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Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, or by a member of our amazing team as noted.

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100 Best of the 21st Century?

"Carol >>>>>>>>>> most of these movies" - Clarence

"The more I see these snooty lists, the more I get turned off of by film critics. What about Lord of the Rings, The Hours, The Devil Wears Prada..." -Jono

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - The movie you're hoping to see every time you go in the cinema" - Jeremy


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Curio: A Mug for Every Mood

Alexa here.  After more than a year on the wagon, I am back on the sauce with a vengeance. To clarify, I am talking about coffee.  In an effort to channel my more zen-like, less anxiety-ridden self, I cut it out. (I also hated feeling a slave to the Starbucks down the road.) But my chill, non-caffeinated self has become too sleepy of late; so I cleaned out our grind and brew, stocked up on some David Lynch Signature Blend, and decided to splurge on some new mugs. Here are some movie-centric ones I've considered buying during my trip back to the dark side...

Click to read more ...


Yes No Maybe So: Sicario

Manuel here to talk about Sicario, the latest Denis Villeneuve film starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin. It already earned strong reviews at Cannes but last week’s trailer was our first extended look at this drug cartel film where Blunt plays an FBI agent enlisted to help in the war against drugs in the US/Mexican border.

I wanted to make a full YES/NO/MAYBE SO for this trailer but realized as soon as we got to this shot...

Click to read more ...


Happy 75th, Abbas!

Amir here, to wish the happiest of birthdays to one of the masters. For all the success of Iranian cinema throughout the 90s and the emergence of several filmmakers who were lauded at international film festivals, the country's cinema had become, for better and for worse, synonymous with one man's name: Abbas Kiarostami. This has somewhat changed in recent years, with Kiarostami taking increasingly longer periods between projects and Jafar Panahi (This is Not a Film, Closed Curtain) and Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly) receiving so much attention, but ask any cinephile who their favourite Iranian director is and chances are you're going to get the same response you did twenty years ago.


Kiarostami turns 75 today, and to celebrate his birthday, we're going to suggest five films from his vast filmography that aren't widely seen. If you're unfamiliar with his work, any of these is a great place is to start. For the purposes of this list, I have excluded his three milestone: Close-up (ranked among one of the 50 greatest films of all time in the latest Sight & Sound poll and recently name-checked right here as one of Cara Seymour's all time favorite movies), Taste of Cherry (the 1996 Palme d'or winner at Cannes) and Certified Copy starring Juliette Binoche which was his first fiction film outside of Iran, and the film that reignited critical and mainstream interest in his career.

The Experience/A Suit for the Wedding/The Traveller
Several of Kiarostami’s films, long or short, are available on youtube and other streaming sites. Unfortunately, the above three films aren’t among them. Still, this combination here is as good a way as any to spend 50 pounds. All three films deal with the troubles of children who are thrown into the adult world much sooner than they should be. Playful, compassionate and endlessly re-watchable, these films share little in the way of style or approach, but are indispensable both as social studies on children and markers of Kiarostami’s evolution as a director. (Available: Amazon)

The Report
Scenes from a (shattering) marriage, Iranian-style. The Report is a formal and thematic anomaly in Kiarostami's oeuvre — at least until the arrival of Certified Copy — but it’s nevertheless one of his richest works. This morally challenging, multi-faceted portrait of the break-up of a family doubles as a microcosm of a society on the brink of crumbling unto itself right before the revolution. The Oscar-nominated Shohreh Aghdashloo delivers a heart-breaking turn in one of her earliest films here. (Available: Certified Copy’s Criterion Collection)

Kiarostami (wearing shades) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (centre) on the set of The Report

Although Homework isn’t among my personal favourite Kiarostami films, it’s a crushing experience and an essential viewing. Almost entirely made up of interviews with young children about their school work routine, Homework exposes the limitations of the Iranian school system of the time, the violent social consequences of illiteracy and the disturbing effects of bullying. Only a filmmaker of Kiarostami's magnitude can lend such imposing power to a static shot interview with a kid. (Available: Youtube)

Where’s the Friend’s Home?
Inspired by and reflective of the elegance and deceptive simplicity of modernist Persian poetry, this film became Kiarostami’s ticket to international fame. The story couldn’t possibly get any simpler: a young boy discovers a classmate’s notebook in his bag and walks over to the neighboring village in order to find his house and give him the notebook. Soulful and deeply rooted in the fabric of rural culture in the north of Iran, in Kiarostami’s hands, this minimalist film is elevated to a near spiritual experience. (Available: Youtube, DVD, DVD)

Through the Olive Trees
The third instalment in Koker Trilogy, this is the director’s best film and remains criminally under-seen. Kiarostami creates a delicate and intimate story by, ironically, highlighting the deceit and artificiality inherent in fiction filmmaking. Through the Olive Trees, Iran's Oscar submission in 1994, tells two parallel stories — the film within the film, and the making of the film within the film — that accentuate the boundaries between form and content, and simultaneously assert their cinematic inseparability. This is a film in which we see the same take as it is being filmed and refilmed several times, and are nevertheless moved to tears when the effort is finally over; it's as if Kiarostami is taking perverse pleasure in tugging at our heartstrings while continuously reminding us that his film is a synthetic construct. This masterwork is a testament to the sheer emotional force of cinema and to the director's keen eye for finding magic in small, innocuous moments of human interactions. (Available: Dailymotion Part 1, Part 2)


Beauty vs Beast: Down & Out In Hollywood

Jason from MNPP here, and I'm ready for my close-up - we're devoting today's edition of "Beauty vs Beast" to the late great director Billy Wilder, who was born on this day 109 years ago. If you had to pick your favorite Wilder picture, what would you go with? It's a query that'll break the brain of many a cinephile, so rich stands his cinematic legacy even all these decades later. I personally am torn between The Apartment (so glad I was able to hang out in the bar that Fran and C.C. frequent before it closed) and today's competitive centerpiece, 1950's Sunset Boulevard (aka still the greatest movie about Hollywood ever made), but cases made for a couple other Wilder films could probably convince me they were his be all everything too. Point being Billy didn't used to be big, he is big, and it's the pictures that got small without him. In that vein...

PREVIOUSLY Last week we wished Helen Hunt a happy birthday with a look back at her and Jack Nicholson's 1997 Oscar wins for As Good As It Gets -- facing them off y'all were decidely Team Carol with her thundering past a full 3/4ths of the vote. Explained Denny:

"Loved this film then and like it now, despite all the shit it gets. Jack is on fire - somehow Melvin doesn't come off like the complete and utter cliche he is on paper, and it's solely due to Nicholson's unique charisma - but it really is all about Helen Hunt and her warm, deeply lived-in performance as Carol. Yes the "fucking HMO pieces of shit" bit is great, but where the character (and the actress) really sings for me is in the quieter, more intimate moments. She somehow ups everyone's game when she's in a scene with them, and that's no small feat. But really, Carol wins just for being able to handle Melvin and all his bullshit."


FYC: RuPaul's Drag Race for Best Reality Competition

We're almost at the end of our FYCs. Team Experience was asked to share their individual dream picks for Emmy nominations. Here's Manuel ...

I don’t even have to tell you how stale this relatively new Emmy category is (The Amazing Race has won 10 out of 12 times the statuette has been awarded with only 12 shows ever nominated) before I get to vocalize my frustration - if not surprise - at the fact that RuPaul’s Drag Race has even yet to be nominated.

I mean, is that okay?

Drag Race is that rare show that can sport an arched eyebrow that tells you we should take everything in good fun while offering a shoulder to cry on because the struggle is real, y’all. Its greatest strength as a television show is that its sentimentality isn't framed in opposition to its campy exterior or its ironic posturing, it's actually endemic to them. This, of course, wouldn't be possible without RuPaul, who can stage a heart to heart while sharing a tic tac for lunch. It's a show that can take a seeming contradiction ("I want to see the REAL you by having it come out through layers of make up and various wigs and affectations and gif-ready reaction shots") and improbably enough, make it werk.

Even after seven seasons, Drag Race remains a fascinating experiment in reality TV competition which doesn't just explicitly admit the strangeness of its own genre trappings but uses them to create the most cogent oral history of the trials of drag queen herstory since Paris is Burning. Think about it: this season alone dealt with the palliative powers of drag when it comes to dealing with addiction (Katya & Fame), trauma (Pearl, Kennedy), rejection (Jaidynn, Trixie), aging (Tempest, Mrs Kasha Davis), storylines that have become so familiar to the show only because they have become intrinsic to understanding the very nature of drag. That Logo and Ru can accomplish that while giving good gif, well, that's Emmyworthy.


Can I get an Amen up in here?


Happy Merylmas !

Last year we celebrated Meryl Streep's birthday with a list of 65 appropriate ways to celebrate... and all of those still apply, so click over there and do them today. To add a 66th item for her 2015 birthday, rewatch the trailers to Ricki & The Flash and Suffragette or just daydream about Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) in which she plays a terrible opera singer

Happy Merylmas. If you're not following our instructions, how are you celebrating? 


The Many Faces of Ann Dowd ~ 25 Years in Film & TV

As this new week begins, I need to take a moment to express gratitude for what made last week special. Ann Dowd was gracious with her time and thoughts for a special guest blog day. In case any of you missed it, it was neat to get an insight into her work on The Leftovers, hear about her teenage reaction to Romeo & Juliet, and more. I particularly enjoyed her comments on falling in love with acting and advice for young actors. Regarding the latter, I'm not an actor but it resonated with me strongly and I think it's great advice for any career that requires risk, heart, soul, and the ability to handle considerable peaks and valleys.

Which is quite a few careers if you stop to think about it.

Ann Dowd's film and television career began in earnest 25 years ago in 1990 with a role in the Golden Globe Comedy winner Green Card and guest appearances on two different TV series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd and The Baby-Sitter's Club.

this is just scratching the surface

Her gallery of characters has been growing ever since but with critical raves and a few prizes for her riveting film-carrying work as a duped fast food manager in Compliance (2012) audiences finally starting putting a name to the face. Ever since we've been blessed with more and more of her. The Leftovers was arguably her greatest showcase yet. If Emmy voters don't notice what casting directors already have, it'll be their loss. 

What's your favorite Ann Dowd character and did her Guest Blog Day make you long for more peeks into your favorite character actors? (I'll take suggestions)