husbands and wives

photo from

The other day Shawn emailed me a link to this blog from the writers of Kill List, Ben Wheatley and  Amy Jump. I was excited to find out that the duo are actually a married team. Seeing this blog brought up a few things for me since, even though I’d looked at details of the film previously, and know Ben Wheatley, also the director, by name, I had no recollection of Amy Jump at all. Granted, in most cases, directors get more attention than writers do, so it’s easier to make an impression. It’s also Amy’s first and only writing credit (according to imdb). It did really make me consider the role of women in film (as if this isn’t something I’m always thinking about) especially regarding husbands and wives that work together.

On our own film projects, Shawn and I work together, particularly in the writing process. By talking to each other we are able to refine concepts or move forward when one of us might be stuck. It works out pretty well. We balance each other out. That is not to say we don’t have conflicts of opinion, but I think for the most part we compel each other and help stories move along. It’s nice having a partner to work with. When it comes to what we do, things are fairly balanced; though, that isn’t to say exactly equal, we both have our own strong points.

Knowing about our own balance of creative input, it becomes interesting to consider husband and wife teams who are more successful and more present in popular media. If I were to mention Peter Jackson, everyone would know who I’m talking about. But what about Fran Walsh? Raise your hand if you know who she is. Well that’s lovely Fran up top with her husband Peter Jackson. They’re also a writing team (and producing at this point) and have been since Meet the Feebles back in 1989. Together they’ve written some amazing movies from the beautifully haunting Heavenly Creatures to the blockbuster Lord of the Rings Trilogy (also working with Phillipa Boyens). Yet, Walsh remains mainly out of the limelight, despite winning 3 Oscars. Personally, I can’t help but believe it it because of Walsh and Jackson’s collaborations that they have made such interesting films, not just one’s singular talent.

It’s impossible to know for sure the reasons why one person is famous and the person right next to them is not as famous. It could be a personal choice but I doubt that is the case. It could be the cult of the director, giving more weight over other positions in film production, no matter their importance or role. Sadly, and more likely, it could just be that women do not get recognition in the film industry. With the exception of a few actresses, it’s not easy to make a name as a woman in film. How many successful woman directors can you name? You might be able to count them on your fingers. Obviously this is something that is pervasive in almost all industries, still in 2011, but it’s even more extreme in an industry with so many subdivisions where it is easy to tuck women away in “appropriate” positions.

I don’t know that I have any final conclusions about these ideas, nothing that isn’t already known, but I think it’s important to bring up every so often, just as a reminder of what progress has been made and is still yet to be made.

Oslo August 31

Oslo August 31 is the kind of film that sits with you, waits in the back of your mind and haunts you for weeks to come. It is a portrait of a man on his one day of leave from rehab. He takes the day to explore Oslo and reconnect with old friends as he tries to face his impending release. It’s a simple story, that goes beyond just one person’s struggle drug addiction.

Joachim Trier is able to create a perfect balance of emotion and imagery with his melancholic storytelling. There is beauty and hope mixed in with Anders’ disappointment and despair as he navigates the last day of summer. Anders Danielson Lie captures the nuances of his character with flawless realism. He is subtle and reserved, only occasionally letting his raw pain seep out, just enough to for you to connect to him and hope things will turn out okay.

The film is one of the saddest I’ve seen and yet one of the most honest portrayal of the reality of living today. Beyond the fact that I think it is a great film, if you’ve ever known anyone who has been severely depressed, I feel like you have to see this movie. I’m not saying this as some sort of public service announcement, but rather that I think Oslo August 31 is able to capture an unexplainable emotion.


Snowtown is based on the true story of the serial killer, John Bunting, and his accomplices in the run down suburbs of Adelaide, Australia. It’s a tale of influence centered on a boy, Jamie, as he gets dragged in to a horrific universe of murder. It is possibly the most disturbing film, but also one of the most well crafted pieces of cinema I’ve seen. The thing that makes this film so effective is it’s simplicity and honesty. Everything you see is so real and matter of fact and believable, and yet so terrible, you don’t want to believe it. Snowtown‘s intensity is unrelenting.

The film is beautifully shot; stylized but still evoking the realism essential to the story. The performances are flawless. The music is powerful. Everything about the film is masterful. It is not for the faint of heart though. While it is based in the psychological and dramatic, it is the story of a deranged serial killer so you should know what to expect going in.

While I know it’s not for everyone, I can’t recommend Snowtown enough. It totally blew me away.

Kill List

Dear readers, I am now going to ask you to have complete blind faith in me when I tell you that you must see Kill List. I want to tell you all about how fantastic it is, but I also don’t want to spoil a thing about it. I’m going to keep the chatter to a minimum and you’ll just have to trust me.

Here are the basics; it’s a film about a hit man, but one who outside of being a killer, is pretty much you’re average guy with a family and a bad back. He’s been out of work for the better part of the year when he reluctantly takes a job with his former partner. Then things get crazy. Really crazy.

I just loved this film and thought it was so well executed. It managed to be a perfect thriller wrapped neatly inside a character study with a few treats thrown in there for good measure. Kill List has already been released in the UK, but expect it early next year in the US. Seriously, go see it.

The Voyagers

Hello my dears, I’ve been gone a bit. Did you miss me? As I mentioned before Shawn and I spent the majority of last week at AFI Fest. We saw over 14 films and a handful of shorts. It was a transformative experience for both of us. Even though we were still here in Los Angeles, we were transported to the dream world of cinema for a week. We saw by far some of the best films I’ve seen all year and in the theater surrounded by people who love film.

It was inspiring to say the least to be able to see such touching films with honest and creative storytelling. I feel so lucky to have been there. The coolest thing was that the whole thing was free and open to the public. While some screenings, like the gala events, were harder to get into, nearly everything was easy for the public to see.

We did manage to get tickets to the gala screening of Shame shown in the majestic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (where Shawn worked as a projectionist back in the day). It was touching to see the director, Steve McQueen, nervously repeat how big the theatre was. As the movie started, there was murmur of crunching popcorn and it hit me how important it is to see movies in the theater with an audience on a gigantic screen. There’s something powerful about seeing a film with others, something about experiencing it in a group that is untouchable and important.

The whole experience really lit a fire in my heart to be true to my love of film in whatever form that may take. And I have some ideas.

Over the next week I want to share with you some of the films that I saw that I believe are not to be missed. I’m not here to critique them, I just want to give some attention to the ones I thought were truly amazing.

To start, I wanted to show you my favorite short film from the selection we saw…

The Voyagers by Penny Lane is a beautiful piece about space and eternity and love and the unknown. The film is constructed mostly of amazing stock footage from NASA overlaid with a narration by Penny Lane. I found it captivating and touching. It has the perfect balance of beauty, science and romance that makes me swoon. Lucky for you, you can watch it above. I hope you love it as much as I did.