Nicole Holofcener joins us to talk the films of Hal Ashby!
Writer, director and Academy Award nominee Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Enough Said, The Land of Steady Habits) joins Hell Is For Hyphenates to dive into the filmography of Hal Ashby.
Ashby is one of the most distinctive filmmakers of 1970s New Hollywood cinema, directing stone-cold classic such as Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Coming Home (1978), and Being There (1979). He was a counter-culture voice whose best work still feels relevant today. But what was it about his work that was so audacious and affecting?
The best moment leading up to the recording of this episode was when we decided it was time for us to delve back into our recurring mini-Hyphenate segment. Every few months we take a filmmaker with a finite filmography who may not have made enough films to qualify for the main stage (five is our maximum for the mini segment, but is also our minimum for the Filmmaker of the Month, and this month we’ve got five a piece).
We tentatively sent an email to our guest, Pollyanna McIntosh, to see what she thought. It’s one thing to ask her to be on the show, another to ask her to choose a filmmaker to talk about, but another altogether to then say “Hey, wanna add another filmmaker to the discussion?”. We told her about the segment and said we were thinking about talking Bob Fosse, but we had some other filmmakers if she preferred one of them, or we didn’t have to do the segment at all if it was all a bit much…
Within five minutes, Pollyanna – who was somewhere on the other side of the globe – sent back an email that read: “Bob Fosse! Bob Fosse! Bob Fosse!!!”
Oh yes, we thought. She’s one of us.
At this point, she’d already picked the great Nicole Holofcener as her filmmaker of the month. We’ve been fans of Holofcener for a long time, and feel something of a kinship to anyone who gets her. Holofcener doesn’t (yet) have the broad name recognition that auteurs gain after a few films, and makes films that, on the surface, appear to be somewhere between that classically Sundance indie relationship drama and mainstream movie-star rom-comedy.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find some of the most touching, funny and thematically-complex work in cinema today. Explorations on the human condition deftly disguised as lightweight dramedies. It’s a magician’s trick, and Holfocener seems to be refining it with every film.
Talking about such wildly different filmmakers with distinct approaches to cinema is a lot of fun, particularly when you’ve got a guest who has such insight into their technique and effect. Even the erratic Skype connection we used to record the episode couldn’t stop the enthusiasm. And we were so keen to get to the filmmakers, we only reviewed two films this month: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.
Actor Pollyanna McIntosh (Burke and Hare, The Woman, Filth) joins us this month as we look over a couple of the key films of March 2015, dive into the groundbreaking works of choreographer-turned-filmmaker Bob Fosse, and look at the incredible films of writer/director Nicole Holofcener.
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 HyphenatesCheat Sheet: a double that will bring you totally up-to-speed before our next episode lands…
WALKING AND TALKING (1996) and ENOUGH SAID (2013)
Nicole Holofcener’s only made five films, and frankly, they’re all great and worthy of being singled out. But if you’re only going to watch two, we recommend her first and last. (Well, not her last. Her most recent. But “first and most recent” doesn’t have the same ring to it.) Kick off your evening with 1996’s Walking and Talking, starring Catherine Keener and Anne Heche as lifelong friends dealing with polar opposite relationship issues. Yeah, it doesn’t sound great, and most of that is down to our description, but as with all of Holofcener’s films it’s the execution that elevates it above every other film of similar ilk. Similarly, Enough Said (with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini) takes a tired concept – two divorcees getting a second chance at etc – and turns it into a profound look at how we react to the new vs the familiar. Both are very funny and incredibly complex and make for a superb double feature.
Substitutions: If you can’t get/have already seen Walking and Talking, you can swap it out for the similarly-ampersanded Lovely & Amazing (2001). If can’t get/have already seen Enough Said, grab Please Give (2010) with Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet.
The Hidden Gem: Want to seek out something from off the beaten track? Well, Holofcener doesn’t really have an off-the-beaten track film. But the only one we haven’t mentioned yet is Friends With Money (2006), her incredible ensemble work that takes the “first world problem” meme and turns it on its head three years before it happened.
The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Pollyanna McIntosh talking Nicole Holofcener, will be released on the morning of March 31 (AEST).
Pollyanna McIntosh is one of the most interesting and charismatic genre performers around. From her role alongside Simon Pegg in the John Landis comedy Burke and Hare to her appearance with James McAvoy in the 2013 Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth, she’s carving out a niche of fascinating roles in dark, edgy films. But it was her titular role in 2011’s The Woman that really put her on the map.
Pollyanna came to Australia in 2011 to promote The Woman alongside director Lucky McKee, taking part in a number of Q&As, including one at Cinema Nova moderated by Lee. And we’re absolutely delighted that she’s agreed to be our next guest.
For someone so closely associated with genre films, we had to know: which filmmaker did she want to discuss on the show?
American comedy-dramatist Nicole Holofcener!
We’ve been singing the praises of Holofcener’s work for some time, so this choice pleased us greatly. Her first feature was 1996’s Walking and Talking (produced by Ted Hope), and she followed it up with 2001’s Lovely & Amazing. In amongst directing episodes of some obscure TV shows nobody’s heard of like Six Feet Under, Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City and Parks and Recreation, she made 2006’s Friends With Money, 2010’s Please Give and 2013’s Enough Said.
And if none of those are ringing any bells, then you are in for a treat.
But that’s not all: it’s time again for us to delve into our mini-Hyphenates segment, where we choose a director who has a finite filmography with five or fewer works. Someone who may not have enough films to qualify for the main stage.
This month, we’ll be talking about the films of Bob Fosse. We’ve been wanting to talk Fosse on the show for a long time, so this is very exciting. If you’re not familiar with Fosse, we’ll certainly cover that in the show, but basically: Sweet Charity, Caberet, Lenny, All That Jazz, Star 80. Yeah, this is gonna be a pretty great episode.
So what is it about Holofcener’s films that appeal to Pollyanna? Check back in with us when the episode is released on March 31 to find out.