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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Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Road to Perdition" 

For this edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, TFE's signature series in which everyone playing along must choose one shot from a selected movie that they define as best, we're looking at Sam Mendes Oscar-winning Road to Perdition (2002) on the eve of its 10th anniversary. 

The film's sole Oscar win was a posthumous statue for the great cinematographer Conrad L Hall. He died in early January of 2003, just a few weeks before his tenth Oscar nomination was announced. Hall didn't have anything to prove this late in his career but Mendes sure did, given that it was his follow up to his Oscar winning debut American Beauty (1999). This crime drama is filled with frameable frames. It's majestic looking really, veritably dripping with prestige for better and worse, usually on account of both the lighting (one shudders to think how long Hall spent on each set up) and the intricate staging and compositions.

a terrific POV shot that doesn't cheat. That's so rare in the movies.

The bulk of the film's narrative spins dangerously from this eyewitness shot, a perfectly excellent choice for Best Shot -- I'm sure someone will choose it! -- if not (quite) mine. 

Michael Sullivan Jr (Tyler Hoechlin nine years prior to Teen Wolf fame) is our narrator and he's about to witness a murder that his father (Tom Hanks) has a hand in though it's the unstable Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig) pulling the trigger. Road to Perdition's title suggests that the movie is about irredeemable souls and it is to some degree. Mob boss John Rooney (Oscar nominated Paul Newman) says as much when he's screaming at Michael Sullivan Sr. (Tom Hanks) in the basement of a church -- "There are only murderers here" -- predicting that none of them will see heaven. But the truer topic is fathers and sons. There are three sets of them in this movie: The Sullivans, The Rooneys, and the closest of the lot, the non biological edition - the Sullivan/Rooney.

The introduction of Michael Sullivan Sr. He never turns to look at his son.

Sullivan Jr. and Sr as well as the Rooney Jr and Sr are often separated by great distances in the frame but note how Sullivan Sr and Rooney Sr are all tight in one of the film's most tender moments, a little piano duet at a wake.

That's all an elaborate set up to make my choice for Best Shot really hurt, to extend a little sympathy for the devil. The devil in Daniel Craig. In one of the film's least comfortable moments Connor glibly apologizes to the mafia bigwigs gathered about that murder that gets the film rolling. His angry father humiliates him right then and there. As the meeting adjourns Mendes and Hall's camera does a slow zoom in on Connor just as he's being abandoned by everyone visually. Connor goes out of focus the closer you get to him, the better to illuminate the father (Rooney Sr) and preferred virtual son (Sullivan Sr.) all chummy directly behind him.

Best Shot

The focus snaps back to Connor at this perfect shot's tail end. He's about to kill two more people as payback insuring tragedy for all (including himself). No, he's not going to heaven.

Or maybe I just love this shot so much because it mirrors the sudden focus shift in Connor's introduction earlier as he lays on a couch smoking.

Or maybe I just love this shot so much because Daniel Craig is a dangerous actor and the movie desperately needs his unique kind. Jude Law as the very sick photographer "Maguire" also manages but Tom Hanks, fatally miscast, is at a complete loss to convey it. Even his furrowed brow looks friendly --physiognomy as destiny. Sorry, Tom!

Or maybe I just love this shot so much because the next sharp cut (god bless Jill Bilcockfrom childish Connor seething with hate for daddy and adopted brother is to this:


"There are only murderers bloggers in this room"
Serious Film "blaze of glory"
F*** No, But There's a Poster "Meet Maguire"
Amiresque  best (gun)shot
Cinesnatch past, present and no future all in one image
Film Actually a father and son reunion
Encore Entertainment "when you raise a gun you get your own blood on your hands" 
Antagony & Ecstacy on one of the most beautiful pictures of the past quarter century 
Pussy Goes Grrr convergent diagonals, legible horizontals, phallic guns?
Okinawa Assault biking towards damnation, wading in crowds

I'm also happy to report that Rope of Silicon has joined the "Best Shot" party this week. Brad's series "Paused" which shares gorgeous screenshots from random movies will line up with ours here when we're both in the mood for the same movie. I'm sad I didn't think to do Alien when he covered it.

Next up on 'Hit Me':
07/18 PINK NARCISSUS (1971) *for adult audiences only*
07/25 THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001) Wes Anderson's masterpiece?
08/01 HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953) with Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable.


Ask Nathaniel...

It's that semi-weekly time again. Ask me questions and I'll choose two handfuls to answer early next week. Last week we talked Whoopi, character actresses, and Joss Whedon's future. What will we discuss this week?


Contest: Development Hell

If this blog were a movie, you'd have never read it. I'd have typed up innumerable drafts and discussed them with producers. They'd have missed the point entirely -- 'Have you thought about adding more unmade superhero movie rumors (the internet loves those) and ditching the actresses (booooorrring!)? -- then they'd hand over the reins to another writer entirely and another. No one would hit publish.

But this blog is not a movie and I hit publish all the time. The only "Tales From Development Hell" that effect me here involve plans for series that have trouble getting going or lose their way during production

If this blog post were a movie it would never be published and the books I have to give away to you would gather dust, cobwebs, and cat hair... so so so much cat hair (curse you, summer!). 

Anyway... THE BOOK! 

It has crazy stories about various aborted versions of The Planet of the Apes which led to Tim Burton's trainwreck. It charts the difficult journey of Total Recall  to the screen just in time for the remake.


Ahnuld demonstrates the face worn by all people working on movies in development hell.

'First of all, I really wanted to cast William Hurt,' he says, 'and the difference between Bill Hurt and Arnold Schwarzenegger probably tells you everything. I was doing something that I thought was faithful to Phil Dick and also to my own sense of the complex understanding of what memory is and what identity is. Obviously it would have been sci-fi and you would have gone to Mars, but it would have been like "Spider" goes to Mars,' he adds referring to his 2002 film starring Ralph Fiennes as a man struggling to piece his memories together, 'as opposed to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Goes to Mars.' "
-David Cronenberg on his version of "Total Recall" 

It has a depressing story of Darren Aronofsky's Batman:Year One proposal (depressing because "gimme")... and much more. The movie choices lean a little fanboy -- I'd love to read a book like this on Jodie Foster's Flora Plum -- but the stories are interesting and it'll totally make you respect movies that get made... at all. What a rough business showbizness is.

If you wanna read it send me an e-mail by Saturday July 14th with "Development Hell" in the subject line with the following three pieces of info:


  1. Your Name
  2. Your Shipping Address
  3. (Briefly for possible publication here): Name a recent movie you wish had stayed in development hell longer. What two things would you have changed about it before it hit screens.


I'll announce the winners on Sunday! So start e-mailing and rewriting recent movies.

P.S. While we're on the subject of development hell, a version of the 2002 documentary The Sweatbox (supposedly Disney prevented the release from ever happening?) about the difficult production history of The Emperor's New Groove is showing in its entirety on YouTube. Have any of you seen it?


From Here to the Oscars and Back ♫

This morning this sweet ballad popped into my head again -- I recently finally got around to Joyful Noise -- so I thought I'd share it. I hope Dolly Parton gets to sing this at the Oscars to the tune of her third nomination... provided it's declared eligible of course.

If the Academy would ever get their music branch in order, can you imagine how much fun the Original Song category could be? I mean this year alone we could have Paul Williams, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Hugh Jackman singing at the Oscars.

But we've learned not to hope for too much. If you have legacy artists like Bruce Springsteen and Cher and Madonna and whomever singing on stage, you just won't have time for those this-has-nothing-to-do-with-movies-but-we-the-producers-like-it performances from the likes of Cirque du Soleil.

Oscar Trivia / 2012 Original Song Category after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Stripper of the Day: "Helen Tasker"

While Magic Mike is in theaters we're celebrating memorable cinematic strippers

Beau here to discuss a reluctant exhibitionist, Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies.

It is one of the strangest of all strip scenes. Strange in the sense that, in less than five minutes, it accomplishes so much more than titillation. It anticipates that expectation, and rises above it; it is a telling of a woman looking at the walls she's built in her life and slowly, awkwardly, gracelessly pulling them down, like a feral animal. That she grows in confidence is only fitting, since by revealing herself physically, it's also a striptease she's performing for herself. Layers and a multi-faceted persona that surprise even her. It is the funniest striptease of the last twenty years (intentional, before I get hordes of Showgirls comments) and it is performed by the long underrated Jamie Lee Curtis in James Cameron's True Lies.

Curtis' Helen Tasker begins as a simple housewife, an estimation both the audience and the character accept from the get go. With a ninth grade math teacher's haircut and eyeglasses that would send Edith Head into a conniption fit, she is neo-Dowdy - Clarissa Brown removed and brought to the nineties, sans the lesbianism and suicidal tendencies. (Brat child still intact.)

[Helen unleashed after the jump]

Click to read more ...


Linkrise Blogdom

Rex Pickett, the author of Sideways, writes an open letter to Virginia Madsen. As a writer I get why he's pissed but I do think he's undervaluing the depth of her contribution to that movie.
Playbill Peter O'Toole is retiring from acting, on both stage and screen. 
Ginger Haze awesome Spider-Man vs. Lizard cartoon
Variety Chris Cooper has joined the August: Osage County. It's an Adaptation reunion... let's just pray that Mr. Cage doesn't show up. 

Movie|Line Robert Pattinson talks bullshit about playing James Bond. Wouldn't it be so weird if your every wandering train of thought spread all over the internet? 
The Cooler beautiful essay on Wes Anderson's Noah Ark motif in Moonrise Kingdom 
The Film Stage a preview Nathan Johnson's futuristic Looper score.  
Encore Entertainment Clothes Horse. Can you guess where these costumes are from?
Shock Til You Drop displays the Carrie (2013) banner from San Diego's Comic Con. The hashtag the P&A team is pushing is #WhatHappenedToCarrie ... um, well... She got pointlessly dug up from her grave for starters. To be played by the least meek least shy least awkward teenager on the planet.

Oh and yes, I heard about all the Catching Fire casting news and the splitting Mockingjay into two movies and all of that but I do not care.  I was mildly interested in the Hunger Games franchise until today. I mean, I definitely didn't hate it like that other YA franchise. Now I think I'm done. Now it proves, like too many franchises before it, that it has no interest in storytelling, only an interest in feeding Hollywood's gaping maw. I think, no exaggeration, that this split up final books into two movies to make an extra billion even if it means barely anything happens in the movie is the worst thing that's happened to mainstream cinema in the past five years. Even worse than 3D!

Tweet o' the Day: This Games of Thrones funny is from Scott