For this year’s food issue, I first contemplated penning an examination of popcorn’s movie snacking monopoly. I also considered weighing in on whether serving full meals in a theater during a film is neato-cool or should be punishable by death. I decided the former idea was as boring as ogling unpopped kernels and the latter may get me punished to death by those opposed to my (fully correct) stance.
So instead, let us talk not about consumption but about conversation.
Of living directors, who would you most like to break bread with? To be clear, this is not as simple as “list your favorite movie makers.” Some, if not many, filmmakers are very well-known to be total assholes, and you only have to eat with those at family reunions and state dinners. The question being asked here is who would be the most interesting, engaging and insightful director guest? The assumption is that you obviously also like their work or they wouldn’t have made your shortlist. Unless it was to poison them! Oh, you’re bad.
My “shortlist” was like 30 people long. Cutting it down was absolutely brutal. To those slighted, please remember that old familiar saying: “It’s an honor just to be considered as a theoretical dining partner for a movie critic in Omaha.”
Here are the five folks with a standing offer for a home-cooked meal at Casa Del Syrek. We do not allow substitutions, and extra bread costs $3.
Guest Number One: Lexi Alexander
If you’re not familiar with Alexander’s work, that’s because there’s no such thing as a meritocracy in America, only variations in nepotism, evil and greed! She’s a German/Palestinian filmmaker and martial artist whose every effort ─ such as Green Street Hooligans and Punisher: War Zone ─ has been violently vibrant. Although her IMDB page should be bursting like a Nostromo crew member’s chest, she’s been blacklisted for being legendarily outspoken when it comes to social issues, specifically equity problems plaguing the film industry. Her Twitter account is as fiery and honest as is legally allowed. She is, objectively, pretty much the best.
I want to hear every single thing she has to say about every single thing she wants to talk about. She sure seems to be my favorite type of dinner companion: passionately opinionated. Tell me what you hate! What should I hate? Let’s hate things together, Lexi!
Guest Number Two: Taika Waititi
This can’t be a surprise to anyone with even the most minimal brain electricity. Apologies to Werner Herzog, but Waititi has firmly established himself as the coolest working director (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit). The biggest problem with inviting him for some chow would be my immediate insecurity. But then he’d say some terribly clever joke that somehow Frankensteins together equal parts self-deprecating and self-aggrandizing. Oh, how we would laugh!
Waititi’s body of work is an eclectic symphony of pithy, silly material interwoven with dense, meaningful themes. That guy has to be fun at parties, right? I could also share with him my list of projects I think he should do. Hear me out: The Muppets. Just think about it, Taika! He’s teetering on the edge of being my favorite working director. I know I specifically said this wasn’t just a list of my favorite working directors, but it’s not like such things don’t get you bonus points.
Guest Number Three: Ava DuVernay
First off, I absolutely have to know about New Gods, the film adaptation about Jack Kirby’s bonkers space-opera comic book characters that DuVernay was slated to direct. This isn’t about me wanting to know what weird, awful nonsense happened at Warner Bros. to kill the single best DC film project in development. This is about me wanting to know what she was actually going to do with it. Tell me of the weird cosmic magic we were so unfairly deprived of seeing, Ava!
If her body of work is any indication of what she would be like to chat with, it’d be a verbal whirlwind. She’s gone from historical fiction (Selma) to fantasy (A Wrinkle in Time) to nonfiction (13th) to one of the best TV miniseries ever (When They See Us). I’d have to prepare for our conversation like people prepare for Jeopardy. I mean the contestants, not how people had to gird their loins in order to watch Aaron f’n Rodgers guest in Alex Trebek’s absence.
Guest Number Four: Jordan Peele
Half of my favorite sketch comedy show and a whole entertainment empire unto himself now, our dinner would devolve into that old Chris Farley SNL sketch, with me just repeating his comedy catchphrases and saying things like “Remember how we both love The Twilight Zone? That’s cool, huh?” Peele has done just loads of interviews since Get Out stopped gobs faster than a Willy Wonka treat. He has never seemed anything other than both incredibly personable and wildly nerdy.
He loves the stuff that I love. Sorry, he has an Oscar, and I don’t. I love the stuff that he loves. In many ways, Us is a riff on C.H.U.D., a film I reference to the point of making myself uncomfortable about it. Speak to me of what weird, obscure sci-fi nonsense you’d love to reboot, Jordan! I know you have to adore some rando cartoon from the 1980s that needs updating. Is it Rubik the Amazing Cube? I knew it.
Guest Number Five: Rian Johnson
First and foremost, I need a detailed account of what would have happened if Johnson got to direct the final installment of the new Star Wars trilogy. Because that would immediately be a cannon in my brain, ejecting The Rise of Skywalker like I used to toss toy pilots out of plastic snowspeeders in my youth. Will there be non-Star Wars discussion? Maybe. Sure. Okay. Whatever makes you happy, Rian!
Early on, I’d apologize for my Looper review, which I’m sure has just simply haunted the super-famous, beloved director for years now. I could also share my ideas for the next Knives Out movie. Things like “give Daniel Craig a bonkers Russian accent this time” and “have the killer use a candlestick … get it … like Clue!” After we finished enjoying my hilarity, I’d really just want to hear what his favorite films are in genres he hasn’t done. Then I’d go right back to reiterating that The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie, because he simply can’t have heard that enough.
That’s my invite list. None will RSVP. The big question is, who’s on yours?