Tag Archives: alan j pakula

Perry On Pakula

“I just don't think any of his movies for me go below a B, and some of them are an A+. And I think that's a pretty admirable range for someone who worked over so many decades and so many changing paradigms of the industry he was working in.”

This month, ARP talks AJP as indie filmmaker Alex Ross Perry joins us to go deep on why he loves the films of Alan J Pakula. You never knew you needed to hear the director of Queen of Earth professing his love for the director of All the President's Men, but now you know such a thing exists, how can you resist?

Before that, Alex talks to us about the ways in which filmmakers can get their films in front of audiences in a world where no distribution model seems like a sure thing. He covers streaming vs cinema, casting methods, and working for Disney in a fairly wide-ranging conversation.

And before that, Rochelle and Lee look at some of the key films of the month, including heist spin-off Ocean's 8, sci-fi action flick Upgrade, Israeli drama Foxtrot, and animated superhero sequel Incredibles 2. And we promise, the films were not chosen due to their pleasingly uniform red poster aesthetic. Some things just work out that way.

If you're unfamiliar with Pakula's work, then that's what this show is for. If you're unfamiliar with Alex's work, start by checking out trailers for Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth, Golden Exits and Christopher Robin.

Further reading:

  • Lee's not really remaking the most recent Carry On film. He's making fun of some nerds who aren't really remaking the most recent Star Wars films. If you don't know the story, take a big dose of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I and dive into the saddest thing you'll see this week. Aside from all the bad things happening literally everywhere in the world.
  • If you've got a ScreenHub login, check out Rochelle's piece on how Upgrade was made on the microbudget genre model. And if you don't have a ScreenHub login, a friendly billionaire will probably offer to implant one in your spine.
  • Was Upgrade's ethically-compromised doctor Ming-Zhu Hii really on Hyphenates? Yes, and it was only two months ago, so you should really be all over it. Have a listen to her episode here.
  • Once upon a time there was a man called Paul who hosted Hell Is For Hyphenates. But he wanted to make feature films, and the making of feature films doesn't leave much time for film reviewing. Or does it? Last week we heard Paul giving his own take on Foxtrot (alongside Hi4H alum Emma Westwood) on RRR's Plato's Cave, which you can listen back to here.
  • If you want to know why Lee was ranting about the Wreck It Ralph 2 trailer, you can watch it here and either agree with him or yell abuse the contrary.
  • That copy of Pakula's 1987 drama Orphans that was so hard to track down was eventually located at Picture Search Video at 139 Swan Street, Richmond, for all you Victorians on the hunt for obscure titles. After days of hunting, they had it for only four bucks, so we felt compelled to give them an appreciative shout-out.

Outro music: score from All the President's Men, composed by David Shire

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Alex Ross Perry talking the films of Alan J Pakula, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from our website.

Hell Is For Hyphenates – June 2018

Alex Ross Perry joins us to talk the films of Alan J Pakula!

Rochelle and Lee look back at some of the films of the month, including heist spin-off Ocean’s 8 (00:50), sci-fi action flick Upgrade (03:29), Israeli drama Foxtrot (06:05), and animated superhero sequel Incredibles 2 (08:59).

Lee then chats to this month’s guest, writer-director Alex Ross Perry, about how to get your arthouse film in front of audiences in a world of ever-shifting distribution models. What kind of cast do you pursue? Can you afford to care about streaming vs cinema? What’s it like going from indie cinema to working for Disney? (16:16)

Then, Alex takes us through the career of his filmmaker of the month, Alan J Pakula. Pakula is best known for his conspiracy thrillers, particularly his much-lauded paranoia trilogy: KluteThe Parallax View, and All the President’s Men. He was also responsible for the drama Sophie’s Choice, the courtroom suspense Presumed Innocent, and the John Grisham adaptation The Pelican Brief. But he has a number of strings to his bow, making everything from Westerns to comedies to romances, and Alex takes us through his works and what it is he meant. (29:49)

Finally, Lee checks back in with Rochelle, who gives her thoughts on Pakula’s films, and they look at some of the projects Pakula was reportedly planning before his death. (56:35)

The Alan J Pakula Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening's viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…


We said this in the episode announcement, but we'll say it again: Alan J Pakula was cinema's poet laureate of paranoia. His filmography is consumed with conspiracy thrillers both real and imagined, and sitting high atop that mountain, and high atop the canon of really all cinema, is All the President's Men. The ink wasn't dry on Nixon's resignation when this film hit cinemas, and perhaps it's that lack of perspective that helped keep it from becoming an overt rallying cry. There is not a moment of sentiment in this procedural ode to investigative journalism, and it remains the gold standard of rewatchable, engaging, relevant cinema. And look, nothing can possibly follow it, so you should probably just watch it twice. Or, alternately, take a swing at The Pelican Brief. We're not necessarily recommending this because it's also a great work; more because it helps define the second overwhelming sphere of Pakula's career. The song remains the same - government conspiracies, massive cover-ups, terrifying parking garages - but the style is a world away, as Julia Roberts's law student teams up with Denzel Washington's journalist to run away from bad guys with guns as they shine a light on a conspiracy that goes all the way to the White House. These films may look similar if you're squinting at a one-line synopsis, but they are, in more ways than one, chalk and cheese. And that's exactly why they make the perfect double if you want to get your head around Pakula in one easy viewing.

Substitutions: If you can't get or have already seen All the President's Men, seek out The Parallax View (1974). If not for President, Pakula would likely be remembered as the guy behind The Parallax View, a brilliantly understated work of paranoia. This time we're watching a fictitious threat, but told with the same verisimilitude as his Watergate-based follow-up. If you can't get or have already seen The Pelican Brief, get your hands on Presumed Innocent (1990). The Harrison Ford thriller is arguably the baseline for the legal thrillers that came to dominate the 1990s; it's very possible that Pelican author John Grisham was himself bitten by a radioactive Presumed Innocent. It's also the first of Pakula's '90s polyptych of highly-stylised thrillers, and would, whether intentionally or unintentionally, set the tone for the remainder of his career.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Alan J Pakula? Then you should track down Sophie's Choice (1982). Before you protest and claim that Sophie's Choice is actually mentioned quite often, ask yourself this: is it the film itself that everyone refers to, or the title, which through standard pop culture overuse has become the rote go-to phrase that refers to any mildly aggravating choice, from deciding New Year's Eve plans to choosing between sandwich condiments. If you've not seen it, the film is nothing like its reputation; surprisingly light and far from the unrelentlingly bleak prospect many believe it to be. Give it a spin. You might be surprised.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Alex Ross Perry talking the films of Alan J Pakula, will be released on 30 June 2018.

Our Next Hyphenate Alex Ross Perry

Writer, director and Hi4H June 2018 guest host Alex Ross Perry

If you haven't seen Alex Ross Perry's films, then stop reading this and come back when you have. No, we're kidding, never stop reading us. We should always be your number one priority.

But your number two priority should be tracking down his misanthropic comedy-drama Listen Up Philip (2014), starring Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter and Jonathan Pryce. Or his brilliant thriller Queen of Earth (2015), featuring Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston. Or his first two (slightly harder to source) films Impolex (2009) and The Color Wheel (2011).

For the more forward-looking, you can wait for his latest film Golden Exits (2017), which has just finished up a run on the festival circuit and will hopefully be getting a general release down here soon. And if that's not enough for you, he's just wrapped Her Smell, which reportedly stars Elisabeth Moss as a punk rocker, already making it the best film of 2019.

Alex has also written on other projects, penning the drama Nostalgia (2018) for director Mark Pellington, and the upcoming Winnie the Pooh fantasy Christopher Robin (2018) for Disney. He played an alternate version of himself in the 2013 mockumentary La última película (2013), which based on the synopsis alone, we're somewhat desperate to get our hands on.

But, of course, all of this pales in comparison to his upcoming role as Hell Is For Hyphenates guest host! But who has he chosen to talk about on the show?

None other than Alan J Pakula!

Pakula was cinema's poet laureate of paranoia, directing the foundational conspiracy thrillers Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974), and All the President's Men (1976). He made the notorious drama Sophie's Choice (1982), which won Meryl Streep the second of her eight hundred Oscars. His later career included the '90s thrillers Presumed Innocent (1990), Consenting Adults (1992), The Pelican Brief (1993), and The Devil's Own (1997), all of which seem to remain in high-rotation on cable movie channels.

But in amongst those titles are works that have fallen into semi-obscurity: films like romantic travelogue Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (1973), comedy-drama Starting Over (1979), western Comes a Horseman (1978), and family drama See You in the Morning (1989).

Pakula is responsible for some of the best and most enduring works of our time, at least a few of which must be considered essential viewing in today's political climate.

So what is it about his films that so appeal to Alex Ross Perry? Join us on June 30 when we find out!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Alan J Pakula