20 Questions: David Michôd, Director of 'Animal Kingdom'

Animal Kingdom is the critically acclaimed feature debut of young Australian director, David Michôd, who has helmed many short films that have made the festival circuit.

Animal Kingdom

Director: David Michôd
Cast: James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver
Rated: R
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-08-27 (Los Angeles)

Animal Kingdom is racking up some major critical nods, with a combined 83 score over at Metacritic and perfect 10 scores from Salon, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well approval from the Sundance crowd. So, it's quite impressive that the film is the feature debut of young Australian director, David Michôd. Michôd has helmed many short films that have made the festival circuit, including Crossbow (winning Best Short Screenplay at the 2007 AFI Awards) and Netherland Dwarf (named the 2009 Aspen Shortsfest's Best Drama). This prodigious talent now pauses his busy career to take PopMatters' 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Rabbit-Proof Fence and Whale Rider, two movies from 2002 about the Australasian indigenous experience. They were a while ago now, but they just kill me. I cry watching movies on planes all the time, but I think that has more to do with the altitude than the movies. I cried watching an episode of Intervention the other night too, but that doesn't count because I feel like I was tricked into it.

I don't think I've ever cried reading a book. Do people cry reading books?

2. The fictional character most like you?

Derek Zoolander... insecure and delusional, but basically a really nice guy.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin. Either that or Shadows Collide With People by John Frusciante.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars. It was only the second movie I ever saw and it blew my little five-year-old mind. I was so young when I saw it that I thought my parents were taking me to see a cowboy movie.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Books. I love reading them. I miss David Foster Wallace like crazy.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Animal Kingdom. When I left film school in Melbourne, I had no idea how I might go about having a career in the film business, let alone ever get to make a feature film. That I chiselled away and did it -- and that it has now been so well received -- is something I'm pretty proud of.

7. You want to be remembered for...?

Being a good person who made some stuff that excited people as much as the stuff that has excited me over the years.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Jacki Weaver and Ben Mendelsohn, two of my favourite actors on the planet who have been honing their talents for decades. And now, finally, people all over aforementioned planet are getting to see how good they are. (This is a plug for Animal Kingdom, sure, but the sentiment is 100% pure.)

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Andrew Dominik could retire triumphant now if he wanted to. I would've liked to have written the song "Stagger Lee" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds too. Dirty and dangerous and great.

10. Your hidden talents...?

I am pretty prodigiously good at tennis. Many a cocky trash-talker has been roundly humiliated by my racquet.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

One of my best friends, Michael Cody, told me to get out of my apartment in Kings Cross (which is Sydney's red-light district) and move to Bondi Beach. It'd be good for my health and my sanity, he told me. I didn't believe him, but I did it anyway. And I'll never forget that first night, unloading the furniture from the truck and sucking in the sea breeze and feeling happier than I'd felt in a long time.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

My latex matress. I spend more than enough time in bed to warrant getting rid of the futon and splashing out on a good night's sleep. I bought this mattress. They're pretty difficult things to steal.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

Levis. What I love most about where I live in Sydney is that it's perfectly acceptable to roam the streets barefoot, which I do.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Jesus because I think they'd all be really nice to me (although I think they'd freak me out quite a lot too).

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

The Jurassic period. When I was a little kid I was so obsessed with dinosaurs I wanted to be a paleontologist -- the first big word I ever learned. I would kill to go back a couple of hundred million years and get a look at those big suckers.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Swimming in the ocean. I live only two minutes walk from a dizzyingly beautiful ocean beach and there's nothing better for my brain than throwing it in the surf. Doesn't matter how I'm feeling beforehand, I was always feel good afterwards. I never regret a swim... (except maybe for the couple of times I've gotten stuck in a rip on a big-swell day and almost died -- I regretted those ones a little bit).

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

Oh boy. I just salivated looking at that list. But you left out water. I have only recently discovered, probably way too late in life, that drinking water is the key to everything (and by water I mean from the tap -- bottled water has to be one of the greatest scams ever perpetrated on our lamely impressionable species).

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

City. Sydney specifically. But I find great solace in knowing the country is out there. This is what I love about Australia -- outside a few great cities, like Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane, the rest of the continent is pretty much wild and empty. I find that comforting and captivating and terrifying all at the same time.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

I don't know who I'd be talking to. At time of writing, we're only three days after an election with no winner. It's as yet unclear whether Australia's first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, will be given the opportunity to lead an ever-increasingly ineffectual left or whether we will be forced to live with the most terrifying conservative throwback since... well, since the last one.

I'm gonna go ahead and assume I'm talking to Julia and say to her only this: be inspirational. It's about time somebody was.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Trying to figure out what I should be working on now...

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.