That Was Then, This is Now

That Was Then, This is Now (photo)

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As directors who have continually proven themselves to be at the cutting edge of what’s next and new, it’s hard to believe that all five of the nominees in this year’s Best Director category have already been to the Spirit Awards sometime, if not multiple times, over the last decade. For some, they return with radically different films than they first broke onto the scene with, while others have kept mining the same emotional terrain in new and different ways, but all have applied their vision to the films we continue to be excited about then, now and the future.

Darren Aronofsky is a prime example of this, having debuted with the Spirit Award-nominated “Pi” in 1998 and making the most of a reported $60,000 budget to tell the story of a numbers expert who stumbles upon a code he believes could unlock the secrets of the universe before descending into madness. Even though the budgets have gone up (though not nearly as much as it will on the director’s next film, the entry into the X-Men canon “The Wolverine”), Aronofsky has continued to work with many of the same key collaborators such as composer Clint Mansell and cinematographer Matthew Libatique and on “Black Swan,” which brings the director back to the psychological thriller genre after stripping down his style for the working class character study “The Wrestler,” Aronofsky appears to have put everything together for a film that pulls the wild abandon from his earlier films and the continued refinement of his technical precision.

Lisa Cholodenko was also part of the Spirit Awards class of 1999, competing against Aronofsky in the Best First Feature category where both would miss out to “The Opposite of Sex” director Don Roos. However, like her “Pi” compatriot, Cholodenko is riding high these days after making some films that were considerably different from her gritty debut, first with the glossy mother-son drama “Laurel Canyon” in 2003 and now with “The Kids Are All Right,” the first time she has had a writing partner (in Stuart Blumberg) for something more overtly comedic. Cholodenko’s commitment to realism and digging deep into characters hasn’t wavered – of course, it’s one of the reasons she continues to attract stellar casts to her work. However, her ability to handle the lighter moments in “The Kids Are All Right” as apt with comedy as drama, and though she’s found fertile territory to mine in her home of Southern California, the possibilities appear to be endless for what could be her next film.

Debra Granik is already said to be working on her next project, a reimagining of Pippi Longstocking, which would actually continue a lineage from the writer/director of films featuring strong female protagonists. It all began for Granik with the 2004 drama “Down to the Bone,” which was nominated a John Cassavetes Award at the Spirits and made a star out of Vera Farmiga as a woman struggling with both her marriage and her addiction to drugs. Granik worked similar magic with “Winter’s Bone” star Jennifer Lawrence in the adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel about a young girl’s search for her father amidst the meth-addled plains of Missouri and if the trend continues, whoever will be playing Pippi can be assured of both career-making performance and yet another example of Granik’s empowerment of female characters.

When John Cameron Mitchell exploded into the consciousness of audiences and Spirit Award watchers in 2002 with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” few would expect the director to manage a delicate, yet devastating turn out of Nicole Kidman as a grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole” after pushing the envelope first with the adaptation of bombastic musical “Hedwig” and then with the sexually-provocative ensemble dramedy “Shortbus” in 2006. With “Rabbit Hole,” Mitchell pushed in a different direction – our own personal capacity for enduring tragedy and forgiveness – in the story of two parents (Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) dealing with the death of their child. To argue that Mitchell was going for a film that was more relatable would be a misinterpretation, since his gifts as an artist so far has to bring the human experience to the screen in unique ways, but his most traditional movie to date feels next and new for the same reasons it is old-fashioned, it tells its tale well and promises that there’s really no barriers the writer/director couldn’t cross to do so.

Of the five directors nominated, Danny Boyle appears to be the veteran in this group, coming to the attention of the Spirit Awards first in 1997 with “Trainspotting,” but of all the auteurs, he’s arguably transformed the most. In the years since that classic of drug cinema, Boyle has worked in nearly every genre imaginable from romantic comedy (“A Life Less Ordinary”) to horror (“28 Days Later”) to science-fiction (“Sunshine”) to rags-to-riches tales (“Millions”) before settling into a streak of unabashedly joyous films about the human spirit in recent years with the much-awarded “Slumdog Millionaire” and his most recent Spirit Award nominee “127 Hours,” which tells the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston’s attempt to free himself from being trapped underneath a boulder. Boyle has defiantly never made the same film twice, much less carry anything on from one project to the next in his recent career except for the enthusiasm he brings to every movie, something that keeps him and the cinema as a whole constantly refreshed in terms of what’s new and next.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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