Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blogosphere Multiplex: Martha Fischer of "Cinematical"

OK. I'm a day late with this thing. But here's a new Blogosphere Multiplex Interview. In the interest of shaking things up a bit I've decided I should throw in film bloggers as well from time to time --I originally liked the idea of non-film sites only just to hear things from them you wouldn't otherwise. But it's all about variety.

I've already sung Martha's praises so let's just jump right into this conversation.

10 questions with Martha of Cinematical

Nathaniel: I normally begin by asking my victims how often they go to the movies. Given that you write for Cinematical I expect the answer is "very very frequently" so, what's something more personal you can tell us about your moviegoing habits?

Martha: Well if by "the movies" you mean screenings, then yes, it's pretty often. Jeez, if I start giving details of my viewing habits, people will know I'm a freak from question one. For screenings, I have to sit on the aisle -- left side -- near the back. And I always have to take notes (which, of course, I can only rarely read later) in pencil. No idea why.

Nathaniel: What is most likely to prompt you to scribble something down? Dialogue, tonal shift, an image?

Martha: Well, it depends. I'm a frantic note-taker during documentaries, but I think that's mostly because I was a history major and get obsessed with remembering details of cause and effect, and how everything fits together. Very little of that stuff ever shows up in reviews except as background, but the faux-historian in me can't stop.

For fiction, I take fewer notes. Those tend to be a combination of getting emotions out ("Are you kidding me?" or "I HATE HIM!" or "Oh my god.") and non-narrative things I want to remember -- stylistic touches, trends in the writing, character interactions, etc.

Nathaniel: I know you're a fan of musicals. Which is your favorite?

Martha: Ha! I was just thinking about this. If we're talking straight-up, pure musical, the answer is easy: Guys and Dolls. My dad rented it when I was a kid -- way back in the day when we rented and returned a VCR with our tapes -- and made me fall in love with musicals, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando in one fell swoop. I know it's too long, and the leads are miscast, but I don't care. The music is wonderful, it's charming, and Brando is sexy as hell. Easily the movie I've watched more than any other.

But if by "musical" you mean "movie to which music is crucial but isn't a musical in the traditional sense," I think I'd have to say All That Jazz. One of my favorite movies of all time, with one of the most jaw-dropping, balls-out-incredible last 30 minutes I've ever seen.

Nathaniel: Plus there's "Air Erotica" to recommend it. 'Take off with us...' Yowza.

Martha: Totally -- everything about that movie makes some part of you tingle, whether it's the naughty bits or the intellectual ones.

Nathaniel: Describe these actresses in three words or less: Scarlett Johansson, Kirsten Dunst, Lindsay Lohan.

Martha: Scarlett Johansson: Lips, boobs, meh.
Kirsten Dunst: A dor able.
La Lohan: Train wreck. Sad.

Nathaniel: Since Hollywood won't leave old properties alone, which movies would you be OK with them remaking and why?

Martha: Oh wow. That's a really hard one because like a lot of people, I'm opposed to remakes on principle (though I confess that sometimes the damn things seduce and win me over -- like Pollack's Sabrina, which I love). Jeez. Hmm. It can't be anything actually good, because horrible damage would inevitably be done. Um ... Well, since they remade Ocean's 11 (HORRIBLY, in my lonely opinion), how about another Rat Pack flick? I get a huge kick out of Robin and the 7 Hoods, and would love to see someone try to make modern audiences like that delicious bit of nonsense. I can see it now: Clooney doing a verse or two of Mr. Booze, Peter Falk (Assuming he's still alive -- he is, isn't he?) coming back to take the Crosby role ... Maybe we can slip a note under Soderbergh's door, assuming he wants to keep making fun crap.

Nathaniel: Michelle Pfeiffer or Julianne Moore?

Martha: Oh god. This is a test, isn't it? If I pick Moore, you're never going to read Cinematical again.

I'll whisper it: Julianne Moore.

Nathaniel: Ha ha. No test. They're both correct answers.

Cinematical is quite a popular place. How did your movie writing career begin --what led you to Cinematical?

Martha: Thanks -- I think we're all really proud of how well things are going right now, but we're also determined to keep building the site, and improving and expanding our content.

Apart from a few reviews here and there on the websites of friends, my movie writing career basically began with Cinematical. I've always loved film, and had been reading the site basically from the moment it launched; a little over a year ago, I answered an open call for writers and, eventually, got hired. I did have some relevant background -- I'd done some other writing, taken a ton of film classes in college (as well as a few in the subsequent years), and also taught a high school film studies class (though whether the kids would tell you I was qualified is something else entirely).

Nathaniel: Which movie do you find yourself quoting most often?

Martha: I think I probably quote When Harry Met Sally more than any other movie, albeit mostly to myself. "Oh, I've been looking for a red suede pump!", "Baby fish mouth!", "Draw something ... resembling anything.", "You're right, you're right. I know you're right." and "Get over yourself!" are constantly featured in my internal monologue, as is the suggestion that anyone who doesn't answer the phone might be trapped under something heavy.

Out of curiosity, what do you think is yours?

Nathaniel: Without a doubt it's a fierce competition between Waiting for Guffman and Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing...both of which make me laugh till I hurt.

Martha: While I'm not a big Guffman quoter, it is an undeniable fact that My Dinner With Andre action figures are among the most inspired ideas in the history of cinema.

Nathaniel: OK. Which movie stars do you love most and why? And who would you be happy to never see again?

Martha: List of the stars I love most could on forever, but I'll try to keep it reasonable:

Myrna Loy. A goddess in ever way. Incredibly lovely, and tough and funny (see: Nora Charles) but also nurturing and weary (see: The Best Years of Our Lives). I want to be her.

Alain Delon. In addition to being the prettiest man ever to walk the earth, Delon's also a great actor, when he can be bothered. It's amazing how affecting his almost totally still performance in Le Samourai is.

Joseph Cotten. I don't know if I can explain this one, but I just love the Cotten. I think it stems primarily from the fact that he makes his eyes twinkle at will in The Third Man, but I'll watch him in anything.

Brian Donlevy. Again, not sure why, but I find him incredibly appealing. There's usually something very reassuringly warm in his presence (though, apart from The Great McGinty, he rarely got to star in anything good), when he plays second bananas, and I think he's a better actor than he gets credit for (he's very much NOT reassuring, for example, in The Big Combo).

And, of course, Cary Grant and Steve McQueen. Those guys need no explanation.

Don't want to see ever again? John Cusack -- Yes, I'm insane. I know I'm the only person in the world who can't watch his movies, and I have to say it's not entirely his fault. The problem stems mostly from Say Anything, which was so hugely popular when I was in high school that, gradually, I grew to hate it. Plus, there was a kid in my class who wanted be Lloyd Dobler, and I totally blamed Cusack for his stupid trenchcoat. Then, when he starred in High Fidelity, I knew I could never go back. I love pretty much anything by Nick Hornby, and the fact that they switched the movie's setting to the US just destroyed me (and again, it was Cusack's fault in my head).

I do wish I could see Grosse Point Blank, though.

Nathaniel: Shhhh, I'm not big on Cusack either. He's one of those collective enduring 80s fixations but I wasn't even fixated in the 80s.

OK Last question. They make a movie of your life. Who plays you? What's the title? What's the rating?

Martha: Oh lord There's no way this can end well. You need to understand that my life is seriously incredibly boring from the outside. I watch movies, and then write up them! I spent 10 years teaching and coaching at a private school! Seriously, this stuff can't even pretend to be interesting. That said ...

Ok, director --Werner Herzog, because he's very good at making movies in which nothing happens -- like Aguirre, The Wrath of God (which is one of my favorites of all time) -- completely enthralling. And because I'm obsessed with him.

Star -- Jeez, I have NO idea. If I was older and believed the handful of really misguided people who have told me I look like her, I'd say Jodie Foster. But, since they're all out of their minds (albeit really, really nice), I won't.

Seriously, I've been thinking about this all day and can think of no one who would be remotely appropriate. For that reason, I'm pretending it's the early 1960s, and saying Angie Dickinson. Not because we look anything alike, but because I'd be honored to have anyone that kickass playing me. Plus, she'd make it easier to overlook how boring the movie's plot really is.

Rating PG-13, for copious swearing. Title: It Looks Like a Tablecloth, But It's a Nice Dress (extra points for knowing the quote).

Nathaniel: Thank you. Thank you. This was so much fun.

Film Experience Greatest Hits (for newbies):
"Don't Turn The Projector Off" -Why I love The Purple Rose of Cairo * Far From Heaven vs. Brokeback Mountain -It's The Whitakers Vs. the Del-Mar Twists. Whose side are you on? * She's a Bitch (@ the Movies)

Previously in the Interview Series:
Avi of ultranow * Rich of FOURFOUR * par3182 of six things * "14" of Gallery of the Absurd * Ron of How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons * Ron of Ron L'Infirmier * Thomas of Thomas & Co.

Tags: movies, cinema, film critics, film, musicals, celebrities


Anonymous said...

The best of these Blogosphere series. Congratulations (and your last reviews have been very good!).

-cal roth

Glenn Dunks said...

"it is an undeniable fact that My Dinner With Andre action figures are among the most inspired ideas in the history of cinema."

SO true. The funniest bit in the movie I though.

And she thinks All That Jazz is one of the best movies ever so she immediately gets a 10/10 in my books.

This was a great interview. It's good reading the movie obsessives!

Anonymous said...

Such an enjoyable read. And for the benefit of both:

"I am? I am the dog?"

"...but somebody forced her down the Stoney End..."


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of doing a remake of 'Robin and the 7 Hoods.' And Peter Falk is still alive.

Anonymous said...

I'm another fan of Martha. We've exchanged a couple of emails as well as notes at Cinematical. Her knowledge of Asian films has grown tremendously in a short period of time. I enjoyed the interview and wish I was there (although I generally hate summer in NYC).

Robb said...

What good questions, and what a fab interviewee.However( and it's a big however) I take issue with anyone liking a remake of an Audrey Hepburn film ("Sabrina") Is nothing sacred? Must I throw a temper tantrum?


Yeah, seriously Kristofer. extreme lapse of taste on Martha's part there ;)

but i still luvs ya Martha.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm not proud of the Sabrina thing! Nathaniel plied with me liquor, and it just slipped out. I do appreciate your collective willingness to overlook that admittedly massive personal flaw, though -- you're all way too indulgent of my nonsense.