First I told Mendes his movie, about a couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) expecting their first child, was driving me crazy - in a good way - because it was imbued with a particularly haunting quality I can't quite put into words.
"I know exactly what you mean, because I can't find the word either," Mendes said. "It's a mixture of tones: There is a wistful, lyrical something coursing through the film that is difficult to hold in your hands."
The filmmaker said he first read the screenplay, written by the real-life couple of Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, because he was a huge fan of Eggers' literary endeavors such as McSweeney's and The Believer.
"They wrote it during her pregnancy, especially the last month, when she was confined to their home. They wrote it on the sofa to make each other laugh, basically. They started off with scenes, and then the scenes became a story. It was written at that stage when you're about to become a parent for the first time, and you're on the edge of the precipice, and it's a wonderful feeling to be made vulnerable again. Maybe that's the quality we were talking about earlier."
Later I spoke with Raimi, whose Drag Me to Hell is a breathless, knockabout, slam-bang horror extravaganza that returns him to his Evil Dead roots. The movie, about a bank loan officer (Alison Lohman) cursed by an old lady she evicts, offers a wild and uproarious ride that makes you laugh as often as it scares you (I must have jumped in my seat at least five or six times when I saw it, and I don't scare easy.) Pay that sissy PG-13 rating no heed: This thing delivers.
I asked Raimi why he decided to go back to his over-the-top, low-budget horror days now that he's such a big shot. "The whole idea was to get back to the basics and entertain the audience with a lot less, without all the wonderful equipment and toys the Spider-Man movies afford me. I went back to thinking about the audience as my partners. What can I throw at them? What are they expecting? They think they're going to be scared when she opens that door at the end of the long hallway, so I'm going to give them a joke instead.
"Making this movie was like playing a chess game with the audience, trying to anticipate what they were expecting and giving them something else - not just to fool them, but to scare them and make them laugh."
I'm spending the bulk of the day at a triple-feature of screenings: The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Terminator Salvation. Very psyched for Terminator, and curious to see what Tony Scott has done with Pelham, which I must have seen a dozen times on late-night TV while growing up in the pre-cable era.