It's been a little while since my last blog entry, but I'm back! Near the end of last year, I made an acting reel, mainly comprised of footage from Alex Fofonoff's Blood and Thunder (in which I starred) and my films Jack and Lucas Go To A Wedding, Jake the Cinephile and With Love, Marty. Take a look below if you're interested, and please share - I'd love to get more acting work (if anyone needs a Jack-like character in their movie, I'm your man!) Look for memorable appearances by excellent acting partners like Desi Domo, Alexis Gay, Bethany McHugh and Lucas Loredo. Thank you to Bobb Barito for his sound design and to Alex for so much great footage from Blood and Thunder.
Jack Kyser Acting Reel 2015 from Jack Kyser on Vimeo.
Speaking of Blood and Thunder, we had a great first screening of the film back in December. It was truly an honor to share Alex's film on a big screen with a group of friends and collaborators. We're still in the process of getting the movie out there and submitting it to festivals, and I'm very excited for more people to see it.
My friend Marissa Rutka has a great new web series titled Coffee Catch-Ups that's online now, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of the production (and a subject in the series). You can find the two episodes where I'm featured before - in the first, Morgan Ingari and I recount the eye-watering events of Hurricane Sandy, and in the second, I go into Jake the Cinephile mode and offer out my rather obsessive-compulsive idea of perfection. Keep watching the series for more memorable guests and friends, like Charlotte Arnoux, Adam Boese, Nick Tanis and Emmy-winning guest star Jon Annunziata. The series was also nominated in the Documentary & Factual category of T.O. Webfest and will play at their festival later this month, so that's exciting!
In other news, my movie Jake the Cinephile is now available to watch online on Vimeo! I had a lot of fun screening this film at NewFilmmakers New York and The Beacon Film Festival (Freeze Frame) a few years ago, and I can't thank all of my extraordinary collaborators on the film enough. Here it is:
Jake the Cinephile - A Film By Jack Kyser from Jack Kyser on Vimeo.
the Blow Up-Chicago International Arthouse Film Festival in December. And earlier, on Saturday, November 21st, I was thrilled to screen You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory at the Katra Film Series with some other great films. After the film screenings at Katra, there was a Q&A with the other filmmakers, where I was joined by my great lead actor Mike Wesolowski.
a special free screening at the Tribeca Film Festival at the SVA Theatre, followed by a lively Q&A with panelists Jonathan Demme, Treat Williams, Amy Ryan and Jenny Lumet moderated by director Nancy Buirski. It was a particularly exciting day because, before the screening, I was part of the production team on an excellent interview with Mr. Williams, where he discussed shooting Lumet's masterpiece Prince of the City (1981). From both that interview and the post-screening talkback, I learned so much great New York City filmmaking history in the span of a few hours.
as one of fifteen movies they couldn't wait to see at the festival, and the Village Voice selected it as one of the Best of Tribeca.
you can watch it here. Earlier this year, the film screened at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham. But, for me, the most exciting screening of By Sidney Lumet was at the Austin Film Festival last October, where it played at the historic Paramount Theatre. It was a great afternoon screening, and a good number of my friends and family members were able to come see the picture on the big screen. Nancy held an excellent Q&A after the film was over onstage (I was also able to see a number of other films at the festival, including Youth, Brooklyn, Legend and Coming Through the Rye, and meet one of my favorite actors, Chris Cooper, for the second time).
Meanwhile, Loving, the narrative film adaptation of Nancy's first film, The Loving Story (2011), wrapped production last fall, and earlier this year Focus Features bought the film to release in the fall. Directed by the astounding Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud, Midnight Special) and starring Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga and Michael Shannon, Loving recently made its world premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and it was the talk of the festival. Loving is shaping up to be the second masterful film by Nichols this year (after Midnight Special, which I'll discuss below), and it's a very exciting time for Nancy's career.
Cannes line-up this year, by the way, was particularly exciting - in addition to Loving, there were new films from Sean Penn (The Last Face), Woody Allen (Cafe Society), Paul Schrader (Dog Eat Dog, starring Nicolas Cage) and Jim Jarmusch (Paterson), along with a special screening of Jonathan Jakubowicz's Hands of Stone to honor star Robert De Niro, who is supposed to give another great performance in the film. And in the absolute best news of the festival, STX bought the international rights for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, which is the movie I've been waiting for my entire life. If The Irishman is indeed moving forward, it's the best news of the century.
a link to some of the videos I took on my phone during the concert).
which is unfortunately closing in June) has received more play than almost any other record in our collection. It's just a masterpiece, and as someone who considers Bruce Springsteen my favorite musician, I'm embarrassed I hadn't explored it and appreciated it the same way I have with Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A., The Rising, Magic, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Devils and Dust and so many other seminal Springsteen albums until this year.
Earlier in March, we held the Second Annual Lip Sync Battle Contest at my apartment, where friends attended and took turns performing sections (or the entirety of) songs that they chose (and rehearsed) before the competition. To commemorate the one year anniversary of our first party, I edited together a trailer of our performances from last year's inaugural contest. Take a look here and marvel at the talent on display.
Congratulations to our outrageously talented winners Mo Faramawy, Marissa Rutka, Taylor Frey and Alex Schaefer, as well as our Special Jury Prize winners Jon Annunziata and Emma Viles (traveling all the way from Boston!). There were magical performances by everyone and excellent judging all around.
a great piece on the film for The New Yorker (it's worth noting that Brody is one of the only film critics who actually seems to appreciate daring filmmaking anymore - some of the reviews for Knight of Cups would lead you to believe your money would be better spent seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
Malick finds real beauty in the decadence of Los Angeles, with locations as evocative as anything in his filmography (production designer Jack Fisk does amazing work, as always). Malick also benefits from having an incredibly strong, emotive lead actor in Christian Bale, who is fascinating to watch in every quiet moment of this film. He seems to relish Malick's style of filmmaking, inviting us to share his character's very real struggle without having anything close to a traditional scene of dialogue.
It's interesting to see Malick film the modern-day emptiness of a heavily materialistic culture, partially because I'm so used to seeing the natural world represented in his films. This is only Malick's second non-period piece (after To the Wonder), and I love seeing him capture our world in a way that emphasizes both the beauty and the trappings of a decadent wasteland.
As always with Malick, I found myself lost in Knight of Cups in a beautiful way, and I was made a little less aware of the current time and space around me. There's no way in his pictures to really know where we are structurally in the story, and so our minds are free to wander and take in the beauty of each moment. We simply exist in the space of the movie, and that is a wonderful thing.
Interestingly, both Mud (2013) and Midnight Special feature powerful late scenes that help unearth the themes of the film, followed immediately by a rousing shootout. These critical scenes – in Mud, the titular character giving our young protagonist advice on love, and in Midnight Special, a child comforting his parents about to lose him – have a beautiful romanticism to them. And then Nichols leaps immediately into the thick of an adventure. It’s exhilarating filmmaking.
Edgerton is silent and strong, providing a subtle, effective presence in each scene, while Shannon is riveting as a father willing to do anything for his son.
Midnight Special is an emotional story about parents protecting and eventually letting go of their child, and how others along the way are deeply affected by the child's vision. Nichols is so good at making movies that are about so much more than they seem, and they always sneak up on you and reveal themselves in profound ways. The combination of supernatural imagery with ordinary life is even more prevalent here than in Take Shelter, but Nichols uses special effects only when necessary, and only in the interest of enhancing the story.
In February, Joel and Ethan Coen released their latest masterpiece, Hail Caesar! Josh Brolin, in his third collaboration with the Coens, leads a hilarious ensemble cast, and the picture is a treat for anyone who loves classic cinema. The Coens have a great time paying homage to classic studio films from the 1950s. They're also two of the only major American filmmakers to deal seriously with religion in their films. Hail, Caesar!, which begins and ends with Eddie Mannix (Brolin) in confessional, is fascinating when you consider the minor sins for which he atones, as opposed to the things he doesn't confess. He doesn't give a second thought to anything slightly immoral that involves running Capitol Pictures more effectively, whereas smaller things, like having an occasional cigarette, weigh on him heavily. This is a dense film, and worth seeing multiple times. Every film from the Coens is like a puzzle, and as you're watching it, you know the pieces are going to add up to something brilliant, but part of the fun is trying to determine how seemingly throwaway scenes contribute to the overall picture.
In this cut, the romance between Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei's characters is much stronger, and the characters overall are more fully defined. You know you're watching the work of a master visual stylist when you can practically feel the locations while watching the picture, and Blackhat has no shortage of incredibly memorable set pieces.
In April, I saw the current revival of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, which was an incredible production. I hadn't seen the musical since the 1990s, when I went with my parents to a production at Austin's Paramount Theatre.
The Best Director win for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Best Picture win for Spotlight are, again, precisely the choices I would have made - not just among the nominees, but for the entire year, period. I loved whatever it was Michael Keaton mouthed when Spotlight won - that's two Best Picture winners in a row for Keaton, baby (and you can bet he's coming back for more this year with his excellent-looking performance in The Founder). The awards were enough to start a hashtag like #OscarsSoRight.
Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight! Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight! Brie Larson for Room! Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short!). Still, the tone of the evening oftentimes left a bad taste in my mouth - there's a way to critique the politics of the entertainment industry without disrespecting the films and people who are nominated.
In the same vein, it's hard to find articles about the Oscars that actually discuss the films themselves anymore, but here's a great piece on how Tom McCarthy's Spotlight is a master class in the art of visual nuance. Also, here's former Boston Globe editor Marty Baron on the power of Spotlight and great journalism, and Carl Bernstein on his love for Spotlight.
becoming a worldwide hit, winning the major BAFTA awards and Alejandro González Iñárritu winning the DGA for the second year in a row - he could not be more deserving. Spotlight, meanwhile, won the WGA award. Here's a great Rolling Stone article on Iñárritu, which includes Scorsese's thoughts on The Revenant (he calls it a masterpiece).
There have been some tragic deaths since I last wrote here, including musical legends Glenn Frey, David Bowie and Prince; Gary Shandling, who gave us masterful comedy with The Larry Sanders Show; Kathryn Altman, who so lovingly kept her late husband Robert Altman's legacy alive and well, particularly with the magnificent book on his career; and brilliant author Harper Lee. I had the honor of briefly meeting Harper Lee ten years ago with my friend Bolton Eckert at Horton Foote's ninetieth birthday party - she was an extraordinary person, and her work and legacy will live on forever.