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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

Check out my new column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp


seriousLive in the southwest? Want to see the latest Cohen yarn? Don’t want to pay a dime to see it? You’re in luck as I have passes to giveaway to see A SERIOUS MAN, the Cohen’s latest, this upcoming Tuesday night, 7 p.m., at the Harkins Fashion Square theater.

Shoot me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com for your chance to win.

For those living in a cave needing some background on the film:

A Serious Man is the story of an ordinary man’s search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a quiet midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman, who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry’s unemployable brother Arthur is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry’s chances for tenure at the university.

Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person – a mensch – a serious man?


snowhitebluraycoverBuy this disc now!

I know some of you will weep but I won’t be here next week. I’ll be bathing in the commerce and manufactured joy of Disneyland with my family. To that end I, and as luck would have it, I was sent a copy of the newly restored Disney classic and it only invigorated my giddiness to visit the Magic Kingdom even more.

For those who don’t know it author Neal Gabler has written a biography on Walt Disney that shows a portrait of the man who worked hard and went to extraordinary lengths in getting this movie made. It is easy to just focus on how well restored the film looks on Blu-ray, it’s gorgeous, and how much I am looking forward to more entries into the Diamond Collection for Disney films but that would undercut this disc’s true gems: the special features that are packed on this thing.

For one you get a Walt Disney commentary. Stitched together with narration from historian John Canemaker you get a 1, 2 punch of the man who created this film and a man who helps bring it all into context. It’s worth the price of admission alone if you’re a fan. Secondly, the making of documentary hosted by Angela Lansbury is a hoot if you’ve never (like me) actually seen how the film came together. I know there are some out there who might scoff at it, but for those who aren’t completists it’s an interesting trip. The second disc isn’t a throwaway, either, as the special features here again deal with this film’s timeline, a talk about finding the right voice talent for this film (can anyone remember a time when it took talent to be a voice talent and not just be a pretty mug in front of the lens?) and scads of other little tidbits that more than justify the disc’s cost.

For anyone looking to have a definitive version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs this is the one that you’ve been waiting for.

Here is a product description:

No film in history has captured the worlds imagination like Walt Disneys first full-length animated masterpiece. Through astonishing Blu-ray high definition technology, experience this timeless classic in its most spectacular presentation ever! With an all-new, state-of-the-art digital restoration and Disney Enhanced High Definition sound, the breathtaking animation and unforgettable music of the most revered Disney film of all time will enthrall you like never before!

Join the beautiful princess Snow White as she escapes her jealous stepmother, the queen, and befriends a lovable group of dwarfs. But when she falls under the queens wicked spell, only true loves kiss can save her

Bonus Features Include: Snow White Returns Storyboard Featurette Was Walt planning a Snow White sequel? With newly discovered storyboards Disney animators show how this sequel would have played out, Princess and the Frog Sneak Peek Exclusive sneak peek at the 1st 5 minutes before it hits theaters, The One that Started it All Featurette This featurette within Hyperion Studios reveals how Snow White forever changed the world of movies and the world at large, All New Tiffany Thornton Music Video to Someday My Prince Will Come, Audio Commentary with Walt Disney

Nicolas Winding Refn - Interview

It is no hyperbole to say that this movie is one of the most inspired independent films to come out this year. This film deals with a man who is not only obsessed with creating a celebrity around his name through extreme violence and malevolence but is more than willing to take the time to explain the method to his true madness. A film that makes you pay attention without ever straying into preachy territory, director Nicolas Winding Refn made a film that goes beyond storytelling as he tries to incorporate direct camera monologues where our protagonist, who is just as much as an antagonist, talks about the nature of fame and celebrity. It’s brilliant and is now being released in limited release starting today and is absolutely worth hunting down and watching.

I had the opportunity to talk to Nicolas and had a delightful time chatting about an array of topics while trying to get more information about the new Keanu Reeves film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, that Refn is directing.

BRONSON is currently in limited release starting today, October 9th.

tn_bronsonNICOLAS WINDING REFN: Hello Chris.

CHRISTOPHER STIPP:  Nicholas, it is a pleasure to talk to you.

REFN: Did you like the movie?

CS:  I loved this movie.

REFN: Good.

CS:  I had a chance to watch it two nights ago and didn’t know really what to expect and was, without putting in too many superlatives, it genuinely blew me away.  It was genuinely fabulous.  I did some researching and found a quote which I found very amusing from the Time Out in London which called it “morally nasty”.


REFN: Isn’t that a great word?  How can you make that word up?


CS:  I thought it was hilarious myself.  I know reading an earlier interview you said “OK, I might do it” but then you saw something in there that you really wanted to develop.  What did you see in this character, or this man?

REFN: It wasn’t so much the character.  It was the transformation that I was interested in.  I was interested in how can somebody transform themselves from a real person into a mythological personality all by themselves in a prison.  How does that work?  And that is really what began my interest in the journey of making this film.  I didn’t want to make a bio of Michael Peterson that didn’t interest me.  I didn’t see the point of that and I didn’t want to make a movie about Charlie Bronson because he doesn’t exist.  That’s a personality.  How do you make that interesting?  But what I found interesting is the transformation.  That’s how the film starts and it ends with him beginning and ending with his achievements and maybe because deep down it was very much a reflection of my own life in a way.

CS:  And the quote of Hans Christian Andersen who desperately wanted to be famous and….

refnREFN: They did make a big film in Denmark about Hans Christian Andersen and I was set to play the lead as Hans Christian Andersen.  But then the director decided on somebody younger who I think they were trying to get for a long time and the film turned out to be complete crap.  And I think that’s because they didn’t choose me.


CS:  You actually choose somebody – Tom Hardy – what did you see in him that – there is no way this could have happened without his performance.  This really is a one man show.

REFN: Oh yeah.  Look, any movie you make is about the performance.  Characters and human beings are emotional.  So I always knew that this film had to rely on one actor pulling the whole movie off.  This movie was going to be all about his performance.  If that didn’t work, there would be no movie.  But that was a great challenge throwing yourself into something that was like a one act monologue on stage.  That’s how the film was conceived.  This was going to be a film about a guy who comes to the stage and talks about his life.

CS:  You captured that wonderfully and I think that’s getting lost on a lot of people.  It’s almost as if this is happening on a stage but we just happen to have some better backgrounds to put behind it.  For Tom, taking this role and going through that, what was your guidance to him?

REFN: Yes, you don’t want to mess with me sunshine.  I didn’t give him a lot of guidance because I shoot things in chronological order.  Basically took it from scratch.  And then shaped the performance along but one of the key words was that we kept on talking about the little toy soldier out of the Hans Christian Andersen tale that didn’t fit into the world and is searching for the meaning of life.  Sometimes I would say something specific when he would ask for specific instructions but otherwise it was more like we just sensed it.  In the beginning we would do a lot of talking but otherwise it was one of the best relationships I’ve had with any actor.  We both have a lot going on right now but eventually we would like to go back and do a movie about Aliester Crowley.

CS:  That would be fascinating.

REFN: He was the most dangerous person.

CS:  Absolutely.  That would be inspired.  Your musical choices as well peaked my interest.  I think it has one of the more eclectic soundtracks – you have operatic, your Pucini and Wagner, and Pet Shop Boys, which I absolutely appreciate.  When you are breaking this out in your own mind as you are going through it, do you see the music that you want underneath what you are capturing?

tom_hardy_is_charles_bronson_in_nicolas_winding_refn_s_bronson_movie__2_REFN: Yes.  Every time I make a movie I try to conceive it as a piece of music because that gives me ideas when I write it or conceive it.  So every time I make a film I try to say what if this was a piece of music and that gives me ideas.  Just like taking drugs, but I don’t take drugs anymore because my wife won’t let me.  They are not good for me.  So I use music as a way to enhance emotions – that’s what music does it enhances your emotions.  Let’s take Pusher Trilogy…the first one is early 80’s, late 70’s, tie dye and rock and roll, Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers, kind of late post punk nihilistic sound, everything had to be destroyed, everyone’s dying from drugs, Part II was very much Iron Maiden, that whole kind of feel, Part III was very Neil Diamond-ish.  Bronson was originally composed for me to Pet Shop Boys.  But I also wanted to make a very feminine movie that music was very much made me always aware of feminine.  When it was time in editing I felt that Pet Shop Boys didn’t really add anything anymore.  Kind of out done itself.  And kind of opera and classical slipped in because I felt I could add to the movie a new character.  Like Charlie Bronson’s life was larger than life.  Like an opera.  It was an operatic experience and classical music would help to enhance that.

CS:  It absolutely does.  It brings more of a visual, auditory representation of what the movie is about.  He wants to create this long lasting, wants to live on in perpetuity.  And he can only have that happen if it’s facilitated and I think sound tracks are sometimes ignored unfairly but I think your choices were spot on.  One thing you brought up, the use of drugs and that your wife won’t let you, one of the things I found curious was the idea that violence itself has transformed you since you’ve had your own child.  Does violence still hold the same grip, or at least interest to you, since developing the Pusher Trilogy and now this or have you seen it just wane away?

REFN: Definitely it wanes away, the self destructive part of it, thank God.  That came very much from having my own children. It is the part that penetrates and consumes you.  Violence in a physical format only destroys or inspires.  But it’s still an act of violence.  It’s emotional out-pour that is meant to grab and hold you and consume you.  That to me is metaphysically an act of violence.

CS:  Right.  Because it has to tear through you, has to affect you

REFN: Yes, tear through you.

CS:  Did you discover anything like that?  I know you spent some time before making it but the process making the film, did you have a better understanding, even greater, about this man?

bronsonREFN: No, because there is nothing to understand.  He’s an enigma.  There is no reason for the way he is except interpretation because there is nothing in his childhood.  That’s what made the film interesting for me to make because it was an enigma.  It was like traveling to the unknown.  In my own transformation and Bronson being a movie about that, Valhalla Rising which is a movie that was just completed and picked up by IFC for the states to be released next year, is the first canvass in my mind after completing Bronson.  It’s very much like life into kind of art Bronson/Nicolas Refn will create.

CS:  And from what I hear it does.  It seems almost like a cleansing of sorts when you compare the two projects.

REFN: Yes.

CS:  I know we are going to be short on time so I at least wanted to get this question in – I know for filmmakers when you have a budget like you did for Bronson you are able to be nimble and be able to do the things you wanted to do, with a film like Jekyll coming up, does it frighten you as a filmmaker, do you see things on the horizon, more money, do you see less freedom or do you see it as a new chapter the way you want to make movies?

REFN: Well, I’ve decided to see it like a new chapter.  You win some and you lose some but I will always have my own films that I can go and do myself.  A film I want to make next personally is called Only God Forgives which is  my own production and I can’t wait to get in the hands of making a Hollywood movie with all the technology and all the obstacles it brings because you get some and win some and am very open to it.  Maybe I will have a great experience, maybe I won’t.  If I don’t, I won’t make it, if I do, I will continue to make it.  You know, life is very short.  You should always try all things at least as much as you can to see what it’s like.  It may be fun, it may be bad, but hey, it’s only a movie.

CS:  Well, I would be remiss in my journalistic capacities if I didn’t at least ask the question about if you had any other details to add about Jekyll.  People are talking that it’s a modern day tale.

REFN: It’s a modern day interpretation of the story.

CS:  And Keanu coming aboard helps raise the profile of the movie.

REFN: There’s a movie called The Dying of The Light which Paul Schrader is writing that I really, really want to make.

CS:  That would be amazing.  Paul Schrader is….

REFN: Amazing.  He’s a great writer.  It’s a film I want to make but it’s all dominoes.  They all have to fall into place at a large level.


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