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Chatting With Patricia Clarkson About Cairo Time

  

I’ve reviewed close to 3,000 films on my website but this week, I’ve got another Film Pie first.  I was lucky enough to score an interview with Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, who has appeared in films such as The Green Mile, The Station Agent, Pieces Of April and Good Night & Good Luck.  It was a special opportunity so I needed to make the most of it.  For the very first time, I'm reviewing a film with one of its stars listening down the telephone line.  Here’s how it went (with 612ABC’s Spencer Howson offering a few comments at the very end)…

 

Matt:  I can’t help but be excited this morning because I have a very special guest.  I’ve never been to the Oscars myself but I think is about as close as I’m going to get.  I’m speaking with an Academy Award nominee.  She was nominated in 2004 for her performance in Pieces Of April.  I say a very good morning to Patricia Clarkson.

 

Patricia:  Hello, hello.  Yes, I’ve still got my Oscar dress on from 2004.

 

Matt:  We’re here of course to talk about your interesting new film which has just come out but I want to talk about your background a little bit.  If I was an actor, I’d love to have your resume – films like Shutter Island, Elegy, Good Night & Good Luck, The Station Agent, Far From Heaven and The Green Mile.  You’ve got to let us in on the secret.  How do you keep picking these great roles?

 

Patricia:  I guess I’m drawn to the story first.  I do want to play a great part but as great as a part can be, you have to live within an entire movie.  So I am first drawn to a script, a movie, a project that moves me in some way – comedically or dramatically.  Maybe I have a little bit of luck on my side which you always need in this business because so much of it is serendipitous.  I’m lucky that great directors come to me… but I’m knocking wood as I say that because I’m very superstitious.  So I’ve just been fortunate that wonderful people have brought me their movies and have asked me to be in their movies... and I’m smart enough to say “yes”.

 

Matt:  Well I think you’ve made a lot of great choice.  You’ve been in the business for over 20 years now and it must be something that you love doing because you keep doing it.  What is it that you love most about the profession?  What keeps driving you as an actor?

 

Patricia:  What I’ve always loved since the time I started acting when I was 12 or 13 in junior high school.  I love the creative process.  I love that it’s a communal effort.  I love finding a character.  I love meeting different people – people that you’ve never met in your life who come from different lives and backgrounds.  You develop a bond for the love of creating something that’s meaningful.

 

Matt:  My day job is as an accountant and I love having this life outside of work where I can go and see all these movies.  As an actor, is it the flip-side of that?  If you spend all your day acting, do you have time to go and watch a lot of movies outside of what you do?

 

Patricia:  I probably don’t see as many movies as I should.  I see films movies that my friends are in.  I’ll go to their premieres or I’ll go pay and see it when it comes out.  I’ll see films that I hear are fantastic – I’m not going to miss a great film.  But I don’t go as often as I should.  I work a lot and sometimes when I have a night off… like tonight… I’m doing interviews to Australia!  Often I like to just have a quiet dinner and relax.

 

Matt:  So do you like getting out to the cinemas or do you prefer lying on the couch watching a DVD?

 

Patricia:  I don’t like to watch DVDs.  I much prefer to be in the theatre.  I will first and foremost try to see a movie in a movie theatre because it’s a completely different experience.  One that I value obviously as it’s my livelihood.

 

Matt:  Are you caught up in the 3D craze?  Do you think it’s a fad or something that’s here to stay?

 

Patricia:  Maybe at some point in my life I’ll be in a 3D movie and I’ll be all excited about it.  It’s beautiful but it gives me a bit of a woozy feeling.

 

Matt:  Do you actually read reviews yourself Patricia for the films that you’re in?

 

Patricia:   No.  I try not to so the fact that I have to listen to an oral review coming at me… (laughs).  It’s fine.

 

Matt:  Ok, we’ll keep it delicate.  In this film Cairo Time, you’re playing Juliette – she’s a magazine editor in her 50s, she’s gone to Cairo to meet up with her husband who has been working in Gaza for the UN.  When she gets to Cairo her husband has been delayed and she’s waiting in the hotel room on her own.  I must say it’s a beautiful hotel room.  Were you staying in something like that?

 

Patricia:   It’s somewhat similar.  Yes, we shot at the Shepherd’s Hotel and we stayed there.  We got a deal which is what we needed seeing as this was a small budget film.

 

Matt:  I loved that scene where you’re sitting out on the balcony for the first time admiring the view of Cairo.  It’s just a beautiful city.

 

Patricia:  Yes, it’s a breathtaking city.

 

Matt:  You’re couped up in the hotel room and your character is going a bit stir-crazy.  You step out onto the streets of Cairo to have a look around and I’ve never been to Egypt myself (it’s on my bucket list) but was that your first trip?  Have you been there before?

 

Patricia:  This was my first trip to the Middle East.  I must say that it delivered.  Cairo packs a punch in many, many ways… in unexpected ways.  It was a life changing experience for me this whole project.  Shooting this movie, being in Cairo, being the lead of this film and working every single day.  It was rigorous.  It was quite a journey.

 

Matt:  There’s a moment in the film where you’re walking and a group of guys are following you and they’re leering at you.  One of them even touches you.  You manage to escape by popping into a store and it’s quite a striking moment in the film.  Was it actually like that in Egypt?

 

Patricia:  There is an element of that absolutely.  It’s not overrun by fundamentalists but it’s a male driven society.  You do have to be careful as a Western-looking woman walking the streets with my blond hair.  I had to be careful and I had a fairly similar event happen about three days into Cairo.   I never went anywhere alone again.  It’s just in certain parts and certain sections, not everywhere in Cairo, just certain places.  They do love women of any age.

 

Matt:  In the film you strike up a friendship with one of your husband’s former colleagues – he’s an Egyptian local named Tariq.  You go out and see the sights and there’s something that develops between the two of you.  It’s not like a traditional Hollywood type relationship as in let’s kiss, off the bedroom, passionate love affair and that sort of stuff.  It’s a really subtle relationship.  How would you describe what happens between Juliette and Tariq?

 

Patricia:  It is restrained.  Not just because of their cultures and customs.  I think it’s restrained because of who they are as people and what is at stake.  I think they’re honourable people but very sexy!

 

Matt:  There’s a beautiful scene late in the film where you’re at the pyramids and the camera is looking up with the pyramids behind while you’re sitting on one of the great stones.  That must have been pretty surreal?

 

Patricia:  Yes and it’s real.  There’s no CGI in the film except for a little scene on a train but everything else in this film is exactly as it was.  When I was telling friends I was in Cairo they were asking if I’d seen the pyramids.  Did I see the pyramids?  I sat on the pyramids!  I hugged the pyramids!  Everything is very real and every location was a real location.  Nothing was created or modified and I think it’s an honourable part of the film. 

 

Matt:  Well I think it’s a really good film.  I was a worried at first when it was a little bit slow to start.  There’s a large focus on the city.  But the focus then turns to Juliette and by the final act of the film, I really enjoyed the interaction between Juliette and Tariq.  There’s not a lot of dialogue.  I’m giving this the thumbs up and will give it a B+.

 

Patricia:  Oh good.  Ok, ok.  (breathes sigh of relief)

 

Matt:  Does that mean you’re going to give it an A, Patricia?

 

Patricia:  Of course I give it an A (laughs).  But a thumbs up and a B+ is a very good thing.  I’m thrilled with that.

 

Spencer:  That must have been terrifying for you?  Like sitting there with the headmaster or something?

 

Patricia:  Yes, a little bit.  But it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I survived it.  (laughs)

 

Matt:  Thanks Patricia.

 

Patricia:  Thank-you so much guys.  You guys are fun!  Take care.

Celebrating The 30th Anniversary Of Caddyshack

 

It’s taken four weeks but finally, Inception has been defeated at the U.S. box-office.  The new Will Ferrell / Mark Whalberg comedy, The Other Guys, took the honours in the number one position with $35m.  It may sound hard to believe but both Ferrell and Whalberg will be at Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast next Wednesday for the Australian premiere.  I’m tempted to seek media accreditation but I think every man and his dog will be after the same thing.

 

The good news is that I’ll be interviewing a few interesting film folk over the next three weeks.  I’ll be sharing everything through my blog so keep your eyes peeled.

 

I’ve only just returned home from the Brisbane preview of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World which I loved immensely.  It did something that’s very hard to do – it got me to remove my critic’s hat.  There were parts during the movie where I thought to myself “hmmmm, I really should be critical of some things” but I had so much fun that I couldn’t resist going along for the ride.  I haven’t had a chance to write up my full review as yet but it’ll be on my website in the next few days.

 

Those who know me will realise that two things I am very passionate about are golf and movies.  My love of movies is evident.  As for golf, I have a scratch handicap and manage the Queensland Colts golf team.  It’s a chance to satisfy my competitive urges – something that the film world doesn’t allow.

 

On 25 July 1980, Caddyshack was released in U.S. cinemas.  It came out in Australia four weeks later.  For me, it’s one of my all time favourite comedies as it combines my love for both golf and film.

 

Given it’s 30th anniversary, I thought I’d go through some of my favourite quotes from the movie.  If you haven’t seen the film, these will probably mean very little.  All I can say is to seek the film out at your local video store.  If you have seen the film, then hopefully these quotes will bring back happy memories.  Enjoy!

 

 

Al Czervik: [to his Asian companion] I hear this place is restricted, Wang, so don't tell 'em you're Jewish, okay?

 

Danny Noonan: I haven't even told my father about the scholarship I didn't get. I'm gonna end up working in a lumberyard the rest of my life.

Ty Webb: What's wrong with lumber? I own two lumberyards.

Danny Noonan: I notice you don't spend too much time there.

Ty Webb: I'm not quite sure where they are.

 

Al Czervik: Last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it.

 

Al Czervik: Oh, this your wife, huh? A lovely lady. Hey baby, you must've been something before electricity.

 

Al Czervik: Hey, doll. Could you scare up another round for our table over here? And tell the cook this is low grade dog food. I've had better food at the ballgame, you know? This steak still has marks from where the jockey was hitting it.

 

Carl Spackler: This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.

 

Ty Webb: You take drugs, Danny?

Danny Noonan: Every day.

Ty Webb: Good. Then what's your problem?

Danny Noonan: I don't know.

 

Ty Webb: You're rather attractive for a beautiful girl with a great body.

 

Judge Smails: I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.

 

Al Czervik: [breaks wind at a dinner] Whoa, did somebody step on a duck?

 

Ty Webb: Remember Danny - Two wrongs don't make a right but three rights make a left.

 

Dr. Beeper: I thought you'd be the man to beat this year.

Ty Webb: I guess you'll just have to keep beating yourself.

 

Where Have All The Movies Gone? A Quiet Year So Far

  

Where Have All The Movies Gone?

 

When I wrote my review this week for The Special Relationship, I realised just how quiet this year has been at the movies.  In the first 6 months of the year, just 96 films were released in Brisbane cinemas.  Over the same period of time, I’d seen 109 films in 2009 and 117 in 2008.  I had to go as far back as 2003 to find a quieter year – just 93 films in all.

 

I try to see every movie that’s showing.  Maybe I’m an obsessive compulsive but I like to give every film a chance and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.  An example from this week would be Step 3D – definitely better than I thought it’d be.  What I’m trying to say is that maybe I should be taking 2010 as a blessing.  With 21 less films than in 2008, that’s about 42 hours that I’ve been able to spend on other things.  Don’t ask me what those things are.  The time has slipped away too quickly.

 

But I’m left asking myself… why the shortfall in movies?

 

My initial reaction is that we’ve been inundated with blockbusters and cinema owners are a little risk averse when it comes to trying smaller films.   When you see the numbers thrown up by films like Inception, Twilight and Toy Story 3, it makes sense.  These films have been huge.  People flock to them on opening weekend and there are many sold out sessions.  They are taking up a bigger slice of the screens at big multiplexes such as Event Cinemas.

 

With all the marketing and hype for the blockbusters, it’s almost impossible to market other films.  Films that struggled to find an audience in the US and the UK aren’t finding their way to Australia (many are going straight to video instead).

 

What’s also interesting is that cinemas like the Palace and the Dendy (often synonymous with independent cinema) are showing more and more commercial product.  At the Dendy this week, you can see Killers, Inception, Knight & Day and Step Up 3D.  At the Palace Barracks, you can see the same four films.  Yes, they do show a few smaller films (which is great) but are they showing as many as they once did?  I can’t confirm that for sure but I’ve got a hunch (based on the numbers mentioned above).  I can’t really blame them either – it’s great to create a niche market but it’s hard to turn away the large percentage of the public who are prepared to pay to see films like Killers and Step Up 3D.

 

I’m not really making a point.  It’s more of an observation.  I’m not sure if I want to see more movies in cinemas.  It would be great to have more variety but perhaps that’s not possible – both in terms of quality and commerciality.  I’m going to be following the trend over the next few months to see if it starts to turn back around.  I might also pose the question to a few cinema owners if I get the chance.

 

Other News

 

To quickly race through other news, the Palace Centro and Palace Barracks in Brisbane now have their own Twitter feed.  You can find out about special events by following them right here - https://twitter.com/palacebrisbane.

 

Inception is still powering on at the box-office.  It’s been number 1 in the United States for three consecutive weeks and has now taken $193.3m.  Here in Australia, it also held up well in its second week with just a 19% drop-off.  It’s posted $16.3m over its first 11 days.  Great to see.  I'm also enjoying the hits on my Inception review through the Rotten Tomatoes website - over 3,700 and still counting!  Some good publicity for The Film Pie.

Toomey Award Winners & Inception Dominates Box-Office

  

Inception

 

Inception continues to be the film on everyone’s tongues.  We haven’t had such a buzz in the film world since Avatar came out last December.  Inception has been a trending Twitter topic for over a week and I’ve had plenty of people chime in with their own thoughts.

 

I know not everyone has been a fan but you have to impressed with how it has so generated discussion.  Who’d have thought an action film would require so much thought.  In my review, I said that “Inception may be the most intelligent action film you will ever see.”  It was my first thought on leaving the cinema last Wednesday and I stand by that statement.  Rotten Tomatoes has used it as my quote and it’s nice to see a few people chiming in with their comments on the link below.  My review has had over 1,500 hits to date so I’m quietly chuffed.

 

Matt's Inception Review On Rotten Tomatoes 

 

I saw the film for a second time on Friday night and I stand by my review.  I picked up much more on the second viewing (particularly with the opening).  I mentioned it my review but even watching it a second time, the two best scenes are still (1) Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hallway fight sequences, and (2) the very last scene.  I couldn’t wait to hear the audience gasp once again.  Christopher Nolan, you are a genius.

 

I’ve perused numerous forums on the internet looking for interpretations and explanations.  I’m fairly happy with the conclusion I’ve reached but I’m tempted to watch it one more time to see if I can pick up anything else.  For the record, there are only two films which I’ve seen more than twice in the cinemas – Romeo & Juliet (the version with Leo and Claire) and Billy Elliot.

 

The box-office in the United States illustrates that word of mouth is strong.  Inception took in $43m during its second week for a total of $143m in its first 10 days.  That’s only a 31% drop from its opening weekend – a very impressive feat.  Even more astonishing was that it held off the new Angelia Jolie thriller Salt (which has had good reviews).

 

I have a general rule that a film here in Australia will make about 1/10th of what it does in the U.S.  Inception opened a little stronger than that with a healthy $7.4m opening weekend in Australia.  I suspect it too will hold up next weekend as word spreads.

 

Inception does mark my first A+ of the year and my first since January 2009 (The Wrestler).  No film is flawless but this one is close enough to warrant that grading.  You can hear me passionately speak about with Spencer Howson on last week’s 612ABC show by clicking on the link below.

 

612ABC Podcast - Reviewing Inception

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure you do!

 

2010 Toomey Awards

 

I announced the nominees four weeks ago and the time has come to reveal the winners of my 2010 Toomey Awards.  It’s the 11th time that I’ve produced this list and it’s the 11th time that I’ve agreed with all the winners (since I am the only voting member).

 

It was very tough trying to pick some of the categories (best film was tricky indeed) but the films and performances that I’d like to honour from the past 12 months can be viewed by clicking below.

 

Winners Of 2010 Toomey Awards

 

You can go back over the last ten years and look at all the previous winners with this link.

 

Winners Of Toomey Awards - 2000 to 2010

 

That’ll do it from me for another week.