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SIFF 2013

Interview: Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg on ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, shot in 12 days between the principle photography and the post-production of The Avengers with a cast of friends and colleagues old and new in Whedon’s own home, was the opening night film at the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival. It was a testament to the commitment of the cast to Whedon that four of the film’s stars came with Whedon for the opening gala and sat for interviews with the local and national press.

I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with Nathan Fillion (Dogberry) and Clark Gregg (Deonato), better known to Whedon fans as Captain Mal Reynolds of Firefly and Agent Phil Coulson of The Avengers. No more preamble necessary, but just allow me to point out that the transcript cannot accurately capture the joking byplay and easy laughs shared between these two actors. They had not worked together before Much Ado yet come across as old friends, or at least newfound best buddies bonding over shared love of comic books, affection for Whedon, and mutual respect for their respective talents. I was honored to be welcomed into this little club even for just a few minutes.

Much Ado About Nothing opens in multiple theaters in the Seattle area on Friday, June 21.

I know that the roots of this production come from Joss Whedon’s Shakespeare readings, where he invited members of his TV show casts for brunch at his house and read through a play. Clark, were you a part of that group?

Clark Gregg: (deadpan) Sore subject.

Nathan Fillion: (laughs) I did two of those and Clark… We didn’t know Clark then. Had we known, we probably still wouldn’t have invited him. Because he’s a little too good, he would have raised the bar.

CG: Joss would ask me to drop by some bagels but not come in. No, I didn’t meet Joss until The Avengers. Actually, I met him during Comic Con after Thor, a year before The Avengers, and he came up to me and said, “I want to introduce as part of the cast of The Avengers. I want to use Agent Coulson in The Avengers, is that okay with you?” It was the quickest head nod anybody has ever done. And then after The Avengers I was just kind of brought in, I think, because several people got jobs or passed away and suddenly I was in this movie. But I wasn’t in the brunches though they sound fantastic and I hope we do one in the future sometime.

Much Ado About Nothing was like a 12-day-long brunch, wasn’t it?

CG: It was a brunch, a dinner, and a hell of a cocktail party all rolled into one.

It looked like a hell of a cocktail party. Was there a scene where nobody had a drink in their hand?

CG: Boy, there was a lot of cocktails. Yes, when things get a little testy with all the scandal and the libeling of my daughter, I don’t think there’s a lot of drinking there.

I just want to go on record and say how that was very mean of them.

Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

CG: I’ve never been a fan of people libeling my daughter on her wedding day.

NF: Isn’t libel in print?

CG: Is it like dictation?

(both start laughing)

NF: I remember in Spider-Man where J. Jonah Jameson says, “No, print is libel.”

And that’s where you get your legal expertise, from Spider-Man movies?

NF: Yes, well, there you have it.

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SIFF 2013: The Finish Line

The thirty ninth annual Seattle International Film Festival came to a close on Sunday, June 9, day twenty five of the marathon event, with the closing night film The Bling Ring, fresh from its debut at Cannes. Its two young stars, Katie Chang and Israel Broussard, were on hand to introduce the film and send the festival off to its gala closing night party.

Sofia Coppola has done marvelous work in ethereal studies of disconnection and emotional confusion, of people lost in their worlds or blinded by celebrity and affluence.

Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Bling Ring’ closes SIFF, fresh out of Cannes.

The Bling Ring fits in very nicely thematically to her growing body of work, but these kids don’t actually yearn for anything beyond fashion accessories and the thrill of robbing the rich and famous and lack any capacity for self-reflection. The dispassionate observation, intercut with social media alerts and pop culture snaps and stories, makes them a reflection of that world without offering us a character underneath worth caring about, or at least fascinated with enough to follow through.

Like Toronto’s, SIFF’s top awards—the Golden Space Needles, this year designed by local artist and sculptor Piper O’Neill—are voted on by the audiences. This year, with plenty of high-profile American indies and international imports on display, the surprise Best Picture winner was the warm-hearted Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, a South African romantic comedy that explores racial and social tensions through laughs (I sadly missed this one; the final show conflicted with my own rare appearance on a festival panel). Director Henk Pretorius, accepting the award via phone, said he would change the title because nobody gets it right. First runner: The Rocket, an uplifting Australian drama shot in Laos.

Continue reading at Keyframe

SIFF 2013 – Midfest Dispatch

The Seattle International Film Festival is, as its organizers are proud to trumpet, the biggest and the longest film festival in the United States. It is also the most well attended in the country. Some of that is due to its size, of course, but SIFF is also a festival pitched to the hometown audience rather than attracting visiting film critics.

The thirty ninth edition of SIFF kicked off on Thursday, May 16, with a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and complete its twenty five-day run on Sunday, June 9 with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring as the Closing Night Film. Over 270 feature films (fiction and documentary) and 175 short films will play over twenty five days and more than 600 screening events.

SIFF doesn’t have an identifying specialty—it is by design trying to please everyone with a little bit of everything—but it does commit itself to a few worthy sidebars, notably documentary, and specifically the Face the Music programming.

Her Aim Is True is technically not a part of the latter but spiritually it fits right in. The documentary portrait of Jini Dellaccio received its world premiere at SIFF, and fittingly so. In the early 1960s, at age forty, self-taught fashion photographer Ms. Dellaccio snapped her first rock photo (of Seattle garage rockers The Wailers) and began a new career. She took bands out of the studio and into the distinctive northwest light of Washington State’s great outdoors, anticipating the mod style of A Hard Day’s Night with a distinctly American character and energy. I wish director Helen Whitehead offered a wider array of shots (the same iconic photos repeat throughout) and more context on how her work influenced the character of rock photography in the industry, but the film is nonetheless a vital tour through a most unusual, creative and fulfilling life, and Ms. Dellaccio’s voice guides the portrait. She’s still alive and taking photos at the age of ninety six.

Continue reading at Fandor

SIFF 2013: ‘Byzantium’

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed in Neil Jordan’s second coming to the vampire myth, Byzantium. Even seen solely as a vampire film Byzantium far surpasses Jordan’s 1994 Interview with the Vampire—and pretty much everything else in the genre. But while Jordan’s and scenarist Moira Buffini’s expansion of Buffini’s stage play A Vampire Story can be enjoyed as a straightforward—albeit narratively complex—vampire tale, it is much more. The familiar tropes of vampire lore (to which Irish folklore has contributed at least as much as middle-European) become, under Jordan’s skilled hand and eye, haunting visual metaphors for the tyranny of the body, the marginalization of the outsider, the economic suppression of Ireland, the subjection of women, and, most importantly, the means of rebellion against all of these. Vampires and whores, predators and victims—how can we tell the dancer from the dance?

In Byzantium, Jordan works wonders setting his outsiders apart from the environment they only half inhabit, while out-of-focus light sources dance in the background like leukocytes under a microscope. And when he isn’t creating conflicting layers with long lenses, he is choreographing motion on two or three planes of deep-focus activity. Background action cuts the vectors of foreground characters, which are themselves cut by the moving camera, keeping the viewing eye constantly alive, the viewing mind constantly questioning which movements are real and which are only suggested. One amazing shot, a lateral track of a beach conversation between two characters with a line of fishing boats moored behind them moves along the line of boats, gradually seeming to forget the characters altogether (and enabling us to do so as well), arriving at one boat boldly named “Our Lady,” then suddenly reverses its movement, as if the camera, Jordan’s eye, our eye, has gone too far, done too much, forgotten what it is about, and returns to the characters as if little or nothing had happened. It’s a delicious detail in an endlessly delicious movie, a celebration of color and light, a matrix of Irish anger and Irish love, with a satisfying, thrilling rightness about every move, gesture, and event. And if you remember that Bram Stoker was Irish, and that a guy named Yeats wrote poems about Irish rebellion and about a place called Byzantium—well, so much the better.

Copyright © 2013 Robert C. Cumbow

SIFFing: Parallax View’s SIFF 2013 Guide

The 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday, May 16, with a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and complete its 25-day run on Sunday, June 9 with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring as the Closing Night Film. Here is Parallax View’s coverage and guide to SIFF resources for all 25 days.

SIFF Week by Week, Day by Day:
Seattle 2013: The Finish Line (Sean Axmaker, Keyframe)
Seattle Film Festival Wrap (Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood)
Week 4 Picks and Pans (Seattle Weekly)
SIFF week 4: Nine movies to see (Seattle Times)
Closing Weekend Highlights (Three Imaginary Girls)
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SIFF: ‘Finding Hillywood’

Warshawski at work.

Leah Warshawski didn’t set out for a movie career. “I got into it because I worked on a boat in college,” recalls the co-director of Finding Hillywood, speaking by phone from a shoot in Idaho. She was studying Japanese at the University of Hawaii when the marine coordinator of the 2003 TV movie Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding hired her for his crew. “I actually didn’t know anything about it at all, but he hired me as his assistant for a couple of pretty big movies, and I learned a lot from him.” She decided she wanted to become a producer, so she continued working on TV shows like Survivor: Fiji and Lost and corporate videos. “My film school was working, and I’m still learning.”

A project for Microsoft brought her to Seattle and then sent her to Rwanda, where she found Hillywood. No, it’s not Rwanda’s answer to Bollywood, but a traveling film festival that screens films made by, about, and for Rwandans. Free movies are projected on an inflatable screen in rural areas—often near mass graves from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis by the majority Hutus.

“We didn’t believe it,” recalls Warshawski. “People show up with no shoes, in all kinds of inclement weather. They walk for miles and stand together in this precarious situation where you don’t know who you’re standing next to”—meaning Hutu perpetrator or Tutsi survivor. “There’s a huge issue of trust there still, years after the genocide. And that’s a little different than going to Sundance.”

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Previewing SIFF 2013 – UPDATED

2013seattleifflogo_mainIt’s back. The Seattle International Film Festival, the biggest, the longest, and the best attended film festival in America, opens on Thursday, May 16 with Joss Whendon’s Much Ado About Nothing. That was announced a few weeks and news that the director and much of his cast (drawn from various orbits of the Whedonverse) would appear with the film on opening night helped make this the fastest sell-out opening event SIFF has seen.

Announced today is the closing night film: The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s new feature with Emma Watson as the ringleader of a gang of teenagers who target celebrities to rob via social networking tools, simply for the kick of rubbing up against the famous while taking them for all they are worth. It’s based on a true story and seems ready made as a tale for our celebrity-obsessed times.

In between these films is 24 days of screenings with over 200 feature films (that includes the four Secret Festival screenings), 67 documentaries, and 175 shorts. (SIFF is an Academy qualifying festival for live-action, animated, and starting this year documentary shorts.) 18 features make their respective world premieres.

Gala showings include two films with Seattle connections: Touchy Feely from Seattle’s own Lynn Shelton (which kicks off six days of screenings in Renton) and Decoding Annie Parker, which dramatizes the true story of cancer research breakthrough guided by UW geneticist Mary-Claire King (played in the film by Helen Hunt).

Touchy Feely

Other galas and special event screenings include The Way, Way Back from writers / directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “Gay-La” event G.B.F., Fanie Fourie’s Lobola from South Africa (the centerpiece of the African Pictures section), Populaire from France, Papadopoulos and Sons from the U.K., Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies with Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilder, and the documentaries Twenty Feet from Stardom, Inequality for All, and Somm.

Thanks to a grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, SIFF will present a special section of 15 films from Africa, including the North American premiere of Last Flight to Abuja from Nigeria: the first Nollywood film to play SIFF.

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