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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R

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Friday
Aug012014

Podcast: A Smackdown Companion w/ Dana Delany

Dana Delany loves talking movies! You can see her next in "Hand of God" on Amazon PrimeYou've read the Supporting Actress Smackdown of 1973. Now hear its companion Podcast 

On this special episode of the podcast -- meant to enhance and extend the current Supporting Actress Smackdown conversation to include the films themselves -- Nathaniel welcomes two time Emmy winner Dana Delany (China Beach, Desperate Housewives, Body of Proof), as well as EW editor at large and "Five Came Back" author Mark Harris, "You Must Remember This" podcast goddess Karina Longworth, Bill Chambers from Film Freak Central, and Kyle Turner from The Movie Scene.

You'll want to listen to this one. Trust me on this: your week will not be complete until you hear Dana's Sylvia Sidney impression and Mark's childhood Exorcist story. 

Smackdown 1973
00:01 Introductions
02:45 American Graffiti: nostalgia, sexism, George Lucas, actors vs screenplay
13:15 Summer Wishes Winter Dreams: New Yorkers and Joanne Woodward's psyche
20:30 Paper Moon: Tatum O'Neal and the matter of child actors
23:15 The Exorcist: assembled performances, stand-ins, horror subjectivity
29:45 "Collaborative Performances" Andy Serkis & Linda Blair
34:00 We share childhood stories about seeing scary/adult movies
40:00 Behind the Scenes history & Dana talks Emmys & the awards circus
45:35 Paper Moon: Madeline Kahn, great screenplays, category fraud, and films about The Great Depression 
55:00 Final Questions / Goodbyes 

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

Smackdown Companion 1973

Friday
Aug012014

Review: A Most Wanted Man

Michael Cusumano here to check in with my weekly review.

Anton Corbijn’s film of John le Carré's A Most Wanted Man builds to a single moment where the main character, Günther Bachmann, head of a modern day German counter-terrorism spy ring, comes face to face with a devastating realization. Corbijn fixes the camera on him and lets the moment hang there wordlessly. You can practically see the ramifications shake the character to the core of who he is and what he believed about his place in the world

To let the whole movie live or die on a single moment like that is a high risk/high reward gambit. The fact that Gunther is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman should give you a clue as to why the filmmaker was confident his lead actor could drive it home with the power it required. After Hoffman’s heartbreaking death at the age of forty-six the temptation to go for broke in singing his praises would exist no matter what his final significant performance, but it turns out no hyperbole is required. Hoffman’s last starring role is one of his best. It’s a subtle and satisfyingly layered performance, one that would be worth the price of admission even without the poignant context.

As Bachmann, Hoffman walks as if he carries the weight of his responsibilities in his bulky physique. His eyes speak of a soul heavy with guilt and unwanted knowledge about the dangers of the world. Yet when he speaks in his gentle German accent it is with an unexpected softness, and he often lets a wry smile creep into his expressions. We get the feeling that this fugitive sense of irony is one of the last lines of defense between his psyche and the horrors of the world.

We learn that years ago Bachmann was responsible for a mission gone horribly wrong, and his assignment to a rinky-dink unit in Hamburg is the result of that colossal screw-up. He now tracks terrorist money through the backchannels of Germany, understaffed and underfunded, with skeptical bureaucrats second-guessing his every move. Into Bachmann’s crosshairs comes a wild card in the form of a half-Chechen, half-Russian Muslim named Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). Issa has a checkered history and he arrives in Hamburg looking every bit the part of the religious fanatic. When Issa is set to collect a massive inheritance waiting for him at a German bank, Bachmann sees him as the perfect bait to lure a big money funder of terrorism out into the open. But is Issa really as dangerous as he appears, or does his thousand-yard stare reveal him to be a harmless shell of a man? More to the point, is it worth the risk of leaving him on the street long enough to find out?

A Most Wanted Man managed to engross me in these questions without ever stirring my spirit. Corbijn lays out his plot points like a surgeon laying out his instruments, each one cold and polished and precise. We are too detached from the emotional undercurrents to be moved, and the intrigues are too slow-burning to thrill. There is nothing to match, say, the white-knuckle sequence in Alfredson’s recent take on le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy where Benedict Cumberbatch has to boost the documents from the heart of British intelligence. Even a chase scene where Bachmann comes perilously close to losing his quarry is curiously sedate. It’s like the film is mimicking the technique of its spy surveillance teams, diligently noting down the details without getting too worked up over them.

Out of this dispassionate atmosphere the film turns into a showcase for Hoffman more or less by default. The supporting characters fail to register much outside their function to the plot, despite a cast stocked with ringers like Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl and Robin Wright. Even the crucial relationship between Issa and Rachel McAdams as the naïve, do-gooder attorney who takes up his cause is a dud. Their relationship should be the beating heart of the film, with her growing close to him, despite the risk involved, but the pairing never sparks to life. The screenplay carries on as if they are generating a palpable sexual tension but their chemistry is closer to that of a child therapist caring for a traumatized patient. 

Flaws aside, Corbijn deserves points for crafting a story that absorbed me. I respect the way he doesn’t gild the lily. He lays it out straight and clean and makes sure to give the whole thing an atmosphere that you can feel in your bones, even when the nuts and bolts of the plot aren’t reaching you. And if A Most Wanted Man only approaches greatness in Hoffman’s performance we should be eternally grateful that the great actor was given the opportunity to exit at the top of his form. B-

previous reviews

Friday
Aug012014

Links

Screencrush offers hilarious proof that every superhero movie is called the greatest superhero movie ever. People are easily excitable!
Sight and Sound picks the best documentaries ever by pollling filmmakers: Man With a Movie Camera, Shoah and more...
MBetancourt finishes his Instagram Buffy The Vampire Slayer project. It was awesome. Naturally "Tabula Rasa" was the most popular - but not because it's a great episode

PopBytes I normally dont link to super gossipy things but this Justin Bieber / Orlando Bloom fight is just so bizarre and the coverage keeps getting weirder. I guess...
Gawker
... Leonardo DiCaprio was also there, cheering Orlando on? I mean who wouldn't?
Vox I love Todd Vanderweff but I'm not sure I buy Lucy as a feminist movie, even one that's afraid of feminism as posited
Gawker "I am terrified of Reese Witherspoon and a little bit in love with her"
In Contention Rosewater by Jon Stewart starring Gael Garcia Bernal gets an awards friendly release date

Awards Daily another longer trailer for Birdman. I can't watch this one. I don't want to see one more frame before the actual movie
THR the top 25 film schools?
MNPP talks about that John Waters Isabelle Huppert event

RIP
As you've undoubtedly heard the influential makeup artist Dick Smith who made Linda Blair demonic in The Exorcist (currently discussing) and pushed Marlon Brando into hugely convincing Godfatheriness among other achievements has passed away at 92 years young. Some obits/tributes to read: LA Times, In Contention, EW, and multiple Oscar winner Rick Baker

Thursday
Jul312014

Smackdown 1973: Candy, Madeline, Linda, Sylvia, and Tatum O'Neal

Behold the five Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1973: a "bitchin' babe" (Candy Clark), a pint-sized con-artist (Tatum O'Neal), a possessed teenager (Linda Blair), a selfish carnival dancer (Madeline Kahn), and a vinegary New York institution (Sylvia Sidney). 

THE NOMINEES

 

Last month's featured year, 1964, gave us an extremely senior acting shortlist of Oscar regulars but the corresponding shortlist of 1973, apart from Sylvia Sidney who had been a respected working actress for nearly a half-century, skewed very new and very young and not just because it gave us the youngest Oscar winner of all time in Tatum O'Neal; she was 10 years and 148 days old. The four actresses nominated with Sidney were in their first flush of stardom and only acting in their first (O'Neal) second (Kahn & Clark) or third films (Blair). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences obviously approved of their career choice.

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

from left to right: Chambers, Delany, Harris, Longworth, Rogers, Turner

You've already heard 'what 1973 means to them' and now here to talk about these five performances are authors Mark Harris ("Five Came Back") and Karina Longworth ("Anatomy of  an Actor: Meryl Streep"), film critics Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central) and Kyle Turner (Movie Scene), your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) and our special guest: two-time Emmy winning actress Dana Delany ("China Beach", "Body of Proof", and the forthcoming "Hand of God").

And, as ever, we must thank StinkyLulu for the original Smackdown inspiration in which we revisit Oscar shortlists of the past without all the campaigning and heat-of-the-moment politics that infect each awards race. Without further ado, the first half of the main event.... (A podcast follows tomorrow!)

1973
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul312014

Tim's Toons: A field guide to animated raccoons

Tim here. Tomorrow, the much-hyped latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Franchise Expansion Plan opens, Guardians of the Galaxy. While reviews have promised a broad, inventive space comedy/adventure, the marketing to date has focused on two specific things:

1) Chris Pratt plays Han Solo.
2) Bradley Cooper voices Han Solo as a raccoon.

And since I take it as axiomatic that two Han Solos is better than no Han Solos (as graphically demonstrated by the Star Wars prequels) I’m actually perfectly okay with that. Anyway, it’s pretty clear at this point that Disney wants the Raccoon – Rocket Raccoon, to give him his proper name – to be the film’s big breakout character, so the time was perfect to launch into a brief history of the talking raccoon throughout animation history.

RJ, Over the Hedge (2006)
To date, the most visible of all anthropomorphic raccoons has been this character in DreamWorks Animation’s noble but somewhat ineffective attempt to break out of their “pop culture jokes ‘n’ celebrity voices” ghetto with a movie looking back to the madcap slapstick of the Looney Tunes shorts...

Disney, Canadian, and Japanese raccoons below the jump!

Click to read more ...