Friday, February 22, 2019


February 2019 saw a host of special guests visiting both the Egyptian Theatre and the Aero Theatre to discuss Academy Award-nominated films in contention. From Shoplifters on Feb. 3 to Roma on Feb. 17, awards season has been action-packed at the American Cinematheque.

In anticipation of the big night, we wanted to share some of the best moments from the Q&As of the past month. Read on for the inside scoop on Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book, Roma, and Shoplifters.


The culmination of a ten-year effort to bring Freddie Mercury’s legacy to a whole new generation, Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), screened at the Egyptian Theatre on February 16, 2019. Two of the people behind that effort, producer Graham King and editor John Ottman, appeared after the screening for a Q&A.

“You go through it because you feel so passionate about it. You have the best team. It’s a labor of love to tell Freddie’s story,” King commented.  As a result, he feels “the filmmaking went to a level far beyond what anyone imagined.”

Ottman added “Because of the iconic quality of the main character, you want to do it right. It’s a responsibility.”

Ottman was worried about casting. “You can compress performance,” he explained “but you can’t do much if there is just one miscast person. Just that one miscast person would bring the movie down from greatness.”  When he saw the first dailies, “it was a big relief.”  The chemistry among the band members cast for the movie was better than they dared hope. “That is a blessing—and a curse to the editor!” Ottman recalled a bit ruefully. When the interaction among the actors is that good, “you want to preserve everything they say, every joke. When I get a sequence that is working so well, I get pissed off! So it was edited in anger,” Ottman smiled.

“People talk about editing in terms of micro-processes, but the editor has a macro responsibility too,” Ottman asserted. The editor shapes tone. In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, Ottman saw the overall tone as a celebration of Freddie’s life. Although the underlying story is tragic, what was it like to be with Freddie? “I wanted people to know even in the darkest moments, we’re allowed to have fun.”

“It turned out to be funnier than I realized,” commented director Peter Farrelly about Green Book (2018) in an interview at the Aero Theatre on February 5, 2019. Farrelly knew how funny - and how good - the movie was by audience reaction. At the Toronto Film Festival, for example, “the audience just exploded,” Farrelly recalled.

Farrelly attributed some of the humor to his lead actors, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. “These two and their nuanced performances improved the humor. Throughout the whole thing, they definitely extended it.”  For example, “the pizza thing.” Screenwriter Nick Vallelonga, son of the character Mortensen portrays, mentioned at lunch that his father used to order a whole pizza, fold it in half and eat it like a sandwich. Mortensen wanted to try it for the movie, and the crew just cracked up. Throughout the filming, in fact, Mortensen pointed out to Farrelly that the crew, who usually look around and are distracted when not specifically doing a task - were riveted by what was going on in Green Book. They just stared and didn’t look away.

Asked when he knew he had something special in Green Book, Farrelly said he knew the script was great, but when he got Mortensen and Ali on board, he was fully confident about the movie. Mortensen spent a weekend shopping for a “lucky stone” that his character picks up along the way in the road trip the two leads take through the American south. He brought in a dozen pieces of Jade and asked Farrelly which one he liked best. The rock plays an important role in the film and Mortensen was making sure it was perfect. Ali said he wanted to take piano lessons to play the part of the genius pianist. “You can’t learn to play at that level in four months,” said Farrelly. Ali replied that he wanted to be so familiar with how a pianist behaves that even the best pianist will be comfortable with how Ali sits at the piano, holds his hands, etc.  “That’s when I knew these guys are really good,” concluded Farrelly.

“My DP was a superstar,” Farrelly said of cinematographer Sean Porter. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know how to do.” For example, how to make Kris Bowers playing the piano look like Mahershala Ali playing the piano. Porter did a face replacement that was so perfect it caused Steven Spielberg to comment “I can’t believe how good Mahershala Ali is on the piano.”


Yalitza Aparacio, a first-time actor, was catapulted to a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her debut role in Roma. In fact, she auditioned for the role only because her sister, who had planned to audition, was sick. She never expected to receive a callback, much less the lead role in a film by director Alfonso Cuaron, who won the Oscar for Best Director for Gravity (2013). Prior to the audition, she did not know who Cuaron was and had not seen his films. She described herself as “camera-shy” and as someone who “always kept a low profile.”  No more!

Aparicio appeared with co-star Marina de Tavira, nominated as Best Supporting Actress, for a Q&A after a screening of the film on February 17, 2019 at the Egyptian Theatre.  Roma garnered a total of ten Academy Award nominations. The Los Angeles premiere of the movie was also at the Egyptian Theatre.

“He really respected the characters’ journeys,” de Tavira said of Cuaron’s direction. He facilitated the actors’ ability to relate to their characters in a very natural way.  De Tavira’s role as Alfonso’s mother in the autobiographical film “came from a very personal place.”

Aparacio commented, via a translator, that Cuaron’s decision to shoot the film chronologically, which he made in order to keep it as natural and as real as possible, helped her “get to know my character little by little.”  She felt her performance was also enabled by “the rising crescendo of how difficult or complex the scenes were.” Because the scenes increased in difficulty over the time of the filming, she was more certain of herself and her character when the most challenging scenes, those closer to the end, demanded the most of her.

Aparicio enjoyed working with children and dogs, but de Tavira added that the family pet, Borras, was a lot of trouble. Cuaron wanted a dog that looked just like the dog he grew up with and found that dog on the street. The dog needed to be cleaned up and trained—so he was difficult.


“Film can make the invisible visible and I strongly believe in that power, but I have no intention to make a message film or a social justice film,” Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda commented at a screening of Shoplifters (2018),a film about “people we do not normally see in society.” American writer and filmmaker F.X. Feeney interviewed Kore-eda at the Aero Theatre on February 3, 2019.

“I never try to make a film about how wonderful family life is. I create a film that shows what happens when change occurs—how the family reacts,” Kore-eda concluded.

The film was shot in one and one-half months. After each day’s work, Kore-eda would look at what they had done and rewrite the script. “It was that kind of process,” he said. “I started shooting from the part where the grandmother died. I hadn’t written the entire script. The winter scenes were shot first. I felt a little sorry for the actors because they were playing scenes when others were not written,” he concluded.