Derek Hill + Waris Ahluwalia (unrelated)

(buy the book)

Our old pal Derek Hill’s book is featured in today’s Bright Lights:

So back to those book reviews. First up is Derek Hill‘s “Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood’s Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists, and Dreamers: An Excursion into the American New Wave,” and Colm O’Shea notes that the filmmakers under consideration here, or at least the six warranting their own chapters, are Richard Linklater, David O Russell, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Sofia Coppola and Michel Gondry…. It’s curious that Kaufman, despite being featured in the title, does not get a chapter to himself. Though the book was written before ‘Synecdoche, New York,’ Kaufman is after all presented as the driving force behind Jonze and Gondry’s best work to date, and the embodiment of the sensibility with which Hill is so enamoured…. Hill sets out his linking principle as a predominant thematic through-line of comic unease and alienation.”

If you haven’t read Derek’s book yet, you really should.

In an unrelated note, Aman Singh reports “You Can’t Offend Waris Ahluwalia”:

Waris Ahluwalia – best known for his roles in Wes Anderson movies and his House of Waris jewelry line – looked at us quizzically at Saturday’s Elise Overland presentation, as though trying to remember if he’d met us before. “I actively chose a while ago to go, I’m not going to remember anything,” he explained. “Sort of a meditative thing: I thought I would keep my head clear, and thoughts would flow in and out. And then I became an actor.” There are occupational hazards to this M.O., such as memorizing lines or awkward social encounters. “We were up in Hudson, on the street. This guy comes up: ‘Hey.’ I’m like, ‘Hey, nice to meet you.’ And, like, beginning of the summer we had spent a weekend at his house,” said Waris. But he has adopted a credo passed onto him by Simon Doonan: “Be unoffendable.” We decided to hold him to it.

Waris, a Sikh, keeps his hair tightly coiled under a turban. How long, we asked, were his locks? “I cannot believe you asked me that!” he said. “It’s down to the hips.” Nearby, a girl with her back to us had her hair up in a bun. “It’s sort of like that,” he said, cupping his hand around it. She spun around, looking slightly bewildered. Waris didn’t flinch: “Unoffendable!” He’s removed the turban in movies like The Life Aquatic and Inside Man, but never for a photo shoot. So which fashion magazines would he take it off for? “Purple. And I’d do it for L’Uomo Vogue. I believe in art, and I believe in ideas and concepts,” he said. So, no Men’s Vogue? “No.” What about Harper’s Bazaar? Waris pointed to his turban. “They get this.” Waris is currently playing a hypochondriac in a film he hopes is Sundance-bound. Does he draw on his own neuroses for the role? No, he said, sounding a bit disappointed. “I wish I had some kind of weird tendencies. I try to.”

Last call on webicon contest!

The webicon contest ends tonight at midnight! We will post the finalists and open the voting on Thursday!

E-mail edwardappleby @ or tweet @rushmoreacademy!

Oh, and new entries have been posted. You can win a copy of Derek Hill’s fantastic Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood’s Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists and Dreamers: An Excursion Into the American New Wave (available for purchase on

Enter the Rushmore Academy Webicon contest (updated)

Make Wes Anderson-inspired art at Paste Magazine’s! Then, Tweet (@rushmoreacademy) or e-mail (edwardappleby @ us your image. We will post your entries here at the Rushmore Academy, and the best one will win of copy of Derek Hill’s fantastic Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood’s Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists and Dreamers: An Excursion Into the American New Wave (available for purchase on


Contest is on-going. We will add new prizes if we extend it beyond April 1, 2009.

Check out the entries so far after the break! Please digg our contest!

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Interview with Derek Hill, author of Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood’s Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists, and Dreamers

(buy the book)

Derek Hill is an American abroad, currently residing in rural Ireland. His writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, such as The Third Alternative, VideoScope, Mystery Scene, Video Watchdog, Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture, and All Movie (previously The All Movie Guide). He was also a contributor to the three volume Greenwood Press Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (writing about the Planet of the Apes film series and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). He’s currently writing a book for Wallflower Press’ Cultographies line about Alex Cox’s seminal 1980s cult film, Repo Man.

RA: Could you briefly describe the book, and tell us what motivated you to write it.

DH: The book is a look at contemporary (mostly) American filmmakers Richard Linklater, David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Sofia Coppola, and Michel Gondry-a sort of new American New Wave if you will. Using the films of Charlie Kaufman as the center-pieces, so to speak, I felt that there were a number of filmmakers who had enough shared themes and comedic sensibilities to be viewed as a movement. It’s an unconscious, unplanned movement, to be sure, but a vital psychological one. I think that these filmmakers are some of the most engaging, imaginative, original, storytellers working in commercial film today. There’s a real sense of experimentation (especially with someone like Linklater or Russell), virtuosic style, and a peculiar mix of angst and comedy that seemed pertinent to these troubled times. There’s a real sense of dissatisfaction with a lot of the characters and the humor running through all of the films. And while most of these films are ostensibly comedies, there’s an underlying melancholy and seriousness in them as well which seems completely antithetical to what’s coming out of the Hollywood machine or even the indie-trenches for that matter. Many of the filmmakers had been written about only in terms of their loose affiliation as directors in the “independent film” scene or whatever… not in terms of their thematic or stylistic similarities. It just felt appropriate to engage them on an aesthetic or thematic level instead of a consumer-oriented level which would be much too broad for what I wanted to do.

(more after the break)

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Guest Blogger: Derek Hill on the Musicology of Wes Anderson

Derek Hill is the author of the new book Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood’s Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists and Dreamers, now available in the U.K. (Amazon | Waterstone’s | Blackwell ) and the U.S. ( Amazon ). He has agreed to write several pieces for the Academy.

Wes Anderson’s skillful use of music in his films has no doubt come up on this site before, so I’ll refrain from proselytizing. Along with Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, PT Anderson, and Sofia Coppola, Anderson—working with his longtime musical composer Mark Mothersbaugh (at least up until The Darjeeling Limited) and any of his respective editors—is one of the best practitioners at integrating pop/rock songs into a scene in a way that is memorable and emotionally satisfying. It’s easier said than done, of course. Utilizing songs in lieu of an original score (or in tandem) can be precarious. It can bring out the most wasteful and unimaginative characteristics in a clumsy filmmaker. I’m sure we all have our own list of nefarious culprits who exemplify the worst that the medium can offer up, those lazy directors/composers who send us into catatonia as they slather on yet another saccharine note or bludgeon us into the next theater with their bullying bombastic chords. I’m talking about… well, you know who they are. We all bear the sonic scars.

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