Category Archives: blogs

The Bong Joon-ho 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…

MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003) and OKJA (2017)

It’s safe to say Bong Joon-ho has never repeated himself, but if you absolutely had to divide his filmography into distinct hemispheres, you could justify labelling one basket “gritty murder mysteries in small towns” and another “high-concept, possibly involving a giant monster”. So kick your evening off with Memories of Murder, which we’ll reductively but usefully describe as the South Korean Zodiac. Inspired by the country’s first recorded serial killer, the film follows a local detective partnered with a city detective, and digs into the processes and mistakes the pair makes as they try to catch the killer. Not afraid of overselling this one: it’s easily one of the best modern police procedurals you’re likely to see. Once you’ve seen that, follow it up with Okja, The fantasy-action film follows a young girl who runs away to save the life of her beloved gigantic pig, falling in with a group of animal liberationists as they try to rescue the genetically engineered creature from the ominous Mirando Corporation. Beloved by audiences and critics, the film was nominated for a Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is available right this second on Netflix.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Memories of Murder, seek out Mother (2009). When her son is accused of a terrible murder, a woman who sells medicinal herbs sets about trying to prove his innocence, becoming increasingly forceful as she finds herself blocked at every turn. If you can’t get or have already seen Okja, get your hands on Snowpiercer (2013), which is also on Netflix, and also features a perfectly over-the-top Tilda Swinton performance. Our world has frozen over, and all that’s left of humanity resides in a super train that travels the world. The rich and powerful reside at the front, and the poor and destitute are kept at the back, at least until a group from the rear of the train decide it’s time to mount a revolution, and begin an odyssey through the microcosmic societies that have formed down the carriage line.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Dennis Hopper? Then you should track down Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000). Bong’s first film foreshadows a lifelong preoccupation with idiosyncratic characters, his fascination with the relationship between humans and animals, and a tendency to lean on unexpected musical cues and styles. If you’re a fan of Bong, this is an essential and little-seen piece of the puzzle.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Abe Forsythe talking the films of Bong Joon-ho, will be released on 31 May 2018.

Our Next Hyphenate Abe Forsythe

Actor, filmmaker and Hi4H May 2018 guest host Abe Forsythe

Abe Forsythe has been all over Australian film and television for as long as we can remember, noting of course that we can only remember as far back as about 1991. But still, that’s an impressive run.

As an actor, he’s starred in the hit series Always Greener, Fireflies, Laid, Howzat!, and plenty more. He’s appeared in feature films The Night We Called It a Day (2003), The Extra (2005), and Little Deaths (2007). And he’s also a filmmaker himself, writing and directing the Ned Kelly comedy Ned (2003), and the topical black comedy Down Under (2016). He’s also just wrapped production on zombie comedy Little Monsters with no less than Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad in the lead roles. And who could forget him as the lead in the 2005 thriller Lethal Cure? Happy hunting.

But, of course, his greatest role yet will be coming at the end of this month when he guest hosts the May edition of Hell Is For Hyphenates.

But which filmmaker has Abe chosen to talk about on the show?

None other than Bong Joon-ho!

South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho is the director of the idiosyncratic comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), and the dark serial killer thriller Memories of Murder (2003). But he properly rose to international prominence when monster movie The Host (2006) became an instant cult favourite.

He directed a segment of the anthology Tokyo! (2008) alongside Leos Carax and Michel Gondry, and the dark thriller Mother (2009), before entering American cinema with the renowned dystopian action film Snowpiercer (2013). Recently, his animal-loving Okja (2017) was a hit when it was released on Netflix worldwide.

There’s an undeniable stylistic throughline to his films, despite the fact that he really hasn’t repeated himself in subject matter or style. So what is it that made him such a popular figure? And why does Australia’s own Abe Forsythe love his work so much?

Joins us on May 31 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Bong Joon-ho

Hii On McQueen

We can’t remember how long ago we added Ming-Zhu Hii to our guest wishlist, but in the intervening years she’s directed short films, landed prominent roles on half of Australia’s comedy and drama TV shows, and appeared in films like Peter Rabbit and That’s Not Me. Frankly, we’re lucky we were able to book her.

Ming-Zhu joins us for the whole damn show, including the reviews! This month, we look at Unsane, the thriller Steven Soderbergh shot on his damn iPhone, Rungano Nyoni’s debut feature I Am Not a Witch, Sally Potter’s single-location comedy-drama The Party, and Wes Anderson’s stop motion animation Isle of Dogs. If you love high drama and lots of laughs, but can’t decide which of these films will deliver, then this month’s reviews will certainly provide you with what you need.

We then look at the Cannes Film Festival’s announcement that Netflix films will no longer be permitted to screen in competition. Is Cannes shooting itself in the foot by ignoring the natural evolution of cinema? Or is it one of the last remaining defenders of the traditional theatrical experience?

Finally, Ming-Zhu introduces us to the works of her filmmaker of the month, Steve McQueen! We all know McQueen’s work as director of Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and 12 Years a Slave (2013), but that is only part of the story. McQueen was an internationally-renowned artist long before he tackled features, and Ming-Zhu walks us through his fascinating history.

You may have noticed (or, mostly likely, not noticed even a little bit) that there was no cheat sheet for this show, and that was largely because no cheating is needed – you can quite reasonably watch all of McQueen’s readily-available work over the course of a weekend and still have time to go to that thing. Or you could blow off the thing entirely and watch Shame twice. We know which one we’d do.

But in addition to Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave, there are some McQueen shorts available online: you can right this second watch his first film Bear (1993) here, Five Easy Pieces (1995) here, and Western Deep (2002) here. And if you like your TVCs, you can also watch his commercial Mr Burberry (2016) here.

Further reading:

Outro music: score from 12 Years a Slave, composed by Hans Zimmer

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Ming-Zhu Hii talking the films of Steve McQueen, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

Our Next Hyphenate Ming-Zhu Hii

Actor, filmmaker and Hi4H April 2018 guest host Ming-Zhu Hii

You’ve definitely seen the work of Ming-Zhu Hii.

Maybe you caught her in some of Australian television’s best comedies, appearing with Kates McCartney and McLennan in Get Krack!n, or starring alongside Shaun Micallef in The Ex PM.

Or maybe you saw her in really any of our high-profile dramas, in Sisters, or Newton’s Law, or Party Tricks, or Offspring.

You’ll also have seen her in some recent (and current) films, as the director Corrie in That’s Not Me, and as Sarabeth in the currently-in-cinemas Peter Rabbit.

But we’re not at the end of the bio yet, because she’s also a filmmaker in her own right, writing and directing the 2016 espionage short Close Observations of a Single Subject, as well as the forthcoming psychological thriller short Intrusion.

But forget all those credits, as well as the numerous other ones we ran out of room for, because Ming-Zhu is about to top them all with her next role: Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host!

But which filmmaker has she chosen to talk about?

None other than Steve McQueen!

If you recently listened to last month’s episode, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the star of The Great Escape had a few directorial efforts up his sleeve.

But those of you who are one stage closer to galaxy brain will immediately know that we’re talking about the director of the Best Picture Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave (2014), as well as the phenomenal Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011).

But McQueen isn’t just a feature director with a flawless three-for-three track record: he was directing for long before Hunger, as a prolific maker of short films, music videos, and video installation art pieces. Even if you’re super familiar with his three feature films, we’re pretty confident that there’s a whole lot about him you don’t know. We’re certainly learning a lot as we prep for this episode.

But most importantly: what is it about McQueen’s work that Ming-Zhu loves so much?

Check back in with us on April 30 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Steve McQueen

Segan On Hopper

In this episode’s announcement, we boasted that we had one Kid Blue talking about another Kid Blue. But it’s no coincidence that our guest Noah Segan and his filmmaker of the month played distinct characters who just happened to share a name. And the only place you can hear the story behind it is by listening to this month’s Hyphenates!

(Note: you may possibly be able to hear it in other places, but the rules of plausible deniability mean that if we can’t be bothered googling it, we’re allowed to claim the exclusive.)

It’s a jam-packed episode as we talk not one, not two, not three, not four, not six, but five films! Rochelle and Lee look back at some of this month’s new releases, as they debate Steven Spielberg’s pop culture paean Ready Player One, Aki Kaurismäki’s wry Finnish comedy-drama The Other Side of Hope, Ruben Östlund’s wry Swedish comedy-drama The Square, Armando Iannucci’s wry Russian comedy-satire The Death of Stalin, and Garth Davis’s non-wry Biblical drama Mary Magdalene. One of those films provokes some sparks, but we won’t say which.

We’re then joined by Noah, who talks about what it’s like to go from being a fan of classic films to the star of future classics. Is there a cognitive dissonance that comes from growing up on Star Wars and then suddenly finding yourself piloting an X-Wing?

Then it’s time for Noah’s filmmaker of the month, Dennis Hopper. Noah’s love of New Hollywood shines through as he examines at a great actor whose first film changed American cinema forever. So, you know, no pressure on Noah’s eventual directorial debut. But there’s more to Hopper the Director than Easy Rider, and if you’ve never considered his career as a filmmaker, stop reading this and listen to the show. Then continue reading this.

Also, we’re very willing to invest in Noah’s million dollar app idea.

Further reading:

  • Rochelle goes into more detail about her love for Mary Magdalene over at her blog It’s Always Better in the Dark.
  • Lee talked about his adoration of The Square in his rundown of the best films of 2017. (Film festival screenings vs general release dates mean a film can come out a year after they made your fave-of-the-year list.)
  • Make sure you check out some of Noah Segan’s amazing film writing over at Birth Movies Death.
  • Hyphenates alum Edgar Wright interviewed Steven Spielberg for Empire, with the wide-ranging chat covering everything from Duel to Ready Player One. You can read an excerpt from the chat here.
  • If you’d like to watch Hopper’s final film, the 2008 probably-an-advertisement short film Pashmy Dreams starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Gwyneth Paltrow, this link is the most kosher one we could find.
  • Hopper talked about his directorial career with The Guardian back in 2001, and in 2008 told Indiewire about his desire to direct more films.
  • And the extract of the Ready Player One book that was going around the net a while back, the one Lee was desperately trying not to judge the book on, is as follows:

Outro music: Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf from Easy Rider (1969)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Noah Segan talking the films of Dennis Hopper, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

The Dennis Hopper 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…

EASY RIDER (1969) and COLORS (1988)

Not all filmmakers create a work that changes cinema and continues to resonate for the next five decades, and those that do rarely achieve such a feat with their debut. Dennis Hopper was no mere vanity actor-turned-director, launching Easy Rider into the zeitgeist and creating a work that served as an icon for both the counterculture movement as well as its inevitable death. Nothing but respect for my Captain America. Once you’ve finished watching that film, throw on Colors. This intense crime drama stars Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as unlikely partners, upending the cliché of the experienced elder cop and the brash young upstart even as the genre was taking root. It’s a product of its time, but it’s not dated the way it might have… or perhaps even the way it should have, given the issues it’s dealing with could easily be ripped from today’s headlines. It’s remarkably nuanced work from Hopper, who perhaps should get as many plaudits for this work as he does Easy Rider. Either way, this is a hell of a double.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Easy Rider, seek out The Last Movie (1971). It’s not exactly a beloved film, and its reputation is that of a total disaster, but the same dystopic 1970s feel that drove Easy Rider drives The Last Movie. It is a film of excess, a difficult and indulgent second album, and really worth a watch. If you can’t get or have already seen Colors, get your hands on The Hot Spot (1990). This gritty film noir set in a sun-drenched small town stars Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly, and is definitely a minor classic, particularly if you’re a fan of ’90s thrillers.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Dennis Hopper? Then you should track down Out of the Blue (1980). This drama about a young girl whose obsession with music helps distract her from domestic dramas is remarkably nuanced work from Hopper, and deserves to be ranked with his best.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Noah Segan talking the films of Dennis Hopper, will be released on 31 March 2018.

Our Next Hyphenate Noah Segan

Actor and Hi4H March 2018 guest host Noah Segan

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).

When Noah Segan is not busy appearing in cult classics, he’s also a proper film nerd in his own right, as proven by his regular guest columns on movie website Birth. Movies. Death. Here he is talking about the acting craft in Face/Off, and here he reveals Michael J Pollard’s alternate Billy the Kid in forgotten New Hollywood western Dirty Little Billy. Noah knows his stuff.

So as he prepares for the greatest role of his career – that of Hyphenates guest host – which filmmaker has he chosen to talk about on the show?

None other than Dennis Hopper!

That’s right.

We have one Kid Blue talking another Kid Blue.

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!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Dennis Hopper

Walker On Friedkin

“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.

Further reading:

  • Did you enjoy us chatting about Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread? Then you might want to go back and check out the show devoted to the entire Paul Thomas Anderson filmography, such as it was when we 
    recorded.
  • You’re definitely going to want to head over to Neighbourhood Paper, where Rochelle writes about Phantom Thread and the everyday sadism of marriage.
  • Then for SBS Film, Rochelle lists some of the worst takes about Phantom Thread, and why so many reviews may have totally missed the point of the film.
  • 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 mention the so-called “Exorcist curse”, and because we couldn’t find a satisfactory article about it, here’s a link to a Bloody Disgusting article which basically refutes the whole mystery, although not really.
  • We couldn’t find an archive of the Pauline Kael Boys in the Band review, but here’s a New York Magazine piece 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.
Rochelle and Lee look at one another with deep concern as they record this month’s episode

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

The William Friedkin 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 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.

Our Next Hyphenate Andrew Kevin Walker

Screenwriter and Hi4H February 2018 guest host Andrew Kevin Walker

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.

Our next filmmaker of the month, William Friedkin, directs Linda Blair in The Exorcist