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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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Scarface Movie Al Pacino

Wanna Play?

Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria Commencement

Best Speech Ever

Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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