Christopher Nolan: No 3D, no cell phone, lots of diagrams.

Christopher Nolan: No 3D, no cell phone, lots of diagrams. (photo)

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“I don’t have e-mail, a cell phone…it gives me more time to think,” said Christopher Nolan, which might’ve been the greatest revelation from his appearance at this weekend’s inaugural Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival. His admission came in response to a question about online chatter concerning his films, though it was evident others are keeping track of his tight schedule, as he stopped by for a 45-minute chat with the Times’ Geoff Boucher during a break from the dub stage for “Inception.”

Although the talk was sandwiched between a double bill of “Insomnia” and “The Dark Knight,” the subject quickly turned to his latest film. There was a wave of excitement when the end credits of “Insomnia” led directly into an MPAA green band, which proved to be the beginning of “Inception” trailer #3, which is available online. Shortly after, Nolan was greeted with a standing ovation as he made his way to the stage and after a question about Robin Williams’ performance in “Insomnia” — which the director called “flawless” and considered himself lucky that it came out before “One Hour Photo,” even though “Insomnia” was shot later — Boucher started in with questions about this summer’s most anticipated film.

06122010_Inception.jpg“I’ve wanted to make a film about dreams since I was a kid,” Nolan told the audience and mentioned that he pitched the film to Warner Brothers right after finishing “Insomnia.” He gave a basic synopsis that largely resembled his recent comments to Empire magazine, about a team of extractors that can steal information from the mind. “I thought it would take months, but it took me 10 years,” said Nolan about the writing process that followed.

While he conceived of “Inception” as a heist film, he couldn’t complete it since he felt “heist films tend to be deliberately superficial,” a problem he knew was solved by the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio, of whom he likened to Guy Pearce in “Memento” with his ability to “find the emotional truth of the character.” (When Boucher brought up that six of the eight actors whose names appear on “Inception”‘s poster had been nominated for Oscars, Nolan got a laugh when he shrugged, ” I hadn’t noticed actually…it’s an incredible cast.” He also got a rise out of the audience when he said he screened “Pink Floyd’s The Wall” for cast and crew right before shooting for inspiration and “it was shocking to everybody”; he’s presenting the film next week at the L.A. Film Festival.)

But Nolan didn’t have a hard time winning over the discerning fanboy crowd. He championed practical effects, which he used extensively in concert with CG for “Inception,” explaining that he learned on “Batman Begins” that effects artists need something to start out with. After doing tests with a digital Batman, he thought most of the audience could be fooled, but he wasn’t. (“I could tell. [The artists] weren’t real happy, but it was incredibly close.”) He continued, “If you can photograph something real…they’re able to do much, much better work.”

Nolan also appeared disinterested in discussing 3D, though he couldn’t help but give a well-reasoned response to why “Inception” is one of the rare summer blockbusters to elude the treatment. “I’m not a huge fan of 3D,” said Nolan to the cheers of the audience before mentioning that he did tests with post-conversion. “They looked good, but they wouldn’t have the time to get up to my standards.” Taken out of context, those comments might appear that he was flirting with the process, but he continued, “I find the dimness of the image extremely alienating” when projecting a 3D film and mentioned the “enormous compromises” he would have to make like shooting on video first to accommodate the 3D process. He left a door open when he said “post-conversion would be the future” for him personally, if he were to make a 3D film, and acknowledged that “audiences will decide” 3D’s fate, but seemingly shut it when he said in a later answer, “I find it impossible as a viewer to forget I’m watching a movie [in 3D].”

06122010_TheDarkKnight.jpgHe also took questions about his involvement in “Superman” (“I thought [David Goyer’s] pitch was terrific and I didn’t want it to not get done,” but stressed he was only a producer on the project) and dished a little on “The Dark Knight,” saying there was a direct connection to Richard Donner’s “Superman” to his take on Batman: “I wanted to make the Batman film that would’ve been made in ’78, ’79…[Warner Brothers] never did the Dick Donner version of an extraordinary person in an ordinary world” with an esteemed cast filling out the supporting roles. Boucher also prodded Nolan to talk about his favorite scene of “The Dark Knight” — the Joker’s interrogation sequence, which he made distinctive with bright lighting and wanted near the beginning of the film — and its incredible financial success in comparison to “Batman Begins,” which Nolan believed “suffered from a lot of suspicion of the franchise” with audiences at first, but allowed for “the massive benefit of showing what you can do with the character.”

Comic book writer Ed Brubaker was in the audience and asked Nolan about his writing process and whether how much he outlines his screenplays, to which Nolan responded he doesn’t use outlines, but “I draw a lot of diagrams. It all gets a bit ‘Beautiful Mind.'” He also writes in a linear fashion and always plans to do rewrites later to “make it flow.” “It’s almost like you write a bunch of dailies and edit it into a more comprehensible form.”

[Photos: “Inception,” Warner Bros., 2010; “The Dark Knight,” Warner Bros., 2007]

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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