga: Thank you.

Which is kind of crazy, because Netflix is really shifting, in the way that they’re now acquiring exclusive material. They picked up ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ as well [and also Manson Family Vacation.] So, when you guys are thinking about the future of film and what medium that film comes in, does that play a part in how you think about your roles, and what opportunities you might want to take?

Ben Rosenfield: I think it effects it – just in terms of what a movie is going to. It’s a different medium, so it broadens the scope of how things might work, you know what I mean? A film like this, I think, is going to work beautifully on Netflix, and there are other ones where it’s like, it belongs in a movie theater, properly, in that way. Netflix, and the internet, is just creating a wider variety of platforms.

It’s changing everything.

TF: It’s letting more people access it now. Which isn’t, it’s not a negative thing. Again, it’s just thinking, “Where’s the best place?” Some things belong in the movie theater.

So with this, what was it about the director, Hannah Fidell, that basically won you guys over and where you felt comfortable saying, “This is the project I need to be a part of?”

TF: When I was reading the script, I immediately fell in love with the characters – they’re so relatable, and so personal. I just thought, “I would love to play this,” because, also, I’m 20, and I’m figuring life out. I would love to portray that. So the script actually had a bunch of images in it, for visuals, for tonal references…

Oh, cool.

TF: So I got to see a little bit of Hannah’s mind, and what she envisioned the project. It was very helpful. Then I had a Skype with her and Mark Duplass, and I heard them talk about it. They just sounded so smart, and like good people, and I was like, “”I want to make a movie with them.”

They had a vision?

TF: Yes.

BR: Also, all of what Taissa is saying is similar to the experience I had, and then I also watched ‘The Teacher’ before, and I thought it was a really interesting film.

So, Taissa, how has it been for you, navigating the film world, having your older sister showing you the ropes, saying, “You should do this, and this…” I’ve gathered that you have a strong bond but do you ever feel like, “Back off! Let me do my own thing here!”

TF: No, never! I feel so blessed to have my older sister. She’s been through it all; she’s been through the ringer. If I call her up, and go, “[Vera], what do I do? I’m in this circumstance – I’ve got to pick this job, or this job.” She’s just always there for me. She’s helped guide me. I owe her so much. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, and now she’s got someone to talk to. I know how hard it is. So yeah, it’s great! It’s nice to have your own personal wealth of information, right there. I pick her brain all the time.

Taissa, you found your breakout with ‘American Horror Story’, and Ben, I know the last film you worked on was ‘A Most Violent Year’. So can you both talk about working with these exquisite talents? Like Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain as well as Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange, who’s just phenomenal in that show?

TF: Man, it’s just incredible to have not been in this industry for so long and to get to work with these incredible people. I mean, just massively talented people. I love to just sit back and watch how these people work, rather than be like, “Oh, tell me everything!” I’m more of a…

An observational learner.

TF: To see how they operate, and take what I can from that. If they want to throw a couple of tips out there, I gobble them right up.

BR: It’s amazing getting to work with great actors. You learn a tremendous amount from them. It’s like the best. Taissa didn’t go to college. I didn’t go to college. But I think we’re both getting a pretty great education, based on that.

Do you have any funny stories, where one of these actor giants has just taken you aside and tried to guide you one way or another?

TF: I stepped on Jessica Lange’s line once during ‘American Horror Story’. It was totally fine, I was just too over-eager to like show my stuff and because they switched the lines a little bit and I didn’t know what was happening. I go to go, and I see her look over at me, and I shrink.

That terrifying Jessica Lange stare.

TF: I mean, it was nothing, but you know me, of course. “Oh my God, the lion’s looking at me.”

Following up on ‘American Horror Story’, I think the show is one of the best platforms for female performances, not only in television but in movies. That kind of makes me think of a quote from Zoe Saldana, where she said something like, “Genre films – sci-fi, horror, etc. – really have the best opportunities for women to work.” They get better opportunities when they work in these genre niches. Is that an experience that you’ve had?

TF: Well, it’s interesting because, like in the horror genre, females are very empowered. Like The Final Girls, the one that wins; it’s the woman.

Especially in ‘American Horror Story’.

TF: Especially in ‘American Horror Story’. In ‘Final Girls’, as well, it was uplifting a woman, which was nice to play.

BR: I think there’s also a lot of objectification of women going on in horror films, too.

There is.

TF: That’s what’s so nice about ‘Final Girls’. It makes fun of those tropes. Like ‘The Slutty Girl’, ‘The Mean Girl’, ‘The Shy Girl’. It makes fun of that. It’s like, “That’s in the past, guys.” It brings a fresh way of doing it.

My final ‘American Horror Story’ question: I know you’ve been in, you’ve been out, you’ve been in it again, kind of oscillating back and forth, from season to season. So, if you were to follow your trend, you would be in the next season. Is that something that you’ve discussed and talked about?

TF: I’m just so busy with movie stuff lately. And I also just got another pilot, for a show called ‘L. A. Crime’, for ABC, so I’m excited for that because it shoots on the Sunset Strip. If it works out to do ‘American Horror Story’ I would love to do that show. I was there in the beginning and it meant so much to me. If I could poke my head in and say “Hi,” I would love to.

So, unfortunately, I’ve not yet seen ‘6 Years’, I was sick as a dog from food poisoning.

BR: I’m so sorry. That sucks!

That always seems to be what happens when you travel. But can you just kind of give me a bird’s eye perspective of what the film is about, and how you divorce it from previous incarnations of this young, romantic drama film? What sets it apart?

BR: To answer the first part, it’s the story of a young couple who’s been together since high school, and they’re now approaching the end of college, and their paths are starting to diverge.

They’ve been together for six years?

TF: Yeah, their relationship started in this youthful place and as they’re transitioning into adults, and they’re changing, either their relationship is changing with them, or it’s not.

BR: I think what’s different about this film is the way the split happens, the way it manifests itself. It’s told in a unique way. There’s some domestic violence which happens, which you don’t see very often with young people. I think the fact that me and Taissa are actually the ages of the people we’re playing is cool.

Rather than thirty-year-old people playing college students?

TF: That’s what’s so nice about it. It feels so real. Because we’re the real age. We’re also going through these transitions in our lives, so we can relate to these characters really well. It just feels so relatable. It’s personal. It’s intimate.

BR: And we improvised a great deal of the film.

Oh, okay.

BR: Which happens, but again, you don’t see a lot of films with young people improvving.

So did you guys draw on any particular relationship in the past that you’ve experienced in order to play this?

TF: Not specifically. Obviously, I drew on just past experiences, with people that I’ve connected to and dealt with in my life. But nothing specific.

A couple of quick shot questions that you can just do quick answers to. If there’s any director that’s working today and said, “I need you in my next film,” who’s the one you just couldn’t turn down?

BR: P. T. Anderson.

TF: Oh, that’s a good one. I’d love to work with Danny Boyle. I almost got to. I got to audition with him. He directed my hand in the audition room. To be able to do that, for a real movie.

BR: Also, Todd Rohall. I want to work with Todd Rohall. He’s a genius.

And another quick one: what was your favorite film of last year, and what really speaks to you in these kinds of movies?

BR: I guess I’ll say ‘Force Majeure’. I loved that movie. Last year was good so I’m just naming the first thing that came into my head. I loved it because it’s very, very sad and it’s very, very funny. I love art that has both sides. It’s so well done.

TF: You know what I actually loved, and you can’t bitch because you were in this? I loved ‘The Most Violent Year’. I love Oscar. I thought it was a great cast. Obviously, part of me wanted to see [Ben] in it to talk about it. I loved it – it was a little bit of a slow burn, which is not usually my taste, but I really loved it. Jessica Chastain was so subtle in it.

She’s so good! And, finally, where are you guys off to next? What’s the next big projects, and things you’re circling right now?

TF: I’ve got a couple of projects here that are about to come out, and hopefully they’ll sell. But I’m about to go shoot a pilot in L.A.

‘L. A. Crime’, that you were talking about?

TF: Yeah. So that’s cool.

Anything else on the docket for films? Going back to the TV world for a little bit?

TF: I shot a Western last year. I got to work with Warren Beatty, as well. I’m hoping those are about to come out soon. I want to get those out into the world.

BR: I’m in a play right now, so I have to leave the festival and go finish that up. In another Manhattan Class company. And then this summer, I’m in Woody Allen’s new film. And then I might go to England, and record some music. Not filming anything in particular though.

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