Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Blogosphere Multiplex: Arden @ Cinephilia

Season 2 of the blogosphere interview series arrives....now. I had fun last year with a dozen bloggers of various topic persuasion and it's time to reboot. I'm dusting it off with Arden @ Cinephilia. She was a rowdy guest at the Oscar Symposium this past winter, she wrote a hilarious play (I saw it), she guests @ Gilded Moose for film reviews and best of all: she is certifiable when it comes to the cinema. Thems the best kind of people.

10 Questions with Arden @ Cinephilia

Nathaniel: So, Arden, how often do you go to the movies?

Arden: Lord. I used to go all the time. Like I would go every night. Midnight screenings on Thursdays. Sometimes I'd see two movies back to back if I was trying catch up on reviews. I saw Casino Royale twice within a 12 hour span. But since I've started this gig as an assistant to a pretty high-profile film producer, it's been difficult. Readers razz me about the lack of reviews and I'm like "When you're stranded in Sundance, flagging down a local with a $100 bill so you can hitch a ride to the Variety Directors to Watch party and deliver a cut of a film you're not supposed to have to someone who probably wont even watch it.... it's hard to make time to see Dreamgirls". So nowadays I've resolved myself to one movie every 10-15 days.

Nathaniel: I love that you've numbered the days between cinematic hits. But Arden, I suspect a lot of people would love to have that 'holding the goodies' problem. Although some of those people would end up in prison! Is pirating films the worst problem Hollywood faces or what? They're obsessed.

Arden: The studios freak out over piracy when they started the epidemic in the first place. Unlike another art form where the original is tantamount and considered the work of art, the business of cinema is based on reproduction and distribution. If I made a whole bunch of little Van Goghs in my apartment and sold them off, no one would pay me a million dollars because they know that I'm not Van Gogh. The 8,000 copy of 40-Year-Old Virgin is just as profitable as the original canistered print. Wide release and the advent of DVD emphasize that. In an effort to make as much money as possible, Hollywood used technology to lessen the originality of film and now audiences are using technology to steal from Hollywood.

To combat this problem, Hollywood MUST acknowledge that wide release is failing. That the only films that make their 100MM are films that cost 200MM. They are losing money more often than they are making it. Many "blockbusters" have to overperform on DVD to recoup and a lot of stars (on the backs of whom the studios sell most of these films) have gotten the wiser and a request backend on DVD sales up front. This is why Tom Cruise got fired. Not because he jumped on a couch.

Nathaniel: Totally agreed on the reasons Tom Cruise got dumped but the media loves distortion. Couch jumping rifts in sanity being inherently more interesting than profit sharing. Not to dwell on Tom Cruise but let's segueway: Apart from Cruise which celebrity meltdown troubles you most or do you find most revealing about fame/showbiz AND/OR (this question is so incoherent --I'm melting down too!) What complete breakdown do you find most fascinating in an actual movie?

Arden: Britney Spears is hands down phenomenal. I couldn't write that. If I wrote that, no one would buy it. She lived it. It's positively Greek. It's like teen pop version of Medea. In fact, I think "woman scorned" breakdowns are the best. Whether its Glenn Close over top psycho or the quiet savage defeat of Isabelle Huppert, it gets me every time. The most fascinating cinematic example of this is Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass. My God. A broken heart melting into mental instability. The scene where she reads Wordsworth in class is a work of genius. Even the usually composed Elia Kazan has to adjust his tight shot to capture her fantastically real moment.

Nathaniel: We both love that movie ---ahhh my heart shatters when I watch that. And I actually think that I first discovered your site when you posted about Warren Beatty circa 1961 (the same film obviously) How did you discover him? And why do you suppose he never works? It's not like the other Old Hollywood guys have retired.

Arden: My crush on Warren Beatty is a perfect example of what I define to be Cinephilia. It's not simply loving or appreciating film. It's when the line between your reality and a cinematic reality no longer exists. There was a period of time where I was actually dating Warren Beatty via film. I felt a stronger connection to him onscreen than to a breathing guy lying next to me. So I wrote my script and started my blog. I don't think Warren Beatty works that much anymore because I think he's too smart, a perfectionist and an overachiever. He's a sick person and a control freak. He has final cut for practically every movie he's worked on whether or not he actually directed it. Bonnie and Clyde was his movie. I love him and no one really thinks of him as an important filmmaker because he was a movie star. Beatty is the only person other than Orson Welles to receive Oscar nominations in the same year for acting, directing, writing, and producing, and he did it twice, in 1978 and 1981. Reds is a genius movie. Definitely in my top 3.

Nathaniel: Which begs the question: What are the other two?

Arden: Haha. Favorite films are a touchy subject. Usually film elitists use this as an opportunity to show off how smart they are. I would categorize "favorite" as a film that seriously altered my life. Kubrick's The Shining was that film for me. Is it a flawed film? Is it Kubrick's "best" film? It doesn't matter. It changed me. In one viewing I felt I had been exposed to a truth about myself. I personally identify with that film. I have "redrum" tatooed on my back. It's A Wonderful Life is a close second. The ghosts of that film are with me in practically every major decision I make.

Nathaniel: Beautifully stated. I so respond to passion about film --to cinephilia as you define it. Some people think that that blurring of reality is a problem. But I actually don't trust people who don't get a little wild-eyed about something. I don't care if it's movies, knitting, cooking, synchronized swimming... if you're not obsessed with something I have to ask: what's wrong with you?

Arden: I agree. Cassavetes has this great quote which is that the most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to. I think everyone is obsessed with something and I think everyone goes a little crazy sometimes. But I think everyone is living under this assumption that if they just keep it together for another 24 hours there will be some sort of pay-off. Believe me, there's no pay-off for pretending to be like everyone else. You are better off just admitting you're bat-shit crazy.

Yep. Speaking of crazy: describe the following Warren Beatty conquests lovers in five words or less: Julie Christie. Diane Keaton. Natalie Wood. Madonna and Annette Bening.

Julie Christie - independence never looked so co-dependent
Diane Keaton - more of a Nicholson girl
Natalie Wood - too fragile to resist breaking
Madonna - boring girl, great blow jobs
Annette Bening - I mean... better than Capshaw...

Nathaniel: lol. You kill me. What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to you (or near you) at a movie theater?

Arden: Probably having my boss lecture me outside a screening at Sundance in front of a bunch of people. The lecture began with "Let me tell you something...I didn't write the Bible... but I know everything." That was embarrassing. Also, I went on a blind date to Miike's Audition at the New Beverly in LA. Its just the worst date movie. Especially with someone you don't know. I never saw that guy again. He probably thought I was going to saw his foot off with a piano wire.

Nathaniel: Oh dear, yeah. Especially if you picked the movie. Which leads me (I'm so sorry to segueway from pianowire to this. I truly am) to the topic of sex. Your play Cinephilia is rather hormonal... you don't seem like a shy girl. What do movies get wrong and right about sex? Favorite sex scenes...?

Arden: I like being provocative and discussing sex because it's like licking a battery. I just feels titallating on the tongue. I think its because in mainstream film sex is really boring and not at all representational of the human experience. So going into any detail at all is fun for me. Sex is usually a narrative beat (...and then they had sex) and never explored further. I like sex scenes that involved real characters and not airbrushed cartoons. I really liked the oral sex scene in Gallo's Brown Bunny. I love Joe Swanberg's Kissing on the Mouth where all the girls have cellulite and pubic hair and sex is portrayed as what it's become to the post-collegiate set: a casual sport. All of Last Tango in Paris. The scene on the stairs in A History of Violence. Robert Downey Jr. and Heather Graham's sex scene in Two Girls and a Guy.

Nathaniel: God, I'd forgot all about that one. I remember that gave the MPAA heart palpitations at the time and if I recall they barely take their clothes off. You like the grittier realism. Everyone who does should see Late Marriage (2001). The sex scene is like a whole act in the film and it's brilliant. You learn everything you need to know about the relationship.

OK Final Question: They make a movie of your life. Who plays you? Title? Rating? Tagline?

Arden: oooo! It would be a brisk romantic dramedy in black and white called Imitating Life. I want Madeline Kahn circa 1974 to play me. Written by Elaine May and directed by Mike Nichols. It's defintely an R (for the smoking and the multiple uses of the word "fuck"). Tagline: "It's her world. You're just making a cameo."

Nathaniel: I've already bought my ticket and I've already handed the Oscar to Madeline Kahn posthumously. Thanks Arden!


READERS: Share your thoughts about this exchange in the comments. Also, if you'd like to suggest some underappreciated blogger or rightly celebrated web celeb for me to toss 10 questions at, do so there as well.


Jason Adams said...

I'm seriously angry that Imitating Life is not a real movie. Somebody greenlight it immediately. I've got $20; does that make me a producer?


in this day and age i believe it does.

however it does NOT make you eligible for the Best Picture nomination should Imitating Life sweep the Oscars.

which we can all agree it would!

NicksFlickPicks said...

What a smart and engaging interview! Lots to think about here... and funny, too! Thanks, Arden, for sharing all of this, and thanks N, for asking such great questions.

My message is one of love,

Jack H. said...

Arden totally rocks!!

Glenn Dunks said...

Arden is great. Anything that allows me (and others, I guess) the chance to read more of her stuff is a-okay with me.

StinkyLulu said...

Wow. Perhaps the best "Blogosphere Multiplex" yet... (I love this series so sososo sosososososo much.)

And yes the sex in Late Marriage is just...wow.

Anonymous said...

Terrific interview. I love your comments about obsession and being obsessed. People get weirded out about my James Bond thing, but you know, there's no point loving something if you can't be obsessed with it.

rockethenry said...

I love Arden's total commitment to film, her knowledge of it, and her well-justified obsessions. Great interview. I agree, great to hear more from Arden.

Anonymous said...

I'm horrified and frightened for my life JH sr.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap! Dad?