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Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
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 Here at The Thread, we’re fascinated by the layered masks of servitude.

Years ago, we had the privilege of walking like a ghost – transient and invisible — through the homes of New York City’s elite.  At the time, crumbs from their table was wealth to us.  Putting on our  second-hand tuxedo every evening allowed us to finally make a decent living in New York City.  And the bonus: we learned how the other half lived.

The price we paid was the mask we had to wear; for us, it was worth it.

In last Sunday’s Times, Edward Frame chronicles serving today’s one percenters in a three-star restaurant.  Sounds like for him the mask was an uneasy fit.

But neither situation is even remotely like being a live-in, where you’re almost part of the family.  Or maybe not, as imagined in this week’s tasty Brazilian import:





 Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter raved when this Portuguese-language film premiered at Sundance this year.  We just reread those reviews; dying to see it.

Brazilian TV and movie star Regina Casé plays the live-in housekeeper/nanny to a wealthy Brazilian family.  Hyper-competent, loving, and self-effacing, she is the glue that holds the family together.

But her job has entailed sacrifices – she hasn’t seen her own child for ten years.  When the daughter comes to stay with the family, she is the opposite of her mother – bold, and sassy.  Predictably, things go a little haywire.

This fourth feature by writer/director Anna Muylaert was inspired by the experience of hiring a nanny twenty years ago when her own child was born.

The movie asks some probing questions, but manages to be upbeat as well.  It won awards at both Sundance and Berlin.  Out in New York this weekend.




THE MAID (2009)

This time the upper class family is from Chile.  What do you do when you’ve made all the sacrifices, and then the status quo is threatened?

Sebastian Silva’s exploration of domestic servitude is a playful slow burn that toys with the expectations we have from previous entries in the ‘bad maid’ genre (check out 2001’s Murderous Maids).

Catalina Saavedra (like Regina Casé, known in her own country for TV & theater) won multiple awards for her portrayal of the loyal but extremely territorial family retainer who slowly turns up the heat when a younger woman is brought in to help her out.

The surprising results grabbed a Sundance Grand Jury Award and a Golden Globe nom for the film plus Sundance and Gotham awards for Saavedra.

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remains of the day

The intricate waltz of class and service has spawned not one, but two, hugely popular and long-running soap operas.

This watchwork of a film distills the clichés that were embodied by Gordon Jackson (Mr. Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs) and Jim Carter (Carson in Downton Abbey), and  into a much more subtle and poignant human drama, played out here between Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson with a spot on supporting cast.

Remains of the Day is the last big film of the Merchant Ivory Productions’ high period and bears all the watermarks of their best work – literate and beautiful in detail, shot in a number of English Great Houses. The impact of is devastating, but subtle – watch it, but make sure you’re wide awake and up to the task.

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Broader but still fascinating is this adaptation of a play based on a true story, with Glenn Close in a star turn as the male lead, and Janet McTeer also in drag.

Yes, there are class issues imbedded in these stories of servants, but in the end, what keeps us fascinated in these stories are the themes of identity and freedom of choice.

Here, as in Remains, the role of a servant is a perfect mask for a person who wants to avoid intimacy at all costs.  A perfect butler is not required to have a personal life – far better to be a eunuch.  And, as in this story, better even to die than to be unmasked.

Despite the award nominations, we found Close’s performance masterful and even compelling, but not completely convincing.  It was probably better as a play.

But in a weird way, our inability to completely suspend disbelief was what really made the movie stick.  Whatever our role in society, we play it every day, and are successful or not to the degree that we convince other people to play along.

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Mrs Doubtfire

 So are we saying that we found Robin Williams more convincing as a woman than we found Glenn Close as a man?

Not exactly.  But we are saying that as sad as it is when people are forced by society to play roles, it also gives you the opportunity to invent a persona that is much more… flamboyant, sophisticated, funny, loving, sensual… or in this case, responsible.  More whatever you might secretly want to be – than the one you’ve been using.

That’s one reason why we kind of liked being a waiter.  Movies are always urging us to be our true selves, and all we’re saying is – which one?

But we also picked this one because this turned into kind of a heavy post for the last week of August.    Maybe we’ll just put rent Mrs. Doubtfire and watch it with the kids.

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 “Part Mary Poppins and part Weegee,” as Manohla Dargis described her in the Times, Vivian Maier was a French-American nanny in 50’s and 60’s Chicago with a compelling secret identity – a hugely prolific street photographer of some talent.

Maier never showed her work – over a hundred thousand negatives were discovered after her death by Edward Maloof, one of the directors of this documentary, who leveraged her images into an internet sensation and then into a Kickstarter campaign and profession for himself.

Although she seems to have been a sometimes mediocre nanny, some of her ex-charges cared for her in her old age, yet never knew how eccentric, private and talented she was.  The deep enigma of her life and craft have spun into a number of debates – about the nature of art, her posthumous right to privacy, and even her mental competency.

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Elma Cremin

Co-Founder at Followthethread
A long-time fixture of New York’s glittering social scene, Miami’s jai lai courts, and the interstate highway system’s “big rigs,” Elma Cremin has spent her life absorbing all things pop culture.Movies, cult tv shows, documentaries, art, fashion—you cut her and she’ll bleed out in the colors of an Andy Warhol Brillo Pad box. Finally, after years of working inside the system with such networks as Sundance, Trio, Fuse TV and Ovation, she went “ghost protocol” and co-founded FollowTheThread in order to work outside the petty restraints of the industry and share her remarkable knowledge.

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Peter Bogdanovich has always been the ultimate multi-hyphenate: critic-director-writer-actor-film historian. He started his career writing articles for Esquire Magazine and curating film retrospectives at MOMA. Inspired by the critic-directors of the French New Wave, he moved to LA with wife, Polly Platt. He met Roger Corman at a screening and was soon directing the low-budget auteur thriller, Targets, starring Boris Karloff in his last film role.

At 32, Bogdanovich’s next film, The Last Picture Show, catapulted him into the front ranks of “New Hollywood” directors, earning multiple Oscar noms and comparisons to idol Orson Welles. But an affair with model/star Cybill Shepard destroyed his marriage to Platt, who had nurtured his genius, and propelled him into an artistic slump he’s been unable to climb out of. In fact, iconic director Billy Wilder is purported to have said about this period in Bogdanovich’s career that nothing brings Hollywood together like a Peter Bogdanovich flop (or words to that effect).

His fall was as dramatic as his rise, and though his reputation has been somewhat resurrected in latter years, particularly after a stint playing a shrink on The Sopranos, he’s never totally recovered from his mid-career collapse.

Was it hubris or the envy of fellow writers that brought Bogdanovich down? A little of both. “Looking back, I’m sure there are a lot of things I’d have done differently.”

So would we – even without the kind of drama that has followed this mercurial genius. This week at The Thread we revisit his yo-yo of a career.


shes-funny-that-waySHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY (2015)

In his new film Bogdanovich is back to classic Hollywood, and maybe even back to his classic form, with a screwball comedy about the personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production.

Owen Wilson is the established director Arnold Albertson. When he casts his call girl-turned-actress girlfriend Isabella “Izzy” Patterson (Imogen Poots) in a play alongside his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex-lover Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans), a twisted love tangle forms.

Jennifer Aniston plays Izzy’s therapist Jane, who is consumed by her own failing relationship with the playwright Joshua Fleet (Will Forte) –who is also developing a crush on Izzy.

The soundtrack features the sublime Angela McCluskey (aka St. Bernadette) – not to be missed!  Feels like a perfect film to watch as summer winds down.


last_picture_showTHE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971)

Bogdanovich’s 1971 film was released to critical acclaim and public controversy. The Last Picture Show was nominated for eight Academy Award and was hailed as the most important work by a young American director since Citizen Kane. Ironic, considering Welles had become a close friend and was living in Bogdanovich’s guesthouse.

The story is a frank drama of eroding social and sexual values in small-town Texas, with a talent-laden cast led by Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms, Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson.

The film was one of a number of films made in the wake of Easy Rider (1969), whose success had opened up opportunities for a new generation of innovative filmmakers, collectively known as The New Hollywood.


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WHAT’S UP, DOC? (1972)

Bogdanovich’s second big film is a salute to 30’s”screwball comedies” and another cinematic idol, Howard Hawks — with a nod to Bugs Bunny.

Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal star as an eccentric girl and a spacey young professor who meet at a musicologist’s convention and become entangled in a madcap chase up and down the hills of San Francisco, racing to recover four identical flight bags containing jewels, secret government papers, prehistoric rocks and underwear.

The final scene in the film makes fun of the iconic line from O’Neal’s huge hit Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. O’Neal reacts to the line when Streisand says it by replying, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

The film is fast paced and fun to watch — no lessons to be learned other than tag your suitcase with something recognizable.

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paper_moon1PAPER MOON (1973)

Set in Depression Era 1936, orphaned Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal) is left in the care of traveling Bible salesman Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal), who may or may not be her father.

En route to deliver Addie to her relatives, Moses discovers that she is quite a handful and may be useful to him in his many swindling schemes. Photographed in black-and-white by Targets cinematographer, Laszlo Kovacs, the film was made largely on location in Kansas and Missouri.

The film was originally going to be directed by John Huston and star Paul Newman. When it became available, Polly Platt suggested to Peter Bogdanovich the casting of Ryan and his daughter Tatum, who ended up winning an Oscar. The rest is film history…

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They-All-LaughedTHEY ALL LAUGHED (1980)

By the time Bogdanovich got to this romantic comedy, he had three flops under his belt – Daisy Miller; 30’s musical tribute At Long Last Love; and Nickelodeon. He found some critical redemption with Corman-produced Saint Jack, based on the Paul Theroux novel, which won the critic’s prize at the Venice Film Festival.

They All Laughed stars Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara (who purportedly had just had an affair), John Ritter and Dorothy Stratten, and was shot on the streets of New York. Bogdanavich took personal details from the lives of the cast, and shoehorned them into a detective genre film.   Three private detectives are investigating two beautiful women stepping out on their husbands. The detectives wind up pursuing the women, who turn the tables on them.

The film’s title turned out to be bitterly ironic — it essentially destroyed Bogdanavich’s life. He once again fell for his blonde ingénue and started an affair with Playboy centerfold and Pet-of-the-Year Stratten. But before the film was released her low-life estranged husband killed her and committed suicide.

In the same moment, Time, which had financed the film, dropped out of the distribution business. So Bogdanavich made the ill-advised decision to distribute it himself, spending $5 million and only making $1 million. By 1985 he was bankrupt.

Along with two megaflops – Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and Coppola’s One from The Heart — They All Laughed marked the end of the director-controlled films of the New Hollywood. 

In recent years the film has developed a cult status with Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson praising the film.

“It was a very loving picture,” said Bogdanovich in 2011. “It was the happiest time of my life. I look back on it now and it’s been like thirty years or so — it was definitely the high point in my life.”

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MASK12MASK (1985)

Based on the real-life story of Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), a teenager disfigured by craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, which causes calcium deposits on his skull that alter the shape of his face.

His mother is played brilliantly by Cher—a force of nature who does not allow his disease to define his life or hers. She drinks too much, hangs out with a biker crew but ultimately is the force behind Rocky that gives him the courage to live his life.

I loved this film when I saw it as a teenager and revisiting it again it still stands the test of time.

Reactions were mixed, at least between the NY Times and Roger Ebert.

Vincent Canby wrote:

”Mask,” the year’s first major fatal disease movie, is Peter Bogdanovich’s California- biker version of ”The Elephant Man.” 

Roger Ebert wrote:

Bogdanovich handles “Mask” a lot differently than a made-for-TV movie would have, with TVs disease of the week approach. This isn’t the story of a disease, but the story of some people.


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