Tag Archives: Ramin Bahrani



TOOM_still2-750x500Podcasting Them Softly is honored to present a discussion with cinematographer Bobby Bukowski.  Bobby‘s most recent films, the groundbreaking Oren Moverman drama TIME OUT OF MIND and 99 HOMES, which is the latest from acclaimed indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, are in theaters nationwide right now. and we urge everyone to check them both out, as they’re two of the best films of the year. Some of his other excellent credits include THE MESSENGER and RAMPART, two more collaborations with Oren Moverman, INFINITELY POLAR BEAR with Mark Ruffalo, the mob-hitman thriller THE ICEMAN, Jon Stewart’s political drama ROSEWATER, and one of our favorites, ARLINGTON ROAD, which was of course directed by friend of Podcasting Them Softly’s Mark Pellington. Bobby‘s work is always extremely stylish and is always in perfect tandem with the narrative material no matter the genre, and it’s clear he’s crafted a strong relationship with Moverman, as the three films they’ve done together are some of the best of their respective years. We hope you enjoy our chat with Bobby!



Ramin Bahrani has made five feature films thus far in his fascinating career, and all of them have been some of the best films of their respective years, with the trio of Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and Goodbye Solo forming some sort of personal trifecta of small, less-is-more-inspired filmmaking, almost the American answer to the Dardenne brothers. His latest, the viciously angry social drama 99 Homes hits some of the same keys of maximized melodrama that his previous film did, the underrated At Any Price with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, while telling a topical, important, and thoroughly engrossing story that will likely be too intense and too real for some viewers. Concentrating on the financial and housing collapse of 2008 and centering the action in Orlando, arguably the epicenter of the sub-prime mortgage disaster zone, Bahrani and co-writer Amir Naderi have fashioned a compelling and provocative narrative that finds a struggling young man named Dennis Nash (an impassioned and excellent Andrew Garfield) learning just how far he’s willing to go to put food on the table for his son and mother, let alone a home over the heads. Michael Shannon is the real estate shark named Rick who has figured out how to take advantage of an already corrupt system, exploiting the failures and misery of others for his own financial gain; he sits at the same table as Gordon Gekko and Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross. The image of Shannon incessantly ripping his E-cigarette is one of the more searing visuals I’ve seen in any movie this year, and the effectively restless and propulsive music was scored by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales, giving the film a level of anxiety that Bahrani ratchets up through his controlled and vigorous direction. Tackling topical themes and plotlines in works of Hollywood-based fiction can sometimes be a tricky proposition, but here, Bahrani and his skilled team knew precisely how to calibrate all of the elements.

The film kicks into high gear after Nash, his son, and his mother (the reliably fantastic Laura Dern) are evicted from their life-long home by Rick and two police offers, in an emotionally harrowing scene which is repeated throughout the story to underscore just how many people were affected by the greed and duplicity of financial managers, bankers, the federal government, and themselves. The superb cinematographer Bobby Bukowski can lay claim to having shot two of the most socially relevant and topical films of the year, with groundbreaking work done on Oren Moverman’s homeless drama Time Out of Mind, and incredibly intense lensing on 99 Homes. The film pulses with an immediacy, heightened by Bukowski’s smart widescreen framing, with the hazy Orlando sunlight offering the false promise of a happy day. The opening steadicam shot is nothing short of bravura, introducing the audience to the reprehensible but magnetic character of Rick, with Shannon shredding the screen with predator-like energy and endless answers to the various situations he’s found himself in. And while Garfield is undoubtedly convincing as a man pushed to his moral and ethical limits, all throughout, we’re constantly reminded that this is the Michael Shannon show, with this tremendous actor delivering an utterly ferocious performance that feels all too possible and realistic – you know there are plenty of people out there just like Rick, ready to swoop in and grab any and all of the pieces that they can line their pockets with; the agitated screenplay constantly stings and reminds us of how vulnerable many of us truly are at any given moment in life. This is the REAL horror movie for the month of October, and one of the best strengths of the film is its ending, which feels logical, understandable, and rational, as it takes into account everything that has come before it, with the final, mildly ambiguous beats suggesting nothing simple or happy for anyone. 99 Homes is tough but vital cinematic medicine that goes down smooth while leaving an appropriately bitter aftertaste. It’s one of the best films of the year.




Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo is a quietly powerful film with two absolutely astonishing performances from its leads. Bahrani, who also directed the excellent Chop Shop, Man Push Cart, and the underrated At Any Price, currently has a new film out in limited release called 99 Homes, which centers on the financial crisis and home mortgage disaster of 2008. He’s interested in social commentary and human-scaled dramas which can thematically speak to anyone, a naturalist filmmaker with a style similar to Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves), utilizing a deliberately slow pace, simple but effective camera set ups, limited artificial musical score, a noticeable lack of showy lighting techniques, all in an effort to achieve slow-burn and honest to the core dramatics. Goodbye Solo is about a North Carolina cab driver named Solo (the amazing Souleymane Sy Savane), a Senegalese immigrant, whose girlfriend is about to have a baby. One day, an old, sad looking man named William (Red West, incredible) gets in his cab and makes him an ominous offer: In one week, for $1000 cash, Solo will drive William to the highest point at a nearby mountain range, drop him off, and never look back. What develops over that week is an unlikely but exceptionally moving friendship between the two vastly different men. Bahrani’s emotionally taxing screenplay gives West and Savane some powerful scenes to play off of each other, with a finale that is perfectly understated but deeply felt. I was taken back by the honest and natural performances of both West and Savane, and probably because I wasn’t familiar with them before seeing the film, I was able to become invested in a way that might not have occurred had more baggage-laden talent been given the two roles. West is a guy who has been doing bit parts in movies for years (his personal story is fascinating…do a google search…) and he’s got one of those made-for-the-cinema faces that dispenses with back-story without the necessity for words. It’s a face that’s seen too much throughout the years, and because of West’s grizzled look and feel, he brings a level of intensity to William that remains present throughout the entire picture. Savane is the perfect antidote to West’s hardness; Solo could give Happy-Go-Lucky’s Poppy Montgomery a run for her money in the eternally optimistic sweepstakes. Always trying to help, always thinking with his heart (when sometimes he should be thinking more with his head), Solo is determined not to let William do himself in, even if it means sacrificing things that he holds dear. Bahrani was hailed by the late Roger Ebert as “America’s next great filmmaker” and it’s not hard to see why. He’s been making important, under the radar work for years now, and it’s time that he gets the full-on attention he deserves. If you’re not familiar with his work, I urge you to get acquainted. Goodbye Solo is a great film, one that will make you think long after you’ve finished watching.