Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Handmaid's Tale ep 1 & 2

"Margaret Atwood's novel is superb. If this is half as good, it will be great!" - Marcelo

"My one concern is how much of the novel is covered so quickly. Even in the first episode, they pulled a lot of events from the middle of the novel right in there to establish the universe. The pacing works onscreen, but what are they going to have left to cover by episode 9 and 10?." - Robert


Betty Buckley (Split)
Michael O'Shea (The Transfiguration)
Filmmakers (Cézanne and I)
Melissa Leo (Most Hated Woman in America)
Ritesh Batra (Sense of an Ending)

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Distant Relatives: F for Fake and Exit Through the Gift Shop

Robert here, with my series Distant Relatives, where we look at two films, (one classic, one modern) related through a common theme and ask what their similarities and differences can tell us about the evolution of cinema. There's a mixed response on the internet in terms of how much of Exit Through the Gift Shop to reveal.  Some people will tell you nothing, some will give you a smattering of plot.  I'll do the latter, though I won't give away any secrets (for I know none) but I will discuss some of the mysteries.

F for Film

When Orson Welles made F for Fake in the mid-70's his reputation was somewhere between visionary director of the greatest movie ever (he'd won his honorary Oscar a few years earlier) and washed up, indecisive, expatriate.  Far removed from the War of the Worlds episode, it's unclear how many people saw him as the master charlatan he proclaims himself as the host of his film.  At the time F for Fake was a strange and new type of documentary.  More essay than narrative, Welles himself serves as ringmaster, telling us the stories of famous art forger Elmyr de Hory, fake biographer Clifford Irving, and others.  When it premiered it was, predictably shunned by a public who didn't know what to make of it, the other bookend to Welles' cinematic career.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is the first film by Banksy, English street artist, man of mystery whose identity is still unknown and whose work has sold for thousands of dollars thus legitimizing the street art movement and thus doing what to it?  The film follows Frenchman Tierry Guetta who uses his ever present camera to chronicle the likes of Banksy and Shepard Fairey before taking up the movement himself to much success, and dismay of his contemporaries.  The major debate sparked by the film is whether Mr. Guetta, who does his art under the pseudonym Mr. Brainwash and is never actually shown creating is, in fact, a creation of the film itself, meant to make some larger point about commercialization or populism.

The joke is on us

Elmyr de Hory - fake

Welles and Banksy are clearly two personalities who enjoy their self-adopted trickster status and relish any opportunity to embellish it.  But is the joke on us?  Is our deception, our infuriation, part of the point?  The idea of passing off something fictional as something true wasn't invented by Welles or Banksy.  They join a large collective which includes Michelangelo's early forgeries, P.T. Barnum's famous claims, Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita prologue, Peter Watkins' films, Andy Kaufman, everything Andy Kaufman, Jonathan Swift's misunderstood commentaries, into modern times with Sacha Baron Coen, the Blair Witch Project, or Joaquin Phoenix (though let's not get into that).
Let's talk about Werner Herzog who believes that verite truth is overrated.  In his documentaries he often stages moments and feeds lines to his subjects.  Why?  Because sometimes manufactured reality is more truthful than actual reality.  Truth is something both Welles and Banksy are going for through these films which are works of art.  This is where questions and realities begin to double back on top on themselves.  If art is a fictional representation of the world (even, as Herzog believes, the most untouched documentaries can't achieve objectivity), then what about fictional representations of art?
But is it art?

Thierry Guetta - fake?

What is art is a question that isn't likely to lead to any consensus, but it is what Welles and Banksy are asking with these movies.  If Elmyr and Mr. Brainwash have achieved success through their art (in sales, museums and galleries) then what sets them apart from "real" artists?  Perhaps success isn't how we should judge art.  Perhaps it should be up to the critic and the expert.  But as Oja Kodar, Welles' lover and subject of F for Fake suggests, what purpose serves the experts if they can't deciper the fakes?  If the experts disappeared, would the fakes?  These films leave us with more questions than answers.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of several recent films which have generated a surprising amount of controversey over just how many of their elements are fictional or not (it's hard to generate controversey these days without wading into the pools of political opinion or explicit content).  Here perhaps lies the significant difference from F for Fake to Gift Shop.  Welles' subject Elmyr was well known as a forger.  Clifford Irving was eventually outed as a fraud.  Even Welles reveals his hand at the film's finish, quite a ways after it's gone off the tracks.  But don't expect Banksy to give us any answers any time soon.  Perhaps for him, and for a new generation of charlatan artists, truth need not be revealed as if it's fact.  Truth is in the eye of the beholder.


Husbands and Wives

Michael here from Serious Film. I’ve been posting analysis of all the Oscar categories one at a time so when the Supporting Actress category came up I naturally had to compose variations on the phrase "supportive girlfriend/wife" (Amy Adams and Helena Bonham-Carter) so as not to get repetitive.

Supportive Gals = Oscar Traction

You don't have to break out any such phrase for the guys. Just how lopsided is this situation? Do the fellas ever get nominated for staying home and cheering on the ladies?

I looked up some stats, and long story short, I didn’t think it would be that lopsided. Going back over the last twenty years there was only one, count em one, nomination for the traditional supportive husband/boyfriend role, Jim Broadbent for Iris. (He won.) If you want to stretch you can push it up to three by including John C. Reilly’s doofus husband in Chicago and Christopher Plummer’s Tolstoy in The Last Station, but if you ask me those don’t fit the type. After that…nothing. Just villains and character actor parts as far as the eye can see. Of course a few of the others play husbands but their wives have equal or lesser roles (Think Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire)

As for the ladies I stopped counting in the mid-twenties. The supporting actress category, as should come as zero surprise, is overflowing wives and girlfriends, including the entire 2004 line up, if you count Portman in Closer. They matched the guys’ total of three last year alone with the girlfriend parts played by Gyllenhaal, Farmiga, and Cruz. Throw in mothers and you’ve got the whole category covered.


Supportive Guys ≠ Oscar Traction

I’ll leave it to you to draw conclusions about the diversity of female roles in Hollywood but one conclusion I can say for sure: If you’re a guy looking to win an Oscar avoid playing the husband.

P.S. Remember Nathaniel's Illustrated Chart of Supporting Actor 'Types'? (click to embiggen)



Natalie Portman and Rooney Mara TOPLESS !

What? I was feeling jealous of everyone else's sensationalist headlines. It's weblag from that NYFCC brouhaha and that 'lazy journalism' Jacki Weaver was talking about in our interview. So, 'bout that headline. Define Topless. We're most concerned with definition #3...

...although we suspect most actresses would like us to use the obsolete definition, #5.

Ubiquitous NATALIE PORTMAN found that she just wasn't making enough bank this year from Black Swan or her four, yes four, 2011 features. Also, the covers of every magazine weren't enough now and won't be enough when she wins the Oscar and still won't be enough this summer when she gives birth either. So now you can find her photos inbetween the reams and reams of magazine articles about her as as she hawks Christian Dior's cosmetics and perfumes. Here she is posing for Miss Dior. 


Her children's children's children will have their trust funds all insured by the end of 2011. Also: many trees will die in her honor.

For what it's worth she's more naked in Wes Anderson's Hotel Chevalier (2007) than she'll ever be in a magazine and it's a damn good miniature performance, too.


W Magazine has a whole slide show featuring ROONEY MARA as Lisbeth Salander for David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

The photos are pretty amazing though we're still not crazy about that Millenium Trilogy in concept and apart from the money and that unbreakable serial killer obsessions of David Fincher's, we're still not sure why he's doing it. Especially since you know he's not going to actually make the sequels.

Rooney... remember how much she did with just three scenes in The Social Network? Imagine what she might do over the course of two hours!




Link Catches Us

NOTE: Sorry about the delay in the top ten -- probably tonight. maybe tomorrow morning. Depends on how the day goes. The writeups take awhile. But now... news and linkage.

  • The Advocate Rabbit Hole's John Cameron Mitchell (He never ages. 47!)
  • A.V. Club interviews Aaron Eckhart, also of Rabbit Hole. And in case you missed it...
  • The Film Experience ...that's my 11th favorite of the year
  • The Telegraph Bond is not a director's franchise, Tim Robey, reminds us as Sam Mendes preps Bond 23 (to be titled later obviously)
  • In Contention DGA's documentary nominees. YES on Lixin Fan for Last Train Home. The Academy really botched that one. It's one of the best films of the year.
  • Rotten Tomatoes gives out its Golden Tomatoes for the best reviewed movies of 2010. Naturally the animated films dominate as they're generally critic proof if they're any good at all. Though we're slightly weirded out that the best reviewed ten is very very close to the expected Oscar ten. What happened to the days when Oscar ignored critical darlings? My guess is both Oscar and Critics have changed, everyone moving to the center.
  • Serious Film Great use of pop songs in recent movies

Kerry catches usIf it interests you, Reel Talk has the complete NAACP nominees. Night Catches Us gets some nominations but no Best Picture bid? Just Wright is there, though with For Colored Girls, The Book of Eli, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too and... The Kids Are All Right (???). Confusing. So for what it's worth, here are the actress nominations. You know how I obsess on the actressing.

Best Actress

  • Halle Berry Frankie & Alice
  • Janet Jackson Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?
  • Queen Latifah Just Wright
  • Zoe Saldana The Losers
  • Kerry Washington Night Catches Us

Best Supporting Actress

  • Kimberly Elise For Colored Girls
  • Whoopi Goldberg For Colored Girls
  • Phylicia Rashad For Colored Girls
  • Anika Noni Rose For Colored Girls
  • Jill Scott Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?

The message of the nominations is simple: join Tyler Perry's creative entourage. (I wish I'd seen For Colored Girls. I like almost everyone in it.)


Jacki Weaver "Grinning Like a Cheshire Cat"

Exclusive Interview
Before Animal Kingdom, the Australian crime drama which Jacki Weaver so memorably inhabits as den mother Janine "Smurf" Cody, she was unknown to many American moviegoers including myself. The last time I see her onscreen, perusing a few key scenes from the film prior to the interview, she's training those enormous unblinking peepers on good cop Guy Pearce. They're in a sterile grocery store but the conversation is anything but; the words are loaded and coded. Her stare is equal parts dare, gloating and faux sweetness. "I hope you catch the killers," she tells him, with disingenuous grandmotherly concern, both of them fully aware of who is getting away with murder and why.

In person, what can you expect: An evil granny? A diva actress? A regular woman? When we sit at the Regency for a half hour chat over coffee, Smurf departs leaving only Jacki the "Oscar Hopeful" (more on that in a bit).

try "Greatness" - get that Oscar nom, Jacki!

"I should rewatch it," she tells me when I mention my pre-interview visual cram session with her movie. She's seen Animal Kingdom four times but not recently. She remembers the plot details and her co-stars frequently. She's quick to praise Ben Mendelsohn's "amazing" work. (He plays her son Pope, the only character more unsettling than Smurf.) But when it comes to her own part, the famous dialogue is escaping her. "They keep quoting lines that I said" she says "I have no recollection of them at all. It's been two years since we shot the movie. I've been in six different plays since then so's the slate has been a bit wiped clean."

Why hasn't she watched it recently?

Jacki: I find it quite distressing. It's really heart in the throat stuff. Even though I know what's going to happen.

Nathaniel: Was it disturbing to shoot?

Jacki: It wasn't at the time, no. It was more exhilarating than distressing because I felt we were doing such good work and it had a ring of authenticity about it all the way.

Nathaniel: I know you do a lot of theater and Animal Kingdom actually reminded me a little of a stage play. It's very cinematic but he's [David Michôd, the director] often using medium shots, which I loved, and showing you the crucial interplay between the actors. Do you think of stage and movie acting differently?

Jacki: I think of them the same way. In movies, you have the luxury of being able to whisper [Laughter].

Coffee has arrived and we chat for a bit about filmmaking. Jackie says "I love a good editor" [don't all smart actors?] and shares with me a bit of Oscar trivia that I hadn't connected: Animal Kingdom's editor Luke Dolan was up for an Oscar just last year for the short film "Miracle Fish". "He's just turned 30," she says, marvelling. "That's impressive." While she's on the subject of fresh careers we naturally drift over to her director. He's a fully formed talent already, I think, and this is only his first feature.

Nathaniel: I met with Michôd this summer when the movie came out. He called you a "National Treasure."

Jacki: [Laughter] I'm more of a national relic, i think. I've been around so long. I keep telling people that I think Australians think of me as a comfortable old piece of furniture that they're not quite ready to throw out yet.

Nathaniel: You've been in the industry a long time.

Jacki: 48 years.

Nathaniel: Have you seen it all or this year special? I mean, if i tried to list all your honors from the movie I think we'd be here for hours.

Jacki: I've lost count. I'm totally overwhelmed.

Nathaniel: When you were filming it, did you ever think...

Jacki: No! [Sensing the awards question coming.] Well, you never do...

AFTER THE JUMP... Jacki on awards buzz, "Smurf" character choices, loving Cate Blanchett, kissing Sullivan Stapleton, and her brief scenes in Aussie classic Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975).

Click to read more ...


NYFCC: Annette's Eyes, Darren's Humor, Kerry's Deliciousness

Yesterday you probably read some purposefully sensationalist headlines about notorious contrarian self-publicist Armond White making Annette Bening cry at the NYFCC ceremony Monday night. I wasn't going to say anything and I'm not going to link to any of the articles but I'm just going to get two things off the chest. 

One, When Annette tears up, be assured that you will feel it. You will find it impossible to be so unmoved as to write snarky misleading headlines about it.

The Bening is All Right

Case in point: Her Majesty's quite awesome and NYFCC award-winning performance in The Kids Are All Right. When she tears up, only non-carbon-based life forms don't feel it.

Her acceptance speech went, according to the Post, something like this.

Click to read more ...


Follow the Red Carpet Road

Just for kicks -- synchronized kicks while singing "We're Off to See The Wizard" -- I've been casting some of this year's behind the scenes Oscar hopefuls as denizens of the that magical land Over the Rainbow. It's less gay than it sounds, I promise. I blame Hailee Steinfeld's pigtails for the inspiration. It's all her fault.

Find out which character each Best Director candidate plays and help me cast the other players. Read the article at Tribeca Film