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by Indiewire
January 4, 2009 12:00 AM
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Honor Roll '08: Some of the best of the year

Jenny Lumet, Wong Kar Wai, Kelly Reichardt, Tilda Swinton, and Dustin Lance Black. Photos by indieWIRE

1 - Lance Hammer: "Success as a filmmaker probably has something to do with being restless and dissatisfied and perpetually interested in peeling away one more layer to get a little closer to some essential human truth."

2 - Charlie Kaufman: "When you approach middle age, lots of stuff happens. Your body is aging, you're watching people around you get sick, you're watching people die, your mortality becomes very present at that point in your life. I've always been fearful of things like that, but as you get older, you have to deal with it more."

3 - Tia Lessin & Carl Deal: "We both have always loved going to the movies. But we came to filmmaking through a back door. We were not formally trained in visual story-telling, but very good at delivering information as journalists and activists. We had to re-educate ourselves and learned fast that how a story is told is as important as what the story is."

4 - Steve McQueen: "What interests me is that everyone from Papua New Guinea to Alaska to Nicaragua knows a story - can tell you a story - but not everyone has been steeped in the idea of Western art. And that really interested me in making feature films - language and story that can actually translate and transcend."

5 - Steven Soderbergh: "Lately, I've been thinking a lot more about looking at things in terms of a canvas. During "Che," I kept seeing things that looked like those paintings that used to be made to describe an event, like Goya. I began to really be enamored of arranging people within what I imagined to be one of those canvases."

6 - Yung Chang: "The film evolved from being about the culture of tourism and the tourism of culture into something much more than that. There are so many metaphors and symbols. The epic landscape of the Three Gorges, the Yangtze River and the dam were inspirational in discovering that to make this film, I had to get off the boat and onshore in order to capture the Chinese perspective. Tourists are easy targets so to get the full perspective, in order to amplify the commentary on the Westerners point-of-view, I had to tell the story through Chinese eyes."

7 - Dennis Hopper: "I think that if the people are good filmmakers and you have a good script it doesn't matter how much they are spending...I think you're going to have a quality project. It's hard for me to equate it as to whether its independent or not independent because there are some really good films being made that are not independent films. It really depends on the director, the script, the part..."

8 - Michelle Williams: "I've never really been interested in the business side of film," she said. "I'm more attached to the character so I've always just wanted to immerse myself in the roles. So I don't always notice these things. But I do know that things have become more dire. And I know working with less money changes things: You can't do certain shots, you're under certain time constraints."

9 - Stephen Daldry: "Things are complicated, not black and white. If you want black and white, people should go watch cartoons. If we live in the cartoon world with goodies and baddies then the world is a very dangerous place, as we've seen in the U.S. and their foreign policy for the last 8 years."

10 - Kelly Reichardt: "I don't consider myself to be working in 'this industry'...I didn't find the industry that inviting. So to me it's just been trying to figure out how to make films outside of it. Do it yourself. By any means necessary. And, you know, it's nice. It's been a really good ride - both ['Old Joy' and 'Wendy & Lucy']. And you just don't know... Do it until you can't do it. I'm always prepared that I'll go back to making smaller films at any given time. In between my [first] two features I was making these sorts of films but on Super 8. And when the well dries up, that's where I'll go back."

11 - Jenny Lumet: "Sometimes when you talk about process you sound like a bit of a nutcase...But I had a very specific visual image in my head for weeks of a bride in a bridal chamber admiring herself in a joyful way. [She's] having a private moment. And then her sister bursts in to the room and it creates a new moment and destroys the old one. That was in my head for weeks and it kind of gestated. In all honesty, I started listening really closely to what those two women were saying. They revealed stuff to me."

12 - Phillippe Claudel: "I labored over my screenplay, the design of the film, and arrangement of its shots. I made a kind of storyboard. But the main task is to choose one's team. The director is not the one in charge of the camera and lighting. He's the one who says to the DP, Right now I want a pale, wan light on Kristin's face. And it's the DP's talent that achieves that. As director you have an overarching vision, and you choose technicans who each have their own expertise. There's a great Hitchcock anecdote: the only time he looked in a camera he looked through the wrong end! What better proof that the director is not a technician?"

13 - Azazel Jacobs: "My films have all been some sort of an exploration (at least for me)- I have a good plan on how I want it to be ultimately, but how it will get there I am not so sure. My hopes would be that I continue to explore, that I never get lazy and do something that I know exactly."

14 - Harmony Korine: "I have never been good at gauging reactions to my films. I remember thinking "Gummo" would be embraced by the public in much the same way as "Bambi" was when it first came out. I am always wrong about such things."

15 - Laurent Cantet: "What I wanted to show is how difficult it is for those kids to find their place in society. One of the girls, Esmeralda - originally Moroccan -- says I'm not proud of being French. How can you be proud of being part of a community that wants little to do with you? I tried to look closely at these childen, rather than stigmatize them as idiots or dummies."

16 - Darren Aronofsky/Mickey Rourke/Marisa Tomei: "If I knew it was going to take me fifteen years to get back in the saddle and work again because of the way I handled things, I really would have handled things differently," [Mickey Rourke] said. "I just didn't have the tools. Doing things differently this time around and understanding what it is to be a professional and be responsible and be consistent. Those were things that weren't in my vocabulary back then. Change for me, didn't come easy. I didn't want to change until I lost everything. Then I realized, 'you better change or just blow your fucking brains out'... I thought it was a weakness to change from all the armor I had put on my whole life. I was too proud to change."

17 - Ari Folman: "I think that in general it tells you about repression (of memory). And that has universal resonance. Everyone has gone through some event in life that they chose deliberately to forget. It doesn't have to be such an extreme event as war, it could be a broken heart, a loss of family when you were young. You could go down in the street and choose anyone at random, and something occurred to him in life, and he decided, I don't want to deal with it, I'll just go on. Which is probably good."

18 - Richard Jenkins: "I don't know if ten years ago I would have trusted myself enough as an actor to do what I did [with this film]...To let it unfold and let it happen and not try and put anything on it. I always felt it was such an intimate story and such a personal story that it felt like window peeping. The audience should feel like they are looking in and that at some point someone in the movie is going to turn around and say 'what are you looking at?' I just thought it was that kind of intimacy."

19 - Guy Maddin: "One of the reasons I was excited about making the movie was a chance to mythologize the city as well as 'every-town'...there's just something about living in Canada, next to such a strong cultural force as America... Canadians have always insisted on identifying themselves as 'not American.' Usually that just means that we don't exaggerate when we tell our stories and so we present our historical figures in lifesize, which is a guaranteed way to assure that they'll be forgotten instantly."

20 - Dustin Lance Black: "Politics is politics and there's always a lot of bullshit around it, but it's also an opportunity to educate people about the issues, which is the really exciting thing. Whether you win or fail, you're always affecting change... I'd like to get a gay marriage initiative in Texas... Will it ever pass? Probably not, but you will start to change minds. It lets you say, 'hey, we're not all creepsters, and maybe even some of your sons and daughters and friends [are gay]...'"

21 - Arnaud Desplechin: "Each time I'm starting to work on a film, even if I love to settle the plot in the real world, I start to think about the plot as a fairy tale, or a dream, or a nightmare... As if it was the best way to tell the truth about characters or narration, instead of realism."

22 - Sam Mendes: "For me, my job here was to help the actors mine the depths of the characters to find new things in themselves. And it was the only movie I'd ever made that pivots entirely on close-ups. I'd never been a big fan of close-ups before. I never thought I needed them. But here I felt like I needed them to trace the story across the actors' faces the whole time."

23 - Joachim Trier: "We were interested in exploring contradictory feelings, like extreme sadness combined with the lightness of silly jokes. I think this is how people are. They shift between extreme emotions, particularly at that age. We wanted to make a story with dirty formalism. A mixture of scattered minds. The film form should portray the content. I never understood that dichotomy. What is formal content? It's hard for me to differentiate. I feel that how you portray something in a film is as essential as what you're telling. If it's inseparable, it's probably working."

26 - Tilda Swinton: "I went straight from [the Oscars] to Italy to make a film with a friend of mine I'd been planning to make for seven years. [And then I] inaugurated my film festival, and worked on my foundation, and talked about the film I'm making next year which we've been talking about for two years. So there's nothing that's sort of active - I don't think, but you should ask my agent. I mean, I'm pretty shielded from all of that. I don't live on this planet. I live somewhere else. So I can go away and hang out with people that don't have television and don't know."

27 - Martin McDonagh: "I hate saying bad things about other writers. If you're going to say bad things, it should be about governments. Bottom line, though, I woulddn't say I'm really an angry person. I don't think you can do anything well when you're angry and depressed and despairing. You can't be analytical about it. It's like, I've been drunk but I can't write drunk."

28 - Matteo Garrone: "When I read the book for the first time, I was shocked because it was very powerful - visually powerful...There was a possibility to make a movie that's different from the ones I had seen before. [I thought] we could make a movie from the inside and change the formula without any glamorization of the characters - [and] I wanted to give the feeling of the audience that they were there..."

29 - James Marsh/Phillippe Petit: "I knew about the story, but I think more than anything Philippe felt it was time to tell his story. But we had to see if it worked out, if Philippe and I were comfortable with each other. We spent a lot of time together and talked about films we like. That was part of our dialog. And what kind of music we liked. It was a very human way into it."

30 - Wong Kar Wai/Chris Doyle: "most of the time I get the music when I'm travelling...[Wong Kar Wai said,] Because there is music around us all the time. You can listen to a piece of a music in the restaurant, and then in the bar, and then in the taxi. So sometimes I just notice, and I will ask people what they are playing. For me, music has different meanings. What works for me is that music has to be visual and inspire image... When we are living in a world like this when music is very popular, we can hear it everywhere and it becomes a reference of time."

31 - Mike Leigh: "It's not a film just about happiness, that's simplistic, and I'm sure you agree. You know as well as I do you have to give a film a title. 'Happy-Go-Lucky' evokes the spirit of the film, rather than a precise description of what's in the bottle. It's a film about positivism and coping with life in a mature, intelligent, focused way - not sort of mindlessly looking on the bright side and just being happy, as though she'd eaten magic mushrooms or smoked a lot of dope."

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1 Comment

  • Always Right | January 5, 2009 8:35 AMReply

    Great list!