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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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Friday
Sep202013

This Link Goes to 11

Movie City News Gurus of Gold update post TIFF/Telluride
Mind of a Suspicious Kind Jordan on Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners
AV Club Joss Whedon airlifted in to punch up Thor: The Dark World. (awesome photoshop) 
Deadline Matt Bomer set to play Montgomery Clift... hmmm. But I have to say this article sounds like it was written by someone who has a very vague inkling of Clift, like a Wikipedia inkling. Seriously read it. It reads that generic. 

In Contention Cate Blanchett to make her directorial debut with The Dinner, based on Herman Koch's bestseller
/Film that Labor Day poster I was talking 'bout the other day finally made it online
Variety four people will be honored by the Cinematography guild including Kris Tapley. Congrats, Kris 
Awards Daily the US trailer for Blue is the Warmest Colour 
i09 8 ways to make a female led superhero movie work 
Slant Magazine excellent piece on "the IMAX cancer" and the rerelease of The Wizard of Oz... only not the one you know. 
Happy Nice Time People Embarassing Person Glenn Beck is really upset about the possible movie about Woodrow Wilson that Leonardo DiCaprio might possibly be starring in 

Thursday
Sep192013

Whither Pixar?

Tim here, with what we might call, to steal a phrase, a burning question. Or at least a terrified, desperate question with rage tears streaming all down my face:

What the hell is happening with Pixar Animation Studios?

By this point, I imagine most of you have heard the news that The Good Dinosaur, the studio’s second film out in the future, has been pushed from May, 2014, to November, 2015. This coming just a few weeks after the announcement that Bob Peterson, a writer and storyboard artist with the studio since forever, had been taken off what was to have been his solo directorial debut with that same project.

This has had all sorts of fun ramifications for the company, including the inexplicable Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory being pushed to May, 2016, to make room for The Good Dinosaur. 2014, at the moment, will end up as the first calendar year since 2005 without a Pixar feature release, while 2015 will be the first year ever with two (assuming that Disney doesn’t end up announcing that Inside Out is to be rushed out ahead of schedule). The Good Dinosaur doesn’t have an announced director yet, and nobody knows whether or not Peterson is staying with the studio in any capacity.

It will be, of course, two years and change before any of us are actually able to judge whether any of this will be for the good of the film: it’s entirely possible that there really were irreconcilable story problems that needed far too much work and fresh blood than could happen in the initial time frame. One thing that’s almost certain, given how tight-lipped Disney and Pixar are about their internal politics, we’ll never know what Peterson’s The Good Dinosaur was meant to be like. That’s not really what I wanted to rant about, anyway.

The problem is that this isn’t at all new behavior: The Good Dinosaur is at least the fifth Pixar film to have a director changeover midway through production, and the fourth one in a row. 2011’s Cars 2, this year’s Monsters University, and most noisily, 2012’s Brave all went through the same upheaval, and they are all widely, even universally, regarded as being among the worst films in the studio’s output. So if it truly is the case that the executive logic is that those films needed to be “fixed”, the earlier versions must have been problematic indeed – who wants to imagine a version of Cars 2 that was worse than the one released to theaters?

 

It is very hard, in other words, to give the studio any benefit of the doubt at all. It’s been just a handful of years since the run of movies that ended with Toy Story 3 – the platonic ideal of an apparent cash-in sequel that turns out to have been motivated by real artistry and sensitivity – but the days when a commanding majority of critics and animation fans took the name of Pixar as an ironclad guarantee of quality seem like a distant, naïve memory, and developments like this are exactly the wrong sort of thing to restore that kind of faith. Once a creative haven, Pixar has become mired in safety-tested formulas and groupthink, less invested in protecting its brand name from failure than in insulating it from any kind of unconventional thinking. Would Brenda Chapman’s Brave have been any good? Who knows? What’s certain is that it would have felt less like every other Pixar film, and it’s hard not to want to know what that would be like.

 

To be fair, this isn’t just Pixar’s problem. Big-budget filmmaking as a whole feels more indebted to safety-conscious decisions that are designed more with an eye to making sure that new movies feel as much as possible like other movies that were already hits (the careful buffering out of individual personalities in the Harry Potter films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe leap to mind), and the biggest budgets only ever go to sequels, or to adaptations of road-tested stories. In the wake of The Lone Ranger, it’s hard to feel like the studios don’t have a reason for this conservatism, but anodyne, one-size-fits-all movies (now obliged to play in cultures as widely different as the American Midwest and urban China) are boring, even the well-made ones.

Until the last couple of years, I’d have never called any Pixar film “boring”. Even Cars 2 can’t be rightfully described that way, though most other negative adjectives fit just fine. And maybe this is all paranoia: maybe The Good Dinosaur really did have huge problems, and the final result is now going to be better than any of us can possibly imagine. But that’s not what Pixar’s rhetoric is saying. Instead, they’re telling us that they needed to beat The Good Dinosaur into a form that everybody could sign off on, admitting in almost so many words that this personal project had to be run through a committee in order to make sure it felt like everything else the studio has made. Maybe the results will be worth it, but it doesn’t sound to me like it’s going to be good for the imagination of the film’s creators or the imagination of its audience, and it’s the continuation of a trend that’s made the former best movie studio of the 2000s feel increasingly industrialized and lifelessly market-driven.

Thursday
Sep192013

This Comment Thread is NOT Going to Be Ignored

Today's Lunchtime Poll (what, we eat late)... 

Which movie star would drive you mad if they dumped you after a brief torrid sexual affair?
 

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 ...