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"While there was imagination to Swiss Army Man, I am on the hate side of it." -Chris

 "I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane on a long flight Tuesday. It felt like a cross between Misery, Room and an end-of-the-world sci-fi horror B movie. I liked it." -Paul

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Thursday
Jul212016

Pick Your Poison: The Hallmark Homages of Stranger Things

Daniel Crooke here. For the past two weeks, I've walled myself off from any pop cultural offering that doesn't include the letters LGBT while working around the clock at Outfest Los Angeles, our seminal, international queer film festival here in the City of Angels. Naturally the only external filmic force strong enough to infiltrate this border includes the words Winona Ryder. Slay, queen, slay.

I too have taken a long, hungry taste of the ananchronistic (and extra-colorful) Kool-Aid that is Netflix's '80s-set Stranger Things, the sci-fi outing that investigates a humdrum Indiana small town as a local young 'un mysteriously disappears in their midsts without warning. Much has been made of the homage-heavy layers that bake into its Spielbergian, Carpenteresque, Lynchian, and Stephen King-adjacent baklava; although the reason it succeeds beyond the hat-tip recipe can be found within the rich, nitty gritty filling of its heart-achingly true familial dynamics, of which Super 8 would have been smart to expand upon beyond the basic ingredients. So let's take a big bite and revel in its delicious influences. My personal favorite so far - despite Ryder's irresistible parallel to Melinda Dillon's momma bear on a misson from Close Encounters of the Third Kind - goes beyond bicycles and plunges the references to disturbing depths.


Jonathan's secret photo shoot in the woods recalls Blue Velvet's voyeuristic view from the closet; despite their quests for homegrown veracity, neither he nor Jeffrey were invited to the peep shows of a teenage pool party or a transgressive Rossellini-Hopper assault, but they've shown up in the shadows nonetheless. And yet we're still glad to be in on the drama. We've spent some time getting to know the traumatic roots of their curiosity via their displaced family units but these Peeping Toms challenge that sympathy through sensually clandestine invasions of personal space.

Apart from the bedroom posters of The Thing and Evil Dead, which Stranger Things visual reference sets your bicycle afloat?

Wednesday
Jul202016

Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

One of Hollywood's key figures passed away yesterday at the age of 81. His work in the past five years has consisted of a string of critically lambasted all star romcoms (Valentines Day, New Year's Eve, Mothers Day) and the day before he died one of the many actor he made famous (Scott Baio of Happy Days Joanie Loves Chachi fame) embarrassed himself on national television at the RNC. To put it bluntly, the last few years have not been kind but this is not the legacy that the beloved Garry Marshall deserves. We need to look a little further back. While he was never exactly a critic's darling - let's not rewrite history -- his work often resonated wildly with the public on screens both small and large. And that, my friends, is no small thing with or without a shelf of showbiz trophies.

He was a mammoth figure in comedy television, first, coming up as a writer on seminal shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and famous properties like The Lucy Show. After developing The Odd Couple for television (1970-1975) he created three true pop culture behemoths in Happy Days (1974-1984), Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983) and Mork & Mindy (1978-1982), the latter introducing the public to Robin Williams with whom they fell madly in love.

In the movies, and this is also no small thing, he was irreplaceable when it came to the careers of mainstream superstar actresses in both the 1980s and 1990s. He directed one of Goldie Hawn's most enduring hits (Overboard), one of Bette Midler's melodramatic bests (Beaches) and he was instrumental in the superstar blossoming of both Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride) and Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries). He also guided Michelle Pfeiffer through one of her most controversial roles  (Frankie & Johnny) but even though everyone argued miscasting she made fine work of it. He even tried to help Lindsay Lohan along (Georgia Rule) but it's hardly his fault that that didn't take. He was not without his missteps of course (Raising Helen, The Other Sister, Exit to Eden) but who isn't? 

My personal favorite Garry Marshall movie, BEACHES (1988)Laverne & Shirley starring his sister Penny (who also became a director)

Do you have a favorite film or television show from his resume? There are a lot of choices as his work was so deeply embedded in our pop culture for decades on end. 

Wednesday
Jul202016

What's on your cinematic mind?

Do tell in the comments. We're searching for inspiration... 

Wednesday
Jul202016

Beauty Break: Natalie Wood Forever

My first true actress love as a wee boy watching her movies on TV whenever they'd pop up. She would have been 78 today. Happy Birthday in the Cosmic Cinema Pantheon, Natalie. Here are 12 glorious photos of her and a few listicles...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Get Happy"

In 'Judy by the Numbers' Anne Marie looks back at Garland's career through key songs

By the time Judy Garland turned 28, her entire adult life and her entire star persona had been a product of MGM. In 1950, Judy Garland's image - as cultivated by MGM and the Freed Unit - was of an exuberant talent, small in stature but big in heart and voice; a buoyant box office sensation. However, the reality was different. In the 13 months between the release of In The Good Old Summertime and Summer Stock, Judy Garland fought drug addiction, rehab, an increasingly strained marriage, an unsympathetic studio, and a suicide attempt that made headlines worldwide. Filmed before her attempt but released two months after it, Summer Stock is a record of the conflict between the image of Judy Garland and the reality of Frances Gumm.

The Movie: Summer Stock (1950)
The Songwriters: Harold Arlen (music), Mack Gordon (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria de Haven, directed by Charles Walters 

The Story: "Get Happy" is the number that shouldn't be from the movie that shouldn't exist. Neither Judy Garland nor Gene Kelly was supposed to be in Summer Stock.  Judy had just dropped from Annie Get Your Gun and entered rehab, and Gene's star was rising with Arthur Freed. However, Joe Pasternak coaxed them into another picture, a return to form based on the old Rooney/Garland "let's put on a show!" model. Though it was intended to be a triumphant return, ultimately Judy lags through much of Summer Stock, which needs her energy to carry through a plodding plot. She looks and sounds a little slower, though sources disagree on why - either she was recovering from rehab or further spiralling into addiction. 

In this context - and even out of it - "Get Happy" is a shock. Filmed months later at Judy's insistence, with design and directorial help from husband Vincente Minnelli, the number shows Judy shining like she hasn't in a while. She's sexy, she's witty, she's beaming, and she's urbane in a way that sticks out from her nostalgia-laced image. Even without the maelstrom of malady surrounding her, this would be a defining number for Judy. With this backstory, "Get Happy" takes on another meaning too - the "fix." If Summer Stock is the movie where Judy Garland's facade slipped, then "Get Happy" is the number that restored it, at least temporarily. Don't worry about the exhaustion! Judy's back, and better than ever. Forget your troubles!

The fix was a public one only. Though Summer Stock was a success, Judy and MGM parted ways in 1951. Divorced from the studio that had raised her, Judy Garland would find the 1950s to be both happy and heartbreaking. She would live out private struggles in public, and her image would change from child star to musical maiden to something more complicated. For some stars, the tragedies of their lives become as image-defining as their successes.

Tuesday
Jul192016

Best Shot(s): Disney's "Zootopia"

Each year we throw an animated movie into the mix of our Best Shot season. It's a handy reminder that Best Shot is about more than just camera work and lighting actors and sets but how filmmaking teams choose to tell the stories they're telling. But even if we think of it only as a celebration of cinematography, animated films have been upping their game there, too, famously hiring high profile cinematographers as consultants as CG animation really took over the world in the last 20 years.

Since we're counting on Zootopia,  one of the year's most beloved films, to be one of the nominees (though it's too early to say "frontrunner") for Best Animated Feature we give it pride of place here today now that it's out on BluRay and DVD. My own choice will come tomorrow due to a last minute screening. But please do enjoy these Best Shot articles from around the web today.

ZOOTOPIA
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush 
Production Design by: David Goetz and Dan Cooper
Lighting: There are over 45 people listed in Zootopia's credits with "lighting" in their title. 

There are so many great things about this film, but it's its world building I'd like to focus on...
-Sorta That Guy 

People say the messaging is too heavy-handed... I would like to introduce you to something called a FABLE!
- Rachel's Reviews 

It's so damn noir... 
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

Despite how simple and brief, it still manages to be the defining moment of the film...
-Conman at the Movies *new participant*


The film’s lesson of appearances vitally works in both ways...
-Film Mix Tape

Judy and Nick’s arc is great. And for me, it culminates here...
- Storyphile 

I have a lot of feels about this masterwork...
-Anna, Look! *new participant*

 

Next Week's Special Party (Monday-Friday)
1977's Cinematography Nominees. Pick one of the five films and join us. Details here!

Tuesday
Jul192016

Who Should Receive Honorary Oscars Next?

We're about one month away from the announcement of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients. They're usuallly announced at the end of August for a November Governor's Awards ceremony. This year's ceremony will be on November 12th. Last year rumors circled that it was Doris Day's turn but that didn't turn out to be accurate. For the past two years, The Film Experience has tried to make up for the dearth of movie site reporting about the Oscar Honorary careers (beyond the sharing of press releases / YouTube videos of their speeches) with mini-retrospectives so we're always hoping they'll choose well to give us wonderful careers to discuss right here. 

Let's reprint a list of worthies we shared a year or so ago, with a few adjustments, in case any of the elites in the Academy are undecided about who to put forth or get behind for these coveted honors.

 

James Ivory (left) is still with us though his filmmaking and life partner Ismail Merchant (right) died 11 years ago. Oscar rarely honors LGBT giants and he's 100% HONORARY OSCAR WORTHY WITH MULTIPLE BEST PICTURE NOMINEES79 SUGGESTIONS FOR HONORARIES
None of whom have Oscars or honoraries but many of whom have been nominated

Voice To The Stars:
Marni Nixon... this is a dream but an impossible one. There's no branch to advocate for her but she'd be more than worthy having contributed so much to an entire genre: the movie musical.

Directors
 
James Ivory would be an ideal choice at 88 years of age. He's still with us but his partner (Ismail Merchant) has already passed away and together they made movies that Oscar outright adored. It would also be a nod to the LGBT community which the Academy really ought to make nice with given their history. What's the hold up, honestly? He'd be a PERFECT choice.

Others:  Mike Leigh, David Lynch, Werner Herzog, Agnes Varda, Jan Troell, or David Cronenbergmore suggestions follow...


Actresses
Catherine Deneuve is our most fervent dream these days. She's still working and still challenging herself and that filmography is gorgeous and long-lasting and has an enviable number of classics in it.

Other great options: Liv Ullmann, Glynis Johns, Jeanne Moreau, Doris Day, Glenn Close, Mia Farrow, Pam Grier (defined a whole subgenre!) or Gong Li  (stellar acting and filmography and they NEVER honor Asian actors). But we'd like to take this moment to thank AMPAS profusely for actually forcing us to change this list up about, having recently honored two of our most frequent suggestions: Debbie Reynolds & Maureen O'Hara.

Casting Directors: Lynn Stalmaster, Juliet Taylor, Ellen Lewis

Producers
Kathleen Kennedy, Ridley Scott, Zhang Yimou, Carlos Saura

Actors Albert Finney, Max Von Sydow, Sir Ian Holm, Sir Ian McKellen, Donald Sutherland, Harrison Ford , and James Caan

Costume Designers
 Penny Rose (egregiously never nominated), Anna B Sheppard, Julie Weiss, Jeffrey Kurland, or Bob Mackie.

Michael Ballhaus's amazing work spans several classics from Rainer Werner Fassbender to Martin Scorsese and richly beautiful 80s films like The Fabulous Baker Boys

 

Cinematographers Michael Ballhaus, who is 80 years old, is our favorite option here -- that filmography is splendid and international and he's been nominated three times and he basically retired with the Best Picture winner The Departed (2006). But there's also Roger Deakins and Allen Daviau. They waited too long on our Douglas Slocombe suggestion and he passed away around Oscar time earlier this year.

Production Designer
Jeannine Oppenwall

Sound
Kevin O'Connell, Michael J Kohut, Greg P. Russell

Editor
Richard Marks, Sally Menke (posthumously... Tarantino's movies have never been the same since)

Makeup
Edouard F Henriques, Aldo Signoretti

Music
Diane Warren, Thomas Newman, Danny Elfman, Philip Glass, or Angelo Badalementi

Documentaries
: Frederick Wiseman, Steve James, Michael Apted, or Werner Herzog

Finally...

Though we don't normally approve of and often are outright puzzled by Oscars willingness to give Honorarys to people who've already won -- some more than once! -- we would understand honoraries for the following two win since their wins came very early in incredible careers. 

Anne V Coates with Ethan Hawke recently Photo Source

Anne V Coates -Editor, won for Lawrence of Arabia. Much brilliant work thereafter including Soderbergh classics
Julie Andrews -Actress, won for her debut. Bonafide classics followed. Beloved by multiple generations.

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