Part of the wave of initiatives in Elvis Mitchell's rebooted Film Independent at LACMA programming is a series of live script reads directed by Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno), who kicked things off last month with a star-studded rendition of The Breakfast Club. Last night's second script read of the 1960 multiple Oscar-winner The Apartment, with Natalie Portman and Steve Carell in the Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon roles, respectively, demonstrated how the marriage of cherished movie memories, live theater, and fresh talent is such an inspired idea to begin with.
In conversation with Movieline's Elvis Mitchell Friday at SXSW, director Todd Phillips talked all things Todd Phillips: His fascination with awkward male relationships, the status of The Hangover 2, how heartbroken he was when his HBO documentary Frat House was shelved by a lawsuit, and wise words he once received from James Cameron. And somewhere between sharing revelations from Due Date (a test of how forgiving an audience could be of Robert Downey Jr.) and expressing love for both Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen (they're both "my boys"), Phillips accused Warner Bros. of violating DGA rules in the name of milking the home-video market.
No actor has made a career of exerting determination to the extent that Matt Damon has. In the Bourne movies, he burned himself down to a central nervous system -- his focus fried away unnecessary calories. In The Informant!, the comedy comes from doughy Mark Whitacre's single minded pursuit of the life he has in his head; the weight he happily carries didn't make him earthbound. That film's examination of identity played like a Philip K. Dick adaptation; it seems to serve the purpose of making writer/director George Nolfi's simultaneously drab and florid adaptation of Dick's Adjustment Team superfluous.
The chanting of the monks in Of Gods and Men has an immense power -- it drives away doubts and cleanses their minds, leaving them opening for the possibility of sacrifice. Xavier Beauvois' film conflates the power of exultation and loss by having them intersect. What he creates is distinctive -- an ascetic melodrama that massages its way into your soul. And rising to the challenge in this fact-based story is Lambert Wilson in the role of a lifetime -- as Christian, the leader of the Algerian monks abducted by terrorists, he holds the screen with an empathetic magnetism.