Film Festival Catalog Book
Well, that’s what life is—this collection of extraordinarily ordinary moments. We just need to pay attention to them all. Wake up and pay attention to how beautiful it all is.” —Alexander Payne
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 01 About the Director 08 _Biography 13 _Interview Chapter 02 Festival Movies 18 _Ciztizen Ruth 22 _Election 26 _About Schmidt 30 _Sideways 34 _The Descendants 38 _Nebraska Chapter 03 The Festival 44 _Overview 46 _Location 48 _Nearby Hotels 50 _Nearby Eatery
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
My point of reference is what would happen in real life, not what would happen in a movie. I can’t stand that something must be made more beautiful to be worthy of being photographed on 35mm film going at 24 frames per minute.” —Alexander Payne
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
ALEXANDER PAYNE BIOGRAPHY
SYNOPSIS Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1961, director and screenwriter Alexander Payne studied filmmaking at the University of California, Los Angeles. Not long after graduating in 1991, he made his first feature film, Citizen Ruth(1996). Payne then looked at high school politics in Election (1999). Three years later, he returned to the big screen with About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson. More critically acclaimed films soon followed, including Sideways(2004), The Descendants (2011) and Nebraska (2013).
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER Born on February 10, 1961, in Omaha, Nebraska, filmmaker Alexander Payne is known for such critically acclaimed film as Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011) and Nebraska (2013). His mother was a college professor and his father ran a restaurant. While his parents hoped he would join a respected field, such as law or medicine, Payne graduated from Stanford University with degrees in history and Spanish literature. After university, Payne attend the University of California, Los Angelesâ€™ prestigious film school. From the very beginning, he aspired to become a director. Payne created The Passion of Martin for his thesis at UCLA and graduated with his M.F.A. degree in 1990. The following year, his film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, where earned raves.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
RISING FILM TALENT For his first feature film, Payne sought out the comedy in controversy. He explored issues related to abortion in Citizen Ruth (1996) with Laura Dern as the filmâ€™s star. In addition to directing the movie, Payne also wrote the screenplay with Jim Taylor. Changing direction, Payne turned his satirical eye to politics in Election(1999), an adaptation of a novel by Tom Perrotta. Reese Witherspoon stars an overachieving Omaha high school student out to win class office, and Matthew Broderick is one of the school teachers in this critically acclaimed comedy. Again working with Jim Taylor on the script, Payne and his co-writer picked up an Academy Award nomination for their screenplay. Payne also received mostly positive reviews for his examination of aging in About Schmidt (2002). In the movie, Jack Nicholson stars as a Nebraskan actuary coping with retirement. He is soon faced with the death of his wife, played by June Squibb, and he must find his way on his own. The film is adapted from the Louis Begley novel of the same name.
AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER Stepping away from his usual Midwestern setting, Payne picked up his first Academy Award for his California wine country comedy Sideways (2004). He and frequent writing partner Jim Taylor won best adapted screenplay for translating Rex Pickett’s novel for the big screen. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star as a pair of friends who go on a transformative road trip together. Seven years lapsed between Sideways and Payne’s next project The Descendants (2011). During this time, Payne’s marriage to actress Sandra Oh ended and contributed a segment to Paris, Je T’Aime (2006). He also worked in television, serving as an executive producer for the series Hungstarring Thomas Jane. Payne directed the show’s pilot as well. The Descendants stars George Clooney as a Hawaiian lawyer who finds himself facing the impending death of his comatose wife while trying to cope with learning about her infidelity. The film earned great accolades from critics and added another Academy Award for adapted screenplay to Payne’s mantle. Continuing to excel as a filmmaker, Payne returned to his home state for the family dramatic comedy Nebraska (2013), in turn helping Bruce Dern give one of the best performances of his career. Dern plays Woody Grant, an elderly man who believes that he has won $1 million from a sweepstakes mailing. Woody takes his youngest son, played by actor/comedian Will Forte, on a trip to go collect his winnings while Woody’s wife (June Squibb) tries to get him to snap back in reality. Both Payne, his cast and the film itself received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
DIRECTOR ALEXANDER PAYNE ON MINING EVERY FILM FOR COMIC POTENTIAL
MOVIE INTERVIEWS December 02, 2013 | 01:39 PM ET
Alexander Payne directed and co-wrote the films Election, About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants. He’s directed Jack Nicholson and George Clooney in starring roles and has won two Oscars for best adapted screenplay. His new film, Nebraska, stars Bruce Dern, who won the best actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his performance. Nebraska also just received six Independent Spirit Award nominations, including best feature and best director. In it, Dern plays an old man who is beginning to show signs of dementia — which is maybe why he falls for one of those junk-mail sweepstakes scams and actually believes that he’s won $1 million. He’s convinced that all he needs to do to collect his money is show up at the Lincoln, Neb., address that’s mentioned on the mailing. That won’t be easy because he lives in Billings, Mont., and can no longer drive — so he starts walking. Payne tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that even with a story like Nebraska, he’s always looking for a film’s comic potential. “I approach them all as comedies,” he says. “... When I was reading the script [for Nebraska], I read it as a comedy ... but then with moments of gravity or realism to anchor it in our world.”
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Interview Highlights On why his films often deal with fathers I think many of us have experiences with fathers who ... are loving, they are nice, but somehow they’re on another planet and you wonder your whole life, “What is that planet that my father is on?” ... [My father was] at once communicative and unknowable. ... Maybe there’s some dynamic between children and fathers which contributes to the children feeling like their fathers are unknowable. I’m always thinking about what would make a good movie and I don’t deny that those themes are there or that I’m attracted to them, but I’m not thinking about them so much while conceiving the film. I’m thinking, “This could work, this scene could hold, this could be funny, this rhythm is off.” I’m just thinking about it more mechanically. After the film is over, then I have a greater sense of what the themes are. On Nebraska’s most expensive shot I was trying to make South Dakota seem real, because if you drive through South Dakota, you always see a lot of bikers. That was the single most expensive shot in the film and it goes by quickly. I thought, “Well, we’re in South Dakota, we’ll just get some bikers to drive by the car,” and the studio said, “No way, Jose.” [Because of] insurance liability, you’ve got three moving parts: You’ve got the hero car — that is, the car with the actors — a bunch of bikers and we were in a moving vehicle behind shooting. And so they said, “You have to fly in stunt men from Los Angeles and rent the bikes and rent the costumes and they will pretend to be bikers.” And we did the numbers and that was about a $50,000 hit on a very small budget, which I couldn’t afford from the budget, so we had to make a special appeal to the studio: “Will you give me $50,000 extra to get that one shot?” And bless their hearts, they said yes. On hiring local, retired farmers to appear in Nebraska All of my films, and [Nebraska] even more so, are a combination of highly seasoned, professional actors who typically live in Los Angeles or New York; local, nonprofessional actors ... [who do] community theater, local commercials, that sort of thing ... and then nonactors, people really off the street or, in this case, off the farm whom John Jackson, my casting director, and I make a point of finding. For this film, it took over a year of casting to find, for example, those retired farmers who play some of Bruce Dern’s character’s brothers and their wives. And it was a long process of putting out casting notices on, for example, rural radio after the farm report or in small-town newspapers. ... For retired farmers, we weren’t so much expecting them to submit auditions, so
we were targeting their kids — in their 40s, 50s, 60s — who might go over to their folks’ house on a Sunday and say, “Hey! Look at this, I read this. Come on, just for a hoot let me put you on my iPhone reading these lines of dialogue and let me email it into Omaha.” So slowly but surely, over months, some of those began to trickle in and that’s how we began to assemble the cast. So there are many people in the film who have never even been in a high school play. ... At the same time we’re trying to find nonactors who can reliably present an unselfconscious version of themselves when the camera is running, I also have to ensure that the professionals coming from the coasts are believable in that setting. On actor-director relationships I’ve observed that actors and directors envy each other. I think a director envies an actor’s ready access to emotion and how beautiful that is, and I think actors can envy directors’ dealing more clinically with emotions, ordering them about dispassionately. On why he likes living in Hollywood Older Hollywood, because I’m a film buff, is fantastic. ... You can trash living in Los Angeles or living in Hollywood, but I’m driving down the street and, oh look, there’s ... the stairs that Laurel and Hardy carried the piano up in The Music Box. Now I’m in Los Feliz, there’s the house that was used in Double Indemnity. It’s delightful, and you think of what ... was created there in the teens and ‘20s and ‘30s and ‘40s. But I think about silent comedy a lot and the brilliance of what comic actors did in the ‘20s and I’m filled with pride.
Citizen Ruth, 1996 Election, 1999 About Schmidt, 2002 Sideways, 2004 The Descendants, 2011 Nebraska, 2013
An irresponsible, drug-addicted, recently impregnated woman finds herself in the middle of an abortion debate when both parties attempt to sway her to their respective sides.
PLOT Ruth Stoops is a poor indigent drug-user (a huffer - inhaling glue and paint for a high) whose down and out existence is complicated once more by becoming pregnant (she has had and lost four children already). When a judge orders that she gets an abortion or face a felony charge, she is befriended by Gail Stoney, a pro-lifer whose husband is president of the local “Babysavers” group. Suddenly Ruth is thrust into the middle of the pro-choice/pro-life struggle, with each side wanting her to take their side as a “message” to others - and the situation escalates....
CITIZEN RUTH, 1997 MOVIE REVIEW R | 106 min | Comedy, Drama | 13 December 1996 (USA)
WRITERS Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor STARS Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay COUNTRY USA LANGUAGE English RELEASE DATE 13 December 1996 (USA) ALSO KNOWN AS Meet Ruth Stoops FILMING LOCATIONS 3216 1st Avenue, Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA
Pitiful, bedraggled Ruth (Laura Dern) is a forlorn specimen of hopelessness with more than a dozen arrests for “illegal inhalation.” She has just been thrown out by her boyfriend (of one night) and turned away by her brother-in-law, and now she’s told she is pregnant. “You’ve been found to be an unfit mother four times!” a Tulsa judge informs her. “Uh-uh,” Ruth says. “Two times.” The judge threatens her with the charge of “felony criminal endangerment of a fetus,” but offers to drop the charges if she’ll have an abortion. The logic there is difficult to follow, but it’s nothing compared to the ideological thicket that Ruth wanders into after her case becomes a national battleground for pro- and anti-abortion groups. “Citizen Ruth,” written and directed by Alexander Payne, is a satire with the reckless courage to take on both sides in the abortion debate. There are no positive characters in the film--certainly not Ruth, whose preferred state is oblivion, and who perks up only when both sides start making cash offers. At a time when almost every film has a “market” in mind, here is a movie with a little something to offend anyone who has a strong opinion on abortion. Who’s left to buy tickets? Maybe those dwindling numbers who admire movies for their daring and wit, and do not expect to be congratulated and reinforced by the characters on the screen. The movie is a gallery of sharp-edged satiric portraits. Thrown into jail, Ruth finds herself sharing the same cell with hymn-singing “Baby Savers” who have been jailed after a protest at an abortion clinic. She is quickly taken under the wings of Norm and Gail Stoney (Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place), who bring her home to a safe environment (safe, that is, until she finds their son’s airplane glue). Gail alternates between praise of life and bitter fights with her teenage daughter, who eventually helps Ruth sneak out of the house to a party. One of the Baby Savers is Diane (Swoozie Kurtz), who reveals herself as a spy for the pro-choice side, and spirits Ruth away to the wilderness retreat she shares with her lesbian lover, Rachel (Kelly Preston), who sings to the moon. They arrange for Ruth to have an abortion, but by now the Baby Savers have issued a national alert, the network crews are camped out in the parking lot, and the national leaders for both sides have flown into Tulsa to make their stands.
Payne has a good eye for the character traits of zealots who feel the call to run other people’s lives. The leader of the pro-choice side, played by Tippi Hedren, is portrayed as so fashionable and sensible that you know it’s a coverup for unspeakable demons lurking beneath. And the leader of the pro-lifers is played by Burt Reynolds as a sloganeering hypocrite who praises the American family while maintaining a boy toy on his payroll.
by Roger Ebert
There is a point at which this all perhaps grows a little thin; we yearn for someone to cheer for, instead of against. But there is courage in the decision to make Ruth an unredeemed dopehead whose only instinct is to go for the cash. I doubt that the two sides in the debate would actually engage in a bidding war, but that’s what satire is for: To take reality and extend it to absurdity. The movie illuminates the ways in which mainstream films train us to expect formula endings. Most movies are made with the belief that no one in the audience can be expected to entertain more than one idea at a time, at the very most. We are surprised when it develops that there will be no “good side” and “bad side” in the struggle over Ruth, and incredulous when it appears that the movie will not arrive safely in port with a solution to please everyone. Some situations, Payne seems to be arguing, simply can not be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. Maybe, for some viewers, that will make this a horror film.
A high school teacherâ€™s personal life becomes complicated as he works with students during the school elections, particularly with an obsessive overachiever determined to become student body president.
PLOT Tracy Flick is running unopposed for this yearâ€™s high school student election. But school civics teacher Jim McAllister has a different plan. Partly to establish a more democratic election, and partly to satisfy some deep personal anger toward Tracy, Jim talks popular varsity football player Paul Metzler to run for president as well. Chaos ensues.
ELECTION, 1999 MOVIE REVIEW R | 103 min | Comedy, Drama | 7 May 1999 (USA)
WRITERS Tom Perrotta (novel), Alexander Payne(screenplay) STARS Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein COUNTRY USA LANGUAGE English | Spanish RELEASE DATE 7 May 1999 (USA) ALSO KNOWN AS Eleição FILMING LOCATIONS 16th St NW & H St NW, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Tracy is smarter than that, and would never occupy such an exposed position. She’s the subject of Alexander Payne’s “Election,” a wicked satire about an election for student government president, a post Tracy wants to win to go along with her collection of every other prize in school. What sets this film aside from all the other recent high school movies is that it doesn’t limit itself to the world view of teenagers, but sees Tracy mostly through the eyes of a teacher who has had more than enough of her. Tracy is embodied by Reese Witherspoon, an actress I’ve admired since she had her first kiss in “The Man in the Moon” (1991), and who moved up to adult roles in “Freeway” (1997), a harrowing retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” with Kiefer Sutherland as the wolf. She was a virginal headmaster’s daughter in “Cruel Intentions,” which opened last month but she hits her full stride in “Election” as an aggressive, manipulative vixen who informs a teacher she hopes they can work together “harmoniously” in the coming school year. The teacher is Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), the kind of man who turns up for an adulterous liaison and succeeds only in getting a bee sting on his eyelid. He thinks he knows what she means about “harmoniously,” since last year she seduced a faculty member who was one of his best friends. Much as McAllister detests her, he also lusts after her; talking another student into running against her is his version of a cold shower. His recruit is a slow-witted jock named Paul (Chris Klein), and the race gets complicated when Paul’s lesbian sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell), jumps into the race on a platform of dismantling the student government
“so we’ll never have to sit through one of these stupid elections again.” “Election” is not really about high school, but about personality types. If the John Travoltacharacter in “Primary Colors” reminded me of Bill Clinton, Tracy Flick puts me in mind of Elizabeth Dole: a person who always seems to be presenting you with a logical puzzle for which she is the answer. What is Tracy Flick’s platform? That she should win simply because she is the school’s (self)-designated winner. When a candidate turns up on election day having baked 480 customized cupcakes for the voters, doesn’t she seem kind of inevitable? For Jim McAllister, the Tracy Flicks have to be stopped before they do damage to themselves and others. She is always perfectly dressed and groomed, and is usually able to conceal her hot temper behind a facade of maddening cheerfulness. But she is ruthless. She reminds me of a saying attributed to David Merrick: “It is not enough for me to win. My enemies must lose.” The story, based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, shows McAllister as a dedicated teacher who is simply steamrollered by Tracy Flick. He narrates the film in a tone balanced between wonder and horror, and Broderick’s performance does a good job of keeping that balance. Whatever else, he is fascinated by the phenomenon of Tracy Flick. We’re inevitably reminded of Sammy Glick, the hero of Budd Schulberg’s Hollywood classic What Makes Sammy Run? , who had his eye on the prize and his feet on the shoulders of the little people he climbed over on his way to the top. “Election” makes the useful observation that although troublemakers cause problems for teachers, it’s the compulsive overachievers who can drive them mad. Alexander Payne is a director whose satire is omnidirectional. He doesn’t choose an easy target and march on it. He stands in the middle of his story and attacks on all directions. His first film was “Citizen Ruth” (1996), starring Laura Dern as a pregnant, glue-sniffing young woman who was a moronic loser, but became the focus of a court battle between pro-choice and anti-abortion forces. What was astonishing about his film (and probably damaged it at the box office) was that he didn’t choose sides, but satirized both sides with cheerful open-mindedness. Now here is a movie that is not simply about an obnoxious student, but also about an imperfect teacher, a lockstep administration, and a student body that is mostly just marking time until it can go out into the world and occupy valuable space. The movie is not mean-spirited about any of its characters; I kind of liked Tracy Flick some of the time, and even felt a little sorry for her. Payne doesn’t enjoy easy targets and cheap shots. What he’s aiming for, I think, is a parable for elections in general--in which the voters have to choose from among the kinds of people who have been running for office ever since high school.
by Roger Ebert
A man upon retirement embarks on a journey to his estranged daughterâ€™s wedding only to discover more about himself and life than he ever expected.
PLOT Warren Schmidt has led a safe, predictable life working in the insurance industry in Omaha, Nebr. for many years, yet now faces retirement. At the same time he is forced to take a hard look at his wife, his life and his relationship with his estranged daughter. An often hilarious series of events follow as Schmidt embarks on an unpredictable RV journey to attend his daughterâ€™s wedding in Denver.
ABOUT SCHMIDT, 2002 MOVIE REVIEW R | 125 min | Comedy, Drama | 3 January 2003 (USA)
WRITERS Louis Begley (novel), Alexander Payne(screenplay) STARS Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney COUNTRY USA LANGUAGE English RELEASE DATE 3 January 2003 (USA) ALSO KNOWN AS As Confissões de Schmidt FILMING LOCATIONS Nebraska, USA
“The mass of men,” Thoreau famously observed, “lead lives of quiet desperation.” Schmidt is such a man. Jack Nicholson is not such a man, and is famous for the zest he brings to living. It is an act of self-effacement that Nicholson is able to inhabit Schmidt and give him life and sadness. It is not true to say that Nicholson disappears into the character, because he is always in plain view, the most watchable of actors. His approach is to renounce all of his mannerisms, even the readiness with which he holds himself onscreen, and withdraw into the desperation of Schmidt. Usually we watch Nicholson because of his wicked energy and style; here we are fascinated by their absence. “About Schmidt,” directed by Alexander Payne, written by Payne andJim Taylor, is not about a man who goes on a journey to find himself, because there is no one to find. When Schmidt gets into his 35-foot Winnebago Adventurer, which he and his wife Helen thought to use in his retirement, it is not an act of curiosity but of desperation: He has no place else to turn. The film’s opening scenes show him suffering through a meaningless retirement dinner and returning home to ask himself, after 42 years of marriage, “Who is this old woman who is in my house?” His wife might ask the same question about her old man. They have lived dutiful and obedient lives, he as an actuary for the Woodman of the World Insurance Co. in Omaha, Neb., she as a housewife and mother, and now that the corporate world has discarded them they have no other role to assume. Helen (June Squibb) makes an effort to be cheerful, and surprises him with breakfast in the Adventurer the morning after his retirement dinner, but breakfast is a cheerless meal when it does not begin a day with a purpose. Then Helen drops dead. Warren is astonished and bereft, not at the enormity of his loss, but that he had so little to lose. Here is a man who did not “plan for retirement.” “About Schmidt” has backed itself into a corner with its hero, who is so limited it would be torture to watch him for two hours, even played by Nicholson. The film puts Schmidt on the road, in a reversal of Nicholson’s youthful journey in “Easy Rider.” He and the film are in search of life, and find it in his daughter’s plans to marry a man he (correctly) perceives as a buffoon and a fraud. The humor in the film comes mostly from the daughter (Hope Davis, fed up with him) and the family she is marrying into. Schmidt’s new in-laws include Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), a water-bed
by Roger Ebert
salesman and promoter of pyramid schemes, and his mother Roberta (Kathy Bates), who embraces the life force with a bone-crushing squeeze. Schmidt, who has hardly has a surprise in 40 years, now finds himself wrestling with a water bed, and joined in a hot tub by the topless and terrifyingly available Roberta. Roberta is intended as a figure of fun, but at least she approaches life hungrily and with good cheer. This is one of Bates’ best performances, as a woman of outsize charm and personality, who can turn on a dime to reveal impatience and anger. Her selfishness helps us observe that Schmidt is not a selfish man, mostly because there is nothing he has that he wants and nothing he lacks that he cares about. Schmidt has one relationship in his life that gives him a place to spill out his fears and discontents. After watching a TV ad for a world childrens’ charity, he “adopts” a 6-year-old Tanzanian named Ndugu. Encouraged to write to the boy, he spills out his thoughts in long confessional letters. It is impossible to be sure if he thinks Ndugu can read the letters, or understand them, or if he has such a painful need to find a listener that Ndugu will do. Certainly there is no one in America who Schmidt would be able to talk to with such frankness. “About Schmidt” is essentially a portrait of a man without qualities, baffled by the emotions and needs of others. That Jack Nicholson makes this man so watchable is a tribute not only to his craft, but to his legend: Jack is so unlike Schmidt that his performance generates a certain awe. Another actor might have made the character too tragic or passive or empty, but Nicholson somehow finds within Schmidt a slowing developing hunger, a desire to start living now that the time is almost gone. “About Schmidt” is billed as a comedy. It is funny to the degree that Nicholson is funny playing Schmidt, and funny in terms of some of his adventures, but at bottom it is tragic. In a mobile home camp, Schmidt is told by a woman who hardly knows him, “I see inside of you a sad man.” Most teenagers will probably not be drawn to this movie, but they should attend. Let it be a lesson to them. If they define their lives only in terms of a good job, a good paycheck and a comfortable suburban existence, they could end up like Schmidt, dead in the water. They should start paying attention to that crazy English teacher.
Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through Californiaâ€™s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle.
PLOT Miles is a failed writer living a meager existence in San Diego as an English teacher. With his career seemingly fading and the fate of a book hinging on a publisher’s decision, Miles is depressed with himself and what he hasn’t achieved. Jack is a television actor whom some recognize but not many do, as if he were a minor actor who got a taste of success. With his best friend Miles, the two embark on a road trip through California’s wine country. Miles wants to give his friend a nice sendoff before married life, while Jack simply wants to have a fling beforehand. As they’re both nearing middle age with not much to show for it, the two will explore the vineyards while ultimately searching for their identities.
SIDEWAYS, 2004 MOVIE REVIEW R | 126 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 21 January 2005 (USA)
WRITERS Rex Pickett (novel), Alexander Payne (screenplay) STARS Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen COUNTRY USA | Hungary LANGUAGE English | Armenian RELEASE DATE 21 January 2005 (USA) ALSO KNOWN AS Entre copas FILMING LOCATIONS 1785 South Broadway, Santa Maria, California, USA
by Roger Ebert
Miles is the hero of Alexander Payne’s “Sideways,” which is as lovable a movie as “Fargo,” although in a completely different way. He’s an English teacher in middle school whose marriage has failed, whose novel seems in the process of failing, whose mother apparently understands that when he visits her, it is because he loves her, and also because he needs to steal some of her money. Miles is not perfect, but the way Paul Giamatti plays him, we forgive him his trespasses, because he trespasses most of all against himself. Miles’ friend Jack is getting married in a week. They would seem to have little in common. Jack is a big, blond, jovial man at the peak of fleshy middle-aged handsomeness, and Miles looks like -- well, if you know who Harvey Pekar is, that’s who Giamatti played in his previous movie. But Jack and Miles have been friends since they were college roommates, and their friendship endures because together they add up to a relatively complete person. Miles, as the best man, wants to take Jack on a weeklong bachelor party in the California wine country, which makes perfect sense, because whatever an alcoholic says he is planning, at the basic level he is planning his drinking. Jack’s addiction is to women. “My best man gift to you,” he tells Miles, “will be to get you laid.” Miles is so manifestly not layable that for him this would be less like a gift than an exercise program. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is a not very successful actor; he tells people they may have heard his voice-over work in TV commercials, but it turns out he’s the guy who rattles off the warnings about side-effects and interest rates in the last five seconds. The two men set off for wine country, and what happens during the next seven days adds up to the best human comedy of the year -- comedy, because it is funny, and human, because it is surprisingly moving. Of course they meet two women. Maya (Virginia Madsen) is a waitress at a restaurant where Miles has often stopped in the past, to yearn but not touch. She’s getting her graduate degree in horticulture, and is beautiful, in a kind way; you wonder why she would be attracted to Miles until you find out she was once married to a philosophy professor at Santa Barbara, which can send a
woman down market in search of relief. The next day they meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a pour girl at a winery tasting room, and when it appears that the two women know each other, Jack seals the deal with a double date, swearing Miles to silence about the approaching marriage. Miles has much to be silent about. He has been in various forms of depression for years, and no wonder, since alcohol is a depressant. He is still in love with his former wife and mourns the bliss that could have been his, if he had not tasted his way out of the marriage. Although his days include learned discourses about vintages, they end with him drunk, and he has a way of telephoning the poor woman late at night. “Did you drink and dial?” Jack asks him. The movie was written by Payne and Jim Taylor, from the novel byRex Pickett. One of its lovely qualities is that all four characters are necessary. The women are not plot conveniences, but elements in a complex romantic and even therapeutic process. Miles loves Maya and has for years, but cannot bring himself to make a move because romance requires precision and tact late at night, not Miles’ peak time of day. Jack lusts after Stephanie, and casually, even cruelly, fakes love for her even as he cheats on his fiancee. What happens between them all is the stuff of the movie, and must not be revealed here, except to observe that Giamatti and Madsen have a scene that involves some of the gentlest and most heartbreaking dialogue I’ve heard in a long time. They’re talking about wine. He describes for her the qualities of the pinot noir grape that most attract him, and as he mentions its thin skin, its vulnerability, its dislike for being too hot or cold, too wet or dry, she realizes he is describing himself, and that is when she falls in love with him. Women can actually love us for ourselves, bless their hearts, even when we can’t love ourselves. She waits until he is finished, and then responds with words so simple and true they will win her an Oscar nomination, if there is justice in the world. Some terrible misunderstandings (and even worse understandings) take place, tragedy grows confused with slapstick, and why Miles finds himself creeping through the house of a fat waitress and her alarming husband would be completely implausible if we had not seen it coming every step of the way. Happiness is distributed where needed and withheld where deserved, and at the end of the movie we feel like seeing it again. Alexander Payne has made four wonderful movies: “Citizen Ruth,” “Election,” the Jack Nicholson tragicomedy “About Schmidt,” and now this. He finds plots that service his characters, instead of limiting them. The characters are played not by the first actors you would think of casting, but by actors who will prevent you from ever being able to imagine anyone else in their roles.
A land baron tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident.
STORYLINE Matt Kingâ€™s family has lived in Hawaii for generations. His extended family - namely he and his many cousins - own 25,000 acres of undeveloped land on Kauai held in trust, which ends in seven years. The easiest thing for the family to do is sell the land before the seven years is up, which is all the talk in the state, as, to whom they sell the property could very well change the face of Kauai. Despite the vast wealth that comes with the land, Matt has decided to live solely on what he earns as a Honolulu lawyer. However, Matt has not had a perfect life living in Hawaiian paradise as many believe. He and his wife Elizabeth were having problems in their marriage. She recently got into a boating accident which has placed her in a coma. Their seventeen year old daughter Alex is in boarding school on the big island since they couldnâ€™t handle her rebellion, which was made all the worse by an argument of an unknown nature between mother and daughter during Alexâ€™s last visit home. And their ...
THE DESCENDANTS, 2011 MOVIE REVIEW R | 115 min | Comedy, Drama | 9 December 2011 (USA)
WRITERS Alexander Payne (screenplay), Nat Faxon(screenplay) STARS George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller COUNTRY USA LANGUAGE English RELEASE DATE 9 December 2011 (USA) ALSO KNOWN AS Los descendientes FILMING LOCATIONS Lihue Airport - 3901 Mokulele Loop, Lihue, Kaua’i, Hawaii, USA
The state of Hawaii is a co-star. I’ve been there many times, which only qualifies me as a tourist, but at more than 20 Hawaii Film Festivals, I met so many people and went to so many places that I began to understand how its people feel a love and protectiveness for the land, and how seriously they take its traditions. Much of the story here is about how Matt King (Clooney), a descendant of one of Hawaii’s first white land-owning families, must decide whether to open up a vast tract of virgin forest on Kauai to tourist and condo development. At the same time, he faces a personal crisis. The film opens with his thrill-loving wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) in a boating accident off Waikiki Beach. Matt has been involved in land management; he holds the controlling share of his extended family’s estate. Elizabeth has run their own family, raising their daughters: the teenager Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and the younger Scottie (Amara Miller). Now Elizabeth is in a coma, and her living will instructs Matt to remove life support. Alexandra returns home from boarding school, and Matt becomes a single parent while also dealing with the King family’s urgent desire to close the multi-million-dollar land deal. This is big business, emotional and financial. Just because the lawyers wear short-sleeved Reyn Spooner shirts doesn’t make them pushovers. Matt’s life is further complicated when he discovers from an unexpected source that his wife had been having an affair. And his daughters don’t want him to sell the land, where they must often have wandered as children. Leading the push for the King family is Cousin Hugh (Beau Bridges). Hugh, who is as affable as Bridges can be, doesn’t want to listen to any woo-hoo nonsense about not selling. The story is based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, the daughter of a famous surfer and politician. Reading her bio, I suspect that there must be a lot of her in Alexandra and Scottie. Matt King himself thinks he will probably sell, but now everything is in upheaval. An undercurrent, which Payne wisely keeps subtle, is that perhaps Matt lost touch with his wife and daughters after first losing his special bond to the land.
Payne’s films are usually about people forced into difficult personal decisions. Do you remember Laura Dern in “Citizen Ruth” (1996)? He always carefully establishes his lead characters in a matrix of supporting characters who are given weight and complexity, so we feel the pressures they’re experiencing. Here there is Scott Thorson (Robert Forster), his father-in-law, a flinty, self-confident man who perhaps always has had doubts about Matt. Also, there are the man Elizabeth was having the affair with, Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard) and — here it gets thorny — Brian’s wife, Julie (Judy Greer). The film follows Matt’s legal, family and emotional troubles in careful detail, until Payne shows us, without forcing it, that they are all coiled together. A solution for one must be a solution for all. This is so much more complex than most movie plots, where good and evil are neatly compartmented and can be sorted out at the end. Payne is gifted at using the essence of an actor. He links something in their nature to their characters. Consider Robert Forster, handsome, tanned, angry in a complex way about his daughter’s imminent death because she might not have been in the boat if Matt had been a better husband. Mr. Thorson has a moment of stunning truth with Sid (Nick Krause), the seemingly spaced-out boyfriend of Alexandra; Sid is also not as simple as he seems. Consider Matthew Lillard as the adulterer; not a bad man. Consider Beau Bridges, who is reluctant to be the bad guy, but not unwilling. What happens is that we get vested in the lives of these characters. That’s rare in a lot of movies. We come to understand how they think and care about what they decide. There are substantial moral problems underlying the plot. And George Clooney? What essence does Payne see in him? I believe it is intelligence. Some actors may not be smart enough to sound convincing; the wrong actor in this role couldn’t convince us that he understands the issues involved. Clooney strikes me as manifestly the kind of actor who does. We see him thinking, we share his thoughts, and at the end of “The Descendants,” we’ve all come to his conclusions together.
by Roger Ebert
An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.
A K S A R B E N
PLOT “NEBRASKA” is a father and son road trip, from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska that gets waylaid at a small town in central Nebraska, where the father grew up and has scores to settle. Told with deadpan humor and a unique visual style, it’s ultimately the story of a son trying to get through to a father he doesn’t understand.
NEBRASKA, 2013 MOVIE REVIEW R | 115 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama 24 January 2014 (USA)
WRITERS Bob Nelson STARS Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb COUNTRY USA LANGUAGE English | Spanish RELEASE DATE 24 January 2014 (USA) FILMING LOCATIONS Plainview, Nebraska, USA
The movie focuses on the pathetic, quixotic quest of Woody Grant, a senile and alcohol-addled Korean War veteran. Woody is not only foolish enough to believe he’s won a million dollars from one of those sweepstakes letters that the rest of us customarily toss in the trash, he’s also insistent on collecting his winnings personally by making the 900-mile trek from his home in Billings, Montana, to the prize office in Lincoln, Nebraska. By himself. On foot. The first time we see him, he’s shuffling determinedly along a busy highway. Even at this early point, Bruce Dern conveys a great deal about Woody just through his presence, his carriage, his gait. Dern makes Woody as cantankerous as he is clueless, bobbing and weaving to avoid his inevitable mortality, but there’s a purity about him that’ll break your heart. Following a career marked by psychos and wild cards, this watery-eyed senior citizen inspires the 77-year-old star to give the performance of a lifetime. Payne regards Woody and the folksy folks he meets with some affectionate teasing, but also with the no-nonsense clarity of a fellow Midwesterner. The interiors of the characters’ middle-class homes are cluttered with schlocky knick-knacks. Their clothes are utilitarian and unfashionable. They are complacent at best and scheming at worst. You could interpret all this as mockery, but also as a vivid perception of a region that shaped Payne and gave him his bite. Woody’s son, David (former “Saturday Night Live” player Will Forte), seems like one of the good guys. A single and struggling electronics salesman, he trudges along in work and in life. He and his father aren’t terribly close because Woody isn’t terribly close to anyone; family is the expected phenomenon that just sort of formed around him at some point. But when Woody keeps pressing to pick up his prize money, David sees an opportunity to spend some time together, and maybe even enjoy some long-overdue father-son bonding. So they hop in David’s car, to the frustration and disgust of Woody’s loyal and long-suffering wife, Kate, played by scene-stealer June Squibb. Don’t let this woman’s diminutive size and frumpy wardrobe fool you: she is a formidable force, a foulmouthed voice of reason.
by Christy Lemire
Along the way, Woody and David stop to see Mount Rushmore (dad is unimpressed) before making an extended visit to Woody’s hometown in Nebraska. The son becomes increasingly frazzled by his inability to keep his father out of his dive-bar haunts and stop him from spouting off about his alleged windfall. Forte makes you feel the sense of resignation growing beneath David’s sad eyes and placid exterior. It’s an inspired bit of casting. In no time, Woody becomes a local celebrity for better and for worse. Old acquaintances and relatives alike regard him with an uneasy mix of pride, envy and greed; the most predatory is a subtly creepy Stacy Keach as an old friend who claims Woody has owed him money for decades. A couple of oversized, oafish cousins make their intentions known in far less subtle fashion. But this is no wacky family romp, nor is it a tearful reunion. If that weren’t already clear to us, Payne offers the abrupt image of several of Woody’s relatives gathered around a television to watch a football game: old men in bland, buttoned-down shirts, all facing the same direction, barely grunting small talk at each other. The film receives a jolt of energy and a vulgar bit of heart when David’s mother Kate and brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk)—a pseudo-slick aspiring news anchor— show up to try to to rescue Woody. This is a rare film that Payne directed but didn’t help write—the script comes from Bob Nelson— but it nevertheless allows the filmmaker to return to his home state, which was also the setting for the high school satire “Election” and the road movie “About Schmidt.” The sense of place is unshakable. “Nebraska” is shot in bleak black-and-white by Payne’s frequent cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”). It’s a choice that highlights the story’s prevailing sense of melancholy and decay rather than trying to impose a cloying nostalgia. “Nebraska” is full of complicated people marked by flaws and failures, mistakes and regrets; they can be selfish bastards, too. It often feels as though Payne is trying to strip away the cliché that the region is populated exclusively by hardworking, decent hearted types, But for all the cragginess Woody exudes with his etched face and mess of white hair, he has also inspired a great deal of love in this director. The film’s starkly beautiful final images have a poignancy that might leave a lump in your throat.
The Festival Location Nearby Hotels Nearby Eatery
The Lovely Blunder film festival is to celebrate Alexander Payneâ€™s 20th anniversary as a film director. It will be held at UCLA December 13-16. The festival will show Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska. With these movies, you can see Alexander Payneâ€™s dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society. Enjoy your time to laugh and cry with those characters while watching these lovely stories. The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is located just south of Sunset Blvd. and east of Hilgard Ave. at the northwestern area of campus.
By Car The closest major airport to UCLA is the Los Angeles International Airport, LAX. From LAX, take the 405 Freeway north to the Wilshire Blvd. East exit. Continue east on Wilshire for several blocks, moving into the left lane. Make a left turn on Westwood Boulevard. Turn right on Le Conte, then left on Hilgard. Proceed to Wyton Avenue, where you will turn left into the campus. Make an immediate right turn on to Charles E. Young Drive and proceed just past the stop sign to get to Parking Lot #3. Look for the Pay-by-Space signs and enter there only.Pay-by-Space parking is $3 for one hour, $6 for two hours, $12 for all day(there are no in-out privileges). By Bus Metro Metro Lines 2, 302, 305 and 761 serve campus, or transfer from other Metro Bus lines. Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Lines 1, 2, 3, 8 and 12 bring you to campus, or transfer from other lines. Culver City Bus Line 6 brings you directly to campus, or transfer from Lines 1â€“5.
Physical Address 102 East Melnitz Hall Los Angeles, CA 90095-1622
Charles E Young
Charles E Young
NEARBY HOTELS ON CAMPUS UCLA Guest House 330 Charles E. Young Dr. East Los Angeles, CA 90095 (310) 825-2923 Rates starting at $177-$188 Notes: Limited on-site parking, laundry facility, free wireless Internet, free campus shuttle, free medical center shuttle, and standard hotel amenities. E-mail reservations to: email@example.com WESTWOOD 1. Hilgard House Hotel 927 Hilgard Ave Los Angeles, CA 90024 (310) 208-3945 (800) 826-3934 Rates starting at $172 (with UCLA discount) Notes: Free wireless Internet, free parking, and standard hotel amenities. 2. Royal Palace Westwood Hotel 1052 Tiverton Ave Los Angeles, CA 90024 (310) 208-6677 Rates starting at $159 (with UCLA discount) Notes: Free parking, free wireless Internet, discounts for nearby attractions, and standard hotel amenities. Children under 12 years of age stay free.
3. UCLA Tiverton House 900 Tiverton Ave Los Angeles, CA 90024 310-794-0151 Rates starting at $159 (with UCLA discount) Notes: Medical Center shuttle service, fre e parking, community kitchen, childrenâ€™s recreation room, fitness center, business center, guest library, wireless Internet in lounges, laundry room, and standard hotel amenities. 4. The W 930 Hilgard Ave Los Angeles, CA 90024 (310) 208-8765 (888) 627-7135 Rates starting at $299-$500 depending on time and occupancy. Notes: Designed for business travelers, restaurant and cafĂŠ, gym and pool, free wireless Internet, petfriendly, spa services, and standard hotel amenities. 5. Hotel Palomar Los Angeles - Westwood 10740 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90024 (310) 475-8711 (800) 472-8556 Rates starting at $180 - $330 depending on time and occupancy. (with UCLA Discount) Notes: Restaurant, pool, 24 hour fitness room, shuttle to/from UCLA, pet-friendly, free wireless Internet, day-care center for kids, same day laundry/dry-cleaning service, and standard hotel amenities. Exclusive AAA member discounts.
NEARBY EATERY 1. Palomino $$ American (New), Mediterranean Westwood, UCLA 10877 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90024 Phone number (310) 208-1960 2. TLT Food $$ American (New) Westwood, UCLA 1116 Westwood Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90024 Phone number (310) 443-4433 3. Gushi $ Korean Westwood, UCLA 978 Gayley Ave Los Angeles, CA 90024 Phone number (310) 208-4038 4. Panini Cafe $$ Italian, Mediterranean Westwood, UCLA 10861 Lindbrook Dr Los Angeles, CA 90024 Phone number (310) 443-2100
5. Fat Salâ€™s Deli $ Delis, American (New), Burgers Westwood, UCLA 972 Gayley Ave Los Angeles, CA 90024 Phone number (310) 208-5070
THERE’S SOMETHING DOWN THERE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO FIND
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