By John C.
Last week I had an idea. The “brilliant and beloved” Richard Crouse, who has interviewed so many celebrities, would make a good subject for an interview. I posed this question to him last Thursday, asking if it would be okay to send over some questions. He gave me his phone number, and graciously said I could call. I spoke to him for just over 20 minutes this past Friday afternoon. .
We talked about everything from the genius of Pixar, to the brilliant state of family entertainment in 2009, and the pop culture phenomenon that is Avatar. He gave me his picks for the best and worst movies of last year, and told me what he would nominate for Best Picture if he had a ballot.
To the right is a picture of Richard wearing his awesome Mr. Fox "tail tie", (which we also briefly discussed)
When did you start reviewing movies? Well, I started reviewing movies probably about 15 years ago. Before that I had written about music, and movies a little but mainly music.
And when did you know that’s what you wanted to do? When I first saw a film and realized ‘you know what? I liked that, but I think that they could have done this better’. And that was probably when I was about 5 years old. I grew up in a very small town in Nova Scotia, and they had a beautiful old movie theatre. Now the population of the town was only about 1500, and this place was built to be a grand opera house with space for 900, or so people. So often there were only like 10 or 15 other people in there, so it was like this really cavernous place. I was entranced by it, and we would often go a few times a week, but it was so far out of the way that often the selection playing would be far behind what was playing elsewhere, so one day you could be seeing a Bruce Lee movie, and the next a Russian art film, and the next Santa Claus Conquers The World, except in June. This gave me a broad appreciation for movies - as for the first one I saw, I don’t remember.
What were the best movies you saw in 2009? They were actually all kids movies this year, (or last year if you get technical). I feel that they really set the bar high. My favourites would have to be Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and The Frog, and Where The Wild Things Are. Those are the ones that stand out for me. Another one would possibly be Avatar, which is living at the centre of pop culture right now as such a big movie, but 10 years I think I might look back on the phenomenon and of the year we will remember the kids movies the most.
That’s kind of what I feel about Avatar as well. It was visually stunning though. Absolutely, it was really an overwhelming experience to watch.
But the other films you mentioned will be more timeless. I think so. The Princess and The Frog was one that gives a good example of avoiding the trap that a lot of other animated kids films get into. When they think they must have jokes for adults, like pop culture references, mentioning Brittany Spears, etc., eventually, they will seem dated because of that. If you make classics, with good stories well told, then they will appeal to everyone at the very basic emotions. You have to trust that when you tell a good story, you don’t need to add all kinds of references in order to keep people interested.
And TPatF had a great soundtrack... Absolutely.
My next question for you today is, what were the worst movies you saw this past year? The worst movie was I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. I think that it is not only worst of the year, but, and this may sound clichéd, but the worst certainly that I’ve seen as a professional. I felt like I was leaving a crime scene when I walked out of the theatre - a crime scene against entertainment. It was just really poorly made from top to bottom. I’m having a little trouble remembering some of the bad movies of last year. Just let me pull up a list. I’m currently writing an article about movies opening in April, so 2009 seems like a while ago.
Yeah, and the bad ones are the ones that you try not to remember. Right. So when did you start your website?
It was started in June, 2008 with a review of Get Smart. So was that a positive or a negative?
Fairly positive. That had The Rock in it, who I just finished reviewing in The Tooth Fairy.
Oh, I haven’t seen that one yet. Don’t bother, it’s terrible. Other ones that can be considered failures, are those that try to shoot the bar, but don’t attain it. Probably the ones I would really consider some of the worst movies are, when there are great movies like Mr. Fox, on the flip side there are films like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Astro Boy, those are movies that, unlike something like Mr. Fox, treat kids like they’re stupid and can’t handle anything that isn’t goofy and shiny. And then there’s The Ugly Truth, that’s another movie that tried to put two appealing stars together in a premise that could have worked but just started rehashing, so could be considered one of the worst movies.
Especially when you look at a romantic comedy that really worked like (500) Days of Summer. Right, that one was really charming, interesting, and funny too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt should be an enormous star, I mean he’s already famous, and Zooey Deschanel, well, she should be my girlfriend.
What movies are are you most looking forward to in 2010? In 2010, there’s a movie called Kickass - the trailers look completely politically incorrect, like a 10 or 11 year old girl as a trained assassin, but I honestly think that the line ‘Good call, baby doll’, could become the new I’m Rick James, b****!.
And it looks hilarious. It does look hilarious.
Other ones that I’m curious about are the new Robin Hood remake, I mean Russell Crow has had some up’s and down’s, and then there’s Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion... And I’m also interested about Chris Nolan’s Inception - I mean the trailer looks amazing - and the description says it’s a sci-fi action film set within the architecture of the mind. Then there’s Greenberg, which is by the director of The Squid and the Whale, which I liked, and I’m interested to see more of a drama with Ben Stiller rather than a straight comedy and also it’s with Greta Gerwig. I'm curious to see whether she can make the leap to something that is a little bigger budget than usual.
Also, there’s I Love You Phillip Morris - I’m just really curious to see Jim Carrey and Ewen McGregor in that one, and Alice in Wonderland, which obviously we all know the story of, so it’s not for that, but I saw the props, and they are absolutely gorgeous, so it'll be a beautiful film. And then - I don't know when it's coming out, if it even is this year - the new ‘Three Stooges’ movie. I’ve heard different things, although at this point I think there’s talk that it will have Sean Penn, Jim Carrey, and Benicio Del Toro. But the interesting thing is that it's not a biography, it's actually a new Three Stooges movie.
And then there’s also Toy Story 3 coming out as well. What are your thoughts on that one? Well, to me, I think Pixar can do no wrong. They chose to make TS3 and these aren't people who need the money, or do something for the money, so if they’re doing it, then I’m sure they’ll make it cool or interesting.
What’s the coolest promotional item you’ve ever received? I don’t keep them all, since there’s only so much space, but as for DVD’s, I really liked the Planet of the Apes set, where all of the DVD’s are in a life-sized bust of Cornelius (one of the characters). It was stuffed with as many discs as could fit in the back of his head. Also, there was this Russian horror science fiction movie - and this was a few years ago - and it came with a little doll like creature with spider legs, a replica from the movie, that you can wind it up and it scurries around the floor. I actually have that right here.
What’s the most practical? The most practical are the clothes, since you can actually use them. T-shirts, hats, so that stuff’s pretty practical, and you also get lots of pens, which are always useful because I’m a writer, and I have gotten a lighter...
I remember seeing a picture of you wearing a Fantastic Mr. Fox tail tie... I love the tail tie, I wore the tail tie on Canada AM. I just thought it was a really cool promotional item, that was really unique to the film it was promoting. So I had some fun and wore it on TV.
Do you believe that 3D is the future of cinema? No. People right now are suggesting that the only way to make huge money is to make 3D movies. Avatar is a movie that is enhanced by the 3D, but if you tell a good story, then you can still succeed without it. The 3D in Avatar is beautiful, and I certainly don't object to 3D...
I haven’t, so I was wondering if you’ve seen Avatar in 2D? I haven’t, but my girlfriend saw it in Bangkok in 2D, and she was underwhelmed by it, so I don’t know how it will hold up in 2D.
Not like a film like Up...
What are your thoughts on Avatar and it’s Best Picture chances? Well you know, I wasn’t surprised that the Golden Globes gave it a Best Picture. It’s like how they were more apt to go with Robert Downey Jr., since they knew that he would give a funny, charming, engaging little speech. I don’t know whether or not the Academy will work by the same standards, The Hurt Locker is a superior movie, and if it won, it might get enough attention to get more eyes on it, since not as many people saw it as they should have. Also, it would be interesting to see Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron, who are ex’s, go up against each other...
Do you think a film like, one of my favourites, Up, is secured a nomination for Best Picture, or do you think there will there be an upset come February 2nd? I don't know. I think that since they have 10, the only reason it wouldn’t be, would be because it’s animated. Certainly if you have a list with 10, its gotta be here.
What are your predictions for the Oscars? The only one to put money on is Jeff Bridges - I think it’s a lock. I think he’s a master, and Crazy Heart is some of his best work in a very long time.
...and The Weary Kind for Best Song... Yes, it has really good shot of getting it in. You know, the irony, is that it’s by Ryan Bingham, and Ryan Bingham is the name of the character in Up in the Air.
Next, what would you nominate for Best Picture if you had a ballot? If I had a ballot, I would probably nominate Up in the Air, Inglourious Basterds, all of the kids movies I’d mentioned as favourites before, The Hurt Locker, Avatar might be in there, (I don’t know if that’s 10 yet), and Tyson - in terms of a documentary it just really stood out.
It seems like with 10 nominations, what doesn’t get nominated? It feels that way. I read an article by Pete Hammond saying that Academy members are having trouble coming up with ten films to nominate. I find that ridiculous - they don’t want to recognize something that they call kids and genre movies. Star Trek could sneak in, but it’s a genre movie, aimed more at a younger audience, and some of the Academy voters who are older may not connect to it the same way.
There is the nostalgia factor with it though. Right, and it’s one of the best of the year.
So, is there anything else that you’d like to add before we wrap up? Keep reading film criticism. Find someone that you like to read, and continue reading them.
One Movie, Five Views thanks Richard Crouse for taking the time to do this interview.