Watching STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON with My Mom

Last weekend I watched STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON with my mom. Something you must understand about her: she loves chick flicks, Garth Brooks, Dreamsicles, and Michael Vartan. When I was a kid, she would send me to Blockbuster to rent movies but figured me out and started to say "Please don't get any weird movies." Translation: If Meryl Streep isn't in it, don't get it. Over the last few years, I finally broke her and she's been watching a lot of indie films and stuff outside of her comfort zone. You can imagine my surprise when she asked if I'd watch STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON with her. She knows nothing about N.W.A., Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and their legacies.

I wanted her to see it, so I didn't warn her about the cussing, drugs, and nudity. I made a bet on Twitter that she wouldn't last 15 minutes without calling it quits or falling asleep (a habit parents have when watching movies.) Well, I was wrong. She made it to the end and loved the movie. However, mom need a little guidance with the movie. Here's how it our STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON viewing went. 

Mom: *Pause* Is 64 a gun?
Me: It's an Impala. You can't roll down the street in a gun. The idea is to not get shot. Ever.

Mom: *Pause* Ugh. Those police officers are real assholes. Sometimes I just tell myself "fuck the police."
Chase: Mom. You are in for a treat.

Mom: *Pause* Who is this white guy? I recognize him.
Me: Paul Giamatti.
Mom: My God! He isn't aging well. His hair!
Me: It's a wig. Please stop pausing and watch.

Mom: *Pause* Is that Ice Cube?
Me: It's his son.
Mom: I'm so confused.
Me: Hold all questions until the end of the movie.

"Fuck Da Police" just came on and mom is losing her shit. She loves it. I. Am Shocked. (And super happy.)

Mama whale fist-pumped when Ice Cube told the crowd to toss up their middle finger towards the police. She is loving this movie. #winning

Mom was wide awake the whole time  during a movie for the first time, and it was Straight Outta Compton. She said Fuck Da Su-leep.

I am a proud son. 

 

 

 

That's That, Mattress Man: Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

                                                   Interviewing Philip at the Sundance Film Festival, January 25, 2010.

[Note: This was originally published on February 2, 2014.]

It's with a heavy heart to report that the irreplaceable Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away today. Like you, I'm in shock, denial, and am, the worst, devastated. Hollywood has lost another titan -- one of the greatest the industry will ever have. 

I had a special moment with him that I'd like to share with you, dear reader:

Back in 2010, I ran a popular independently-owned movie website, GordonandtheWhale.com, and I talked a lot about people I would love to interview and whether or not I could keep my composure around them if that opportunity came to fruition. Philip Seymour Hoffman was always my number one dude -- he's been my Hollywood Superhero ever since I first saw him shake up the screen in the so-fun-to-love movie, Twister. Magnolia (which is now the most important film of my life and one of the most significant films of the 20th century), Hard Eight, Punch-Drunk Love, The Master, Boogie Nights, The Savages, Capote, Happiness, and Almost Famous -- these are a handful of my favorite films, and mostly because of Hoffman's involvement.

My friends and colleagues know I've adored this man for quite some time. I thought interviewing him would never happen because our website kept getting rejected to the big film festivals his films played at — Sundance, Cannes, TIFF. Finally, we got accepted into Sundance. Things were looking up. Then the lineup for the festival was announced, which included Hoffman's feature film writing-directing debut, Jack Goes Boating. I started getting a slew of emails about doing interviews with talent for the films that were coming to the festival. Finally, one came for Hoffman's. Electric shots of excitement and panic zoomed through my body. I may have a chance to meet Hoffman and can't mess this up. After calming down, I replied that I would like to interview Mr. Hoffman on behalf of our site. I know it was a shot in the dark because we were little fish up against some big sharks — Variety, Hollywood Reporter, People Magazine, E! Entertainment, etc. Surely I wouldn't get to interview Hoffman, one of the most in-demand actors at the time, right?

Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m at Sundance. As I walked out of a movie screening, I looked at my phone and saw a zillion missed calls from an unknown number. I called it back.

“Hello, is this Chase?” 

“This is Chase.”

“I'm representing Jack Goes Boating. We have an open slot for Philip. Have you seen the film yet?”

“I did! Yes.”

“Can you be at the MySpace Cafe in 20 minutes? We can give you 10 minutes with him.”

 “Yes! I’ll be there 20 or less.” I answered with at the speed of lightening and hightailed it to the MySpace Cafe; excitement, and holy fuck is this real life I am going to faint and throw up kicked in. 

I interviewed Hoffman at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25th, 2010. It is one of the greatest and most treasured moments of my life. The interview was filmed, and in the beginning, you can see how nervous I am and Hoffman endearingly heckling me for it. I kept telling myself to be courageous, but couldn’t shake the anxiety when it was my turn to speak. He kept the flow of the interview calm, cool, and relaxed, just like his real-life demeanor. Hoffman was the one person on Earth I wanted to spend time with talking to about his craft, and I got to. My life's timeline got to spend time with him. I will never forget this day.

Below is that interview. What a guy. See you on the other side, amigo. You will be dearly missed. R.I.P. (Return If Possible). 

UPDATE: Here's the uncut version where you can see the beginning I mentioned. This is treasure.

The 2015 Chase Whale Film Awards

Here are the winners for the 2015 Chase Whale Film Awards:

Best Picture:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Animated Feature:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Film Not in the English Language:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Documentary:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Director:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Actor:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Actress:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Supporting Actor:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Supporting Actress:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Original Screenplay:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Editing:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Cinematography:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Best Benicio Del Toro:
Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

What Screams Were Made Of

© Wes Craven's Twitter

"Horror films don't create fear. They release it."
— Wes Craven

In 1996, my mom dropped my best friend, Matt Orwig and I off at the local multiplex so we could sneak in and see a horror movie that would redefine getting the hell scared out of you at the cinema called SCREAM. This film gave second wind and brought back the hyper-popularity to the seemingly retired slasher sub-genre, and SCREAM opened the floodgates for copycat movies that still follow its formula to this very day.

SCREAM is still so widely popular because it is a scary movie like none other. The very self-aware horror film winks at the audience as it lampoons all of the conventional slasher tropes by comically using them throughout the movie while still making moviegoers fear the reaper. SCREAM bleeds brilliance.

I became tenaciously obsessed with this movie. A year later, my mom took me to Suncoast Video (the same video store to give me my first job at 16) and I bought every version of SCREAM available on VHS, including the widescreen one (which taught me about aspect ratios) that exclusively had a few extra scenes in it. Like many of you reading this, SCREAM changed the way I saw slasher films, old and new. 

A true and funny little story: My cousins Cameron and Tyler and I made our own SCREAM movie —  I still have the tape, and maybe I'll share it with you one day. I was the maniac behind the mask, and it looked funny watching it on television because I was about 5'3" then and weighed a buck twenty wet. What was so hilarious was that the cousin (Cameron) being chased by Ghostface (me) towered by a good foot and his long arms could have made a fool of the supposed-to-be-menacing killer simply by stretching one out and placing the palm of that hand on the killer's forehead while the little lunatic swings away with the knife feet away from doing any harm to his victim. Circus music would play overhead, and it would have looked like some slapstick comedy skit from the silent era. The one-size-fits-all costume was so long on my little body; it looked like a pissed off Munchkin from the Lollipop Guild was hell bent on raising some terror.

To us, we made an incredible and scary movie of our favorite scary movie. It didn't matter that it was only two minutes long, full of continuity errors, cheap editing, and bad acting, it was a masterpiece, and our parents were kind enough to make us believe so.

Yesterday it was announced that Wes Craven, the slasher master responsible for SCREAM and one of the most iconic horror characters in film history, Freddy Krueger, as well as many other scary movies that would get the remake treatment decades later because they are that good, passed away from brain cancer. 

The news of his passing is miserable, but it's comforting to know he lived a long, prosperous life and immortalized himself as one of the most prolific figures in cinema through his movies. He left us with a rather amazing body of work. Wes Craven was a rare breed with copious amounts of creativity who looked though the lens in a different way while taking giant leaps of faith, especially at the beginning of his career when all he had to work with was a shoestring budget and his wild imagination. 

Rest in peace, Mister Craven. Thank you for the thrills and chills. 

Interviewed for Variety Magazine

"Film Blogs Grow Up and Go Corporate"

[Note: This was originally Posted on Variety.]

When studios hit Comic-Con next month to talk up “Justice League” movies, “Avengers” spinoffs and “Star Wars” sequels, they won’t be pitching their wares just to the costumed fans in Hall-H. They’ll be dissecting how their presentations play with blogs like Slashfilm, CinemaBlend and Film School Rejects.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2015 issue of Variety. Subscribe today.
How times have changed, both for Comic-Con and the people who cover it obsessively. The San Diego gathering was once viewed as a safe space for nerddom, at a time when geeking out over Captain America and Superman was viewed as a sign of arrested development. Over the past decade, though, comicbook culture has become the dominant form of popular entertainment, and like Comic-Con itself, film blogs have gone mainstream.

This year, three widely read blogs — Collider, Screen Rant and Latino Review — sold to deep-pocketed buyers Complex Media, Valnet, and former Chrysler and Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli, respectively. Meanwhile, more orthodox publications, such as Entertainment Weekly, have moved toward intensive coverage of superhero news.

“We won,” said Drew McWeeny, a blogger who wrote for Ain’t It Cool News before moving to HitFix. “The nerds took over.”

There’s a downside to social acceptance. In the early days, sites like Ain’t It Cool News were Internet renegades, posting reviews of scripts before they went into production, sharing purloined set photos, and reporting on test screenings well before studio-sanctioned embargoes had lifted. But studios that once viewed these sites as nuisances now see them as essential ambassadors. In turn, bloggers benefit from a powerful weapon — access, via set visits, promotional materials and media-screening invites.

That, and legal threats, have sanded off some of the blogs’ rougher edges, observers argue. “They were scared of us,” McWeeny said. “Now, they have absorbed us. They’ve co-opted and utterly won over the people they were afraid of by offering them the constant IV drip that keeps headlines generated and SEO bait flowing.”

Nobody goes into blogging to get rich. Editors on some movie sites earn $25,000 to $70,000 a year, and many freelancers have to contend with as little as $25 a post, if they get paid at all. And though a successful site can sell for more than $3 million and make $50,000 in ad revenue a month, many owners struggle to keep the lights on. Take Gordon and the Whale, a well-regarded site that closed its doors in 2011, when the roughly $1,200 to $1,300 it generated in advertising revenue monthly barely covered the $900 it was shelling out to run its server.

“I was at Cannes, and it hit me that we had gone about as far as we can go,” said Chase Whale, the site’s co-founder. “There was still no money. We had like 21 people writing for free, and it made me feel like sh-t that I couldn’t pay these people.”

For those still toiling in the trenches, it’s more difficult to stand out from the armies of pundits who keep cropping up.

“If I was starting a movie blog now, I probably wouldn’t do it,” said Neil Miller, the founder of Film School Rejects. “It’s so hard to be noticed, especially if you don’t offer clickbaits and salacious headlines.”

Major media companies including Gawker and the Los Angeles Times have snapped up or launched their own blogs, and their financial heft gives them a certain competitive advantage. “It’s a struggle to compete against corporate networks, because they can throw money at a problem while we can’t,” said Peter Sciretta, editor-in-chief of Slashfilm, which remains independently owned.

Although the majority of sites stick with an editorial mix of film reviews, interviews and looks at trailers and posters, some are making headway with breaking news. Take Umberto Gonzalez, a former Latino Review contributor who recently launched his own site, Heroic Hollywood. He’s built a reputation as an ace scooper responsible for casting exclusives on projects like “Suicide Squad” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“I’m breaking content, and they’re putting a spin on the news that other sites break,” Gonzalez said of his rivals.

What prompted Steven Weintraub, the founder of Collider, to join forces with Complex Media was a feeling that he needed more resources in order to get to the next level. The sale means Complex will handle the business side and ad sales, as well as offer Weintraub editing support for the videos he records with filmmakers and talent.

“The last couple of years, when we were operating like a real business with real overhead, were stressful,” Weintraub said. “This allows me to remove that stress and focus on producing content seven days a week.”

Still, while their sector of the media business experiences consolidation, some bloggers sound torn about whether or not to sell.

“Before I started Film School Rejects, I’d never really done anything significant,” said Miller, whose site remains independently owned. “The relationship I’ve had with my film blog is the longest and most significant of my life. To give that up would take more in my mind than what anyone is willing to pay.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the asking price for Screen Rant.

Goodbye My Friend, See You in Another Life in Another Funny Story

             (My interview with Ned about the book can be read at the bottom of this post. GATW is no longer.)

Last night when I was lying in bed, catching up on the news, I saw an article that acclaimed author Ned Vizzini had committed suicide. Hoping it was a hoax, I rushed to his Facebook and what I currently feared most was true: Ned had died. 

Let’s rewind a few years back. 

In 2010, I hit rock bottom. I was surrounded by many friends and family, but I never felt so alone in the world. I was depressed, anxious, angry, and most of all; I just wanted to die. To keep my mind busy, my mom gave me a book called It's Kind of a Funny Story, a memoir written by Ned Vizzini. She said the synopsis reminded her of me, which is funny because it’s about a teenager who checks into a psychiatric ward because he wants to kill himself. (My mom meant that statement in an endearing way — I think — because we are very candid and open with each other.)

I read the book. Then I read the book again. Then I read it once more. I read it three times in a row. The book spoke to me; it touched me, it inspired me, and showed me that even though the unknown future is terrifying, it’s also going to be beautiful. And I wanted to live.

               You should see the book now, it’s beat to shit but still readable.

I reached out to Ned via Facebook and spilled my guts about my situation and how his book healed a lot of my pain. He got my number and called me — we spoke on the phone and decided I should fly out to L.A. to meet and talk about how to cope with sadness. So I flew there and met him, his wonderful wife Sabra, and their newborn son Felix. 

                     The sweet note Ned wrote in the book the day I met him.

A few years later I moved to L.A. and took a trip with Ned, Sabra and Felix to the LACMA for the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. We spent the day walking around the exhibit in awe and Ned — who was quiet and awkward — spoke to me, asked how I was doing, and told me he’s proud of how far I’ve come since the last time we had a conversation. It was a beautiful day, and I can’t thank Sabra enough for beating it in my head to get my depression-plagued ass out of bed and meet them at the museum. 

                                             Photo by Sabra Embury

                                             Photo by Sabra Embury

When I made it public I was giving up film criticism for film distribution; Ned wrote a nice note on his Facebook about it. He was such a big supporter, but more importantly, he recognized the reason I reached out to him, the reason we became friends, was because of my mother, who took a chance on giving me his book about depression and suicide. 

I didn’t get to know Ned as well as I wanted to — we're both awkward people and were awkward people around each other — but I did become closer with his wife, Sabra (she is a very outgoing person and could carry a conversation with me, who has become more awkward and anxious by the day). If you are reading this Sabra, know that you are a fierce and courageous and inspiring spirit, and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being my friend, copy editing my crappy writing when I needed it, and being so friendly to me when you barely knew me.

                                                         Photo by Sabra Embury

                                                         Photo by Sabra Embury

Ned, wherever you are, I want you to know that you were one of my heroes. Even though you are gone, your love and support will never be forgotten.Thank you for helping a stranger from Facebook. You helped me, and the best thing I can do is pay it forward.

Please pray for Sabra, their son and their entire family. They have a hard road ahead.

-Chase

TIFF 2010 Interview: It’s Kind of a Funny Story author, Ned Vizzini. September 25, 2010

Interviewing Ned Vizzini was a dream come true for me. I first read his third novel, "It's Kind of a Funny Story," about three years ago when my mom bought it for me for Christmas. The kind of funny story on my end is she thought I would relate to the main character Craig, and I did (high school was rough, man). I fell in love with this book and read it over and over and over.

When it was announced that the novel would be made into a feature film, I sought out Vizzini, and we began messaging one another (via Facebook) about doing an interview for the book and film. If you've seen my TIFF coverage, you would have saw that I did see the film and spoke with its directors and principal cast. This was a genuine delight. After the break is my interview with Vizzini. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did conducting it.

I have kind of a funny story about how I got ahold of this book. My mom got it for me for Christmas about three years ago. She said, “Chase, I read the synopsis, and I instantly thought, ‘This has Chase written all over it.’” I’m still not sure whether or not that’s a compliment, but I’m flattered either way. With that, I know that this is semi-autobiographical. 1) How much of this is your story? And 2) How difficult was it to spill out some of the depression you were battling?

What a kind mother! Thank her for me. My mom is always sending me articles about alternative mental-health remedies; she's more concerned about me than I am.

It's Kind of a Funny Story is 85% true. I was depressed; I was actually in a psych hospital in Brooklyn. I freaked out while I was trying to finish a book and my mental state spiraled, and I called a suicide hotline, and they told me to go to the hospital and I did. I had a singular experience in there; I met people who made me look at life in a different way. When I left and started writing about it, I made the main character a teenager as opposed to a guy in his early 20s and added the love triangle because those always make novels better.

You might think depression was difficult to write about, but it was a huge relief. It came to me naturally. Seeing the words on the page got them out of my head.

The story deals with a very serious topic but handles it in a sort of light-hearted and funny way. What kind of troubles (if any) did you have going about it that way?

I believe in the healing power of humor. I believe that anything that can be laughed at can be controlled and handled.

When I was in the hospital, there was one point where I was desperate to use the phone. They had one pay phone in there, and it was like prison; there was a social hierarchy behind who could use the phone and if you didn't get in line early you would miss the cutoff at 7 pmf and that was it -- no phone for you. I missed the cutoff and was despondent until this other hospital patient looked at me and went, "What are you so stressed about? You want to make a call? Just use the banana phone!" And he held a banana to his head like it was a phone.

How was I not supposed to laugh at that? Humor in the psych hospital is one of the few things people have.

Since I relate so much to our main character, Craig, I’m certain others do as well. So many times the media use the “life imitates art” aspect when something bad happens - do you feel any pressure or responsibility when you publish your books or articles about teen angst (which just so happens to be the title of your first novel)?

I don't feel any pressure or responsibility to do anything but entertain people with my writing. That's enough. I have enough problems making the writing good.

I know some authors want to give some input on books they’ve written that are being adapted into a film, and some want the director(s) to have complete creativity. What kind of involvement did you have (if any) for IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY?

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden had sheer creativity with the film, and I was very comfortable with that. Based on my first meeting with them, I knew they understood where the book was coming from, so I trusted them. I did suggest a song for the film, "Happy Today" by the WoWz, that ended up on the soundtrack; also, before the "Under Pressure" scene one character wears a T-shirt for the San Francisco band Drunk Horse -- that's my T-shirt. It's in my closet right now. Have fun trying to spot it!

This is your first book adapted into a film and the film premiered last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is one of the most prestigious festivals on the planet. How cool did that feel?

Less cool, more lucky. That would be the best word to describe how I felt seeing IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY premiere at Toronto. A whirlwind of other emotions came into play too but honestly I could write an essay about them and probably will, so let's stick with lucky.

Do you realize how badass your last name is? I’m willing to bet you’ve gotten PRINCESS BRIDE quotes all your life. I’m sorry brings back bad memories, but it’s just so awesome.

Vizzini is a relatively common southern Italian and Sicilian last name; I'm half-Sicilian. I used to hear PRINCESS BRIDE references, but people preferred to make fun of me for other things as a kid, like talking too much. I did once meet Wallace Shawn, who plays Vizzini in PRINCESS BRIDE, and he's had it rougher than me. He's an accomplished writer and actor, and he's still got people coming up to him going "Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"

Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr.?

Dinosaur Jr. Because I mentioned to a friend of mine that I liked a Dinosaur Jr. song and he's one of those people who has 60,000 hours of music on his computer he gave me their whole catalog (not including 2009's Farm) and so I've got so much of their music on my computer that I prefer them by default. But Nirvana beats both these bands.