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The Toughest Scene I Wrote: Why the Birdman Writers Embraced Mediocrity

Over the next few weeks, Vulture will speak to the screenwriters behind 2014's most acclaimed movies about the scenes they found most difficult to crack. Which pivotal sequences underwent the biggest transformations on their way from script to screen? Today, we talked to Nicolas Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris — who co-wrote Birdman with Armando Bo and the film's director, Alejandro González Iñárritu — about their film's meta centerpiece, which takes place within the play mounted by Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) as his artistic comeback.

We would have to say that one of the most — if not the most — difficult [scenes] to tackle was the "motel-room scene." It was a scene that was supposed to belong to a short story that inspired a play that is being performed in a film. (Don’t bother to read that again, just go with us here.)

"The motel-room scene had to be mediocre enough to appear as written by our hero, Riggan Thomson." »

Indie Romantic Comedies Are a Dime a Dozen, But Goodbye to All That Is Charming, Beautiful, and Sad

Romantic comedies involving people moving on after divorce are a dime a dozen, but rarely are they as generous, sharply observed, and humane as Angus MacLachlan’s Goodbye to All That, a teeny, tiny indie opening amid this week’s big-studio behemoths. It’s the modest tale of Otto (a fantastic Paul Schneider), a likable, klutzy, self-absorbed North Carolina husband and father whose wife (an equally fantastic Melanie Lynskey) announces one day that she wants a divorce. Or rather her psychiatrist announces it for her. Otto, it seems, is so clueless to the needs of those around him that he didn’t even know his wife was seeing a shrink. The divorce is presented as a fait accompli; nobody around Otto, including his distracted lawyer, suggests he fight it or that he do much of anything, except move on.

And so he does. He gets on Facebook and connects with high-school sweethearts. »

3 Actors From The Interview on the Movie’s Cancellation

If you thought you were disappointed about Sony yanking the release of The Interview, just imagine being one of the film's actors — and then imagine being one of the movie’s actors who isn't Seth Rogen or James Franco, who have the benefit of 24-hour security. The Interview's main cast seems to have been placed under a cone of silence following Sony's announcement on Wednesday. So we called up three of the supporting players — Tommy Chang, David Diaan, and Thomas Cadrot — to see how they're coping.

"Well, I got my check! Although this will affect my residuals, unfortunately." »

Kevin Hart Preps Will Ferrell for Prison in the Get Hard Trailer

Apparently, if you find out you're going to prison, you call Kevin Hart. Or at least the guy he plays in Get Hard. Here, he helps a helpless white dude (Will Ferrell) prep for a stay in the big house. It involves Mace and a simulated gang fight. Maybe he should just watch a season of Orange Is the New Black?

  • Posted 12/19/14 at 12:30 PM
  • History

The Interview Has Renewed Interest in Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Which Is a Great Thing

One of the few good things to come out of this L’Affaire Interview has been a renewed interest among both the media and viewers in Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic, The Great Dictator. With some reason: If The Interview offers a cautionary tale in what happens when you satirize existing world tyrants, The Great Dictator is perhaps the poster child of satirizing existing world tyrants. Chaplin’s film, released before the U.S. had entered World War II, took direct aim at Adolf Hitler. In it, Chaplin played both the Tomanian despot Adenoid Hynkel (the film’s humorously named Hitler surrogate) and a Jewish barber who, after years in a military hospital, returns home only to discover that he’s now living in a brutal, anti-Semitic police state.

Hilarity ensues. No, really – it does. »

  • Posted 12/19/14 at 11:45 AM
  • Movies

Sony Hackers Say the Leaks Will Stop (for Now)

Sony's long international nightmare appears to be over: After the studio took the unprecedented step of canceling the entire theatrical release of The Interview, the hackers that have been targeting the studio since November will reportedly bring their long series of damaging leaks to an end. In a message sent to Sony Pictures executives, the North Korea–linked hackers say they will "ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble." Oh, and just one more thing: Sony needs to "never let the movie [be] released, distributed or leaked in any form," and "everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version [must be taken] down from any website hosting them immediately." This is the first time anyone has ever cared this much about a 50-word Vulture post.

In All the Ways That Matter, Annie Is a Giant Missed Opportunity

The new Annie musical starring Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis is pretty bad, but let’s be honest: Despite some decent show tunes, the show was pretty bad to begin with, so it’s not worth getting all righteous about the dumb changes.

I saw literally the first public performance of Annie in the summer of ’76. »

George Clooney Wrote a Petition to Support The Interview, But No One Signed It

George Clooney wrote up a petition to support The Interview, directed at his fellow actors, and is now telling Deadline that no one would dare sign it: "It was sent to basically the heads of every place. They told Bryan Lourd [Clooney's agent] , 'I can’t sign this.' What? How can you not sign this? I’m not going to name anyone, that’s not what I’m here to do, but nobody signed the letter." They were all too afraid, too afraid to publicly side with Clooney, who is basically every famous person's BFF: "This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made ... Understand what is going on right now, because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even paying attention."

His solution? Sony should release the film online and he will let them know: "I just talked to Amy [Pascal, the co-chariman of Sony Pictures] an hour ago. She wants to put that movie out ... Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all fucking people."

Here is the petition letter he sent out, as read to Deadline:


How Annie Was Updated for 2014

Will Gluck isn't the first to remake Annie, but he's certainly the first to attempt to modernize it for the big screen. Aside from various plot and song changes (no Rooster, no Lily St. Regis, and the addition of a few tunes written by Sia), there are a slew of "It's 2014!" updates that take Annie out of the 1930s and into the new millennium. Here are the most notable. 

Annie is a foster kid — not an orphan. »

Reese Witherspoon Takes a 1,100-Mile Hike in the Remarkably Fluid Wild

When Reese Witherspoon staggers onto the Pacific Crest Trail under an oversize backpack in the smart, shapely film of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir, Wild, she’s the latest in a line of protagonists dating back hundreds if not thousands of years — people who embark on long wilderness walks to cleanse themselves of the accretions of civilization, terrible sin, or grief. Crucial to such stories is intense suffering, both physical (blisters, abrasions, sundry assaults on the flesh) and emotional (loneliness, fear, punishing memories). Women, however, weren’t always allowed to set off on epic journeys — they generally ended up in convents, taking the veil. That’s what makes Wild and Robyn Davidson’s earlier, somewhat similar Tracks so appealing. Strayed and Davidson are testing themselves physically, just like men. (Men appear in both memoirs to wonder aloud how a little lady could do such a thing.) And not only do they not take the veil, they allow themselves to have casual sex on the road. (It’s no coincidence that the movie has Strayed’s mother — who enrolls in college alongside her daughter — asking Cheryl the definition of Erica Jong’s “zipless fuck.”) Freeing themselves from society and in defiance of cautionary mansplaining, these are heroines of the purest, most literal “women’s lib” stories.

Witherspoon doesn’t look as hardy as the real Strayed, who shows up in a series of photos beside the credits. But her small stature adds to the movie’s charm. »

Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner Is Subtly Terrific

With his incomparable Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh continues to make other directors look simpleminded. His frequent collaborator Timothy Spall embodies the great early-19th-century seascape painter J.M.W. Turner, a stout little Cockney in a top hat who strides purposefully along the majestic seacoast and from one end of Leigh’s wide screen to the other, pausing to scrutinize the light the way a dog sniffs the air. Spall’s Turner is a notably unmajestic figure: It’s as if a Hogarthian caricature had been plopped down amid heavenly spires. But Leigh doesn’t present this seeming disjunction between the artist and his art as ironic, the way Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus bludgeoned you with the contrast between Mozart’s coarse manner and supernal music. (Shaffer had to distort Mozart’s character to fit the dubious thesis that God gives genius to people who don’t deserve it.) In the canvas that is Mr. Turner, the grotesque and the sublime aren’t on opposite ends of the spectrum. They blend.

The movie’s unifying motif is light, which consumes Turner’s thoughts and guides his movements. »

Emily Blunt Gives the Unwieldy Into the Woods Its Heart

Early in the film of the fairy-tale operetta Into the Woods, I was nearly jumping out of my seat with glee. The creators of the original show, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, had intended to transcend — even explode — the sugary, homogenized Walt Disney treatment. Now here it is, getting a full, lavish Disney studio production with big-deal movie stars (Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp) and somehow working as well if not better than it did almost 30 years ago on Broadway. My euphoria lasted a long, long time … but all good things must end. Which is also the point of the musical, though not quite in the way it happens here.

Until its hairpin turn into the apocalyptic, the material is ingenious. »

  • Posted 12/18/14 at 11:15 PM
  • Primers

Everything That’s Happened in the Sony Leak Scandal

Nearly four weeks ago, eerily adept cybercriminals hacked into Sony's computer systems, paralyzed their operations, and tapped into a trove of hypersensitive, internal information. Since that initial attack, a steady flow of revelations — including top employees' salaries, nasty Hollywood hardball emails, and illicit movie downloads — has trickled into news reports and file-sharing sites. The relentless thieves, dubbed Guardians of Peace, have made it clear they're not done tormenting the company — and won't stop until Sony meets their demands. Here's a list of everything revealed and generated by the hacks so far.

From salaries to illicit downloads. »

Kate Winslet Puts the Period Garb Back on for A Little Chaos Trailer

Hooray! Kate Winslet wears big hats, big wigs, and big skirts in A Little Chaos, a romantic drama about the building of King Louis XIV's Versailles gardens. Alan Rickman appears in a crazy wig, and you can bet that there will be a lot of secret kissing. Wonderful. 

The 10 Moments in The Interview That Would’ve Most Upset North Korea

At this point, it’s hard to know if anyone, beyond the few who went to industry screenings, will ever see The Interview. This leaves a whole lot of people in the dark about what exactly happened and why it was a big deal. Fortunately, a few writers here at Vulture were able to see it. Here is a list of the ten moments that North Korea might’ve found most offensive. (Spoiler alert, though it might not matter if the movie never gets released.)

10. The Gruesome Death of Two of Kim Jong-un’s Guards »

George R. R. Martin Is Pissed He Can’t Show The Interview at His Movie Theater

Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin is pretty upset about the whole Sony thing. So upset that he wrote about the cancellation of The Interview on his LiveJournal ("Current Mood: pissed off"):

The level of corporate cowardice here astonishes me.  It's a good thing these guys weren't around when Charlie Chaplin made THE GREAT DICTATOR.  If Kim Jong-Un scares them, Adolf Hitler would have had them shitting in their smallclothes.

How Five World Leaders Reacted to Hollywood’s Unflattering Depictions

The great irony of the whole Sony-hacking fiasco is that Kim Jong-un is a noted fan of dumb action comedies. He would have loved watching The Interview at a palace sleepover with Dennis Rodman, if only it had been about killing someone else. Now that Sony has pulled the plug on the movie though, the world will never know his thoughts. Fortunately, that’s not true of the other times Hollywood produced unflattering depictions of living world leaders. We unearthed stories of five narcissistic heads of state who not only allowed Hollywood to release movies about them without issuing death threats but actually sat down and watched the films.

Hitler, Saddam, Nixon, Clinton. »

There Is a Dance Remix of The Hunger Games Song ‘The Hanging Tree,’ and It’s, Well ...

Never leave money on the table, they say. In this case, it's the chart-topping song from The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence's moving rendition of a Lumineers/Suzanne Collins collaboration, "The Hanging Tree." The original is slow and actually quite moving! The remix is ... something else altogether. And there's a good chance you'll be hearing it on the radio. (Or below.)

This Is the Interview Kim Jong-un Death Scene That Started This Crazy Mess

The Interview is filled with things that might offend North Korea, but much of the attention has been rightly paid to the scene in which Kim Jong-un’s head is blown up. For context, The Interview is about a pop journalist (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen), who are brought to North Korea by Kim for an interview. After some bumbling with an assassination attempt, Franco and Rogen’s characters' plan is to instead embarrass Kim by forgoing the preapproved questions that his people wrote, instead asking seriously challenging ones. After this also backfires, Franco starts asking about Kim’s relationship with his father and singing Katy Perry’s “Firework,” which was previously established as a song both Kim and Franco’s characters love. Kim starts to cry and is embarrassed. After, Rogen and Franco try to escape by way of a tank. Kim Jong-un tries to stop them in a helicopter. Rogen and Franco fire a missile at the helicopter. You can watch what happens next on Defamer.


The Toughest Scene I Wrote: James Gunn on Writing Thanos Into Guardians of the Galaxy

Over the next few weeks, Vulture will speak to the screenwriters behind 2014's most acclaimed movies about the scenes they found most difficult to crack. Which pivotal sequences underwent the biggest transformations on their way from script to screen? Today we put that question to a very reluctant James Gunn, who admits that there's still one scene in his summer megahit Guardians of the Galaxy that he doesn't think he quite nailed. The scene is then excerpted below.

Oh, I hate this! This is terrible, terrible. What I don’t like is that if you ask me which scenes were the hardest, they’re also the ones that, frankly, I like the least. I really would love to talk about, say, the “12 percent” scene and say that was the most difficult, but no, I kinda sat down and wrote that dialogue and then it was done. 

"Having Thanos be in that scene was more helpful to the Marvel universe than it was to Guardians of the Galaxy." »