Our next guest has appeared in everything from Dawson’s Creek to NCIS, from Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever to Fanboys. But let’s not bury the lede here: you know him best as the frequent collaborator of filmmaker Rian Johnson, appearing as stoner Dode in instant cult classic Brick (2005), The Duke in The Brothers Bloom (2008), and Kid Blue in Looper (2012). He had a cameo in Johnson’s classic Breaking Bad episode Ozymandias (2013), and as X-Wing fighter pilot Stomeroni Starck he was the true hero of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).
We have a bloke from Looper discussing King Koopa.
We have the guy who appeared in The Last Jedi talking the guy who directed The Last Movie.
Okay, we’ll stop now.
We all know Dennis Hopper as the Hollywood legend who starred in everything from Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) to Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Mad Dog Morgan (1976) and Apocalypse Now (1979) and Blue Velvet (1986) and Red Rock West (1993) and Land of the Dead (2005). But did you know he was also a filmmaker himself? If you’re the sort of person who listens to our show, you absolutely do.
From the iconic debut Easy Rider (1969), Hopper went on to make films like The Last Movie (1971), Out of the Blue (1980), Colors (1988) and The Hot Spot (1990). His filmography includes all-time classics and Alan Smithee disasters, and it’s a part of his career that’s rarely talked about.
So why has Noah chosen to talk about Hopper’s directorial career on the show? Joins us on March 31 when we find out!
“Partly, I didn’t work on anything for [Friedkin] because I didn’t want to disappoint him.”
Seven is one of the greatest procedural films of all time. A dystopic vision of the present, a philosophical examination of justice and punishment, and perhaps the bleakest vision of optimism ever filmed. No, really. All of that came from the script, and the script came from Andrew Kevin Walker.
Andrew was not only gracious enough to join us on this month’s show, but also allowed us to probe his mind regarding the murkier aspects of screenwriting. Some screenwriters see their original works filmed, and others see them languish on the shelf. Some are hired to rewrite someone else’s work, and others find themselves rewritten. Some work on big budget tent-pole scripts only to see the studio abandon the project, and then sometimes come back to it with a new team at the helm. Andrew is one of the few scriptwriters who has been in every situation we just mentioned. If you’re a budding writer, or even vaguely interested in the process, you’re going to want to hear his insights.
But before that happens, Rochelle and Lee kick off the episode by chatting about some of this month’s most notable films. What did they make of Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial melodrama Phantom Thread? Were they won over by Ryan Coogler’s progressive African superhero blockbuster Black Panther? Did they recognise anything of themselves in Greta Gerwig’s northern California Catholic schoolgirl comedy-drama Lady Bird? Was Lee enamoured by, with, of, or near Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut biopic Molly’s Game, and did Rochelle see it or skip it?
But most importantly, what does everyone think of William Friedkin? Andrew’s filmmaker of the month is one of New Hollywood’s most striking visionaries, with just as many all-time classics to his name as obscure curiosities. For someone who made films that are so indelibly branded into pop-consciousness, Friedkin’s filmography is peppered with works both tonally and stylistically unlike anything we think of when someone mentions his name. There were many more strings to his bow than even many of his ardent fans may realise. And hey, that’s what this show is for, right?
If all of that sounds like a lot for one episode, it is. That’s why we used special magnets to pack it into a single hour. Plus there are some jokes. Go listen now.
And still on SBS Film, Rochelle goes into more detail on the glories of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.
We highly recommend you visit Andrew Kevin Walker’s personal website. As he mentions on the show, you’ll be able to read the first drafts of his films, including Se7en, 8mm, Sleepy Hollow, and so many others. It’s an extraordinary resource, and one hell of a treasure trove.
If you’d like to know more about the tricky Hollywood screenwriting arbitration process, this blog post at The Bitter Script Reader should give you a good head start.
There are so many articles about Friedkin’s Cruising, we almost didn’t know where to start linking. But there are a couple of irresistible pieces, including this original New York Times report from September 1979 in which Friedkin defends the film. And then there’s this entertaining tidbit regarding the missing 40 minutes of footage from the film.
We enjoy a good coincidence, and it was only after recording was complete that we realised actor and playwright Tracy Letts got two unrelated shouts-out in this episode: first as actor, in Lady Bird, then later as the writer of both Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2011) for Friedkin. No article to link to here, we just wanted to point it out.
We couldn’t find an archive of the Pauline Kael Boys in the Band review, but here’s a New York Magazinepiece that quotes it.
And for the record, Lee did in fact check his copy of Cruising to see if that sound reappeared at the end – and it did not! Time to reinvest in VHS.
Outro music: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield from The Exorcist (1973)
The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website
Andrew Kevin Walker joins us to talk the films of William Friedkin!
Rochelle and Lee kick off this month by looking back at some of its key releases, including Paul Thomas Anderson’s sartorial melodrama Phantom Thread (00:58), Ryan Coogler’s game-changing superhero film Black Panther (05:19), Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Lady Bird (11:09), and Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut biopic Molly’s Game (14:41).
Lee then welcomes this episode’s guest host, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker! They discuss how much or how little the on-screen film credits can reflect the work a screenwriter actually does on a project, the complicated system of arbitration, and what it’s like to both rewrite someone else’s work and be rewritten yourself. (18:11)
Then, Andrew takes us through the works and career of his filmmaker of the month, William Friedkin! Friedkin was one of the New Hollywood movement’s most striking voices, with a string of all-time classics to his name, as well as some very surprising and little-seen works in-between. Andrew talks about his most beloved Friedkin films, and the massive influence they had on him. (29:52)
Then Lee checks back in with Rochelle, and they wrap up the show with their thoughts on the films of William Friedkin, and what they discovered in going back through his career. (55:33)
Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and THE EXORCIST (1973)
It’s not a slight on William Friedkin’s later career that we picked two films from the 1970s. It’s just that, well, how do you not go with these titles? The French Connection is a procedural crime film best remembered for featuring one of the greatest and most tension-filled car chases of all time, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s hard to think of many other films of this ilk with characters, dialogue and detail this complex, which is probably why it gets exponentially better on every viewing. Once you’ve finished watching the adventures of Popeye Doyle, pop on a copy of The Exorcist. If this is your first viewing, then we won’t spoil the surprises that are to come. You already know its reputation as one of the most terrifying and genre-changing horror films of all time, and its impact has certainly not been lessened with time. Watch these two films back-to-back and you’ll not only have the best possible night in, but you’ll gain a good understanding of what made Friedkin one of the greats.
Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The French Connection, seek out Cruising (1980). The film about cop Al Pacino investigating a serial killer targeting gay men was controversial upon its release, and its reputation remains contentious. But the procedural detail that drove French Connection drives this film, and it’s certainly one you can’t afford to let pass you by. If you can’t get or have already seen The Exorcist, get your hands on Sorcerer (1977). Based on the same Georges Arnaud novel that inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear (1953), Sorcerer follows a group of men tasked with transporting unstable explosives over brutally rough terrain. If you can, see it as big and as loud as possible. And try good luck extracting your fingers from the arm rests afterwards.
The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of William Friedkin? Then you should track down The Boys in the Band (1970). Adapted by Mart Crowley from his own play, the film is about… actually, we’ll let imdb take on the responsibility of synopsising: “Tempers fray and true selves are revealed when a heterosexual is accidentally invited to a homosexual party.” It goes without saying that much of the content will look dated to a 2018 audience, but that’s true of all films, and should not put you off checking it out.
The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, will be released on 28 February 2018.
1995’s Se7en – or Seven if you prefer, but we’re going by what the film’s actual opening titles tell us – has almost been memed beyond recognition thanks to its shocking and unforgettable ending. But it remains a true classic, a work of horror and beauty that holds up to multiple re-watches. It’s one of the clear highlights on the long resumés of Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and David Fincher. Not bad for your first script.
That was the film that put Andrew Kevin Walker firmly on the map, and he’s worked steadily ever since, on films such as Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Wolfman (2010) and Nerdland (2016), as well as performing uncredited rewrites on films like The Game (1997), Event Horizon (1997) and Fight Club (1999), and writing a number of high-profile but unrealised projects including a Silver Surfer film, one of the original drafts of X-Men, and an early Batman vs Superman incarnation.
But of course, all of those credits pale in comparison to his greatest achievement: guest host on the next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates!
So which filmmaker has Andrew chosen to talk about on the show?
None other than William Friedkin!
William Friedkin is one of the greats of the New Hollywood movement.
After an eclectic start to his career that included a powerful documentary about a death row inmate, an intense Harold Pinter adaptation, and a Sonny & Cher sketch movie, Friedkin became one of cinema’s most striking voices, best known for his unmatched one-two-three hit of The French Connection (1971), The Exorcist (1973) and Sorcerer (1977). We don’t have a list to hand of how many directors have casually tossed out three of the greatest films of all time in quick succession, but it’s got to be a small club.
Friedkin’s filmography includes many other well-known works, such as Cruising (1980), To Live and Die in LA (1985), Jade (1995) and Killer Joe (2011), but also a number of films that have largely slipped under the canon’s radar: films like The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), The Boys in the Band (1970), The Brink’s Job (1978), and Bug (2006).
So how did the director of The French Connection influence the writer of Se7en? There’s only one podcast where you can find out, so be sure to join us on February 28.
Welcome to 2018! According to cinema, it’s the year of Rollerball and, we guess, Terminator Salvation. So we have that to look forward to.
It was a blast to kick off 2018 with Eloise Ross, a guest we’ve been hoping to book on the show for some time, and as you’ve hopefully heard by now, it was definitely worth the wait. Eloise braved the heat to talk some film with us for an hour, and for the sake of audio quality we had to turn off the air conditioner and the fan and swelter as we tried to be erudite about all aspects of cinema. It was hot it what we’re saying.
We kick off the show looking at some of this month’s key films, including Steven Spielberg’s literally-ripped-from-the-headlines true story The Post, Guillermo Del Toro’s dark romantic fantasy The Shape of Water, Don Hertzfeldt’s animated science fiction sequel World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts, and Ridley Scott’s ambitious Getty family biopic All the Money in the World.
We then look at the recent acquisition of Fox’s film assets by Disney, and what the merging of these studios means for the future of cinema both on-screen and off.
Then, Eloise takes us through the works and career of her filmmaker of the month, Robert Wise! Wise is a filmmaker you even if you don’t: West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There’s far more to him than those titles, which is sort of the point of the show. This episode is a massive eye-opener for Wise newbies and Wise fans alike, enlightening us to one of the great undiscovered filmographies that spans classic and modern Hollywood.
If you enjoyed our reviews of the new films from Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro and Don Herztfeldt, you can listen back to our discussions on the films of Steven Spielberg, the films of Guillermo Del Toro, and the films of Don Hertzfeldt
If you want to watch Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts, you can rent and watch it right this secondfor a measly five bucks
Rochelle’s in-depth review of All the Money in the World for SBS Movies
Rochelle claims that The Shape of Water’s fish man is sexier than The Creature From the Black Lagoon’s fish man. Here they are for comparison. What’s your choice? Keep it clean.
Outro music: America from West Side Story (1961), performed by Rita Moreno et al, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Steven Sondheim
The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Eloise Ross talking the films of Robert Wise, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.
Eloise Ross joins us to talk the films of Robert Wise!
For our first show of 2018, we welcome writer and critic Dr Eloise Ross, who joins us as we check out some of the key films from this month, including Steven Spielberg’s paean to press freedoms The Post (01:04), Guillermo Del Toro’s dark romantic fantasy The Shape of Water (05:46), Don Hertzfeldt’s animated science fiction sequel World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (10:23), and Ridley Scott’s Getty dynasty biopic All the Money in the World (13:16).
Eloise, Rochelle and Lee then take a look at the recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox’s film assets by Disney, and what the merging of these two studios could mean for the future of the film industry both on-screen and off. (17:01)
Then, Eloise takes us through the films and career of her filmmaker of the month, Robert Wise! After receiving an Oscar nomination for his work editing Citizen Kane (1941), Wise became a director in his own right, gaining a reputation as a reliable studio hand who brought his films in on time and under budget. But he was no journeyman, and his artistry immediately became apparent as he gave life to some of the most influential and beloved films of all time, including The Set-Up (1949), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Wise was a deft hand and a master of all genres, and Eloise delves into why his filmography so captivated her. (23:37)
Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) and WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
There wasn’t any type of film Robert Wise couldn’t make. His first six films included two horrors, a period drama, a thriller, a courtroom drama, and a crime noir. He was a polymath long before he’d even dipped his toe into science fiction or musicals, and he conquered those genres as comprehensively as he did the others. Your evening kicks off with The Day the Earth Stood Still, an enduring classic and easily one of the most influential science fiction films of all time. It’s pulp with heart, a fascinating angle on the alien invasion trope that turns the spotlight on humanity with such brutality, it feels like it was made for audiences from Klaatu’s home planet. There’s no better cautionary tale about the morality of human beings, and we guarantee you’ll be pretty wary of them after seeing this film. Once that’s done, switch gears and pop on West Side Story. This film feels like the musical genre’s missing link, bridging the gap between the classic MGM musicals of the Freed Unit, and the more modern, less sanitised genre it eventually became. As an update of Romeo and Juliet, it’s inspired. As a commentary on the American Dream and systemic racism, it’s years ahead of its time. As a musical, it’s one of the greatest of all time, with music by the legendary Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by an offensively-young Stephen Sondheim. As a film, it is a certified classic, beautifully shot and perfectly choreographed. Watch these two films back to back and you’ll be a confirmed Robert Wise fan before the night is over.
Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Day the Earth Stood Still, seek out The Set-Up (1949). This is one of the earliest examples of a film running in real time, beating High Noon to the screen by three years. An aging boxer refuses to throw a fight, despite the threat from gangsters trying to put the fix on. It’s one of the greatest boxing films of all time, and a personal favourite of Martin Scorsese in case our recommendation isn’t enough for you. If you can’t get or have already seen West Side Story, get your hands on The Sound of Music (1965), that other legendary Robert Wise musical about a girl named Maria. This film oscillates between its reputation as cornball sing-song and Nazi-flag-ripping meme, but there’s a reason it endured long after musicals fell out of vogue. If you only know the film from a few melodic snippets and one Austrian helicopter shot, clear an evening and sit down with one of the seminal works of cinema history.
The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Robert Wise? Then you should track down Audrey Rose (1977). Anthony Hopkins stars as a man who believes that the daughter of a New York couple is his own daughter reincarnated, and that’s all we’re going to say. It’s tense, dramatic, and constantly surprising; the biggest mystery is how it’s managed to elude classic status for so long.
The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Eloise Ross talking the films of Robert Wise, will be released on 31 January 2018.
Welcome back! Honestly, it’s like you were never gone. We certainly weren’t: we’re already hard at work on the first shows of the new year, and we have some great stuff coming up. Really, you should hit subscribe as soon as possible. If you’ve already subscribed, you should unsubscribe and then immediately resubscribe just for the endorphine rush.
To kick it all off, we’re excited to announce that the first episode for 2018 will feature Dr Eloise Ross!
Eloise is a writer, critic and academic based in Melbourne. She received a PhD in cinema studies from LaTrobe University, and has contributed to Senses of Cinema, Overland, Kill Your Darlings, The Guardian, and many others. She’s a programmer with the Melbourne Cinématèque, she’s talked film on ABC Radio National and Triple R, and is one of the hosts of the Cultural Capital podcast. But, as with all achievements, these were simply a prelude to life’s greatest pinnacle: Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host.
So which filmmaker has Eloise chosen to talk about on the show?
None other than Robert Wise!
Wise began his career as a sound and music editor for RKO in the 1930s. He soon moved on to film editing, and received an Oscar nominated for his work on Citizen Kane (1941). After filling in for Orson Welles on reshoots for The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Wise became a director, and soon gained a reputation as a reliable studio hand with films such as The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945) and the seminal real-time boxing drama The Set-Up (1949).
He was the sort of multi-talented director who could switch between genres without breaking a sweat, working in drama, comedy, science fiction, horror, romance, and war pictures. He is perhaps best known for delivering some of cinema’s most enduring and iconic moments in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), and The Sound of Music (1965).
But what is it about the work of Robert Wise that so appeals to Eloise?
Despite all evidence to the contrary, that was a year. Sure, democracy, the environment, and all societal structures collapsed around us, but across the world there was universal agreement that some good had come out of 2017: Hell Is For Hyphenates and that video of Agnès Varda dancing with Angelina Jolie at the 2017 Governors Awards. And we agree.
At Hyphenates HQ we had our second ever changing of the guard, as Sophie departed and Rochelle joined. We skirted briefly into ripped-from-the-headlines territory as Sophie attended the Asghar Farhadi protest screening of The Salesman in Leicester Square and shared the audio of the speeches after we looked back at Farhadi’s career. We also managed to achieve a long-time goal, finally featuring a guest who had also been a subject, with this one-two hit happening in successive months.
And we don’t mean to brag, but did you check out the lineup of guests this year?
Scott Weinberg runs down his favourite horror films of 2017 at Thrillist.
Paul Anthony Nelson crafts an extensive detailed look back at the films of 2017, featuring his top twenty films, his unearthed treasures, and a whole lot more besides, at his website Cinema Viscera.
Rochelle goes into more detail about her favourite films of the year as she runs down her eleven favourites of 2017 at It’s Always Better in the Dark.
Lee’s rundown of his 15 favourite films of the year, plus an unnecessarily thorough list of every film he watched in 2017, can be found on his website.
And here are some best ofs from filmmakers we’ve discussed on the show: John Waters reveals his typically eclectic and always fascinating top ten of the year; Indiewire features a collation of many directors’ favourite films, with contributions from Guillermo Del Toro and Pedro Almódovar; Steven Soderbergh lists everything he’s seen and read in 2017 at Extension 765.
End of Year Lists: Media/Broadcast
The Triple R film criticism radio show/podcast Plato’s Cave presented the favourite films of 2017 as chosen by Hi4H alum Thomas Caldwell, Cerise Howard, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood.
Garth Franklin made a short video montage of his best films of the year for his website Dark Horizons.
SOPHIE, ROCHELLE AND LEE LOOK BACK ON HYPHENATES IN 2017
Top five Hi4H film discoveries (that you hadn’t seen before)?
Sophie: I want to squeeze in a late 2016 pick, because (weirdly) I lean Lean: The Sound Barrier, a 1952 frippery about airplane manufacture, has really stayed with me, for its perfect encapsulation of the assertion of a post-war Englishness resealing around the disturbance of WWII. Call it Brexit nostalgia goggles for the time that the UK had an industry of any sort, but the verve of what could really have just been an industrial training film has lingered and charmed.
Things Behind the Sun (2001), Allison Anders’ most devastating film. I thought I’d seen all of Anders, being a huge fan, but this one – starring Kim Dickens, whose gallery of TV vulnerable tough gals (Deadwood, Treme) had already endeared her to me – seared my eyelids off. It’s extraordinary. If there were ever a film that should be revived as part of the “#metoo” moment, it’s this drama about truth and reconciliation after rape. Double bill it with Ida Lupino’s Outrage (1950) to realise that women have been telling the truth about sexual violence since long before Taylor Swift…
Loaching for January really set the tone for the Trump/Brexitageddon. One we didn’t talk about too much on the podcast but has really stayed with me is Hidden Agenda (1990), not that this year has made me paranoid or anything. Not only does it have the most raffle-in-a-hat cast of all time (Brad Dourif AND Mai Zetterling?! Cult heaven), but it’s dogged determination to uncover one small truth that stands in for the larger corruption of British imperialism just seems to fit 2017. We need more filmmaking like it. Plus I’d already seen my other fave, the sweeter-natured Carla’s Song, a few times…
Props to brilliant critic Tina Hassannia for introducing us to Asghar Farhadi’s pre-About Elly films, especially the twisty Fireworks Wednesday (2006), with its exquisite glass elevator shot and star-making turn by to-be-regular Farhadi performer Taraneh Alidoosti as impressionistic cleaner Rouhi, who becomes an awkward go-between for a warring couple, while pursuing her own romantic dreams. It was a great precursor screening for The Salesman, in which Farhadi similarly leads us into the intimate spaces of the Tehrani middle-class as they rub up against the lives of workers.
The whole existence of Everett de Roche had not really established itself in my mind, despite having seen Not Quite Hollywood, so June was a generally bewildering deep dive into a whole film culture and practice that reminded me just how little I know about cinema, and how many hidden treats remain in local indie film cultures.
Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) – Believe it or not, I’d never watched this all the way through before.
Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962)
We Won’t Grow Old Together (Maurice Pialat, 1972)
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, 1976)
Rambo: First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 1982)
Lee: I’m going to try to keep to one-film-per-filmmaker, which may be tricky given there were a lot of filmmakers this year whose stuff I was already pretty familiar with. I definitely would have included some Asghar Farhadi, Wes Anderson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet if I wasn’t already a fan. Nonetheless, here are my five best brand-new-for-me discoveries:
Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)
Things Behind the Sun (Allison Anders, 2001)
Road Games (Everett De Roche, 1981)
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, 1976)
Under the Sun of Satan (Maurice Pialat, 1987)
(And yes, due to the format of the show, I felt like conferring authorship upon the artist whose career we examined, which is not always the director. Don’t @ me.)
These are the titles that stuck with the most this year, the works I couldn’t shake. I don’t think Things Behind the Sun is necessarily my favourite Allison Anders film (what up, Grace of My Heart), but it’s the one that I’ve thought about the most since seeing it. I can’t get it out of my head.
Which new filmmakers to emerge in 2017 are you most excited about?
Sophie: Yance Ford, director of Strong Island, my documentary of the year, and the eight filmmakers who made Waru, my fiction feature of the year. It is incredible that these are (in various, sometimes complex senses) debut films – and testament to how hard it is for filmmakers of colour to reach the screen with a feature project that gets any kind of distribution. Their work, its intensity and its global reach, are all exciting to me.
Ford was a producer at the documentary series POV, and many of the Waru crew had worked as screenwriters (particularly the terrific Briar Grace Smith) or in production (like Ainsley Gardiner and Chelsea Cohen, who both produced for Taika Waititi) or in TV (like Casey Kaa and – for me, the standout – Paula Jones) or theatre (like Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu, also outstanding). These talented filmmakers with tons of experience needed that one opportunity, and did they ever take it.
Strong Island and Waru both speak to the excitement possible when dedicated film funding finds its way to serious new talents with something incredible to say. Watch their films, and support them to make more.
Rochelle: Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird is really impressive. Can’t wait to see what she does next. So too, Jordan Peele’s Get Out was inventive and fun. Macon Blair’s I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore was uneven and weird, but also fresh, thoughtful and surprising.
Lee: Jordan Peele’s encyclopaedic knowledge of genre conventions and clichés was part of what made Key and Peele the best sketch show in living memory, and the feature film Keanu (which he co-wrote and co-starred in alongside Keegan-Michael Key) was an underrated joy. But even knowing all that, were we really prepared for the greatness of his directorial debut Get Out? It confidently riffed on classic horror tropes, boasted an aesthetic that was somehow classical and subversive at once, and had the unfakeable energy that comes when a filmmaker is burning up with something to say.
Now jump back a few years to when the films of Noah Baumbach sharply improved, at roughly the same time Greta Gerwig appeared as his key collaborator. As star, as muse, and most importantly as co-writer, she was the noticeable ingredient that made his films click the way they’d always promised to, so it’s hardly surprising that her debut as director should be so assured, confident, and note-perfect. The coming-of-age tale Lady Bird is deceptively complex, consistently funny, and never inauthentic. If we could get a new film from Gerwig each year from now until the end of time, I would be grateful.
A debut that impressed me mightily was Julia Ducournau’s Raw. This French cannibalism drama was intense and unusual, a remarkable opening shot that clearly heralds a career to watch. Maybe from behind steepled fingers.
I’ve also been a big fan of Alice Lowe for years (since long before we somehow nabbed her as a Hi4H guest host!), mildly obsessing over her performances in Hot Fuzz and Snuff Box and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, as well as her dual roles as co-writer and star of 2012’s massively underrated Sightseers. So I’ve been psyched for her directorial debut Prevenge ever since it the premise was announced: a pregnant woman is compelled to commit murders by her foetus, who whispers instructions to her from the womb. If that premise wasn’t great enough on its face, it was made greater by the fact that she wrote, directed and starred in the film when she was eight months pregnant. Even if the film hadn’t been brilliant, it would still be a feat to marvel at. But it was brilliant, as it was always going to be, and I hope to live in a world where every time Alice has a new idea, someone backs a truck full of cash up to her house.
I was also able to attend the cast and crew screening of a Melbourne-made modern gumshoe film noir called Trench, the first feature by some guy called Paul Anthony Nelson. I don’t know much about him, other than the fact that he’s clearly going places and I can’t wait to see what he makes next. Also keep an eye out for the film’s breakout star, a Security Guard with no lines. That guy has leading man written all over him.
Which five filmmakers would you like to see us cover on the show?
Sophie: See above re: how many talented filmmakers who are not cismale and/or not white have to work exponentially as hard to get to five. So:
Julie Dash – OK, only one of her films (the epic, just restored Daughters of the Dust) so far has had theatrical release, but she has worked solidly for 25 years and inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers. And Beyonce. I’m just saying: Beyonce for Hyphenates guest?
Merata Mita – when is a film not a film? When it’s a documentary. Apparently. Mita would be an ideal first documentarist for the show (she directed a feature, Mauri, as well), as her films deserve global attention. Look: they named a Sundance award after her. Sold.
Mira Nair – her most recent feature, Queen of Katwe, won hearts and minds the world over. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Salaam Bombay! Time to celebrate this genre-hopping director who celebrates multiculturalism. Just think about how much Donald Trump would hate that.
Amma Asante – Where Hands Touch, due in 2018, will be her fourth feature, and her third in five years, tackling big themes of intercultural romance amid dystopian politics. She’s got dozens more films to make, no doubt – but why not celebrate her while she’s on a roll!
Lucrecia Martel – because seriously: how has no-one picked her yet?! She’s the most important global auteur of the 21st century, and also ineffably cool. Her ambitious new feature Zama is sure to get everyone talking, so it’s a perfect time to pick up her three previous feature films, as well as her docs and shorts.
Rochelle: I’m going to keep it patriotic and name five Australian directors, the majority of them women:
Rolf de Heer
Lee: I try to change these up every year, but I can’t remember what I’ve said in the past and I can’t be bothered looking it up. So right now, based purely on how I’m feeling in this moment, I would be pretty happy it if our 2018 slate included Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron, Stanley Kramer, Kenji Mizoguchi, Federico Fellini.
What are your most anticipated films of 2017?
Sophie: Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, in the hopes that its optimistic portrayal of a vivid, inclusive, hopeful world can literally create a wrinkle in time and take us back to, say, 2016? 2015? Just for a small do-over. Of course, that’s not how the ethics of L’Engle’s story works. But this will be the magical experience that our hearts sorely need, anyway.
Not confirmed for 2018, but fingers crossed: Carol Morley’s Patricia Clarkson-starring astrophysics thriller Out of the Blue. Clarkson plays Det. Mike Hoolihan in a gender-swapping take on a metaphysical investigation that – well. It’s all secret for now. But how can it not be amazing? Jackie Weaver and Yolonda Ross support.
Silas Howard bounces from Transparent to a solo feature, A Kid Like Jake, adapting Daniel Pearle’s play about a child who gets banned from going to McDonald’s. Oh, and is incidentally gender nonconforming. The cast includes Ann Dowd and Octavia Spencer: together at last. Although not as Jake’s parents. Cmon Silas, next film!
Idris Elba’s Yardie. Is directed by Idris Elba. What more do you need? OK, it looks set to revive the 1970s British-Caribbean cinema that energised a moribund UK film culture. Plus, total snap with the revival of 1970s British racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Razzie: It must be a mistake that Lizzie, a film about Lizzie Borden starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, is not directed by Lizzie Borden, of the legendary Born In Flames. Or it’s a criminally missed opportunity. So I’ll be skipping that one.
Rochelle: I’ve already seen and adored Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson), The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) and Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig). I’m very much looking forward to finally seeing Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country, and I’m intrigued by the sound of Garth (Lion) Davis’s biblical drama Mary Magdalene, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus.
Lee: Not to turn this month into an unrelenting Luca Guadagnino love-in, but his remake of Suspiria is damn high on my list. I was incredibly psyched for Gary Ross’s Ocean’s Eight, and that excitement has increased exponentially since that first trailer was released. I’m also hopping from foot to foot in anticipation of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, Haifaa al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley, Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, and Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane.
And yeah, okay, I’m pretty psyched for Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. I dig these films. Whatevs.
Also: in 2014, I listed Martin Scorsese’s Silence as one of my most anticipated films of 2015, because I thought 2015 was when we were getting it. But I’d jumped the gun and the film clearly wasn’t finished yet, so I listed it for 2016 as well. Except that the release date was delayed in Australia, so I ended up listing it for 2017. And yes, the film has come out, and I have seen it, but I can’t bring myself to break with tradition. So my most anticipated film of 2018 is, for the fourth year running, Martin Scorsese’s Silence.