An Early Christmas Gift: The Hollywood Reporter Roundtables
Each year The Hollywood Reporter gathers all the noteworthy actors, writers and directors to discuss their craft and whatever else comes up in the 60 minutes they splice together. While all the people that are chosen are indeed noteworthy I think we all are more than aware this kind of tradition really has Oscars written all over it. However, in the years past a handful of people selected for these roundtables do not end up making the cut come golden statue time. I remember being incredibly disappointed after watching Charlize Theron in the roundtable for actresses only to see a few months later her amazing performance in Young Adult wasn’t recognized. Some years are more predictable than others and the conversations can drag a bit. This year however, there must be something in the air. I have yet to watch the executive roundtable because unfortunately I like to watch familiar faces but with the exception of the writers each one has moments that are well worth the 3 hour watch time.
It’s almost unfair to express just how great the director roundtable is because it gets an automatic win with Quentin Tarantino present. The man just makes his presence known in every interview whether it be with his lively comments or aggressive gestures. Within the hour he goes off on rants stuttering and staggering through speeches that are a spectacle. One of my favorites has to be when he expresses his disdain for the digital film world we are all faced with in today’s society. All the while, Ang Lee who just utilized all that Tarantino hates in Life of Pi sits directly to his left. Although Lee doesn’t seem like he is really fazed by absolutely anything.
Tarantino’s thumbs seem like they’ve never moved from more than an upright position and his face is so red with excitement you can’t help but keep watching. Even better are the looks that he receives with every statement he makes. Tarantino is enough of a character to fill the roundtable with life but then you have David O’Russell who has no problem just flat out asking what the hell Tarantino means. Russell is seen countless times trying to workout in his head the words that were just spoken and I’m not even sure he works out any of them. While last year Alexander Payne and his hipster juices created stuffiness that flat out bothered the shit out of me, this year the circle is filled with men that genuinely seem to like each other. They each have no problem discussing their failures with honesty and poking fun at their shaky pasts. My favorite has to be Russell alluding to never having freaked out on set. Oh how I love YouTube.
Tom Hooper doesn’t seem to ever want to smile and the one time he does he immediately reverts back to serious mood straightening his jacket. The common theme here is that when he does crack a smile it is because of Tarantino. The guy brings in dick jokes and doesn’t give a shit. It’s fantastic. It’s always interesting watching the roundtables especially when the people involved have worked with one another. The director roundtable is even more special in this regard as Gus Van Sant sits quietly to the left listening to Affleck speak about directing. It’s crazy to think that 15 years ago GusVan Sant was directing Affleck in what would become one of his best performances. I mean other than Phantoms. Affleck also has a way of telling stories that is so genuine it draws you in. A story about directing his brother says all you need to know about working professionally with siblings. This roundtable is a must watch for this award season.
The actresses round tables spends a little too much time discussing paparazzi and it’s negative effect on their lives. However, my new hero Helen Hunt jumps in and snaps all the women back into reality to salvage what was left of the roundtable. She questions interviewer Stephen Galloway in a way that is challenging without being threatening. He seems caught off guard yet it steers the interview back into the actresses and their work, which is why we’re all watching. While it doesn’t feel as intimate as the director or actor roundtable the women still manage to connect and interact with each other in a way that makes it seem as if they’ve known each other their whole lives.
The best parts of these roundtables are when the interviewees let loose with their stories and forget who might be listening. They describe terrible experiences not to complain but more to let us better understand what goes through an actor’s head. Marion Cotillard describes an awful experience working with a French director and while she never names him specifically anybody with Wikipedia can put the pieces together.
Sally Field who has been in the game for years has no shame and at this point and why should she? Her stories raise interesting questions about the aging actress in Hollywood that has to be addressed every award season. While not as much as a thrill ride as the director or actor roundtable the women still come out strong. Amy Adams has a particularly revealing moment when she discusses the paparazzi taking pictures of her daughter. It’s a moment that made me realize maybe her performance in The Master wasn’t so much acting as it was Amy Adams just playing herself.
Richard Gere has never really struck me as being human, my mother likes to refer to him as plastic and this interview doesn’t help much. He expresses his love for the Dalai Lama and goes as far as to suggest he will set up a meeting for Alan Arkin to meet him. This may be possible but it’s the causal nature in which Gere does this that is one of the more troubling parts in the actor roundtable. Even with that each actor gets their chance to shine and the small space that feels like it’s the room in the back of a club you’d have to through 5 doors to get to makes it even more intimate.
Ultimately if you’re going to ever watch The Hollywood Reporter roundtables this is the year to do it. While I don’t see every one of their picks getting recognition come award time that’s not what’s important. There will be plenty of one on one interviews with each of these talents but this might be the only time to see them all together. Besides if you do watch you’ll get an answer to the age-old question; will Quentin Tarantino every direct a musical?