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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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Emmy Aftermath - how to fix the Emmys?

"Personally, I'm opposed to capping wins or even nominations, even if seeing Modern Family win year after year drives me up the walls. I think it look punishing to the winners, instead of addressing the real issue, which are the voters and the voting system, and how even as things change and get more diverse and they try to catch up, they still don't vote that outside that box at all. It still takes that little aura of prestige for different shows to break in, and there is such a gap between what's great and what's awards-material." - Tee

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Thursday
Sep192013

Movie Teachers: "Fame" (1980)

Back to School Month + 1980 Retrospective- StinkyLulu doubles up for Fame (1980). A partial version of this article first appeared at StinkyLulu in 2007

 

When I was a wee lil Stinky, I watched the original Fame over and over and over again. 'Twas my movie. And possibly because I watched the film so many dang times, the starkly human performances by the actresses playing teachers in the film burrowed deep into my consciousness. I’m not just talking about Debbie Allen’s legendary cameo. Mostly, I’m thinking especially of Anne Meara as Mrs. Sherwood and Joanna Merlin as Miss Berg. 

The roles of Sherwood and Miss Berg are quintessential “actressing at the edges” sorts of parts. Each is relevant to the film’s dramatic arc only insofar as she amplifies the narrative of one of Fame’s principal characters. As the language arts teacher, Meara’s Sherwood is Leroy’s obstacle, while Merlin’s Miss Berg is the ballet teacher who makes Lisa’s life hell. In the student-centric emotional swirl of Fame, Meara’s Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are indeed the hard-ass battle-axes who appear to have nothing better to do than to torment their students. Merlin’s Miss Berg permits the languid Lisa no slack, and Meara’s Sherwood refuses to buckle, even when Leroy explodes in a kinetic blaze of profanity and violence. 

But Fame, to its credit, gives both Meara and Merlin just enough room to be human. For Merlin, the kicker comes when she calls Lisa to her office to cut the young dancer from the program. With measured, unflinching firmness (you can almost tell that Merlin paid the bills by being Harold Prince’s casting director for much of the 1970s), Merlin’s Miss Berg conveys in no uncertain terms that there has no future as a dancer in the department or, in all likelihood, beyond. Merlin’s Miss Berg is brutal in her honesty, deflecting Lisa’s promises and pleas as if she’s waving away flies. Yet, when she opens the door to dismiss Lisa, her eyes brim with a glint of emotion, until she wilts — just that little bit — against the door upon Lisa’s exit.

Merlin in "Fame"

Meara’s moment comes when Leroy (suddenly terrified that his grade in English might actually be important now that his invitation to join a major dance company is contingent on his successful graduation from high school) seeks Sherwood out at the hospital where her husband is undergoing some unnamed "serious" procedure. Meara's Sherwood is at first firm but dismissive when faced with this self-involved student come, to the hospital, for a little bit of friendly grade grubbing. Then when Leroy pushes, accusing her of having it in for him, Meara's Sherwood explodes with sheer, agonizing fury. Her rebuttal ("Don't you kids ever think of anyone but yourself!?) stops Leroy cold, allowing him to grow up a little and to show Sherwood a quiet gesture of empathy and consideration.

In most ways, Meara's Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are thanklessly supporting performances. Everything each does is in support of Leroy’s/Lisa’s character arc. But Meara and Merlin mine every moment for its depth, humanity and humor. (The looks Merlin gives Debbie Allen during Leroy’s audition. The flash of fear that ripples Meara’s stern facade when Leroy physically erupts. Merlin’s way of whispering her true feelings, both snarky and vulnerable, under her breath. Meara’s heart buckling devastation when Leroy tears into Sherwood with the oblique epithet "You people...”) Each line, gesture and sideways glance conveys the simple fact that this woman is really good at her job and that Leroy/Lisa is but one of her more difficult pupils. Neither is a saintly superteacher. Neither is an inhuman gorgon. They are both simply educators working in the NYC public school system, trying to get through another day.

Meara in FAME

Indeed, I will be ever grateful to Anne Meara and Joanna Merlin for crafting these teacher characters so intelligently, so generously, so humanely -- and, in so doing, for also teaching little StinkyLulu how much was to be learned from all the actresses not only at the edges of Fame but also all those other actresses at the edges of fame itself.

 

previously on back to school...
History Lessons from Half Nelson, The Breakfast Club when you're too young for it

Wednesday
Sep182013

Amir's TIFF Roundup, Pt 1: The Bad and The Ugly

[Editor's Note: I've shared my TIFF experience with you through 12 plus articles. Amir was also there, hell he lives there, so he has a two part report to wrap things up. - Nathaniel]

"Take it, Chiwetel, TAKE IT!"

In awards season terms, the Toronto Film Festival is already old news. A bunch of films screened and some stars showed up on the red carpet and, as you all know, 12 Years a Slave has already won the best picture Oscar and everyone has gone home happy.

That’s not quite how it ends for anyone who attends a festival though. The act of film-watching itself happens with such rapidity that it becomes impossible to process all the films within the short duration of the festival. For me, TIFF hasn’t yet ended, mentally. I keep going back to every film, processing the details I remember and letting a whole new reaction unravel.

Here’s a truth I discovered this time around: it is impossible to maintain a regular work schedule, watch 30 films and also write about them. I had to compromise one of those things, and you can tell by my complete absence from this space which one of those I chose to leave out. But let’s pretend for a minute that it’s last week, you are still interested in festival coverage and you want to find out how I feel about the films I watched. Shall we?

Toronto's Oscar Problem & more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep182013

Wednesday
Sep182013

James Franco, Disembodied

TFE's coverage of the 51st New York Film Festival (Sept 27-Oct 14) begins now. Here's JA on James Franco's press conference for Child of God...

He came at us as a disembodied voice, booming across the auditorium. There was no face to behold - only his words. His Word? Was it the voice of God? I suppose that depends on your definition. If your definition of God is broad in scope (like, that scope includes all of matter itself) then maybe you find room under the umbrella of godliness for actor slash art-provocateur James Franco. It's really not that big a stretch - he is now the man behind the curtain in Oz, after all. There were no bursting flames or rear projection here, but when you plunk down to watch A James Franco Movie (which I find myself spending an increasing amount of my life doing) the specter of Franco always looms large, even if hes not up on the screen. (Especially if he's not up there on the screen.) It's kind of impossible to watch A James Franco Movie not through Franco-colored glasses. We are all living in James Franco's world... well at least we are when we're looking at it from his perspective.

From our perspective here at the New York Film Festival, where we've just finished screening Child of God, Franco's adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy story about nubile young lady corpses and the hillbilly who loves them, we're just staring at a blank screen. You can follow James Franco on Twitter and Instagram and at Vice.com, but a room full of press people can't seem to Skype with him directly. [MORE]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep182013

Linking Time

Hollywood Will the ending of August Osage County screened at TIFF be the ending it has in theaters? The film might not be "locked" just yet
Pajiba on social media, celebrity, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Town & Country & BuzzFeed suddenly the internet noticed Clint's son Scott Eastwood (also an actor). I think he looks like a douchey fratboy but the internet don't care. The internet wants what it wants. Weirdly T&C claims he's channeling leading men of the sixties but the only movie star I'm seeing in the photos is a bit of Young Clint Eastwood... the nose mostly.

Awards Daily helps you keep track of the upcoming awards calendar
Sketchy Details yes! another Short Term 12 convert. We must grow and grow, the Short Term 12 fan club.
New York Post check out this Taiwanese movie theater and it's hand painted movie posters
Vulture the final season of Mad Men will be split in two. Mad Men until 2015!  Anything that makes it last longer is A OK by me but I've been reading nasty comments online about it. A lot of "that show has outstayed its welcome" comments (some by people who admit they don't watch it). Sigh. This is why we can't have nice things. If every show on tv was even a third as good as Mad Men at its weakest,  television would be an infinitely better place.
Variety in other Mad Men news, Oscar winner Robert Towne (Chinatown) has joined the writing table for the final season 

Must Reads with a Longer Running Time
New York Times Terrific insightful confessional by Lisa Schwarzbaum on Blue Jasmine, an old Lucille Ball television movie, modern women's picture and "fear of baglady-dom" 
IndieWire surveys critics on the best of TIFF 13. I love seeing survey results but it usually mightily depresses me since as insightful as critics can be I find that they're usually not very strong when it comes to judging acting. Even if Gravity grows on me (possible) I am 99.9% likely to maintain that the star performances are serviceable but ungreat and obviously so. And yet Sandra Bullock has a higher rank in Best Lead performance than Huppert, Gheorghiu, Streep, or Chastain? Absurd.
Peter Taggart very funny conversation about this year's forthcoming Emmy awards and who should win.