Thursday, August 7, 2014

Earthquake Hits Hawaii as it Braces for Two Hurricanes

Earthquake Hits Hawaii as it Braces for Two Hurricanes

Earthquake Hits Hawaii as it Braces for Two Hurricanes

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:49 AM PDT

A 4.5-magnitude earthquake rattled Hawaii’s Big Island on Thursday morning just as residents prepare to weather twin hurricanes.

There were no reports of damage yet, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira told the Associated Press, and small quakes like this are “not uncommon.”

“We felt a pretty good shake,” Joanna Cameron, owner of the Kohala Club Hotel, told TIME of the tremor at 6:24 a.m. local time. Cameron’s hotel is located close to the epicenter, estimated 7 miles from Waimea. She plans to keep the hotel open throughout the storm despite numerous cancellations and the closures of nearby schools and businesses.

“We have an earthquake this morning,” she added. “Now the sun is coming out and we’ll have a hurricane at 4 p.m. No one is enjoying this.”

Hurricane Iselle is expected to strike the Big Island on Thursday night, followed by Hurricane Julio. Hawaii hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane in 22 years and, according to ABC meteorologists, this will be the first to ever impact the Big Island.

When asked what’s next, Cameron replied: “Locusts.”

— Additional reporting by Jonathan D. Woods

Waiting With HIV

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:28 AM PDT

The first time I came here was October 2011, after a fairly wild first month at the University of Leeds in England. I'd been laid up in bed for a week with what I thought was flu and, being cautious, took myself to the doctor. A week later the office called to schedule a follow-up appointment for two weeks before my 20th birthday.

A bald health counselor holding a clipboard called me into a side room, asking politely how I'd been. He sat me down in a chair opposite his, and broke the news to me so fast that I hadn't even thought to brace myself: "Patrick, your blood tested positive for HIV."

I remember experiencing what I imagine rigor-mortis might feel like in my chest, I remember not listening to much of what was being said, and I remember that it wasn't until after I left the Leeds Centre for Sexual Health and walked back onto campus that I finally cried. I collapsed onto a bench amongst the university's brutalist architecture, next to a grid-like fountain, whose pattern seems only to be confusion, beneath a large bronze statue of Hermes, God of Transitions, my next appointment card crushed in my fist.

I was one of 725 new patients below the age of 24 to be diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in the U.K. that year, out of a total of 2.5 million new infections worldwide. These numbers signify progress; this figure stood at 3.2 million in 2001 and decreased to 2.3 million in 2012 (the most recent statistics available).

I am among the first generation of HIV patients who can look forward to a practically normal life expectancy and little fear of developing full-blown AIDS due to access to antiretroviral drug therapy. There has never been more hope for patients with HIV than there is right now.

But that doesn't change the crushing impact or seriousness of the diagnosis. And it doesn't mean the danger has gone away. In fact, in July, the World Health Organization recommended that HIV negative men who have sex with men or "MSM" (the term epidemiologists use to cover gay and bisexual men) should take HIV medications similar to mine as preventative treatment because there has been an explosion of new cases among these men worldwide, bucking the trend of progress seen amongst other groups. Taking these medications preventively might only encourage complacency about the practice of safe sex and cause a rise in cases of other sexually transmitted diseases, bringing more people to waiting rooms like this one.

The Leeds Centre for Sexual Health is a fairly drab and dirty-looking building at one corner of the Leeds General Infirmary. The waiting room for men, which I visit every three months, is long and narrow with seven uncomfortable benches made from high-backed blocks of gray-laminate chipboard padded with blue wipe-clean vinyl cushions. I've watched idle thumbs and nervous fingers pinch and pluck small holes in these cushions into gaping wounds of mustard-coloured sponge. There's no coffee machine, just a water cooler in case you are particularly dehydrated and they need a urine sample out of you.

Pin-boards are filled with posters and pamphlets that try to strike an uneasy editorial balance; they aim at being innocuous enough that you might not be too scared to actually read one of them and menacing enough that they might scare you into changing your undoubtedly terrible sexual habits. One of the more colorful examples aimed at MSM features an orgy of naked action figurines performing a rundown of would-be explicit sex acts accompanied by the relevant safety information under headings like "Water Sports."

Some people employ the counterintuitive, rowdy approach to dealing with this space. Younger guys in baggy jeans and tracksuits come in with friends, talking about the size of their anatomy and trading expletive-laced barbs about sexual acts to distract themselves from their nervousness. Men in suits will try to keep up the appearance of normality as they loudly proclaim into their Bluetooth headsets things like, "I'm just at the bank." One guy seemed particularly adept at this subterfuge: "I'm just on my way to the mosque to pray."

The most common reaction, though, is to avoid socializing. We seat ourselves as far away from one another as possible, and each new entrant tries to split the largest gap he can find down the middle. We avoid eye contact: fixing our gaze at our feet, staring through old magazines or a phone, utilizing hats, hoods, and sunglasses to paint a fiction of looking incognito. The fear is that you'll recognize somebody from the outside, or worse: they'll recognize you.

It happens: Once I saw another student with whom I'd had a one-time thing. We hadn't done anything risky, but I still panicked because I'd chosen not to reveal my status to him. As soon as I spotted him, I dived into the bench closest to the entrance and deliberately held my back toward him. Unfortunately, my doctor called "Patrick" at the far door soon after. I was forced to do a walk of shame right past him as she asked me to confirm my date of birth. Thankfully I hadn't lied to him about my age; he had been more willing to ask me that question than he had been about anything important such as my HIV status.

I panicked, thinking he'd realize that for me this visit was a regular thing. I worried he'd judge me for not having told him before. If I just had the confidence to own my HIV status 100 percent of the time, perhaps I'd have found a friend like me and broken the strange spell of anonymity and alienation here.

HIV is a hidden disease. Twenty percent of people who have been infected don't know they have it in the U.K. alone, and they are thought to be responsible for the majority of new infections. For those diagnosed, there is no law requiring HIV disclosure, provided precautions are taken. To disclose often means to be rejected so many keep their status secret. And because so few of us talk about our diagnoses openly, perceptions of HIV as something that happens to other people have become rife

Other people simply don't care enough until it's too late. I have had two partners, who were fully aware of my status, request unprotected sex anyway. One tried to convince me by saying, "If I get it I get it, that's my fault and my problem."

I will be on medication until the day I die and meals and other activities are planned around when I have to take them. If you include all of the medications I take to manage side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and sleep disrupted by lucid nightmares, I'm potentially written up for 36 pills per day. That's not counting antibiotics I've needed to treat various infections that otherwise healthy people might have fought off unaided. I've even sought professional counselling for depression.

Though I'm now feeling good and coping well with my condition, I wouldn't wish my regime of appointments or regimen of drugs and their side effects on my worst enemy. Every time I hear my name called from the far door of the waiting room, I get a twinge of the tight pain I felt in my chest when I got my diagnosis. It serves as a solemn reminder to me to take my condition seriously. I don't want others to have to join me there on the blue benches, afraid to be honest about who we really are.

Patrick Reynolds is a poet, writer, and student of English at the University of Leeds. You can follow him on Twitter and Medium @dontlimitmyspee. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

Crocodile, Whatcha Eating? Oh, Just a SHARK!

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:26 AM PDT

A dad on a family vacation snapped this photo of an approximately 18-foot crocodile chowing down on a live bull shark in Kakadu’s Adelaide River on August 5, 2014, in Australia’s Northern Territory.

“The crocodile forced the bull shark into the mangroves and devoured the bull shark,” according to the Getty Images description of the photo taken by Andrew Paice, 43, who was on a wildlife cruise with his partner and seven-year-old daughter, the AFP reports.

Believed to be 80 years old, this massive crocodile named Brutus has been a tourist attraction, especially after it reportedly went viral in 2011, thanks to a photo of the reptile leaping out of the water to devour a hunk of kangaroo meat that a tour guide dangled from a stick.

Hopefully the shark population will be able to salvage its reputation as killer beast when Shark Week starts up again on August 10.

REVIEW: Does The Hundred-Foot Journey Deserve One Michelin Star or Two?

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:20 AM PDT

With Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey serving as producers, and a story that forges warm feelings between two generations of restaurant rivals, The Hundred-Foot Journey is on a mission to make you cry. Whether you oblige will depend on your fondness for, or immunity to, the gentler stereotypes of movie romance.

But there’s one shot that should bring tears of joy to anyone who thinks of food as something more than the stuff grabbed from a plastic bag and automatically consumed on a couch during a reality show. Early in the proceedings we are shown a plate of fresh vegetables, tomatoes mostly, that a pretty young French woman offers to weary Indian travelers. Artfully arranged and glowingly photographed, the comestibles would send moviegoers rushing avidly from the auditorium to the lobby — if the concession stand were a neighborhood stall run by Edesia, the goddess of banquets.

(SEE: TIME’s flavorfully illustrated list of the Top 8 Food Movies)

The food, traditional French cuisine or the livelier Indian masala, looks delicious: what Los Angeles Times writer Jenn Harris, in an interview with Indian-American chef Floyd Cardoz, calls a “sumptuous buffet of gastro-porn.” Although Harris was referring to the preparations by Cardoz and other cooks of the film’s incredible edibles, Spielberg and Winfrey wouldn’t mind if viewers applied the phrase to the whole movie. They want you to swallow, in one savory sitting, their tale of colliding cultures reaching an entente cordiale. That particular buffet demands a more generous palate.

Winfrey chose Richard C. Morais’ novel for her 2010 reading list and teamed with Spielberg, who had directed her in The Color Purple nearly three decades ago, to bring the story to the screen. As director they hired Lasse Hallstrom, who specializes in upmarket sentiment and in films with food-related titles: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. His signature food movie was Chocolat, a highly caloric confection about an outsider (Juliet Binoche) who opens a pastry shop in a French village, horrifies the locals, outrages the mayor (Albert Molina) and eventually seduces all of them with her bewitching sweets. With Johnny Depp on hand as Binoche’s roguish ally, Chocolat became Hallstrom’s biggest box-office hit.

(READ: Richard Schickel’s review of Chocolat)

In The Hundred-Foot Journey, the outsiders are Papa (Bollywood stalwart Om Puri), his son Hassan (Manish Dayal) and their family of Mumbai restaurateurs, sent packing when their establishment is torched by fanatics and Papa’s wife (the great beauty Juhi Chawla) is incinerated in the fire. The French village they wind up in is the almost obscenely picturesque Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, in the Midi-Pyrénées, and the wavering mayor this time is Michel Blanc. The family’s most obstinate rival — Mme. Mallory, who owns the one-star restaurant 100 feet across the street from where Papa sets up his noisy Maison Mumbai — is played by Helen Mirren with her chin held high in defiance; Queen Elizabeth might think Mirren’s manner too imperious. And Hassan finds love and competition with Mme. Mallory’s sous-chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).

The journey in the novel was essentially Hassan’s. A budding genius in creating dishes both Indian and French, he hopes to rise through the gastronomic ranks and become the most innovative chef at the hottest restaurant in Paris. He is a human version of Remy the rodent in Pixar’s Ratatouille, conquering French-foodie snobbishness with his culinary inspirations. Screenwriter Steven Knight, who has scripted modern crime movies (Eastern Promises) and stately period pieces (Amazing Grace), as well as directing the Tom-Hardy-in-a-car movie Locke, makes room for the Hassan story, but promotes age — the slow-boiling friendship of Papa and Madame — over youth and beauty.

(READ: Corliss on Tom Hardy, trapped in a car, in Steven Knight’s Locke)

Mme. Mallory’s interest in Hassan, once he convinces her of his expertise, is a matter of pride. For 30 years, her restaurant, Le Saule Pleureur (The Weeping Willow), has carried an honored but equivocal one star, out of a possible three, from the Michelin guide to French cuisine. She wants that second star and thinks the gifted Hassan can help her get it. (It happens that, a couple hundred miles to the east, in Monteux, there is an actual establishment by that name. An online reviewer wrote, “This restaurant has one Michelin star and easily deserves another.”)

As Madame, Dame Helen anglicizes aspects of two revered French actresses who might have been more suitable for the role: imagine a frosty Isabelle Huppert who thaws into Catherine Deneuve. Because this is a movie aimed at Americans, Mirren must speak English in a stern, borderline-ludicrous French accent — both to Papa and Hassan, who confer with each other in Marathi and speak perfect English but perhaps not French, and to her French kitchen staff. “In English,” she says to her balky chef Jean-Pierre (Clément Sibony), “so we can all understand.” This time, the royal “we” that Mirren used in The Queen means the non-francophone audience.

(READ: How Helen Mirren reigned and triumphed in The Queen)

If the poetry of this Franco-Indian alliance gets lost in translation, the visuals sing ecstasy in any language. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren, fresh from making the actors in American Hustle look fabulously tatty, brings radiance not just to each morsel of food but also to the dewy closeups of Dayal (born in Orangeburg, S.C.) and Le Bon (from the recent bio-pic Yves Saint Laurent) as the lovers-in-waiting. The movie revels in scenes of dappled soft-focus — you never saw so many dapples! — and punctuates the Spielberg-starry night sky with fireworks for every occasion. Though it must acknowledge Mama’s charred death, and a spate of anti-immigrant enmity (the scrawling of “French for the French” on a Maison Mumbai wall), the film is eager to seem good enough to eat.

The one moment of earned poignancy comes when Hassan goes across the street to work at Le Seule Pleureur, and Papa offers him his treasured box of Indian spices. “They have their own spices,” the young man says in the softest tones of renunciation. In a new land, the young must learn from their old-country past, use some parts and reject others, to become a success. That’s how you season the melting pot. At this moment, viewers may shrug off the glutinous manipulations of The Hundred-Foot Journey and give it a second star in the Michelin guide to comfort-food movies.

Here Is Another Reason to Take Aspirin Daily

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:18 AM PDT

Researchers find daily aspirin can help prevent the development of digestive tract cancers.

In their study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, London researchers reviewed research on the risks of taking aspirin for preventative uses. They found that taking aspirin daily for 10 years could decrease cases of bowel cancer by 35% and deaths by 40%. Oesophageal and stomach cancers were cut by 30% with death risk lowered by 35-50%.

They found that patients between the ages of 50 and 65 got a benefit if they took a daily dose of aspirin for at least five years. No benefit was seen during the first three years.

Aspirin has also been shown to lower the risks of blood clots and heart attacks, but the risk of increased stomach bleeding has some medical experts questioning the benefit of taking an aspirin every day. The researchers of the new study point out that the risk only applies to a small percentage of people.


Americans Eat More Than Half of Their Meals Alone

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:12 AM PDT

Here’s some good news for your self esteem: It turns out you aren’t really alone when you’re, well, eating alone.

A new report from the market research firm NPD Group finds that Americans are solo more than half of the time that they’re eating and drinking. People are the least lonely at dinner—eating with others some two-thirds of the time—but breakfast and lunch are their most solitary meals.

NPD Group

NPD Group tracks the daily eating habits of some 2,000 households a year and collects 5,000 individuals’ food diaries every two weeks, a spokeswoman told TIME. These findings are the result of two years of research, ending in late February.

This results shouldn’t really come as a surprise, since the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 27% of households are made up of just one person and the stigma of eating alone appears to be slowly lifting. There are even restaurants designed specifically for parties of one.

Wall Street Didn’t Win. Financial Reform Is Working.

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:11 AM PDT

For some critics, it's an article of faith that the Obama Administration's financial reforms were a sham, that the Too-Big-To-Fail banks that shredded the system in 2008 are riskier than ever, that "Wall Street Won," as my favorite magazine declared last year. But there's a mountain of evidence that reform is working. And the mountain grew last week, despite the denials of the critics.

The strongest new evidence came from a July 31 General Accountability Office report, a report commissioned by congressional critics who expected it to show that bailouts of megabanks were likelier than ever. The report did not show that at all. It showed that expectations of government support for the biggest banks had declined significantly, along with the funding advantages created by those expectations. The report clearly suggested that thanks to the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, the Too-Big-To-Fail problem is becoming less of a problem.

Now the critics are scrambling to spin the GAO's inconvenient findings. New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson, a reliable geyser of outrage about Wall Street's purported control of Washington, quickly dismissed the report as a "muddle" and a "mishmash." Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and David Vitter of Louisiana, the critics who requested that GAO investigate the Too-Big-To-Fail phenomenon, emphasized that the report did not conclude that the phenomenon had disappeared. Salon headlined its story: "America's Recurring Nightmare – Big Banks Are Still Too Big To Fail."

The critics claimed another victory August 5 when the Federal Reserve and the FDIC declared the so-called "living wills" for 11 megabanks—blueprints suggesting how they could be wound down safely if they got into trouble—were deeply inadequate. "Banks Are STILL Too Big To Fail," complained the Daily Mail. Perhaps I'm biased–I helped former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the main architect of financial reform, with his recent book–but federal regulators cracking down on megabanks doesn't sound to me like evidence that reform is failing. It sounds like evidence that reform is working. If the big banks don't improve their living wills, they could face serious consequences.

Speaking of consequences: Bank of America just agreed to pay $16 billion to settle federal investigations into sales of sketchy mortgage securities, the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history. Overall, BofA has paid more than $50 billion to the government in fines and settlements, much of it related to bad behavior at Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch before it purchased them during the crisis. JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and other megabanks have also paid megafines. The critics have complained about the lack of executives in handcuffs—and there are legitimate questions about the design of some of the settlements—but the notion that Wall Street paid no price for the shenanigans that created the crisis is ludicrous.

After all, the worst financial firms either collapsed (Lehman Brothers), collapsed into the arms of a stronger partner (Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Merrill, Wachovia), or collapsed into the arms of the government (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG). The shareholders of all those firms took baths. And since Americans are still furious about the Wall Street bailouts, it can't be repeated enough: The banks paid for their extraordinary support. Taxpayers got all their money back, and will end up making more than $100 billion on their investments. It's silly to argue that Wall Street got off scot-free just because the surviving Wall Street banks are making a lot of money. That's what Wall Street banks do.

It's even sillier to argue that the system is no safer than it was before the crisis. Long before the events of the last week, it was clear the problems that made the crisis so damaging have become less problematic. The big banks are no longer so overleveraged. They hold much more capital against potential losses. They're much less dependent on precarious short-term funding. Large financial institutions like AIG and Goldman Sachs that once operated in the shadows because they weren't technically "banks" have been subjected to much stricter regulation. And there's a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Agency looking out for Americans who were once at the mercy of payday lenders, mortgage brokers, and big banks. Even Paul Krugman–no fan of Secretary Geithner–now admits that reform “has actually done considerable good.”

In other words: Washington won. The political system made the financial system more resilient—though not immune—to crises. Government rarely makes things perfect. But in this case government made things better.

U.S. Mulls Action to Help Threatened Iraqis as ISIS Advances

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 10:03 AM PDT

The Pentagon is considering providing direct assistance to Iraqis threatened by advancing Sunni Islamist militants, as thousands of members of a persecuted religious minority remained under siege from militants in the northwest of the country with little food and water.

A defense official told TIME that the Iraqi government has already begun airdrops to people in need in northern Iraq and the U.S. is communicating with the Iraqi government about potentially providing “direct assistance wherever possible.”

Multiple news outlets, including CBS News and the New York Times, reported Thursday that the White House was considering boosting relief efforts, including airdrops or airstrikes, to support thousands of people from religious minorities in Iraq. A decision is expected as soon as today.

Thousands of people from the Yazidi minority—considered "devil worshippers" by the advancing Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS)—have fled their homes in the Sinjar region in northwestern Iraq and are holed up in mountains around the town of Sinjar, according to the United Nations, where they face dehydration and hunger. The UN said on Tuesday that some 40 children have died.

“According to official reports received by UNICEF, these children from the Yazidi minority died as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration over the past two days.”

Liam Neeson Starring in Another Action Movie That Totally Isn’t Taken, Also Taken 3

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 09:43 AM PDT

When Taken was released in January 2009, the immediate reaction of almost everyone who saw it was, “This is the sort of movie that Liam Neeson should be in.” In the film, Neeson was a total badass. He spent 93 minutes speaking halfway above a whisper while conveying the menace of a group of men screaming at the tops of their lungs. Neeson killed dozens of henchmen in nearly every way imaginable, all in the name of rescuing his kidnapped daughter — never once breaking more than a light sweat. He was a superhero without the cape or mask. He had no need for them. He told his foes exactly what he would do to them if they didn’t return his daughter, and then he went and did it. Curtains.

Had well enough been left alone, Taken would likely be remembered as one of the best action films (up to this point) of the 21st century. But because it made a quarter-billion dollars at the global box office, well enough could not be left alone. Instead, we got Unknown (Taken with identity theft), The Grey (Taken with wolves), Taken 2 (Taken, but Taken-ier) and Non-Stop (Taken on a plane). Sure, that’s oversimplifying things a bit, but not by much. In each one (all released in the last five years), Neeson plays a gruff protagonist who must save someone — or someones — with his hidden and unparalleled set of “skills” (in Liam Neeson movies, “skills” are almost always the ability to kill enemies in a variety of totally badass ways). None were as good as Taken, no matter what Rotten Tomatoes says about The Grey.

Maybe the problem is that even though Neeson’s tough guy films since Taken have been pretty similar to Taken, they haven’t been identical to Taken. In one of Neeson’s upcoming film, he must protect his estranged child from a group of dangerous men. That’s actually not the plot of Taken 3 (coming to theaters Jan. 9, in which Neeson’s character will reportedly be framed for a murder he did not commit — rather than the many he actually has), it’s the plot of Run All Night, which recently pushed its release date back to April 17. It was initially suggested that the different plot for Taken 3 was conceived because the franchise had already gone to the well one too many times — though the early reports about Run All Night indicate that the original plot may have simply been moved to a film with less name brand recognition.

This isn’t to say that Run All Night won’t be enjoyable. It co-stars Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, The Killing) as Neeson’s son and Ed Harris (most recently of Snowpiercer) as the big bad, as well as Vincent D’Onofrio, who’s stayed remarkably busy since Law & Order: Criminal Intent went off the air a few years back. All of that bodes well. But when even Taken is abandoning its tried-and-true formula, it feels like an omen that Neeson should try to branch out a bit more. The man starred in Schindler’s List. He’s also got the rather familiar-looking A Walk Amongst the Tombstones due out in next month as well, so we should be fully saturated with Liam Neeson: Soft-Spoken Action Hero by next April, if we weren’t already.

What I propose is this: Neeson and Colin Firth swap roles for, oh, say the next five years or so. And let’s make it retroactive to Magic in the Moonlight if for no other reason than a rom-com with Liam Neeson and Emma Stone sounds so refreshing. That should be enough time to cleanse our Taken palate before the inevitable Taken: The Return of the ReTakening sequel in 2019. I’ll be the first one in line.

Daniel Radcliffe Does Not Find Tinder Addictive At All

Posted: 07 Aug 2014 09:33 AM PDT

Daniel Radcliffe is doing an excellent job of shedding his Chosen One persona — even if the public can't seem to let go. His latest post-Potter performance strays far from fantasy with a charming and cheeky look at love in the new film What If.

Radcliffe plays Wallace, a Toronto-based twentysomething who falls hard for Zoe Kazan's Chantry, and is forced to live in a torturous will-they-won't-they romantic limbo. The film is earning fans already, thanks to a stellar score from indie-pop fave A.C. Newman and critical comparisons to 500 Days of Summer. Radcliffe talked to TIME about the supposed dying art of romantic comedies, what he thinks of Tinder (he isn’t on it, for the record!) and the men who inspired his idea of love.

TIME: Do you think romantic comedies are really a dying art?

Daniel Radcliffe: The two genres that I can think of are romantic comedy and action, and the big thing that happens across both of those is that after we have a few really, really good ones, people sort of latch on to that, but without paying any attention to what made those films really good. And what makes any film really, really good is caring about the central characters. You can basically have whatever story you like, and if you care about the main people it doesn't matter what anything else looks like — you'll go with it and you'll be invested. We're just so saturated by bad [romantic comedies] that you feel that's the state of the genre. There are a lot of bad movies out there across all genres. I don't know if it's specifically that romantic comedies are on a resurgence or that they've died out — I think that when we get a surplus of bad movies, it can leave the impression that a genre is sort of going bad, but it's nothing more than too many.

With so many people on dating apps, is it making romance a messier space?

People are still just having sex — it's just happening quicker now. I think that's the thing. The end result of Tinder is the same as it used to be when men went out to a pub in England on a Friday night — it's just that it's faster, I imagine. I don't think that romance is on the decline — people are not tired of that. I'm not on Tinder, so I don't know. It is hilarious though to watch some of my friends on it. If that girl walked up to them in a bar, they'd be lucky to talk to her, and there's an excess of people on Tinder, and they're swiping whichever direction, and it's an odd thing. But I don't think it will change the nature of love and relationships as much as people think it's going to, because ultimately you still have to meet that person face-to-face.

Have you ever played with your friends' Tinder accounts?

We had one longish day of rehearsal on Cripple of Inishman where we ended up on someone's phone for a while and that was sort of my introduction to it. I'm sure if I had it, I might use it, but it's not addictive to me.

The dialogue in What If is so conversational. Did you and Zoe improvise any of it?

I think it's a testament to how good the writing in the movie is that we're being asked about this. But there is a slight qualifier — probably 40-50% of what Adam Driver says is probably improvised. Zoe and I did a lot of improv — like the first diner scene — a lot of improvisation is involved in that. But generally speaking, [screenwriter] Elan [Mastai's] writing is very naturalistic and real — in the same way that the British version of The Office was a show that I think everybody felt was improvised when it came out but was actually entirely scripted, and I think that's the same sort of writing.

You mentioned you're interested in doing some screenwriting. Do you have tips from Zoe, who wrote and starred in Ruby Sparks?

Zoe, actually, was one of the first people to read what I'd written. I had this idea for something and I bashed out the first 20 pages of the script really quickly and had the moment of immediately doubting everything I'd written and my idea as a whole. I showed it to Zoe, and I asked if it was even worth carrying on with, and she gave me a very emphatic reaction, which was yes, definitely keep going with this. I'd love to direct one day. The main reason for writing is that I feel like it's probably easier to write something myself than to convince some other writer to give me his script as my first film.

In the movie, your character is such a hopeless romantic. Who’s influenced your view of romance?

The romantic poets of England, the second generation of Keats, Byron and Shelley were something I got really into when I was about 16. I still am. I think there's something in the way they write and see beauty in everything, and the possibility for beauty in everything. It is romantic and I like to think I share that. I wouldn't say I'm up there with Shelley and Keates and Byron in terms of romance, but I think that's sort of where I got my ideas of romance from.

The movie is full of awkwardness. Do you have any awkward date stories?

I've got plenty of awkward stories. I don't think I have any awkward date stories, which I suppose is a good thing.

What do you think Wallace could learn from Harry Potter about dating?

Oh, God. Well, I think, in a funny way they're both slightly similar in that they are both much less direct than I would be about a situation. I'm not very good at living in uncertainty, and Wallace definitely is. And I'm trying to remember more of Harry's dating history now.

It was just Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley, right?

That was it, really, wasn't it? Harry's dating situation was all set against the backdrop that he's going to die at any minute, so there's probably a lot more urgency with that.

Have you given any advice to Harry Potter co-star Rupert Grint, who is making his Broadway debut this fall?

I haven't given him advice, but I can't wait for him to come to Broadway, I'll definitely be going to see it. It's a real thrill to see him on stage. It’s like someone you went to school with doing something else in a totally different context and being brilliant at it. It makes you proud.


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