Author Archives: The Hyphenates

Our Next Hyphenate Emma Westwood

Author, critic and Hi4H November 2017 guest host Emma Westwood

Get off the edge of your collective seat, because we’re ready to announce our next guest! This month we will be joined by Melbourne writer, journalist, film historian and screenwriter Emma Westwood.

Emma’s enjoyed a rich and varied career in the arts, writing for outlets such as Empire, Fangoria, FilmInk, Senses of Cinema, Metro, and many others. She was the arts editor for street press publication The Music (formerly Inpress), she penned a weekly performing arts column for The Age, and she worked as researcher on the ABC’s arts panel show Vulture.

Her first book, Monster Movies, was published by Pocket Essentials in 2008, and her second, all about David Cronenberg’s The Fly, is due out this month from Columbia University Press. She is one of the founders of Bakewood, and you’ve probably heard her on the Triple R film show Plato’s Cave alongside numerous other Hi4H alumni.

So which filmmaker has Emma chosen to talk with us about?

None other than writer and director Roman Polanski.

Polanski was born in Paris to Polish-Jewish parents. The family moved back to Poland in 1937, and the young Roman spent most of his childhood trying to survive the Holocaust. As a young man, he rose to prominence thanks to his early work, with films such as Knife in the Water (1962), Repulsion (1965) and Cul-De-Sac (1966). In America, he made groundbreaking, enduring works like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974). He went on to directed popular thrillers and award-winning dramas such as Frantic (1988), The Pianist (2002), The Ghost Writer (2010) and Carnage (2011), working in everything from comedy to horror, farce to suspense, and has proven himself a master at nearly every genre and filmmaking style.

But let’s not beat around the bush: fundamental to any discussion of Polanski is the fact that in 1978 he was convicted of raping a minor. Polanski fled the US after a very controversial trial, and has not returned to the country in almost four decades. The charges are still pending.

Due to this, as well as other accusations that have come to light over the years, he is a very difficult filmmaker to discuss. It is impossible to talk about his career without acknowledging his past – or, for that matter, his present – and nor would we want to.

And so this episode will be at least partly devoted to examining whether we can embrace, or even just watch, works authored by people who have committed heinous crimes. Is discussing a body of work the same as celebrating it? Forget separating the art from the artist, can we separate the artist from the person?

It might seem like the worst possible time to discuss someone like Polanski, and maybe it is. But as we witness the toppling of Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey, and the beginnings of what we can hope is real progressive change in the film industry, perhaps it’s the ideal time to wrestle with this topic.

So join us on November 30 for what we’re fairly confident will be a very lively and interesting show.

Our next filmmaker of the month, Roman Polanski

Elliot On Jeunet

Trivia question: what was the last episode of Hyphenates in which everyone was in the same room for the recording? The first person to correctly answer wins a set of— no, it’s okay, we know you don’t care. But for the record, it was the show with Kate Hardie back in April 2016. So it’s nice to finally get the band back together, even if the band members have changed.

We were delighted to get Adam Elliot on the show, despite him being waist-deep in drafting the screenplay for what we all hope is his next film. After discussing a variety of eclectic filmmaker possibilities, Adam eventually landed on the great Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

We figured that since we were talking about the films of Jeunet, including the ones he made with collaborator Marc Caro, we may as well resurrect the mini-Hyphenate segment and look at Caro’s solo work. So you get two filmmakers for the price of one! Also, give us some money.

Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet in the early 1990s

We also lasso Adam in for the reviews segment even though he’d only seen one of the films we were talking about. We take a look back at Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious sequel Blade Runner 2049, check out Taika Waititi’s unconventional superhero sequel Thor: Ragnarok, side-eye Terrence Malick’s wistful love story Song To Song, and debate George Clooney’s dark comedy thriller Suburbicon.

Further reading:

Rochelle, Adam and Lee record this month’s episode… in the same room!

Special thanks to Markus Stone for his help with the recording.

Outro music: score from Amelie, composed by Yann Tiersen

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Adam Elliot talking the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

Jean-Pierre and Adam at the Mary and Max exhibition in Melbourne’s ACMI

Hell Is For Hyphenates – October 2017

Adam Elliot joins us to talk the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet!

Oscar-winning filmmaker and animator Adam Elliot (Harvie KrumpetMary and MaxErnie Biscuit) is our guest this month, and chats to Rochelle and Lee about some of the key films of October 2017, including Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious sequel Blade Runner 2049 (01:12), Taika Waititi’s unconventional superhero sequel Thor: Ragnarok (13:00), Terrence Malick’s wistful love story Song To Song (17:35), and George Clooney’s dark comedy thriller Suburbicon (22:11).

Then, Adam tells us about his filmmaker of the month, the French writer-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (26:13). Jeunet’s early years saw him collaborating with Marc Caro, and the pair directed a range of short films together before making the back-to-back classics Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995). Jeunet then went solo, flirting briefly with Hollywood when he directed the fourth film in the Alien franchise, Alien: Resurrection (1997). He then returned to France to make more personal films such as Amelie (2001) and A Very Long Engagement (2004), as well as Micmacs (2009) and The Young and Prodigious TS Spivet (2013). Adam talks to us about Jeunet’s work and when he first became enamoured by his filmmaking.

We also take a diversion to look at the career of Marc Caro (39:11), and look at what he got up to following his collaboration with Jeunet.

The Jean-Pierre Jeunet Cheat Sheet

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 CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995) and AMELIE (2001)

These doubles that we program for you always work best when a filmmaker has two or more distinct phases to their career, and when each of those phases contains at least one work of total genius. In that spirit, Jean-Pierre Jeunet may have provided us with the material for our greatest cheat sheet to date. Your evening kicks off with The City of Lost Children, the dark futuristic fairytale that Jeunet co-directed with his long-time collaborator Marc Caro. This film about a scientist kidnapping children so he can capture their dreams is terrifying and beautiful and hilarious and one of the most startlingly original works of the 1990s. Once you’ve watched that, follow it up with Amelie. Jeunet was now flying solo, and created this modern magical romance about a woman who takes it upon herself to improve the lives of everyone around her. In anyone else’s hands, this film would be overly twee and painfully quaint, but Jeunet is far too clever for that. Amelie may be sweet and sentimental, but it is decidedly unselfconscious and unafraid to engage with the darker aspects of life and humanity. And it’s perfect.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The City of Lost Children, check out Delicatessen (1991). The first feature from Jeunet and Caro was a post-apocalyptic black comedy that remains as romantic as it is cannibalistic. Dark, funny and original, it remains an absolute must-watch. If you can’t get or have already seen Amelie, check out A Very Long Engagement (2004). Whereas Audrey Tatou’s Amélie was consumed with creating mysteries, her Mathilde is all about solving them. Following an almost impossible series of clues, Mathilde is determined to discover what happened to her fiancé, thought killed in the trenches of World War One. It’s slightly more full-on than Amelie, but retains the beauty, delight and tangents that made the former so successful.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet? Then you should check out Micmacs (2009). If “quirky” hasn’t become something of a derogatory term, that’s the word we’d use to describe this film about a man with a bullet stuck in his head who falls in with a group of misfits, and with them takes down a pair of international arms dealers. Jeunet himself described it as a cross between Delicatessen and Amelie, so it could also be the perfect film to watch if you only have time for one.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Adam Elliot talking the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, will be released on 31 October 2017.

Our Next Hyphenate Adam Elliot

Filmmaker, Oscar winner, and Hi4H October 2017 guest host Adam Elliot

Ever since a plucky stop-motion animated film from Australia won the 2004 Oscar for Best Animated Short – beating heavy-hitters Disney, Pixar and Blue Sky, no less – its director Adam Elliot has become a fixture of Australian culture. How many other local filmmakers are so recognisable that they get to play themselves in a nationally-broadcast TV commercial?

Adam resisted the lure of Hollywood, and followed up Harvie with the home-grown feature Mary and Max (2009), the story of an unlikely pen pal relationship between a young Australian girl and an anxiety-ridden man in New York. The film featured the voices of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana, and Barry Humphries, and won the Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Adam then returned to shorts with 2015’s Ernie Biscuit, a wonderfully bittersweet black-and-white story of a deaf Parisian taxidermist. He is currently busy on an upcoming project of which we know very little, but whatever it is, we’re awaiting it with bated breath.

Of course, all of that pales in comparison to Adam’s next role: Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

And which filmmaker will Adam be joining us to discuss?

None other than French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet!

Jeunet became known for the feature films he co-directed with regular collaborations Marc Caro: dystopian comedy Delicatessen (1991) and the dark fantasy The City of Lost Children (1995). Both films were instant classics, and the pair was soon courted by Hollywood.

Jeunet was allured by the possibilities of big studio filmmaking, but Caro was not, and the two went their separate ways, with Jeunet directing the fourth instalment of the Alien franchise, Alien: Resurrection (1997). It was a big commercial success, but was critically maligned, and Jeunet soon returned to France. His next film was the unconventional romantic comedy Amelie (2001), a huge hit worldwide, and still one of the most beloved films of the 21st century.

Jeunet went on to direct films such as A Very Long Engagement (2004), Micmacs (2009), and The Young and Prodigious TS Spivet (2013), as well as the 2015 pilot Casanova with Diego Luna for Amazon Studio.

So what it is about Jeunet’s films that so delights Adam? Join us on October 31 when we find out!

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Our next filmmaker of the month, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Black On Stallone

Only a few short weeks ago, you were living in blissful ignorance. You had no idea that you needed comedian, writer and actor Michael Ian Black talking the films of Sylvester Stallone. But now that you know such a thing exists, you can’t go on without it in your life. Smash that subscribe button, people.

With Rochelle now firmly embedded as Hi4H co-host, we kick off this episode with Rochelle and Lee looking back at some of the key films of this month. These include Darren Aronofsky’s divisive mother!, comic book sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the Stephen King adaptation It, and Australian comedy That’s Not Me.

Lee then ducks off to Skype to chat with Michael Ian Black about the films of Sylvester Stallone! Michael’s reasons for picking Stallone, and his interpretation of what Sly’s films are really about, is a must-listen. Whether you rate Stallone or dismiss him, chances are you’re going to come away from this episode with a new appreciation of the Italian Stallion.

Here’s that Stallone cameo in Staying Alive we mention in the show. What exactly is going on here?

Further reading:

  • You can google all the various mother! interpretations, but Darren Aronofsky’s own take on what the film means can be read here. And an interesting rebuttal from The New Yorker’s Richard Brody can be read here.
  • And speaking of mother!, one thing Lee got massively wrong was citing Rachel Weisz as being the woman in the opening. A number of people had seemingly confirmed this as being fact, but it turns out the first face we see belongs to Canadian actress Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse. Which pretty much destroys the whole theory that spun out from that assumption.
  • If you’d like to know more about that scene we mention from It – the one in the book that does not appear in the film – there’s a good rundown of it all here.
  • Michael briefly mentions Stallone starring in a softcore porn film. That would be the 1970’s The Party At Kitty and Stud’s (later renamed Italian Stallion to cash in on Stallone’s stardom), and the story behind the film is outlined in this piece.
  • More details on the Godfather Part III film that Paramount wanted Stallone to write, direct and star in can be found here.
  • And here’s this great in-depth interview with Stallone during the promotion of the 2015 Rocky spinoff Creed, looking back at the origins of the series and of Stallone’s career in general.

Outro music: “Eye of the Tiger”, written by Frankie Sullivan & Jim Peterik and performed by Survivor, from Rocky III (1982)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Michael Ian Black talking the films of Sylvester Stallone, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

From Atlanta, GA to Melbourne, VIC.

Hell Is For Hyphenates – September 2017

Michael Ian Black joins us to talk the films of Sylvester Stallone!

We kick off this month by looking back at some of the key new releases, including Darren Aronofsky’s allegorical and grammatically-troubled mother! (00:50), Matthew Vaughan’s action sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle (05:49), Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the Stephen King classic It (09:32), and the popular Australian indie comedy That’s Not Me (13:57).

Lee then talks with this month’s guest, actor and writer Michael Ian Black (Wet Hot American SummerEdThis Is 40Another Period), to look at the films of writer/director/actor Sylvester Stallone. Stallone’s reputation as a muscle-bound 1980s action hero belies his work behind the camera, with a filmography that’s far more complex and thoughtful than he is often credited with. Michael takes us through this varied and fascinating career, and reveals his theory on what Sly’s films are really about (17:16).

Rochelle then rejoins the show to wrap up the episode and give her thoughts on Stallone’s filmography and the discussion with Michael. (55:16)

The Sylvester Stallone Cheat Sheet

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…

ROCKY II (1979) and ROCKY BALBOA (2006)

If you’ve never seen a Rocky film, this double still works surprisingly well in isolation. Rocky II, like nearly all the Rocky films, kicks off with a Previously On montage, so you get a good idea of what you missed in the previous film. Stallone wrote all the Rocky films, but II was his first entry in the franchise as director, and he doesn’t venture too far from the style that John G Avildsen established in the original. There are some differences, and these differences highlight Stallone’s interests: he’s clearly influenced by vérité of New Hollywood, and yet these are still films about ordinary people becoming extraordinary. Throughout the big fight, Stallone lowers the camera so the fighters go from humans to heroes, towering above us. It’s deft work from Stallone so early in his career. When you’re done with Rocky II, put on Rocky Balboa. This was the big comeback for both Stallone and his character, 16 years after the series had seemingly wrapped up. For a film that’s all about a boxer from the ’70s coming up against a boxer in the ’00s, it has the feel of a director from the ’70s trying to hold onto what worked once before in a Hollywood that’s long-since moved on to greener pastures. But the film works; Rocky’s still got it, and so does Stallone.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Rocky II, check out Paradise Alley (1978). This was the first film Stallone ever wrote, and after the phenomenal success of the first Rocky, he was given the chance to direct it. The story of a low-rent hustler who convinces his brother to become a wrestler so they can make some fast cash is a pretty fascinating entry in the Stallone canon. If you can’t get or have already seen Rocky Balboa, check out Rambo (2008). In a two-year period, Stallone revisited his two most iconic characters with unsentimental postscripts. The lack of Roman numerals suggests that, as with Rocky Balboa, this was designed to be the final entry. There’s not as much solemn introspection in Rambo, but that makes it all the more profound: Rocky’s world may be long gone, but John Rambo’s remains. The conflicts of the past take on new yet similar guises, and those who try to help are quickly forgotten. But most importantly, it’s crazy violent yo!

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Sylvester Stallone? Then you should probably check out Staying Alive (1983). Chances are you’ve forgotten that Stallone directed the sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977) – yeah, the BeeGees film with John Travolta – because it’s one of those facts that seems impossible to grasp onto, regardless of how many times you’ve heard it or even seen the film itself. But it happened. And if you want to see Stallone directing something that doesn’t involve high-stakes combat sports or the graphic shooting of faceless bad guys, this is something you really need to see.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Michael Ian Black talking the films of Sylvester Stallone, will be released on 30 September 2017.

Our Next Hyphenate Michael Ian Black

Actor, comedian, writer and Hi4H September 2017 guest host Michael Ian Black

Going on both merit and popularity, Michael Ian Black ranks high above the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, motion-induced blindness, the chemical methylisoborneol and the second Men In Black film, as one of our greatest ever MIBs. Top three, easy.

He wrote and starred in the long-running sketch comedy show The State; he played the entrepreneurial bowling alley employee Phil Stubbs in the hit sitcom Ed; he was – and is – McKinley in the cult film Wet Hot American Summer (2001) and its recent Netflix prequel and sequel series.

You’ll also have seen him in films such as This Is 40 (2012) and They Came Together (2014), and in TV shows including Another Period, The Jim Gaffigan Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Maron, Reno 911!, and more besides. With Simon Pegg, he co-wrote the 2008 film Run Fatboy Run. In 2006, he both wrote and directed the 2006 comedy The Pleasure of Your Company (aka Wedding Daze) starring Jason Biggs and Isla Fisher. He’s also a prolific TV presenter, author and comedian, though we’re going to stop now because this bio is getting out of hand.

But of course, you know him best from his upcoming role of a lifetime: this month’s guest host of Hell Is For Hyphenates!

So which filmmaker has he chosen to talk about on the show?

Cue Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now and run up those Philly Museum of Art steps, because it’s none other than Sylvester Stallone!

We all know the Stallone origin story: he was an aspiring actor who took matters into his own hands and wrote himself the role of a lifetime with 1976’s Rocky.

Rocky made him an instant star, but Stallone continued to work behind the scenes, writing numerous films and directing many of them: he debuted as director with Paradise Alley (1978), directed four out of the six Rocky films, made the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive (1983), directed 2008’s Rambo, and launched a new franchise with 2010’s The Expendables.

So what is it about Stallone the Filmmaker that so appeals to Michael? Join us on September 30 when we find out!

Be sure to subscribe now so you don’t miss the episode. Find us on iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio, or whichever platform on which you prefer to listen to podcasts, except for the ones we’re not on.

Our next filmmaker of the month, Sylvester Stallone

Wright On Miller

“Death is something that permeates through the whole of the Mad Max franchise, and that’s fascinating to me.” – Edgar Wright

A new era of Hell Is For Hyphenates dawns! Or, if we’re going by Planet of the Apes terminology, it rises, then it dawns. Then it wars. With Sophie departing the show last month, this month included not just prep for a new episode, but simultaneously hunt for a new co-host.

If you’ve been listening to the show since the beginning – and of course you have – you’ll remember that one of our earliest guests was the wonderful Rochelle Siemienowicz, writer and critic, who joined us in October 2010 to talk the films of Sofia Coppola. Rochelle now joins the show on a permanent basis, immediately and brilliantly hitting the ground running like she’s always been here.

Rochelle and Lee kick off their first show with a look back at some of the key films of this month, including Steven Soderbergh’s hillbilly heist Logan Lucky, Luc Besson’s sci-fi epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Claire Denis’s comedic drama Let Sunshine In, and Agnès Varda’s rural France road trip documentary Faces Places.

They then look at the films and career of the legendary Australian filmmaker George Miller. From the post-apocalyptic muscle cars of the Mad Max series to solemn biopics, from supernatural comedies to singing pigs and dancing penguins, Miller’s career is nothing if not eclectic. But are there common threads between these apparently mismatched films that we may have previously missed?

Then, Lee speaks to this month’s guest, writer/director Edgar Wright – the beloved cult filmmaker behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The World’s End and Baby Driver – about the effect Mad Max had on him. The interview was conducted the day after George Miller had hosted Edgar at the Q&A for the Sydney premiere of Baby Driver, so the timing was pretty perfect. And you’re really going to want to hear about Edgar getting both filmmaking and medical advice from Dr George.

In fact, you’re going to want to hear the whole thing. So get downloading, get listening, and get scrolling-down because our show notes provide, as always, the value-added content we like to imagine you crave.

(Note: the original post announcing this month’s episode promoted our guest as director Patrick Hughes. Due to scheduling conflicts, Patrick was unable to join us, but we hope to have him on in a future episode.)

Further reading:

Edgar and Lee bond over having beards and putting their hands in their pockets

Outro music: score from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, composed by Brian May

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Edgar Wright talking the films of George Miller, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed via our website.