About FocusFeatures.com

Hi, I'm here to help. I'm keeping my eye on the blogs and message boards. I would love to hear what you think about the site and try to address any problems you may be having.

More About FocusFeatures.com »

To leave a message for administrator, login or register below.

Login | Register


Member Profile | FocusFeatures.com

Mike Mills, Graphic Artist

Updated May 26, 2011

Before becoming a feature filmmaker, writer/director Mike Mills honed his aesthetic sensibilities as a graphic artist, working on posters, album covers, skateboards, music videos, and TV commercials.

Beginners: Portrait of a Graphic Designer
X-Girl Graphics
Sonic Youth Washing Machine Album Cover
Beastie Boy T-shirt/Poster
Album Cover for Air’s Sexy Boy
Subliminal Skateboards
Human Posters
Undefeated Billboard Project
Beginners: Portrait of a Graphic Designer

Beginners: Portrait of a Graphic Designer

In Mike Mills’ Beginners, the lead character Oliver (played by Ewan McGregor) is a graphic designer, working on T-shirts (with messages culled from conversations he’s had with his dog), album covers and an illustrated history of sadness. Oliver’s profession, like much of the film’s story, comes from Mills actual life. Raised in Southern California on a steady diet of punk rock and skate boarding, Mills brought this outsider sensibility with him when he attended art school at New York City’s Cooper Union in the 1980s. Interested in making work in the real world, Mills gravitated toward graphic design, creating the look and feel for clients he knew and appreciated. While there is no single thing that characterizes Mills’ design, his work inevitably showcases simplicity of form, a subversion of cultural expectations and a willingness to expand into any and all media. The following slide show gives a quick glimpse into some of his work. To see more, especially his film and video work, visit his site Mike Mills, as well as his special Beginners’ blog.




Beginners NYC Red Carpet

Updated May 25, 2011

The Cast of Beginners
Ewan McGregor
Mélanie Laurent
Mélanie Laurent
Mélanie and Ewan
Mike Mills and Miranda July
Christopher Plummer
On the Red Carpet
On the Red Carpet
On the Red Carpet
On the Red Carpet
On the Red Carpet
Mike Mills and Friends
Mike Mills and Mélanie Laurent
The Cast of Beginners

The Cast of Beginners

(l.-r.) Beginners stars Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent with writer/director Mike Mills and star Ewan McGregor at the film's NYC special screening.




Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners

Updated May 23, 2011

In Beginners, the dog Arthur and the human Oliver create an emotional bond that echoes back all the way to Homer.

Arthur + Oliver
Argos + Odysseus
Peritas + Alexander the Great
Gelert + Llywelyn
Guinefort + his Knight
Donnchadh + Robert the Bruce
Urian + Cardinal Wolsey
Pompey + William the Silent
Luath + Robert Burns
Boatswain + Lord Byron
Fortune + Josephine
Lauro + Napoleon
Seaman + Meriwether Lewis
Flush + Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Greyfriars Bobby + John Gray
Balto + Gunnar Kaasen
Hachiko + Hidesaburo Ueno
Arthur + Oliver

Arthur + Oliver

Dogs haven’t always held the top place in human affection. Earlier this year, archaeologists reported that they had found a grave in northern Jordan in which a man had been buried with his pet fox 16,000 years ago. The first dogs—genetically domesticated wolves—arrived on the scene 4,000 years later and foxes became a passing fad. And while this special relationship between two species has endured for centuries, it remains as mysterious, powerful and controversial as ever. While there is increasing rise in dogs/human companions, especially in the United States and Western Europe, there has also been a steady increase in cruelty and abandonment. Iran recently put forth a bill that would ban dog ownership for religious and cultural reasons. Others, like those in the animal rights movement, question dog “ownership” as an ethical issue. But nevertheless, as the relation between Arthur (Cosmo) and Oliver (Ewan McGregor) in Beginners so lyrically dramatizes, there remains some thing strange and beautiful in the way human beings and dogs try to coordinate their confusing lives around each other. As a tribute to that enigmatic connection represented in Beginners, we consider some of the most stirring examples of Dog + Man throughout history.




People in Film | Lone Scherfig

Updated May 18, 2011

The Danish-born director of One Day has proven herself to be an international talent in dealing with actors and locations.

Lone Scherfig | The Number One Choice
Lone Scherfig | More than Beginners’ Luck
Lone Scherfig | An Honorary Scot
Lone Scherfig | Always Educational
Lone Scherfig | The Number One Choice

Lone Scherfig | The Number One Choice

Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig has a particular gift for blending deft comedy and insightful humanism; Roger Ebert once declared that she “loves human nature and would rather enjoy it than hurry it along with a plot. The pleasure of [Scherfig's work] is in spending time in the company of her characters.” Thus Scherfig was the perfect choice to take on One Day, the adaptation of David Nicholls' bestselling novel that details the lives and relationships of friends Emma and Dexter over the span of nearly 20 years. “You watch her films,” says One Day's producer, Nina Jacobson, “and you see how she has an incredible command of character and of performance, and of the intimate moments between people.” Scherfig was immediately drawn to Nicholls' story, explaining, “The wit of David’s writing appealed to me. But what compelled me was just how much of a real love story the piece is––and at a level you rarely come across.”




Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners

Updated May 17, 2011

Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.

Being Flynn
Beginners (2011)
The Kid (1921)
The Champ (1931)
I Was Born But... (1932)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Rebel without a Cause (1955)
Bigger Than Life (1956)
The Godfather (1972)
The Great Santini (1979)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
At Close Range (1986)
A Bronx Tale (1993)
In the Name of the Father (1994)
The Sum of Us (1994)
Billy Elliot (2000)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Finding Nemo (2003)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Being Flynn

Being Flynn

While the title BEING FLYNN hints at the singular conflict of owning up to who you are, it actually speaks about two people – the father Jonathan Flynn (played by Robert De Niro) and his son, Nick (played by Paul Dano). In some ways, the title is as much a question as an assertion, asking us how much a son will become his father, how much he will become his own person. This particular father/son drama was first recounted in Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Nick Flynn’s memoir about encountering his father – who’d abandoned his family years before – at a homeless shelter in Boston in the 80s. Years later, writer/director Paul Weitz adapted this story into the feature film BEING FLYNN. For Weitz, “This idea of the disparity between a powerful father figure and how you see them functioning in the world is, I think, central to a lot of people’s lives.” Indeed the father/son conflict has been a powerful narrative in everything from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare's plays through to modern novels and films. But, as BEING FLYNN so lucidly explores, the relationship between a father and son can be profoundly complicated, moving from anger and revolt to acceptance and forgiveness. In the following slideshow, we look at the rich tradition of fathers/son stories in films, from comedies to dramas, from epic tales of power to small portraits of domestic tranquility.




People in Film | Jim Sturgess

Updated May 04, 2011

From the Beatles to Black Jack to beloved book character, Jim Sturgess has left a mark in whatever film he’s been in.

Jim Sturgess | Taking One Day at a Time
Jim Sturgess | Universal Appeal
Jim Sturgess | Going for Broke
Jim Sturgess | Musically Minded
Jim Sturgess | Taking One Day at a Time

Jim Sturgess | Taking One Day at a Time

British actor Jim Sturgess, star of One Day, admits that he was extremely daunted when he took on the role of Dexter in director Lone Scherfig's adaptation of David Nicholls’ best-selling of two people who meet on their graduation day and stay in each others’ live for the next 20 years. "I've never played a character that has a strong reference point to other peoples' imagination," the London-born heartthrob said in a recent Wall Street Journal interview. "I've never done that—taken a book that's loved and turned it into a film. And I've rarely seen a film that I've liked that's better than the book, so it's an impossible task." However, Sturgess kept a level head, quickly seeing the funny side of playing Dexter, the "posh, lovable twat" who plays the love interest to Anne Hathaway's lovely Emma: "There was a point where I looked at myself in the mirror with my hair slicked back in a pair of leather trousers, and I thought, 'I bet this is the character that I get remembered for.' "




People in Film | Anne Hathaway

Updated May 04, 2011

From teen princess to Emma Morley, Anne Hathaway is a talent that commands our attention.

Anne Hathaway | Bringing Emma Morley to Screen
Anne Hathaway | Born to Perform
Anne Hathaway | A
Anne Hathaway | From Princess to Movie Star
Anne Hathaway | An Artist and an Activist
Anne Hathaway | Bringing Emma Morley to Screen

Anne Hathaway | Bringing Emma Morley to Screen

For Anne Hathaway, the star of Lone Scherfig’s romance One Day, the project was love at first word. She told Imogen Carter of The Guardian about reading the script: “It was one of those magical experiences where I sat at my kitchen table, looked up hours later and dinner had been eaten around me. I was so engrossed. It was absurd to think that this beloved British character would be played by an American but I told my agent I have to play Emma Morley.” And despite Hathaway’s disclaimer, the director Lone Scherfig was thrilled with Hathaway’s take on Emma: “Anne is a very warm actress. She has the warmth of Elizabeth Taylor or Judy Garland … I love Emma as she is in the book, obviously, but I also love Anne Hathaway's version of her." In One Day, the young, impressionable Emma Morley meets the roguish Dexter (Jim Sturgess) on the day they graduate from college. The book and movie then chronicles their complex history together by checking in on them one day each year. And year after year, Emma slowly blossoms into a smart, beautiful and sage woman, it’s a transformation that Hathaway’s characters make often.




Canine Stars: From Rover to Cosmo

Updated May 04, 2011

Starting in 1905 when Rover rescued a baby, dogs have been cinema’s unsung heroes. We look at some of the finest.

Cosmo (Arthur)
Blair (Rover)
Etzel von Oeringen (Strongheart)
Rin Tin Tin (Various Roles)
Skippy (Asta)
Pal (Lassie)
Pal (Petey)
Terry (Toto)
Spike (Old Yeller)
Buddy/Air Bud
Moose (Eddie)
Cosmo (Arthur)

Cosmo (Arthur)

One of the most beloved stars of Mike Mills’ poignant drama Beginners is Cosmo, the Jack Russell terrier who plays Arthur, the dog Oliver (Ewan McGregor) inherits from his father Hal (Christopher Plummer). For Mills, Arthur is Oliver’s “co-passenger” through the film. As a living connection to his deceased father, Arthur becomes for Oliver a friend, a confidant, and a sentient example of how we can love something we can never really understand. Rescued by trainer Mathilde de Cagny (who also trained the famed Moose/Eddie from the TV sitcom “Fraiser”), Cosmo made his screen debut as Friday in the comedy Hotel for Dogs, and then showed up again in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. At 9 years old, Cosmo may be a professional, but he continues to move those with whom he works. “I loved working with Cosmo,” McGregor acknowledges. “It’s tough, though, because you develop a bond with this wee dog, and then you have to say goodbye.”  To be sure, the history of dogs trained to perform in films, television and other entertainments has not always been either noble or humane. Yet many of these star canines (some of whom we spotlight in the following slideshow) continue to embody for filmgoers those qualities that make dogs both honorable in their own right and an essential part of the human experience.