24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Alexander Payne

Home theater: Robert Pattinson makes ladies swoon in 'Bel Ami'

May 2, 2012 |  6:23 pm

Bel Ami

This week, 24 Frames introduces a feature new to the blog, highlighting some of the most interesting titles available on Video on Demand or on DVD and Blu-ray. Look for the column on Tuesdays.

'Bel Ami'
Available on VOD beginning May 4

Guy de Maupassant’s novel has been adapted for  the screen before (most memorably in 1947, with George Sanders and Angela Lansbury), but for their new version, directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod take advantage of some of the freedoms of modern moviemaking, making sure that De Maupassant’s tale of a social-climbing rake has plenty of sex and straight talk. Robert Pattinson plays the rake in question, who takes a job as a newspaper columnist in 1890s France and advances in his career thanks to his relationships with three aristocratic women (played by Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Christina Ricci). The film isn’t as artful and sophisticated as the similar “Dangerous Liaisons” -- and it’s better at light drawing-room machinations than heavier political and romantic drama -- but this new “Bel Ami” is remarkably assured as it depicts how a man with no discernible skills works his way up from whorehouses to elegant estates simply because he’s handsome. (The film opens in Los Angeles theaters June 8.)

'George Harrison: Living in the Material World'
Hip-O/Universal, $24.98; Blu-ray, $24.98/$99.99

What keeps Martin Scorsese’s “Living in the Material World” from being just another Beatles-championing documentary is that it focuses specifically on guitarist George Harrison’s warring impulses: He was a spiritual, caring person who tried to make other people feel loved, and he was a brutally honest, self-centered man who succumbed to his carnal desires and hoarded money. (Harrison did write “Taxman,” after all.) “Living in the Material World” is divided in two, with the first half dedicated to Harrison’s stint with the Beatles, and the second half covering his explorations into religion as a solo artist. But both halves are really the same story: about a man who strove to be humble, while also grumbling that he was under-appreciated. The documentary is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and in a deluxe set that includes a book of photographs and a CD containing early takes of 10 Harrison favorites.

'Haywire'
Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs return to the fast-paced, existential revenge-thriller mode of their 1999 film “The Limey” with “Haywire,” which stars real-life mixed martial arts specialist Gina Carano as a black-ops secret agent trying to track down and assassinate her handlers before they do the same to her. “Haywire” jumps back and forth in time and location and is packed with appearances by such actors as Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor. But the story feels like an afterthought, and Soderbergh’s guerrilla filmmaking style at times makes “Haywire” resemble cheap, straight-to-video product. Still, Dobbs’ snappy dialogue and Soderbergh’s eye for the unusual go a long way. Some will appreciate that “Haywire” is a “pure” action flick: all kicks, little waste. The DVD and Blu-ray add two short featurettes. Available on VOD on May 1.

'W.E.'
Starz/Anchor Bay, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Say this for Madonna: She doesn’t lack for ambition. For her second film as a director (after the very strange “Filth and Wisdom”), the multi-platinum pop singer and her co-screenwriter, Alek Keshishian, attempt to tell the story of King Edward VIII’s choice to abdicate the throne to pursue a love affair with American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Madonna and Keshishian employ a framing device that has a modern-day woman (Abbie Cornish) discovering that the reality of the renowned romance doesn’t match up with her fantasy version. But Madonna fails to convey her own fascination with Edward and Wallis, outside of some vague personal connection to the details of worldwide fame and pervasive dissatisfaction. Mostly, she seems to have made a movie that has a lot on its mind and no coherent way to express it. The DVD and Blu-ray come with a making-of featurette. Available on VOD on May 1

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-- Noel Murray

Photo: Uma Thurman and Robert Pattinson in "Bel Ami." Credit: Magnolia Pictures.


Cannes 2012: Alexander Payne, Ewan McGregor named to jury

April 25, 2012 |  1:32 pm

 

Alexander Payne joins Cannes jury

The man behind “The Descendants,” a star of “Inglourious Basterds” and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi will be among the people choosing one of movideom’s most prestigious prizes this year.

The Cannes Film Festival announced Wednesday that American director Alexander Payne (“The Descendants,” “Sideways”),  Scottish actor Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars: Episode I,” “Trainspotting”) and German actress Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds") will join the previously announced jury chief, Italian actor-director Nanni Moretti, on the competition jury at this year’s festival. The jury is in charge of  selecting the Palme d’Or winner, which is Cannes' top honor, as well as other awards.

The group will also include Palestinian director Hiam Abbass, British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, French actress Emmanuelle Devos, French designer Jean Paul Gaultier and Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, festival organizers said. The group will watch the roughly two dozen competition films and then debate the titles in closely guarded discussions before announcing their decisions on May 27, the festival's closing day.

The Cannes competition jury represents not only an honor for those selected but often becomes the subject of much scrutiny and tea-leaf reading,  as observers look for possible connections between jurors and competing films. One such connection this year comes in the form of McGregor and actress Nicole Kidman, who stars in the competition film “The Paperboy.” The two performers share a professional history via their 2001 musical blockbuster “Moulin Rouge.”

Last year’s jury — made up of Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman and Jude Law, among others — handed the Palme d'Or to Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.”

Cannes, which kicks off May 16 in the resort town on the French Riviera, recently announced its competition slate. The lineup will include a bevy of English-language offerings, including “Cosmopolis,” “Paperboy,” “Mud,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Killing Them Softly.”

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Alexander Payne with his Oscar in 2012. Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.


Oscars 2012: 'The Descendants' wins for adapted screenplay

February 26, 2012 |  7:27 pm

The Descendants
"The Descendants" writers Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash won the Oscar for adapted screenplay at the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday night.

The film stars George Clooney as an embattled father of two who learns that his comatose wife has been cheating on him. Payne, Faxon and Rash based the screenplay on Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel.

The film also won the Writers Guild of America award for adapted screenplay and two Golden Globe awards (lead actor for Clooney and best picture in the drama category). Payne, who also directed and produced the Hawaii-set film, previously won a directing Oscar for the film "Sideways."

Oscars: Red Carpet | Quotes | Key Scenes Ballot | Cheat Sheet | Winners

"The Descendants" writers beat out "Hugo" writer John Logan; "The Ides of March" writers George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon; "Moneyball" writers Steven Zaillian, Stan Chervin and last year's champ Aaron Sorkin; and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" writers Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan.

The Academy Awards are taking place in Hollywood and are being televised live on ABC. They are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose membership was recently examined in depth by the Los Angeles Times.

For more Oscars breaking news and analysis, check back on 24 Frames.

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— Nardine Saad
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Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight.


'The Descendants' wins the USC Scripter Award for writing

February 18, 2012 | 10:15 pm

George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause in 'The Descendants.'
"The Descendants" won the USC Libraries Scripter Award, a prize that honors the best adapted screenplay of the year as well as the book the film is based on. Screenwriters Alexander Payne (who also directed the film) and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash shared the prize with novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings at the Saturday ceremony at the university's Edward L. Doheny Library.

The drama set in Hawaii about a father of two coping with betrayal, loss and forgiveness was in competition for the 24th annual Scripter Award with "Jane Eyre," "A Dangerous Method," "Moneyball" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

The screenplay has been up for numerous awards, including the BAFTA and Golden Globe, and is up for a Writers Guild of America honor, which will be announced Sunday, the Independent Spirit Award and an Academy Award.

Last year's Scripter winner, "The Social Network," went on to win the adapted screenplay Oscar for Aaron Sorkin.

Paul Haggis was this year's recipient of the Scripter Library Achievement Award.

RELATED:

Alexander Payne is eager to head back to 'Nebraska'

Alexander Payne considers 'The Descendants' training for westerns

'The Descendants': George Clooney on why he took the role of Matt King

 

--Susan King

Photo: A film still provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shows George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause in a scene from 'The Descendants.' Credit: Fox Searchlight


Alexander Payne is eager to head back to 'Nebraska'

February 16, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Midwesterner Alexander Payne, whose film "The Descendants" has five Oscar nominations -- including best picture and director-- isn't quite at home on the Hollywood awards circuit
I went to see Alexander Payne the other day, curious to hear how he was holding up after spending the last few months on the awards circuit, touting "The Descendants," which is up for five Oscars, including best picture and best director. Payne is from Omaha and being a Midwesterner, he's a straight talker -- polite but firm.

Knowing he'd probably rather be back in Omaha than out on the hustings in Hollywood, I asked him how he was handling all the attention. "I don't campaign," he answered, sitting in his airy office on the third floor of an old brick building in Santa Monica. "The studio campaigns. I get trotted out to different events and try to appreciate all of the appreciation for the film. I'm very polite to those who say they've enjoyed the film. The only thing that genuinely tires me is the repetition of the same exact question that I've heard all around the world."

Patrickgoldsteinbigpicture2

Of course, being a snoopy journalist myself, I had to ask -- what question might that be? "George Clooney and I did a Times Talk session with David Carr the other day, and he asked me, 'Why has it been seven years [since you last directed a film]?' And I replied, 'May I direct your attention to a Frank Bruni article from last November that addresses that very issue?'"

As I said: polite, but firm. I figured Payne would be more interested in talking about his upcoming film, "Nebraska," a story about a father-son road trip across the state that he hopes to shoot later this year. I admit to harboring a special fondness for Nebraska, having family roots there myself. My grandfather grew up in Omaha, where his uncle, Julius Meyer, was pals with Sitting Bull and served as an Indian interpreter and trader, running a store called Julius Meyer's Indian Wigwam.

I showed Payne a photo of Uncle Julius from the 1870s, standing with several Sioux outside the Wigwam. "Where was the store?" Payne said, after studying the photo. I told him it was at Farnam and 14th Street. Payne stared at me. "14th and Farnam?" he said incredulously. "That's where I live."

Small world, huh? Payne still spends most of his time in Omaha, where he has a loft apartment on the top floor of an art deco building downtown. It's right across the street from where the Indian Wigwam used to be. To hear Payne tell it, he's eager to shoot another film in Nebraska, where he made many of his earlier movies, including "About Schmidt" and "Election."

He first read the "Nebraska" script, originally written by Bob Nelson, nearly a decade ago. "Election" producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa had shown it to him, asking if he could find a young Nebraskan director who might be right for it. "After I read it, I said, 'What about me?'" Payne recalled. "It's a road-trip film, so I didn't want to do it right away after 'Sideways.' But Albert and Ron were kind enough to wait."

Casting will be tricky, because Payne says the lead roles are very specific. "It's a lot like casting a Mike Leigh film," he said. "The lead is a cranky Midwestern guy. He goes in and out of dementia and cajoles his son to drive with him from his home in Billings to Lincoln, Nebraska, because he thinks he's won a sweepstakes there. I need Henry Fonda when he was a crotchety old [son of a gun]. But he's not available, so I'm looking elsewhere. I always liked the austerity of Fonda's acting, so that's what I'm going for."

When I asked why he wanted to shoot the film in black and white, Payne had a simple answer. "Because it would look so cool. It seems that our politicians see the world in black and white, so why not our artists? Did Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' have to be in black and white? No. But is it fantastic that it was? To see New York like that? Yes!"

He laughs. "I watch 'Paper Moon' about once a year. Black and white is a good thing."

It would be a good thing if Payne ends up winning some awards on Oscar night. His work on "The Descendants" is the most assured directing of his career. But he isn't holding his breath. He's eager to get back behind the camera, especially if it means he can be back spending time in Nebraska. As he put it: "I'm there whenever I don't have to be here."

He hangs on to the old Omaha photos I gave him. Payne is clearly a man who has a strong sense of place. He tells me that his house here in L.A., up in Topanga Canyon, is reputed to have once been the residence of the notorious gangster Mickey Cohen. "I have no evidence to prove it," he quickly adds. "But I will say that when I've been gardening in my backyard, I've often dug up old whisky and beer bottles."

Payne laughs. "I suppose that doesn't prove anything, but it certainly doesn't disprove it either."

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Photo: Alexander Payne discusses "The Descendants" on a panel at the Pacific Design Center. Credit: Toby Canham / Getty Images


George Clooney, Alexander Payne talk family drama, 'Descendants'

February 9, 2012 | 11:30 am

The other night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, George Clooney and Alexander Payne discussed their movie, "The Descendants," and its place among "classic family dramas from Oscars past and present." At least, that's how the American Cinematheque billed the event, and they went to the trouble to put together a five-minute reel featuring clips from "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Ordinary People," "Terms of Endearment," "On Golden Pond" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" that was shown before the film.

Since writer-director Payne had told me in an interview last month that he doesn't see many contemporary American films, as the moderator, I was curious just how much he'd have to say about the movies in question. Short answer: Not a whole lot. He did just see "Kramer vs. Kramer" last year, liked it and noticed some parallels between Dustin Hoffman's suddenly single father and Clooney's "backup parent" in "The Descendants."

Then Payne matter-of-factly mentioned that he'd never watched "Ordinary People," and you could hear a loud gasp from the sold-out audience. "We all have gaps," Payne said, shrugging his shoulders. Just in case you were wondering, he has never seen "Beaches," either. Don't look for these gaps to be closed any time soon. He'd much rather be rewatching an Ozu movie, thank you.

Clooney, the Merry Prankster to Payne's prickly pear, was, naturally, more forthcoming. He remembered being 19 years old and seeing Timothy Hutton in "Ordinary People" and thinking seriously for the first time about an acting career. He marveled at Hoffman's manic French-toast-making scene in "Kramer" and called "Mockingbird" a "profoundly important" film to him on a number of levels.

"Atticus Finch ... there was a reluctance to his heroism that I always loved," Clooney said. "And Gregory Peck was the quintessential leading man."

Clooney was at his Lake Como home in Italy with friends the night Peck died. He rounded up his friends and their kids, led them into his screening room and put on "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"And the minute it came on, all these kids were like, 'Oooow ... God! It's black-and-white!' And they immediately hated it. And I was like, 'Shut the ... up.' But it was great because it took them about 15 minutes to get into the rhythm of it, and by the end, they didn't want the movie to end. They were scared. They were scared of Boo Radley and they were caught up in that story. It's such a compliment to that idea of storytelling really does work. And it's something we can't lose sight of as we move into 3-D and everything else we do."

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DGA names 'The Artist's' Michel Hazanavicius best director

January 28, 2012 | 11:17 pm

Scorsese payne hazanavicius fincher dga

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

The Directors Guild of America on Saturday evening named Michel Hazanavicius best film director of 2011 for “The Artist,” the nostalgic black-and-white, nearly silent movie that hearkens back to the time of transition in Hollywood from silents to talkies. It is the first guild win for the 44-year-old French filmmaker.

"It's maybe the highest recognition I could hope. I really love directors, I over-respect directors. This is very moving and touching to me," he said, receiving a standing ovation. "Best director -- I really don't know what that means. All movies are different, so it's a strange thing to try to compare them and say which is best, but I'm very happy to get this. Thank you."

The other nominees were Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), David Fincher ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Alexander Payne ("The Descendants").

PHOTOS: Directors Guild of America Awards

The DGA feature film awards are considered one of the most dependable bellwethers for the Academy Awards for best director. Over the past 63 years, the DGA and academy have disagreed on their choices only six times. The last time was nine years ago when Rob Marshall won the DGA award for “Chicago” and Roman Polanski was named best director by the academy for “The Pianist.”

Hazanavicius had already been named best director by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Critics Choice Movie Awards. He was in contention for a Golden Globe and is nominated for a BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award for best director.

Last week, “The Artist” won the Producers Guild of America award, which is one of the indicators for the best film Oscar. On Tuesday, “The Artist” earned 10 Oscar nominations, one less than the top nominee “Hugo.” Hazanavicius is up for three of those Oscars for director, screenplay and editing.

The 64th annual DGA Awards were held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland. Recent Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer was the host of the evening, succeeding Carl Reiner, who had become an institution at the event, hosting 24 times. Reiner agreed to host for a final time at the 2011 ceremony.

"Welcome to what will be a glorious night....for some of you. Last year we celebrated the DGA awards of biblical length -- it was so long, the Mayans could not predict an end," he said. "The director's cut was two hours shorter. Even James Cameron said, 'it was too long.'"

Before being named the night's big winner, Hazanavicius was presented with his nominee medallion by his two stars, Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. Upon taking it, he said: "It's a thrill to be here and to be among these wonderful directors. I'm honored," he said in accepting the medallion. "Maybe you haven't noticed but I'm French. I have an accent and I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce. I'm not American and I'm not French, actually. I'm a filmmaker. And I made a film about my love for Hollywood. We create stories that tell people they are not alone. We separate life from shadows. Hollywood helped me grow up. I believed in values like courage, perseverance and integrity."

"I made this film as a love letter to Hollywood. I feel like I am being accepted by you -- not you as Americans but as filmmakers. So thank you." And he added:  "For my wife Berenice, I'm so glad we shared this together and I love you."

The guild gave James Marsh the award for feature documentary for "Project Nim."

The DGA award for best directing in a TV comedy series went to Robert B. Weide, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Palestinian Chicken").

In accepting, Weide said: "I have very mixed feelings about this because this means that I just lost a $300 bet to my wife, Linda. Why do they call this a medallion? It's a plate. I understand when you go to Don Mischer's house for dinner, you actually eat off of these."

Other awards handed out Saturday night:

Movies for Television and Mini-series: Jon Cassar, "The Kennedys"

Dramatic TV series: Patty Jenkins, for the pilot of "The Killing"

Musical variety TV: Glenn Weiss, for the 65th annual Tony Awards 

Reality TV programs: Neil P. Degroot, for "Biggest Loser"

Daytime TV serials: William Ludell, for "General Hospital" ("Intervention")

Children’s programs: Amy Schatz, for "A Child's Garden of Poetry" 

Commercials: Noam Murro

Three special awards were also presented. Ed Sherin was named an Honorary Life Member; Katy Garretson received the Frank Capra Achievement Award; and Dennis Mazzocco recieved the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.

[For the record, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29: A previous version of this post misspelled the last name of "Project Nim" director James Marsh as March.]

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-- Jasmine Elist and Susan King

Photo: Directors Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Michel Hazanavicius and David Fincher attend the 64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards Meet the Nominees Breakfast held at the DGA on Saturday.Credit: Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA 

  


Martin Scorsese on being reviewed: 'You can't be bothered'

January 25, 2012 |  1:03 pm

There are certain external indicators filmmakers can look to when trying to evaluate the quality of their work — positive reviews, triumph at the box office, awards gold — but even these are imperfect measures. So how and when do filmmakers know if they've made a good movie?

At the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable, Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March") and Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close") addressed that question.

"I have a problem: I always think it's good," Hazanavicius said of his work. "So I think I'm not a good judge, really." But, he added, "What's true one day in October on a set, it's not the same truth four months later in an editing room. So I try to trust what I wrote, to trust what I storyboarded and to let things happen on set."

Payne said he has confident days and not-so-confident days: "Some days I am Orson Welles," he said. "Other days I am the worst loser, impostor, know-nothing, wannabe filmmaker in the world. I believe both with equal conviction."

Scorsese added that it's important to focus on the work and have confidence, without paying too much attention to concerns like movie reviews. "If you read the good ones, you might believe those, and if you read the bad ones, you certainly believe those," Scorsese said. "At a certain point, you've got to work."

Check out their full conversation in the video above.

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Alexander Payne on directing: casting is 'first among equals'

January 21, 2012 | 11:49 am

Filmmaking is by nature a collaborative process, but when people think of a movie, it's usually the cast — more so than the editor, writer, cinematographer or even director — that pops into their head first.

Filmmakers George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") sat down with The Times' John Horn at the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable and talked about the importance and challenges of assembling a good cast.

For Payne, the actors are at the core of any film. He said, "No matter how well lit and shot and everything, [people will ask] 'Who's in it? Are they good? Do you believe them?' They are the primary conveyors of the tone of the film, from the director to the audience through the actors."

The cast is "indispensible," Scorsese chimed in.  "You can have different cinematographers … you can have a different director, literally, but you need the actor up there. You need them."

See more of what Payne, Scorsese and the others had to say in the video above, and check back next week for two more clips from the round table.

RELATED:

Stephen Daldry: Young Thomas Horn is 'a proper leading man'

Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

— Oliver Gettell


Stephen Daldry: Young Thomas Horn is 'a proper leading man'

January 19, 2012 | 12:02 pm

Alexander Payne Michel Hazanavicius Stephen Daldry Martin Scorse and George Clooney

Never work with children or animals, says the old show-business adage — advice largely ignored by five of this year's top directors.

In a visit to the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable, filmmakers Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") and George Clooney ("The Ides of March") spoke to The Times' John Horn about some of the unique challenges of working with kids and dogs.

In the case of Daldry and Thomas Horn (no relation to John), the 14-year-old star of "Extremely Loud," the director had to work around regulated hours, schooling sessions and meal breaks. "You don't have them for long," Daldry said of child actors.

Luckily, Thomas' talent made up for the extra work. "In terms of his professionalism and dedication and his preparation and his charm on set and his clarity and intelligence — no issues at all," Daldry said of the young actor, a first-timer. "He was fantastic."

Scorsese rattled off a list of challenges he faced shooting "Hugo": two child actors (Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz), a 3-D camera rig, dogs — "and then Sacha Baron Cohen," he deadpanned.

See more of what the directors had to say in the video below, and check back for more clips from the Directors Roundtable on Friday and next week.

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George Clooney, director: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Directors Alexander Payne, from left, Michel Hazanavicius, Stephen Daldry, Martin Scorsese and George Clooney gather to discuss their craft. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


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