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 | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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TIFF: Benedict vs. Redmayne, Round 1

Nathaniel's adventure in Toronto. Days 4 & 5 

Two bonafide contenders for the Best Actor Oscar screened on two consecutive days so I can't help but pair them here for you. We'll surely say more about these movies when they open, because they're both looking like awards heavyweights. But, for now, reviews and some Oscar betting. 

In the opening voiceover, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) admonishes someone (us?) to "pay attention. I won't repeat myself" but the story is exciting enough that you're sure to pay attention without the lecture. I mean, it's not every day you get to see a movie about a closeted homosexual genius mathematician secret war hero. Imitation Game has three acts but they play concurrently so we're weaving through Alan's adolescence in boarding school, Alan's top-secret war assignment, and Alan in the 1950s under police investigation. Naturally these three acts are related, not just by having the same protagonist, but by the theme of secrecy. How it informs, shapes, and obscures or destroys the things that matter like character, consequence, and emotional health.

The middle story is the most thrilling as Alan races against the clock to break the Enigma Code during WW II. I think the charge from this section of the film comes from the editing, directing, and its beautifully judged ensemble performance. Turing's obsessive intellectual personality is thrown into vivid relief but also sours when its forced into interaction with others, sliding towards closed off, curt and superior. And Benedict maps all this out with great delicacy...

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A Year with Kate: The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)

Episode 37 of 52:  In which Katharine Hepburn plays another aristocrat in an odd little movie that makes no sense.

1969 was a really weird year for Kate. At age 62, she’d achieved commercial and critical success unlike any she’d experienced before. The Lion in Winter and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner had not only earned Katharine Hepburn back-to-back Oscars, but also made her one of the top grossing stars of 1968. But as the 60s blossomed into the 70s, Kate took two very strange steps: an allegory, and a musical. Limitations be damned, she was Kate the Great, and she hadn’t had a flop in 15 years. That was about to change.

The Madwoman of Chaillot works as a curio, but not as a film. Based on a postwar French allegory, “updated” to include topical issues such as student riots and atomic power, the resulting movie is one Be In short of a bad 60s cliche. The cast is a veritable Who’s Who of Old Hollywood, New Hollywood, and Cinecitta: Katharine Hepburn is joined by Yul Brynner, Richard Chamberlain, Dame Edith Evans, Donald Pleasence, John Gavin, Danny Kaye, and Fellini muse Giulietta Masina, as well as two of Kate’s former leading men: Charles Boyer and Paul Henreid. This is great news for anyone playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but unfortunately does not improve the quality of the film.

"That's the way we became the Chaillot Bunch!"


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Robert Wise Centenary: Audrey Rose (1977)

We've been celebrating 100 years of director Robert Wise all week by looking at some of his lesser known efforts. Previously: Tim on "Curse of the Cat People", Nathaniel on "Somebody Up There...", David on "I Want To Live!", and Manuel on "Star!" -- now here's Jason wrapping it up with "Audrey Rose"

It says a lot about the breadth of Robert Wise's filmography that the team of writers that tackled his Centennial this week here at The Film Experience have had such a gigantic stage to play upon. I mean here I am an avowed musical-agnostic taking on the director of two of the biggest movie musicals of all time, and even with the tossing aside The Sound of Music and West Side Story (although strangely I did write that movie up at TFE back in the day) I had multiple films which I could've tackled with glee. His early pair with producer Val Lewton, Curse of the Cat People (which Tim beautifully wrote up) and The Body Snatcher, are amongst the finest horror films of the 1940s; The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the most memorable expressions of the 50s sci-fi landscape; and well 1963's The Haunting is probably in my top five horror movies of ever -- to watch sad Nell lose herself amongst the shadows of Hill House is to feel your own edges fading away, bit by bit.

But my confidence in Wise convinced me that tackling an unknown was the way to go - had I really never seen 1977's Audrey Rose? I really hadn't. [more...]

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New Posters (Now With Less Floating Heads)

Manuel here to whet everyone's appetites with some recently released posters.

Fall movie season can sometimes feel much more thrilling for the way it builds anticipation than for what it actually delivers. Every year we can count on plenty of films to entertain, amaze, and awe us, but I'd wager that that number is usually lower than the number of films you were looking forward to. This is partly a math game and partly an acknowledgement of how PR and marketing savvy distributors (both big and small) have become. 

Take, for example these new posters for, respectively, Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children (as divisive after its premiere in Toronto as the film's trailer proved here), Justin Simien's Sundance sensation Dear White People, and Jon Stewart's first feature film Rosewater. I have to admit I love these posters not only because they aren't full of floating heads or beautifully lit silhouettes, but because they manage to signal the film's sensibility. Arguably, this is what we expect from movie posters, but it's not often we get artistic posters like these that embrace the expressiveness of the medium without resorting to distractingly obvious photoshop.

Men, Women and Children clearly works overtime to let you know that it is a Reitman joint what with the imagery evoking that opening credit sequence from Juno and placing Jennifer Garner front and center; yet it also (if a bit bluntly with that tagline) lets you know what the film's core problematic is, something the poster needs to do when the title itself, unless you know the source material, gives you little to no information. How many people do you think are reading The Film Experience on their phones in this poster? 

But if Reitman's poster goes for both quirky and serious, Dear White People openly goes for laughs in a way that is keenly attuned to the racial politics of the film, with Tyler James Williams' character's equally exasperated yet sardonically knowing look letting you know precisely where the film's humor lies. (You can actually read more about the poster's design over at Vulture; turns out a fan of the film went ahead and created this design only to find it becoming the film's official poster when he sent to Simien who loved it!).

The stark color scheme, the off-center image of Gael (covering up his entrancing eyes! the horror!), the prominence of that ever ubiquitous "Based on a True Story" tagline -- or is it more a disclaimer? a promise?; the poster is clearly wanting to associate "Jon Stewart" with something other than the comedic satire he's known for, going instead for a bleak poster that nevertheless bleeds into a hopeful light in the right hand corner. I particularly love the single bullet hole above the S.

What recent posters have nabbed your attention? Has any of them already secured a spot on your movie poster wall? If you could design a poster for one of your all-time favorite films, which one would it be? 


TIFF: Two to see again in "Foxcatcher" & "Song of the Sea"

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Days Whichever.

Here are a two films that I feel I should see again, primarily because they're ambitious works and I wonder if my response would change if I had more familiarity with their visual language. You know how that goes with more complicated art.


Bennett Miller, a remarkably consistent auteurial voice, once again demonstrates great aptitute at exploring masculine intimate true stories and mining them for larger weighty themes, without any of the glazy sentiment that tends to be slathered onto both sports movies and biopics. His best move here is to study the alien body language of wrestlers, like it's a foreign tongue for which close visual track is your only form of subtitles. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo speak this foreign tongue fluently. They play Mark and Dave Schultz, Olympic Gold Medalists in wrestling, "a low sport" (that's Mother DuPont's words as perfectly uttered by Vanessa Redgrave). Into their lives comes a would be patron and "coach" John DuPont, a filthy rich patriotic nutjob who completely takes over and irrevocably and tragically alters their fate.

I was interested the whole time, but unfortunately it never fully engrosses, and moves as if mired in grandiloquent molasses. The line deliveries follow suit with simple sentences feeling as long as paragraphs. The movie improves as it goes, though, ending with a gut punch. I'm not sure why I found it offputting, exactly, despite easily identifiable strengths, but I'm going to chalk it up to its over confidence in its own greatness and the conception and execution of the catalystic figure Steve Carell's John DuPont. It's a very prosthetics and mimicry-based performance of a very difficult role -- to say these words and bring nuance rather than "i'm a dangerous pathetic nutjob!" I can't imagine -- and it's hard to feel the inexorable gravitational pull of any of the great tragedies (which I think this wants to be) when everything is so telegraphed as to its danger and when that gravitational pull towards tragedy is so slow, that any able bodied athlete out to be able to outrun it.

Best in Show: Easily Channing Tatum, who holds his jaw and body so distinctively that you feel, at all times, the monotonous life of this character: the training, the muscle soreness, the lack of any stimulation outside of the physical. He's heartbreatking, really, unable to articulate what meager thoughts are in his easily manipulated mind and body. His body is thick but his skin is thin with easily bruised feelings. Tatum totally understands the character, a manchild who just can't wrestle himself out from under any father figure's shadow.

Honorable Mention: Mark Ruffalo, also excellent throughout, is particularly sensational in one of the movies rare scenes that plays as much for uncomfortable comedy as it does for dramatic arc. He's asked to be a talking head on a documentary and finds his lines thoroughly distasteful. B (but Channing & Mark are total "A"s)

Oscar chances: A threat in all categories but particularly Supporting Actor and maybe Director 


This Irish animated film, from the team that brought you The Secret of Kells, is so visually impressive that my eyes were twice their normal size trying to take it all in. I'd need a second pass to focus on the story which might be presented a touch too juvenile, like it's an animated film for very young children when its beauty and imagination are such that it really should be thinking bigger and aim for all ages. It's the tale of a little boy who loses his mother in the birth of his sister, who he then blames for everything for years. Some time later he discovers she's a magical being which means the fairy tales his mother told him in the film's prologue were true. In this world which is our world but filtered through animation that sees everything in glorious watercolor style backdrops, two dimensional lines, bright circles, and dazzling color patterns (my god its beautiful), all the magical beings are slowly being turned to stone. But why and how can he save his sister from the same fate?

Other than the fairies, who I didn't really enjoy, the character designs are compelling, especially for the central family and any animals in the film. The two best characters are the family's giant sheepdog, all bangs and tongue and loyalty and a memorable villain in "The Owl Witch" whose motives and arc are unusually strong and fascinating for this sort of movie. B+

Oscar Chances: it's so unlike any American CG animated film that it will really stand out in the crowd. I'd call it a certain contender for the  Best Animated Feature Oscar - GKids will qualify it this year - but the category sure is getting competitive so who knows.

Also at TIFFA Little ChaosWildThe Gate, Cub, The Farewell Party, BehaviorThe Theory of Everything, Imitation Game1001 Grams, Labyrinth of Lies, Sand DollarsThe Last Five YearsWild Tales, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceForce Majeure, Life in a Fishbowl, Out of NatureThe Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessCharlie's Country, and Mommy



Stage Door: 'As One' by Kimberly Reed

Glenn here to discuss the latest excursion to the live stage.

It can be easy to bemoan the fate that befalls many female filmmakers. Lord knows I have often found myself lamenting the post breakthrough careers of the likes of Patty Jenkins, Courtney Hunt and others. Those filmmakers for whom a great early work somehow doesn’t permit them the same carte blanche movie projects as male directors like, for example, Marc Webb who got The Amazing Spider-Man off the back of a slight, but popular romantic comedy whereas Kimberly Peirce won her star an Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry and yet it took nine years for a follow-up. Still, as frustrating as it must be to them and to moviegoers when (I assume) financing doesn’t come to them quite as quickly or as robustly as it might another, we thankfully live in a society that doesn’t mean they have to sit around idly letting their creative juices stop flowing. One of the benefits of the expanding TV universe, for instance, is a greater opportunity for female directors like Jodie Foster, an Emmy nominee for directing an episode of Orange is the New Black, and Jennifer Lynch, for whom Teen Wolf and Psych have allowed more opportunities than film ever has.

This is basically a far too long roundabout way of getting to Kimberly Reed, the director of the fantastic 2008 documentary Prodigal Sons. That film’s autobiographical nature wherein Reed documented her small town high school reunion having since transitioned only to then be simultaneously confronted by the realization that her adopted brother is the biological grandson of Hollywood royalty was perhaps suggesting that film wasn’t always the direction she wanted to take her career. Yet it was an exceptionally good movie, and one that deserved to breed a wider voice for Reed and issues of transgender (six years later and it has finally reached the mainstream). For what it’s worth, I only cottoned on to to Prodigal Sons after having read about on The Film Experience.

While I am unaware of what Reed has been doing in the intervening years, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she was one of the names behind As One, an intimate chamber opera that played this past weekend at BAM in Brooklyn. Many artists will find any means necessary to tell the stories that are inside them and whether Reed had a hard go of it getting a second film off the ground or not, the emergence of her point of view in any creative outlet is something to cherish.

More after the jump...

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