My Comfort Blanket Movie: Goodfellas

Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas (1990)

There are some films you watch when you need a warm hug from a familiar source. There’s no new terrain to explore, no outside world, no alarms and no surprises – they are simply soothing. Since a global pandemic was declared on 11 March, daily life has become so strange that the solace offered by comfort blanket movies is enhanced. In this series, we want to celebrate them, in whatever form they take.

There’s a tradition at weddings – if you haven’t seen it in real life, you’ve probably seen it in a film – where the newly married couple are introduced to a room full of their guests. It’s their first time entering the party as husband and wife, and music plays them in. At my own wedding, we helped choose the music carefully, and we had fun picking a song for this particular moment that might raise a knowing smile in a few of our guests. It was Tony Bennett’s ‘Rags to Riches’. The expansive, sweeping ballad with its soft croon always gives me a little electric jolt when I hear it. And I always hear it in concert with one line, one opening sequence, and one film: Goodfellas.

For the same reason as it seems like an odd choice of soundtrack for a wedding, it might seem strange to describe Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic as ‘comfort viewing’. The phrase entails something cosy, like a warm blanket. For my part, I like those sorts of films, too: Audrey Hepburn in swirls of designer chiffon in Funny Face, Gene Kelly musicals, Heath Ledger and his dimple in 10 Things I Hate About You. But comfort implies something unthreatening, right? Not a brutally violent, blackly comic story of a low-level mob associate turned police informer, which Scorsese took from the real story of mafioso Henry Hill.

From the very start of Goodfellas, the bravura camera work of the opening segment has every intention of hooking the viewer and keeping them wriggling on that hook. Scorsese bamboozles us with the glamour and vicarious thrill of the criminal lifestyle before sending Henry and his cohort on a steep downward trajectory. The restless, roving camera, the dollies, the freeze-frames, the deadpan voiceover, the faultless doo-wop soundtrack; in five minutes it’s pure sensory overload, visual storytelling on so enrapturing a level that any possible stray thought from the external world is pulverised.

On countless occasions, bad or good or just terminally bored, I’ve curled up on the sofa to see the pure, unravelling id of Joe Pesci’s Tommy and his murderous rages; Henry and Tommy bickering in the car as they comically forget to abscond from the scene of mob-sanctioned arson; that unforgettable camera tilt from the ground up, revealing Ray Liotta for the first time, leaning on the back of his car; or the moment where Karen (Lorraine Bracco) bleats, “I thought he was obnoxious.” And there she goes picking up the voiceover, unexpectedly and commandingly taking charge of the story.

I’ve always had a particular soft spot for Karen Hill, the ride-or-die gangster’s moll with lots of brains and a big mouth. Scorsese unequivocally presents Henry and Karen as a duo, working in tandem, and she is afforded a subjectivity that goes beyond the limited viewpoint of the men in this world. She explains to us exactly why and how she’s drawn to the mafia life, and how it excites her; she admits at one point that it “turns her on”.

She even tells us about her early misgivings trying to fit in with the other mob wives, and her fears about prison. “Don’t play the babe in the woods routine,” an FBI agent tells her later in the film. He’s right: she’s no innocent bystander. She’s not willing to let go of this life easily, whatever the costs. Her character – and the way Bracco plays her, full of energy and crackle – makes Goodfellas among the most insightful of its genre when it comes to women.

I find myself ever more drawn to the movie – and to the gangster genre in general – lately. There’s something undeniably comforting about them, in spite of their violence and ugliness. These are films which present a world that operates by strict codes; here the lines are clear. Everyone has their place in an admittedly crooked and morally corrupt hierarchy. We understand how these people operate, and on some level we probably wouldn’t like to admit, we can relate or project or identify with something in them.

Maybe not the part that has them stab someone to death in the trunk of a car. But in a looser sense: wouldn’t it be fun to behave so badly and be rewarded so fabulously for it? To be treated like you were special? To have the nerve to act so decisively in the face of betrayal or insult? It’s the same feeling of forbidden glee that audiences probably had when they first saw James Cagney fall with a thud to the floor at the end of 1931’s The Public Enemy.

I once knew someone who told me that he loved these films, films like The Public Enemy and Goodfellas and Blow, but that he never watched the endings, when the bad guys got their comeuppance. “They always get a happy ending if I turn the film off early,” he would say. But that’s not most of us. Most of us like the thrill of watching people live outsized lives, and the familiarity of knowing exactly where those outsized lives are headed.

There’s another thing that makes Goodfellas feel particularly comforting: familiarity. It’s up there with my most frequently-watched films, and it’s been a regular source of communal pleasure with people I know. Whether it’s my husband or my teenage sister, when we’ve watched the movie together it’s impossible not to elbow one another and pre-empt our favourite lines: “Fuck you, pay me,” and “It was outta RESPECT.”

Now that we’re under lockdown, my sister and I are separated for who-knows-how-long by a pandemic and a whole ocean. So not long after lockdown began, we decided to do a weekly Netflix Party viewing. The app allows you to view a film in real-time together, and to comment on it in a side-by-side chatbox. No surprise that Goodfellas was the first movie we chose, so we could type the quotes to each other in all-caps instead of yelling them at each other. To accompany it, we dreamt up our own version of mob wife outfits, draping ourselves in fur and gold jewellery and low-cut wrap dresses, uploading photos and commenting on them with deep-cut quotes like: “One night, Bobby Vinton sent us champagne!” It brought us together – let us feel a sense of occasion and community around moviegoing that we won’t actually have in person for a long time.

Together, we revelled in the little shared details and trivia from umpteenth viewings, like the beautiful bow on the back on Karen’s black cocktail dress during the Copacabana kitchen sequence, or the way Scorsese’s mama – playing Pesci’s mama in the movie – accidentally glances to camera and bursts out laughing while the guys around her ad-lib, or the nod to Crazy Joe starting a war that Marty would later follow through on in The Irishman.

At this point, Goodfellas isn’t just a comfort movie, but a whole private club that me and my loved ones can share. I think a lot of people (and there are a lot of us) who love Goodfellas feel the same. We get to be part of something – that reprehensible but oh-so-thrilling secret world of gangsters and guns and Lufthansa heists. We don’t mistake Henry or his friends for heroes, but the world’s got enough of those, anyway.

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House by the Cemetery & New York Ripper Getting 4K Releases

House by the Cemetery & New York Ripper Getting 4K Releases

House by the Cemetery & New York Ripper getting 4K releases

Blue Underground, the niche home media company behind special restorations of cult and exploitation classics, has unveiled its next two releases as Lucio Fulci’s 1981 slasher The House by the Cemetery and 1982 giallo The New York Ripper!

RELATED: Severin Films Reveals The Complete Lenzi Baker Giallo Collection

In The House by the Cemetery, a young family moves from their cramped New York City apartment to a spacious new home in New England. But this is no ordinary house in the country: the previous owner was the deranged Dr. Freudstein, whose monstrous human experiments have left a legacy of bloody mayhem. Now, someone – or something – is alive in the basement, and home sweet home is about to become a horrific hell on earth.

Catriona MacColl (The Beyond), Paolo Malco (The New York Ripper), Ania Pieroni (Tenebre), Carlo De Mejo (City of the Living Dead), and Dagmar Lassander (Hatchet for the Honeymoon) star in this outrageous Italian shocker from ‘The Godfather of Gore,’ Lucio Fulci (Zombie). Blue Underground’s acclaimed restoration of The House by the Cemetery, scanned in 4K 16-bit from the original 35mm 2-perf camera negative, is now presented with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos audio mix, fully loaded with hours of Extras!

The full list of special features in the two-disc set include:

Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras

  • Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
  • Deleted Scene
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spot
  • Poster & Still Galleries

Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Extras:

  • Meet the Boyles – Interviews with Stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
  • Children of the Night – Interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
  • Tales of Laura Gittleson – Interview with Star Dagmar Lassander
  • My Time With Terror – Interview with Star Carlo De Mejo
  • A Haunted House Story – Interviews with Co-Writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti
  • To Build a Better Death Trap – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, and Actor Giovanni De Nava
  • House Quake – Interview with Co-Writer Giorgio Mariuzzo
  • Catriona MacColl Q&A
  • Calling Dr. Freudstein – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci

RELATED: Scream Factory Unveils New Titles, Including The Evil of Frankenstein!

In The New York Ripper, a blade-wielding psychopath is on the loose, turning The Big Apple bright red with the blood of beautiful young women. As NYPD detective Fred Williams (Jack Hedley of For Your Eyes Only) follows the trail of butchery from the decks of the Staten Island Ferry to the sex shows of Times Square, each brutal murder becomes a sadistic taunt. In the city that never sleeps, the hunt is on for the killer that can’t be stopped!

Co-written and directed by acclaimed horror maestro Fulci and filmed on location in the mean streets of New York City, this is one of Fulci’s most savage and controversial thrillers. Now Blue Underground’s acclaimed restoration of The New York Ripper, scanned in 4K 16-bit from the original 35mm 2-perf camera negative, is presented with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos audio mix, gushing with hours of Extras!

The full list of extras in the two-disc set includes:

Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras

  • Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras

  • Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
  • The Art Of Killing – Interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti
  • Three Fingers Of Violence – Interview with Star Howard Ross
  • The Second Victim – Interview with Co-Star Cinzia de Ponti
  • The Broken Bottle Murder – Interview with Co-Star Zora Kerova
  • “I’m an Actress!” – 2009 Interview with Co-Star Zora Kerova
  • The Beauty Killer – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
  • Paint Me Blood Red – Interview with Poster Artist Enzo Sciotti
  • NYC Locations Then and Now
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Poster & Still Gallery

The House by the Cemetery and The New York Ripper 4K UHD and Blu-ray combo packs are set to hit shelves on August 25!

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A movie with a don’t-think-too-hard-about-this premise can work if it sustains its own logic. It doesn’t have to hold together in our world, so long as we believe it will hold together in theirs. But “Inheritance” is the case of a film that’s so full of holes, it was likely recut from an earlier version and not quite stitched back together. Still, it just qualifies as watchable due to its nutty premise, sumptuous settings, and a couple of dynamic confrontations.

Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton), a powerful and wealthy man, dies suddenly. At the reading of the will, his also-powerful son and daughter learn that they have not been treated equally. He left $20 million to his son William (Chase Crawford), a Congressman in a tight race for re-election. But he left just $1 million to his daughter Lauren (Lily Collins), a New York District Attorney known for prosecuting the powerful and wealthy, meaning people like her father. In flashbacks we see Lauren arguing with Archer; he wanted her to work for a prestigious law firm and make a lot of money representing Wall Street tycoons. He says her District Attorney job was beneath her, dismissing her as just a “public servant,” even though at the time of his death she is taking the lead role in a huge case against a high-profile Wall Street crook. “Victims and families have always been my only concern, not bankers and brokers,” she tells a crowd of reporters shouting questions at her in the lobby of the courthouse.

The family has a mansion in the country referred to as the “summer house” and, in Bruce Wayne-style, “the manor.” Lauren has the typical movie-signifiers of discipline and toughness: we see her running through Central Park; she wears severe, dark suits, her hair in a tight bun, with bright red lipstick; she is cool under pressure and not rattled by aggressive questions from reporters, at least until one of them informs her that her father has died. And when she learns the terms of the will, she assures her husband that she is not surprised or bothered. 

But then the family lawyer (Michael Beach) takes Lauren aside to tell her Archer left her something else, an envelope with a key and a thumb drive. In a video message, Archer is clearly uncomfortable, and uncharacteristically apologetic. He suggests that what the key will unlock is a mess he was unable to clean up. He urges her to make sure “the truth will stay buried.” 

The key unlocks a door in a remote part of the estate, and leads to a creepy underground hideaway. (I always wonder, in movies like this, about the contractors who were brought in to build it and what they were told and how they were kept quiet.) Inside, through a dim corridor, is a prison cell, with a scrawny, unshaven man (Simon Pegg) with a haystack of hair, shackled to the wall with a neck harness. He says his name is Morgan Warner. He promises to tell Lauren his story if she will bring him steak and key lime pie. (The significance of the pie becomes one of the movie’s weirdest details.)

Then follows a lot of unnecessary padding, with various revelations about Archer’s past and why he could not let Morgan go. Will there be both a key trial appearance and a child’s recital for Lauren to miss while she tries to figure out what to do with Morgan?  

Collins is a talented and appealing performer, but her choices of roles have not always played to her strengths. She appears lost and waif-like when Lauren is supposed to be calculating, and she does not deliver the threats with the necessary implacability. In fairness, Lauren is too inconsistently written to work as a character. The same goes for Pegg, who is game but unable to make Morgan as compelling as he needs to be. And the film wastes some of its strongest assets by not giving enough time to Connie Nielsen as Lauren’s mother or Crawford as her brother.

In a flashback, Archer tells Lauren that in chess, and in life, “it’s not about where you are. It’s about where you will be in ten moves or ten years.” First-time screenwriter Matthew Kennedy should have taken that advice, but instead gives us a script that didn’t think past the trailer.

Available on VOD today, 5/22.

Eliza Hittman: ‘I sat down with abortion providers to try to understand the story I wanted to tell’

Eliza Hittman uses quietness, shadowing characters during their private downtime in between story beats. Her debut feature, It Felt Like Love, is a mesmerising female sexual coming-of-age tale, yet it was 2017’s Beach Rats, starring Harris Dickinson as a closeted Brooklyn teen, that put her on the map.

Cinematographer Hélène Louvert’s immersive, heady shooting style has drawn admiration, and the two have collaborated again on Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Starring newcomers Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, the film follows two young women on a bus from small-town Pennsylvania to New York City to secure an abortion for Flanigan’s Autumn. LWLies spoke to Hittman about deep research, her “method” style of writing, the woes of dealing with the Screen Actors Guild and her next project.

LWLies: You started researching Never Rarely Sometimes Always after reading about the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 in Galway after being denied an abortion. How did your interest in that evolve into storytelling?

Hittman: After her death, I bought a book called ‘Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora’, researching and reading for my own curiosity the journey women would take from Ireland to London and back in one day. I started to think, ‘What would the American equivalent of that journey be?’ because I didn’t think anyone would let me make a movie in Ireland. I started to think about the journey that women in rural areas take to urban areas when they can’t gain access. I started taking little road trips. I went to small towns in Pennsylvania and thought, ‘If I was a young woman here where would I go?’

I walked into a little centre, run by old women who volunteer. I took a pregnancy test and sat down and had counselling sessions. These little centres are highly controversial and problematic in the United States because they’re federally funded but there’s no licensed doctor on site, they’re just volunteers, lay people. They don’t offer any medical services, they just redirect you to adoption centres and try to offer you hand-me-downs and diapers. There’s – tragically – one in every town in America.

Then I took the Greyhound bus from that town in Pennsylvania into New York City. I wanted to see what the character would really see. I roamed around Port Authority and decided that if the film was set in winter then maybe the characters wouldn’t leave because it’s warm and safe. Port Authority became a bit of a microcosm for the city. Then I met with Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania and in New York and other clinics that were not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

I would sit down with abortion providers and clinicians and social workers to try to understand the story I wanted to tell and play out different scenarios for them. Like, ‘If I was a minor, what would your concerns be?’ and ‘How would you interact with that minor?’ That was the bulk of the research. It was a lot of information. I didn’t set out to make a documentary or a procedural drama. I wanted to make a poetic odyssey, so it was a balance of taking all that information but trying to filter it through Autumn and Skylar’s eyes.

How did you decide which elements of the abortion procedure to show?

The clinic scenes with the counsellors were the most important, because this was where Autumn would open up about herself. I chose to make so much of her back story a mystery, so here was an opportunity to reveal more; I knew in the writing process that I wanted to prioritise the scenes with the social workers over the surgical aspects. Based on how far along Autumn is, it’s a two-part procedure and for the second part of the procedure she’s not awake, so I didn’t need to show all of it.

Did you always know that you wanted to make the title an element of the sexual experience questionnaire at the abortion clinic?

No, it was something I discovered through the research process.

Did it have a different working title at any point?

Yeah, just the letter ‘A’ – like abortion as the scarlet letter. But I knew it wasn’t gonna stick, that it was a temp title, that I was searching.

Going back to your process, it sounds like you didn’t just walk a mile in Autumn’s shoes, you walked 100 miles in them.

It’s a fun way to work. I like it. It’s active. Writing at a computer is kind of stagnant. It’s interesting to be out in the world having an experience, rather than suffering at a computer. I would write and then I’d hit a wall and then I’d go back out and try to meet someone else, and then I’d come and write again. It keeps the process moving for me.

I was horrorstruck by the VHS ‘Hard Truths’ that the volunteer plays Autumn.

It’s a real video. It’s really used. I didn’t make it myself.

What were the logistics of shooting on the crowded streets of New York, and on the subway?

It was fine. I have to say the biggest challenge that we had was dealing with the Screen Actors Guild, because they didn’t understand that we’re a small production and not closing down streets and filling them with background. It’s easy to shoot on the streets of New York, it’s allowed as long as you don’t put equipment down and you’re handheld, but SAG was always showing up and fining us for not filling the streets with SAG background, which we couldn’t afford.

Why are they allowed to fine you for not filling the frame with SAG background?

They think of it as job theft. By shooting people on the street you’re not paying background.

I can just about get my head around that…

I can’t get my head around it either, but they were really shaking us down, like the mob.

How much were you fined in the end?

I think like 30 or $40,000.

What percent of the budget would that have been?

I don’t know. I think we’re still litigating it.

What’s next for you?

I’m thinking about a project about death and survival. It’s about a family that’s coping with the end of the life of the matriarch of the family. She’s in her late 90s. Even though she’s so old the family is totally unprepared emotionally and logistically for her death and they have to hire a home care worker to be with her in the last years. You think it’s this middle-class family drama about her death but once they hire this home-care worker and hand her the keys to the apartment the film changes point of view and goes into the struggle of being an immigrant in New York.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is released digitally on 11 May. Read the LWLies Recommends review.

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Robert Pattinson Reveals Why He Decided to Take on The Batman

Robert Pattinson Reveals Why He Decided to Take on The Batman

Robert Pattinson reveals why he decided to take on The Batman

Nearly eight years since Robert Pattinson starred in his last big-budget film for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 in 2012, the British actor has finally re-entered the limelight as he is officially set to portray the iconic role of Bruce Wayne/ the Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ highly-anticipated The Batman. This project will be Pattinson’s newest high-profile project after years of starring in independent films such as Good Time and The Lighthouse which had earned him critical-acclaimed.

In a recent interview with GQ, when asked about what made him take on such a big and daunting role like Batman, Pattinson revealed that although the character has already been portrayed by so many actors now, he was still intrigued and drawn to the challenge of finding a new way to make another different version of the famous caped crusader.

RELATED: Val Kilmer Opens Up About Quitting Batman

“What are the reasons not to do it? I kind of like the fact that not only are there very, very, very well-done versions of the character which seem pretty definitive, but I was thinking that there are multiple definitive playings of the character.” Pattinson explained. “It’s fun when more and more ground has been covered. Like, where is the gap? You’ve seen this sort of lighter version, you’ve seen a kind of jaded version, a kind of more animalistic version. And the puzzle of it becomes quite satisfying, to think: Where’s my opening? And also, do I have anything inside me which would work if I could do it?”

He also commented on the anticipation surrounding the project and his new version of the character. “There’s so few things in life where people passionately care about it before it’s even happened You can almost feel that pushback of anticipation, and so it kind of energises you a little bit. It’s different from when you’re doing a part and there’s a possibility that no one will even see it. Right? In some ways it’s, I don’t know…It makes you a little kind of spicy.”

When asked about why he decided to return to high-profile films, Pattinson responded honestly by revealing that he now wants something more secure for his career. He also revealed that he was indeed interested in doing blockbusters but wasn’t previously being considered in any of it because directors thought he didn’t take projects like those anymore.

“Just something which you could kind of rely on a little bit more,” Pattinson added. “The problem which I was finding was, however much I loved the movies I was doing, no one sees them. And so it’s kind of this frightening thing, ’cause I don’t know how viable this is for a career.… I don’t know how many people there actually are in the industry who are willing to back you without any commercial viability whatsoever.”

Starring alongside Robert Pattinson’s Batman/Bruce Wayne is Zoë Kravitz (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldMad Max: Fury Road) as Selina Kyle; Paul Dano (Love & Mercy12 Years a Slave) as Edward Nashton; Jeffrey Wright (the Hunger Games films) as the GCPD’s James Gordon; John Turturro (the Transformers films) as Carmine Falcone; Peter Sarsgaard (The Magnificent SevenBlack Mass) as Gotham D.A. Gil Colson; Jayme Lawson (Farewell Amor) as mayoral candidate Bella Reál; with Andy Serkis (the Planet of the Apes films, Black Panther) as Alfred; and Colin Farrell (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemDumbo) as Oswald Cobblepot. Twins Max and Charlie Carver have also joined the movie in “sizable roles.”

Plot details are still being kept under wraps but The Batman is reportedly set to explore the Dark Knight’s younger years with Reeves further hinting at the film’s connection to the iconic comic book story arc “Year One” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli which was published in 1987.

RELATED: Andy Serkis Teases The Batman’s Darker Take on the Caped Crusader

Reeves and Dylan Clark (the Planet of the Apes films) are producing the film, with Simon Emanuel, Michael E. Uslan, Walter Hamada and Chantal Nong Vo serving as executive producers.

The Batman opens in theaters on October 1, 2021.

(Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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A Beautiful Circle: Sydney Sweeney and Otmara Marrero on Clementine

One of the most remarkable love stories in recent television history took place on Netflix’s 2018 series, “Everything Sucks!”, between two teenage girls, Kate (Peyton Kennedy) and Emaline (Sydney Sweeney), or as their fans referred to them, “Kemaline.” Not only were the characters brilliantly performed, the roles themselves were never written as stereotypes or tokens, enabling the adolescent lovers to transcend any barriers that would’ve normally limited their depth. As Sweeney was filming the show, she received the script for Lara Gallagher’s achingly personal directorial feature debut, “Clementine,” a drama exploring the dizzyingly complex bond that blossoms between two women in an Oregon lake house, and to the actress, it felt like “a really beautiful circle.” The film’s two central characters, Karen (a revelatory Otmara Marrero) and Lana (Sweeney), pleasingly subvert audience expectations at every turn without ever being defined by their race, gender or sexual orientation. During our recent phone interview, Sweeney stressed that “it’s important for everyone to be able to find themselves in different characters onscreen.”

Representation is also a crucial factor to Marrero when choosing projects. “As a Latin woman, as a person of color, it’s really beautiful when a script treats its characters simply as humans, instead of viewing them solely through the prism of their culture and race,” she told me. “Karen is just a woman going through heartbreak, which makes her story super-relatable to anybody who watches it.” Hovering on the periphery of Karen and Lana’s story is a third woman, not unlike Janice Rule in Robert Altman’s “3 Women,” who happens to be Karen’s much older ex and the actual owner of the lake house. Her nagging presence hints at the cyclical nature of the dynamic forming between Karen and Lana, as it shifts from platonic to sensual to maternal and back again. Since the saddening cancellation of “Everything Sucks!,” which is wholly deserving of a second season, Sweeney has delivered indelible turns in HBO’s “Euphoria” and “Sharp Objects,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and last year’s Oscar-winner, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” yet it is in “Clementine” where she receives her finest showcase to date.

In anticipation of the film’s release this Friday, May 8th, in virtual cinemas (a full list of venues can be found here), Sweeney and Marrero spoke with about the benefit of being in the moment, the vitality of intimacy coordinators and the uncertainty of Hollywood’s future. 

Did the lack of rehearsal time actually enhance the sense of unknowing that reverberates throughout your scenes together? 

Otmara Marrero (OM): A beautiful thing happened sort of by accident. For Sydney and my relationship, not having a lot of time to get to know each other enabled that tension between us to develop organically as we filmed scene after scene. There was something really cool about not having a lot of prep time and not knowing her, but the chemistry was there from the first day we got onset. I also did some “hokey pokey” kind of prep for the role. I did dream work where I talked to my subconscious through my dreams, which was really cool as well.

Sydney Sweeney (SS): We had this beautiful rawness with each other because we didn’t spend weeks and weeks preparing together, and then we just easily hit it off and built an amazing friendship. It was a very good casting.

OM: Yes, our casting director, Nicole Arbusto, was on-point with this one.

Sydney Sweeney and Otmara Marrero in Lara Gallagher’s “Clementine.” Courtesy of Oscilloscope.

The film’s overarching theme of cyclical relationships extends to the compositions, such as when we see Lana standing in the same spot on the balcony where we saw Karen earlier. Was there an attempt to echo each other’s performances?

OM: Yeah, for sure. I think there was a lot of mirroring going on in the movie. Karen was healing through her time with Lana, while Lana was learning and developing as well. It formed this weird circle of constant growth and healing occurring between our characters, which was reflected in how we mirrored one another. 

SS: I think another moment that’s kind of similar to the one you mentioned on the balcony is when Karen and Lana are dancing. They mirror each other with their arms behind their backs, as they pretend to make out by basically kissing the air. It was a beautiful way of showing how the movie was going to progress, and how the characters were going to evolve. That dance is like its own storyline without the need for a storyline to be written in. It’s a visual storyline, which I thought was really powerful.

To what extent does having a female director bring an added level of comfort when portraying scenes of intimacy? I found them to be beautifully restrained in “Clementine.”

OM: I did love the restraint because it built up this tension that was really eerie and worked well for the film. Being directed by a woman is honestly a dream. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great, very respectful men, but you just feel more at home when it’s a woman. You feel more comfortable and you can be more vulnerable. It’s just more seamless.

SS: Because the story was so close to Lara’s heart, it was awesome to be able to work with her. We had this really amazing, small crew and the whole experience just felt very intimate. It felt like we were all creating this intimate piece of art, and I think Lara did an amazing job of putting it together. 

Has the recent prevalence of intimacy coordinators, as a result of the #MeToo movement, revolutionized how these scenes are staged?

SS: I had my first intimacy coordinator on “Euphoria,” and it changed my approach to everything. I love having one and I think they should be considered a necessity on every set. I actually brought my intimacy coordinator, Amanda Blumenthal, onto my Amazon movie, “The Voyeurs.” I wish that more productions were aware of this and we made it a priority.

OM: This might be a silly question, but what is an intimacy coordinator? I haven’t gotten there yet, but it sounds like I need one.

SS: They are basically an advocate for your voice when you may not feel comfortable speaking up. I was lucky because I felt very comfortable on the set of “Euphoria.” I could easily speak to [show creator] Sam Levinson or whomever I was talking to, but the intimacy coordinator is just there to be that extra person who’ll come to you before you start filming a scene. They’ll walk you through everything that is going to happen and even if you’ve signed a contract saying, “Yes, I’m going to do this or show this,” you can still change your mind. You can tell that person, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that,” and they will be the ones who communicate that so you won’t feel as bad. 

When you go into a scene, they’ll make sure that everything is choreographed and everyone is okay and comfortable with what is happening. They’ll provide safety garments or undergarments or little mini yoga mats if you don’t want your bodies to touch. They are there to be that protection when you may not feel it is your place to speak up, even though it is, but it helps you in those moments where it’s difficult to do so. Of course you don’t want to tell a director, “No.” You want to make their vision come to life. So if you’re doing a scene fifteen times and you don’t want to say, “I don’t know if I want to do this anymore,” the intimacy coordinator will tell the director, “Okay, one more take.”

OM: That’s a huge bonus in this business. I haven’t had any bad experiences, but I think that sounds amazing because I definitely do remember one sex scene where I saw something in the background that just didn’t feel right. I had to really muster up the courage to speak up, and I remember putting on my nice voice. I wasn’t uncomfortable, but I definitely felt like, “Aw fuck, I have to say something that’s a little scary—okay, here I go.” 

SS: That’s why the intimacy coordinator is there to speak for you. You never had a bad experience where you needed one, but why wait for the bad experience to happen and then hire someone? Why not just make everyone’s lives easier and not have to experience that? It makes that whole conversation go away.

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Sydney, you’ve spoken in the past about writing diaries for your characters, and I’m wondering whether you researched the experiences of abuse survivors in preparation to play Lana. 

SS: In the journaling that I do, when I create my characters, I definitely do very deep, extensive research into whoever or whatever might’ve made my character who they are today, and so I did look up different stories. We’re very lucky that we have access to the internet, which is the only place in the world where we can read whatever is out there, so I was able to find many stories, whether it was a YouTube video that someone posted or a diary entry in a blog. I’d read them and try to incorporate what I found into Lana’s backstory.

The shattering monologue that Lana delivers detailing the violation she experienced has so many intriguing aspects, particularly when she smiles while saying, “I like being told what to do.” Was that moment planned or did it happen naturally?

SS: It was definitely organic. I don’t like to plan or rehearse any scene, really. Actually, didn’t we do that in one take?

OM: Yeah, nothing about that monologue was planned. It sucked for me because I was on the other side in full-blown tears, and I wasn’t supposed to be that affected, but I was. So it was actually my coverage that we had to do a couple times because Sydney just nailed it. That was the first time we shot the monologue, and it turned out to be the take you see in the film.

SS: I remember the sound guy, Zach Kahl, crying in the closet. [laughs] I was beyond nervous though because that was three pages of a monologue, and I don’t like to run lines really. The dialogue should just feel organic, like how you and I are not running lines right now, we’re just talking. That’s how I always approach my characters, so I was terrified that I was going to completely forget something. It was so scary.

Since the film industry is currently in a state of flux due to COVID-19, what sort of cinematic narratives do you hope will spring from this period?

OM: That’s a great question! When this pandemic started happening, I was doing a lot of research online, because I realized that I had never really lived to see a virus like this. I started researching the Spanish flu and I read a lot about how Hollywood boomed after the pandemic had ended. It makes so much sense because when things like this happen, people run to entertainment like music, films and TV to feel safe, to feel heard, to feel understood and be seen—and also just to be comforted. 

I began thinking that maybe this is the second wave that Hollywood will see after a big flu and things will just flourish afterward. I don’t know how they will flourish, but I have a lot of faith that from this hardship, a lot of beautiful stories will be born. This is a time for self-reflection where we can tap into our inner voice that isn’t normally heard. I’ve just been sitting here in my thoughts and healing wounds that I didn’t even know were still open, so I can’t even imagine what writers are going through right now. I’m sure they have a pen and paper in hand just going at it.

SS: I can’t wait to read what they’ve written!

OM: Me too. I can’t think of any specific stories that I would necessarily want to see. But I know that there are some beautiful things that will come out of self-reflection and healing and just knowing how fortunate we are and how much we take for granted now that we can’t connect with other humans and we can’t go outside. It just makes you really think about what’s important. I’m really excited to see all the stories that will be coming out of that.

“Clementine” opens in virtual cinemas via Oscilloscope on Friday, May 8th.

Coming Out: Six great sexual awakenings in the movies

Kai Luke Brummer in Moffie (2019)

The term “moffie” is South African in origin and is one of the most aggressive and offensive slang terms for gay person. It is the provocative name of the new film by director Oliver Hermanus, a story of private sexuality facing off against public hatred. It sees well-off Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) flying the family coop to complete his military service, which includes active service on the border with Angola.

The air of machismo is expected, but he quickly discovers that there’s a zero tolerance policy towards any behaviour that might be seen as sexually deviant. If such behaviour is witnessed, it’s punishable first by extreme humiliation and degradation, and then a course of ruthless medical correction. But amid the horrors that Nicholas witnesses is his burgeoning love for a fellow recruit. At the centre of the film is a flashback to one of Nicholas’ formative sexual experiences, as he accidentally finds himself watching men taking a shower at an outdoor swimming pool.

Here are some other examples of films in which characters are seen coming to terms with – and embracing – sexuality in all manner of different ways.

1. Moonlight (2016)

First it was a breakthrough but soon it became a behemoth: Barry Jenkins’ screen adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ is an indie coming-of-age story that went on to secure Oscar gold. This three-part tale depicts three chapters in the life of Chiron, and it charts the fractious relationship with his own sexuality: from confused initial pangs in the first chapter; to a sudden realisation in the second; then romantic acceptance in the third.

2. Carol (2015)

This wonderful, lilting 1950s-set romance is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith called ‘The Price of Salt’ and it offers a sublime showcase for its two leading ladies: Cate Blanchett (in the title role), and Rooney Mara (as the smitten ingenue, Therese). We see the microsecond their eyes meet, across the shop floor of a New York department store over the holiday season, where Carol is looking to purchase a train set for her son, and Therese is more than willing to help her out. It’s a moment of pure electricity, but one which director Todd Haynes doesn’t milk for undue emotion.

3. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

It’s crazy to think that Stephen Frears’ queer classic My Beautiful Laundrette is 35 years old, as its story of wide-eyed Pakistani odd-jobber, Omar (Gordon Warnecke), and his love affair with a cockney punk named Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) has lost none of its provocative edge. Omar is tending a run-down laundrette run by a father’s wheeler-dealing friends, when one day Johnny comes by, and the pair have an instant connection. So much so, we soon discover that their relationship began during their school days – before it was interrupted.

4. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

This eye-scorching and outrageous camp classic is set in a gay rehabilitation camp run by Ru Paul among others, and whose students are all suspected by overly conservative parents to be sexual deviants. The entire film is about cheer girl Megan (Natasha Lyonne) and her long, slow but ultimately transcendent realisation about who she really is, coaxed from her with the help of fellow inductee, Graham (Clea DuVall).

5. Beginners (2010)

Sometimes, coming out of the closest is not something you attend to in your formative years. What about if you’re trapped in there until your senior years? Beginners, by writer/director Mike Mills, deals with one such situation, as Ewen McGregor’s Oliver casts his mind back over the five years prior to his father, Hal’s, death, and his late-game but full-force embrace of his true sexuality. The film is a bittersweet comedy that celebrates the notion of living life in your true skin, even if just for a relatively short while.

6. Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu)

The first LGBT+-themed film to come out of Kenya (in 2018) tells of two teenage girls from different sides of the tracks: first there’s lanky tomboy Kena, who has a bright future as a nurse tee’d up; and there’s Ziki, a glamorous and sexually forward latchkey girl who just wanders around town just enjoying herself. They keep running into one another, soon they start talking, one thing leads to another, and then… boom. The film, by director Wanuri Kahiu, remains banned in its home state.

Moffie is available to stream now via Curzon Home Cinema.

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HBO Announces May Episodes of Sesame Street!

HBO Announces May Episodes of Sesame Street!

HBO announces May episodes of Sesame Street!

For younger viewers still stuck at home and parents looking for new ways to keep them entertained, HBO has revealed that the iconic crew of Sesame Street are set to return in May with five new episodes exploring everything from nature to Spanish and maps! Check out the episode descriptions below!

RELATED: WarnerMedia Networks To Simultaneously Air Sesame Street Special

Season 50, Episode 25: “A Very Special Fiesta”
Topic: Spanish
Debut date: SATURDAY, MAY 2 (9:00-9:30 a.m. ET/PT)
Charlie, Grover, Rudy, and Abby help Rosita and her abuela plan for a friend’s fiesta. While trying to figure out what they need for the party, they try to guess who Rosita and her abuela’s friend could be.

Season 50, Episode 26: “Back to Nature”
Topic: Nature/Growing
Debut date: SATURDAY, MAY 9 (9:00-9:30 a.m. ET/PT)
Abby and Rudy want to bring nature inside Hooper’s so Chris can feel like he’s outside. Abby uses her mom’s magic wand but makes a mistake and fills Hooper’s with too many animals and plants. Abby apologizes for using her mom’s wand without permission and together, with her mom, she learns how to fix her mistake without using magic.

Season 50, Episode 27: “Welcome Baby Chicks”
Topic: Chickens
Debut date: SATURDAY, MAY 16 (9:00-9:30 a.m. ET/PT)
Elmo, Abby, Bert, and Ernie have to be patient and wait for baby chicks to hatch. By singing and making arts and crafts together, they learn that time can fly when you’re having fun.

Season 50, Episode 28: “Searching for Letter Y”
Topic: Alphabet
Debut date: SATURDAY, MAY 23 (9:00-9:30 a.m. ET/PT)
Telly, Elmo, and Abby become knights and go on a quest to help an AM Letter “Y’ find its purpose in life.

Season 50, Episode 29: “The Treasure of Yucky Mama”
Topic: Maps
Debut date: SATURDAY, MAY 30 (9:00-9:30 a.m. ET/PT)
Yucky Mama’s old treasure map is discovered during Oscar’s spring dusting. The map shows how Sesame Street used to look 50 years ago. To find the treasure, Oscar, Elmo, Abby, Nina, and Charlie use the map to find their way around Sesame Street, comparing the places that used to be on the Street to the places that are there now, and complete three grouchy challenges.

RELATED: Sesame Street Moving to HBO Max, Spin-Offs Ordered for Streaming Service

Sesame Street is currently available to watch on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand, as well as the networks’ streaming platform partners!

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How Adam Schlesinger achieved pop perfection with That Thing You Do

The Oneders in That Thing You Do (1996)

The sad news of Adam Schlesinger’s death due to coronavirus-related complications had fans everywhere humming ‘Stacy’s Mom’ in a low and sombre key. But the Fountains of Wayne hit, co-written with frontman Chris Collingwood, was far from the only earworm Schlesinger was responsible for.

An accomplished multi-instrumentalist with a knack for catchy, ironic pop songs, Schlesinger lent his songwriting genius to numerous movies and TV shows over the years. Most recently, he served as executive music producer on CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, co-created by Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna.

Almost 20 years before writing 157 songs for the show – including the Emmy-winning, La La Land-inspired ‘Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal’ – Schlesinger tried his hand at writing a retro melody for Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, That Thing You Do!.

The 1996 musical comedy follows the meteoric rise of fictional band The Oneders (pronounced “One-ders”, later restored to its original spelling by Hanks’ character, seasoned record producer Mr White). It’s 1964 in Erie, Pennsylvania and this Beatles-esque pop quartet are desperately pushing for their big break.

When Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) steps in for former drummer Chad (Giovanni Ribisi) after he breaks his arm just before a talent show, he believes it’s going to be for one night only. And his girlfriend Tina (Charlize Theron) couldn’t agree more.

Once at the show, Guy tries to speed things up as Tina’s impatience becomes more and more apparent. The drummer turns the ballad written by arrogant frontman Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) into a song short enough to give Tina the time to refresh her makeup before their date.

Little does Guy know that his accidental uptempo will make ‘That Thing You Do’ into a snappy, peppy hit ready to take the Billboard charts and the hearts of hundreds of fangirls by storm, if only for a summer. Toying with the classic themes of ’60s pop rock – primarily a consuming, unrequited love for a coquettish young woman — Schlesinger’s song is delightfully self-aware and, crucially, impossible to resist.

After the film’s release, Schlesinger explained that he wrote the track as a creative exercise right before Fountains of Wayne released their debut album. With his friend and producer Mike Viola providing the lead vocals and Schlesinger singing back-up, the perfect fake ’60s bop was born. He didn’t think his demo was going to be picked up, but its British Invasion-inspired groove sealed the deal.

Mirroring the fictional success of the band, ‘That Thing You Do’ entered the actual Billboard Hot 100 peaking at 41 and securing Schlesinger nominations for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes and the Oscars in 1997. Fiction and reality overlapped once more when Hanks established his production company and record label Playtone in 1998, naming it after the record company featured in the movie.

Remembering Schlesinger after his death, Hanks acknowledged the songwriter’s pivotal role in creating Playtone. “There would be no Playtone without Adam Schlesinger, without his ‘That Thing You Do’,” he tweeted. “He was a One-der.”

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Fleabag Live Theater Performance Set to Stream on Amazon Prime

Fleabag Live Theater Performance Set to Stream on Amazon Prime

Fleabag live theater performance set to stream on Amazon Prime

As an effort to raise funds for COVID-19 charities, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s 2019 live theater performance of Fleabag will now be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, starting on Friday, April 10. In addition, producers have also started a fundraising support for UK theatre freelancers, who have been affected by the pandemic, called Fleabag Support Fund. It has already collected £356,000 donations from Phoebe Waller-Bridge and further donations from TodayTix and an anonymous donor.

“I hope this filmed performance of Fleabag can help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times.” Waller-Bridge said in a statement (via Deadline). “Thank you to all our partners and to the creative team who have waived their royalties from this production to raise money for such vital causes in this unbelievably challenging situation. All money raised will support the people throughout our society who are fighting for us on the frontlines and those financially devastated by the crisis, including those in the theatre community. Thank you in advance to those who donate. Now go get into bed with Fleabag. It’s for charity.”

Produced by DryWrite, Soho Theatre and Annapurna Theatre,the critically-acclaimed one-woman show was filmed at Wyndham’s Theatre in London, where fees earned from the show are set to be distributed to charities such as The National Emergencies Trust, NHS Charities Together and Acting For Others and the Fleabag Support Fund.

RELATED: Obsession Never Dies in New Killing Eve Season 3 Trailer

Created and written by Phoebe Waller-BridgeFleabag is a hilarious and poignant window into the mind of a dry-witted, sexual, angry, grief-riddled woman (Waller-Bridge), as she hurls herself at modern living in London. The show is based on Waller-Bridge’s play “Fleabag,” which won an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the Critics’ Circle and Off-West End Awards for Most Promising Playwright and a Special Commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

The series also starred Brett Gelman (American Dad!, Twin Peaks), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, The Night Manager), Bill Paterson (The Rebel, Outlander), Hugh Dennis (Outnumbered), Hugh Skinner (Harlots, Poldark), Jamie Demetriou (Paddington 2, People Time), Jenny Rainsford (The Favourite, The Smoke), and Sian Clifford (Fry-Up, Paddy).

RELATED: HBO’s Run Trailer: Don’t Say It Unless You Mean It

Fleabag Season 2 debuted last year where it had earned 3 Emmys Awards and 2 Golden Globe Awards including Best Comedy Series and Best Actress in a Comedy Series for Waller-Bridge’s amazing performance as the titular character.

Seasons 1-2 are available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. recommends all readers comply with CDC guidelines and remain as isolated as possible during this urgent time.

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