Some stories have such great charm and relevance that they can be told over and over again in many formats - and still win your heart. Certainly that's true of your traditional fairy tales or the Shakespeare classics; but there are also a few sweet modern tales that hold up well in multiple formats. One such story, in my view, is Mike Birbiglia's delightful "Sleepwalk with Me". It's a timeless story of one man's fear of love and maturity; but it is told - with terrific humor and stark honesty - through a chronicle of his struggle with a strange and dangerous sleepwalking condition.
I first heard Birbiglia tell the story on a 2008 episode of This American Life called "Fear of Sleep." If you haven't yet heard that episode, you must obtain it immediately. It will do nothing less than restore your faith in the power of solid storytelling.
The story later become so beloved that Birbiglia adapted it to a one-man show and then into a book. Now, with help from Ira Glass and This American Life producer Alissa Shipp, Mike is bringing the story to film.
Birbiglia directed the movie, and wrote it with Seth Barrish (who directed the stage version), Joe Birbiglia and Ira Glass. The film stars Mike, Lauren Ambrose, Jim Rebhorn and Carol Kane and was produced by Jacob Jaffke.
I've never been to Sundance - and probably won't make it this year - but I've never been more jealous of those who will be there. This film is going to be terrific.
Nicolas Winding Refn is the Danish director of the new film Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Refn had a very specific vision for the film, which included trance-like music and throwbacks to the aesthetics of films of his childhood. Drive is a moody thriller that combines elements of fairy tale, noir, 80s pop and 70s grit. The film won Refn the Best Director award at Cannes.
Drive opens in theaters nationwide on September 16th.
JESSE THORN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm Jesse Thorn. My guest, Nicolas Winding Refn grew up in the world of cinema. His father, Anders, edited the Danish classics Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark for director Lars Von Trier, among dozens of other films. He grew up in Denmark, but spend his teenage years in New York City. He briefly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before being expelled, allegedly for throwing a chair into a wall, and passed up one of six slots at a very prestigious Danish film institute when he had the opportunity to develop what had been his application short film into a feature. That movie, Pusher, went on to become a European cult crime classic.
His new film is his first American production. It's called Drive. It won Refn the directing prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Its nearly silent protagonist played by Ryan Gosling is a professional stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night. It's a movie that somehow both brutal and serene, and because the main character almost never talks, it's tough for us to encapsulate with a clip of dialogue. So instead, suffice it to say that on those evenings when he isn't committing a crime, the protagonist called the driver cruises the roads of Los Angeles listening to music like this.
Nicolas, welcome to The Sound of Young America.
NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Thank you.
JESSE THORN: It's really great to have you on the show. I want to ask you, having only seen one passing reference to you throwing a chair into a wall at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I thought I would go to the horse's mouth and find out what got you booted.
NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It was a table instead of a chair. It was great because I hated authority anyways, so it didn't turn out the way I thought it was going to be, but that was maybe good, because if it hadn't maybe I wouldn't be sitting here. So I was the happiest person smashing a table into the wall and being told that was unacceptable.
“Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadvanture” is a documentary about audio verite: the art of capturing and reproducing audio from day-to-day life without commentary. It centers around two young men, Mitch Deprey and Eddie Lee Sausage, who live in a cheap, run-down apartment in San Francisco in the late 1980s. Their neighbors, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, are two old drunken men who belt out profane yet oddly comical arguments nightly. Mitch and Eddie record these arguments and begin sharing the resulting audio with friends. Although the circumstances around the arguments are disturbing and even mildly frightening, the material is also weirdly compelling and sometimes amusing as Raymond and Peter exhibit a unique and intricate style of verbal abuse. Over several years, the tapes are circulated via underground networks throughout the country and become a viral phenomenon that inspires songs, plays, comic books and essays by artists and writers as varied as Kevin Peaty, Daniel Clowes and Devo.
The film explores how the tapes spread so widely and the impact of the material’s popularity on the lives of both the recorders and the recorded. It also examines the thorny legal, artistic and moral issues around developing commercially successful projects from material that the artist found and recorded, but did not create.
It was directed by Australian filmmaker Matthew Bate who kindly answered a few of my questions about the film.
Follow this link to read our discussion.
The French fashion house Balmain came up on my style blog (they were selling an $1800 hoodie). It reminded me of the opening lines of this song, which is featured in Hotel Chevalier, the short film that was distributed with Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited.
The film is below.
Author and filmmaker Jon Ronson has started a fascinating documentary series called "Escape and Control". It's going to explore who controls the internet and how they do so. That would be interesting enough, really, but the manner in which he is making the documentary is equally intriguing. As you can see from this trailer, he will be releasing bits and pieces of the film as he makes it.
You can look for future episodes on his You Tube page, "Esc & Ctrl: Stories about People Trying to Control the Internet". In the video, Ronson says he will release the first hunk when he has something interesting to show; but his website says that his "first adventure will launch in early September."
Considering the number of compelling recent new stories on the subject, it's bound to be must-see web viewing.
I'm prepping to interview Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of "Drive," a really remarkable film that Julia and I saw a couple weeks ago. It's a crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling (along with a bunch of other brilliant folks - Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman), but it's disconcertingly quiet. Punctuated, every so often, by shocking violence.
This trailer is really just an early scene from the film in its entirety.
The song "A Real Hero" serves as a sort of theme for the movie, and for Gosling's character. It reminded me of an early 80s score by Tangerine Dream. It's both inspiration and reserved, almost melancholically so. Like the movie, though, it really gets under your skin.
Our guest host this week is MaxFun's very own Jordan Morris! He's a host and producer on FuelTV's The Daily Habit and of course, co-hosts our own podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go! You can also see him performing comedy at numerous venues throughout Los Angeles. Fun fact: Jordan is one of the original co-hosts of The Sound of Young America, so this is a return to form. He'll talk to a man of horror movie legend, Bruce Campbell.
Bruce Campbell is best known as a B movie icon and one of the stars of the Evil Dead films. He's also a writer and producer who's continued to have a DIY aesthetic and feeling infuse his work (including his own film, My Name Is Bruce). He talks to us about finding a niche in horror and black humor, obsessive fans, and more.
JORDAN MORRIS: This is The Sound of Young America, I'm Jordan Morris. My guest today is Bruce Campbell, an actor, director, and author, best known to film geeks as the star of the cult classics Evil Dead, Maniac Cop, Bubba Ho-Tep, too many to mention. He can now be seen on the television program Burn Notice, the HIT television program I should say. The Burn Notice feature length film The Fall of Sam Axe is on DVD and Blu-ray now. Bruce, thanks for coming on the show.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: Great plug, by the way, great plug.
I'm interviewing Errol Morris later today, one of my all-time favorite film makers. Shoot, maybe my #1 all-time favorite film maker. I may have time to ask him about his commercial work, but I thought I'd throw in a couple of pieces here just in case I don't.
Above: "Stay Curious," for PBS. Below, "Olive Loaf," for Miller High Life.
Michael Rapaport (above right, with Q-Tip) has an extensive list of acting credits, from Woody Allen films to roles on Boston Public, Friends, and Prison Break. For his newest project, he began with a vision to profile his favorite hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, and ended up documenting their deep-rooted friendships and conflicts along with the musical history of the group.
The movie is called Beats, Rhymes and Life, and features interviews with members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Mohammed and Jarobi White. Animated sequences of Tribe songs are interspersed with remarks from hip-hop producers, radio personalities and rappers, and give a portrait of the time as well as of the group itself. The film opens in NYC and LA on July 8th.
JESSE THORN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm Jesse Thorn. My guest is Michael Rapaport. He is, of course, best known as an actor, having worked for some 20 odd years with legendary directors like Woody Allen and Spike Lee, and on numerous television programs, innumerable films, in audio, all over everywhere.
He's here today, though, for his directorial debut; a documentary called Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. It's the story of one of hip hops most significant and storied groups, and I know one of the most significant to Rapaport specifically. It opens July 8th in New York and Los Angeles.
Michael, I want to ask you personally what A Tribe Called Quest meant to you in 1989, 90, when they came out and you were a very young man; you were at an impressionable age.
Above: Peter Bogdanovich talks about Orson Welles' cinematic essay "F For Fake." If you've never seen the film, see it. Like... NOW. One of my five favorite films of all time. It's a meditation on the nature of authorship, storytelling and authenticity. Issues that were important when Welles made the film, in the 70s, but have only grown more important since. It's also very funny, as well as profound.
Below is the scene that Bogdanovich alludes to in his remarks: an exploration of one of man's greatest achievements, the cathedral at Chartres.