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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 

 

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Supporting Actress Smackdown 1948
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"I'm a huge Jean Simmons fan, and I think she legitimately takes the prize here" - Matt

"Pauline Kael called Claire Trevor's a great bad performance or something in an aside for a review in the seventies, and I agree. She's auditioning for the Carol Burnett parody of herself." - Alfred

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Friday
May302014

Two Quickies: How Green Was Maleficent's Valley?

How Green Was My Valley's Best Shot?
I did not forget and I'm grateful to the Best Shot participants who are so faithful and who turned theirs in on time. I fell too behind but here is my choice...

Since I can't choose "every shot of the main street" which John Ford and his cinematographer Arthur C Miller shoot in so many narratively compelling and beautiful ways with any and all the characters, I selected this one, which contains none of the main characters. Unless you stop to consider that the main character is actually the town and its people. This shot is so elegiac, like the coal miners are attending yet another funeral when it fact it's meant to be a celebratory moment. And they're actually outside the local bar... which is right next to the church...which is just down the hill from the coal mine. For all the film's sentiment -- something that threw me off the first time --  the emotional content isn't simplistic. It's generally both beautiful and barbed. The push and pull between nostalgic sentiment and brutal truth always works best in the film's silent-movie moments where no one is narrating and the dialogue is completely secondary to the images. The men look so defeated here, in prayer as they gather for a choral performance which also doubles as an impromptu depressing farewell for more fired miners, who are leaving the village behind.

Please join us next Tuesday night for Zorba the Greek (1964) -  Watch it and pick / post your best shot.

3. While You Wait For an Official Maleficent Review...
I haven't yet fully figured out my take on Maleficent. Maybe I won't? It keeps shapeshifting in my head.  Bird. Man. Dragon. Wolf. I know that many web critics can churn out 1000 words on something they saw 2 minutes ago and do it seemingly all the time. I envy them but a truth: I need more time than that to let movies percolate.  But I did manage to sift through a few of my feelings in this conversation with two movie people I adore: Mister Patches and Katey Rich on their podcast "Fighting in the War Room."

Have a listen and try out their wonderfully frequent podcast if you haven't already.

Friday
May302014

Oscar Quandaries: Original OR Adapted?

The Screenplay categories were not always as fluid as they are now and once adhered to very strict rules about a script's prior existence. Now, they let you get away with a little fudging which started in force a dozen years ago when Gangs of New York and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which had spent all of their pre-release hype talking about being adapted from [insert fabulous thing here] were suddenly "originals" through complicated explanations once awards season was in sway and it became clear that the original category was infinitely less competitive. Since then much has changed and now previously established characters is a thing everyone does to fight for adapted (when it suits them) and the lines are really blurry.

ADAPTED OR ORIGINAL. EITHER COULD HAPPEN...

So here are four plus movies that seem like they're balancing on a wire between original and adapted. Which way will they fall? 

Bruce Wagner's Maps to the Stars screenplay was a screenplay first, then it became a novel ("Dead Stars") when the movie plans fell through. It's now a screenplay again for a David Cronenberg movie. So if the movie picks up steam once it's released and not just as a curio given Julianne Moore's Cannes win, who knows? In ye olden times this would clearly be Adapted because the old hard line was once 'Previously Published or Produced Material'... but now I'm not sure.

Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel is "inspired by" the writings of Stefan Zweig ... which might mean adapted but "inspired by" is also the excuse Gangs of New York used to change its campaign from adapted to original. So I'm guessing this is up in the air until Fox Searchlight really starts campaigning (and they should).

Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert is based on the life story of Gertrud Bell but so far there are no books credited on IMDb or in articles about the film. Several books have been written about her. Is this a Milk situation where it will claim "original" despite vast reams of information to draw from written by others? And if so, is there anything wrong with that? Perhaps we need a third screenplay category for true stories that are adapted from a wide variety of sources. Other True Story This Might Apply To: Pawn Sacrifice another film about chess prodigy Bobby Fischer)

Damien Chazelle's music drama Whiplash, which has been very well received in the festival circuit, seems like the type of indie that could make waves in Original Screenplay. Only problem is it's technically adapted. It's based on Chazelle's own short film of the same name. This same situation occurred last year with Short Term 12. To date I'm not aware of anyone who tried to argue that adapting yourself is not a thing -- even Nia Vardalos, when Greek Wedding changed course argued that she'd written her comedy hit as a screenplay first before adapting it into a play so therefore it was an original (Bruce Wagner could argue the same this year for Maps to the Stars if he wants).

Under the old clear rules of "previously published or produced" you couldn't get around this even if you absolutely wrote the thing as a screenplay first but for the past 12 years these categories are more fluid and I wouldn't put it past some savvy strategist to claim original and basically negate the hypothetical 'can you adapt your own movie into a new movie?' question when it comes to these categories. 

SCREENPLAY CHARTS

Friday
May302014

Posterized: Angelina Jolie

A huge movie star in search of movies big enough to hold her - that's Angelina Jolie (currently gliding through Maleficent in her cape) though she doesn't actually search. The actress shot to global fame in the late 90s when the one-two punch of a Gia and Girl, Interrupted won her plentiful nominations and trophies and admirers of all kinds both for her sizzling sexuality, oversized screen presence, and cartoon-like beauty. But the filmography isn't so hot. It's filled with hit movies but an inarguable lack of classics; she's always bigger than the movie. 

How many have you seen?

Click to read more ...

Friday
May302014

If We Had Oscar Ballots... a 1941 Extra

Tomorrow when the Supporting Actress Smackdown 1941 hits, we'll just be discussing the five nominees (24 more hours to get your ballots in for the reader's section of the vote!). As it should be. But for the first time in a Smackdown I polled my fellow panelists as to who they would have nominated if, uh, they'd have been alive in 1941 and if, uh, they'd been AMPAS members.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde lust after Lana Turner & Ingrid Bergman. And so does our panel.

Angelica and I didn't vote (I haven't seen enough 1941 pictures, I confess) but our other three panelists have recommendations for you outside the Oscar shortlist. In fact, all three of them only co-signed 2 of Oscar's 5 choices... different ones mostly so the Smackdown should be interesting (I'm not telling you which as the critiques come tomorrow!). So here are some For Your Considerations for your rental queues or your own assessments of that film year...

ANNE MARIE writes: 

Two of the nominations stay but otherwise I'd mix things up. First things first: Justice for Dorothy! Dorothy Comingore should have been nominated for playing Kane's second wife in Citizen Kane, but she was buried under bad publicity by the vengeful William Randolph Hearst. Comingore's performance was so good that her character continues to overshadow the real story of Marion Davies (who was neither bitter, nor talentless, nor married to Hearst). It's not fair that one ticked-off media mogul could kill a promising career. On a lighter note, I'd definitely add Lana Turner to my ballot for a solid year of supporting actress-ing in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeZiegfeld Follies, and Johnny Eager (which would wait two years to be Oscar eligible). 1941 was the year that proved The Sweater Girl could act, and sparkle even in overheated melodramas like these three.

However, since How Green Was My Valley was clearly the Oscar magnet of 1941, a Supporting Actress nomination seems inevitable, so I'd cast my vote for Maureen O'Hara in another solid newcomer performance. Mostly though, I just want Maureen O'Hara to have an Oscar nomination. Just one.

Brian (aka StinkyLulu)

Agnes Moorehead and Ruth Warrick from Citizen Kane.  

And for a stirring glimpse of a potentially great comedic actress not yet fully shackled by the Hollywood machine, see Carmen Miranda in Week End in Havana or That Night in Rio

Nick Davis
He's trying to cheat! He knows how I feel about ties but he has trouble narrowing down his three remaining slots so he sneaks in an unofficial tie, sly one that he is...

My ballot would certainly include Theresa Harris (the veiled subject of Lynn Nottage's recent play By the Way, Meet Vera Stark), who is so spry and witty in what could have been a simple "maid" part in René Clair's The Flame of New Orleans, with Marlene Dietrich.  I also love Beulah Bondi in Penny Serenade, where she eschews the usual Bondi-isms that Margaret Wycherly so embraces in Sergeant York and plays a warm, fully dimensional adoption agent trying to bring happiness to Cary Grant and Irene Dunne while also managing their expectations, and treading her own line between public official and private sympathizer. 

Marlene Dietrich and Theresa Harris in "The Flame of New Orleans"

Ingrid Bergman comes on hot and heavy in the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, out Lana Turner-ing Lana Turner in her own movie.  But then Marjorie Rambeau is a complete hoot in John Ford's much-maligned Tobacco Road, where she merits recognition much more than she does in the two movies that actually got her nominated.  She'd beat Bergman in a tug-of-war for that last spot, unless Bergman's sensuality burned up the rope.

Friday
May302014

Tim's Toons: On Marc Davis, father of Maleficent

Tim here. This weekend, Disney’s latest attempt at brand leveraging, Maleficent, will be open, and critical word so far is not terribly positive, with only one consistent bright spot being called out in even the most savage reviews. That being Angelina Jolie’s performance as the titular wicked/misunderstood fairy. And this should come as absolutely no surprise to anybody, given that putting Jolie in the role was the only real justification the project ever had. And even moreso given that Maleficent, first introduced in the company’s 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty, has long been agreed to be one of the studio’s best villains, and one of the best in movies generally.

Some months ago, I said my piece on just why Maleficent was such a top-notch character, and I’ll refrain from belaboring the point again here. Instead, I hope you’ll indulge me if I take this opportunity to spend a moment praising her creator – her original creator, before screenwriter Linda Woolverton (who wrote the awful 2010 Alice in Wonderland) and director Robert Stromberg (the production designer of the awful 2010 Alice in Wonderland) had a chance to make her some kind of half-assed avatar of heavily corporatized feminism. I’m referring to Marc David, one of the famous Nine Old men animators at Disney between the ‘30s and ‘60s, the supervising animator on the original Maleficent.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May292014

First Round Oscar Predix Continue: Supporting Actor

Two things we have to acknowledge right up front before we continue our first round of Oscar charts which will be finished by Saturday. Yay.

First. The supporting actor categories are often crazy foggy until people have seen the movies. Since men make up the bulk of film characters there is always a lot to choose from... even within the same film. Take Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice for example. I have yet to read the novel but literally every character in synopsis form sounds like a chance for actors to show off. That could result in a grandiose amount of overkill in scenery chewing for one film to handle- the acting equivalent of a rain of frogs, if you will. But it doesn't help us decipher which of the players will stand out. If you look at any of Anderson's early work -- the true ensembles before he started focusing on the journey of only one or two men (sigh) -- it was often hard to decide who was "best" because everyone was doing such strong work. I've gone with Josh Brolin as a prediction playing Joaquin Phoenix's old nemesis "Bigfoot" but it could just as easily be Benicio Del Toro as "Sauncho" or Owen Wilson as the musician "Coy Harlingen" or... well, you get the picture. The film has a huge cast.

Or it might be no one if the film is not well received. But the nominations for P.T.'s chilly weird The Master, not particularly "Oscar friendly" in the traditional sense, suggest that AMPAS is finally on this auteur's wavelength.

Second. There is no such thing as a line of demarcation between Lead and Supporting anymore. The two categories are fluid and mean nothing dissimilar at this point. It's like ten spots for men and ten spots for women. Period.

There are infinite ways to get away with category fraud in this day and age and the only time Oscar has ever rejected fraudulent campaigns is when a person leading the film has no other actor of stature around or of the same gender to pretend they are "supporting" them (Winslet in '08, Keisha in '03, etcetera). Otherwise they're always okay with it. Voters are especially forgiving of category fraud with male actors, perhaps subconciously reflecting heteronormative pack mentality --  some guy is always the alpha. So even if there is no way you can describe Fox (Collateral) in '04 or Affleck (Jesse James)  in '07 as "supporting characters" without sane people laughing at you, that's okay with Oscar because in no stretch of the Hollywood imagination are  Cruise and Pitt not alpha males. I think we can all agree on that.  

Which brings us to Foxcatcher. Here, things are decidedly more fluid. Carell and Tatum and Ruffalo are not big enough stars to pretend that all other men in any given movie would be supporting them. Hell, Tatum even has second billing to Jonah Hill in the 21 Jump Street series which I find... strange. (Was it the Oscar nominations? Is it the deferrence to alpha order? Tatum led more films before they joined up). Early word is that Sony Pictures Classics will campaign both Tatum and Carell as leads and Ruffalo as supporting. Whether this holds or not is anyone's guess. In Contention posted a piece on how rare double lead nominations are and cited the statistics (not since 1984 for men and 1991 for women) and called it "obviously stiff odds" and that's true, factually. But it's not true spiritually. The article left out the extremely crucial fact that studios don't try to win dual lead nods anymore. Who is to say that we wouldn't have had examples of dual lead nods since then if they had kept campaigning truthfully as they used to do? Maybe voters should check themselves before demoting lead actors to supporting and ask themselves the relevant question "would I vote for them as a lead?" If the answer is "no" than maybe you shouldn't vote for them in supporting. 

THE SUPPORTING ACTOR CHART 
INDEX OF PREDICTIONS