Voicing Robin in “The Lego Batman Movie” opens Michael Cera up to a particular line of questioning: comic book talk. But he’s not a comic book nerd. He is, however, a cinephile. The “Arrested Development” alum is a regular at New York City repertory houses. Some recent greats he’s caught on the big screen include Peter Bogdanovich’s “They All Laughed” and Eric Rohmer’s “The Green Ray” (which is amazing, but “A Tale of Winter” might be his favorite). He says he’s spent the last few months watching films by the late Abbas Kiarostami, Mike Leigh and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
“You don’t really need any more than that,” Cera tells us. “That’s a balanced diet for me — just hanging out with those three guys all the time.”
One could easily talk to Cera about movies all day, but we move onto other topics: the value of art, getting around the city without a smartphone and not watching enough TV.
Is there a specific reason for why you see so many movies? Would you want to curate your own film programs at some point?
I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m a good organizer. [Laughs] I tend to enjoy other people’s efforts.
So you’re just seeing them because you like movies.
Yeah. I don’t see it as productive in any way for me. It’s just enjoyment. I feel like it’s a school, in a way. It’s kind of an unconscious philosophical education or something. When you spend time with people who are so connected to their own outlook on the world, and especially if they have a poetic one, it’s a really good feeling. It’s like soul food. You learn from it in ways you don’t even track.
It seems like that kind of cinephilia is becoming more rarified.
Do you think so?
Well, we all have more access to movies and music and books than anyone in history, but how many are going outside of their comfort zone?
Maybe that goes in cycles. I don’t think it moves in one direction. It’s like the way vinyl is having this new appreciation. I don’t think movies will die out. The really special ones will last forever. They’ll just keeping coming back.
It is ironic that smartphones have made so much of the world and of history available to us, but they’ve also robbed us of our attention spans.
I was doing press yesterday with Rosario Dawson [who voices Batgirl]. She really is a professor on a lot of things. She has this fountain of knowledge. She can regurgitate information in a really impressive way. It made me feel so ashamed. If I was trying to give you all the information I was trying to convey, I would probably just send you a link. [Laughs] She can present everything in a way I never could.