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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 | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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HONORARY OSCARS GO TO...

 "...and will these three great artists appear on the actual Oscars show?" - Rick G.

"To dig up some tabloid history (not that it was buried deep) for a footnote, Reynolds' "love rival" Elizabeth Taylor won the same humanitarian award in 1993. It sort of goes to show that everybody got theirs in that situation, except for Eddie Fisher." - Hayden W.

"Congrats to these three! They are all deserving of this honor but I STILL can't believe the Academy has pass up Doris Day AGAIN!" - Anthony

 

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Friday
Aug282015

Murder on the Orient Express: Ingrid Bergman steals the show - or does she?

We're near the end of Ingrid Bergman's career so here's the penultimate episode in our retrospective. Happy 100th to the superstar on August 29th. Here's Lynn Lee...

 

By 1974, Ingrid Bergman was a grande dame of film in the twilight of her career, with two Best Actress Oscar wins under her belt, and nothing left to prove.  Perhaps that’s why she deliberately opted for such a small part in the star-studded Murder on the Orient Express, despite director Sidney Lumet’s attempts to coax her into taking a bigger one.  And yet, despite her own efforts to stay out of the spotlight, it found her anyway, with her tiny role as a mousy, middle-aged Swedish missionary netting her an unlikely third Oscar.

We don’t see too many movies like Orient Express these days – A-list extravaganzas where most of the stars end up with little more than glorified cameos but just seem to be in it for fun.  And to be fair, the movie is fun and directed with flair, even as it plays up the absurd theatricality of the whodunit setup – something that doesn’t register as strongly when you’re reading Agatha Christie’s plummy prose.  It’s a bit much at times...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug282015

Open Thread (feat. The Gurus of Gold.)

How are you feeling about the forthcoming Oscar race? Do you think we've seen several prime contenders or mostly none at all? When will you feel it's truly begun?

David Poland at Movie City News just asked the Gurus of Gold (including yours truly) to rank the forthcoming Oscar races in three different categories: widely seen already / playing the festivals / opening late in the year. You can see the charts here. If you trust "the wisdom of crowds" as it were, Carol, Inside Out, and Mad Max Fury Road are in the best positions thus far of movies that have already screened. This confuses me a bit as Carol's reviews in Cannes felt more admiring than deeply in love which can be but is not always a problem with the Academy. Plus it'll have to survive the current turmoil at the Weinstein CompanyInside Out, while a true return to form, still has to deal with the fact that it's an animated movie from a studio that has been terrifically well rewarded already that they won't feel they owe a single thing to, in a time frame in which "wow, animated movies can be just as good as live action movies!" is no longer a revelatory angle but just a "duh!" part of the landscape, and whose future slate does not suggest that it's a return to form for good since the upcoming slate is largely sequels. And though I love Mad Max: Fury Road as much as anyone -- I'll be very surprised if it doesn't make my top ten -- I'm still having trouble imagining it as a true player. The fourth film in a long dead franchise that they never cared about before (zero nominations) in a genre they don't care about (apocalyptic sci-fi) from a director who has remained an outsider by choice (George Miller) starring actors they probably like but are inarguably not obsessed with, whose pleasures often focus on practical effects and stunts (for which Oscar has no category). I'm trying to find the Oscar hook beyond ecstatic reviews (which several other movies will also have by years end as that's how the season always goes) but if there is one it's invisible!  I'm more bullish on Youth and Brooklyn, largely because they seem more traditional in terms of Oscar appeal for reasons involving both topics and tone. 

P.S. #1 Toronto is less than two weeks away. Eep!

P.S. #2 Are you joining us for Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Mad Max: Fury Road? That's Monday night, September 7th! I'll try not to choose the shot above which filled me with wild shameless feminist glee in the movie theater... but I might. We'll see.

P.S. #3 More on Oscar's Foreign Language Film race very soon but watch out for Germany. They've just selected Labyrinth of Lies and, as you may recall from last year's TIFF write-ups, it's quite good. And Oscar friendly, too. It's a Holocaust movie that doesn't feel like 'just another Holocaust movie' because it's coming at the topic from a far less overworked angle, as its about a lawyer investigating unpunished war crimes in the 1960s.

Friday
Aug282015

TV @ The Movies: "Difficult People" and the Golden Globes of Hate

NEW SERIES! Since our eyes always flash and a smile spreads when a movie is referenced on a tv show we're watching, we've decided to make it a habit to share these cross-platform romances with you. Whenever we see one worth discussing, we'll share it.


Have you been watching Hulu's Difficult People? You should be watching Difficult People! Admittedly, it could be a very hard show to fall in love with if you’re not a fan of watching terrible New Yorkers act like exclusionary, entitled gits while spouting cruel insults about celebrities – but hey, that’s one of my favourite genres! What it does mean is references galore, like an audition for a remake of the 1988 body swap comedy Vice Versa in episode two, or a PBS roast in episode three that finds time for jokes about Shining Time Station (“If there’s one thing children love, it’s having Ringo Starr yell at them about trains”) and Maggie Smith’s genitals being named after Mr. Bean.

Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner star as Julie and Billy. They are less successful, but very pseudo-autobiographical versions of themselves - a mildly successful recapper of reality television and a waiter trying to be an actor respectively. They are trying to build a career in comedy while he works for Gabby Sidibe and she deals with her psychiatrist mother (Andrea Martin). Their love of pop culture knows no meta-bounds and they show has already landed in hot water over a joke in episode one about Beyonce that was the target of people who apparently know nothing of irony, criticising the show, the network, Klausner, and executive producer Amy Poehler as “disgusting”.

Sigh, right? [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug282015

Broken Lance's "Half Breed"

Robert Wagner keeps invading our Smackdown celebrations. In our 1952 revisit he appeared briefly as a shell shocked soldier for Susan Hayward to comfort with her crooning in With a Song in My Heart. He was almost impossible to look at from the pretty. And here he is again, distracting another Smackdown with his smolder in the western Broken Lance.

Perhaps we'd better go inside."

[Translation]: Jean Peters, you're about to tear your clothes off under the moonlight and devour me but I will chivalrously save your reputation... now that I've already won you with my lips. 

The rising 24 year-old actor was rumored to be carrying on behind the scenes with the then 47 year-old Barbara Stanwyck (who happens to co-star in Executive Suite, another of this month's Smackdown movies) but his most enduring romance was yet to begin. How many times do you think a then 16 year-old Natalie Wood, just one year away from her key transition film from child star to teen icon (Rebel Without a Cause) demanded to watch Broken Lance? Do you think her friends & handlers were all "enough with the Broken Lance, Nat!" According to Natalie herself, by 1954 her love would have already been six years strong though the actors had yet to meet.

"I was 10 and he was 18 when I first saw him walking down a hall at 20th Century Fox," she recalls. "I turned to my mother and said, 'I'm going to marry him.' "

She did.

Natalie married RJ (for the first time) in December 1957. She was just 19.

In Broken Lance, the then 24 year old actor (of German and Norwegian descent) plays our protagonist, the "half breed" son of Native American princess "Señora Devereaux" (played by Mexican actress Katy Jurado) and an Irish cattle rancher (played by Spencer Tracy of Irish descent) who is at odds with his half-brothers. R.J. is heavily bronzed for the role. For all the typical Old Hollywood clumsiness with racial identity and casting -- something that hasn't changed much in the subsequent 61 years (note: Rooney Mara as "Tiger Lily" in the forthcoming Pan) --  Broken Lance actually really sells the racial identity angst with something like humane progressive verve. Jean Peters, playing RJ's love interest Barbara, jokes that her man is more upset about being half Irish than half Indian in a clumsy date scene which results in both of them doing those cheery Old Holllywood fake chuckles as we dissolve out. Elsewhere, though, there's rich drama. Tracy's three sons from an earlier marriage, who serve as the plot's antagonists aren't always comfortable with their bi-racial home but neither are they painted as explicitly racist. Their "evil," if you will, arrives from a more complex mix of agendas and grudges against their father and you can see that the eldest actually respects his stepmom and youngest brother, even as he speaks out against them. In the films most sympathetically acted moment of strife, Tracy squares off with the Governor (E.G. Marshall), over their children's unexpected romance (pictured up top). The governor's discomfort with his daughter falling for his closest friend's bi-racial son-- a young man he otherwise likes quite a lot and has seen grow up, mind you -- clearly scars both men, tearing their decades long friendship apart. Prejudices hurt everyone, not just the target of the prejudice.

All in all Broken Lance is an engaging western with more ambitions than gunfights for a change of pace. And this is why we should always love the Oscars, people. Let others reflexively gripe about it and miss out. Awards history directs us to movies we might otherwise never see from before our time. And Oscar history, for all its imperfections and blindspots, can illuminate pop culture throughlines, introduce you to rich now underappreciated talents, and provide wonderful anecdotal bits and bobs from mainstream history, cinematic and otherwise.

I love doing the Smackdowns and I hope you do, too. If you wanted to vote on this round, I need your votes by this evening at the absolute latest. The 1954 Supporting Actress Smackdown arrives Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.

Thursday
Aug272015

Cactus Flower (1969) - it's all about Bergman dancing

Nearing the conclusion of our Ingrid Bergman celebration, it comes to me, Manuel, to talk about a film that’s perhaps best remembered now for being Goldie Hawn’s Oscar-winning silver screen debut. But I want us instead to think about it as the preeminent film about Bergman dancing.

You see, Cactus Flower, which was the seventh highest grossing film of 1970, is a comedy I very much enjoyed up until the point when I started thinking about it. As if retooling (if not reworking) The Apartment, though of course not really since it’s an adaptation of Broadway play by the same name, I. A. Diamond -- a co-writer for that Oscar-winning film and the writer of Cactus Flower -- opens this 1969 film with a suicide attempt. Dentist Julian Winston (Walter Matthau, here a leading man who women find utterly irresistible despite an almost unsavory but plot-required sense of obliviousness to the women around him) has a "girl" on the side (Goldie Hawn's Toni) whom he has tricked into thinking he's married. Thinking he’s finally chosen to say with his wife rather than go out with her (he’s actually set up a date with another woman), Toni tries to kill herself only to be saved by her neighbor, oft-shirtless Igor.

After Toni tries to kill herself, Dr. Winston decides to marry her only to have to conjure up a wife Toni can meet so as to keep his earlier lie intact. Enter Miss Dickinson (Bergman), Dr. Winston's assistant nurse who has harbored a secret crush on her boss for years and whose role-playing only makes her ache for him even more. You can probably detect where the various plot strands are headed (spoilers in the shots that follow) but that's rarely why we enjoy watching comedies like these.

Miss Dickinson at the start of the film.Miss Dickinson in the film's last scene.

Screwball comedy lives and dies on its performances and thankfully Hawn and Bergman make Diamond's comedy of errors come alive, both imbuing their respective types with a sense of humanity that makes one forgive them the necessary blindspots the plot requires. A trifle of a film with a preposterous setup that somehow sells its female characters short even as it seemingly empowers them, Cactus Flower is worth watching solely for its female performances. Hawn may be best in show (she really does have smart ditz down-pat, those gorgeous giant expressive eyes doing some amazing heavy-lifting) but I urge us to marvel at Bergman who turns her prickly nurse into blooming romantic lead (pun intended) in an amazing dance sequence.

Drunk with adoration (and yes, some alcohol) Miss Dickinson takes over the dance-floor after partying with Señor Arturo Sánchez, and eventually finds herself in the arms of Toni’s Igor, with whom she spends the rest of the night, making both Dr. Winston and Toni jealous. It’s an amazing moment that speaks to the physicality of Bergman’s performance making the word “unwind” feel quite literal:


I mean. Need I say more?

Have you caught Cactus Flower? Can you picture Lauren Bacall or Jennifer Aniston in the role? The former played Miss Dickinson in the Broadway play, the latter in the ill-fated 2010 remake, Just Go With It. 

Thursday
Aug272015

Misc: Lawrence & Schumer, Gaga & Bomer, Léa & Channing, Guest & Cast

Pajiba Tom Hardy on Dubsmash with his stunt double. Awwww
The Wrap Michelle Pfeiffer is going to play Robert DeNiro's wife again (because that worked so well for them in The Family?) in HBO's movie about the Bernie Madoff scandal called Wizard of Lies
AV Club Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer wrote a movie together and they'll play sisters
Comics Alliance in praise of the superheroic male miniskirt 
Film School Rejects terrifies us with a list of actors returning to franchises they departed both real and suggested. Make it stop, universe. Oh god make it stop.
Vulture has a new podcast about the art of the TV pilot. Fun discussion (and excoriation of Fear the Walking Dead) but I was disappointed that Glee doesn't get props. That show turns into a disaster in record time but damn that pilot was a beauty.

Film Actually suggests 10 awesome Bollywood soundtracks for your listening pleasure
Vanity Fair whoa. A.J. Langer (better known as Rayanne Graff on My So Called Life) is now a British royal of sorts. She married a Count.
The Tracking Board Wes Ball, who directed The Maze Runner, will make a Norse mythology movie called Fall of Gods 
Toybox Batman figures that look like they were designed by Aardman animation
Vulture talks to Kate Winslet about Shakespeare ("you're saying that because I'm British") and Steve Jobs
MNPP shares a terrifying NSFW moment from a movie I've never heard of featuring Chris Pine
MNPP also has a book shelf in the movies fetish. I thought I was the only one so this is kind of unnerving
/Film Léa Seydoux joining Channing Tatum as Gambit's leading lady
MNPP first looks at the cast of American Horror Story: Hotel in character. There is a lot of punk dandy boy looks happening
Coming Soon Remember when everyone thought Joaquin Phoenix was too crazy to go on working?  Things didnt pan out that way and he became a bigger star. But one thing he is crazy about is auteurs. He loves working with them and repeating the trick. Next up is another M Night Shyamalan film which will be his third 

Regret to Inform...


Eugene Levy & Catherine O'Hara are NOT in talks to star in Christopher Guests's new Netflix film Mascots. But a lot of the other regulars are including Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Bob Balaban and Jennifer Coolidge. Joining the family is Chris O'Dowd, who worked with Guest on the shortlived Family Tree for HBO.

Thursday
Aug272015

And The Honorary Oscars Go To... Debbie Reynolds, Gena Rowlands, and Spike Lee.

No sooner had I published a list of speculation / suggestions for November's Honorary Oscars then the actual awards were announced. (I  must have misread the date on the Academy's meeting about this so we've unpublished and will revisit that topic at a more appropriate time.) For now, a hearty congratulations to a satisfying trio of recipients with very different appeals. We're throwing streamers and popping out of (okay eating) cakes this afternoon to celebrate!

Our Oscar Theme Song

All I do... is dream of you... the whole night through
with the dawn... i still go on... and dream of you
you're every thought... you're every thing
you're every song i ever sing
Summer. Winter.... Autumn and Spring 

DEBBIE REYNOLDS, "America's Sweetheart" back in her heyday (roughly speaking the 50s through the mid 60s), is your populist choice, not unlike Maureen O'Hara last year. Well liked showbiz legends that were never really critics darlings or in the Oscar hunt competitively can win Honorary Oscars if they stick around long enough. So here's to longevity! Reynolds, who is 83, made her first credited movie appearance in 1950, received her sole Best Actress nomination for the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)... and has literally never stopped working. This is a true showbiz trouper.

OF NOTE # 1: Carrie Fisher is going to be much in demand for the next several months given a) her mom's Honorary Oscar victory lap, publicity for her new memoir, and her own return to her signature Princess Leia this December in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

OF NOTE # 2: Postcards from the Edge, the thinly veiled Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds comic biopic starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine hits its 25th anniversary in a couple of weeks and we'll be celebrating that too.

GENA ROWLANDS was a regular Oscar player in her heyday (roughly speaking the late 60s through the early 80s) and is easily your aesthete's choice this year. She's a hugely influential actor and cinephiles have been bemoaning her Oscar losses for years, due in large part to her groundbreaking early indie work with her husband John Cassavettes. She's also worshipped by discerning film buff actors. Consider Tilda Swinton's quote on her film Julia, which was a loose remake of Gena's earlier film Gloria.

One's always downloading one's heroes, I suppose, all the time.  I remember being asked whether I thought about Gena Rowlands for "Julia" and thinking 'well, I think about Gena Rowlands all the time!' Not just for 'Julia'.

SPIKE LEE you could safely and cynically call this point in the 2015 honorary triangle their diversity choice but he's also entirely deserving so bless the media for putting so much pressure on Oscar voters to diversify! There's more to cinema than old white men (many of them are worth celebrating, too, but Oscar amply covers that without prodding). What's more, unlike Debbie Reynolds and Gena Rowlands, who couldn't really be called mistreated by the Academy for various reasons, AMPAS truly owes this maverick auteur. His indisputable classic Do The Right Thing (1989), his biopic epic Malcolm X (1992), his late career best 25th Hour (2002), and his biggest hit Inside Man (2006) have a measly 4 Oscar nominations between them with no wins. His only nominations to date were for his documentary 4 Little Girls (1997) and the screenplay of Do The Right Thing which, insane as it may sound, both lost. 

AND HERE'S WHERE YOU COME IN DEAR READER...

Last year we did mini-retrospectives on the Honorary winners when we noticed a dearth of coverage on movie sites (for shame) beyond obligatory news posts of the names and the later ceremony. Which films from each of their filmographies would you most like to revisit or discover for the first time with us before the ceremony on November 14th?