An Interview with Director and Actress Joan Darling, Pioneer of the 70′s

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Joan Darling (bottom left), part of the cast of Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1973)

Joan Darling entered show business as an actress on the New York theater scene in the 1960s, then became a fixture of early 70′s television. In 1974, she made the leap from acting to directing and quickly made history as one of the first and most successful women directors in television. She had an instant knack for it—her debut, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a soap opera parody, has become an enduring cult classic for its dark-edged humor and deep understanding of the desperation and sadness of the American home.

Highlights of her career include a Mary Tyler Moore episode, Chuckles Bites the Dust, which, for its deft tightrope-walk between comedy and pathos, TV Guide calls the greatest television episode ever; a classic M*A*S*H episode, The Nurses, which  revolutionized the way the show portrayed women; and a leading role in an episode of The Psychiatrist, directed by a pre-Jaws, pre-Duel Spielberg.

These days, Joan teaches acting and directing classes at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. She agreed to a phone interview, and in about an hour, I learned more about the arts of acting and directing than I ever thought possible:
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Smug Film Podcast Episode #2 – Movie Theaters (4/14/14)

movietheaters
1:11:24 | View on iTunes | Download Mp3

On this episode, I am joined by fellow Smug Film contributors Jenna Ipcar and Ned Martin. We discuss all things movie theaters—from our best and worst movie theater experiences, to the best theaters we’ve ever been to. As always, we go on tangents along the way, and close the show with questions from our mailbag. If you have a question for the show, leave it in the comments or email us at Podcast@SmugFilm.com.

If you enjoy the podcast, be sure to subscribe on iTunes, and leave a rating and a comment on there as well. Doing this helps us immensely as far as our ranking on there, which is what allows people to be able to discover us. Word of mouth is always best of all though, so spread the word!

By the way, the beautiful painting above is by artist Marianne Kuhn, and it is called Naro Cinema Norfolk VA. You can see the full painting and buy prints of it at FineArtAmerica.

Movie Stuff Referenced in this Episode:
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A Philosophical Examination of ‘Anchorman 2: The Super-Sized R-Rated Cut’

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Anchorman 2: The Super-Sized R-Rated Cut (2014)
Directed by Adam McKay
Written by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
143 min. (24 min. longer than the original cut)

We’ve all read Greg’s great review of Anchorman 2. He breaks the film down on a mechanical level, getting to the heart of it by working through its raw material: its jokes.

It’s this raw material which has been replaced in this new version.

This isn’t the first time an alternate version of a film has seen theatrical release. Exorcist II and Heaven’s Gate were notoriously pulled from theaters and recut. I remember seeing The New World in New York in 2005, and when it got a wide release a few weeks later, it was about 10 minutes shorter. But unlike these films, the reason for Anchorman 2’s recutting is not because there was something ‘wrong’ with the original—the filmmakers here simply wanted to experiment with the possibilities of cinema.

This isn’t the first recut of an Anchorman movie. Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is an alternate cut of the first Anchorman, which Greg touched on in his review (and which we saw together after acquiring it from the wonderful and unfortunately long gone Kim’s Video of Bleecker Street). It was a direct-to-DVD release, and featured many different jokes, but the main difference was its integration of a completely discarded plot that revolved around a revolutionary terrorist cell robbing banks in San Diego (which was clearly deemed unsatisfactory, and reshot as the Panda Watch section of the original film). The film tries to weave a half-assed narrative out of these scraps, using some leftover jokes as the glue.

The new version of Anchorman 2, however, is not at all different in terms of plot. In fact, beat by beat, it’s the same. If you’re someone who only half-watches movies, you’d be forgiven by some for not thinking anything was different—but you wouldn’t be forgiven by me. The fabric of Anchorman is its jokes, and now, for once, the emperor really does have new clothes.

We may lose a couple great jokes from the original cut, replaced by weaker ones, but these weaker ones often serve as necessary setup for three great new ones that couldn’t have fit in otherwise. In any case though, it’s futile to compare and rate the jokes. Instead what is important and worthy of discussion is the space these jokes occupy. By this I mean the entire philosophical concept of switching one joke for another.
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On Exposition

jurassicexposition


There’s a great little story about how on the set of E.T., Spielberg slowly unwrapped a toy off camera to illicit a reaction from the young actor playing Elliott.  I’ve always thought this story was a great way to explain how a filmmaker should approach exposition.  Exposition is the easiest, most fun, and most misunderstood part of storytelling.  But filmic exposition is generally stupid, because people are afraid of it.

Somebody once asked me,  about my 50/50 Rule, “When making a movie, would you pay extra special attention to how it starts, since you lose interest in so many movies so fast?”  The answer is decidedly no, because every frame of a movie is sacred and equally important.  If you treat your entire movie like that, then you don’t need to spend extra attention to any one part of it.  Exposition is too often just underestimated as something that has to be blown through in order to get to the fun stuff.  To counteract this, the indies have bloated their exposition with way too much visual minutiae.  You can build a ‘stark’, ‘oblique’, ‘atmospheric’ world with your story—you don’t need shots that hold too long on a girl as she wistfully puts on makeup.

Jurassic Park is my favorite exercise in exposition, and in a way, the entire movie is exposition.
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Smug Film Podcast Episode #1 – Writing About Film (4/7/14)

writingabout
1:07:12 | View on iTunes | Download Mp3

This is the very first episode of the Smug Film podcast! On this episode, I am joined by fellow Smug Film contributors John D’Amico and Jenna Ipcar. We discuss Matt Zoller Seitz’ article, Please, Critics, Write About the Filmmaking, and what we believe the duties of a film reviewer are. We also go on tangents—from Russian cinema to the ideal usage of DSLR cameras—and to close, we answer questions from our mailbag. If you have a question for the show, leave it in the comments or email us at Podcast@SmugFilm.com.

If you enjoy the podcast, be sure to subscribe on iTunes, and leave a rating and a comment on there as well. Doing this helps us immensely as far as our ranking on there, which is what allows people to be able to discover us. Word of mouth is always best of all though, so spread the word!

Movie Stuff Referenced in this Episode:
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