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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. "Like it" on facebook!

 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Hunter is so expressive, like a firework (intended) exploding again and again.
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I took a "fluff" class senior year of high school called Mass Media, and we were allowed to do a project on anything we wanted. My friend Meaghan and I decided to do our project on Brad Pitt,..I had never seen "Thelma & Louise" and found myself obsessed with it. I think I watched it five times by the time my senior year was over. ❞ -Jakey

 


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Thursday
Apr242014

Supporting Smackdown '03: Holly, Marcia, Patty, Renée & Shohreh

For the latest edition of StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown -- which was delayed for reasons I won't bore you with again --  Stinky and I welcome you to a much-discussed Oscar contest, ten years back. This was not, as we've rediscovered, a particularly strong vintage despite a certain nostalgic pull for any storied shortlist that combines five very distinct performers. The truth of it is that most of 2003's acting races were messy affairs with little precursor agreement or too much of it. Further complicating matters was a mix of various stages of career momentum, a frontrunning film without any acting bids (Return of the King), and that semi-annual deadly combo that always mucks with Academy discernment: weak prestige pieces and much of the best work occuring in genres Oscar doesn't care for. The Best Actress race, for example, was historic but totally odd and disatisfying, and Best Supporting Actress coalesced around these five players...

THE NOMINEES


Shohreh Aghdashloo, a "discovery" at 51 though she was already famous in Iran, and previously snubbed character actress sensation Patricia Clarkson were the first timers. Oscar winners Marcia Gay Harden and Holly Hunter were also included for anchoring gritty dramas as desperately confused mothers. And finally Renée Zellweger, the eventual winner, on her third consecutive nomination but her first for a drama after two lead nominations for popular comedies. (All legitimately supporting roles. That doesn't happen over a whole supporting field anymore)

You know who won the Oscar but who will win the Smackdown? Read on...

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Nick Davis, Guy Lodge, Joe Reid, Nathaniel R, Tim Robey, Stinkylulu and You (we tabulate reader votes as well and quotes from your ballots appear).

2003
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr242014

Tribeca: Five Films From Midnight

Here's Jason on five films off of the Midnight Movies portion of the Tribeca Film Fest's expansive programming.

Rupert Evans in the great new horror film "The Canal"

Every year when the New York Film Festival rolls around I always find myself a little bit saddened by the lack of horror offerings. Oh sure I'm always up for the latest Claire Denis joint, I'm not complaining, but sit as it does on the cusp of Fall my mind's usually turning towards Autumnal things at that time, which for me equals Haunted Houses just as much as it does Oscar-Bait. But if I wait around til Winter's passed it's good times again for a genre-loving New Yorker, since the Tribeca Film Festival always offers up a thorough Midnight Movies program. Here's my quick takes on five of the flicks they're offering this year that go bump in the Spring night.

Saving the best for first, The Canal tells the story of a film archivist named David (played by Rupert Evans) who moves his expectant wife into that old standby, The House They Really Should Have Done Research On Beforehand. Sure enough as the mysteries pile up so too do the news-clippings of its horrifying past, which begins to seep its insanity into everybody inside. Somehow the Kubrick it reminds me of is Eyes Wide Shut more than the similarly plotted The Shining (that green party dress the wife wears gives off total Kidman sensations, not to mention all the Christmas-bulb lighting) but it comes across as a harrowing Kubrickian experience all the same. Think if Stanley had directed Don't Look Now. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr242014

Tribeca: "Vara: A Blessing" A Colorful Hallucination

More Tribeca from Nathaniel...

Have you ever felt cheated by a movie you actually liked? If so sit down next to me and let's talk Vara: A Blessing over popcorn.

Vara: A Blessing
A general rule of thumb for non A-list film festivals: the foreign films will be better than the home-grown product. (There's a reason some films don't win the lottery of distribution beyond bad luck). So of all the films I saw at Tribeca one that I was quite excited for was Vara: A Secret, which is about a temple dancer named Lila (played with impish gorgeousity by Shahana Goswami) who is obsessed with Krishna, the blue skinned god. She decides to pose for a lowly field worker named Shyam who wants to be a sculptor. That's something quite above his station and will anger the village if they find out. 

Shyam looks like this... 

(and this isn't even a particularly flattering photo of first time acting beauty Devesh Rajan)

...which means Lila is in deep trouble and not just from spiritual ecstasy. She starts picturing Shyam as Krishna with blue skin in stylized hallucinations and continues to dance up a passionate storm, exciting the wealthy Landlord who is looking for a young wife. Lots of drama of the spiritual, social, political and carnal nature follows.

I was thoroughly engaged though you can see a lot of the plot points coming a mile away rendering several scenes redundant or extraneous when the film only really takes off whenever it ditches plot for Lila's imagination and worship; more dancing and hallucinations, please.

Maybe it's reductive of me, but I enjoy feeling like I've learned something about "exotic" (sorry) cultures when I go to the movies - escapism with subtitles. So color me perplexed that this extremely Indian film (very steeped in old school traditions and the caste system and the taxonomy of Hindi gods) was in English!!! I felt cheated that I didn't get to read the screen. (This also killed the US release of Kon-Tiki for me since I was so looking forward to all those hunky blonde Scandinavians speaking Norsk. Foreign actors speaking English in movies from their home country? No sale!)

Well, there were subtitles but Vara doesn't need them at all because all of the actors speak English well (the only time I've ever needed subtitles for English language films is during slang-filled movies about the British/Irish/Scottish underclasses, Trainspotting and Fish Tank and the like - you know the type.) B/B-

Thursday
Apr242014

Tribeca: Eco-Thrills in "Night Moves"

Tribeca coverage with Glenn on the latest from Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff, Wendy & Lucy)

“Reserved, even by Kelly Reichardt’s standards.” That was the line I used to describe this Portland director’s latest, Night Moves, after its screening at Tribeca. Having premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, it’s understandable that it didn’t make all that much noise in the intermediate months given it’s such a quiet, guarded film despite its eco-thriller roots and name cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. Like all of Reichardt’s films, however, it is that very low-key ingredient that makes it memorable. While it doesn’t soar to the breathtaking heights of Meek’s Cutoff, which just like Night Moves took a genre prone to testosterone-filled violence and twisted it into a elegant mood piece, her latest is a surprisingly thrilling experience even when its director seems to be actively trying to go against those genre instincts.

Eisenberg and Fanning star as Josh and Dena, young environmental activists with an unclear history. He works at an organic farm while she works at a women’s retreat and spa while attending meetings big on ideas but low on execution. Despite not being terribly friendly to one another they are off purchasing a boat and joining Sarsgaard’s Harmon in a location out of the city. The three plan on blowing up a dam that was built to allow people to “play their iPods non-stop” and killed native species in the process. They are environmentalists, but others will call them terrorists. In fact, one of the very best moments in the film is a lingering shot of an armed police guard at a rural farmer’s market. Society has always looked upon the environmentally conscious with a suspicious unease – consider why green political parties can never truly rise up against their more capitalist competition despite most people agreeing that two party systems are corrupt and terrible either way you cut it. Maybe that’s just me getting carried away, however.

What I found so interesting about Night Moves is the way Reichardt handles the thriller elements. She uses silence and performance to spike tension. An extended scene where Dena purchases fertilizer, using her baby-faced (how does she now look younger than her sister Elle?) to manipulate and disarm the garden store employees, casually throwing in a blunt-forced nudge to the sexism that is still alive and well – “You’d sell it to me if I looked like those guys.”  She allows her actors faces to guide the audience. When the detonation occurs, her camera remains tightly focused on Eisenberg, Fanning and Sarsgaard; their reactions being the audience trigger rather than overbearing orchestral demonstrations and pyrotechnics.

This take on the material is to be expected from, say, a film about a woman and her dog or a desolate Oregon Trail western, but I imagine many audiences will bump heads with the way she handles it here. It reminded me a lot of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, choosing to take a somewhat impressionistic approach rather than the sensationalist one that the material could typically result in. I appreciate that and these are always the type of films that tend to stick in my head longer than, say, Zal Batmanglij’s The East from last year. I didn’t too much like the way Fanning’s character devolved, especially given the way the screenplay by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond had developed the feminine elements of the story, but even then the keen eye of Reichardt and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt allow for an overcast beauty throughout.

There’s little here that Reichardt non-devotees will find to sway them, but for me she remains a brilliantly talented name in modern film. I would easily rank her alongside the likes of Aaron Katz (whose Land Ho I reviewed at Sundance and is also playing at Tribeca) and Sofia Coppola as one of the most interesting American voices working in today. Night Moves is reserved, but is grounded in a reality that is more thrilling than most of what Hollywood throws our way.

Thursday
Apr242014

Tribeca: "Every Secret Thing" with Dakota Fanning & Diane Lane

Tribeca coverage continues with your host Nathaniel on a new feminine driven mystery


Twisted women are an easy hook for this movie nerd and Every Secret Thing's premise provides. Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle MacDonald) are just out of juvenile prison for a gruesome crime they committed when they were all of 11. Rivals rather than friends as children, in no small part because of Alice's single alcoholic mom (Diane Lane) who pours affection on both girls, biology be damned, they impulsively kidnapped a baby girl one terrible day. Years later, the two disturbed girls are back in their hometown and the years in lock-up have obviously further scarred them. Ronnie has withdrawn into a vaguely Goth shell and Alice, who has eaten her feelings for years, still protests her innocence.

But then another baby goes missing...

Every Secret Thing is written by the gifted Nicole Holofcener (based on Laura Lippman's novel of the same name) but directing duties this time go to Amy Berg. Berg is an Oscar nominated documentarian making her first narrative feature though she's been in the news lately because of the Bryan Singer allegations and the new documentary she's making about Hollywood sex rings. Holofcener's involvement is both surprising and not. On the one hand the film is largely about interpersonal relationships between women (her specialty) but on the other it lacks the kicky personality and wit of her other films. Just about the only laughs in this sometimes monotonous drama come from the gallows. Alice, memorably if arguably overplayed by MacDonald, has an odd relationship to the truth which sometimes makes for the kind of laughter that you have to swallow half-way through from guilt (Should I be laughing at this?)

Though Every Secret Thing has enough solid actressing to keep you engaged (Lane and MacDonald are trying to push the material to the weirder place that it should live in but the film isn't brave enough to follow) it's usually no more than solid. Fanning's role is disappointingly the slimmest of the four principle women. Elizabeth Banks' straight-laced detective, who investigated the original case and is on the case again, is too one note to maintain interest. In the end Banks's work and the underlit cinematography reflect a kind of dreary punch-pulling in the acting and direction, that make the film far too sedate given its pulpy plot points. Every Secret Thing keeps blanketing the sharper edges of its actually gruesome story, just when it should be exposing you to bracing truth, like it's tucking you in drearily so you won't have nightmares. B-/C+