For Bomani J. Story, Billy Wilder is career goals. A 21-time Oscar-nominated writer and director and six-time winner, the Austrian-born Wilder's masterpieces from the 1940s, '50s and '60s have provided a sort of cinematic roadmap for the Riverside-born first-time filmmaker: "He jumped around to all these different genres during his career," Story says, "and was able to be incredible."
Today, Wilder is remembered and beloved as much for his romantic comedies as he is for his film noirs and his farces, his war film and courtroom drama. "I hope I can do the same," says Story. "Because there's a lot to explore there. I love horror — I don't think this is my last time touching horror — but I want to explore genre. You know? I love sci-fi. I love noir. And I love experimenting."
Story's sci-fi horror film is The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, a modern riff on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein that premiered during this year's SXSW Film Festival. His next movie will be something completely different; he describes the script for this fantasy film as "Juice meets Lord of the Rings."
"I'm really excited to dive into fantasy," teases the director. "That one's going to be real fun. Lord of the Rings didn't make this list, but it could be. Shout-out to Lord the Rings."
Below, Story shares with A.frame five films that had the biggest influence on him.
Directed by: Billy Wilder | Written by: Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman
Goddamn, Billy Wilder is just incredible, but Ace in the Hole is my top movie of his. I love that character, man. The s**t he says in that movie and his actions, it taught me so much of what a movie can be. Because it starts off as, you have this mean newspaper guy who's trying to get a job. But then as the movie unfolds, it starts becoming about more than just this character. It becomes about the scope of American society, and media, and how it's screwed up. It becomes about something so much bigger than just what this guy is doing, and I adored it.
That movie is so crucial and so awesome. And Kirk Douglas turns in a powerhouse performance. The part in the beginning when he comes in, and takes out a cigarette, and lights it on the typewriter. There's so much stuff in there that I was super, super engaged by. And then, even how it ends. I was like, 'Man, this is classic cinema right here.'
Directed by: Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes | Written by: Tyger Williams
That movie just kind of hit the culture. I remember watching it in so many different places. I watched it at my friend's house. I watched it in my own house. I watched it with my cousins. At the time, it was just around, you know what I mean? I remember watching that as a kid and feeling so emotionally just broken from that movie.
There's iconic characters in there — O-Dog, Caine — and you got MC Eiht turning in an incredible performance, as well as that classic song that he had in there. And Jada Pinkett Smith, that character was very monumental in creating this movie. To me, she was trying to save this boy's life. It's like, 'Come with me to Atlanta, so we can get away from this s**t.' It was taking such a realistic look at this, and being very unforgiving. I loved that about it. I watched it so many times at a young age — when I shouldn't have — but I watched it so much.
Written and Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
I got big fan energy for anything Aronofsky, but The Fountain is my number one. Not only do I love this story, but the craft of this movie as well. The editing of moving back and forth through time so seamlessly and cleverly, I thought, was beautiful. The color scheming, and the performances, and the way she's dealing with grief, and how he's dealing with grief in this incoming doom of death that's coming to this relationship. I just loved it so much. I've watched that movie so many times. I pay homage to it [in The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster]: "Death is a disease" came from The Fountain, so that's a big one.
Directed by: Curtis Hanson | Written by: Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson
Big noir energy over here. It's one of my favorite genres. I love the f*****g slick-talking, fedora-wearing, smoke-blowing s**t. Outside of Billy Wilder, I remember L.A. Confidential really opened up the mechanics of a screenplay. Like, the complexity and the depth of that story, and how they're so smart with their arcs of these characters, and what it means. It's showing a f****d-up police system, which I think we need more of. It's so well executed, so well written, and I f*****g love that movie.
How the characters come together, Bud and Ed Exley, when they finally unite in that movie, it feels so good. Because you would never believe these guys would be on the same team! They f*****g hate each other. You've seen that storyline before, where it's two people who hate each other, and then, they like each other by the end or whatever — you know it's coming — so, if you're going to tell that kind of story, you have to make the audience believe that it's impossible. That there's no way these two people are going to buy into each other. For me, this movie did it. So, I give it so much credit for that. You hate them both in their own ways. It's fantastic.
Directed by: Tobe Hooper | Written by: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
That movie really broke horror open for me in a way that other movies hadn't, and it really showed me how many modes horror can work in. That movie is three horror movies in one. Basically, you have your people-go-into-the-house-and-get-killed, which you can make an entire horror movie out of that. Then, they have the slasher one, basically Jason Voorhees-type s**t where it's like, 'I'm running from a guy with a machete or chainsaw.' You have that element of it. And then, you have this crazy family psychological drama going on at the dinner table.
I also just love how insane that movie actually is. You can't put your finger on anything. You can't get a real read on it. There's no way to end that movie. You see her escaping, and he's in the sunset throwing this temper tantrum with his chainsaw. It's so perfect, yet so wild. That movie really busted horror wide open for me.