Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and “The Promise”

Director Terry George’s new film The Promise, which opened April 21st, sets a love triangle between an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an American journalist (Christian Bale) and the Armenian-born but raised-in-Paris Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) against the backdrop of the end of the Ottoman empire. The drama unfolds amidst the oft-under discussed Armenian genocide that took place beginning in 1915. It is a controversial subject that George and his cast hope the film can shed light on, even going so far as to donate all the film’s proceeds to human rights charities.

The cast, which also includes James Cromwell and Westworld’s Angela Sarafyan, gathered at their New York press conference to talk about what the film meant to them and some of the pushback making a movie on this subject can draw.

Conference discussion edited for article length.

Why did you decide to take this movie and what kind of approach did you take to your role?

Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac: For me, to my shame, I didn’t know about the Armenian genocide before I got the script and spoke with Terry. So it was new to me. And to read about that–to read that 1.5 [million] Armenians perished at the hands of their own government was horrifying and that the world did nothing…Not only that but to this day it’s so little known, there’s active denial of it. So that really was a pretty significant part of it. Also the cast that they put together. And then to learn that 100% of the proceeds would go to charity was just an extraordinary thing to be a part of.

My approach was to read as much as I could to try to immerse myself in the history of the time. And also in LA there’s a small museum that a few of us got to go to and see some stuff. And then for me, I think the biggest help was I had these videos and recordings of survivors that would recount the things that they witnessed as little boys and children. Whether it was seeing their grandmothers bayoneted…or their mothers and sisters sometimes crucified–horrible atrocities and to hear them recounted with, almost they would sound like they had regressed to those little kids again, and that was heartbreaking. So I did feel some responsibility to try to tell their story.

Christian Bale: And for me, continuing off what Oscar was saying, you know he was talking about the documentaries where you can see survivors talking about these horrific experiences that they’d seen their loved ones, families, that had been very barbarically killed…And to try to get into that mindset, to try in a very small way to understand the pain that they must have gone through, and the fact that people were telling them they were lying about what had happened. And they had witnessed it with their own eyes, had all of that emotion, but there were people who refused to call it what it is, a genocide. There are still people who refuse to call it that. We have yet to have any sitting US president call it a genocide–Obama did before, but not during–the Pope did, recently. But it’s this great unknown genocide, and the lack of consequence may well have provoked other genocides that have happened since. And for me, it became startlingly relevant because as I was reading the script and in the same way as Oscar was, learning about the Armenian genocide as I reading this–embarrassing, but I think we’re in the same boat as many people– I’m reading about…Armenians who were being slaughtered under siege on this mountain, and I’m watching on the news and it was the yazidis under siege, being slaughtered by ISIS… And just thinking this is so relevant…and so tragic, it’s very sad that it is still relevant.

Charlotte Le Bon

Charlotte Le Bon: By watching documentaries, I talked a lot with Armenian friends that I have in France…Also it was really present, just like Christian was saying–A couple months before the shooting I was in Greece just on a holiday, I was on Lesbos Island, who is the door to Europe through Turkey, and it was the beginning of the massive arrival of the refugees. And they were coming like a thousand per day, it was really really impressive. And I didn’t know about it by then. And I just remember being in the car and watching hundreds and hundreds of people walking by the street…and it was really really moving to see that. The only thing I could do was just like give them a bottle of water, you don’t really know what to do. And a couple of months later I was on set and recreating the exact same scene that I saw just a couple of months before.

Angela Sarafyan: I had known about the Armenian genocide because I grew up hearing stories from grandparents–the stories they had heard from their parents about their grandparents. So doing this film was very very close to my heart because it was a chance for me to give some light to that world in a very different way. It’s never existed on film, it’s a very controversial issue. So what I got to do was really look at the time and look at what it must have been like to live in that time. The simplicity of what that village was. And kind of survival and the romanticism of living in a small place. And learning how people survived in the atrocity. I didn’t really have to go through some of the horrendous things that you see, but I loved being able to kind of investigate that simple life. And I read more, because Terry had introduced so many books and scripts and material on it. So that was it.

Did the Turkish government give you any problems? Any kind of pushback?

Christian Bale and director Terry George

Terry George: I had a very healthy exchange with a Turkish journalist in LA, a representative of the Hollywood Foreign Press, who presented that the Turkish perspective is that a genocide didn’t happen, that it was a war and bad things happen and lots of people died on both sides…I pointed out to him that that’s exactly true but in the case of the Armenians, it was their own government who was killing them. So we talked…and you know, we had this thing where IMDB was hijacked, we had the sudden appearance of the Ottoman lieutenant movie four weeks ago that was like the reverse-mirror-image of this film right down to the storyline. And there’s a particular nervousness in Europe about the film and about the current situation…So it’s an extremely embroiled subject. But our idea, as always with any of these subjects, get it out there, let some air in, let’s discuss the thing. I’d be more than willing to sit down with any representative of any Turkish organization and talk this out in terms of our different perspectives and present our perspective on it. So we want to bring air to the subject rather than hide away…let’s have this discussion.

Bale: Maybe I shouldn’t say this but don’t you think also though that’s there’s kind of a false debate been created–a bit like climate change, you know?–as though like there’s as strong evidence on one side as on the other? There isn’t. There isn’t as strong of an argument. And then similarly with this. The evidence just backs up the fact that it was a genocide.

Was there a scene that particularly moved you?

Bale: Terry and Survival Pictures decided not to show the full extent of the barbarity of the violence that was enacted during the genocide. There were multiple reasons for that that I’ll let Terry explain. But there was one scene where Mikael, Oscar’s character, he sees many of his family members and also members of his home town who have been slaughtered…that was a very emotional one I think for many people that day. So seeing Armenians who were directly connected, or had family members who knew that their origins had come–that their families had gone through that previously–that was a very affecting day for I think for every single one of us on the film.

George: …Just as I did on Hotel Rwanda, I was determined that this be a PG13 film. That teenagers, schools, people who might be squeamish about the notion of seeing an R-rated genocide movie, that the horror be psychological. And that put the burden–and carried magnificently by both Oscar and Christian on that scene–the horror of the genocide is told through how Oscar conveyed those moments of what he found in his face…

Christian, your character is a journalist who experiences questioning over everything that you’re reporting, did the relevance of that today go through your mind?

Christian Bale

Bale: Yeah yeah of course I mean that was sort of developing during filming and then obviously has become much more present in the news–What’re we calling it now? “Post-truth” era? Just how important it is to have a free press for any democracy. So yeah, that’s another aspect of the film that’s become much more relevant.

I’d love to know more of your thoughts of the web hijacking of IMDB and RottenTomatoes against this film, who do you think organized this or do you think these are individuals?

George: You know it can’t have been 50,000 individuals decided, after we had two screenings in Toronto, to [rate] us 1 out of 10. Seems like a miraculously spontaneous thing to happen. So I definitely think that was a bot, or a series of bots that were switched on…Then we had the contrary reaction from, which I genuinely think was 25,000 votes from the Armenian community–because we didn’t have a bot going–voting 10 out 10. It brought in to highlight the whole question of, not only IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes…just the whole question of manipulating the internet, and manipulating reviews and people being swayed by that. And it’s a whole new world.

For any of the actors, in your research, can you talk about any of the unsung heroes that you found out about? Secondly, can you talk about how this movie may have changed your outlook on specific causes you’d want to support as a person?

Bale: There’s Aurora Mardiganian , she’s a real Armenian national hero…who the award is named after as well, who’s a phenomenal woman who went through real tragic circumstances but came through and told her story with film as early as 1919…She was phenomenal. I mean talk about a fierce, strong woman who overcame phenomenal tragedy. She was very inspiring.

James Cromwell

James Cromwell: I think Morgenthau [Cromwell’s character] is pretty impressive, I didn’t know anything about him when I started. And also you can’t leave out the fact that there were consular officers all over Anatolia who were also sending briefs back to Washington. And that’s one of the reasons that we have the record that we have. Morgenthau’s biography, his memoirs, and these reports which were eyewitness reports.

It strikes me as amazing that today there are no people with that sort of moral outrage as part of our state department. There are ambassadors to Yemen, there are ambassadors to Sudan and Somalia and Assyria and Libya and you hear nothing. No one stands up for the people who are being oppressed all over the world now as far as taking responsibility in the way Morgenthau took responsibility. Wilson was supportive, but not the legislature, not congress. Congress was against him. And after Wilson, Hoover was very much against him, against supporting his work and against establishing the Armenian state.

So as far as a cause is concerned, it just shows us that at the top, down to the average citizen, we have been so desensitized to the suffering of people, that we cannot recognize ourselves in the other. Which is one of the reasons you do a film like this. That it has a narrative at the core, so that the audience can come in and feel what other people feel. And that by doing that you do what Shakespeare said: ‘Hold a mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.’ That’s what we do…

Oscar Isaac and Angela Sarafyan

Sarafyan: For me personally, it would be in my family, the orphans really. Because all of my, I guess great great great grandparents were orphaned. They didn’t have parents left, they were all taken away. So the mere fact that they were able to survive and then able to kind of form families…One of them fled to Aleppo actually to start a family in Syria, and it seems like it’s coming full circle with people today fleeing from Syria to find refuge in other countries. So I find them personally as heroes in my own life. And the mere fact that they were able to survive, form families, have a sane mind–because I think that kind of trauma changes you genetically. So I guess they really would be the heroes and for me doing the film was kind of continuing that legacy and making it kind of live forever. Instead of it just being a story that was told, it kind of lives in cinema and it will be an experience for people to watch and have as their own.

Paradiso Chapter 1 “NYC’s Most Interactive Escape Room”

In a New York Comic Con weekend filled with virtual reality experiences, nothing entertained my imagination more than Michael Counts’s escape room, PARADISO: CHAPTER 1. Billed as “part immersive theater, part escape room, part existential game,” Paradiso satisfies multiple action movie nerd fantasies in one pulse pounding hour.

The Paradiso experience begins, if you choose to provide your smartphone number, before you reach the venue with some ominous video messages ‘exposing’ the Virgil corporation who you are due to meet at your appointed time. Everyone in my party also received different clues to help us but to keep secret from each other.

In midtown we met up with our contact in a functioning karaoke bar to begin our experience. Ostensibly we are being welcomed into the offices of the Virgil Corporation who are on the lookout for genetically gifted escape artists. A wonderfully spacey secretary doled out forms and waivers in Virgil’s reception before the “normal” procedures were quickly overridden and the ‘real’ escape experience begins. Cue the Saw-ready voice changer demands from the heavens. Suddenly the office was revealed to be full of puzzles and my team sprang into action.

Chapter 1 features four more spaces after that reception office, each offering their own distinct look. For my money, the best room was a vintage library where we encountered a frantic handcuffed woman who upped the tension and hastily armed my teammate with a pistol. Other thrills included an air duct for us to feel extra John McClane-y and a massive bomb to be disarmed complete with digital countdown clock. The actors, handcuff lady included, make for an extra level of intrigue as they can help or hinder your progress and to this day none of my team can decide on if we allied ourselves correctly.

Teams who have diversified their skills roster get rewarded as the in-game puzzles range from visual clues to math and physical puzzles. If you’ve ever fantasized who would be in your Oceans-type heist amongst friends, that’s the crew to bring. And going into this Halloween weekend, Paradiso provides an excellent alternate to conventional horror houses by getting your heart-racing without scaring you silly. Ultimately my escape team was done in by some algebra in the final room–who knew that would come in handy?!–but we eagerly look forward to many more chapters to come.

View the Paradiso trailer below, and find ticketing information at its official website.

“Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years” Lands at New York’s Paley Center

September 16- “Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years”,  which made its debut at this year’s San Diego Comic Con opens up to New York fans today at the Paley Center for Media in midtown. The exhibition, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek television series, features fifty pieces from ten nations as well as tie-in fan screenings and whimsical photo ops sure to please the Trekkies of Manhattan. Noteworthy amongst the art on display is a piece of the famous Vulcan salute by none other than the late Leonard Nimoy himself.

Work by Leonard Nimoy

To my eyes, Spock looks to be favored character by the show’s artists, including a digital illustration from Stanley Chow whom I spoke with at the exhibition preview:

Where are you from?
Stanley Chow: I’m from Manchester England.

What Inspired you to choose Spock?

SC: I think like when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s and then watching reruns of Star Trek, the first person I kind of looked up to was Spock. He seemed like the more intelligent one and slightly different. I guess with me it was–when I was growing up, I was the only Chinese boy in the village, you always kind of–I felt you needed someone different to look up to and aspire to, you know? And Spock was always the one, with his cool, calm, collected demeanor. And his pointy ears.

Artist Stanley Chow with his work

Do you have a favorite Spock moment?
SC: There’s not been a favorite moment, but I’ve always liked the kind of relationship he had with Uhura. You know? It was never kind of like a fully fledged relationship. It was always kind of like an underlying thing…Which was sort of my life with lots of girls when I was growing up.

Do you enjoy Zachary Quinto’s take on the character?
SC: Oh, I think he’s amazing! When he was picked, obviously he was off of “Heroes”…And then once he puts the ears on and he does his thing [in the] movies, he’s the only actor–it’s sounds kind of cliché to say he’s the only actor who could do Spock but he’s done it so well but that’s why it’s become a cliché isn’t it?

Head of CBS consumer products, Liz Kalodner was also on hand to celebrate the opening.

Do you have a Star Trek favorite character?
Liz Kalodner: Well Captain Kirk is the classic, c’mon! Although I have to say, Captain Janeway [From Star Trek: Voyager], also pretty good.

Do you enjoy the new film franchise?
LK: Oh, absolutely. i think JJ Abrams has done a wonderful job. It’s brought in a new, younger audience, and really has given the franchise great energy.
As you’re from consumer products, I noticed you’ve got a fictional cereal here in the exhibit, is that a favorite item?

LK: Yeah! So that’s by an artist named Juan Ortiz who loved Star Trek from when he was a kid and actually had that idea when he was a child. And he always wanted to do it. And I don’t know if you saw the back but there are cutouts, trading cards, because cereal boxes always had you know, the free in-pack or on-pack, so he created that.

Since Star Trek is coming back to TV are you getting ready with your department for that?
LK: We are getting ready! We’re working with showrunner but it’s all in the development stage. But it’s a wonderful time to be in the Star Trek business.

“Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years'” brief stop in NYC concludes on September 25th. Details on the Paley Center’s screenings to coincide with the exhibit can be found here.

The Paley Center for Media is located at 25 West 52nd Street.

A “Hateful” Conference with Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and More

Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, the aptly titled Hateful Eight, is now open in its limited release ‘Roadshow’ engagement for the next two weeks across the US and Canada. For film lovers, Tarantino is harkening back to a style of movie presentation in ultra wide 70 millimeter film that comes complete with a musical overture and intermission. It’s a must for Tarantino fans and I can’t wait to revisit this shocking murder mystery in the old west very soon.

Hateful Eight centers around ‘Hangman’ John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter chained to his bounty, the devious Daisy Domergue (played with absolute venom by Jennifer Jason Leigh). The angry pair’s stagecoach is stranded in a blizzard in the mountains of Wyoming en route to Domergue’s date with the gallows. They take shelter at the only inn midway to their destination where they are locked in with a host of other shady stragglers bearing their own secrets. Tarantino ratchets up the claustrophobia and tension from an extremely strong screenplay in the hands of a brilliant cast.

Seven of the Eight joined director Tarantino and moderator Josh Horowitz (MTV) prior to the film’s release at their New York press conference where the enthusiastic director discussed his thoughts behind the roadshow format and basically received high praise from his all-star cast including Russell, Leigh, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir and Walton Goggins.

Tarantino, an emphatic supporter of film over digital described how he and The Weinstein Company set up the Roadshow:

QUENTIN TARANTINO: The Weinstein Company has done an amazing thing–Just to put it in perspective, Warner Brothers put their entire weight behind Christopher Nolan when he did Interstellar. Never the less, they only played in about 11 venues in the course of his 70mm run, we are playing in 44 markets in 100 theatres with our roadshow. And not only that, they literally are some of the biggest and funnest big movie palaces still left. Like you know, The Music Box in Chicago, The Hollywood Theatre in Portland…I think it’s the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Cinerama Dome for 2 weeks in Los Angeles…It’s just really wonderful. And the places that didn’t–all the places that have 70mm capabilities we utilized them, but then other places we just moved the screens in. And moved them in and created it and I remember even talking about it when we first had a discussion. It was like ‘We should be like Neil Diamond coming into town…we should be like Book of Mormon coming into town!’ We go into big venues and maybe they don’t even show movies anymore but we’ll set up our big screen and we’ll set up our projectors and we’ll let ‘er rip! And I mean it has been a herculean effort but they pulled it off. We are screening in 100 theatres between US and Canada. I’m very very proud…

We’re trying to do this like the old school roadshows where…the normal version of the movie that plays, the normal release version–which, by the way when you think of movies like Laurence of Arabia or Ryan’s Daughter or anything, we’ve all probably seen the regular release version–but the roadshows had an overture, they had an intermission and they were a little longer. Ours is about 7 mins longer just for the roadshow version. But you also get…really cool programmes. And they all come with their own pin up ready for your locker of different Hateful Eight people.

Past Oscar nominees Bruce Dern and Demian Bichir were thrilled to be working with Tarantino for the first time and spoke about the opportunity to do so:

DEMIAN BICHIR: I think you know, the first that you’re curious about [is] how everything is gonna work out. Not only because you have this huge director’s name in front of you but with this amazing cast of actors. I remember the first time we had this table reading, you always want to one day say a Tarantino line on film, so I was already very happy and excited about it. But then to listen to every single line in the mouths and bodies of all this group of fantastic actors, that was beautiful. And not only that, I remember at the first reading that we had at this hotel back in Los Angeles, going back home and telling my girl everyone is so damn fucking nice! Because you know, a small fish can be lost in a big ocean unless they embrace you, unless they treat you well. And the first thing that made me very happy when I actually met Quentin was to find a warm man, a very generous loving man, and then you know, the whole thing was a confirmation of whatever I’d thought always. You know, the biggest artists are the nicest.

BRUCE DERN: I’ve been very lucky in my career but this guy, he does a couple things the others of the people I’ve worked with didn’t do: He has the greatest attention to detail I’ve ever seen…The other thing he does is he gives you an opportunity as an actor and everybody behind the camera as well a chance to get better. A chance–his material is so good, so original, so unique if you will, that the big part of it is you’re so excited that he chose you and NOT Ned Beatty or Jimmy Caan [laughs] So that you’re excited to go to work every day. And like with Mr Hitchcock for a few days, I had this every day with Quentin. You’re excited to go to work every day because he just might do something that’s never been done.

Later DERN added: I think that if there’s one thing I might say, the man obviously has a magnet. And what the magnet does to actors is you’re so drawn to him. And we haven’t brought up my main reason why is his reverence for what went before. His respect for the industry…is just mind boggling. And he means it. And if you dared question him, he will put you in your place and tell you facts about stuff that you never even knew was made. And that was the delight for me. And there’s that kind of thing you don’t get very often.

Joining Tarantino again were former Reservoir Dogs Tim Roth (also of Pulp Fiction) and Michael Madsen (featured in both Kill Bills). These ‘vets’ talked about re-teaming with him.

TIM ROTH: Well, I mean the man is the same. But yeah, I was around sort of at the very beginning and then I have this huge break from working with him. So I did get to see in a highly impactful way how his world has changed. How his, the set has changed…and the kind of circus atmosphere that kind of exists on his set. The crew has so much more knowledge of cinema and how to tell his stories. So I saw that big leap. And that was very exciting. It’s different, when we made Reservoir Dogs, I think we made it in about five weeks or so.

TARANTINO: In particular the case of Reservoir Dogs, I was probably the–along with the PAs–I was the least experienced person on the set. Tim and Michael both made a lot of movies by that time. I was just getting through the process.

ROTH: Well you did pretty good!

MICHAEL: Thanks Quentin, I wouldn’t even have a career if it wasn’t for you.

MADSEN elaborated on how he viewed his role as the shady ‘cow puncher’ Joe Gage: I read a biography of James Cagney and he said that if you play somebody who’s very noble, you should probably try to find a mean streak in that person. Or something dark that they’re carrying around. And if you play somebody who’s very evil you should probably find something good in that person. So there’s always a duality of what you do. And the best thing about making a picture for Quentin is that he let’s your character have a duality. If you’re capable of doing it.

Death Proof‘s KURT RUSSELL spends much of Eight chained to Tarantino newcomer JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, Russell explained working within this dynamic.

KURT RUSSELL: Well, first when Jennifer and I started to rehearse, we didn’t really think there would be much of a problem with the chain. We didn’t think it would represent anything much either and nothing could have turned out to be further from the truth. Everything that we did was informed by how that chain was dealt with. And so we had to learn to sort of get the Fred and Ginger of it all together. And that informed their relationship. So for me there was John Ruth and for Jennifer there was Domergue and together we were gonna be this team. Which we felt there was, like anything else, if you’ve been chained together for a week-week-and-a-half, 24/7, you’re gonna know about that person. And the Stockholm syndrome’s gonna set up pretty fast. And it did. In fact over a five month period of time, the Stockholm Syndrome between Jennifer and I set up. It informed everything that we did…
I just want to say one other thing and we haven’t said this but, it was an unspoken thing, this will be the first time she’s heard me say this: Because of who John Ruth was, everything when that clapper goes bang, shouts ‘Action’, that chain is MINE. I own it. Because of that, I felt that as soon as ‘Cut!’ that chain was HERS. We had to have a balance. And boy, I’ll tell you something, I really appreciated what she was going through. You turn that chain over to the other person, it wasn’t easy.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: I’m not as good a dance partner!

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

LEIGH elaborated on delving into the character of Daisy:
So much of it obviously is on the page because you’re dealing with such a great script and such a great character. With Daisy there’s a lot that’s mercurial and we had to find. And we wanted to find it together. And so much of Daisy is informed by John Ruth because she is always reacting with him because of what he’s done–The chain, the hits–what might she get from that. Where, you know…she thinks she’s a lot smarter than John Ruth, and actually she is. [Laughter] But there was–she kind of feels like she’s playing him a lot of the movie but there’s this one moment in the movie– and this is what’s so great about doing a Tarantino movie and what’s so great for all of us actors is that we’re always being surprised by everything–There’s a moment where it all shifts. Where John Ruth isn’t just a putz. You know, like a fool that she is just so much smarter than. He’s suddenly very smart and very dark. When he goes and gathers all the guns from everyone. And then she has to rejudge him, just like everyone else in the movie. Everyone in the movie is terrible and hateful. Everyone in the movie you also care for, they have their…maybe their weakness is the good part of them in a certain way…And I just remember the day we shot that scene ’cause Daisy is having a blast. I mean, yeah, she’s going to the gallows but she knows she’s not going to the gallows. She’s got it figured out. But in that moment, it’s not so clear anymore. And that was so exciting as an actress, to not know that was coming. To read it on the page and yet when I felt it happen in the room, I swear my blood went cold. And it was just like phenomenal.

WALTON GOGGINS, who plays Chris Mannix, the new Sheriff of the town (and in my opinion the MVP of the Eight if we had to choose one) also praised Tarantino’s scripts when asked if there was ever any improv of alternate line suggestions:
GOGGINS: There’s no improv in this press conference. He wrote everything. [Laughter] No, no, why would you mess with perfection? You know, we say that because it is. You know it’s every actor’s dream to get an opportunity to say a Quentin Tarantino monologue. Or a line of dialogue. But there is no need to change it. Even to add a ‘the’ or an ‘and’ or a comma, it really is perfect the way that it comes out of his imagination.

Eight actually went through a few drafts, especially after a live read was held in 2014 featuring much of the cast. I asked Tarantino how that live read affected how the film ultimately turned out:
TARANTINO: Well we altered a lot because it was only the first draft. And one of the things about the movie is I wanted to actually do three different drafts of the film. And so this live read was just from the first draft. Which is different than I normally do. Normally I write these big, long unwieldy novels and there’s the beginning and here’s the middle… And the middle’s always great because now you’ve committed to writing so much now you know more about the characters than you ever could before you start writing. And then there’s the end and kind of, by that point the characters have just taken it. So they always dictate the ending to me.
I mean, I’m doing genre movies, so I have an idea where I’m going at the end. I mean at the end of Kill Bill, I thought it was very possible she would kill Bill, alright? [Laughter] But how? Why, exactly? How you feel about it, that was very open to question. But that’s the good thing–one of the reason’s I like genre is because I can explore a lot of different things, but I still kind of have a road that I’m traveling to some degree or another. But this one I wanted to do differently. I wanted to spend time with the material. More time than I normally spend ie through the beginning, middle and end. So I wanted to you know, even go through the process of telling the story three different times.
And I can just give you an example: In the first draft, the Lincoln letter, which is a motif that plays out through the film, it was only dealt with once. And it was in the stage coach. Now, I knew I wanted to do more with it but I wasn’t ready. And I didn’t have any obligation to have to do it in the first draft. I could kind of find it on my own. And then in the second draft, it appeared at the dinner table scene. And in the third draft, it appears later the way you see it in the movie.
But just to give you another example, Daisy’s end in the third draft–which is what is in the movie–was where I thought I wanted to go in the first draft. But something stopped me from going there with her in that first draft. I almost felt I didn’t have the right to do that to her yet. Because I didn’t know her well enough. Not by just the first draft. So the second draft, and not in a tricky way almost just in an emotional way just as far as I was concerned, I wrote the whole second draft from Daisy’s perspective. Alright, just emotionally. Not in a tricky prose way, but just an emotional way. So I could really get to know her. I wanted to be on Daisy’s side for an entire draft of the story so I could really feel I knew her. And then after I feel I knew her, I could do what I needed to do to her.

To find out just what Tarantino did to Miss Daisy Domergue, go catch the roadshow while you can. It’s a thrilling movie mystery experience and one of my favorite films of 2015. Tickets and more information are available at: Tickets.TheHatefulEight.com/
Meanwhile, the regular release goes wide on December 31st.

Creator & Stars of Adult Swim’s “Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter” Speak at NYCC

Written & photographed by Elizabeth Phillips

On Monday, December 7th, Adult Swim will premiere a new live-action mini-series called Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter. The show will air for five consecutive nights, ending Friday, December 11th. The story follows Neon Joe, a mysterious man with a talent for hunting werewolves. Set in the pretend town of Garrity, Vermont, the town finds itself in trouble after a round of werewolf attacks and calls on Neon Joe for help.

At the 2015 New York City Comic Con, Media Mikes was able to sit down with lead actor and creator, Jon Glaser (Girls, Parks and Recreation), as well as several other cast members from the show, including Scott Adsit (30 Rock, Big Hero Six), Stephanie March (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Steve Little (Eastbound & Down), and Steve Cirbus (Delocated), to discuss the upcoming series.

Elizabeth Phillips: How did the idea for this show come about?

GLASER:
I was a guest on Jimmy Fallon to talk about my previous show, Delocated. I took some clothes that I owned- I did a neon yellow hoodie, a knit hat from american apparel, and these Coors Light sweatpants, and I paired them arbitrarily and just went on the show, and I said “I’m really sad that Delocated is done, but I’m excited about my next project. It’s called Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, and I’m dressed as the character right now. That’s really all we have at the moment, but we’re excited to figure it out.” It was one hundred percent a joke. It was not real. I mean, I treated it like it was a real thing, but I thought it was obvious it was a joke. There was no ideas. It wasn’t a passion project- it was just coming from this arbitrary joke, and Adult Swim said, “Why don’t you write a pilot of it?” I love that that’s where this show came from. It’s one of the things that I’m most excited about. There was no attempt to do anything but make a dumb joke on a talk show, and now it’s turned into this, which i think is super cool.”

EP: Is there anything else like this on television?

CIRBUS: I don’t think there’s anything else like it on TV. Neon Joe is a werewolf hunter that wears neon, so that werewolves know where he is. He’s not afraid of the werewolves. He comes into a situation- in this world, nobody believes in werewolves. It’s not like we have werewolves running around. He shows up, and he says, “Hey, guess what, small-town USA? You have a werewolf, and I get rid of them.”

ADSIT: I trusted all the creative minds behind it, and I also love Adult Swim. The people in charge there really see the people who create shows as artists and let them do their art. They think of these creators as auteurs who are allowed to express themselves. That’s unique.

EP: What is the balance between the wackiness and seriousness in the show?

MARCH: I feel our characters take themselves very seriously. I don’t think anybody was winking to camera or goofing off. We were all playing different people, and we were really committed to being those people. I haven’t often had an opportunity to work on something that is so wacky and so fun and so loose- almost never actually, so I couldn’t not do it. It was too good an opportunity. I certainly had a good time doing it!

CIRBUS: I think what makes the humor in John’s work and the collaboration of Glaser with PFFR is that it’s always rooted in some sort of truth. The humor is born out of fairly non-sensical human situations moving to a very terrifying situation, or conversely a very human situation that just goes sour for whatever reason, and that strikes a chord, a funny chord.

LITTLE: I feel like it’s played real, just, you know, there’s werewolves. I mean I’m sure there’s a guy that wears neon somewhere in some bad neighborhood because he’s not scared, and that’s Neon Joe- just not in the world of werewolves or bed and breakfasts.”

Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter will air Monday, December 7th through Friday, December 11th on Adult Swim.

White Zombie’s Sean Yseult talks about her exhibit at Sacred Gallery in NYC, “Retrospective”

Sean Yseult is probably most recognized as the co-founder/bassist for the heavy metal band White Zombie, a group which dominated MTV with its hit song/video “Thunder kiss 65” in the early 90’s. Since the groups disbanding in 1998 Sean went on to play with several other acts such as The Famous Monsters and Rock City Morgue. In November of this year, Sean will showcase a different part of her artistic abilities in “Retrospective”- a love letter to her long-time muse, New Orleans which will be on display at Sacred Gallery in NYC through December 31st. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Sean recently about the exhibits creation and her return to New York City.

 Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about your upcoming exhibit “Retrospective” which opens in November?
Sean Yseult: The exhibit is going to have a little bit of everything. There are pieces from shows I did in New Orleans 10 years ago. Mostly I am going to be showing my large 4ft by 6ft pieces I did recently for a show in New Orleans titled “SQIREE D’EVOLUTION”. It’s kind of a tongue and cheek yet morbid setting of a party in New Orleans set in the 1870’s. It’s based around a secret societies party that has gone wrong. It’s a really fun show. The exhibit will also have some pieces from my “MISSISSIPPI MERMAIDS” show where I figured out how to put girls inside of bottles on the ocean which is a little different. (Laughs) I also have some pieces from way back that are old black and white Polaroid’s done in the style of Joel-Peter Witkin and Bellocq. There is a lot to look at as they gave me a tone of space so I am going to fill it out. (Laughs)

AL: Where did your influences come from for “SQIREE D’EVOLUTION” and “MISSISSIPPI MERMAIDS”?
SY: I really don’t know where I got the idea for “MISSISSIPPI MERMAIDS” and having girls in bottles. Maybe I watched too much “I Dream of Jeanie” when I was growing up. (Laughs) For “SQIREE D’EVOLUTION” I was hugely influenced by the Dutch Masters. I made an enormous black back drop and the photos have a serious light/darkness to them with an intensity of color. A lot of people walk up to them thinking they are paintings. I am very happy with how those turned out. I definitely draw from a few different areas.

AL: With the pieces that are coming from different exhibits how did you go about choosing those selections?
SY: I looked at everything I had done and it all has this sort of timeless quality to it. You can’t really tell which era the pieces are actually from. Even my new pieces which are in full color and set in the 1800’s have those elements. It’s very hard to tell the time as they are a bit ghostly and a lot of them are portraits of women in various states of dress or undress. It all sort of fits together somehow. (Laughs)

AL: What is it that draws you to this type of subject matter?
SY: I moved to New Orleans and became entranced with the people and the beauty of the city. The city is in this sort of state of decay and things are falling apart. In the summer especially girls are running around in slips and things so it’s hard to tell really what period you are in. It’s pretty amazing. To me it’s just so beautiful and there are so many lovely people. I just enjoy photographing it all.

AL: Coming back to New York for your first solo show is sort of a home coming for you. What do you think the experience is going to be like?
SY: I am really excited! I originally moved to the city to attend Parsons School of Design for photography. Its finally coming full circle that I get to come back there with my photo’s after all these years. Parsons is where I met Rob and we started White Zombie which sort of derailed my photography for awhile but after the band broke up I moved to New Orleans and started back up with my photography. I have shown off and on at different galleries but it’s going to be so great to show at Sacred Studios. I have been making visits up there ever since I was offered the show.

AL: How did the opportunity to show at Sacred Studio actually come about?
SY: I was at an opening last spring at a private gallery at the Chelsea Hotel for Dee Dee Ramone. My old A&R guy from Geffen Records was there and he pointed out this artist that he loved named Vincent Castiglia. We started talking and he had shown at Sacred Gallery and thought they might like my work. He put me in touch with them and I talked with Kevin Wilson the gallery director and from there things moved pretty quickly.

AL: With being so involved with your photography as of late do you feel your music has sort of taken a back seat?
SY: Not always. I sort of flip flop back and forth depending on my schedule. For the last year though I would have to say yes. I spent 2 years putting together “SQIREE D’EVOLUTION” which was a lot of very intense work. Now I am more curating and gathering things to put a show like this together. I do have a new band called Star and Dagger which will be recording with the amazing Chris Goss later this year. We have a lot of songs written but just haven’t had time to get everyone together.

“The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” Opens in NY at Discovery Times Square

When you think of fictional places you’d like to visit, the dystopian districts of The Hunger Games’s Panem might not seem like the most obvious vacation choice. Nevertheless a walk through that world, based on the films spawned from Suzanne Collins’s wildly popular book series, is now available right in midtown Manhattan. The Hunger Games: The Exhibition has moved into Discovery Times Square where fans will be able to explore the props, costumes and interactive features through January 3rd 2016.

After a welcoming video from Elizabeth Banks both as her character Effie Trinket and herself, the exhibition takes visitors chronologically through Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) journey from the impoverished District 12 to the excesses of the Capitol and into the games and the ensuing rebellion. Each room is fully immersive and ripe with small details to appreciate. I knew I was in good hands right from District 12 when I saw Primrose Everdeen’s shirt (worn by actress Willow Shields) was left perfectly untucked.

The exhibit is a bit of a hybrid insofar as it invites fans to immerse themselves in the actual world of Panem via interactive features like sitting down with Stanley Tucci’s flamboyant Cesar Flickerman but then it also takes a step back with informative signage to look at the artistry and designers responsible for the film’s creation.

Another clever touch is the moral dilemmas the exhibit challenges guests with along the way. Much like Katniss, fans are faced with several options in how they’ll face the harsh world of Panem and they’re able to make a decision that will then be tallied in beads for the duration of the show. It will be interesting to see how those choices stack up and I appreciated how many opportunities for hands-on analogue interactions there were rather than solely relying on digital screens.

For me however, the standouts of this exhibition are really the costumes. They’re central to Katniss’s rise to power in the series (with the help of her talented stylist Cinna of course!) and the films have done justice to their importance from the humble mockingjay pin to Katniss’s jaw-dropping wedding gown from Catching Fire. That gown from designer Trish Summerville is displayed in proud contrast with her original leather get up.

Like all good tourist attractions, you inevitably exit through a gift shop that’s just as thought out as the exhibition, with no district left unrepresented–I confess as a Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) fan, I picked up a District 4 pin and left just a little more hyped that the finale of the films is yet to come.

The Hunger Games: The Exhibition is open now through January 3rd 2016 at Discovery Times Square, 226 West 44th Street NYC. Tickets range from $22.50-$29.50.
The final film in the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, opens in the US on November 20th.

Jim Jarmusch Hosts “Only Lovers Left Alive” Concert in NYC

In speaking about Only Lovers Left Alive– which seems to occur often since posting my NYFF review of the film. I usually compliment the distinctive world that director Jim Jarmusch created for his vampires Adam and Eve. This audience sentiment may have reached the director’s ears because on Tuesday night in New York, Jarmusch hosted a screening along with an immersive after party and concert to celebrate the movie’s limited US release on April 11th.

Having already staged similar events in London and Paris, the film took over the entirety of NYC’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema. The theater’s hallways were darkened and lit only through projections of dried blood. Audience members were encouraged to wear sunglasses and gloves in keeping with Adam and Eve’s costuming which made for a striking movie line on the not-so-sunny New York afternoon.

After enjoying the screening of the film, the audience moved a short walk away to Santos Party House where guests were welcomed by staff members in Adam’s “Dr. Faust” scrubs offering a spicy taste of blood at the door. The lower level featured a dj who played a mix honoring the film’s Detroit roots. Exciting for film fans in other areas of the floor, you could visit recreations of Adam and Eve’s rooms.

Heading upstairs was the concert of artists from the film’s soundtrack. Film composer Jozef Van Wissem took the stage first on the lute, eventually joined by the beautiful vocals of Zola Jesus.

The highlight for me was second act, Yasmine Hamdam. In the film, the Lebanese artist entrances Tom Hiddleston’s Adam in a small club in Tangiers and she had a similar effect on this crowd with her powerhouse singing.

Next came what can only be described as the intergalactic rock of White Hills which got the most excited response from the audience. Finally Jarmusch with his band SQÜRL took the stage and it was thrilling to hear, among other tracks, the film’s signature theme “The Taste of Blood” performed live just hours after the film’s credits had rolled.

…………

Should this concert make its way to more US cities, definitely check it out. In the meantime, Only Lovers Left Alive opens in New York and LA on April 11th in the meantime you can check out the film’s newest trailer below:

2014 Olympics’ Road to Sochi hits Times Square in NYC

Nearly one hundred days ago, New York City hosted the Road to Sochi, an event celebrating the lead up to the 22nd Winter Olympics. The event, held in Times Square, boasted several activities that fans could take part in, including an autograph signing with some members of the US team, a small luge run, and numerous trivia and sport simulations. In an area best known for its throngs of tourists, Olympic fans could even watch live sport demonstrations, including hockey, curling, skiing, and snowboarding down a ramp placed right in the middle of the square.

Now, the world looks towards the beginning of the Winter Olympics- this year taking place in Sochi, Russia. The first events (Ladiesʼ Moguls Qualification in Freestyle Skiing, Team Pairs Short Program and Team Mensʼ Short Program in Figure Skating, and Mensʼ and Ladiesʼ Slopestyle Qualification in Snowboarding) will begin Thursday, February 6th. The Olympic Opening Ceremony will take place the following day, on Friday, in the brand new Fisht Stadium in Sochiʼs Olympic Park.

This Winter Olympics has seemed plagued with numerous concerns from environmental standards and potential terrorist threats to budgeting questions, lodging, and construction problems. These issues are all more than enough for one country to handle, and thatʼs not even taking into account the questions of human and animal rights violations, as well as Russiaʼs continued targeting and attacks on the LGBT community. President Obama will not be attending the Games, instead sending an Olympic delegation that is set to include three openly gay athletes. But in a lead up to the Olympics that has seen its share of controversies and concerns, the United States will place its hopes of success in its 230 athletes. 98 gold medals will be given out between February 6-23, which will include twelve new events, many previously seen in the X Games, in the hopes that their addition will add something new and fresh to the Games. Seven countries will be sending athletes to a Winter Olympics for the first time.

The United States is expected to fare well, being among the projected top countries along with Norway, Germany, and Canada. The 2014 Sochi Olympics will be shown on NBC.

Concert Review: Marina and The Diamonds – Rumsey Playfield, NYC

Marina and The Diamonds
The Lonely Hearts Club Tour
May 29th, 2013
Rumsey Playfield, New York City

On May 29th, Marina And The Diamonds took the stage at the Rumsey Playfield in New York City for the last stop on The Lonely Hearts Club Tour. Fans got there early, and by 5:00pm, the line to get into the venue was already reaching across Central Park. The concert was opened by Charli XCX, writer of the hit summer song, Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” When Marina finally took the stage, the sun had set, the crowd was ready, and the cheer was exuberant as she stepped out wearing a 1950’s-inspired pink dress and wedding veil.

The Welsh singer-songwriter, Marina, is mainly known for her electro-pop music with catchy lyrics and a kitsch-with-an-edge personal style. Fans refer to themselves as diamonds, and her lyrics often bank on offbeat humor and alter-egos to tell the stories of different characters. The set list was comprised of a nice mix of songs from both her debut album “The Family Jewels” (2010) and her more recent release, “Electra Heart” (2012).

Each song and each costume change throughout the concert seemed to depict a new character. The common thread throughout? Love.

And nowhere was the theme more present than when she took to the stage for the encore, solo- just her at her piano. Directly addressing the audience, she broke out in tears several times while talking about her struggles as an artist and what the fans meant to her. “Last year, I was like, I really enjoy doing Electra Heart, but I always felt like- oh, there were so many things wrong and, like, you know, people hated me or like, I’m definitely a glass half empty girl. But since the beginning of this year, I actually haven’t been, and I’ve done this Lonely Hearts Club Tour, and I’ve enjoyed it so much. It’s because of you guys. Of course, you know, I’d like to be a good artist, but it’s the fan base who spreads the word, and I’m not a hits artist. Obviously, I’ve had singles, but I know that you’re an album crowd. This is the end of Electra Hearts, but I have the feeling we’re going to stick together for a long time.”

You know what they say, Marina. Diamonds are forever.

Jane’s Addiction “Live in NYC” CD/DVD Giveaway [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

Media Mikes has teamed up with Total Assault PR to giveaway 2 CD/DVD copies of Jane’s Addiction’s “Live in NYC” which was recently released via UME. If you would like to enter for your chance to win this great prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Jane’s Addiction song. This giveaway will remain open until July 26th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

“Live in NYC” encapsulates the true essence of Jane’s Addiction in concert, mixing music with performance art. Flying burlesque dancers, trapeze artists and carnival sideshow antics offer stunning visuals which are further enhanced through the bands vast repertoire of hits and fan favorites, including “Been Caught Stealing” and “Stop!,” Also included is the debut live performance of the groups latest single, “Irresistible Force (Met The Immovable Object),” from the album “The Great Escape Artist”.

Jane’s Addiction’s unconventional and unique style could not be contained in one single category or format. They created the blueprint for what would be labeled “Alternative Rock” and kicked open the doors for generations of modern rock bands. And as the years have passed, Jane’s Addiction continues to keep pace in a modern culture that the band has helped to expand and progress.

Track Listing:
1. Whores
2. Ain’t No Right
3. Just Because
4. Ted, Just Admit It…
5. Been Caught Stealing
6. Irresistible Force (Met The Immovable Object)
7. Up The Beach
8. Ocean Size
9. Three Days
10. Mountain Song
11. Stop!
12. Jane Says