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At the opening of 2019, I'm reviewing the state of something in 2019: what's on the scene now and what to look for in the coming year! This week, it's the State of Movies, 2019 and to that end I talk with the amazing screenwriter Phil Hay, whose most recent film, Destroyer, features Nicole Kidman as a messed up cop, seeking revenge, in what I think is her best performance ever.
He's also one of the writers behind the amazing horror film The Invitation. Phil creates these incredible movies with his wife, the director Karyn Kusama*, and his writing partner, Matt Manfredi. Phil once said, “To me, the main thing that I believe qualifies you to be a writer is that you’re really interested in other people.” And for Phil, includes his characters, the audience, and other filmmakers past and present. I'm so excited to share this conversation with you.
Phil and I talk: how genre films and how they're overtaking moviemaking in general, the challenge of making challenging movies; the importance of truly female characters rather than women playing male roles; why we need a reappraisal of Phil/Karyn/Matt's excellent (yeah, I said it) sci-fi movie starring Charlize Theron, Aeon Flux; how going to the theater pre-internet, without knowing what was playing, created a different way of watching; liking the movies we don't like; horror audiences as the ideal audiences; portrayals of processing grief; the problem and promise of the cult; why cult-like statements can be useful; patriarchy as a narrative that is so boring that we need to overturn it, and more!
*PS, sorry for mispronouncing Karyn's name at the top. It's KAH-rin, not CARE-in. Duh, Conner.
• Yes, this is Phil's ep, but there's a great recent portrait of Karyn in the New York Times that features fun little appearances by Phil. I asked Karyn to be on the show too, but she couldn't make it happen. Hopefully it'll happen soon though!
• At the top of the show, I mention AEWCH 44 with Kelly Link and Jordy Rosenberg. You know, I'm thinking that, considering that ep and AEWCH 23 with horror writer Brian Evenson, I'm obsessed with talking about genre!
• The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators by Gordon Grice is one of my favorite nature writing books, even though (or because?) it's absolutely brutal. Each chapter is about a different predator, from black widows to mantids to dogs to snakes. (Gordon is a dream guest for the show, by the way.)
• Have you read Desperate Characters by Paula Fox (pictured below)? It's a slim, great novel that starts with a woman getting bitten by a cat that may or may not be rabid. It's a great book about spiraling out.
• I know it sounds improbable, but the Aeon Flux movie is really good! Give it another chance if you haven't seen it since its release.
• Some other movies mentioned in this episode:
Jennifer's Body (directed by Karyn). It Follows. Berlin Alexanderplatz. Chinatown. Sorry To Bother You. Deepstar Six. Dancer In The Dark. The Blair Witch Project. Krisha. Backcountry (directed by Adam MacDonald). Alien.
Great to be posting eps again. Thanks for hanging in there with me during my move to Ireland. Back to our normal schedule, now!
Until next time folks,
A few Phil-related pics below:
(The banality of evil as an LA dinner party in The Invitation.)
(Charlize going Kill-Bill-meets-Cronenberg in Aeon Flux)
(An audience in LA being faced down by Nicole Kidman in Destroyer - photo by Phil)