Fri, 24 December 2021
Interview: Robin de Jesús gets real about fear, worth and working with Andrew Garfield on 'tick, tick...BOOM!'
I’ve been a fan of Robin de Jesús since Camp, nearly 20 years ago.
But de Jesús is more than Camp, he's built a stellar career with work in television, film and of course, theater where he's a three-time Tony nominee, earning nods as Featured Actor in a Musical twice (2008's In the Heights and 2010's La Cage aux Folles) and Featured Actor in a Play for the 2019 revival of The Boys in the Band.
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, he always loved to sing and would join his family in the Parranda, the Puerto Rican version of caroling, during Christmas and go from house to house wherein that house's family would then join and go to the next house until the group grew into most of the neighborhood. It gave him the outlet for his voice and also a creative outlet for his family ("they sort of identified as factory workers but at that time of year they were musicians") and it pushed him through his school years to explore the possibility of making it a career.
After 2003's Camp, his first feature film, de Jesús landed a career breakthrough, the part of Sonny in Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, a relationship that would bear fruit once again with the theatrical feature version of Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM!, bringing him full circle back to Miranda, who directs. His performance has earned him Hollywood Critics Association and Satellite nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
Throughout our 30m conversation, we talk about the electrifying response to the film's world premiere at AFI FEST in November and the actor gets candid about his well being and mental health during the shooting of the film ("I wasn't choosing the healthiest thoughts") and how he broke through it to recognize love and blessings in his work and being present in his own life. We talk about his onscreen co-star Andrew Garfield, the depiction of the friendship between a straight man and a gay man on film and what that means on a larger scale.
We also take a look at the state of representation of queer and Latino actors and what representation means to him, the difference between who should play certain roles and who even gets a seat at the table from the ground floor of auditions and casting, what his dream role is and more.
tick, tick...BOOM! is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
This interview runs 33m with intro and music.
Wed, 22 December 2021
2021 has been the year of the musical. Whether it was Encanto, Vivo, tick…tick…BOOM, Annette, Cyrano, West Side Story, and many more, audiences have experienced a resurgence of the once staple genre of Hollywood. But for many, including myself, the musical that still stands out over the rest this year came out during the summer, Warner Bros' In the Heights.
Based on the Broadway hit musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film is set over the course of a couple of days in the mostly Latinx based neighborhood of Washington Heights, where people are navigating the modern world and fight to obtain their sueñitos, their little dreams that will change their lives forever. With this, we many follow Usnavi, played by recent Golden Globe nominee Anthony Ramos, is saving enough money to go back to his home in the Dominican Republic and start fresh. But leaving isn’t easy when the community he is in, surrounded by family and friends, rely on him to move forward as much as he needs them.
With awe-inspiring choreography, impeccable performances by this talented ensemble, and lavish cinematography by Alice Brooks, In the Heights provides wonder not found in many modern musicals today. In large part, this has to do with the direction of Jon M. Chu, whose vibrant energy and passion for musicals comes through in almost every moment we see in the film. Chu, known for starting his career making dance movies with Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D, followed by blockbuster sequels with G.I Joe: Retaliation and Now You See Me 2, he found his biggest success in the 2018 worldwide smash hit, Crazy Rich Asians. With that film he not only made the highest grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s, but landed major awards nominations including a SAG Ensemble, thus making a commercial, celebrated film that all audiences can enjoy while given a vehicle for Asian actors to be seen by audiences in a light that they hadn’t been seen since The Joy Luck Club. Therefore, when it was announced he was attached to In the Heights, it made all sense in the world that he would carry his sincere, detailed approach over to this mostly Latinx, yet universal story.
In a recent conversation with Chu, I talked to him about his passion for the project, his love of the genre, what he carried from making the film’s extravagant musical numbers like "9600," and what he has learned, good and bad, from his experience post the film’s release. With his schedule getting bigger by the day as he starts preparations adaptation of the film version of the monumental musical sensation, Wicked, it was nice to sit down and speak with Mr. Chu about his process and passion to tell diverse stories. His affection for this world and time with Miranda, Ramos, the rest of the cast, and crew still shows in how he speaks, displaying the same feeling the audience has when watching his film, that of an unforgettable experience.
In the Heights is available to stream on HBO Max, as well as to own or rent on Blu-ray and all VOD platforms.
Mon, 20 December 2021
It's almost Christmas but the real gift for awards watchers is the Oscars shortlist announcement!
On this 84th podcast, I'm joined by Will Mavity of Next Best Picture to talk about Original Score, Original Song, Makeup and Hairstyling, Visual Effects, Sound, Documentary Feature and International Feature Film and who we think is getting in when the official list comes in on December 21.
Throughout the podcast we highlight how categories like Original Score and Song often nominate well known names and the challenges of being a new name here as well as break down one of the most competitive - and most Eurocentric - International Feature Film competition in years.
Support for this podcast and the following message comes from MGM Studios’ and United Artists Releasing’s LICORICE PIZZA – a film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. LICORICE PIZZA tells the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around, and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Named Best Film of 2021 by the National Board of Review, and nominated for eight Critics Choice Awards including Best Picture. Now playing in select theaters in seventy millimeter. Everywhere Christmas day. For Your Consideration in all categories including Best Picture of the Year.
This podcast runs 1h 7m with music.
Mon, 13 December 2021
After a brief razzing of Nick over The Power of the Dog, we settle into looking at how the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle kicked off the critics awards season and what it all means. We dive into the NBR and NYFCC Best Actress wins for Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) and Lady Gaga (House of Gucci), respectively, and the stat that favors at least one of them to get in.
We also take a look at how the Top 10 Films lists from NBR and AFI, especially where they crossover, and how those lists might end up looking like a Best Picture 10. That takes us to a sojourn about the differences between initial critics social responses to films (like Being the Ricardos, Don't Look Up and House of Gucci) vs what the reviews end up looking like. We also dig into the Best Actor category, packed full of previous winners and nominees and wonder if the 41-year stat of a first-time nominee will hold this year or finally fall. In that conversation we look at the two main contenders to keep it going: Peter Dinklage in Cryano and Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey.
Support for this podcast and the following message comes from MGM Studios’ and United Artists Releasing’s CYRANO. From Joe Wright, the award-winning director of PRIDE & PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT, and DARKEST HOUR. A lush, musical retelling of the timeless tale of Cyrano de Bergerac set against a baroque cityscape, CYRANO is a symphony of romance and beauty that belies a heartbreaking love triangle. Starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, and Kelvin Harrison Jr., critics are calling CYRANO “one of the best films of the year.”
For Your Consideration in all categories including Best Picture. Opens in select cities in January. Everywhere February 4.
This podcast runs 57m 56s with music.
Wed, 8 December 2021
Within the first few moments of speaking with writer-director Mike Mills, you vibe with his calm energy and gentle spirit, therefore making it a very soul enriching experience to have during an interview. This feeling isn’t a stranger to most who have seen his films, as Mills has been making audiences feel this way over the last sixteen years since his debut feature Thumbsucker. In taking time between his debut and his next three projects, he was able to find distinct connections that span into grand ideas about not just the world his character inhabits, but our modern culture and society.
Films like Beginners and 20th Century Women are, respectively, pieces of art used as an ode to his father and mother. The former earned massive acclaim, including the late Christopher Plummer’s Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor. The latter was hailed as one of the best films of the last decade and landed Mills his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. But it is his latest film, C’mon C’mon, that finds him examining new territory, as Mills is making a film about a new family member, his relationship with his child, thus his most personal film to date. Within C’mon C’mon, we follow a journalist named Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his precocious nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) as their bond grows while Jesse’s mom Viv (Gaby Hoffman) is tending to the needs of Jesse’s struggling father (Scoot McNairy). Built within this simple narrative lies some of the most honest screenwriting of the year as Mills is able to balance this familial dynamic as well as the difficult themes he suggests about humanities future and how unsure our world is, with no solutions in sight.
From talking with him, he is someone who cares deeply about his craft, and the connection his work has with audiences across the world. In doing so, he understands the human soul better than anyone working today in film right now. C’mon C’mon is, as stated in our review, “the best film of his career” and “crafts one of the best screenplays of the last ten to fifteen years.” In my conversation with the writer-director, Mills spoke about his creative process, his inspirations for the film, and tells stories and antidotes of his cast, including the relationship between the veteran actor, Joaquin Phoenix and the newcomer of the year, Woody Norman. Here’s hoping the one time Oscar nominee can add not just another Oscar nomination to his leaguer, but a gold statue as well, thus honoring him and one of the best films of 2021.
C’mon C’mon is currently playing only in theaters from A24.