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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 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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JASON CLARKE INTERVIEW

"I loved Clarke's scenes with Edgerton in The Great Gatsby. I thought, oh now I'm watching men not boys, and now I'm watching actors not movie stars.-Adri

"He has become someone I look for in films because he always comes across with such honesty." -Henry

 

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Saturday
Nov222014

Yes No Maybe So: Pitch Perfect 2

Margaret here...

Long have we waited. Our lands have been barren, our sleep fitful, our souls thirsting for what we have been promised. But hope may yet again have a life in our hearts, because the trailer for the Pitch Perfect sequel has been granted unto us. Aca-praise be.

Honestly, Pitch Perfect 2 is exactly the kind of movie where most of us know long before a trailer hits whether we're a yes or a no. (I'm a yes because when I saw the first one, it was at a three-dollar theater after a happy hour, and I was with resident TFE ray of sunshine Anne Marie. Five-star experience, would recommend.)

That said, the trailer calls irresistably for our scrutiny. Excited to join our acappella brethren and sistren for an evening of good/clean/goof fun featuring extensive cameos from the Top 40 of our recent past? Hop on board.

 

YES:
  • Who among ye can resist the bewitching call of pretty, pretty harmonies? Bless this team for hiring a group of actors who sound genuinely lovely when they sing.
  • Anna Kendrick is as good a leading lady for this mini-franchise as they could possibly have landed. She's such a star, and musical comedy sure is her sweet spot.
  • Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) licking Beca's nose! A+ character, will need much more of her in the sequel. She brought a welcome dose of genuine weirdness to the first movie and I hope this time around they let her comic chops roam free. 
  • So they cast David Cross as the gatekeeper/emcee of some kind of underground acapella speakeasy? Y'know, that.... sounds pretty right to me. 
  • There is a downright absurd suite of performance outfits we see on the teams, and I am all for it. Can't have show choir world championships without Scottish BDSM enthusiasts, a disco bowling league, prep-school altar boys, or Chili's hostesses. 
  • Ahhh ha ha ha the tagline for this is "The Pitch Is Back." I can't even be mad at that, that's High Cornball genius.
 

NO:
  • Pretty pretty harmonies notwithstanding, am I seriously hearing that damn Cups song right now. I'm pretty sure it only just left the Billboard charts/my brain after being beaten into us all for a solid two years and now it is coming back to taunt us all and when will it end, Anna Kendrick, when will it end?!?
  • This isn't a dialogue-heavy trailer but they still manage to squeeze in several jokes carbon-copied from the first movie. If they don't try to find new sources of humor, this is going to be one stale hour-and-a-half. 
  • Velour blazers on the boys' group are a big, loud no. Apologies, but if they're going to position that Skylar Whatsisface as a romantic lead there is going to need to be a strict moratorium on velour blazers. It is for the good of mankind that I speak.
  • Snooty European rivals have been done, and they have been done, and they have been done some more.
 

MAYBE SO:
  • This is Elizabeth Banks' directorial debut, which is a bit of a question mark. She produced the original and clearly gets what made it so beloved, plus her scenes playing commentator with John Michael Higgins are far and away the funniest parts of the first movie and of this trailer. Could mean good things.
  • Pillow fights, slow-motion group hugs, team mud-wrestling.. it looks like they plan to lean pretty hard into the rag-tag misfit sisterhood thing. Not inherently a bad thing but can often tip into triteness on the quick. 
  • For a minute there, Rebel Wilson was all over the place and totally happening. If she nails it here she might be able to kickstart that momentum again. I hope they give her more to do than recycle bits from the first movie..
  • Remember the career we all thought Hailee Steinfield was gonna have? Do you think that's still in the cards?

Suprise surprise, I'm still a yes. Who else is with me?
Saturday
Nov222014

Candid Kidman (and Naomi) in 'The Last Impresario'

Glenn here with a bit of a photography break. I had anticipated catching far more films at DOC NYC, the documentary festival that is wrapping up its season here in New York. One film that I was able to catch, a nominee for Best Documentary at the "Australian Oscars", was Gracie Otto's The Last Impresario. It is a delightfully portrait of the life and career of the so-called most famous man you have never heard of, Michael White, and an entertaining trip down the film and theatre industry's memory lane. Otto discovered White when visiting the Cannes Film Festival and sought to document him, looking at the way he changed London's West End with original productions of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Oh! Calcutta! and many more, before getting into film production with the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

One of the film's best moments is when Otto is interviewing the man on a bench in one of the few quiet corners of Cannes when who should walk by but Mick Jagger. White and Jagger chat like old friends (which they are) while Otto's camera sheepishly looks away, afraid of the potential wrath of celebrity by intruding. The film is full of little moments like this, but for Film Experience readers, however, the highlight will likely be the albums of photos that White allows Otto access to (White was a fan of taking candid photos on a polaroid camera). Included amongst them are a plethora of celebrities as well as these shots featuring Nicole Kidman and one with BFF Naomi Watts (and frizzy red hair!). While I am unsure when the first two photos were taken, I recognise the dress in the third photo as what she wore to the red carpet Cannes premiere of Dogville!

How much do you love this gals and why haven't they made a movie together since Flirting (1991) ?!?


Friday
Nov212014

Ten Great Performances from Mike Nichols' Films

Amir here. Mike Nichols was a true giant of show business, with a career that lasted more than six decades and sprawled across many different media and genres. Nathaniel's heartfelt eulogy already highlighted the dreamy number of classics he directed and the collaborations with Meryl Streep that resulted in some of her most memorable roles; but Meryl wasn't the only performer whom Nichols guided to career-best work.

Team Experience decided to make a list of ten great performances from Mike Nichols' films; we were truly spoilt for choice. If you want a testament to the man's sheer brilliance and chemistry with his actors, look no further than the missing names from our list. An equally long, equally illustrious alternative list can be made of the likes of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War, Jude Law and Natalie Portman in Closer, and many others. 

Here is our team's unranked, personal picks:

Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
Let’s talk about making difficult parts work. On the page, Mrs. Robinson is as slippery, duplicitous, and out-and-out a villainess as they come. But in the hands of the glorious Anne Bancroft, working with but also brilliantly against Nichols’ effervescent direction, Mrs. Robinson becomes someone different and deeper but no less mercurial or indelibly iconic. Fleetingly sensitive, impossibly stylish, and smarter than everyone else around her, Mrs. Robinson still makes life difficult for Benjamin Braddock, but complicates our sympathies and keeps a cryptic, critical, and spellbinding distance while doing so. That’s not just making a difficult part work; it’s making a difficult part soar. - Matthew Eng

Shirley MacLaine, Postcards from the Edge
When Suzanne Vale's mother comes to visit her in rehab we're not told that the woman we're about to meet is a movie star, but as soon as Shirley MacLaine swans in, we know. Adept at creating an audience wherever she goes, MacLaine's Doris Mann is a delicious caricature of the aging star: the Norma Desmond of the musical-comedy era. (Her "I'm Still Here" will floor you.) Her immense ego and her sincere motherly love coexist contentiously, with poignant results. Instead of hammering at monster-mother camp, MacLaine keeps her humanity close, never losing it to the absurd. -Margaret de Larios

Mike Nichols, Nichols and May
Before he was the wunderkind of Broadway or the well-respected Hollywood director, Mike Nichols was half of the smash comedy duo Nichols and May. Later in his career, Nichols would tell actors, “You made it funny. Now make it true.” This was his gift as a comedian: the ability to ground increasingly absurd situations - a phone call between a rocket scientist and his mother, a man losing his dime in a phone booth - in funny, true reactions. Nichols was the master of the exasperated double-take and the monotone quip, two skills he would later pass to actors. -Anne Marie Kelly

Mary Louise Parker, Angels in America
Upon winning the 2003 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, Mary Louise Parker thanked her "mighty" director Mike Nichols by explaining "you could get a great performance out of a quiche". She was right. In "Angels in America" he turned her character, Harper Pitt, from a thankless supporting wife into a sublime exploration of self-discovery. As someone trapped in a marriage with a closeted gay man, Parker beautifully opened up to Harper's fears, disillusionment and horniness. Nichols had her acting opposite CGI penguins and still she remained perhaps the most recognizably human figure in the film. -Jose Solis

Julia Roberts, Closer
Patrick Marber's crude barbs are spat from her mouth but Nichols' work in drawing Roberts into twisted versions of her romantic comedy smashes is equally instrumental in making this, I'd wager, her best ever performance. Roberts unleashes venom and allows her infamously angular features to manifest much of her character's ugliness, in a way that speaks volumes of her trust in the man directing her. She is at the same lithely sexual in a way she'd never been before; Nichols found the panther beneath the kittenish America's Sweetheart, an even deeper level of revelation than her Oscar winning turn four years prior, and the closest she's ever felt to reality. -David Upton

Kurt Russell, Silkwood
I'm going to relish this sentence, because saying it feels like such a rarity, but Mike Nichols’ artistry was so often and so brilliantly focused around women that it can be easy to forget the sensitivity and intelligence he granted men. Kurt Russell is not an actor known for subtlety, but in Silkwood, Russell finds something in himself that defies the rough and tumble box Hollywood liked to put him in. He's just as masculine, just as strong as he ever was as Snake Plissken, but there's a self-assured playfulness to his acting in Silkwood. He's looser here – sexier! – than anywhere else. Masculine posturing was irrelevant in Mike Nichols world, and for that and much more I thank him. - Teo Bugbee

James Spader, Wolf
By 1994, Spader could play the venal yuppie with feathered hair and a predatory smile in his sleep. But it was under Nichols, in this savage parable of the New York publishing world, that his stock character reached its height. Playing the human villain in a story about werewolves and still feeling like the most dangerous person in the cast is no mean feat, but Spader did it with smarmy ease, while being the only member of the cast to successfully navigate the film’s wobbly shift into explicit horror, largely because his backstabbing striver was already a fairy tale monster. -Tim Brayton

Emma Thompson, Wit
Vivian Bearing would be the second of three roles under Nichols’ direction for Emma, and the most significant. University professor Vivian may be dying of cancer but she retains her Thompson-esque traits – that slightly sardonic piquancy, the quiet dignity, the wit. But even as the affectations are all Emma, the performance is suffused with Mike, his warmth, his quiet effectiveness. The film, invariably, depends on their duet. Mike’s direction trusts Emma, giving her room and allowing her to devastate as Vivian. In a career of superlative work it’s hard to call Vivian Bearing Emma’s best but it’s a type of performance I’m grateful to Nichols for getting out of her, in touch with her usual sensibilities as an actor but pushed just further to become one of the most superior displays of suffering on screen. -Andrew Kendall

Robin Williams, The Birdcage
Williams was at his best when he harnessed his boisterous madcap energy into a fully delineated character whose quieter moments shaded his brassy zingers. His Armand, which could have so easily turned into a caricature with his loud shirts, his bushy mustache and his campy sense of humor comes alive with Williams' warmth: "Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I'm a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am." -Manuel Betancourt

Patrick Wilson, Angels in America
In a cast full of established masters (Streep, Pacino) and future stars (Jeffrey Wright, Mary Louise Parker), it would take a truly great performance to stand out, and that’s exactly what Wilson gave in the miniseries that put him on the map. It’s one of the script’s showier roles, to be fair – a Mormon denying his sexual identity – but Wilson plays it with note-perfect sensitivity, confusion, self-doubt, and yearning. The actor’s subsequent decade of fine, but hardly complicated performances in limiting projects only serves to make his achievement here that much more impressive. -Tim Brayton

Friday
Nov212014

Interview: Jason Clarke on Acting with Apes & Terminators

I wonder aloud if Jason Clarke, the still rising breakout star of Zero Dark Thirty, is feeling a little overscheduled these days. Is he scheduled in 20 minute increments at this point? He claims he's taking a little time off to enjoy himself in the days surrounding our 20 minutes on the telephone, but I'm not sure I quite believe him. Which is a strange feeling because onscreen, the fortysomething Aussie is never less than believable whether he's torturing prisoners in Zero Dark Thirty, totally unnerved by talking armed apes on horseback (who wouldn't be?) in Dawn of the Apes, bootlegging with his Bondurant brothers in Lawless, and so on.

Perhaps more surprising than his authenticity onscreen is his modesty. He didn't so much steal his scenes in Zero Dark Thirty as oxygenate then, detailing the emotional and intellectual and moral gaps between his hardened CIA operative and the newbie in his camp with his duet with Jessica Chastain. And though Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbel do amazing work in their motion capture suits as Caesar and Koba, this still human actor is so effortlessly grounding that he anchors the large excellent cast and behemoth fantastical enterprise that is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes without ever drawing attention to himself.

Thankfully Hollywood has seen through the modesty. Jason Clarke is very busy. As unintentional proof he struggles to recall which order he filmed things in "I did a couple back to back. Terminator and before that I shot Everest. [Pause] What did I shoot before that?" Better Angels, a small black and white period indie which just opened in select cities, is so far back in the "before that" list that you know you'll be seeing a lot of him onscreen.  

Our talk is after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov212014

All The Short Film Oscar Finalists. Plus Sally Hawkins!

With yesterday's announcement of the live action short film finalists we have our finalists in all three of those miniature categories. You can read more about all of them on their Oscar chart. It's exciting to see how many debut filmmakers or people who've never been recognized before are in the running. Some of them are about to have a life-changing experience. Take Shawn Christensen who won the 2012 Live Action Short Oscar for Curfew. He's just taken that all the way to his first feature which is an expansion of that. It's called Before I Disappear and it hits On Demand AND iTunes a week and some theatrical later I believe.

If the nominees don't have a life-changing moment -- it's hard to get a movie made period. Even if you've won awards -- they can at least have a glamorous one in the Dolby with all the movie stars.

As per usual in the live action short film category we have a handful of films about young children (always a favorite Oscar subject in foreign and short categories) but the one I'm most excited about is naturally the one that stars Mike Leigh regulars Sally Hawkins & Jim Broadbent. You can watch that in full right here. Hooray.

After this short trailers for five more of the shorts if you click to continue...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov212014

AHS: Freakshow "Test of Strength"

I ran into Celia Weston today (I feel like her stalker. Always running into her in the city, I am) and told her that she sure has been causing a lot of trouble on Freakshow. She told me a vague but juicy anecdote about a scene she was prepping for the day before but immediately swore me to secrecy, damnit.

Sorry to dangle that carrot!

Plot threads are getting ever more tangled and destructive as we near the winter break. Lobster Boy springs Bette & Dot from the Mott mansion (our favorite place to be this season - hail Finn Wittrock & Frances Conroy) as all three of them begin to sense danger even if they can't yet put their finger on what exactly is wrong with Dandy. Then Lobster Boy reveals Elsa's lies to the freaks only to be betrayed by the twins he just rescued who are planning to blackmail Elsa instead. The Bearded Lady overhears Richard & Elsa's plans to off the twins and wants to off Dell the Strong Man off herself after he is blackmailed by Richard to kill a freak to keep his queer closet door shut. Etcetera etcetera etcetera while not one but two characters are seeking dangerous operations and so on and so on and so on.

Things are... messy. It's one hour of double and triple crossing as everyone turns against each other, lies to each other, and continues the march toward what we assume is their communal doom. Things are going terribly for just about everyone.

...Especially Ma Petit!

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov212014

Interview: Director Stefan Haupt of "The Circle" 

Jose here. This year's Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film includes many films featuring gay characters or dealing with LGBT issues, one of them being Swiss entry The Circle, a documentary/drama hybrid that tells the story of the groundbreaking title publication, which became one of the most popular LGBT magazines in the post-WWII era. The film, opening in limited release today, focuses on the story of two members of the network that helped create The Circle, schoolteacher Ernst Ostertag and drag entertainer Robi Rapp, who not only survived the repression of the era (which included a serial killer who targeted gay men in Zurich) but eventually became the first same sex couple to get married in Switzerland.

I had the opportunity to talk to the film's director Stefan Haupt, about this landmark project and what Oscar could mean to help share this wonderful story. Interview after the jump...

Click to read more ...