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Spotlight on the Social Issue Drama: David Gordon Green and Thomas McCarthy take their shots

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

When David Gordon Green broke away from his indie roots to make the mainstream stoner comedy Pineapple Express, followed by the idiosyncratic (and less financially successful) but still mainstream Your Highness and The Sitter, much was made of this unexpected career left turn. Green has since swung back into indie territory with a trio of lower-key dramas (Prince Avalanche; Joe; Manglehorn), albeit with bigger stars than anyone who appeared in All the Real Girls or Snow Angels, and his fluid, prolific toggling between genres makes clear both his talent and his personal stamp. Though not everyone recognized it, his loopy broad comedies are not so far removed from his loopy, less broad character studies or Malick-ish dreamscapes; the scrappy chase narrative of Undertow shares a certain kinship with Pineapple Express, and the aimlessness of Pacino’s Manglehorn and Jonah Hill’s feckless babysitter have a certain, subtle rhyme scheme.

It turns out, if you really want David Gordon Green to stretch, assign him to do a George Clooney/Grant Heslov/Participant Media social-issue drama. Producing partners Clooney and Heslov aren’t formally involved with Participant, but they have a taste for the kinds of high-minded material the company seeks out; though Participant has worked on plenty of films, some of their most notable have won Clooney an acting Oscar (Syriana), announced his seriousness as a writer/director (Good Night, and Good Luck), and supported Clooney’s frequent collaborator Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!; Contagion). Now Participant has produced Our Brand Is Crisis, a fiction-film version of the same-named documentary, once earmarked for a Clooney directorial project. At some point, Clooney (who still produced with Heslov) passed the project to Green, having gained a star in Sandra Bullock, who signed on after screenwriter Peter Straughan (who also worked on the non-Participant but Participant-ish The Men Who Stare at Goats, co-starring Clooney) agreed to flip the protagonist’s gender to female.
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Listening to Llewyn, Riggan, and Philip: Three Portraits of the Artist as an Asshole

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.

Unlikeable protagonists have been having something of a Renaissance as of late (so much so that some of us at Sports Alcohol have gone so far as to wonder if we aren’t unlikeable protagonists ourselves). They can be found anywhere, of course, but many films tend to show them thriving (or at least getting by) in the art world. This makes sense, as it’s a place uniquely suited to the working out of personal demons in a public arena – and film is a format uniquely suited to displaying that struggle in immediate and imaginative ways. Three recent films, Inside Llewyn Davis, Birdman, and Listen Up Philip, have done just that, grappling with the great divide that often opens between creators and their creations, particularly once said creations are out in the world for others to consume. Though their chosen mediums vary, from music to theatre to fiction, one thing unites the three artists portrayed in these films: they are total bastards.
Continue reading Listening to Llewyn, Riggan, and Philip: Three Portraits of the Artist as an Asshole