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How Editing ‘The Walking Dead’ Helped the ‘Midnighters’ Director Make His First Horror Film

42 minutes ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

Julius Ramsay has made his living editing a number of the better genre television shows of the last couple decades, including “Battlestar Galactica,” “Alias,” and now “The Walking Dead.” With an eye toward making his own films, in 2008 he directed a 20-minute short, “Pivot,” that achieved some success on the film festival circuit.

Read More: The 20 Best Horror Movies Of The 21st Century, From ’28 Days Later’ to ‘Get Out

“When I joined ‘The Walking Dead’ in season one as an editor, I expressed an interest in directing,” said Ramsay. “I showed the producers and the network my film, and after working on the show for a few years, I was fortunate enough to earn their trust and get a chance to direct my first episode.”

Ramsay believes editing is a good training ground for directors, forcing you to find the essence of a story and distill it into a series of shots, sounds, and impressions.

“Being able to edit a scene in my mind has made me a more effective director, and better able to communicate my vision to collaborators on a film,” said Ramsay.

There were also some more specific lessons he took from the hit AMC show when it came time to make his first horror feature, “Midnighters,” which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival this week.

“‘The Walking Dead’ has a deliberate, measured pace that’s a large part of what makes its tone so effective,” said Ramsay. “I think of it as the heartbeat of the series, and it’s most often set in the editing room. It determines everything about how an audience experiences a film. When directing and editing ‘Midnighters,’ I knew that I similarly had to find the film’s heartbeat and set it to the right rhythm.”

Getting a few “Walking Dead” directing credits under his belt also gave “Midnighters” some credibility and a track record when it came time to fundraising. The show also gave him a cast member, Andrew Rothenberg, who played Jim in season one. But while his TV experience helped make him a better filmmaker and get the project off the ground, Ramsay said the parallels between shooting a massive TV show and an indie film are few and far between.

“On a major TV series, there’s a massive infrastructure in place to deal with nearly every contingency you could imagine,” said Ramsay. “This is particularly true on ‘The Walking Dead,’ which has an insane number of moving parts, and is produced by a brilliant group of producers in Georgia and Los Angeles. On ‘Midnighters,’ we had limited resources and money, so our infrastructure was much smaller. Hence, when something went wrong, we had to improvise.”

For example, one morning the lead makeup artist on “Midnighters” went to the emergency room with a stomach virus. Ramsay scrambled to find a backup, since what they were shooting that day called for star Alex Essoe to have a wound on her forehead.

Read More: The 20 Best-Directed TV Drama Series of the 21st Century, Ranked

“We found a replacement who could arrive that afternoon, but that meant we’d lose hours of filming,” said Ramsay. “When she heard about the problem, Alex Essoe said that she actually knew how to apply prosthetic wounds from her experience on another film. We gathered the materials and she did it herself – 30 minutes later, we were filming.”

There are benefits to an indie Diy mentality, as it’s not always about powering through the limitations.  Sometimes those limitations can lead to ingenuity and better use of the medium itself.

Read More: How a Chance Encounter With Terrence Malick Turned Trey Edward Shults Into a Filmmaker

“On an indie, you can’t rely on big budget special effects or monsters to scare the audience – you have to milk the horror of the human experience for all it’s worth,” said Ramsay. “I think fewer resources force a director to put a lot more emphasis on the horror of the unknown, and in the end that’s more frightening than anything else.”

Midnighters” premiered at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival.

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- Chris O'Falt

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How ‘Poison’ Distributor Zeitgeist Films Found a Lifeline in Kino Lorber

1 hour ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber have always been kindred spirits, but as of this week, the indie distributors are officially strategic partners, a business relationship that has been in works for the past six months. Richard Lorber’s arthouse distribution company has formed a multi-year alliance with Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo’s Zeitgeist that will see the two companies co-acquire four to five theatrical titles per year that will be marketed and released by Zeitgeist Films, starting with the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival audience award-winner “The Divine Order.” Directed by Petra Volpe, the film tells the story of a young housewife in Switzerland in 1971 who stands up to the closed-minded villagers in her town and overthrows the status quo.

Read More: Beyond A24: How Hip New Distributors Are Targeting Millennial Tastemakers With Bold Films

“We were at Tribeca and covered every film that we could get our eyes on, but we totally missed ‘The Divine Order’ for some reason,” Lorber said. “Nancy and Emily said it was great, we committed to doing it, and two days later it won the audience prize at Tribeca.”

Founded in 1988, Zeitgeist film’s is known for having distributed early films by directors including Todd Hayes (“Poison”), Christopher Nolan (“Following”), Laura Poitras (“The Oath”) and Atom Egoyan (“Speaking Parts”), but has struggled in recent years to adapt to the changing landscape for indie distributors.

“There’s no denying the fact that the business has gotten tougher, and I think over the years Zeitgeist has maintained an almost artisanal approach, which has not always kept pace with some of the other opportunities that have been available, such as the expansion of digital and alternative venues that films can play in,” Lorber said. Going forward, Kino Lorber will become the exclusive distributor of all Zeitgeist films for the home video, educational, and digital media markets, adding Zeitgeist’s roughly 130-film library to its collection of 1,600 titles.

“Once home video sort of ended as a possibility for us, we really had to go into the digital realm, and dealing with five or six films a year, it’s difficult to really bulk up your digital [catalog] to be able to do the sort of deals that Kino Lorber is able to do,” Gerstman said. “It’s been very tough, so these are really great resources for us to be able to have.

Read More: Hybrid Distribution: One-Night-Only Screenings Could Make Your Documentary a Theatrical Hit

Kino Lorber will release two of Zeitgeist’s 2016 films, the biographical documentary “Eva Hesse” and “Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt.” Zeitgeist’s 2001 film “Nowhere in Africa” won the Academy Award for best foreign language film, taking more than $6 million at the U.S. box office. Some of the company’s most successful theatrical releases include “Bill Cunningham: New York,” “The Corporation” and “Aimee & Jaguar.”

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- Graham Winfrey

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2 Major ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Cameos Revealed

1 hour ago | The Playlist | See recent The Playlist news »

**Spoilers ahead**

With Amy Pascal revealing this week that Sony and Marvel’s collaboration on “Spider-Man: Homecoming” could be extending much further than anyone thought, the revelation of some big cameos certainly suggests a relationship between the two companies that’s very open.

ComicBookMovie have rifled through the press kit for ‘Homecoming,’ and in the credits block, two very key cameos have been revealed. First, Gwyneth Paltrow returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time since “Iron Man 3,” playing Pepper Potts.

Continue reading 2 Major ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Cameos Revealed at The Playlist. »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Ana Lily Amirpour Responds to Racism Charges — But Won’t Apologize For Making You Uncomfortable

1 hour ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

Ana Lily Amirpour seems like the ultimate counterpunch to Hollywood’s diversity problem. She’s an Iranian woman director raised in America, directing inventive genre movies with an anarchic sensibility all her own. While much of the country celebrated the feminist leanings of “Wonder Woman,” Amirpour had already finished “The Bad Batch,” her horror-sci-fi-western hybrid about a dystopian world in which a young woman battles cannibals in a desolate wasteland. The movie, which premiered at the festivals last fall, confirmed Amirpour’s capacity for exploring marginalized figures through the empowering lens of ferocious female characters first seen in her acclaimed debut, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.”

Which was why, eight months into her promotional tour for “The Bad Batch,” Amirpour was astonished to find herself accused of racism. During a post-screening Q&A for “The Bad Batch” in Chicago, Amirpour was confronted by a woman named Bianca Xiunse, who demanded to know why all the black characters in the movie were killed.

The complaint appeared to be a reaction to one scene in particular. In the film, which is set in a near future in which prisoners are unleashed into a lawless desert, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) comes upon one of the cannibals who had kidnapped and mutilated her in the opening minutes.

Now armless, Arlen confronts Maria (Yolonda Ross), the wife of Cuban cannibal Miami Man (Jason Momoa), along with her young daughter. Arlen shoots Maria, but spares the child; later, Miami Man tracks Arlen down to exact revenge, but the pair end up falling in love as they face down a much scarier threat — a stone-faced tyrant named The Dream (Keanu Reeves), who lords over the nearby town of Comfort with an iron grip.

While one reading of “The Bad Batch” would find two outcasts (a one-armed woman and a vilified immigrant) joining forces to take down an evil white man, Xiunse wanted to know why Amirpour felt it was necessary for the black characters to perish.

“I found it offensive,” she said. “So I’m curious, what was your message for it?”

In video of the moment, Amirpour cocks her head, seemingly baffled by the response, and asks the moderator to repeat the question. (As she would later explain, the filmmaker is 30 percent deaf.) Finally, she offered a succinct response. “Just because I give you something to look at, doesn’t mean I’m telling you what to see.”

The audience cheered, and Xiunse turned to Twitter to further vent her frustrations. “I have never felt such an embarrassment in my life,” she wrote. Later that night, Amirpour checked her social media account, saw the complaints, and blocked Xiunse; when Xiunse called her out, Amirpour wrote, “How am I supposed to respond you calling my film anti black? It’s so crazy. It offended me. So I blocked you.”

So began a social media storm of vitriol on both sides, with Amirpour’s fans leaping to her defense and others lashing out against her; Xiunse herself even did an interview about the experience. Amirpour acknowledged that she reacted too quickly on Twitter, which she has since deleted from her phone, but she’s still aghast about the experience as a whole.

“I’m a brown woman immigrant, my family escaped the Iranian Revolution, I grew up on two continents, English wasn’t the first language in my home,” she said over lunch in New York a few days before the film’s release. “I know what it is to be the ‘other’ very, very well. My film and my filmmaking is all about asking questions about how the system pits us against each other. If anything, this movie is about how we are eating each other. It’s fine, I get it, some people don’t see those things or ask those questions. Cinema is a private, personal experience for individual. But this felt personal against me.”

She was also astonished about the complaints regarding the color of the character’s skin. “Why wouldn’t he be married to a black woman? Jason Momoa is married to a black woman. It’s how I see the world — it’s a modern relationship,” she said. “They have a mixed-race child. She’s the future, in this wonderful way.”

But Amirpour didn’t have the opportunity for that nuanced reaction at the time, and then came the second wave: Internet forums picked up on an old photo posted to social media in which Amirpour dressed up as Lil Wayne for Halloween. If she had been a white person wearing blackface, that would have been ever tougher to wriggle away from — but Amirpour’s not about to apologize for that one, either.

“What could I do?” She asks. “I feel nothing but joy about the fact that I dressed up like Lil Wayne for Halloween. I’m brown. I didn’t do anything wrong. That’s what I look like when I put my hat on and tattoos on my face. I love Weezy. I just have to believe in myself, that I’m a good person, having fun on planet Earth like anyone else.”

Amirpour’s experience may not permanently tarnish her reputation, but it’s indicative of a single-minded director who has been gradually forced to deal with the challenges associated with a rising profile. The last two years of her career were all about forward momentum, with support systems to sustain her vision on her own terms.

When she came to Sundance with “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” in 2014, she had no agent, and insisted on controlling every facet of her film — including its distribution deal, which she decided to avoid closing until after the festival. “I was going off instinct, but my instinct was, if you want to fuck me now, you have to want to fuck me four months from now,” she said. (The movie eventually sold to Kino Lorber, well after it opened New Directors/New Films in New York that March.) In the meantime, she had started writing “The Bad Batch,” and after Sundance she was approached by Vice creative director Danny Gabai. From there, a wealth of new resources came her way.

Next page: The creative wisdom of taking acid at Burning Man.

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- Eric Kohn

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Review. Caged In—Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled"

1 hour ago | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

For anyone who's seen Don Siegel's sensational 1971 adaptation of The Beguiled, drawn from Thomas P. Cullinan’s gothic novel A Painted Devil, it's not hard to see why Sofia Coppola would be attracted to the material. From her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides, Coppola has had a lingering interest in the lives of women trapped by circumstance in one way or another, which the story—set in an all-girls boarding school in Virginia three years into the Civil War—ably extends. But while Coppola's vision is predictably sharp in the way that it tackles the story's sexual politics and laser-like focus on feminine desire, the film also feels flattened, its underlying lurid, psychosexual appeal absorbed into a kind of dreamy gossamer haze.Immediately, the opening—the ornate pink curlicues of the title card; the figure of a small girl walking alone along the forest path framed by dense foliage, the morning fog drifting across; the muffled explosions of cannon-fire in the distance—acclimates us to the enthralling, threatening mood. But it's not long before one begins to feel that precision slipping from Coppola’s grasp. Amy (Oona Laurence), a young girl out picking mushrooms in the nearby forest, happens upon the prone figure of Col. John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier, and brings him back to the boarding school. It's a scene that should be filled with palpable danger and tension—and in Siegel’s original, where Clint Eastwood kisses a 12-year-old girl, even seduction—but that plays out as blandly cordial, almost perfunctory. That's true, too, of the scene that follows, in which the headmistress, Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), the sole teacher, Miss Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst), and the rest of the young girls take the injured McBurney in.In fact, that could be said of much of the film, which largely forgoes the story’s grimy underbelly for a relatively tame approach; it's a terse, stripped-down remake that retains the original's overall arc, but jettisons much of what made that version so compelling. (Among the differences from Siegel's adaptation, one of the most curious is that Hallie, the black servant in the original version, is omitted here.) In itself, that's more a neutral judgment, a manifestation of divergent visions. But Coppola, uncharacteristically, doesn't fare much better by the psychological detail. Once McBurney is taken into the house as a prisoner and unwelcome guest, the tenor of the space begins to change, as do the women. And it's in these cloistered rooms that the psychosexual tension—initially lent a fascinating pull by the film's distanced air—begins to flower. But the web of intrigue, deceit and jealousy—mainly between Miss Martha, Miss Edwina and Alicia (Elle Fanning), the eldest and most seductive of the students—is so loosely drawn that the decisive turn the story takes is drained of its supposed heft; it's somehow both flat and risible when it should be ridiculous, horrific and shocking all at once. That's due, in part, to the performances of the ensemble cast. The female actors fare well enough, particularly Dunst, who manages to convey an inward repression, a sense of woman with nowhere to turn, whose only desire is “to be taken far away.” But Farrell, playing the role that Clint Eastwood had originally, falters. He's charismatic and outwardly seductive, but almost too open in demeanor, conveying little sense of danger or inward desire lurking beneath—it’s a limited performance that really should be the impenetrable, fascinating center. But perhaps the main issue is the film's overall conception, which finds Coppola bending the potboiler drama to her more ethereal, composed style without really compensating for what gets, well, lost in translation. There's definite appeal in seeing the shocking, unsettling trajectory rendered with the textures of a fairy tale, primal desire sublimated into a gauzy repose. But while Coppola's sensibility is largely compelling—certainly a triumph of staging, costuming and period detail—in this context, the detachment also tempers the force of the story's most unhinged moments, so their impact is more compartmentalized.Every frame of the film, shot by Philippe Le Sourd (who previously shot Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster) feels poised and meaningful, alternating between warm, candlelit interiors, dusky exteriors, and the threatening pallor beneath it all. Its rhythms, however, don't involve in the way one would expect given the surprisingly short runtime—just 94 minutes compared to the 105 of the original. Atypically, it's a streamlined film that may have done better with less “efficient” editing. (A late scene in which Miss Martha instructs Amy to tie a blue ribbon on the gates of the school-ground to signal “their” soldiers, which then cuts immediately to McBurney catching Amy doing so, is a particularly egregious example.) The approach does lend some brisk fascination to the finale, which pulls a shot straight out of the 1971 film (the camera tracking a dish passed along the dinner table), only to make a tension-diffusing, but purposeful departure. But the conscious rewriting of the original, although it enriches the film's ample subtext, also diminishes its immediate ground-level interest.“The enemy is not what we had believed,” says Miss Farnsworth, which is as clear a (feminist) statement as they come, as is the final image, in which the camera pulls back from the women gathered behind iron-wrought gates of the school. The meaning is clear; but because The Beguiled is also so frustratingly limited (though accomplished in many respects), its implications resonate unfavorably in more ways than one. »

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First Look: Peter Dinklage & Jamie Dornan In ‘My Dinner With Hervé’

1 hour ago | The Playlist | See recent The Playlist news »

Sometimes, persistence pays off, and director Sacha Gervasi‘s (“Anvil: The Story Of Anvil,” “Hitchcock“) and star Peter Dinklage never gave up on My Dinner With Hervé.” The project has been in the works for years, but this year saw the stars align and the movie get in front of cameras, with Jamie Dornan joining the cast. And now we have a colorful first look at the movie.

Continue reading First Look: Peter Dinklage & Jamie Dornan In ‘My Dinner With Hervé’ at The Playlist. »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Rian Johnson and Ana Lily Amirpour Talk ‘Star Wars,’ ‘The Bad Batch’ and Cinematic Boners — Listen

1 hour ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

If you ever wanted to listen to the directors of “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “Looper” talk about cinematic boners, today’s your lucky day. Ana Lily Amirpour and Rian Johnson discuss all that and more — namely, their upcoming films “The Bad Batch” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” respectively — on the latest episode of the Talkhouse Film Podcast. Amirpour gets quotable early on when she goes in depth about being excited for a project: “I’ll just be like, ‘I’ve got no boner,’ or like, ‘My boner is at half mast — something is wrong, this lens is wrong…’ And you’ve got to listen to the boner.”

Read More: ‘The Bad Batch’ Review: Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves’ Thriller Is ‘Mad Max’ Meets ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

That isn’t the only filmmaking metaphor she uses; “The Shawshank Redemption” comes into play as well: “I always say that making a film to me is like ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ It’s like I’m Andy Dufresne, and thinking of the story and shooting is like coming up with plan and digging that tunnel, and it takes a lot of physical [effort] — you do it and get through it, and everything,” she continues.

“And then editing, to me, is crawling through that fucking tunnel. And you know that if it’s all as you [planned] … you’ll come out above ground and it will be raining and you’re eventually going to make it to Zihuatanejo.”

Read More: ‘The Bad Batch’ Trailer: Ana Lily Amirpour Dares Us to Find Comfort in the Wasteland

Johnson, meanwhile, invokes a far better movie when talking about his writing process for “The Last Jedi.” “What I did — because I was so petrified of pulling a ‘Barton Fink’ on this — I moved up to San Francisco and a couple times a week I would go in and just vomit out all the stuff I was working on, and we would just talk about it,” he says. “That just made me feel less alone, I guess.” Listen to the full episode below.

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Related storiesAna Lily Amirpour Responds to Racism Charges -- But Won't Apologize For Making You UncomfortableHan Solo Firing Proves Studios' Franchises Don't Want Directors To Be Storytellers'Star Wars': Don't Get Mad at Kathleen Kennedy For That Han Solo Shake-Up »

- Michael Nordine

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‘Valerian’ Director Luc Besson Explains Why France’s Most Expensive Film Ever Isn’t Much Risk For The Studio

1 hour ago | The Playlist | See recent The Playlist news »

When Christopher Nolan‘s “Dunkirk” opens next month, it’s going to have some competition from another movie offering plenty of big screen spectacle: “Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.” Luc Besson‘s big, sci-fi flick is the most expensive to have ever been made in France, with a a final price tag of €197.47 million (about $210 million U.S.). That’s not cheap, and while you might think the film needs to be a monster hit for backers EuropaCorp (which Besson heads up), the director explains they’re pretty well covered.

Continue reading ‘Valerian’ Director Luc Besson Explains Why France’s Most Expensive Film Ever Isn’t Much Risk For The Studio at The Playlist. »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Han Solo Firing Proves Studios’ Franchises Don’t Want Directors To Be Storytellers

2 hours ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

hOh, the irony: As TV creators seek inventive ways to adapt the visual language of cinema, Hollywood’s big-budget, big-screen movies are increasingly becoming more like television.

With serialized TV shows, control needs to be in the hands of writers and showrunners. That’s because the story is still unfolding and the production is built from episode to episode. The director can’t be the principal storyteller, which makes it challenging to put a premium on visual storytelling.

Read More: The ‘Mr. Robot’ Experiment: Can a TV Show Be Shot Like an Indie Film?

Those who run the Marvel Cinematic Universe might sympathize. When it launched in 2008, their choices of directors seemed like head scratchers for a big action film. In retrospect, they make perfect sense.

Swingers” director Jon Favreau was the perfect choice to improv with Robert Downey Jr. (remember, he wasn’t a star then) to create the wisecracking hero needed to lead “The Avengers.” Shakespearean pro Kenneth Branagh was well suited to extract the familial power struggle from the Thor stories that would motivate “The Avengers.” And there was no one better to handle the nightmare of telling an engaging story about those multiple superhero protagonists than Joss Whedon, who mastered stories about teams with his “Buffy” and “Firefly” TV shows.

It didn’t matter that action wasn’t the directors’ expertise; Marvel has always been more comfortable leaving that in the hands of the very top stunt coordinators, VFX wizards, and second-unit specialists. What Marvel needed from its directors was connective tissue between their spectacle set pieces and the movies themselves. They were picked for their ability to establish characters and serve the franchises’ multifaceted story arcs. Cinematic storytelling skills weren’t the point; Marvel preferred an uniform style and visual presentation that relied on skilled technicians guaranteeing consistent delivery of key elements the studio demanded. The franchise couldn’t even handle something as individualist as an iconic John Williams score.

Read More: Why Action Scenes in Big-Budget Movies Have Become So Boring

Today, the idea of Marvel hiring a traditional, visually oriented action director in the vein of John McTiernan (“Die Hard”) and John Carpenter (“Escape from New York”) is absurd, as demonstrated by the studio’s brief dance with Edgar Wright on “Ant-Man.” The money — and therefor the power — lies in the serialization. And no one has done it better than Marvel, with a now well-established template.

Of course, there are other models. Christopher Nolan had his “Batman” trilogy. There’s franchises like “Mission: Impossible” that can absorb the unique action language of everyone from John Woo to Brad Bird. However, those opportunities are rapidly decreasing. Studios are making significantly fewer movies, and more of them are franchise films.

With that backdrop, Kathleen Kennedy’s approach to rebooting the “Star Wars” franchise was very exciting. She tapped into a generation of unique visual storyteller like writer/directors Gareth Edwards (42), Jj Abrams (50), and Rian Johnson (43) for whom the original trilogy served as their earliest movie obsessions and cinematic awakenings. Each admitted profound fear of the pressures of caring the torch and dishonoring something so sacred. They could be trusted to honor the Lucas story world and eagerly absorb advice from people like Lawerence Kasdan (screenwriter of “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”), the onset presence of Ilm VFX supervisor John Knoll (part of every “Star Wars” movie) and the boss herself, Kennedy, who produced the films of their other idol, Steven Spielberg.

Read More: ‘Rogue One’ Director Gareth Edwards on Avoiding Hollywood’s Addiction to Numbing Visual Effects

The other seemingly brilliant aspect of Kennedy’s turning Disney’s $4 billion acquisition into a series of movies was the standalone films that would serve as palate cleansers between servings of the larger unfolding story. These weren’t sequels needed to set up other stories, so they offered a license to try something tonally different… like the distinct stylings of the directing duo Lord and Miller.

The defining aspect of Lord and Miller is their Lord and Miller-ness, in which they take a tongue-in-cheek approach to everything from Gandhi, kid’s books, undercover cops, and Lego Batman. Kennedy may have appreciated their aesthetic, but not what it takes to get there: The team’s unique brand of filmmaking stems from their blocking, pacing, and directing the performance style of their actors. Seeing Alden Ehrenreich’s unique physical comedy in the Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar” and Donald Glover equally quirky physicality in “Community,” you can almost feel the rhythms of what their young Han Solo and Lando Calrissian adventures would be like.

Read More: Han Solo Upheaval: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s ‘Star Wars’ Exit

We’ll probably never know what Kennedy saw in Lord and Miller’s “Han Solo” that made her think it would work, or what made her change her mind. Whether it was a miscalculation or wishful thinking, or hubris, what’s the use of ego if it doesn’t drive you to try something new and different?

Nonetheless, the only real backstory needed here is that the directors clashed with the screenwriters, Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon. Traditionally, directors are occasionally canned by studios, but screenwriters are more interchangeable than socks. Not here: The Kasdans are the keepers of the flame, the custodians of Han Solo. They are the showrunners.

It’s an odd time when so much of what is being made by Hollywood is serialized TV to feed our streaming addiction and franchise films to feed an international market. Studio control is nothing new for Hollywood, but there’s a sharp shift away from directors; the moves toward serialization are even sharper. A thoroughly gleeful piece of top-notch summer entertainment like Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” — an original, director-driven action film — is an endangered species, even at its significantly lower price tag and likelihood of profit.

Read More: ‘Baby Driver’ Review: Edgar Wright’s Brilliant Car Chase Musical Casts Ansel Elgort As an Outlaw Fred Astaire — SXSW 2017

This isn’t about hating on superhero movies, highbrow vs. lowbrow, or fan vs. critic;  it’s about the disappearing role of the director as storyteller in our popular culture.

Read More: ‘The Mummy’ Director Alex Kurtzman Says His Film ‘Is Made For Audiences,’ But Even They Don’t Want It

The movie-loving consumer is not powerless. The more noise, attention, and ticket sales that go toward Wright’s “Baby Driver,” Luc Besson’s “Valerian,” Matt Reeves’ “War for the Planet of the Apes,” Bigelow’s “Detroit,” and Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” – and away from movies that are made like television shows with $100 million VFX budgets – the more likely we are to preserve the very best part of Hollywood’s commercial moviemaking traditions.

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- Chris O'Falt

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My Country: Peter Nestler at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

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PachamamaBeginning Saturday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is bringing to American shores the work of one of Germany’s finest filmmakers, Peter Nestler. Arranged in nine-parts, the extensive series is a major effort to make Nestler’s work better-known in the United States, where it has rarely shown. Nestler is a singular filmmaker, one for whom I have great affection, but also one who came to making films in a time and place singular in and of itself. The movies Germany produced for roughly the fifteen years after the formation of the country after World War II is a period often misunderstood by cinephiles and, at least until recently, underrepresented in retrospective programming outside of the country itself. In the 1950s and 1960s, German leftists were outraged by the continuing presence of Nazis in the government of the young Federal Republic, and by the way that polite society did not seem all that bothered by the invisible progression from one generation of militarists to another, beginning at least as early as when the Bundeswehr was formed in 1955. This concern with the way the past infiltrates the present evolved into something of a form for filmmakers: show the rituals and traditions of the present with clarity and simultaneously expose their reactionary, even fascist underpinnings.  For a generation of filmmakers, this preoccupation with the past colonising the dominant culture (and even the government) of the day was something like an overriding concern—particularly in the German Democratic Republic but also, in less commercially prominent circles, in the Federal Republic. To the East, there were films like Slátan Dudow’s The Captain of Cologne (1956), a Defa satire about an unemployed waiter who gets mistaken for an ex-Nazi Captain at a officers’ reunion, that suggested that rather than a post-war dismantling of fascist structures, it was only the Adenauer Republic’s shifting costumes and superficial appearances that had changed. While struggling to fund their film about J.S. Bach in West Germany in the early 1960s, French exiles Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub produced Machorka-Muff (1962), their first film, another satire of rearmament, from the short story by Heinrich Böll. Unlike Dudow’s satire, the Straubs worked in a pared-down, elliptical manner, emphasizing the absurd rituals of the efforts to clear the name of disgraced Nazi General Hürlanger-Hiss, culminating in a foundation laying ceremony for a newly formed military institution named for the General. Straub later said that, as with all the films he and Huillet strived to make at the time, it was a film “no German could have known how to make.”It is hardly surprising, then, that Straub considers Nestler one of the great European directors of the last half-century. A notable influence on filmmakers like Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky, he exemplified this particular form of leftist critique; in a lifetime of making films alone and later with his wife Zsóka, this central preoccupation with the colonization of the present by the tyrannies of the past stretched beyond the specific time-period in which it emerged—the young Federal Republic of the late 1950s and early 1960s—and persisted through era after era, region after region, conflict after conflict, struggle after struggle. The American assault on Vietnam. Rivers in South America, Eastern Europe. Workers, painters, sculptors, tug-boat captains. Nestler even made a notable film in my own country, Great Britain, where I first saw his work several years ago.  In films about material objects and acts, Nestler cuts right to the beating heart of things. With his lucid, poetic eye, he criticizes like no other, attacking the forms of political reaction as well as, you might say, the content. But he is also a productive filmmaker in the sense that he both provides a vision of resistance, to borrow the phrase used to promote this program, as well as points calmly to beauty as well as strife. A radical formalist, he experiments with the separation of sound and image, and often counters the didactic quality of his voice-overs with the joy contained in what is on-screen. In Up the Danube (1970), made in Hungary for Swedish television, the Nestlers—Zsóka and Peter—contrast scenes of workers and boatmen with a spoken history of the various historical conquests and pillagings associated with the river, a clear-eyed conflation of history as it once was recorded, entering the official histories, with a living history as it is being recorded by the camera. In one scene, Nestler speaks to Captain Kiss Jenö, who has been working on ships on the Danube since childhood. He opens with a shot of Jenö speaking, no audio. For a couple of seconds, we ponder the man’s expression in silence. Nestler, speaking on the soundtrack, provides some biographical information. He then cuts to a shot of the river, silent again, and then the river-captain’s voice is heard in Hungarian. Slowly, Nestler’s translation supersedes Jenö’s narration, which fades away after a couple of seconds. Watching these films, which, at this time, were made largely for the purpose of education on television, we become aware of an overriding intelligence, a guiding hand that studiously partitions material so that we might have a better chance of pondering it in its totality. In this sense, both sound and image in Nestler’s movies is a pliable material object. But he is distinguished by this scrupulousness in approaching his recorded data; dividing up the formal elements in this way means that there is no risk of any part becoming intermingled with another, and each element retains an integrity that might otherwise be jeopardized when re-contextualised. Poetry remains poetic, prose remains prosaic, and images are free to suggest their own meanings. The same film begins with a shot of old hands sculpting clay on a potter’s wheel, at first silent and, after a few seconds, accompanied by schoolchildren singing on the soundtrack. “The wind blows from the Danube, it always hits the poor,” they sing. “Without the wind blowing, there would be no poor.” So Nestler introduces not only the theme of the film—that the only thing more enduring than the suffering of the working poor is the unceasing flow of the river—but also the form: history as embedded right there in the mud, washed up in swathes on riverbanks and later adopted into everyday life as the simple possessions that define us. “Hey, if you had grown taller, you would have been a soldier / The wind blows from the Danube.” Thanks to Lisa Thomas, Dan Sullivan, and Hannah Thomas. »

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Here Are The 555 Times Michael Bay Has Used Product Placement — Watch

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You’re going to need to sit down for this one.

The supercut geniuses over at ScreenCrush have debuted their latest compilation, “Every Single Product Placement in the Films of Michael Bay,” and it’s 11 minutes of non-stop Bayhem that proves this madman never met an action scene, dialogue scene or establishing shot he couldn’t cram product placement into.

Read More: ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Review: Here’s the Most Ridiculous Hollywood Movie of the Year

The video arrives on the opening weekend of Bay’s latest CGI extravaganza, “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Critics have already hailed the film as the most ridiculous movie of the year, and because this latest outing is not included in the video below, it’s safe to say the product placement total has most likely skyrocketed above 600.

For now, you can watch all 555 instances of Michael Bay product placement in the video below. But be warned: Once you start, it’s impossible to stop.

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- Zack Sharf

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Edgar Wright Reveals Why He Exited ‘Ant-Man’

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There are three things I can tell you before you going to see “Baby Driver” next weekend: believe the hype; Edgar Wright directs the shit out of it; and don’t watch the trailers. While it’s not a comeback movie for Wright, it is a massive bounce back after a very public exit from Marvel‘s “Ant-Man.” However, it’s clear the filmmaker didn’t lose any his vibrant filmmaking voice in the process, and in fact, “Baby Driver” proves his skills have never been sharper.

Continue reading Edgar Wright Reveals Why He Exited ‘Ant-Man’ at The Playlist. »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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‘Dunkirk’: 9 Things You Need to Know About Christopher Nolan’s WWII Blockbuster

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Christopher Nolan is set to return to theaters July 21 with his highly anticipated WWII blockbuster “Dunkirk,” and anticipation is reaching a fever pitch with under a month to go. The movie, which recounts the Dunkirk evacuation, stars Tom Hardy, Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy and Kenneth Branagh, among others.

Read More: ‘Dunkirk’: Christopher Nolan Explains Why the WWII Story Is in His ‘DNA’ 

Nolan is a filmmaker well known for his secrecy regarding new projects, and while we still don’t know a lot about “Dunkirk,” the director has teased the movie a bunch in interviews over the last several months.

IndieWire has rounded up all the most important, need-to-know facts about “Dunkirk” below. Make sure you know these 9 things before buying your ticket to Nolan’s latest summer blockbuster.

1. It’s the Shortest Feature Nolan Has Made Since His Debut

Warner Brothers has confirmed that “Dunkirk” will only run one hour and 47 minutes, including end credits, making the WWII epic the shortest movie of Nolan’s career since his feature debut, “The Following” (one hour and nine minutes). Only two other Nolan movies have run under two hours: “Memento” (one hour and 53 minutes) and “Insomnia” (one hour and 58 minutes).

All of the director’s big Hollywood blockbusters have clocked in over the 120 minute mark. His last outing, the space odyssey “Interstellar,” was his longest movie ever at two hours and 49 minutes. Each film in “The Dark Knight” trilogy ran over two hours and 20 minutes, while “Inception” clocked in at two hours and 28 minutes.

Length has never been an issue when it comes to Nolan and the box office, though the shorter “Dunkirk” runtime suggests a much tighter narrative, despite what could be a very sprawling setting.

2. It’s Set During World War II But It’s Not A War Film

Despite the movie’s WWII setting — the Dunkirk evacuation took place during the Battle of France — Nolan has gone on record multiple times declaring that “Dunkirk” is not a war film, but rather a suspense movie.

“It’s a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film,” Nolan told the Associated Press earlier this year. “While there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films. We were really trying to take a different approach and achieve intensity in a different way.”

The film has received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, which threw a curveball to some fans hoping a Nolan war film would be earn an R rating. Nolan’s focus on suspense over bloodshed is no doubt the reason why.

Read More: Christopher Nolan Explains Why ‘Dunkirk’ is Rated PG-13: ‘It Is Not a War Film’

3. The Film Tells Three Different Stories Simultaneously (Even Though They All Take Place At Different Times)

It wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan movie without an ambitious leap of storytelling, so here is where things get very, very Nolan. When the director announced he was making a WWII feature, most fans were left wondering what Nolan was going to bring to the war genre, and he teased his narrative risk with Premiere magazine back in February.

“The film is told from three points of view: The air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy),” he said. “For the soldiers embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities. On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; And if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel.”

What Nolan is essentially telling us is that the story threads of “Dunkirk” don’t all match up on the same time frame. So how exactly is he planning to tell three different stories that take place over different durations of time?

“To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata,” Nolan said. “Hence the complicated structure; Even if the story, once again, is very simple.”

Expect a lot of the success of “Dunkirk” to be riding on just how exactly Nolan cracked the time challenges facing the narrative.

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- Zack Sharf

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‘This Is Us’: Mandy Moore Was “Sacred S**tless” About Playing Her Character 30 Years Older [Emmy Interview]

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Mandy Moore has made a statement. No, she hasn’t given a political speech or stood up at protest rally (although she is vocal in those areas).  Moore made a statement with her impressive performance as Rebecca Pearson in Dan Fogelman‘s breakout NBC drama “This Is Us.”

As Rebecca, Moore not only plays her character in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but as a sixtysomething grandmother in modern day.  

Continue reading ‘This Is Us’: Mandy Moore Was “Sacred S**tless” About Playing Her Character 30 Years Older [Emmy Interview] at The Playlist. »

- Gregory Ellwood

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Jean-Claude Van Damme Wanted More Kickboxing In ‘Predator’

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Believe it or not, 1987’s “Predator” could have been even more badass. Seriously, even with the already macho team-up of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, and Jesse Ventura, there actually was going to be one more person that would have made it even better – Jean-Claude Van Damme. That’s right, Jcvd was actually originally cast as the Predator.

Continue reading Jean-Claude Van Damme Wanted More Kickboxing In ‘Predator’ at The Playlist. »

- Charles Dean

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Mark Wahlberg Doesn’t Think Michael Bay Is Going To Quit ‘Transformers’

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In the past week both Mark Wahlberg and Michael Bay announced that after this weekend’s “Transformers: The Last Knight,” they were both done with the franchise. However, when it comes to the director, we’ve heard this before. After the past couple of “Transformers” movies, Bay had said he was done smashing robots together, only to come back and do it again. And if you don’t think he’ll quit the toy franchise, you’re not alone.

Continue reading Mark Wahlberg Doesn’t Think Michael Bay Is Going To Quit ‘Transformers’ at The Playlist. »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: 40 Photos That Capture the Show’s Unique Cinematography

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“The Handmaid’s Tale” presented a unique production challenge for cinematographer Colin Watkinson and Reed Morano, an executive producer and director of the first three episodes. The show takes place in a near-future Gilead, where enslaved women forced to reproduce for the aristocracy wear costumes that reference a puritanical time — but the show isn’t a period piece. They needed to create a world that was “other” and could serve as sharp contrast to present-day flashbacks. To read more about how they created the show’s unique look, click here.

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- Chris O'Falt

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‘Star Wars’: Don’t Get Mad at Kathleen Kennedy For That Han Solo Shake-Up

4 hours ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

Girl Talk is a weekly look at women in film — past, present, and future.

When the “Star Wars” universe imploded earlier this week with the surprising news that Han Solo standalone filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller were leaving the project after completing nearly 75% of principal photography, initial reports immediately fixated on the most likely culprit for the split: disagreements with Lucasfilm head and “Star Wars” super-producer Kathleen Kennedy. While it seems unlikely that the “real” story of what went down behind the scenes — a true “three sides to every story” situation, as producer Robert Evans was fond of saying — will ever come out, Kennedy is at the center of reports about wild demands and on-set clashes.

One thing is clear, however — whatever Lord and Miller were envisioning for their “Star Wars” debut is not what Kennedy had in mind, and while we’re still mourning the “Star Wars” film that will never be, the veteran producer deserves all of the respect that goes with her decision. She’s the one in charge of maintaining the “Star Wars” legacy, and with good reason.

Read More: Ron Howard’s ‘Star Wars’: We Debate the New Choice For Lucasfilm’s Han Solo Movie

As the head of a massive studio and a high-powered producer with a slew of huge credits under her belt (“Indiana Jones” to “Star Wars,” “Lincoln” to “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and that’s only scraping the top of a stuffed resume), Kennedy is in a rarefied position. That she’s a woman is even more unique, a gate-crasher who has earned her stripes over decades in the business, only to emerge as the principal brain behind the world’s biggest franchise.

Kennedy first entered the entertainment world in a roundabout way, infamously serving as director John Milius’ assistant after she graduated college and putting in some serious time producing a small local TV talk show in her native Northern California. At the time, Milius was producing Steven Spielberg’s “1941,” and Spielberg soon poached her to be his own secretary, a job she was apparently not great at (as it turns out, she couldn’t really type).

But from the start, Kennedy had a lot of compelling ideas, and Spielberg eventually brought her on as a producer. Just two years after their initial introduction, Kennedy co-founded Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment alongside her future husband Frank Marshall. Kennedy’s intelligence was remarkable, and so were her leadership skills, and she was soon named president of Amblin.

Plenty more big gigs followed, including the launching of The Kennedy/Marshall Company with her husband, big-time producing credits on a number of films (a number of which were directed by Spielberg), and her eventual role as co-chair of Lucasfilm alongside George Lucas. Kennedy’s track record is awe-inspiring, including over 92 film and television credits (an intriguing mix of blockbusters and prestige pictures) and eight Oscar nominations for Best Picture. In terms of pure money-making power alone, she’s behind only Spielberg and Marvel mastermind Stan Lee for domestic box office take (nearly $7 billion as of this writing).

After Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, she became both president and brand manager. If it’s “Star Wars,” it goes through her. The homogenization of franchise films is certainly an issue in an industry increasingly interested in churning out tentpoles, but a dedication to cohesion and a larger sense of story are essential elements for such wide-ranging series. That’s what Kennedy is tasked with overseeing, and it’s not always easy.

The Han Solo situation remains a weird outlier in an industry that has seen plenty of strange stuff go down; Kennedy and her cohorts are in mostly uncharted waters, though a similar situation did unspool over at Marvel in 2015. When Edgar Wright left his long-gestating “Ant-Man” after nearly a decade of work on the project, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige was believed to have balked at Wright’s burgeoning vision, one that didn’t align with the larger aims of the McU. As with Lord and Miller, Wright left the project due to “creative differences.”

Feige later explained to The Guardian why he made that tough choice: “We sat round a table and we realized it was not working. A part of me wishes we could have figured that out in the eight years we were working on it. But better for us and for Edgar that we figure it out then, and not move it through production.” Feige’s choice was hard enough; Kennedy is almost unfathomable.

As IndieWire’s Anne Thompson noted earlier this week, “Kennedy’s purpose is to stay on course — as Kevin Feige does with Marvel — and keep the ‘Star Wars’ universe humming and intact as it spins into many orbits. She can take responsibility for miscasting in this case, because Lord and Miller are who they are and, once hired, should be able to do what they do.”

She has excelled at that, and while the Lord and Miller exit seems indicative of major behind-the-scenes drama, it may actually point in the opposite direction: that Kennedy is so compelled to do right by the brand that she’ll make a huge change in order to reach the necessary end goal.

Kennedy does still have plenty to learn about navigating the ever-changing waters of franchise filmmaking, in ways that extend beyond whatever led to the Han Solo fallout.

In November of last year, she drew ire over comments about the lack of women directors on “Star Wars” projects. Kennedy explained that, while finding a female director for a “Star Wars” film was a priority, they just hadn’t found someone with the right level of experience just yet — seemingly forgetting how many male directors they’ve employed who also haven’t come to the table with built-in blockbuster credits. At the time, Kennedy said, “We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do ‘Star Wars,’ they’re set up for success. They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.”

Read More: Han Solo Upheaval: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s ‘Star Wars’ Exit

Later, she attempted to clarify her comments, responding to a question at the “Rogue One” press conference. “That quote was taken out of context,” she said. “As you can imagine, I have every intention of giving somebody an opportunity. So, if somebody actually moves through the process of making movies and wants to make a ‘Star Wars’ movie, and shows that they have actually stepped into the role on that level, of course we’re going to consider a woman. That goes without saying.” Kennedy’s criteria for a “Star Wars” filmmaker still seemed dead-set on only pursuing filmmakers who meet a criteria that sounds reliant on resume credits over passion and skill.

But Kennedy has both — an enviable track record and an obvious affection for the massive series she’s in charge of shepherding through impossible decisions. She’s already installed Ron Howard as the film’s finishing director, and every press release has insisted that the film will come out on time. Will it be worth it? We’ll have to see, but it’s clear that Kennedy will be front and center for whatever the final product looks like. After all, it’s her franchise.

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- Kate Erbland

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‘The Leftovers’: The Best Shots of the Final Season, Chosen by Director Mimi Leder

4 hours ago | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

To get that one perfect shot, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. And if you’re Mimi Leder, who directed more episodes of “The Leftovers” than anyone else, you need your actors to trust you… with their life.

“I was terrified, but I was also mesmerized,” Leder said, remembering — with a laugh — shooting the scene where Justin Theroux put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself. “‘How long can I hold this before I kill Justin Theroux?’ And then I thought, ‘No, I don’t want to kill him. I love him too much.'”

Read More: The 20 Best-Directed TV Drama Series of the 21st Century, Ranked

The scene is just one of many iconic moments from the final season of one of television’s best series. Leder directed three of the final eight episodes and helmed every finale of the series, so to celebrate her impressive accomplishments, IndieWire sat down with Ms. Leder to sort through our favorite shots of hers as well as her favorite shots from the final season.

Below are the top choices, starting with Leder’s incredible work. (And check out our gallery for more memories from the final season.)

“The Book of Kevin,” Episode 1 – Nora’s First Bike Ride

Foreshadowing both the final scene of the episode and the finale itself, Nora first showed off her cycling skills via an extended one shot Leder used to draw attention to a number of peculiar events. Leder has long favored extended tracking shots, dating back to her days on “E.R.,” and they’ve only become more engrossing as her career has progressed.

First, of course, was the bike: As Nora leaves the house, we watch Kevin get out of bed and wander out to the deck overlooking the street. Nora hops on her bike and rides away. We’ll see her ride again at the end of the episode, hauling her crate of doves back to the Australian church in the distant future.

Read More: ‘The Leftovers’ Creators Discuss Finale Reactions and Give a Few More Unexpected Answers

But we don’t know that yet. We just know something is off, and we know that because of the way Leder framed a simple act: Kevin walking to his closet.

“I wanted the audience to go, ‘Oh, he’s just getting his outfit out. He’s just picking his clothes for the day. Wait. No, no — there’s a little something more than that,'” Leder said.

Kevin suffocating himself was pretty jarring in and of itself, but watching him get out the tape and plastic bag evoked memories of the character’s deaths.

“I wanted to mirror the shot in both ‘International Assassin’ and ‘I Live Here Now.’ In both episodes, we had Kevin go into the closet and select his outfit — his international assassin outfit [in Season 2, Episode 8] and his police uniform outfit in Episode 10. I wanted to mirror those images so the audience knew something was happening here.”

But the shoot itself was tricky, as well. As mentioned above, getting a convincing shot of Kevin sucking all the air out of the bag required Justin Theroux to do the same thing.

“He just kept doing it — putting the bag over his head,” Leder said. “And I was so afraid of when to call cut and when not to because we first decided to leave a little air in the back, but there’s no air when he did it; when he put the gaffer’s tape on, there was no air. I was terrified, but I was also mesmerized.”

Theroux lived and all is well. (He’s made his love for Leder quite clear.) Onto the next.

“The Book of Kevin,” Episode 1 – Nora’s Last Bike Ride

Mimi Leder, like many great directors, falls in love not just with people, but places. Her location scouting is second to none, and in Australia, she loved a lot of things: the light in one spot, a riverbank in the middle of nowhere, and one distinctive tree (as we’ll get into shortly). But she also loved a road; the road Nora traversed at the end of Episode 1 and we didn’t return to until the end of the series.

“I was totally obsessed with the road, and the road had to be that road,” Leder said. “I had other roads in contention, but the road had to feel really isolated. You had to feel the journey from her going from her house on the hill to the church.”

Read More: ‘The Leftovers’: 7 Unambiguous, Post-Finale Facts from Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, and the Creators

To that end, IndieWire loved the giant, sweeping drone shot from both episodes, but first shown in “The Book of Kevin.” Leder used drones on a number of occasions during the final season, including the bright burst of yellow when Nora went to call Laurie during the series finale.

“This is one of my faves: When she’s riding her bikes through the yellow fields, the canola fields, to the phone booth,” Leder said. “It’s just so beautiful, so romantic.”

“Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” Episode 3 – The Burnt Corpse

When examining the above image, what stands out to you? Is it the charred corpse, perhaps? Or maybe your eye is drawn to the beaming sunlight. Perhaps you even spot the bright blue jean jacket of Kevin Senior (Scott Glenn), popping up from the bushes on the left?

Well, the most difficult aspect of setting up this evocative image — contrasting its tragic central figure and gorgeous backdrop — was the tree.

“I was obsessed with finding the right tree,” Leder said. “‘No, that tree’s not right. No, that tree isn’t quite it.’ I know people were looking at me going, ‘What’s wrong with her? She’s obsessed with this tree!’ And I’m going, ‘The tree has to feel right.’ I felt he needed to have a tree anchoring him, or he’d disappear into the vastness of the sky and the landscape.”

When reminded she’s in good company when it comes to directors who are obsessed with trees, Leder laughed.

“I hope David Lynch watches this — and reads this!” she said.

But in terms of the shot’s framing, Leder said it was a tiny part luck, and equal doses obsession and tribute.

“If this was shot with the sun at noon, it would not have looked like this,” she said. “It would’ve been a flat feeling, and we wanted this frame to be emotionally charged. We wanted you to feel Senior trying to get his tape back together [because] it so represented his relationship with his son.”

“So to me, it was an architectural thing, with the vehicle in the right frame, the tree in the left frame, and then the vast sky and the burnt corpse — which was, of course, our homage to ‘Walkabout.'”

Read More: ‘The Leftovers’: The 7 Filmmakers That Made It One of Television’s Best Directed Series

“Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” Episode 3 – Scott Glenn’s Foot

As a director, Leder sees the world a bit differently than the rest of us. For instance, when we look at the scraggly, hairy face of Scott Glenn, we might see, for lack of a better phrase, a “crazy whitefella.” But when Leder looks at him, she sees a face caked with history. She sees Glenn’s life shining through his eyes and embedded in his skin. She sees a beautiful man, all the way down to his feet.

“One of the shots — I know this is crazy — but I loved shooting his foot,” Leder said.

She’s talking specifically about the sequence when Glenn’s character, Kevin Senior, has been bitten by a snake in the middle of the Australian outback and comes stumbling toward a riverbank to (presumably) die. At the end of his rope, Senior finds a small graveyard and leans back against a white cross, looking upward to the heavens as he closes his eyes.

“The cross was very much for me like the tree: He could lean against something powerful and religious,” she said. “His gaunt face, his eyes sunken, near death — I couldn’t stop shooting close-ups of his face because I was very obsessed with every line. He’s so handsome and beautiful. He’s such a beautiful man. It was really just getting him in the frame.”

But more than his face, Leder loved his foot.

“We used this lens called the scope lens, and I gotta give some great credit to Chris Cuevas, our A-camera operator [who told me about the lens],” Leder said. “It just allows you to get in a little closer while staying really wide. You can actually do lots of different lens sizes, but you feel like you’re right in it. I loved doing these shots of Scott Glenn’s feet as he was dragging them. I felt that that really showed how desperate he was.”

Continue reading for Leder’s favorite shots from the season finale and four more highlights from Season 3.

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- Ben Travers

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‘The Leftovers’ & ‘Fargo’ Star Carrie Coon Joins Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’

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Carrie Coon has made quite a name for herself on the small screen recently. Her roles in “Fargo” and “The Leftovers” are putting her in the Emmy discussion. Now, it seems, she’s ready to make that transition to the big screen, and she’s signed up for her next big film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Coon will soon begin production on “Widows.”

Widows” is based on the 1980’s British TV series about a group of armed robbers who are killed during a heist attempt.

Continue reading ‘The Leftovers’ & ‘Fargo’ Star Carrie Coon Joins Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’ at The Playlist. »

- Charles Dean

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