Jason Reitman at the New Beverly

Jason Reitman at the New Beverly (photo)

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More Spring Preview: [Theatrical Calendar]
[Anywhere But a Movie Theater]
[Repertory Calendar for the Coasts]

Forgive Jason Reitman if he can’t remember exactly how it came about that he would be guest programming the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. Even though he can easily recall first stepping inside the repertory shrine for a program of Alfred Hitchcock miscellany including WWII propaganda shorts and the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episode “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” when he was 16, these are busy times for the writer/director, who has either been shuttling around town collecting awards for “Up in the Air” or holed up adapting Joyce Maynard’s novel “Labor Day” in recent months. Still, he’s taking a break to show some of his favorite films this week at the theater, and introducing each double feature on first night they show. He also found the time to tell us about his choices, so even if you aren’t in L.A. this week, you can get a prime the pump for watching them at home.

02152010_BuellerElection.jpgJohn Hughes’ “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and Alexander Payne’s “Election” (February 19 & 20)

First, I think “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is kind of a perfect movie and in particular, “Election” is a film that deeply influenced me and I just thought it would be interesting to see Matthew Broderick as student versus Matthew Broderick as teacher, not to mention Matthew Broderick in control of the world versus Matthew Broderick [with] the world in control of him. I think they’re oddly perfect two sides of the same coin, in which in “Ferris Bueller” we see the world as hopeful as it gets – that last year of high school when there is opportunity in anything, and then “Election” is about the opposing moment when you realize this is it. “Ferris Bueller” is a movie about there being no ceiling and “Election” seems to be a movie about touching the ceiling for the first time. Or banging your head on it.

02152010_BoogieShampoo.jpgHal Ashby’s “Shampoo” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” (February 21 & 22)

“Boogie Nights” is a film that I saw at the Beverly Center for the first time at their first test screening and I saw the long version and that was a movie where I saw it and thought, wow, everything’s about to change. And “Shampoo” is a film that had an extraordinary influence on me as well, just in how I tell stories. I think “Up in the Air” is me desperately trying to make my “Shampoo” and I just thought they oddly went together. I think of Wahlberg’s character and Beatty’s character as interesting parallels. Oddly, now that I’m looking at all of my double features, I have to do with comparing the main characters. That there’s interesting line between the stars. Looking at “Boogie Nights” and “Shampoo,” there’s this inexplicable connection between their main characters and their ability to woo women that in a strange way their knack for romance is also their albatross.

02152010_BreakingBottle.jpgPeter Yates’ “Breaking Away” and Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket” (February 24 & 25)

In the case of “Bottle Rocket” and “Breaking Away,” they’re my two favorite movies about misunderstood youth. They’re both about groups of guys in their late teens, early twenties who have been kind of cast aside and are trying to figure it out. I think it’s the [double feature] that excites me the most. It’s funny, I find a lot of people haven’t seen “Breaking Away” or haven’t seen it in a long time and I saw it recently, maybe a year or two ago, and I was struck by how perfect it is. It’s a movie without a false note and the actors are perfect. All four of those guys are just impeccable in it and it takes a world that people [ordinarily] don’t have access to, Suburban town in Indiana and yet has all these accessible ideas. And it speaks to the idea of our hopes and dreams and perhaps the moment where we’re let down. I suppose that’s in all six films that I’m showing and I guess it’s an important idea to me because it runs throughout my films as well — that moment of awakening and whether you acknowledge it or not.

If you live in the L.A. area, tickets are still available for Jason Reitman’s guest programming stint at the New Beverly with double features of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Election” (Feb. 19-20), “Shampoo” and “Boogie Nights” (Feb. 21-22), and “Breaking Away” and “Bottle Rocket” (Feb. 24-25).


Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.

10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.

9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.

8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.

7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.

6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.

5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.

4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.

3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.

2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”

1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

Watching your younger self on screen.

Watching your younger self on screen. (photo)

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In an interview with the Independent, Shirley MacLaine reveals what might possibly be the only interesting thing about the big, bloated “Valentine’s Day” monster coming our way. During an argument with her husband (played by director Garry Marshall’s good-luck charm Hector Elizondo), the 1958 film “Hot Spell” screens in the background — representing the couple’s on-screen marriage, sure, but also showing us how much/little MacLaine’s changed in fiftysomething years of acting.

It’s an effect that’s not nearly as common as you’d suspect — using the camera to show us icons changing and aging up to the movie that they’re in now. It can verge on outright bathos and exploitation, but it never fails to spark my inner morbidity. Seriously. Yesterday, I had to watch “The Spy Next Door” for work — the lousy Jackie Chan for kids vehicle currently exiting theaters in a hurry. But for two minutes I didn’t begrudge it, in its opening montage establishing Chan’s spy bona-fides by briskly montaging together his entire filmography.

The earliest example I can think of is “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?,” which (pretty cruelly) has Joan Crawford watching herself in the ’30s on screen. Then there’s “Space Cowboys,” with its Photoshopped depiction of the young crew of Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner all together, young and fresh-faced and probably the most effective thing about the movie.

02052010_spacecowboys.jpgThere was a moment in “Up In The Air,” where George Clooney takes Vera Farmiga back to his high school and shows her what I presume are photos of the real young Clooney playing basketball — but Clooney’s hardly old enough for this to be tearjerking; it’s mostly curious.

The only other example that’s coming to mind right now, really, isn’t is a movie: it’s Mark Romanek’s video for Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” which is almost emotional porn. But surely there’s more out there. What say you readers? What kind of on-screen aging within the body of the movie freaked you out?

[Photos: “Valentine’s Day,” New Line Cinema, 2010; “Space Cowboys,” Warner Bros., 2000]

What’s up with all those Wes Anderson spoofs?

What’s up with all those Wes Anderson spoofs? (photo)

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Super Bowl Sunday is coming up fast, so Slate has a video called “If Filmmakers Directed The Super Bowl.” Here you can find by-the-numbers appropriations of various filmmakers: football footage intercut with anime and “Kill Bill” font and songs spell “Tarantino.” For Lynch, run the footage backwards. For Wes Anderson, by all means play “This Time Tomorrow” while running a random shot in slo-mo.

It’s odd how many Anderson parodies there are out in the world. This week also saw the arrival of “Wes Anderson Spider-Man.” I also found “Ramsey’s First Grade Journal by Wes Anderson”, “wes anderson’s john mccain ad”[sic]. They’re all the same, with the variable of a voice-over narrator –the slo-mo, the soundtrack choices, the flat line readings.

It’s weird how people gravitate towards the most reductive view of Anderson’s work. Okay, not that weird — this is the internet, where literal-mindedness always reads well. And Anderson does make himself awfully easy to lampoon. But these parodies never feel accurate to me — I can never tell if they’re works of love or hate, and they never seem like convincing simulations of an Anderson film.

A full reckoning with, say, “Rushmore” would include the incredibly awkward scene where Olivia Williams turns on Jason Schwartzman and hisses “hand job” at him while he stumbles. A full reckoning with Anderson’s catalogue in general would include “Bottle Rocket,” a movie that conspicuously avoids parody. Anderson has made six features that are recognizably the product of the same sensibility (and compositional sense) but that, in fact, don’t really repeat themselves. There are a few tics in there (I’ll concede the slo-mo), but less than you’d think. It’s mostly about the shots.

02052010_tenenbaums.jpgI happen to believe “The Royal Tenenbaums” is Anderson’s worst movie — and it’s telling that that’s the one that tends to get parodied the most. You could call it “quirky,” and I’d have to agree. But otherwise, the movies dance around that dreaded term: save for the suicide scene, “Tenenbaums” tends to suffocate and repress all the pain, but the others deal with it in various forms, some more than disruptive than others. But watching those damn YouTube videos, you’d think all Anderson movies were just some dude listing random character adjectives in voice-over while blank, chain-smoking twentysomethings prepared to leave the room in slow motion.

It’s almost like people want to punish Anderson for having a recognizable style — consistency’s apparently a drag. And in general, I’m bothered by the idea that having a distinctive touch actually just boils down to a generic bag of tricks. In that Super Bowl video, everyone who’s getting parodied is easy to pin down because of a few hallmarks (like Werner Herzog’s voice). Instead of dealing with what the filmmakers are actually up to, it’s easier to pretend they’re just style over substance, or to take the cheap shots instead of trying to replicate the equally distinctive but trickier control of, say, P.T. Anderson.

You know what a Wes Anderson commercial looks like? It looks like that American Express commercial, sure, but it also looks like the IKEA commercial below. Now you tell me about how Anderson can be pinned down in 30 seconds or less. Sometimes style just isn’t all the substance on display.

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