Thursday, 3 April 2014

Q&A with Alexia Anastasio star and director of Little Fishes

We get an in depth view on the ins and outs of behind the scenes of an independent feature film.

Q: How did this all start? 
A: It started with me being a fan of playing make believe. Oh, you mean this movie. Oh, yeah, That started with me being a fan of movies that make people think and feel. I love John Cassavetes, Lars von Trier, Yasujir┼Ź Ozu, Maya Deren, Jane Campion, Lea Pool, Sally Potter and Patricia Rozema to name a few. They all bring you into their stories and do it in a way that you are completely immersed in the characters moment. I decided to organize a Mumblecore Film Festival which I hosted 4 Q&A’s after the screenings with the directors and producers last year and that was when I got the idea and support to make my own.  I now plan to tour with this film and others like it world wide. You can get updates for that here: https://www.facebook.com/mumblecore

Q: What is your favorite part about making Little Fishes?
A: Working on set is always my favorite part. Each day on set I am usually repeating out loud - oh wow - this is going to look beautiful and because I was lucky enough to work with the most talented cast and crew ever it does. 

Q: Was it hard getting the actors to agree to do a daring movie?
A: I found it easy. I made sure that I told each actor before they got to set that they would be kissing another actor. I asked if they were 100% okay with that. It’s all about preparation and they appreciated it.

Q: What is it like being a director and actor in your own film? 
A: I love acting and directing simultaneously. I love the creative control. I like being able to do improv on set and play with the form. I am always open to contribution and ideas from my fellow actors. I allow my actors to have voice on set and give suggestion. This technique builds mutual trust and respect on set. One contribution was my fellow actress, Brenna Gwyn Snowe, ran the bathtub with a little too much water in it and when I got in water spilled over the side and we both had a good laugh. It made the scene. 
Q: How do folks find out more about your work?  
A: Well you can see my last film, Adventures in Plymptoons! on many platforms like Hulu, Vimeo, Amazon by going here: http://adventuresinplymptoons.com/

You can sign up for my email list and get updates whenever I have a new project on my website: http://www.alexiaanastasio.com

And you can view the new trailers and sneak peak scenes and even give to the campaign for Little Fishes here: http://www.littlefishesmovie.com

BIO: Alexia Anastasio is an artist, actress and filmmaker. She was featured in HBO's Bored to Death, VH1 “If you like...” commercial and Vetiver "Everyday" music video. Her work on the feature documentaries includes: Editor of Vampira: The Movie; Associate Producer of The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels; Co-producer of Beyond the Noise: My Transcendental Meditation Journey; Director of Adventures in Plymptoons! documentary on Oscar nominated animator Bill Plympton; Director of documentary, Ginger Girls: The Secret Lives of Redheads and Director of narrative, Little Fishes.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Bad Words

A SPOILER FREE review.
Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with this R Rated indie comedy that sees him attempting to drop his Mr.Put-Upon-Nice-Guy persona while starring in a film that doesn't exactly work without it.
Bateman plays Guy Trilby a foul mouthed, negative, man-child with a savant way with words who has, through a loop-hole and with the support of reporter Kathryn Hahn, entered the Golden Quill spelling bee much to the chagrin of it's organisers Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall and the parents of the children, the other participants.

The film is a short, well acted and competently directed, verbal, indie comedy. The humour is, at times, very rude, crude but pleasingly inventive and Bateman, especially, seems to be relishing the role. Good thing too as he holds the whole thing together.
Which is more than can be said for the script. The tagline to the film is 'the end justifies the mean' and the fact of the matter is, it really doesn't. Whether you find spelling competitions important or not, nothing really justifies the cruelty Guy Trilby unleashes on, not only, the people directly involved in the competition but just general people in the world, funny though a lot of it is. His personal vendetta effects way more people than the actual, solitary focus of it and I guess it's just down to Bateman's like-ability as an actor, the genuinely funny dialogue and the fact that we are stuck following him for the whole movie that keeps us, the audience, dubiously 'on his side'.

There is a sub-plot about his befriending a child, a fellow contestant, and 'tearing up' the town with him in the evenings which, I suppose, is intended to endear him to us a little and play to the rebel in all of us but some of the things they do, including causing a stolen lobster to lacerate a man's genitals, seem a tad cruel for no reason, as well.

Now before you think I am taking this all too seriously, let me explain. The film IS funny. Taken on face value, if you find vicious, dark, crude humour for the sake of it funny, then you are going to love it and there was much about it I did enjoy. Films, however, whether people like it or not, have to have characters, plots and motivations that make relative sense within their presented frame work and while "it's just a comedy" may excuse a lot of illogical or unforgivably cruel behaviour, the fact that the film, ultimately, asks us to give a hoot about this selfish, arrogant arse hole of a man means that we have to, at least, buy into the story and care a little, when it doesn't give us a lot of satisfactory reasons to.
Had he participated in the contest without cheating and eliminating some of his opponents in humiliating ways or had he befriended the kid, torn round the town but not hurt a man's penis with a large clawed sea creature then his character might have been a little more redeemable, while being no less funny.

There are echoes of Wes Anderson in the characters and the plot, especially Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums without, of course, it being anywhere nearly as charmingly presented or stylish.

A worthy debut, though, for Bateman as a director and interesting to see the R Rated comedy given the mumble core indie treatment.
7 out of 10

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Friday, 21 February 2014

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Friday, 7 February 2014

Interview in the Wartooth Arena

Wartooth Arena
Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for taking the time to join us as we spend another Thursday evening probing the mysteries of cult cinema with a megamind of exploitation knowledge, The Podcast from the After Movie Diner.
Why don't you start telling us about your show?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner
Well the Diner started life as a blog back in 2010 and then somewhere in 2011 we started a podcast. I have an eclectic and passionate interest in all film so while others might focus on one thing or another, we can always guarantee there's at least one show or a handful of shows we have done that everyone will like.
Our main podcast combines comedy, music and film discussion and then about a year and a half ago we started up the Dr. Action and The Kick Ass Kid Commentaries show which is my friend and I riffing on 80s and 90s action films but with affection and silly voices, it's sort of like Hollywood Babble-On meets MST3K.

Wartooth Arena
I know I'm jumping ahead, but do you have a favourite exploitation film?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner 
I have a whole list of favourites from all genres. Hard to pick just one... I did get a list together of a selection of them... would you like to hear about that?
As I have just completed a month covering them, some of the best, boldest, bloodiest and most badass and brilliant Blaxploitation films I can recommend are:
Shaft (1971) – an obvious one maybe but it has a hard hitting, quick witted, one liner heavy script that reads like a Humphrey Bogart private eye noir from the 40s but plays out like a new form of urban, action cinema that would define the era.

Slaughter (1972) – ex-footballer Jim Brown plays a James Bond style lady slayin’ ass whooper that owes a debt to the spy movies of the 60s but has all the nudity and gun fights one expects from the decade.

Three The Hard Way (1974) – Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Jim Brown and the late great Jim Kelly go up against white supremacists wearing all the damn fine threads they can find and warring with all the way out weaponry they can get their hands on.

Coffy (1973) – Pam Grier’s defining moment. Strong, sexy, sassy and vicious, Grier brings all the exploitation elements of her greatest women-in-prison-in-the-Philippines films but mixes it with the sort of hard-nosed revenge thrillers that would pepper the 70s and 80s. This is a whole year before Death Wish.

Some of my favourite, less obvious, exploitation movies of this era are:
Vanishing Point (1971) – For as much as it is an existential, bleak look at America in a post 60s funk it also contains drugs, nudity, awesome car chases, violence, surreal scenes, a kick ass soundtrack and an enigmatic lead performance, all of which are staples of exploitation and would inform films like Mad Max and The Blues Brothers 

Race With The Devil (1975) – When devil worshippers and Winnebago’s collide! This is a great look at the middle class, white family’s paranoia of small town, rural America with some great horror, car chases, a snake and an awesome ending.

Profondo Rosso (1975) – Argento’s masterful giallo movie that not only would influence the thrillers of De Palma but the entire Slasher genre of the 80s.

Rabid (1977) – Cronenberg’s slice of vampiric, zombie body horror.

The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (1974) - A fantastic, underrated, gory, violent, weird and atmospheric zombie film that takes place in the beautiful countryside of the lake district in England. The opening scene, for no apparent reason, features a naked, large breasted lady on a town street. The film continues in its gloriously dubbed, grubby, Eurohorror way with plenty of suspense and synth soundtrack, ending with a third act full of pleasingly gory dead folk.

The Thing With Two Heads (1972) - this takes the rather small genre of Frankenstein monster like two-headed man films and pushes it as far as it’ll go. As opposed to earlier films The Manster (1959) and 1971’s The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant, The Thing With Two Heads puts a grumpy old racist white man’s head on a black convicts body and proceeds to deliver one of the best motorbike/car chases in the whole exploitation era. Comedy fans, action fans and even Blaxploitation fans will love this bizarre, knock about, action farce with a little bit of racial commentary thrown in for good measure!

and lastly, whenever I am asked about exploitation or b-movies I always recommend these two, fairly obscure, films (despite their coverage in the great documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed), They Call Her Cleopatra Wong and The One Armed Executioner, which are two awesome Philippines kung fu classics, inventive, weird, wonderful, hilarious, kick ass and with soundtracks that slap you about the face and make you sit up and take notice.
There is even a sequence in Cleopatra Wong featuring a bunch of
bearded nuns with machine guns. Definitely worth tracking down. A great double dvd disc exists out there with them both in.

Wartooth Arena 
Thank you for the serious schooling. I see several I'm going to check out. Machete Maidens is on my list for soon to be watched.
Back in the day of drive-in theaters and grindhouse cinemas, a movie producer wanted to be able to make a film quick and easy in order to turn a fast buck. They used gimmicks like sex, violence, gore, racism, and religion to fill the seats. Looking back, we call those throwaway movies exploitation films, and filmmakers churned them out for about a decade. In order to keep the audience coming back, producers had to gradually ramp up the sensationalism. Going back through the history books, what are some of the forgotten movies that ramped up the gimmicks? The ones that brought the next big wave of knockoffs?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner
The end of the 60s through to the beginning of the 80s is an exciting, fertile and experimental time in American cinema, which is why I think it still fascinates today. You have the movie brats, like Coppola, Scorsese, De Palma etc. some who come out of the exploitation stable of Roger Corman to then create bleaker, slower, more thoughtful and European style, movies that still have one foot in the crime cinema of the 40s and 50s. It’s the perfect melting pot that is, all at once, informed by the past, the present and looks to the future.

However, what we think of now as exploitation, grindhouse or b-movies of the decade, like the Blaxploitation movement, for example, or Roger Corman’s Philippines era, are actually, very often, telling the populist, crowd pleasing, action heavy stories that would directly inform the blockbuster action boom of the 80s. While, of course, traditional and spaghetti westerns and war films of the 50s and 60s would also influence the Rambos and John McClanes of the 80s, they wouldn’t be who they are in tone and spectacle without the Death Wishes, Shafts, Slaughters and Coffys of the world.

In terms of which movies were the forgotten ones that ramped up the gimmicks, any of the ones I mentioned in my list could easily fit that. There were little sub genres springing up all the time that had their imitators or knock offs. The zombie genre that Romero started with Night of the Living Dead, the Cannibal genre with films like The Mountain of the Cannibal God, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox and then you'd have the rape/revenge films like I Spit on your Grave, Last House on the Left and others
You tended to get a classic or semi classic first film (like Night of the living dead) and then the genre would runaway with itself and become crazier, more graphic and have different off shoots.

Wartooth Arena 
To fill the seats, exploitation films needed to flirt with our darker nature. Posters at drive-ins and downtown theatres were one of the main ways these films seduced us. How about a little background on the role the poster played in the exploitation genre?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner
Art surrounding movie advertising, in general, was SO MUCH better 20 years ago and prior. If I may have a slight rant, poster art for modern movies is unadulterated crap biscuits. Bland, badly photoshopped tediousness that needs a good kick up the brown eye with a jagged metal boot.
For as long as there was cinema, up until computers, the posters were these awesome works of art. Just like one of the joys of exploitation movies is that, due to low budgets, everything was done, dangerously for real or hilariously weirdly using cheap back projection, wonky miniatures or superimposing, one of the joys of the posters were they were hand painted, bold, lively, exciting affairs that when put up against regular A-list pictures were either completely comparable or much much better. The poster art, if done right, could level the playing field between A and B films.

Of course this brings up the whole problem with that and the reason why the art work was so important for getting bums on seats and that is ‘promising something you can’t deliver on’. For every one of the great, genuinely awesome and artistic, kick ass exploitation films, there are ten slow, boring, weird films that seemingly don’t match the hype depicted on the poster. Writing, word play and font graphics became really important and eye-catching too, much like voice overs on trailers. The whole marketing of these low budget wonders became a genius, clever and, even, admirable art form of its own.
Take the great line from the Coffy poster "She’s the GODMOTHER of them all… The baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad that ever hit town!" Absolute classic sleaze marketing. Love it

Wartooth Arena 
On your facebook page, I saw a trailer for a blacksploitation movie called “Slaughter” with Jim Brown. I was shocked to hear the word nigger in the actual theatrical trailer. Are there any other trailers from the exploitation era that might surprise a contemporary audience? Like · 2 · about an hour ago

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner 
Compared to almost any of the awful, generic trailers we get today, most exploitation era trailers would shock the uninitiated. A lot of the trailers for the Italian and American revenge thrillers, cannibal films or zombie horrors, for example, tend to be very graphic and nothing like what we get today. Of course these were only intended to screen in the Grindhouses and it wouldn’t be as if you were sitting in a shiny “safe” multiplex like today but even so, a lot of them show so much in the trailers you wonder why you’d then go see the films at all.
I found the trailer online for that famous schlockfest Make Them Die Slowly AKA Cannibal Ferox which is 4mins long, features the word ‘bitch’, nudity, the beating of women and tons of bloodletting. There’s even a warning at the beginning! It’s horrendously graphic just for a trailer.

Again, though, there was really a great art to doing those trailers right. Look at the famous one for Last House On The Left and the great line “to stop yourself from fainting, keep repeating it’s only a movie… only a movie etc.”
Marketing was king with these movies, if you ever get the time look at the marketing of the movie Snuff. The director, changed the name to Snuff, did a tagline "A film that could only be made in South America, where life is CHEAP!", tacked on a fake snuff ending and organised protests to picket the premiere of his own movie and a cheap crappy exploitation movie went on to make him very rich.
All these exploitation guys were doing what Hollywood does now (trying to get that big opening and con peoples money out of them before the movie gets seen by too broad an audience) years ago. You want to see true innovation in movie making and marketing, you look to the B Movie guys

Wartooth Arena 
Gradually the exploitation era of the 1970s evolved into the Blockbuster era of the 1980s. What films that get classified in the exploitation genre foreshadowed the coming change? What was the public’s response?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner
What happened, really, is Steven Spielberg. With Duel and then Jaws he took what would normally be exploitation tropes and made them big business. What’s funny, particularly about Jaws is the fact that it had so many B Movie imitators when it itself WAS a B Movie imitator. The other film would be something like First Blood. Another film which could quite easily be an exploitation film but instead ushers in the most lucrative era of action films cinema has ever enjoyed.
As for how people reacted and why it happened I don’t know completely. Like I said, I think American A movies had become bleak, thoughtful and artistic and the exploitation/grindhouse films were the crowd pleasers - the action movies, the monster movies, crime thrillers etc. and I think Spielberg, Lucas, Stallone etc. tapped into the idea of “well why can’t we make some crowd pleasers?” and I am not sure a real audience cared back then about budgets or stars so much as they would just a few years later in the middle of the 80s.

Wartooth Arena
Before we get to the big question of the night, I have one on sub genres. I have seen a lot of 70s flicks where groups of disturbed children kill groups of adults. The other night I watched The Devil Times Five. Are there any of these where the adults kill some of the little bastards?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner
There is The Brood, the David Cronenburg movie... but, doing a search online brought up this movie: Beware Children At Play from 1989 which is a Troma movie (so expect very low budget sleaze) and apparently that ends with all the townsfolk killing demonic children left and right. of course, in the original cut of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Peter guns down two zombie children...

Wartooth Arena
I can get behind that... and if anyone cares to see it, many Troma films are FREE!
We’re seeing remakes of Craven’s exploitation classics The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes as well as other exploitation favorites like I Spit on Your Grave. These are amped up versions, but in this age of media glorification of real life horrors, these movies don’t hold the shock they used to, so what do you think fuels this resurgence?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner 
I am cynical and believe this whole remake craze is solely down to laziness, creative bankruptcy and money. I don’t think the producers of the remakes or the people at the studios have seen half of the original films their movies are based on and I think they are doing it in a vein attempt at name recognition and maybe a little shock value.
While the remakes of Friday 13th, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween etc. all make some sort of sense, for a studio, because they are all popcorn horror rooted in fantasy but it makes little to no sense to remake the violent, grimy, sleazy exploitation films of the 70s because you could never do them justice today and, like you say, they wouldn't have the shock value.

People need to remember that at the time the exploitation craze kicked off America was in turmoil, engaged in an unpopular war, lots of civil rights issues igniting riots and marches and a hippy movement in decline and depression as they felt 'it hadn't worked'
Films like Last House on the Left grew out of that scene organically... you can't just casually remake it like it was just another movie. B Movies and exploitation is very often an organic product of its time...

Wartooth Arena
Yep. Could not agree more.
Wartooth Arena 2: Revenge of the Fucking Bad Ass is a writing contest for stories inspired by exploitation movies. In order to help combatants create the best fiction possible, I’m speaking with experts like yourself to create THE 13 FUCKING COMMANDMENTS OF EXPLOITATION FICTION. I’m trying to isolate the characteristics that would make one mean motherfucker of a story. Other suggestions have been OUT CRAZY THE CRAZIEST, LIVE FOR REVENGE, and ALWAYS SHOCK. The combatants of Wartooth Arena would love to know what you think must be present for exploitation fiction to be as awesome as it can be?

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner
well I was going to be crass and scream BRING OUT THE BOOBS! hahaha but actually, thinking about protagonists, anti-heroes, the classic leading character in these movies I have gone with SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIG GUN

Wartooth Arena
You get two! They both rule!
Thanks so much for joining us. It has been a pleasure. I hope everyone goes over and likes this wonderful page.

The Podcast from the After Movie Diner 
Thanks for having me, sorry I went on a bit hahaha
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