James Ponsoldt

Her political career may not have the ups and downs of say, a William Howard Taft (it’s also lacking fat-guy-in-bathtub anecdotes), but there’s some unseen force determined to give Hillary Clinton her own movie. This unseen force, whatever it may be, does not have a stellar track record. First came the conservative-produced Hillary: The Movie, which linked the former first lady to a series of seriously not-good scandals (despite what Scandal has lead us to believe, real-life scandals rarely involve steamy presidential love triangles that everyone can enjoy). The film was slated to release right before Mrs. Clinton’s performance in the 2008 Democratic Primaries, but the federal government intervened and shut the whole thing down. Hillary: The Movie was actually set to air solely on VOD, so the folks willing to pay for it would be the only ones affected by its various sordid accusations, but the mere threat of media-election tampering was enough to spurn on government action. Then it happened again. This summer, CNN had plans for a documentary on the First Lady-turned-Senator-turned-Secretary of State, but the entirety of our political spectrum stood up to proudly say “we hate this idea and you need to stop trying it.” Republicans, in protest of the documentary, voted to ban CNN from airing a all Republican debates in the coming election cycle. Meanwhile, every Democrat with aspirations to serve under a hypothetical President Hillary (which is essentially all Democrats) wouldn’t give CNN the time of day. CNN quickly folded; as did NBC, […]

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The protagonist of director James Pondsoldt‘s new film is an alcoholic.  The other characters in The Spectacular Now may not point that out, but why would they? Nobody in high school thinks of any teenaged partier as an alcoholic, and Pondsoldt sets the film directly from that perspective. More so than with his previous film, Smashed, with The Spectacular Now Pondsoldt deals with a destructive main character. The protagonist in Smashed (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wasn’t actually hurting anyone besides herself. We see the opposite in The Spectacular Now. This isn’t a coming-of-age movie where the nerdy kid comes out of his shell because some hip girl takes an interest in him. It’s one where he maybe breaks out of that shell a little too late while hurting others in the process. Keep reading to see what director James Pondsoldt had to say about crafting an authentic high school experience for Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) and his audience.

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Editor’s note: Allison’s review of The Spectacular Now originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re posting it again as the film opens this week in limited release. There are two kinds of people who go to high school: those who love every second of it, and those who cannot wait to get out. In The Spectacular Now, Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a charming screw-up who falls in the first group, but he is also acutely aware that this is the best time of his life. And he is living that life to the fullest, embracing and living in every moment, but unfortunately doing so with a super-size booze-filled slurpee clutched in his grasp at every turn. When he sits down to start writing his college essay (pulling on a PBR as he does), he uses the question about the biggest hardship he has had to overcome to unload about his recent break up. After yet another party and another night getting loaded, Sutter finds himself waking up on the lawn of Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a pretty girl from his school that he has never quite noticed before because she does not have a specific “thing” that defines her from the pack.

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spectacularnow

Sometime around the mid-nineties, the classic high school-set coming-of-age movie shrugged off its emotional resonance and turned into a genre marked by nonsensical dance scenes (She’s All That), poorly-adapted takes on Shakespeare plays (Get Over It), perfectly-adapted takes on Jane Austen novels (Clueless, and no, I will never apologize for my love for Clueless), cheerleader-driven narratives (Bring It On), and embarrassing outings that even James Franco wants to expunge from his resume (Whatever It Takes). Yet, slowly, the influence of such genre heroes as Cameron Crowe and John Hughes is bubbling back up, and the possibility that the real, sweet, funny, dramatic, and honest high school film isn’t dead just yet seems stronger than ever. As someone who grew up on a steady, TBS-fed diet of Crowe and Hughes films, the resurrection of the great coming-of-age production is music (Peter Gabriel, naturally) to my ears. A recent example of the rise of the emotionally rich teen movie? The Spectacular Now, a film that I’ve thought about consistently and affectionately since catching it back in January at Sundance. In support of the upcoming theatrical release of James Ponsoldt’s Sundance favorite, Landmark Theaters (along with one Angelika in NYC and the independent Los Feliz theater in LA) have curated a special screening series that they are calling “The Spectacular Classics.” Basically, it’s a month-long screening series of classic coming-of-age films that, in one way or another, influenced the new Shailene Woodley- and Miles Teller-starring film. It sounds like a very fun event […]

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spectacularnow

On its surface, The Spectacular Now looks like any other teenage drama you’ve ever seen. It’s about confused young people who fall in love, make mistakes, and generally just live in abject terror of the future. If word of mouth can be believed though, this is a movie that has a couple of tricks up its sleeve—a couple of tricks that keep it from being the same old, forgettable teenage drama that everybody always makes. Okay, so they’re not so much tricks as they are two of the more promising young actors who have hit Hollywood in the past few years: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Not only have these two already shown us that they have quite a bit to offer in movies like Rabbit Hole and The Descendants, but they both won the Special Jury Award for Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it was for the performances they give in this very film. Intrigued? Then click through to see what everyone was raving about back in January.

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Editor’s note: With Smashed hitting limited release this week, please delicately sip (or chug down, your preference) our Sundance review of the film, first published on January 24, 2012. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) seems to lead a charmed life – she has a loving husband, friends, and a job teaching first grade that she is passionate about. But the one thing that is always present in Kate’s life is alcohol. She and her husband, Charlie (Aaron Paul), spend every night getting (wait for it) smashed on beer, liquor, really just whatever alcohol is available. The drinking (while excessive) appears to be just a harmless part of their lifestyle, but when Kate shows up hungover to work (and throws up in front of her class), one of her students asks if she is pregnant and Kate confirms the lie, figuring it is a better excuse than the truth.

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Brie Larson got her start in children’s films, broke into television, and even had a short music career. The 22-year-old actress has transitioned into more grown-up roles, but she still gets cast in a high school student (even though, ironically, she was home schooled for her high school years). Her most recent role was in this spring’s hit comedy 21 Jump Street, based on the television series that ran on Fox from 1987 until 1991. The film comes out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, so Larson took some time to chat with Film School Rejects about her various roles, including the upcoming films James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now and Peter Bogdanovich’s Squirrel to the Nuts.

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George Clooney may have earned a Best Actor nomination for his work in last year’s The Descendants, but the truly eye-opening performance in that film came not from the king of Hollywood, but from the little known actress playing his teenage daughter. Simply put, Shailene Woodley was the bee’s knees in that film. Her work fleshed out a role that would have played like a cliché of teenage rebellion in most other hands, and she’s going to have quite a few opportunities coming her way in the upcoming year. It’s newsworthy, then, that Variety has word on what her next job is going to be. According to the trade, the actress is attached to star in Smashed (which was reviewed by Allison Loring here) director James Ponsoldt’s next film, which is an adaptation of the Tim Tharp novel “The Spectacular Now.”

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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