Too often awards season prognosticators will count the rebel filmmakers out in a given year, easily declaring “Oh, the Academy will never go for this.” Such a silly thought when you consider the amount of mavericks that AMPAS has lauded in the past, i.e. 4x nominee David Lynch for Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and The Elephant Man; 13x nominee and VFX Oscar winner Stanley Kubrick who was even nominated for directing A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove, and even cinematic absurdist Wes Anderson who counts seven Oscar noms. And how about the ones who broke through and won? Four-time Oscar winners The Coen Brothers who were once considered too out of the box before voters embraced Fargo and No Country for Old Men.
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After surprising us last year with his horror pic Hereditary, a film many will say Toni Collette was robbed of an Oscar nom for, AFI alum Ari Aster quickly delivered Swedish themed bad romance pic Midsommar this past summer, which legged out a 4x multiple at the specialty sector B.O., making $27.4M. Horror film comes to mind for some when describing this pic, but for Aster it’s a “fairy tale”, “dark comedy” and “a film that people can watch going through a break-up” (for Aster, his go-to break-up pic is Albert Brooks’ Modern Romance). Midsommar follows Dani (Florence Pugh), who in the wake of experiencing a horrible family tragedy, is trying to keep her relationship together with her half-hearted boyfriend (Jack Reynor). She joins him on a trip with his jerky college pals to a centennial folk solstice in Sweden where drugs, sex, and a lot of other haunting events are part of the experience. It’s a journey’s end that’s brilliant, hysterical and flat out jaw dropping.
We speak with Aster today on Crew Call about building Midsommar so soon after Hereditary, discovering the multi-faceted Pugh, his two cuts of the pic at 2 1/2 hours theatrical and near 3 hours director’s version, film testing, and his next project, which he says is an existential nightmare comedy which “is very dark, but I think it’s funny.”
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