Charlie Kaufman

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Commentary

Actors’ behind-the-camera debuts are rarely great. There’s generally a safeness to those movies, where it feels more like an actor testing the waters than having a story they need to tell. A big exception to that trend: George Clooney. Clooney took a major chance on Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Sure, he had a script written by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation), but he made bold choices as a filmmaker. From the film’s complex style, the timeline they have to show in two hours, and the tonally tricky humor, Clooney’s first directorial outing was an ambitious introduction. Since then he’s tried his hand at varying material, constantly pushing himself as a filmmaker. Nothing against his films since 2002, including the overlooked Leatherheads, but Confessions of a Dangerous Mind remains his best picture. This is a film where big choices were made, and every single one of them hit their mark. It’s an emotional dark comedy that not many filmmakers could pull off.

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news chaos walking trilogy

The Hunger Games is great and all, but what will we do when the politically tinged adventures of Katniss Everdeen come to a close? Society will need some new plucky teenage hero to rally behind and to spend lots and lots of money on. Keep an eye out for Chaos Walking, as it may just be the next big thing. Coming from a series of YA novels by Patrick Ness, Chaos Walking is your usual teenage-aged fare, with dystopian futures, corrupt politics and a revolt of the masses. But wait a moment before groaning and turning away from yet another YA series- at least Chaos Walking has a neat gimmick. In this particular far-off future, everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts at all times. Neat, right? And what makes things even neater is that Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) will be handling script duties for this project.

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Slaughterhouse-Five

Take a deep breath and imagine Tralfamadore with Guillermo del Toro as its God and Charlie Kaufman as God’s righthand man. According to The Daily Telegraph (vie The Playlist), del Toro has brought on the writer behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to adapt Kurt Vonnegut‘s unstuck-in-time novel “Slaughterhouse-Five.” With del Toro’s experience with The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, and Kaufman’s Escher-designed brain, they seem like a perfect pair to visually solve Vonnegut’s gorgeous Rubik’s Cube of sci-fi delirium and wartime madness as seen through the eyes of an optimistic WWII chaplain’s assistant and part-time alien abductee. “Charlie and I talked for about an hour-and-a-half and came up with a perfect way of doing the book. I love the idea of the Tralfamadorians to be ‘unstuck in time,’ where everything is happening at the same time. And that’s what I want to do,” del Toro said, adding, “It’s just a catch-22. The studio [Universal] will make it when it’s my next movie, but how can I commit to it being my next movie until there’s a screenplay? Charlie Kaufman is a very expensive writer!” Of course the news comes with the usual grain of salt that seasons every would-be project from del Toro. He’s got a lot on his plate — more if Pacific Rim is a hit — so even as it’s thrilling to see this partnership bloom at the script stage, there are a million miles to go before it’s on the screen. It’s not like we can start dreamcasting who […]

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As far as I can tell, regular folk don’t care for movies about movies or films about filmmaking. They used to, back when Hollywood was a more glamourous and idolized place for Americans. Classics like Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ in the Rain, The Bad and the Beautiful and the 1954 version of A Star is Born were among the top-grossing releases of their time. But 60 years later, it seems the only people really interested in stories of Hollywood, actors, directors, screenwriters, et al. are people involved with the film industry — the self-indulgence being one step below all the awards nonsense — and movie geeks, including film critics and fans. If you’re reading Film School Rejects, you’re not one of the aforementioned “regular folk,” and you probably get more of a kick out of stuff like Living in Oblivion, Ed Wood, Get Shorty, State and Main, The Hard Way, The Last Tycoon, The Stunt Man, The Big Picture, The Player, Bowfinger, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Argo than those people do. While it is true that The Artist faced the challenge of being a silent film, another major obstacle in the way of box office success must have been its Hollywood setting. Argo isn’t really literally about filmmaking, though, and that might be working in its favor. Ben Affleck‘s period thriller, which is expected to finally take the top spot at the box office this weekend, is about not making a film, so it should have the opposite result of most movies in which […]

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Over Under - Large

Being John Malkovich was an amazing success story upon its 1999 release. Not only was it a critical darling that got nominated for a bunch of awards, but it also successfully launched the big screen careers of a music video director named Spike Jonze and a lowly TV writer named Charlie Kaufman. In case you didn’t know, those guys have gone on to be big names, and Being John Malkovich earns quite the pedigree by being the start of their careers. On a personal level, I walked out of the movie in ’99 shocked at how unique and inventive it was, and loving how it melded progressive filmmaking with a comic sensibility. Revisiting it all these years later though, I realize it hasn’t aged as well as I’d hoped, and I find myself wondering if it still deserves the level of reverence that it gets. Mabrouk El Mechri’s 2008 film JCVD didn’t get near as much buzz or recognition as something like Being John Malkovich. Maybe that’s because a big chunk of it wasn’t in English, or maybe it’s because it just wasn’t as good—that’s debatable. But the opinion that it showed us a different side of its star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, was pretty universal, and it seemed like it was going to be something of a rebirth for the action star’s career. It’s four years later though, and nothing has really come of it. The man has still been largely relegated to straight-to-video action movies, and any of the […]

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Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman is crazy, but he’s not that crazy. This according to Charlie Kaufman. He also can’t tell you how to write a screenplay, which is the frustrating truth straight from the Oscar winner’s mouth. After all, if writing were like putting together something from IKEA, we’d all have golden statuettes. Meaningless gold statuettes. Kaufman is the kind of writer that challenges convention. From Being John Malkovich to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, even his titles aren’t typical. He’s thoughtful and careful, but most of all he’s a daring explorer tracking through uncharted terrain hoping to find something special but not necessarily hoping he’ll blaze a trail to it. He’s also got a lot to say, so here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a totally sane crazy person.

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The Hobbit at Comic-Con

What is Movie News After Dark? Most nights, it’s an innocent bystander in the world of film and television. Reporting the news from around the industry. Tonight, it gets sucked into Comic-Con mayhem. Who knows, by tomorrow it may be wearing a mask… We begin this evening with a shot of Hobbit trolls from the Comic-Con floor, as tweeted by the folks @Dolby. As preview night kicks off in San Diego, we’d like to wish all of our readers traveling toward Comic-Con safe travels and the best of luck. You’ll be needing it, as we’ve set both Brian Salisbury and Robert Fure loose on the city.

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Charlie Kaufman

In an interview with Moviefone, Elizabeth Banks had some sad news to deliver: Charlie Kaufman’s Frank or Francis “fell apart at the last minute.” Banks was set to co-star along with Catherine Keener, Nic Cage, Jack Black, Steve Carell and Kevin Kline. The film was to be an exploration of filmmaking, Hollywood culture, criticism, and probably a dozen other things but more importantly…it was new, original work from Charlie Kaufman. The Playlist has learned that the movie is simply postponed, but it’s time to start drinking nonetheless. Why? Because there’s no such thing as “dead” in filmmaking; only “postponed.” Of course, that comes with the optimism that Kaufman can make it happen one day. Hopefully soon.

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If Jesus or Tupac ever finally return like we’ve all been saying they will, they should probably do it in a Judd Apatow film or something like that. We love cameos, don’t we? It’s especially delightful when it’s extremely unexpected, and of course extra points if they are playing themselves – or better yet some kind of silly version of themselves. It’s all about recognizing the kind of person you are perceived to be, and then playing off that in a way that makes the audience realize that you are in on the joke. If a celebrity is able to do that, it’s instant coolness.

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A few days ago I reported on a story that two former female leads from Charlie Kaufman movies would both be working with the writer again, this time on his next directorial effort Frank or Francis. It turns out that was only half right. While Catherine Keener does appear to be attached to the film, buried in a report about Paul Reubens joining the cast is confirmation from THR that Kate Winslet has not. That’s a pretty big blow to my enthusiasm for the added girl power that this movie would have gotten by casting both Keener and Winslet, and the inclusion of Pee-Wee does little to soften the blow. Fortunately for me, there’s some more news that does soften the blow a bit. In another report, THR says that Elizabeth Banks has joined the cast, and in a role that sounds like it has some potential for hilarity. As we know already, Steve Carell and Jack Black are playing the title characters, a director and a film blogger who come into conflict with one another over a series of bad reviews. Well, it appears that Banks will be playing the Carell character’s girlfriend, an actress who keeps making “formulaic comedy bombs.” Seeing as the focus of this movie is the world of filmmaking vs. the world of film criticism, I’m imagining that Banks’ character will provide some delicious jabs sent the way of actresses like Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl, the undisputed queens of the formulaic comedy bomb.

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Kate Winslet and Catherine Keener

Charlie Kaufman’s directing followup to Synecdoche, New York has been in the casting stage for a while now, and already it has compiled an impressive core of male actors. Names like Steve Carrell, Jack Black, and Nicolas Cage have attached themselves to the picture, and Kaufman has even made a play at securing Paul Blart. So far there’s been a lack of news about who might play any of the female parts, however. This movie, that seems designed to take the wind out of our movie blogging sails, was looking like a real sausage fest. That’s all changed in a big way though. Vulture is reporting that two phenomenal actresses, Kate Winslet and Catherine Keener, have just signed on to join an already stellar cast. That’s some added girl power that might take even the Spice Girls aback for a minute. News of Winslet and Keener’s involvement on any project would be met with quite a bit of enthusiasm already, but when you factor in that both of these actresses have worked very successfully with Charlie Kaufman material before, things kind of get kicked up a notch.

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Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

As 2011 crawls to a close and 2012 peeks its head over the horizon, many of us wayward souls find ourselves using the changing of the calendar as an excuse to make big changes in our lives and start over fresh. ‘Tis the season for resolutions. Some of us will resolve to cease destructive behaviors, others will vow to start new things that will enrich us and make us better people. But for each the goal is clear – we’re done with the past, finished with who we were, and starting from this moment forward, it’s going to be a new day. Naturally, all of this thought about what my resolutions are going to be and who I want to be in 2012 has me thinking about movies that I’ve seen where people are trying to let go of the past and begin a new journey. More specifically, I’ve closed in on two movies from the early part of the last decade that are about relationships ending and their messy aftermaths. The Michel Gondry-directed and Charlie Kaufman-penned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is about a fictional service that will erase bad relationships from people’s memories, it stars Jim Carrey as a man wrestling with the question of how to best deal with painful memories, either by blocking them out or by accepting and processing them. Two years before that, Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in a movie called Love Liza about a broken man dealing with a relationship that had […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? Usually it’s a nightly column that does the news. But tonight it’s about art, writing that will make you think, talking horses and Kirsten Dunst. If you can’t handle that, well then you get slapped. We begin this evening with the art of Drew Struzan in the form of this Rambo drawing featured on AICN by Eric Vespe. It’s part of a preview of the new Struzan art book that I will be buying as soon as possible, as it released today.

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Over the course of his screenwriting career, Charlie Kaufman has developed a set of go-to moves. They are the tricks up his sleeve that allow him to craft narratives that throw the way we traditionally watch movies off kilter. One of the things he does is call identity into question. He casts John Malkovich as himself, or he casts Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman, then he makes us question what aspects of those on screen characters accurately reflect the real person, and how much of them are solely invention; the crafted traits of a fictional character created by Charlie Kaufman.

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Culture Warrior

The cinematic doppelganger effect seems to happen on a cyclical basis. Every few years, a pair of movies are released whose concepts, narratives, or central conceits are so similar that it’s impossible to envision how both came out of such a complex and expensive system with even the fairest amount of awareness of the other. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Capote and Infamous. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report. And now two R-rated studio-released romantic comedies about fuck buddies played by young, attractive superstars have graced the silver screen within only a few short months of each other. We typically experience doppelganger cinema with high-concept material, not genre fare. To see two back-to-back movies released about the secret life of anthropomorphic talking insects, a hyperbole-sized rock jettisoning towards Earth’s inevitable destruction, a Truman Capote biopic, or a movie about a mall cop seem rare or deliberately exceptional enough as a single concept to make the existence of two subsequent iterations rather extraordinary. Much has been made of the notion that Friends with Benefits is a doppelganger of No Strings Attached (the former has in more than one case been called the better version of the latter), but when talking about the romantic comedy genre – a category so well-tread and (sometimes for better, sometimes not) reliably formulaic that each film is arguably indebted to numerous predecessors – can we really say these films are doppelgangers in the same vein as the high-concept examples, or […]

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Quirky writer Charlie Kaufman just may be the closest thing that modern Hollywood has to a mad genius. He captivated and delighted audiences and critics alike with his screenplays for Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and then he confused audiences and critics alike with his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York. Whatever he does is at least always interesting, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he serves up his second time behind the camera.

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as SecretWindowNotSoSecret and iDuddits in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the question of who exactly made the movie gets front and center treatment. Why do we treat directors with authorial authority when it comes to assigning ownership to a film? Why not the writers? Why not the gaffers? Who really is the true author of a movie and has the auteur theory ruined everything?

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We’ve reported before about billionaire heiress Megan Ellison, who has used her fortune to start Annapurna Pictures, a company whose sole purpose seems to be giving awesome filmmakers money so that they can make awesome movies. Well, it looks like she’s at it again. Deadline Sandy Fork reports that she is negotiating to take on an as-of-yet untitled film that will reunite the writing/directing team of Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. When those two men teamed before we ended up getting Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I don’t know about you, but I thought both of those movies were just the bee’s knees. The film they are set to make is said to be a parody-heavy take on things that Alex Jones has been trying to convince us are really happening with his conspiracy theory documentaries. It will be a dramatization of the world’s most powerful leaders meeting in a secret room to plan out all of the upcoming happenings that will steer the course of human history. Marry that with Jonze’s innovative visual style and Kaufman’s mind-bending writing style and it looks like something special is in the works. We’ve seen the duo do darkly funny and strangely interesting before, but we’ve never seen them try to tackle something that looks this political. I was entranced enough watching them tell a story about orchids, but when they take on issues like impending wars and global oil trading prices we might get an enduring classic the likes of Dr. Strangelove […]

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Culture Warrior

Famed British filmmaker Mike Leigh recently received his fifth screenwriting nomination for Another Year. Another Oscar nomination for a highly celebrated filmmaker should be surprising to no one except, in this special case, for the fact that precisely zero of Leigh’s nominated films actually use screenplays. Leigh’s films are constructed through a painstaking and long-term process of creating characters and scenarios with his cast and creative team. His films aren’t improvised in the sense of, say, a Christopher Guest film, where a basic framework exists and actors are allowed to ad-lib and play with(in) that paradigm. Leigh’s films are instead created from the outset through an involved collaborative process. Leigh’s regular team of actors bring to each individual film their construction of a character from scratch. Details arise eventually through this collaboration, and the final work projected onscreen is the end result of a long selection of various possibilities. The only reason Leigh’s films even qualify for screenwriting awards is because of the written script that Leigh creates after the end product has been made. The physical screenplay, in this case, is nothing more than a transcription written after the fact, or a record of a much larger event (whose details are largely unknown to the audience). While Leigh is the sole nominee for Another Year, the creation of the script (or, in this case, the transcript) is just as indebted to the creative efforts of other individuals involved. Stars Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville are, in a sense, just […]

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mwl-confessionsofadangerousmind

The true-ish story of Chuck Barris, who wrote pop songs, hosted games shows, and killed people for a living. (And the movie where Michael Cera tries to convince a girl his penis tastes like strawberry).

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