It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

June 23, 2017
  |  

Print Page

There’s a moment at the end of the second act of Pixar’s “Cars 3” in which the movie delivers a punch to the face of Tom Cruise’s 1990 NASCAR flick “Days of Thunder” that will leave series racing fans laughing. If you weren’t a racing fan, or a fan of racing films, you wouldn’t get it, even if you watched the Cruise in his stock car flick, and you wouldn’t appreciate it. The conversation concerns the racing technique “drafting,” or “slipstreaming,” a tool that racers used for six decades, but Cruise’s character reveals as a secret weapon for him and his mechanic played brilliantly by Robert Duvall, (whose Harry Hogge has a special place in my gear-driven, 93-octane pumping heart as one of my favorite movie characters). To 90% of moviegoers, it was a basic plot device, but it was one of innumerable moments that pulled fans of the sport out of the movie. The moment in “Cars 3” is so well played only fans deeply in tune with racing movies—and how bad some are—can fully appreciate it.

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To understand how well Cars “gets it” when it comes to NASCAR and racing pantheon would take someone who lives and breathes racing like Lightning McQueen or even Steve McQueen. John Lasseter, the Pixar head who directed the first Cars film, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. In a 2012 interview with Crave, he described himself as having “motor oil for blood” and claimed that automobiles were his biggest passion, not animation. In other words, he’s a gearhead, a class of human who finds automobiles to be more than just metal, rubber and glass. A rich guy wouldn’t go on vacation with a 1962 Ford Falcon in tow to his RV instead of an expensive vintage convertible something, but a car guy would.

Where Lasseter’s passion comes through most obviously is in putting his heroes in the cast. Richard Petty voiced McQueen rival Strip “The King” Weathers based off his nickname, and drove a car based off his actual Plymouth Superbird, down to his legendary No. 43 on the doors, and the engine size painted on the hood. His wife Lynda, who died in 2014, played the King’s wife; his team owner Tex, voiced by former Charlotte Motor Speedway Manager Humpy Wheeler. A director doesn’t go this deep with crucial characters if there isn’t a spirit they want to capture, a history they want not only to survive but thrive.

Every character, voice, and vehicle in this franchise is part of this authenticity. “Cars 3” pays tribute to Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a NASCAR race, portrayed as River Scott, a No. 34 Ford coupe who in a short bit of dialogue mentions “back when they wouldn’t let us race.” Scott’s original car was a No. 34 Ford coupe. Next to him is a car voiced by the actual Junior Johnson, who ran moonshine until he turned to racing (and is part of a pivotal scene where Lightning reclaims himself while on a mock lights-out moonshine run through the country). Scott and Johnson are giants of Southern and American culture. Tom Wolfe wrote about Johnson in his book The Last American Hero, which was adapted into a film starring Jeff Bridges as Johnson. Scott’s story was told in the film “Greased Lightning,” played by Richard Pryor

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In every scene there’s a sign, a trophy, a tip of the hat, a name, a billboard that tributes racing, the cars and the racers. They’re all based off the real signs you would find covering a garage wall like wallpaper. There’s a depth to the movies not found in “Days of Thunder,” the “Fast and Furious” series, or even the excellent “Rush” directed by Ron Howard.

While these are animated movies aimed at kids, there’s seriousness in this attention to detail that respects a part of our culture not often in the spotlight—another example of Pixar having its finger on the pulse of the hearts of kids and grownups, especially the kids inside those grownups. 

Pixar doesn’t have to go through the trouble of having Richard Petty, who retired in 1992, play a major role, or his son Kyle. It doesn’t have to cast Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton who are usually racing the world over and far from any Disney studio. It would be easier to pull a random actor off a set then to bring in the actual Junior Johnson.

Racing is like war, flying and many other heart pumping, real-life experiences that can’t actually be captured on the precise medium of film. It is something that lives in the moment, whereas film has to live forever, and so inherently lacks the same feeling that anything could happen. Movies can provide us endless cool car chases, race scenes, or shots of Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls or burnouts, but, ultimately, what happens on a race track can be remade as a highly visceral experience, but it still isn’t the actual experience.

The authenticity then rests on the creators and their attention to detail to make it as believable and informed as possible. By the measurement, the “Cars” series finishes the race with the rest of Pixar’s impeccable canon, and far ahead of other racing films before it.



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It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

June 23, 2017
  |  

Print Page

There’s a moment at the end of the second act of Pixar’s “Cars 3” in which the movie delivers a punch to the face of Tom Cruise’s 1990 NASCAR flick “Days of Thunder” that will leave series racing fans laughing. If you weren’t a racing fan, or a fan of racing films, you wouldn’t get it, even if you watched the Cruise in his stock car flick, and you wouldn’t appreciate it. The conversation concerns the racing technique “drafting,” or “slipstreaming,” a tool that racers used for six decades, but Cruise’s character reveals as a secret weapon for him and his mechanic played brilliantly by Robert Duvall, (whose Harry Hogge has a special place in my gear-driven, 93-octane pumping heart as one of my favorite movie characters). To 90% of moviegoers, it was a basic plot device, but it was one of innumerable moments that pulled fans of the sport out of the movie. The moment in “Cars 3” is so well played only fans deeply in tune with racing movies—and how bad some are—can fully appreciate it.

Advertisement

To understand how well Cars “gets it” when it comes to NASCAR and racing pantheon would take someone who lives and breathes racing like Lightning McQueen or even Steve McQueen. John Lasseter, the Pixar head who directed the first Cars film, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. In a 2012 interview with Crave, he described himself as having “motor oil for blood” and claimed that automobiles were his biggest passion, not animation. In other words, he’s a gearhead, a class of human who finds automobiles to be more than just metal, rubber and glass. A rich guy wouldn’t go on vacation with a 1962 Ford Falcon in tow to his RV instead of an expensive vintage convertible something, but a car guy would.

Where Lasseter’s passion comes through most obviously is in putting his heroes in the cast. Richard Petty voiced McQueen rival Strip “The King” Weathers based off his nickname, and drove a car based off his actual Plymouth Superbird, down to his legendary No. 43 on the doors, and the engine size painted on the hood. His wife Lynda, who died in 2014, played the King’s wife; his team owner Tex, voiced by former Charlotte Motor Speedway Manager Humpy Wheeler. A director doesn’t go this deep with crucial characters if there isn’t a spirit they want to capture, a history they want not only to survive but thrive.

Every character, voice, and vehicle in this franchise is part of this authenticity. “Cars 3” pays tribute to Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a NASCAR race, portrayed as River Scott, a No. 34 Ford coupe who in a short bit of dialogue mentions “back when they wouldn’t let us race.” Scott’s original car was a No. 34 Ford coupe. Next to him is a car voiced by the actual Junior Johnson, who ran moonshine until he turned to racing (and is part of a pivotal scene where Lightning reclaims himself while on a mock lights-out moonshine run through the country). Scott and Johnson are giants of Southern and American culture. Tom Wolfe wrote about Johnson in his book The Last American Hero, which was adapted into a film starring Jeff Bridges as Johnson. Scott’s story was told in the film “Greased Lightning,” played by Richard Pryor

Advertisement

In every scene there’s a sign, a trophy, a tip of the hat, a name, a billboard that tributes racing, the cars and the racers. They’re all based off the real signs you would find covering a garage wall like wallpaper. There’s a depth to the movies not found in “Days of Thunder,” the “Fast and Furious” series, or even the excellent “Rush” directed by Ron Howard.

While these are animated movies aimed at kids, there’s seriousness in this attention to detail that respects a part of our culture not often in the spotlight—another example of Pixar having its finger on the pulse of the hearts of kids and grownups, especially the kids inside those grownups. 

Pixar doesn’t have to go through the trouble of having Richard Petty, who retired in 1992, play a major role, or his son Kyle. It doesn’t have to cast Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton who are usually racing the world over and far from any Disney studio. It would be easier to pull a random actor off a set then to bring in the actual Junior Johnson.

Racing is like war, flying and many other heart pumping, real-life experiences that can’t actually be captured on the precise medium of film. It is something that lives in the moment, whereas film has to live forever, and so inherently lacks the same feeling that anything could happen. Movies can provide us endless cool car chases, race scenes, or shots of Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls or burnouts, but, ultimately, what happens on a race track can be remade as a highly visceral experience, but it still isn’t the actual experience.

The authenticity then rests on the creators and their attention to detail to make it as believable and informed as possible. By the measurement, the “Cars” series finishes the race with the rest of Pixar’s impeccable canon, and far ahead of other racing films before it.



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Source: http://ift.tt/14q2qf3

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

June 23, 2017
  |  

Print Page

There’s a moment at the end of the second act of Pixar’s “Cars 3” in which the movie delivers a punch to the face of Tom Cruise’s 1990 NASCAR flick “Days of Thunder” that will leave series racing fans laughing. If you weren’t a racing fan, or a fan of racing films, you wouldn’t get it, even if you watched the Cruise in his stock car flick, and you wouldn’t appreciate it. The conversation concerns the racing technique “drafting,” or “slipstreaming,” a tool that racers used for six decades, but Cruise’s character reveals as a secret weapon for him and his mechanic played brilliantly by Robert Duvall, (whose Harry Hogge has a special place in my gear-driven, 93-octane pumping heart as one of my favorite movie characters). To 90% of moviegoers, it was a basic plot device, but it was one of innumerable moments that pulled fans of the sport out of the movie. The moment in “Cars 3” is so well played only fans deeply in tune with racing movies—and how bad some are—can fully appreciate it.

Advertisement

To understand how well Cars “gets it” when it comes to NASCAR and racing pantheon would take someone who lives and breathes racing like Lightning McQueen or even Steve McQueen. John Lasseter, the Pixar head who directed the first Cars film, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. In a 2012 interview with Crave, he described himself as having “motor oil for blood” and claimed that automobiles were his biggest passion, not animation. In other words, he’s a gearhead, a class of human who finds automobiles to be more than just metal, rubber and glass. A rich guy wouldn’t go on vacation with a 1962 Ford Falcon in tow to his RV instead of an expensive vintage convertible something, but a car guy would.

Where Lasseter’s passion comes through most obviously is in putting his heroes in the cast. Richard Petty voiced McQueen rival Strip “The King” Weathers based off his nickname, and drove a car based off his actual Plymouth Superbird, down to his legendary No. 43 on the doors, and the engine size painted on the hood. His wife Lynda, who died in 2014, played the King’s wife; his team owner Tex, voiced by former Charlotte Motor Speedway Manager Humpy Wheeler. A director doesn’t go this deep with crucial characters if there isn’t a spirit they want to capture, a history they want not only to survive but thrive.

Every character, voice, and vehicle in this franchise is part of this authenticity. “Cars 3” pays tribute to Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a NASCAR race, portrayed as River Scott, a No. 34 Ford coupe who in a short bit of dialogue mentions “back when they wouldn’t let us race.” Scott’s original car was a No. 34 Ford coupe. Next to him is a car voiced by the actual Junior Johnson, who ran moonshine until he turned to racing (and is part of a pivotal scene where Lightning reclaims himself while on a mock lights-out moonshine run through the country). Scott and Johnson are giants of Southern and American culture. Tom Wolfe wrote about Johnson in his book The Last American Hero, which was adapted into a film starring Jeff Bridges as Johnson. Scott’s story was told in the film “Greased Lightning,” played by Richard Pryor

Advertisement

In every scene there’s a sign, a trophy, a tip of the hat, a name, a billboard that tributes racing, the cars and the racers. They’re all based off the real signs you would find covering a garage wall like wallpaper. There’s a depth to the movies not found in “Days of Thunder,” the “Fast and Furious” series, or even the excellent “Rush” directed by Ron Howard.

While these are animated movies aimed at kids, there’s seriousness in this attention to detail that respects a part of our culture not often in the spotlight—another example of Pixar having its finger on the pulse of the hearts of kids and grownups, especially the kids inside those grownups. 

Pixar doesn’t have to go through the trouble of having Richard Petty, who retired in 1992, play a major role, or his son Kyle. It doesn’t have to cast Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton who are usually racing the world over and far from any Disney studio. It would be easier to pull a random actor off a set then to bring in the actual Junior Johnson.

Racing is like war, flying and many other heart pumping, real-life experiences that can’t actually be captured on the precise medium of film. It is something that lives in the moment, whereas film has to live forever, and so inherently lacks the same feeling that anything could happen. Movies can provide us endless cool car chases, race scenes, or shots of Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls or burnouts, but, ultimately, what happens on a race track can be remade as a highly visceral experience, but it still isn’t the actual experience.

The authenticity then rests on the creators and their attention to detail to make it as believable and informed as possible. By the measurement, the “Cars” series finishes the race with the rest of Pixar’s impeccable canon, and far ahead of other racing films before it.



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Dick Meldonian and Sonny Igoe

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Saxophonist Dick Meldonian began his recording career in Charlie Barnet’s band in 1950. He then moved on to Stan Kenton at the start of 1952. He remained with Kenton until the mid-1950s, when he left to record on 12-inch LPs with Pat Moran, Sam Most, Erroll Garner, Nat Pierce, Bill Russo, Marion Evans (he’s on the Ted McNabb album) among others. Drummer Sonny Igoe began his recording career in 1948 with Buddy Stewart and then worked with Benny Goodman until 1950, when he joined Woody Herman. Igoe remained with Herman until 1953 when he worked wth Charlie Ventura. His mid-decade sideman albums included recordings with Chuck Wayne, Don Elliott, Joe Wilder, Phil Napoleon and others.

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What they had in common was huge admiration for trumpeter and reed player Gene Roland, whose arrangements tended to be ferocious swingers. Meldonian first met Roland while in Barnet’s band, and Igoe first encountered him while in Herman’s band. Those in the know are probably aware that Roland’s sax band preceded Herman’s "Four Brothers" sound in 1947. Several years before Herman’s recording of Four Brothers Roland had assembled a band with four light-playing tenor saxes and a baritone sax. [Photo above of Gene Roland]

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In May 1981, Meldonian (above) and Igoe got together to record a big band album featuring Roland’s arrangements. The album was recorded at Emerson High School in Emerson, N.J., where Igoe lived. The reed-dominant band featured Leo Ball, Spanky Davis, Chris Pasin and Phil Sunkel (tp,flhrn); Gene Hessler, Dale Kirkland and Jim Pugh (tb); Tony Salvatori (b-tb); Eddie Wasserman (as); Dick Meldonian (as,ts,sop); Gerry Cappucio and Gary Keller (ts); Dick Bagni (bar); George Syran (p); Jack Six (b) and Sonny Igoe (d).

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As always, Roland’s arrangements are top shelf. They have a taut Basie strut and punch to them, with sections making statements and being answered by other band sections. Roland certainly had plenty of practice. He arranged for Kenton steadily in the late 1940s and early ’50s before shifting to Herman late in the decade and then worked again for Kenton starting in the early 1960s.

SONNY IGOE SLINGERLAND PROMO1-5

Roland also led a powerhouse New York rehearsal band in 1950 with an incredible personnel (not all at the same session) that became known as The Band That Never Was: Marty Bell, Don Ferrara, Don Joseph, Jon Nielson, Al Porcino, Sonny Rich, Red Rodney and Neil Friez (tp); Frank Orchard (v-tb); Eddie Bert, Porky Cohen, Jimmy Knepper and Paul Selden (tb); Joe Maini, Charlie Parker (as); Al Cohn, Don Lanphere, Tommy Makagon and Zoot Sims (ts); Bob Newman and Marty Flax (bar); Harry Biss (p); Sam Herman (g); Buddy Jones (b); Phil Arabia, Freddie Gruber and Don Manning (d) and Gene Roland (arr,cond).

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Many of the Roland arrangements played by the Meldonian-Igoe band in ’81 hadn’t been recorded before. The songs are When You Done Went, Richard’s Almanac, Abscam, Sax Fifth Avenue, Road Stop, Papa Come Home, Blues in One’s Flat, Moon Dog and Voice of the Village.

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This is another one of those albums that I wish led to the Meldonian and Igoe band to record Plays Ernie Wilkins, Plays Bill Holman, Plays Neal Hefti, Plays Chico O’Farrill and so on. Like the Band That Never Was, this was a killer orchestra.

Dick Meldonian is still with us. Sonny Igoe died in 2012 and Gene Roland died in 1982, a year after this album was recorded.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Dick Meldonian, Sonny Igoe and Their Big Swing Jazz Band Plays Gene Roland Music (Circle) here.

The album also is available at Spotify.

JazzWax clips: Here’s Sax Fifth Ave....

Here’s Blues in One’s Flat

Here’s the killer Dick Meldonian and Sonny Igoe Band in action in Emerson, N.J., playing Jumpin’ the Blues Away in Nov. 2003…

Here’s Just in Time

And here’s Love for Sale, arranged originally by Pete Myers for Buddy Rich’s 1960s band…

       

Source: http://www.JazzWax.com/

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

It’s in the Details: On the Authenticity of Pixar’s “Cars” Franchise

June 23, 2017
  |  

Print Page

There’s a moment at the end of the second act of Pixar’s “Cars 3” in which the movie delivers a punch to the face of Tom Cruise’s 1990 NASCAR flick “Days of Thunder” that will leave series racing fans laughing. If you weren’t a racing fan, or a fan of racing films, you wouldn’t get it, even if you watched the Cruise in his stock car flick, and you wouldn’t appreciate it. The conversation concerns the racing technique “drafting,” or “slipstreaming,” a tool that racers used for six decades, but Cruise’s character reveals as a secret weapon for him and his mechanic played brilliantly by Robert Duvall, (whose Harry Hogge has a special place in my gear-driven, 93-octane pumping heart as one of my favorite movie characters). To 90% of moviegoers, it was a basic plot device, but it was one of innumerable moments that pulled fans of the sport out of the movie. The moment in “Cars 3” is so well played only fans deeply in tune with racing movies—and how bad some are—can fully appreciate it.

Advertisement

To understand how well Cars “gets it” when it comes to NASCAR and racing pantheon would take someone who lives and breathes racing like Lightning McQueen or even Steve McQueen. John Lasseter, the Pixar head who directed the first Cars film, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. In a 2012 interview with Crave, he described himself as having “motor oil for blood” and claimed that automobiles were his biggest passion, not animation. In other words, he’s a gearhead, a class of human who finds automobiles to be more than just metal, rubber and glass. A rich guy wouldn’t go on vacation with a 1962 Ford Falcon in tow to his RV instead of an expensive vintage convertible something, but a car guy would.

Where Lasseter’s passion comes through most obviously is in putting his heroes in the cast. Richard Petty voiced McQueen rival Strip “The King” Weathers based off his nickname, and drove a car based off his actual Plymouth Superbird, down to his legendary No. 43 on the doors, and the engine size painted on the hood. His wife Lynda, who died in 2014, played the King’s wife; his team owner Tex, voiced by former Charlotte Motor Speedway Manager Humpy Wheeler. A director doesn’t go this deep with crucial characters if there isn’t a spirit they want to capture, a history they want not only to survive but thrive.

Every character, voice, and vehicle in this franchise is part of this authenticity. “Cars 3” pays tribute to Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a NASCAR race, portrayed as River Scott, a No. 34 Ford coupe who in a short bit of dialogue mentions “back when they wouldn’t let us race.” Scott’s original car was a No. 34 Ford coupe. Next to him is a car voiced by the actual Junior Johnson, who ran moonshine until he turned to racing (and is part of a pivotal scene where Lightning reclaims himself while on a mock lights-out moonshine run through the country). Scott and Johnson are giants of Southern and American culture. Tom Wolfe wrote about Johnson in his book The Last American Hero, which was adapted into a film starring Jeff Bridges as Johnson. Scott’s story was told in the film “Greased Lightning,” played by Richard Pryor

Advertisement

In every scene there’s a sign, a trophy, a tip of the hat, a name, a billboard that tributes racing, the cars and the racers. They’re all based off the real signs you would find covering a garage wall like wallpaper. There’s a depth to the movies not found in “Days of Thunder,” the “Fast and Furious” series, or even the excellent “Rush” directed by Ron Howard.

While these are animated movies aimed at kids, there’s seriousness in this attention to detail that respects a part of our culture not often in the spotlight—another example of Pixar having its finger on the pulse of the hearts of kids and grownups, especially the kids inside those grownups. 

Pixar doesn’t have to go through the trouble of having Richard Petty, who retired in 1992, play a major role, or his son Kyle. It doesn’t have to cast Formula One drivers Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton who are usually racing the world over and far from any Disney studio. It would be easier to pull a random actor off a set then to bring in the actual Junior Johnson.

Racing is like war, flying and many other heart pumping, real-life experiences that can’t actually be captured on the precise medium of film. It is something that lives in the moment, whereas film has to live forever, and so inherently lacks the same feeling that anything could happen. Movies can provide us endless cool car chases, race scenes, or shots of Tom Cruise doing barrel rolls or burnouts, but, ultimately, what happens on a race track can be remade as a highly visceral experience, but it still isn’t the actual experience.

The authenticity then rests on the creators and their attention to detail to make it as believable and informed as possible. By the measurement, the “Cars” series finishes the race with the rest of Pixar’s impeccable canon, and far ahead of other racing films before it.



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Video Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning on “The Beguiled”

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This past May, Sofia Coppola made Cannes Film Festival history by becoming only the second woman to win the Best Director prize for "The Beguiled." The film is a gothic Civil War set potboiler based on the 1966 book by Thomas P. Cullinan and originally made into a film in 1971 by director Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood.

Film journalist Katherine Tulich sat down with writer/director Sofia Coppola and two of the film’s stars, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, to talk about this modern day retelling with its distinctive feminist slant.

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The Big Sick

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It sounds impossible—too melodramatic, too crazy—but it’s true. Actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani fell in love with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Emily V. Gordon, when she was in a coma. It also sounds impossible that such a story would make for a crowd-pleasing comedy, but that’s exactly what “The Big Sick” is, and so much more.

Director Michael Showalter’s film defies categorization. You could call it a romantic comedy and that would be accurate, because there are indeed elements of romance and comedy. It mines clashes across cultures and generations for laughs that are specific to Nanjiani’s experience but also resonate universally. “The Big Sick” also functions as an astutely insightful exploration of how we live now with the Pakistan-born comic, starring as himself, enduring racism that’s both casual and pointed.

But the pivotal plot point in “The Big Sick” is a potentially deadly illness—hence the title—which provides not only drama and catharsis but also dark humor, and it allows the film’s characters to evolve in ways that feel substantial and real.

That’s a lot of different kinds of movies at once, and Showalter—working from a screenplay by Nanjiani and his wife, Gordon—gets his arms around all of it with dazzling dexterity. On the heels of his sweetly heartbreaking 2015 dramedy “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” Showalter once again makes tough tonal shifts with great grace. Again and again, he finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.

But it all starts with the script. Nanjiani and Gordon have dared to make themselves vulnerable here, allowing us an intimate glimpse into a traumatic and frightening time in their lives. They imbue moments both large and small with such an abiding honesty, though, that “The Big Sick” never feels like shameless navel-gazing. The events that ultimately brought the two together are extreme, but the depiction of them always rings true. 

And Nanjiani’s front-and-center presence is a crucial component in the film’s emotional connection. Even if you had no idea "The Big Sick" was based on his real-life courtship, Nanjiani exudes an authenticity and a directness that are hugely appealing. He’s part of the ensemble on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and he’s had a number of supporting film roles in recent years, including a particularly, um, memorable appearance as a massage therapist in last summer’s “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” But this will make him a star, and it should.

At the start of “The Big Sick,” though, the on-screen Kumail is struggling to make ends meet, working as an Uber driver by day and a stand-up comic by night. He sleeps on an air mattress in a Chicago apartment that’s a slight notch above college squalor with his needy roommate, Chris (Kurt Braunohler). One night at the comedy club, he connects with the smart and beautiful Emily (Zoe Kazan), who’d inadvertently heckled him during his set. Kazan and Nanjiani have crackling chemistry from the start, a sweet and easy banter that only grows more enjoyable the more time they spend together.

With a deadpan playfulness, they repeatedly insist they’re not dating, even though it’s clear they’re falling for each other. Emily, a grad student with plans to become a therapist, is no giggly rom-com heroine seeking approval: “I love it when men test me on my taste,” she zings when Kumail quizzes her on her favorite movies. It’s a testament to Kazan’s instincts and presence that while her character is lying in a hospital bed for much of the film’s midsection, you still feel her influence.

Before that happens, though, we also see what Kumail’s life is like with his family: devout Muslims who insist on arranging a marriage for him. His older brother, Naveed (Adeel Akhtar), already has a wife and seems content. His parents (Bollywood legend Anupam Kher and theater veteran Zenobia Shroff, both lovely) just want him to be happy—as long as he carries on their cultural traditions. Caught between Pakistani and American identities, between Islam and agnosticism, Kumail is unsure of who he is—but he knows he can’t tell his family about the white woman who’s become so important to him.

And then, Emily gets sick—a sudden and unexplainable illness that forces doctors to place her in a medically-induced coma. This allows us to meet her parents—the nerdy, down-to-Earth Terry (Ray Romano) and the feisty, no-nonsense Beth (Holly Hunter)—and it places Kumail in the uncomfortable position of getting to know them under dire circumstances. Again, this might not sound like comedy gold. But the way Nanjiani, Romano and Hunter navigate their characters’ daily highs and lows—and dance around each other—is simultaneously pitch perfect and consistently surprising. Romano is great in an unusual dramatic role, but Hunter is just a fierce force of nature, finding both the anger and the pathos in this frustrated, frightened mom.

The details in the hospital scenes make them feel particularly vivid: the colorful quilt from Emily’s childhood bedroom that her mother brings from North Carolina to cover her during her comatose state, or the yacht rock hits piping through tinny speakers in the bleak, cramped waiting room. The situation would feel like hell no matter where you are, but such touches make the characters’ anxiety seem endless.

Which brings us to the only slight drawback: the running time. “The Big Sick” is a Judd Apatow production, and like a number of movies he’s been involved with over the years (“Funny People,” “This Is 40”), it goes on a tad longer than it should. Some tightening, especially toward the end, might have made a great film truly excellent.

But Apatow also has a knack for spotting up-and-coming talent and using his considerable influence to help foster it on the biggest stage and under the brightest lights. He’s done this with Lena Dunham (“Girls”) and Amy Schumer (“Trainwreck”), and he’s done it again with Nanjiani. We’re the ones, though, who truly benefit.

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The Beguiled

Thumb beguiled 2017

The women stand on the front steps of a dilapidated Southern plantation house, staring out at the muddy road beyond the gate, a road traversed back and forth by battered Confederate troops, heading towards or away from the fluctuating "front." Outside the gates is all restless movement, inside the gates is stasis. Sofia Coppola’s "The Beguiled"—a remake (sort of) of the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood film—is full of such tableaux. The "meaning" is not explicit in the images, although you could read plenty into it if you wanted to (the women are glimpsed between the iron bars of the gate, isolated from the world of men, etc). With its title-card gigantic in a swirling pink font, like a flourishing header in the diary of a melodramatic teenage girl, "The Beguiled" is a fairy tale, where beautiful spirited women and girls—flawed and filled with contradictory impulses—are locked away from the larger world (some by choice, others because they have nowhere else to go), and how a man disrupts their quiet; how much turbulence a man can bring. Gorgeously shot by Philippe Le Sourd (in his first collaboration with Coppola), "The Beguiled" lingers on its images, allows us time to settle into them.

The film opens with a haunting sequence where a child of 11 (Oona Laurence) gathers mushrooms in a quiet wood. The air is shattered by distant cannon fire. She then discovers the wounded John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier who fled his regiment when the battle was at its height, an unmanly act of which he is ashamed. The child decides to take him back to the girls’ school where she lives ("Any men about?" McBurney asks her). The school is run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), and there are only 5 students left, as well as the teacher, Edwina (frequent Coppola collaborator Kirsten Dunst). Terrified of "their" soldiers discovering their harboring of an enemy, they lock McBurney up in the downstairs music room, and Martha, with a briskness covering up her fluttery reaction to McBurney’s presence, tends to his leg wound, bathing him, the scene unfolding in a series of lovingly erotic shots of Farrell’s chest, forearms, calves, neck.

Meanwhile, all through the house, the students—especially the languid Alicia (Elle Fanning), a teenager but already over-ripened, flushed with need and bored out of her mind—huddle by the door, trying to get at least a brief glimpse of the HUNK lying half-clothed on the fainting couch in the dim interior. Coppola really revels in the humor of the situation, treating it affectionately, the students suddenly appearing with pearl earrings in their ears, or dressing up, or sneaking in to give him gifts. Miss Martha looks at all of this in horror and tries to control the situation. But hormones gonna hormone. (Martha is completely male-phobic in the book. Coppola treats it with a lighter touch.)

Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 novel (originally titled A Painted Devil) was the basis for the 1971 film, made in the same year as "Dirty Harry." The 1971 film is an entertaining rooster-in-a-henhouse fantasy, wrapped in Southern Gothic histrionics, featuring incest, bed-hopping, amputation, poison, not to mention multiple shots of Eastwood’s smooth exposed chest. Director Don Siegel said the film was about "the basic desire of women to castrate men," a pretty clear expression of male anxiety in that particular era. Coppola’s adaptation removes quite a bit from the original source material as well as from the earlier film (there’s been a lot of controversy about her editing out Matilda, the slave who works at the school, but the absence of the incest sub-plot is even more radical, considering what a large role it plays in the original story.) In the multi-narrator book, Edwina, who forms a special bond with McBurney (the problem is, he forms a special bond with each of them), muses: "Each rumble of the cannons, each swirl of smoke, was a sign of great trouble … spreading like ripples in a stream to villages and towns and solitary lonely houses all over the land. Perhaps the trouble of the wounded boy would spread and infect people far away from here."

McBurney symbolizes a different thing to each one of them, and he’s a shape-shifter, sometimes friendly, or flirty, sometimes polite, sometimes earnest. Farrell, a gifted and fluid actor, is perfect for this role, and it’s difficult to imagine another actor pulling it off. You can’t manufacture charm like that. Kidman and Durst are both funny and intense, tag-teaming Martha’s steel-magnolia energy with Edwina’s ladylike delicacy. Fanning, one of the best young actresses working today, is teenage yearning in the flesh, her lazy gestures suggesting restlessness bordering on explosion.

The film suffers a bit from the absence of melodrama (particularly in the case of Martha’s backstory), but if you didn’t know the original or if you hadn’t read the book then that might not matter. This is Coppola’s film with Coppola’s fingerprint. She is interested in the fleeting, in things not easily said, and here she is interested in the ridiculousness of repressing the sex drive (at one point, Edwina is so turned on she almost collapses against a wall). The film is about that house, the pewter-toned light inside, the way the sunset catches the tops of the columns, the women floating through the overgrown yard, the younger girls lying in the same bed, limbs intertwined, practically a Coppola signature at this point. The interior is the female realm, where women dominate and the male lies in repose, to be gawked at and fussed over. The women are powerful and resourceful ("Edwina, bring me the anatomy book") but ready to tear each other apart to get to that man in the room.

Coppola is not all that interested in explicit commentary or contextualizing larger issues; her interests lie in the peripheral; in what happens when things get quiet; in the way bodies arrange themselves in the frame. You can see it in all of her films. The teenage girl sneaking a peek at V.C. Andrews’ "Flowers in the Attic," propped on her slender thighs in "Lick the Star," Coppola’s first short film. The five blonde sisters flopped in a pigpile of long limbs and long hair in "The Virgin Suicides." The young woman curled up on the windowsill in her hotel room, her body floating over the cityscape below in "Lost in Translation." The identical strippers in "Somewhere" twirling around poles, their bodies undulating in a surreal and almost serene beauty. The teenage burglar in "The Bling Ring" dabbing her throat with perfume, staring at her reflection in a trance so deep it is disconnected from reality. These moments don’t "lead anywhere," but still, they have enormous resonance.

You can’t write a thesis statement about what "The Beguiled" is about. It’s not that kind of movie. But it’s the kind of movie that lingers on in your head, just like the best fairy tales do.

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