The Girls in Hoodies go bicoastal this week, with Emily phoning in from New York (apologies in advance for the sound quality) while Molly and Tess hold down the fort in L.A. We would be remiss if we didn't talk about That Mad Men Episode for a bit, and the pros and cons of abstract Mad Men vs. literal Mad Men. We then dissect the fiery downfall of Amy's Baking Company, the Kitchen Nightmares–featured restaurant that forced Gordon Ramsay to walk off the show, which is now finding itself in a spot of legal trouble. The big question, of course, is why Amy and Samy Bouzaglo would agree to go on the show in the first place, but there are no rules when you're a delusional former drug dealer. Finally, Emily makes her case for why you should see Frances Ha, and we all discuss the ever-extant need for more complex female friendships in film and TV.
Frances Ha — Noah Baumbach's latest flick, a black-and-white comedy about a young dancer flailing around New York City — isn't exactly all smiles. Like much of Baumbach's back catalogue, you get plenty of people being petty, confused, unkind, blunt, and full of shit. But unlike The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, or Greenberg — all of which try to make you, and to an amazing degree succeed, root for deeply, deeply unlikable people — Frances Ha throws you a bone right off the bat, in the form of Greta Gerwig. As Frances, Gerwig bounces from rough patch to bad idea to well-intentioned screw-up, indefatigably cheery and eager the whole time. Especially relative to Baumbach's last hero, the perfect malcontent Roger Greenberg, it's like she's a big straw basket full of puppies.
Gerwig, who met Baumbach on Greenberg, co-wrote the movie. Since, the two of them have moved on to another co-written project, again starring Gerwig, as well as an animated movie for Dreamworks, about a plucky dog searching the city for his lost love. (They're also dating. For much more on that, I suggest this excellent New Yorker profile.) Last week, I sat down with Baumbach briefly to talk about collaborating with Gerwig on Frances Ha, as well as the Internet, The Corrections, and Kanye West. Remembering that great scene from The Squid and the Whale, when Jeff Daniels says he fired his agent because he "made a disparaging remark about the Knicks at a party" ("Said they played like thugs"), I also asked about the NBA playoffs. (This was right after the Knicks had tied their series with the Pacers at a game each.) Only appropriately, the exchange ended up being less about Baumbach's sports fandom and more about his relationship with his father.
This should heal some wounds for a nation of aggrieved, turned-away television writers: Even Jonathan Franzen can’t get on the air. Against all outward signs of momentum, HBO has decided not to put in a series order for The Corrections, the adaptation of Franzen's 2001 sad-family epic.
One perk of writing about Whit Stillman: You get to use words you haven’t seen since your Saturday-morning SAT prep course. Like "raffinated," i.e., the distilled quality of his characters’ dialogue as they bandy off-the-cuff insights and fragile emotions like prep school Ping-Pong champs. Or "cad": the character in a Stillman film (traditionally played by Chris Eigeman) who condemns the morality of Lady and the Tramp, then dumps a girl by claiming to come out of the closet. The other is meeting the man who paved the way for Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and all the other disciples of the cinema of precociousness.
It’s been a decade since the book was released and almost as long since producer Scott Rudin first attempted to turn it into a movie, but, finally, an adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections is just about actually happening. If all goes as planned, it'll be an HBO series directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written with Franzen. The project is nearing a pilot order with Anthony Hopkins in talks to play the Parkinson's-addled patriarch of a troubled Midwestern family. In related news: Freedom the movie! Coming 2027! Grade: A [Deadline]
Stellan Skarsgard says Lars Von Trier has cast him as the lead in Nymphomaniac, an exploration of female sexuality from ages zero to 50. According to Skarsgard, “Lars called me and said 'Stellan, my next film will be a porno and I want you to play the lead in it.’” Also, "I want you to sit uncomfortably next to me, Kirsten Dunst–style, when I say something inappropriate while promoting it at a film festival,” Von Trier did not add. Grade: A- [HR]
This week brings the release of Super 8, director J.J. Abrams’ bighearted tribute to the sort of wide-eyed, family-friendly alien adventure movies Steven Spielberg used to make before he discovered less interesting things such as American history, Oscars, and Tom Hanks. The compelling wrinkle? Spielberg himself is the film’s executive producer and, in Abrams’ words, its "key voice." Imitation, flattery, and outright theft have a long, distinguished, and shameless history in Hollywood — but this strikes us as something different. Rather than merely aping his idol, Abrams is, essentially, making a Spielberg film for Spielberg.
And this got us thinking: What other faded masters could use the vibrant influence of their own artistic descendants — and what current up-and-comers could really use the firm, if graying, hand of an old master? Thus we propose the Director Mentorship Academy, in which younger directors enroll to make a better version of someone else’s movie — with the help of that very someone else. Below are some suggestions for the inaugural class.