From the GATW Archives: Austin Film Festival 2010 Review: PEEP WORLD


You’re a fucking bitch.

Rating: 3.5/5

DirectorBarry W. Blaustein
WriterPeter Himmelstein
CastMichael C. HallSarah SilvermanRainn WilsonBen Schwartz and Judy Greer

Everything written in Peep World is true. This is why our family of four siblings hate each other. Or just the author of the book,  the youngest of them all (seven years to be exact), Nathan (Ben Schwartz), who became rich by exposing all of his family’s dirty little secrets. The angriest sibling, Cheri (Sarah Silverman), can’t go a day without interacting with Peep World's rapidly growing popularity -  it's currently being shot into a feature film outside of her apartment window. Joel (Rainn Wilson) is a fuck up ignoring that he's a fuck up because his pushover brother Jack (Michael C. Hall) is always there to pay for his, well, fuck ups.

Now, after the world has read all about his insane family and the weird - and often perverted - things they’ve done in their lives, Nathan must reunite with them for their father’s seventieth birthday. Tough times head.

Whoever was in charge of casting PEEP WORLD deserves a large scoop of ice cream and pat on the back. Sarah Silverman is one bad bitch who never fails to to make the laughs happen. In PEEP WORLD, all of her bottled up hilarious angst verbally regurgitates on that family foe who betrayed her. Michael C. Hall, known as either the gay guy from Six Feet Under or the badass in Dexter, hereplays a giant coward who does nothing when his father (Ron Rifkin) gives him a good tongue-lashing. It’s nice to see Hall spread out his abilities. He’s now completed the trifecta in acting (gay, badass, sissy). Rainn Wilson will always be Dwight from The Office, but he brings a fair amount of something different to this role: sadness. At one point he delivers this line, “I’m not angry, I”m telling you hurt” with such sincerity. His upset emotions work. Family isn’t supposed to be exploited for one’s gain, but Nathan did just that. What’s so great about these actors working together is their accurate sibling rivalry on screen. The sole purpose of this film is to show how pissed off everyone is.

My one complaint is that PEEP WORLD feels too short for a feature-length film. Our actors don’t have enough screen time to fully embarace the hardships their characters are currently undergoing. These aren’t people anyone would like, but the actors playing them have murdered numerous people, spat out the most racist remarks in comedy specials, and made it cool again to be a dork - and we eat it up.

PEEP WORLD plays out like a 90 minute episode of your favorite sitcom. Larry David, Bill Cosby, Ray Romano, etc. should be proud of director Barry W. Blaustein’s latest work. Every decision the characters make on screen result in an awkward and hilarious moment nobody wants to get caught in. The only thought that comes to mind is: better them than me. PEEP WORLD is a strangly enjoyable look at how sometimes family can be an asshole. Not mine, of course.

From the GATW Archives: Austin Film Festival 2010 Review: LOUDER THAN A BOMB


Rating: 4/5

DirectorsGreg JacobsJon Siskel
Genre: Documentary

poetry slam n. - A spoken-word poetry competition.

Many young adults going through high school (which is often referred to as “the suck”)  begin career paths that set them on the way to their future.  Depending how they dedicate themselves in those four fast years, it could lead them towards something they’ve always wanted, or hit with a complete halt from a series of very bad decisions.  In LOUDER THAN A BOMB, we’re shown four young teenagers who, even being so young, were given a new chance at being someone in a poetry slam contest of the same name.  All puns aside, LTAB is very explosive.

LOUDER THAN A BOMB is viewed from four different teenagers from four different schools.  We’ve all seen this story before - teens distance themselves from the past and rises above it all, blah blah blah.  What’s new with this story is seeing are subjects trade in violence for poetry.  It’s not your typical football story.  Our setting is six months before Louder Than A Bomb’s competition, and there’s a lot of work to be done.

LOUDER THAN A BOMB is a buildup story.  We’re shown what these students go through to get their spoken word heard by a large number of people.  It’s not about winning for some of these folks - it’s about educating their listeners on their story.  Nova has lived her life taking care of her irresponsible father.  She uses that to fuel her poetry.  She can make a room go silent.  Nate is a mother’s boy whose mother spent his youth abusing drugs. His touching words are built from this. These two come from broken homes and are not afraid to tell the world.  Spoken word can be a powerful tool, and they use that to make it clear in BOMB.

To keep our focus at the topic, our filmmakers cut to clips of our subjects doing slam poetry throughout the talking head interviews.  With each clip, we learn the style of each or our artist.  As read above, two of them use their hardships.

It’s fascinating to see how these four tell their stories.  With some more interesting than the others, all four of these work just as hard and dedicate themselves to crafting their art.  Poetry slam is much like acting, it’s all in your gestures. LOUDER THAN A BOMB shows us that dynamite look at capturing your dreams, whatever that may be.

From the GATW Archives: Interview: Woody Harrelson and director Oren Moverman (THE MESSENGER)

Never in my life did I think I would be writing on a movie website telling people that I have interviewed Woody Harrelson - and on a fancy terrace in Austin, TX at that. But, my friends, that did happen, and I’m about to share it all with you.

Woody and director Oren Moverman came through Austin during the Austin Film Festival to promote their new film, THE MESSENGER. If you didn’t catch this film at a festival, make sure to see it in theaters when it opens this Friday (November 20). After I watched this film, I started it over and watched it again. It touched me, it moved me, and it made me tear up.

Check out our interview after the jump, during which Oren talks about the struggles and pressures he had after choosing this to be his film debut, and Woody tells us that he wants to do romantic parts again.

GATW: The first question is for Oren Moverman, this is your debut film. It’s a pretty heavy film for your first one. Can you talk about why you chose [THE MESSENGER] to be your first [feature length film]?

Director, Oren Moverman: I wasn’t originally the director of the movie, I was a co-writer with Alessandro Camon, we wrote the script and we developed it actually with three directors one after the other, each one of them great in his own way, but it didn’t really work out. The first one was Sydney Pollack, who loved the script and wanted to do it. But he had a different idea of where it should go and then we decided it really shouldn’t go that way, which was to make it more of a love story. Then we had Roger Michell, who is a British director, a great guy, and we worked with him a lot on the relationship between the two men. And then he couldn’t do it because he had to go do another movie. And then Ben Affleck was kind of thinking about it as a directing vehicle as a second movie, but that kind of didn’t work out. So we were left without a director and I was about to go direct another movie as my first movie and they offered it to me, and after thinking about it, I mean, at first I said no, because I wanted to get someone really good and not a first timer, even though it was me, and then I sort of was convinced, rather easily, that this should be a movie to make. I knew it so intimately. I knew it from the inside. I knew every particular permutation of what the story could be. So it seemed a natural fit.

GATW: My follow-up question, you always see in other movies, you see [a soldier] comes up and says “so and so is dead” and it’s just the emotions of the deceased family’s side. Can you talk about the research and how it came about to write [on the soldier’s perspective]?

OM: It came out of a very casual discussion over drinks with Alessandro [Camon] and we were talking about the war and America in general. We’re both outsiders, I’m from Israel, he’s from Italy. We talked about how we never really get to see the stories about the people who have to live with all the consequences of war, and the people who have to have personal relationships with [those involved in war]. It’s not just about politics, it’s just not about opinions, it’s really about your loved ones or you. So we thought of the Casualty Notification Officer as an amazing dramatic vehicle to go into these small stories of the families who are dealing with these situations right now and then get out and feel the effect of war and military life on these two guys. So that was really the inspiration and we just kept developing it, working it, shaping it. You know, it’s funny you’re saying it’s heavy, it’s obviously a serious subject matter but for us it was never about the seriousness of it or the heaviness of it. For us, it’s a very hopeful movie with a lot of humor in it that addresses in general how you go through a lot of shit in life, and how do you deal with it? Well, you deal it with through friendship, through love, through humor, through camaraderie, all the good things that make you feel lucky to be alive.

GATW: [To Woody Harrelson] I talked to Ben [Foster] at [San Diego Comic-Con] and he was telling us all to see THE MESSENGER, and how incredible your performance was. You and Ben, your chemistry in the movie was great. When I watched it, I had to watch it right after it again. It seemed like you two have known each other your whole lives.

Woody Harrelson: I have to say it feels that way, he feels like my brother and I love him like my brother. I think he’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met in my life and definitely one of the greatest actors. That’s so funny that he was so flattering, because I think his performance is just staggering. To watch it up close, what I saw, and there’s a lot of scenes that I’m not in with him in the movie, but I told friends “this is some of the best acting I’ve ever seen up close.” Then to watch the whole thing and see how, because you don’t shoot these things chronologically, of course Oren is giving him guidance but he has to be able to keep in his head where he shows you what, because he’s got that wall, and he’s got to show the little fissures in the wall, the little bracks, and slowly start to let you in. Charles Lotton said [that “Eyes find eyes, the melody is in the eyes”}. When that camera is on him, it’s something in his eyes, it’s incredible. Anyway, I’m a big fan of his and I love him.

GATW: What kind of research did you do for this character?

WH: Prior to coming here, I really was ill-prepared, in the sense that I was working on this other film and in Romania that couldn’t be more different. So, the closer I was getting to shooting [THE MESSENGER] I was getting more and more nervous. Fortunately, [Oren] sent me “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, and it got [me] into the head space of soldiering. He also sent me two different uniforms, fatigues and class a’s, combat boots, hat, everything. And I actually was wearing that around in Bucharest, and you know, I’d go to these places and people would think “this guy wishes he was in the military” which, at the time I was. Then also, when I finally got here, I was feeling it. You know, I’m a hippie from Hawaii, so, I feel so completely diametrically different than [his character] Captain Tony Stone, so I was needing a lot of reassurance from Oren that everything was going to be all right. So we went to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center], met with soldiers and heard their stories. It was a really powerful experience. Then we went to the Casualty Notification National Office in Arlington and slowly, in less than a week before we started shooting, I started slowly feeling closer and closer to ready. I never did feel actually ready. I think maybe, the last two days of shooting I did.

OM: You’re also selling yourself short. Woody came in with a lot of ideas and a lot of thoughts behind the character. He didn’t have a lot of time to physically prepare for it, although he did do some mental exercises that had to do with his physicality, running and getting into the head space of how a soldier would do things. But, he came into it with little time. His passion for the movie is what made him do it because he was shooting another a movie that really didn’t have the time to spare to give him away. But we really negotiated with them and to their credit they really respected Woody’s passion for the movie. He doesn’t remember it that way because I think he felt like “I wish I had more time to prepare” but he came with a lot of solid ideas and he got me to know the character a lot faster, the character that he was bringing with him, a lot faster than I got him to feel comfortable. So, stop selling yourself short.

GATW: Woody’s the man!

WH: I actually I’m giving you [Moverman] credit because I really did feel with the few days before shooting, arriving here from Bucharest in a total different head space, it really was an added job for him on top of the million other things you gotta do as a director, especially with something so intense that shoots in 28 days. I added a burden to him and he really helped me. But I was doing things [to prepare for the role], I was working out quite a bit and I would go jogging, I would be jogging along and then I would really think of myself as Tony Stone, drawing a strength and a confidence, a determination, I really felt like a different person when I would shift just that one thing.

GATW: Back to this being your first feature, did you feel a lot of stress because it was such a powerful cast. Did you have any doubts?

OM: Every time you shoot a movie it’s a pressure cooker from any perspective: acting, directing, shooting - there’s a lot of pressure - you never have enough time, we had 28 days to shoot the whole movie. So you know, there was a whole set of pressures. But I have to say, that this was a group that was in sync really quickly. That trip we took to Walter Reed just solidified everything from the moment we sat down together that we were in this together and we were going to do it in a really special way that’s meaningful to us and hopefully then be meaningful to an audience because they will see our commitment to it. So, we had to make a lot of tough decisions on this movie and take a lot of chances, and the reason we could do it was because we were really supporting each other. So I would say that there were a lot of pressures but there could have been a lot more and we really diffused a lot of them.

GATW: My last question is for you, Woody. As an actor, is it difficult going from comedic acting, to dramatic acting, to romantic acting?

WH: Hey, that’s a good point, by the way! Romantic acting, I’m not getting asked to do that much, I just want to put that out there. I don’t remember the last romantic comedy that came down the pipe. But yeah, this I did well before doing ZOMBIELAND, for example, this [movie] I put it in its own class, because it was a project that was demanding in the sense that it demands your heart. You have to throw your heart into it, you have to completely immerse yourself mentally, physically, emotionally in the process. It was a 28 day shoot for [Oren], but for me it was a three week shoot, and in that three weeks I didn’t want to feel in the end of it to look at this thing and feel like “fuck! I wish I could have got that right!” because it deserves it. To me, my allegiance was to the script. The script is the most powerful script I’ve ever read, so I owed it to Oren as the co-creator of the script as well as the director, I didn’t want to phone it in. So, I wouldn’t say hard, it just needed to be more of a total commitment.