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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


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Friday, October 31, 2014
Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise was released in theaters 40 years ago today. Esquire's Peter Gerstenzang posted an article today to celebrate "THE MOVIE NO ONE SAW BUT EVERYONE LOVES," featuring fresh interviews with Paul Williams and Jessica Harper, along with fresh quotes from William Finley, who spoke to Gerstenzang shortly before Finley's death in 2012.

"I often wonder why movies like ours develop cults," Harper tells Gerstenzang. "I think, in part, it's because we're like the rescue dog that nobody wants. The film comes out, it gets rejected by people, and it's up for grabs. And it's something that you can call your own, if you want. It's yours. People like to form communities around things. So why not a movie?"

Williams tells Gerstenzang, "It's always been intriguing to me that Brian came to me to play Swan in this kind of a movie, considering the kind of work I was known for at the time. It's amazing he would pick the guy who co-wrote 'We've Only Just Begun' to pen songs for a film that was supposed to be depicting the future of rock. But Brian saw something in my music that made him think I could span the various kinds of genres in the film. Plus, the great treat for me was that I was able to satirize the kinds of music I love, like the Beach Boys and '50s stuff."

Williams also discusses how De Palma at first wanted him to play Winslow Leach, and how perfectly Finley embodied that role. "Throughout the movie," Williams tells Gerstenzang, "the Phantom plays his songs wearing a mask that shows only one eye. There's only one actor who could let you see just an eye and make you cry as a result. And that was Bill Finley." Williams adds, "When I was up in Winnipeg for the movie's premiere, some awestruck kid asked me, 'Hey man, a guy selling his soul to the devil, did you make that up?' And I said, 'Well, no, there was this guy named Goethe who did that.' Still, I think that it's so mythologically powerful, the Faustian idea of a guy selling his soul, combined with the Dorian Gray element. And Larry Pizer's gorgeous cinematography is essential, too. That draws you in. But mostly it's our audience, who keeps finding the movie on their own, on cable or through friends. When you love something that the world ignores? You become impassioned!"

Gerstenzang also quotes Finley from 2012: "Brian wrote the script originally in 1969. He used to hang out at the Fillmore a lot and take pictures. And he noticed, as the '60s were ending, that we were starting to see a lot more preening self-regard by the frontmen of bands. And the kids having an unhealthy attraction to it. I actually think that Robert Plant was the original model for Beef, but the character kept evolving. Still, I think Brian was very prescient about the coming of glam rock and the narcissism that came with it. He always had a good read on rock culture."

Posted by Geoff at 9:55 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 31, 2014 9:59 PM CDT
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Posted by Geoff at 6:35 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 30, 2014
A day after I posted about Vulture's interviews with Piper Laurie and Betty Buckley, Yahoo!'s Gwynne Watkins posted an "MVPs of Horror" interview with William Katt, in which he talks about making Carrie. "I remember mostly that it was just a ball having everybody there," Katt says of filming the prom scenes in the film, "because the shots would take so long to set up. And there we were, all young twenties guys and girls, and we just had a great time."

Talking to Watkins about the first few moments Carrie and Tommy spend getting close to one another, Katt laughs and says, "If they had had those cameras today that they have, the GoPros that you can hold a foot from your face and wear around, I think we would have been using those." Recalling the couple's first dance, Katt explains to Watkins, "Sissy and I danced one way, and the camera was going the other way, and we ended up going faster and faster. At the end of it, Sissy and I are laughing out loud, and the reason we’re laughing is because I’m literally spinning her so fast she’s up off of the floor, and we are so dizzy."

Here's the end of Watkins' article:

The earlier, romantic section of the prom scene is punctuated by a jaw-dropping moment of foreshadowing: in one continuous shot, the camera moves across the gym to the foot of the stage. There, the audience sees a rope that winds across the floor, to the gym ceiling, where the camera looks down on the rigged bucket waiting to fall. The camera then moves back to Carrie and Tommy looking into each other’s eyes, unaware of what’s in store. “I remember it taking almost a day and a half to set that shot up,” says Katt, “because there was so many camera moves, and it was so difficult for the guy that was driving the crane, and the camera assistant who was pulling focus, and the DP, and the actors — it was extraordinarily difficult.”

In the film, [Chris'] bloody prank sends Carrie into a rage, and she begins telekinetically destroying everything and everyone in the gym. Famously, actress P.J. Soles was hurt during a scene where her character is attacked by a fire hose. “When the water was going off, I remember being there. And she got very injured; I think she blew out her eardrum in that sequence,” Katt recalls. He also remembers another little wrinkle in filming: When Carrie sets the gym on fire, De Palma’s set actually caught on fire. “I remember being on set when they lit off the fire, because we were doing stuff out of sequence, right? I was already supposed to be lying on the ground, dead. So they lit the stage on fire, and the actual soundstage itself caught fire. And the AD was screaming for everybody to get out, and Brian was yelling for the camera department to keep rolling,” Katt says, chuckling at the memory. “I thought that that was pretty funny. All the decorations, everything, caught fire, and I don’t believe that that was intentional.” (Thankfully, the blaze was quickly extinguished and no one was seriously in danger.)

At least Tommy’s bucket scene was quick and painless. “When that bucket fell, it was actually a guy on a big ladder behind me, and he threw that bucket down,” says Katt. “It was kind of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, papier-maché bucket that was painted to look real — and we did that shot once. I was ready to do it again, and Brian said, ‘No, we got it.’”

Katt is still a little sad that he didn’t survive the carnage — “even with my saying to Brian afterwards, ‘No, you can’t kill the character, he’s gotta come back!’” the actor jokes. “What about Carrie 2? What about the franchise, Brian?”

"It was just wild," he sighs. "It was everything you could imagine."


Posted by Geoff at 1:49 AM CDT
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Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice
"As sociopathic self-starter Louis Bloom, Gyllenhaal has refashioned himself as a version of the Tony Perkins of Psycho, an Adam's apple with a sick, brilliant mind attached. Gyllenhaal is the polestar of Nightcrawler — just as he's fixated on the grisly crimes and accidents of his city, we can't look away from him. That seems to be part of writer-director Gilroy's design. He's infused Nightcrawler with a number of ideas, free-floating through the movie like fireflies: Gilroy takes on the news media's lust for increasingly prurient stories and graphic news footage, the way crimes against white people take precedence over anything that happens to a person of color, and the downside of citizen journalism in a world where everyone wants to be a star. But on the strength of Gyllenhaal's performance, Nightcrawler works best as a character study. It's chilling, but also wickedly funny and strange, like a good, dark Brian De Palma joke — in short, it's everything the stolid and humorless Gone Girl should have been."

Katherine McLaughlin, The Arts Desk
"First-time director Dan Gilroy sets his grisly and blackly funny satire of modern media practices and the American dream on a seedy night-time LA canvas which oozes style, and recalls the aesthetic of Brian De Palma's Body Double and more recently Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in an incredibly convincing performance as a sociopath – repellent enough to sit alongside Travis Bickle and Patrick Bateman – who is grasping ruthlessly for success in the vilest of ways. Gyllenhaal's character is a petty thief turned self-taught freelance cameraman who makes his money from trawling the streets at night, searching for the most gruesome accidents to sell to the local news channels. His sunken eyes and pale complexion add to his unnerving presence, and while Gilroy's film may not say anything particularly original, Gyllenhaal's committed turn ensures a skin-crawling experience."

Brian Formo, Crave Online
"And while an 'it bleeds it leads' tv news critique has been done numerous times, Gilroy has his sights set on a film that’s more Brian De Palma than Network."

Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy: "5 movie antiheroes to watch before experiencing Nightcrawler's Lou Bloom"
Rupert Pupkin, Tony Montana, Suzanne Stone, Tom Ripley, Patrick Bateman.

Posted by Geoff at 1:27 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 30, 2014 10:44 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014
It's Halloween season, which means it's time for Carrie discussions and screenings all over the place. At Vulture last week, nine actors spoke to Jennifer Vineyard about their big death scenes in famous horror movies. Two of those actors were Piper Laurie and Betty Buckley, who kicked off the article by talking about their deaths in Carrie:
Betty Buckley:

We all gathered to watch each other’s death scenes, and we’d go out and party afterwards to celebrate that a character had been bumped off. But in the days before that, the whole prom construction took quite a while. This contraption they built for Ms. Collins’s death scene was a basketball backboard that was on a pendulum. There was a foot of balsam wood that would take the hit against the body. They planned it so that we shot four takes with the pendulum falling and then stopping it right before it hit me. That was very scary. So what you’re seeing on film is not acting at all. I’m absolutely terrified because they had not tested out the machine. So they didn’t know [if] they calculated the balsam properly in terms of the amount and, you know, [if they] could stop it on a dime right before it hit me. Thankfully, it worked. We were all absolutely terrified.

My stunt lady was dressed like me with a wig and everything. They put her in the shot and she took the hit. But it didn’t hurt her, and thankfully, Brian [De Palma] told me to watch the movements she made and to duplicate those. They removed her from the contraption, inserted me again, and I then imitated all her behavior when she took the hit, and they shot the close-up of my dying. I had [fake] blood in my mouth that I was supposed to vomit out. They just give you a swig, then you spit it out and they bring you water.

In the several takes of my death scene, Brian’s direction to me was: Squirm like a bug on a pin. So I squirmed like a bug on a pin, and then I was supposed to vomit out the blood. He wanted different sounds as I was dying. So, one scene, my scream ended up sounding like a musical note. It was really quite silly. We were all laughing about that.

[Re: Buckley's scream that ended up sounding like a musical note-- do you suppose that might have been where De Palma got the idea for the "Coed Frenzy" girl's scream in the shower, which sounds like a musical note and cuts to John Travolta laughing at it?]

Piper Laurie, speaking to Vulture's Jennifer Vineyard:

They built a steel vest that I wore under the gown, and on that vest were several small blocks of wood. Wires attached to the wood that went through small holes in my gown. The wires were, like, 15 feet long and stretched across to where the prop man was, or the special-effects man was. This was done in slow motion, you know, the can opener or the knife or whatever coming at me. There was no way they would injure me, moving at such a slow pace. It was hard not to laugh, watching this instrument bobbing along at me like that, slowly. It just looked ridiculous. But, of course, it had quite a different look than it did at the end. Just before we were to start shooting [the death scene], I met Brian outside, we were both on our way to the restrooms, and I said, “Brian, I have an idea. Instead of having just a death scene, just doing it straight, I’d like this to be a really joyous experience for Margaret White.” He said, "Great.” So that’s what I did.

I did not actually do the scene, the dialogue part, before the actual instrument attack. But the moment just before I kill Carrie, I didn’t rehearse that. I wanted the moment to be as raw as possible. I think it was an underlying element of how I thought of Margaret, her religion, her attitude about her daughter, and the fact that she considered her daughter menstruating horrible. And the fact that I sounded like I was having a very long orgasm ... I never spelled that out to Brian, I just did it. Part of that I actually played, but I suspect that in editing they extended that vocally longer than I actually did it. But I had such a good time shooting that scene.


Four horror classics make up the Halloween All Nighter that begins at 11:45pm Friday night (Halloween night, October 31st) at London's Electric Cinema. The program begins with Carrie, followed by The Shining. After an early-morning breakfast break, the program concludes with Rosemary's Baby, followed by The Wicker Man.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Block Bluster podcast at Mind Of The Geek featured a discussion of "Carrie and Fear." The host of the podcast, Tobias Ellis, wrote the following as an introduction:

"Everybody is afraid in Carrie. Even with all the now-iconic shots of a blood-drenched Carrie White destroying her senior prom, Carrie’s real dread lies with how nervous the characters seem to be about the world around them (a true testament to puberty if there ever was one). Carrie – realized perfectly by Sissy Spacek – begins terrified by her own body, then briefly by her own mind until finally embracing her supernatural gifts. Her physical transformation from 'girl' to 'woman' worries the few males around her, and causes Betty Buckley’s Miss Collins to wonder aloud how such a thing should bother anybody, until that makes her nervous at just how different Carrie White might be. Amy Irving’s Sue Snell is afraid of the repercussions her treatment of Carrie might cause, and of becoming the shrill, cruel Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), and does her best – in fumbling, teenage fashion – to make amends. Carrie’s mother, played to Oscar nomination by Piper Laurie, is afraid of her daughter growing up and living in these godless times. And the adults are afraid of her, and whether she might be right.

"Despite all the fear, several characters – including Tommy Ross (William Katt), Sue, and Miss Collins – have the best of intentions for Carrie White, treating her with kindness and sensitivity. Yet, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Carrie – and all its lurid, color-washed agitation – begins with blood, and ends with blood.

"This week, just in time for Halloween, Block Bluster! revisits Brian De Palma’s horror classic to discuss what it means to be afraid, and what Carrie says not so much about scaring the audience, but building an atmosphere of dread reflective of everyday fears. How terrified of the odd kid in school should we be? How terrified of each other should we be? And to help us discuss Carrie and Fear, we welcome back – from the podcasts Film Fodder and Behind the Desk – our good friend Antonio Jones!"

Posted by Geoff at 12:29 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 26, 2014

CROSS-CUT from Drew Morton on Vimeo.

Posted by Geoff at 6:49 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 26, 2014 6:52 PM CDT
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
L.M. KIT CARSON, 1941-2014
L.M. Kit Carson, who portrayed the title character in Jim McBride's David Holzman's Diary so realistically that people thought they were watching an actual documentary, died Monday night at the age of 73, after a long illness, according to Dallas Morning News' Robert Wilonsky. David Holzman's Diary was a huge influence on the early work of Brian De Palma (particularly Greetings and Hi, Mom!). De Palma, McBride, and producer Charles Hirsch had all been friends prior to its completion, and Carson, who McBride credits with much of the language and ideas in the film, fell in with them, as well. From McBride's sessions with Carson, De Palma borrowed the technique of tape recording his actors as they developed their characters and created dialogue. In a passage that works as a nice tribute to Carson, McBride described the process of creating David Holzman to Joseph Gelmis in the latter's book, The Film Director As Superstar:
The second time around I wrote ten pages, breaking it down into scenes in which I described what happens. Sometimes I wrote some of the monologues. But it was never intended to be spoken. It was intended to be a direction the language would take.

The way it actually happened was that Kit became very absorbed in the idea and really understood it very well. So we became collaborators. I didn't know it at the time, but he had been an actor and had abandoned it.

He and I spent a week together before the shooting. We sat down in a room with a tape recorder-- and I think this is the way Brian (De Palma) got the idea to do Greetings. I would say, "This is what happens in this scene. This is what I want you to say." As you know, most of the film's dialogue is in direct confrontation with the camera.

So I would tell him what I wanted and he would do it. He'd put it in his own words and throw in new things of his own. Then we'd listen to the tape together and I'd tell him: "I don't like this. You missed this. I've got an idea; put this in." He would do it again and together we refined each scene. We didn't transcribe it. We just listened to it, again and again, until we both had a fairly clear idea of what was going to happen when we were actually pointing the camera at him.

It never got down to a word by word situation. And when we started shooting it was always better than it had been in the taping sessions. He always threw in a little zinger for me that he hadn't told me about. Kit's great. We only did, at the most, two takes of any scene. As far as the camerawork is concerned, I had an absolutely clear and vivid idea of exactly what I wanted.


Carson went on to co-write McBride's 1983 remake of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984, which co-starred Carson's son, Hunter), and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). (The latter film starred Dennis Hopper, who was the subject of a 1971 documentary that Carson co-directed with Lawrence Schiller-- Matt Zoller Seitz goes into loving detail about the film in his obituary of Carson at RogerEbert.com.) In 2003, Carson co-wrote the Melanie Griffith-starrer Tempo. The co-writers were Jeremy Lipp and Jennifer Salt.

In 1970, Carson founded, with Bill Jones, what would become the USA Film Festival in Dallas, screening films such as Woodstock and Robert Altman's M*A*S*H. Speaking with Wilonsky in a 1999 article for the Dallas Observer, Carson said, "Back in 1971, the organism started in Dallas with people who were kind of interested in movies but didn't know much about movies. There were no film fests in this country devoted to the American independent film. I said, 'There's no film festival for Marty Scorsese or Brian De Palma, so let's start one, because this stuff is happening and no one is saying this is happening.'"

An article by Gregory Curtis from the June 1973 issue of Texas Monthly (from which the photo of Carson above is taken) catches the last-minute hustle of the first (and what seems to have been the last) United States Festival, for which Carson, having been ousted as director of the USA fest, served as a "special consultant." As the fest disappoints with low attendance (despite the weeklong presence of Vincente Minelli, and other special guests such as De Palma, Salt, and Margot Kidder), Curtis portrays Carson as perpetually enthusiastic and driven to present films that might not otherwise be seen. De Palma, Salt, and Kidder were there to discuss Sisters, following an afternoon screening of the film. Carson moderated that discussion.

Curtis, who found De Palma's film "finally, too repellent to watch," writes, "Kit Carson began the discussion after the film by saying that the Hollywood system was still the most pervasive force in American filmmaking. De Palma, a man with flushed cheeks and snapping black eyes, took up this theme immediately. He didn't want to work in Hollywood. Directors like Francis Copolla (The Godfather) and Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) thought they could maintain their integrity while working there. 'But I don't think you can get in bed with the devil,' De Palma said, 'without having some of it rub off.'"

On his Facebook page yesterday, Paul Schrader wrote, "Kit was among the first 'film' people I knew after coming to LA in 68. We gravitated toward each other. In Feb 1971 (right after the San Fernando Valley earthquake) he invited me to be on the jury (I was critic for LA Free Press at the time) of the first USA film festival in Dallas. Other jury members included Andy Sarris, Manny Farber, Dwight McDonlald, P Adams Sitney, [Rex] Reed, Jay Cocks, Roger Ebert and others I can't remember at the moment. In that week it felt a mission and sense of belonging like never before. Happy Trails, old Pard."

In an article Carson wrote for Film Comment about being asked by Hooper to work on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Carson writes about trying to make it through the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. "I first squirmed through it back in 1975 in a tiny, dumpy screening room just below Sunset Boulevard. I was newly exiled from Texas and had known Tobe Hooper as a good documentary filmmaker (Peter, Paul, and Mary in Concert, 71) in Austin but had no way to be prepared for the bite of The Saw. I flat couldn’t take it—neither could Paul Schrader, a curious friend who’d come along to the screening; about midway through the movie we buzzed the projectionist to skip a couple of reels and just show us the end. Whu: this sucker could really hurt you. Post-screening, blinking in the daylight leaning on our cars, Schrader and I tried to figure out what we’d run into."

Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, who were mentored by Carson early in their careers, have written a tribute to Carson at RogerEbert.com. Jeffrey Wells has also posted some remembrances at Hollywood Elsewhere.

Posted by Geoff at 1:24 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 26, 2014 6:59 PM CDT
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Monday, October 20, 2014
Damien Chazelle, who wrote and had originally planned to direct the De Palma-esque Grand Piano, is getting consistently great reviews for a new movie for which he is the writer/director, Whiplash. Chazelle tells RedEye Chicago's Matt Pais that Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma are among the directors who inspired Whiplash. "In a sense," Chazelle tells Pais, "obviously the influences in this movie are a lot of old filmmakers and Scorsese and De Palma, but the people who actually really get me off my ass and actually motivate me to, ‘All right, [bleep] it, I gotta do some work’ are the young people, the people in my generation who are doing great [bleep]." The two younger directors Chazelle mentions by name are Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

Meanwhile, in a review of Whiplash, Screen Invasion's Mel Valentin writes, "Credit also extends to Chazelle’s cinematographer, Sharone Meir, who lights both interiors and exteriors like ’70s-set urban dramas and crime-thrillers popularized by Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, and Brian De Palma (among others)."

Posted by Geoff at 1:21 AM CDT
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Sunday, October 19, 2014
Armond White, Out
on Justin Simien's Dear White People

"Turns out it’s passive, late-to-politics Lionel—the black gay dude—who represents Simien’s concerns. His evolution counters the old gay-until-graduation truism. Lionel sports a blooming Afro as significant as Dante DeBlasio’s. He’s awakened politically after his sex and writing life disappoint and once he discovers a Halloween party where the white students dress in blackface (based on those at Dartmouth, Penn State, and other campuses). This has a weak comic payoff (except for Coco’s counterintuitive costume choice), yet it brings out the desperation in Simien’s farce structure. Campus turmoil drives Simien’s suffering main characters a bit mad. Simien doesn’t critique them; his imperfect film shares the ideological confusion that has confounded all comedians during the Obama era—from the partisan satirists on Saturday Night Live to those Obama effigies Key & Peele on Comedy Central.

"Working post-Dave Chappelle, Simien presupposes a general racial awareness. Sam states Simien’s p.o.v. when she says 'Satire is the weapon of reason' and 'The job of the counterculture is to attack the mainstream.' Now that identity humor has become mainstream fodder, with subtle insistence on everyone’s assigned roles, Dear White People continues the assumption that everybody understands what gays, blacks, and women want. (A reality-TV subplot goes nowhere except offering the misinformation that '"re-enactment" is a documentary term.')

"Simien observes a lost generation of gays, blacks and women who forget what their protesting forbears fought for. (To wit: Sam frantically proclaims: 'It wasn’t speeches that turned the tide for civil rights, it was the anarchists that got the press'—a terrible reduction of history.) These 'post-racial' youth are shocked to discover there really is no such thing. This sad truth gives poignance to Dear White People's narrative mess...

"Simien’s satire isn’t as sharp as Joseph Kahn’s audacious Detention and it lacks the radicalism of Brian De Palma’s 1970 classic Hi, Mom! with its unforgettable 'Be Black Baby' mockery of white liberal fantasies. In the Obama era, comics have lost the ability to mock their own prejudices. Simien’s efforts cost him the depth of his four main characters—gay Lionel in particular. But I must admit: By movie’s end, Lionel’s confusion is more affecting than at the beginning."

Posted by Geoff at 1:51 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 18, 2014
Edge On The Net's Brian Shaer
on Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

"The film will be of particular interest to theater aficionados for its spectacular recreation of backstage at the St. James Theater on Broadway. Watching the film, with Iñárritu's gorgeous long takes and tracking shots that would make Brian De Palma salivate, one sort of has the feeling that he or she is in rehearsal with these folks and anticipating the curtain rising on opening night as much as they are. The milieu of Times Square and the Broadway theaters is essential in bringing this story its authenticity and in capturing the feel of a play in production."

Edgar Wright
"Go see 'Birdman' on the big screen ASAP. An astoundingly executed movie. Has a 'Phantom Of The Paradise' vibe, which from me is HIGH PRAISE."

Posted by Geoff at 11:54 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, October 18, 2014 11:55 AM CDT
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