Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach

No, this piece will not be styled as an actual love letter to Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s charmer, due to hit cinephile-near-you shelves later this week with its Criterion Collection release, but it will be an intense appreciation of the film. (Consider this a warning if, for any reason, you’re averse to the feature – and also, what is wrong with you?) Baumbach and Gerwig’s film first popped up as a somewhat minor attraction at last year’s Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival. It sounded like a curiosity – a black and white Baumbach co-written by and starring the director’s real-life lady love, a slim feature about a wayward young New York City gal who is not actually good at a lot of things but who approaches challenges great and small with a plucky gusto. She lives in a shitty apartment in Brooklyn. She’s an interpretive dancer. Her best friend Sophie is the most important person in her life. If any of these details made you snarkily think something along the lines of “oh, but I’ve already seen Girls,” you’re not alone. I thought that, too. And, despite a hearty love of both Gerwig and Baumbach, I was burnt out on the director’s post-Margot at the Wedding sardonics and Gerwig’s lackluster turn in the even more lackluster Lola Versus. My fears were unfounded.

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While We

With yesterday’s news that Emma Watson is reteaming with her The Perks of Being a Wallflower filmmaker Stephen Chbosky for While We’re Young, yet another literary adaptation for the duo (this time of a book by Adena Halpern), there comes both excitement and the lingering sense of “wait, that title sure sounds familiar.” It should – because Noah Baumbach just so happens to be in the middle of crafting his own film titled While We’re Young. Red alert, people, red alert. The popular title is not to be confused with the One Direction song “Live While We’re Young” (don’t let that header image fool you), the teasing comment your sassy grandma yells out when you take too long to drive her to bingo, or the USGA’s “pace of play pledge” that they’ve styled around the saying (golfers, what can you do?). But the saddling of two very different films with the same title will inevitably lead to some confusion, so with that in mind, we’ve cooked up a handy guide to telling apart your dueling While We’re Young films. Here’s hoping no one else decides to jump on this moniker-addled bandwagon, we’ll just have to update this damn thing.

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Why would one need to direct a movie in secret? The answers evade me, but perhaps they can be found in Flawed Dogs – the animated childrens’ film that Noah Baumbach has been directing for Dreamworks and has decided not to tell anyone about. The only reason we even know of Baumbach’s involvement with Flawed Dogs is because the good folks at Bleeding Cool managed to figure it out, and promptly shared it with the rest of the world. Without them, we might have stayed in the dark until Flawed Dogs‘ release date (seriously – we found out that Baumbach directed last year’s Frances Ha only when the film was listed as a part of the Telluride Film Festival). The actual news that Baumbach is directing Flawed Dogs is far less bizarre than the secrecy surrounding it. Baumbach has previously written (or co-written) screenplays for The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, so the jump to writing and directing a kids movie isn’t so huge. And Flawed Dogs is as good a piece of source material as any. A series of books (one a picture book, the other a novel) by cartoonist Berkley Breathed, Flawed Dogs tells of Sam the Lion, a purebred Dachshund with a soup ladle where his hind leg should be, who is thrown out on the street and into a world of stray mutts. There’s no word yet on any of the cast, but for all we know Baumbach’s keeping them sworn to […]

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horovitz

What is Casting Couch? It’s a daily news column that compiles the biggest casting scoops from all around the Internet. Today’s edition is absolutely bursting with news, so let’s jump right in. Due to his being a member of The Beastie Boys, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz is a legend in the rap game. Many don’t know that he has a little bit of a history in the acting world though. Of course, many don’t know that because his career consisted of a couple small roles in the late 80s and early 90s, and then he seemed to forget about his little hobby. The Wrap has a report that Horovitz might soon be making a big acting comeback though, because apparently he’s in talks to join Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in Noah Baumbach’s (Frances Ha) next film, While We’re Young. In it Horovitz would be playing a new father who can no longer relate to Stiller and Watts’ characters because they don’t have kids, which is pretty much the most frightening notion ever for those of us who remember Ad-Rock as being a beer-swilling teenager on MTV’s spring break.

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seyfried

What is Casting Couch? It’s a tireless wanderer that scours the Internet in search for news of actors getting hired to appear in movies. Today it’s found more, including new roles for Rhys Ifans and Monica Bellucci. With his latest film, Frances Ha, just getting ready to expand beyond New York and LA this weekend, director Noah Baumbach now turns his attention to his next project, a story about an older couple striking up a friendship with a younger couple called While We’re Young. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts have been on board to play the older couple, and Girls star Adam Driver is official for the younger male, but the search for the female half of the younger couple has been an ongoing process. It’s an ongoing process that’s likely to soon come to an end though, because The Wrap is reporting that Amanda Seyfried has emerged as the potential candidate to play the free-spirited young lass, and she’s even cleared some room in her schedule to make it happen. Sounds like it’s nearly a done deal.

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Noah Baumbach

It starts like any other love story – there is dancing and music and laughter and secrets and plans – but no matter how it might look at first blush, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha isn’t a film about a pair of twentysomethings falling in and out of love in New York City, it’s a film about a pair of twentysomethings falling in and out of friendship in New York City. The result is something far more rich and rewarding than the vast majority of wide release, standard issue romantic comedies, and perhaps star Greta Gerwig‘s most charming performance yet. When it comes to romance, Frances (Gerwig) isn’t so concerned with finding a boyfriend, since she’s quite perfectly happy with her life as is, because even though it includes a potentially dead-end career (she’s a modern dancer who can’t really dance), it also includes her best friend and roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Well, for now. Most love stories do, after all, end. When Sophie unceremoniously (and seemingly unfeelingly) moves out on Frances in favor of a better apartment in a better zip code, the divide between the pair seems clearer than ever. Sophie has matured beyond Frances, at least in a traditional sense, and Sophie’s allegiances now lay with her boyfriend Patch (yes, Patch) and her blossoming career in publishing (though Frances never fails to remind people that Sophie doesn’t even really read). Her friendship with Sophie has served as the defining relationship in Frances’ current life, and when she is “dumped” […]

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noah-baumbach

Frances Ha is new territory for writer-director Noah Baumbach. To briefly pigeonhole him as a filmmaker, he’s not the type of storyteller we expect to show someone joyously running down the street cued to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” We’d expect to see a character breaking down talking about how much they hate the poppiness of that Bowie song and the people who love it. Roger Greenberg or Bernard Berkman wouldn’t have been a fan of that song or the character at the center of Frances Ha, Frances (Greta Gerwig). She’s Baumbach’s most conventionally likable character yet. She has plenty of financial and career drama, but, even with some of that despair, Baumach’s picture, which he co-wrote with Gerwig, has a happy personality to it. Happiness is not the a feeling generally associated with Baumbach’s directorial work, but he seems comfortable with that new territory. Here’s what the director of Frances Ha, Greenberg, and The Squid and the Whale had to say about Gremlins, his love of Woody Allen, and intimate stories:

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Noah Baumbach

Surely, we’ve heard this one before - Greta Gerwig stars as a confused twentysomething, shuffling her way through life in big, bad New York City, along with her coterie of cool pals, all looking for some kind of life-changing breakthrough – but Noah Baumbach‘s Frances Ha looks markedly different from its genre brethren, if only because Gerwig looks so damn charming in it. In Frances Ha, Gerwig plays the eponymous Frances who is, well, a confused twentysomething shuffling her way through life. Actually, she dances, because Frances is sort of a modern dancer – but, then again, it seems like Frances is “sort of” a lot of things. Will she ever figure it all out? Oh, probably. Watch Greta Gerwig dance (adorably!) through her confusing life in the first trailer for Frances Ha, after the break.

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Noah Baumbach

Indie auteur Noah Baumbach‘s latest film, the Greta Gerwig-starring Frances Ha, centers on Gerwig’s shiftless New Yorker Frances, a twentysomething still trying to figure it (or anything) out. Of course, being a hip NYC gal, Frances’ life is populated with all sorts of nifty hipsters, including (apparently) dudes named “Patch.” In this new clip from the spring release, a sprightly Frances begs her best pal to hang out with her, stretches the limits of leggings, and possesses the sort of whimsy outlook on life we should expect to see much more of in Frances Ha. Check out Gerwig’s flexible moves and talk of a man named “Patch” in the new clip after the break.

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Frances Ha is a Noah Baumbach film without bitterness. This is perhaps unexpected, given the man’s track record. Greenberg is practically an essay on acerbity, while The Squid and the Whale traffics in plenty of divorce-inspired acrimony. That doesn’t mean that his prior work is somehow one-dimensional or excessively pessimistic, far from it. Rather, it makes his newest feature a surprising deviation into joy, if not necessarily optimism. There’s no doubt that this shift comes courtesy of Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script and lights up the screen with her performance. It is a collaboration that blends the artistic sensibilities of Baumbach and Gerwig into a new take on the post-college identity crisis. The lack of belligerence, importantly, is not because the protagonist has nothing about which to be bitter. Frances (Gerwig) is 27 years old, living in Brooklyn, and trying to support herself as an apprentice dancer. Her friends all seem to be doing much better than she is, finding good jobs and nice apartments they can afford. They get progressively more irritating, settling down to married life with Goldman Sachs like irritating bit characters in a Woody Allen party scene. Meanwhile Frances herself is taking step after step in the other direction, losing roommates, jobs and places to live. Yet where Ben Stiller’s Greenberg would just get aggravated and darkly comic, Gerwig has a joie de vivre that refuses to let the film sting.

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Wes Anderson

Oh, Wes Anderson. Some have already gotten to see his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, and even more will see it as it opens wider this weekend. Without seeing his name on the title cards, it’s easy to spot as one of his projects. The auteur has developed a look and feel all his own – usually constructed by primary colors, detailed set design, Britpop, and Bill Murray. This Texan who often lives in France is idiosyncratic in his storytelling, but he’s also unafraid to put his personal demons onto the screen (in as twee a way as possible). From Bottle Rocket to Rushmore to Fantastic Mr. Fox, his work is usually ridiculously rich and infinitely quotable. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the son of an advertiser and an archeologist.

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It only took legendary filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich over three decades to write another film about the ins and outs and ups and downs of the theater – and who can blame him after the massive bomb that was At Long Last Love – but Squirrels to the Nuts sounds just zippy enough to really make it. Bogdanovich has written the script for the new film and will also direct (a double duty he hasn’t pulled off since 1990′s Texasville), but it’s the film’s producers, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, who should really set the tone for the film. Variety reports that the “quirky indie comedy” centers on a “hooker-turned-Broadway-thesp and the recurring intersection between those two facets of her life.” There’s nothing like prostitution to really keep you on your toes. Rising star Brie Larson will play the hooker with a heart of gold tap shoes, which sounds like yet another role that will show off the actress’s knack for excelling at very different parts (it’s not everyone who can turn in solid performances in both Rampart and 21 Jump Street  in the same year). Owen Wilson will play a Broadway director who, despite being married to another Broadway star (not yet cast), pays Larson for her non-theatrical work before eventually helping her get away from hooking.

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Super-producer Scott Rudin has been trying to get Jonathan Franzen’s much-lauded novel, “The Corrections,” to the screen for nearly a decade, and it’s finally starting to come together, though possibly in a different format than fans of the book may have first expected. Rudin has been working with Noah Baumbach on adapting the novel for the small screen, in the form of an HBO series. Though the exact specifications of the series’ format is not yet known (episode length, frequency, if the series will run in a limited capacity for a set number of episodes, who else would direct episodes), the cast is steadily rounding out. The book focuses on the Lambert family, and Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest were previously announced to play the parents at the center, Alfred and Enid Lambert. But what of their wayward children? Deadline Wickenburg is reporting that Ewan McGregor is on board to play middle child Chip, “a Marxist academic who lost his tenure-track position over an affair with a student and now works for a Lithuanian crime boss defrauding American investors.” Wait, does that sound messed up and weird? Yeah, meet the Lamberts – a severely dysfunctional American family of five. The Corrections slides back and forth through time periods and is told through the voices of different members of the family (Albert, Enid, Chip, and the other two kids, Gary and Denise). While it’s not immediately clear just what went so wrong within and for the family, the novel gradually unveils […]

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The film adaptation of Claire Messud’s gorgeous novel The Emperor’s Children has faced an unfairly bumpy trip to the screen. Back in 2009, Ron Howard was slated to direct the film from a script by Noah Baumbach. Then the project seemingly fell dead, with no news until March of 2010, when Howard left the project entirely, leaving both writing and directing duties to Baumbach. At that time, a list of attached cast members was announced (including Keira Knightley, Eric Bana, and Richard Gere, with buzz about some other names like Michelle Williams). Production was supposed to start last summer, but of course, it didn’t, and know Baumbach appears to be back out of the director’s chair, with Crazy Heart helmer Scott Cooper stepping in to direct from Baumbach’s script (according to an insider report from Twitch). Cooper burst on to the scene with his Jeff Bridges-starring Crazy Heart back in 2009, a directorial debut so lovely and assured that it earned its star his first Oscar (after being nominated no less than six times). Since then, Cooper has had his own fair share of project whiplash, with rumors that he was on the shortlist for Gangster Squad, news that he was developing his own take on The Hatfields and the McCoys, and attachments to the Carancho remake, Empire of the Summer, and Black Listed The Low Dweller. Which is all a nice way of saying that, just like The Emperor’s Children, there’s been a lot of talk about Cooper, but no […]

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The last time I reported on Noah Baumbach’s next project, While We’re Young, it was with the unfortunate news that James Franco and Cate Blanchett had been forced to drop out of the film. At the time I held out hopes that Baumbach might be able to easily replace the actors with Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig, and it’s looking like at least half of my hopes and dreams are probably going to come true. While We’re Young is about a couple in their forties who are feeling alienated by their normal set of friends because they haven’t had any children, so they befriend a younger couple who kind of teaches them to rekindle their youth. Now that I know more about the plot of the film, having Gerwig replace Blanchett’s character wouldn’t make much sense age wise, but they seem to have found a different, equally awesome choice to fill her role that does work.

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The last year or so has seen James Franco stacking up as many projects as he can on top of one other, and many people have been waiting for the tower to fall. Well down it comes, and it’s landing on Noah Baumbach’s head. Franco was scheduled to star in the upcoming Baumbach project While We’re Young, but has now been pulled from the film due to commitments to Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful. It seems that one man can’t earn a PHD, host awards shows, appear in soap operas, star in big budget films, AND star in independent movies. He can only do four of the five. Oh, and direct a bunch of stuff on the side. He’s not Superman, people. Why does the Oz movie take precedence over Baumbach’s next naval gazer? Probably because it’s made by Disney. You don’t cross those people.

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Culture Warrior

Modern romance and the movies are arguably dependant on one another, as movies have a long history of affirming the idea(l) of the perfect relationship. Hollywood movies in particular have developed a mastery at the formula of bringing imperfect individuals together into perfect couplehood and framing marriage as the closure of all previous conflicts and difficulties. Many romance movies, thus, teach us what romance and couplehood are or, perhaps more dauntingly, what it should be. That romantic films are a staple in the box offices of commercial movie theaters to reparatory screenings or are marathon’d on television every Valentine’s Day is evidence of our ritual association of considering real-life romances in fictional terms. It is rare that movies, especially Hollywood, seem to do the opposite: reflect the distinction between ideal romance and the ostensible “reality” of relationships in all their complexity, grittiness, slow development, necessary problems, and (most of all) subtlety. Perhaps the most evident turns cinema makes in this direction is in the break-up movie, that rare narrative that situates itself as a disruption from the normal mode of portraying couplehood through representing its antithesis, the dissolution of a couple. The most recent example is Blue Valentine, the great Cassavetes-style, character-driven psychodrama about a couple who continue making the wrong turns and can’t make it work despite, or because, of themselves. Breakup movies from the light – (500) Days of Summer – to the heavy – Blue Valentine – often self-consciously (either by testament from the filmmaker like in […]

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The recent cinema of Wes Anderson and his occasional creative collaborator Noah Baumbach have encountered an interesting play with the ever-blurry line that retains an audience’s empathy for an unlikeable protagonist. This week, the Culture Warrior puts those protagonists in focus.

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kevin-reportcard-header

This week, chubby man about town Kevin Carr takes a look at How to Train Your Dragon, Hot Tub Time Machine (which sounds right up his alley) and Greenberg. You may want to wear a helmet.

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Greenberg

‘Greenberg,’ Noah Baumbach’s latest, is a mixed bag, with an enormously likable character battling a deeply reprehensible one for screen time.

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