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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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Reader Spotlight: Grace Miao

In Reader Spotlight we get to know The Film Experience community one by one. It's taking forever for which you know I'm grateful. Today we're talking to Grace in Toronto.

NATHANIEL: Hi Grace. Why do you read The Film Experience?

GRACE: I originally read it for your Oscar predictions, but I got hooked on the thoughts and insights in your movie reviews - and actressexuality! It's a little Ebert-esque, but love or hate a movie, you have an undercurrent of overall admiration and appreciation for the medium that keeps me coming back.

What's your first movie memory or obsession?

GRACE: E.T.  I'm so blood/gore-averse that I distinctly remember hiding my face behind my hands when Elliot cut his finger on the circular saw. And wanting a flying bicycle.

I know we have a mutual love of Tilda Swinton and Tony Leung since you've told me so. Name three other actors you always love to watch.

Nicole Kidman! I know she's on everyone's list, but her Monster Year in 2000/2001 kind of sealed the deal for me - I loved her in "Moulin Rouge", "The Others", then later in "Dogville" and "Birth". She's always good, but with an auteur director, it's absolute magic to watch her.

Maggie Cheung. I really miss seeing her onscreen, especially since Tony's still working (such amazing chemistry!). I was SO excited to hear that she was going to be in Inglorious Basterds and disappointed that they cut her scenes. She's one actor who, like Tilda, I can buy in anything and any role. Plus very few people can make Cantonese Chinese sound as elegant as she does.

I saw Ralph Fiennes in Quiz Show in a high school English class and it sent me digging through his filmography and my Dad's video library. For years, I just couldn't get enough of him (though I skipped "Maid in Manhattan") - I could be repulsed by him ("Schindler's List"), swoon over him ("The English Patient") and every time he speaks, I just want to curl up and fall asleep in his voice. I could see someone like Tom Hiddleston following in his footsteps.

If I could pick runners-up, I'd choose Peter O'Toole, Kirsten Dunst and Russell Crowe. 

If you were in charge of Hollywood for a year, what kind of movies would you greenlight?

At this point, I think I'd greenlight virtually anything that isn't a prequel or sequel. I'd give the go-ahead to works that put story and character development at the forefront; if Lars Von Trier/Kar Wai Wong/Alfonso Cuaron/Hayao Miyazaki/David Lean's ghost are in any way involved with the project, I'd give it an automatic pass to production. And I'd have Christopher Doyle be the DP for everything.

What's the last movie you watched before answering these questions [note: we had this conversation a couple of weeks ago]

I'm embarrassed to say G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but that wasn't a voluntary choice. Can I redeem myself with No starring Gael Garcia Bernal, which I saw the week before with my BFF?

Yes you may. Good choice. Which movie would you love to live inside of?

The Fall. Specifically in Roy and Alexandria's imaginary world, in Eiko Ishioka's costumes.

Name your three favorite movies from each decade: 80s, 90s, and 00s 

80s: My Neighbour Totoro (I grew up on Hayao Miyazaki - I could have easily filled up this section with everything he produced that decade), The Last Emperor, and Ran

90s: LA Confidential, Porco Rosso, Apollo 13

00s: The Barbarian Invasions (my Dad had cancer years ago and passed away in 2010, so I can't tell you how much this movie resonated with me. I was weeping in my seat), Children of Men and Dogville (Trying to narrow down what I loved from this decade drove me nuts. I want to cram Spirited Away, In the Mood for Love and Amelie in here as well)

Thanks Grace! P.S. This picture you sent is amazing! So I GIF'ed it. I cannot  believe you were an extra in Mean Girls. That is so fetch.

GRACE: I was.  Right after the Mathletes victory is announced. Two Lindsay Lohan movies, one with Hillary Duff, a TV movie with Anna Sophia Robb and a handful of TV series, including "Monk"!

NATHANIEL: Well done!


Previous Reader Spotlights
And our imaginary Honorary Reader Oscars go to...
lovely ladies: Mysjkin, Lynn LeeEster, Leehee, Jamie and Dominique 
(and yes we need to hear from more of the girls) 
dashing gents: Peter C, Daniel M, Troy H, Morgan, Patrick, Christian, Lucio, Joey Moser, Zé V, Tony T, Andy H, FerdiK.M. SoehnleinSergioBorja, John, Chris, Peter, Ziyad, Andrew, Yonatan, Keir, Kyle, Vinci, Victor, Bill, Hayden, Murtada, Cory, Walter, Paolo, and BBats


Cold Eyes and Weary Bodies in "Hud"

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot we're celebrating Hud on it's 50th anniversary

Though I readily concede that its my own prejudices as a Yank and a cityboy that get in the way, I rarely associate nuanced feeling with the western genre or artful dialogue with a Texas twang. So Hud (1963) plays like a miracle to me, a major one. This adaptation of Larry McMurty's novel (he would later write screenplays including Brokeback Mountain, which plays like a distant cousin to this 1960s masterpiece) never feels anything less than authentic in its Southwestern reality and yet its pure poetry. Consider this callous but perfectly sculpted line of dialogue from Hud (Paul Newman in arguably his finest hour) to his nephew Lon (Brandon deWilde) who is worrying about Homer's (Melvyn Douglas), the paterfamilia's, waning health. 

Happens to everybody - horses, dogs, men; nobody gets out of life alive

But I'm not really here to talk about the rough beauty of the dialogue in Hud -- though it's never far from my mind -- but the language of the eyes and the body delivering it. And, I rush to add, the award-winning cinematography and composition which package the unimproveable ensemble up so potently. Look at the shadows and the way Newman, bathed in light, become a handsome devil (essentially the truth of his character) his famous blue eyes less like inviting pools of water than icy death. 

But we'll return to close ups shortly. Much of Hud is shot in medium and long shot and everywhere you look, limbs are dangling and swaying and whole bodies are sneaking brief moments of rest, perched on porches, settling into chairs, or suggestively refusing to leave their beds. Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal, as the family's housekeeper Alma, both won deserved Oscars for their inspired work, and they beautifully capture not just the details of their characters but the physicality of people who've worked their bodies every day of their lives whether cattle rustling or scrubbing dishes. The younger characters Lon and Hud, are less exhausted, though there's still a kind of future arthritic effort to their jerky performative posing. 

runner up for best shot. Hud is a big deal

Lonnie: I'll go with you Hud.
Hud: What big deal you got lined up, sport -  a snowcone or something?"

Take one of the best scenes in Hud on the porch of the family house while the characters eat peach ice cream and enter and exit the frame without the camera following them (though Hud is quite cinematic, this particular scene is blocked like a play). Lon and his granddad have a fascinatingly evasive exchange about Hud's dead brother (Lon's dad) and why Homer dislikes his only living son "He knows. You don't need to." Douglas delivers each line with evasive though never rude gruffness, his cards held tight to his chest. When Hud enters the scene and announces a run into town, Lon shifts his attention to the uncle he idolizes but doesn't understand. There's this exquisitely telling funny shot of him mirroring Hud's pose -- while Hud mocks him but invites him to tag along anyway. How brilliant that it takes a second to even figure whose shadow is thrown onto the wall.

The withholding father and his ungrateful child finally  have it out in the film's centerpiece, a truly seismic emotional clash (the first hour being foreshadowing tremor and the second cruel aftershock) which Hud believes is entirely about his dead brother - the son Homer adored - which Homer denies. The righteous father tears into Hud as a man without principle, without empathy for his fellow man, without care for the world around him. Hud listens with silent hostility (he knows it's true) in one of the most gloriously lit and perfectly acted close-ups in all of cinema - my choice for best shot - as water from the well drips down his angry face. That's the closest he'll ever get to human tears in the film though Hud may have once shed them for the mutual loss that ripped them apart 15 years earlier. His cool eyes shift with a cruel smile as the room falls silent until he finds an unexpected nonsequitor to hurt both of them, and shoves the dagger in.

his mamma loved him but she died

My mamma loved me but she died."

This scene never fails to tear me up inside and deeply impress me for myriad reasons but precisely for the writing, the lighting, blocking and precise direction by Martin Ritt (Norma Rae, Cross Creek, Sounder) and the peak moment of Newman's indelible cold, cruel star turn.

Frank Langella the actor recently dissed Paul Newman's acting reputation in his memoir "Dropped Names: Famous Men & Women as I Knew Them" saying that while he was a great movie star he was not a great actor. His reasoning was that Newman lacked the one thing that Langella figures all great actors have - danger.  I can only surmise that Langella never saw Hud. For Paul Newman was both a great movie star and a great actor and Hud is the proof of it. Even if his career had ended there he'd still be legendary. There's enough danger in his hostile beauty in Hud to scar everyone in his orbit. 

Hud: I don't usually get rough on my women. Generally don't have to. 
Alma: You're rough on everyone. 

Other "Best Shot" Must-Reads on Hud For its 50th Anniversary




Iron Podcast

Bet you thought we were done talking about Iron Man Three. Nope. The guys at Panel Culture, a comic book podcast so good it makes me want to read comics again, invited me to talk about Marvel's latest billion dollar grosser and I gladly obliged. Some of you will have even talked to Owen, the host, in the comments right here at TFE so you know he's good people. 

me, my iron man three(d) glasses and the iron man sketch i doodled on my iphone waiting for the movie to start

While the subject is mostly the Iron Man franchise we also stray into other Marvel flicks as well as X-Men and personal comic-book lore. (The first I ever remember holding in my hands --  and I held it as it were holy scrit - was that mutant mag) Even if you are done with Tony & Pepper and don't wanna hear me yammer about them, you should definitely give other episodes of Panel Culture a listen if you're at all into comic books.


Open Thread Into Darkness

Behold my "best shot" from Hud (1963)

NOT REALLY. See, that is my favorite shot in the 1963 classic and my favorite shot does take place in the black of night but my screencap trickery is mysteriously failing me today and all I'm getting is this blankness when Paul Newman's beauty should be readily visible to the eye. So my post will be up in the morning. If you're still wanting to watch this masterful film, please consider your own late entry in the black of night tonight or any time tomorrow. Or go visit these Best Shot participants to read their takes on the movies: We Recycle Movies , The Film's the Thing, Film Actually, The Entertainment Junkie, and Antagony... It's one of the great 60s films and mysteriously little talked about today.

In the meantime, WHAT'S ON YOUR CINEMATIC MIND? Seen anything good lately?


Sky Falling For A Second Time

JA from MNPP here, with the word that Sam Mendes is back in talks to direct another James Bond movie, after having removed himself from the conversation back in March. I found the news that he wasn't doing it earlier this year more surprising than this news today that he is - Skyfall was the biggest moneymaking Bond ever, not to mention scoring the franchise its first Oscar since 1965, and it seemed pretty cut and dry that he'd want to help Daniel Craig back into his blue trunks for another go-round (wouldn't we all). 


Personally I had sort of a weird reaction to Skyfall - I loved it the first time I saw it, only to sense a precipitous decline with subsequent viewings - it didn't hold up for me at all, once that initial thrill wore off. But it sure was beautiful to look at, the cast was great, and with it ending right where the first Bond movie Dr. No began maybe Mendes can make a slightly less bloated, less self-serious movie this time. And maybe give the terrific Naomie Harris something real, besides Daniel Craig, to chew on!


On the real down-side, I totally want Kate Winslet to be a Bond girl, and I don't think it's going to happen with Mendes leading the charge (I don't care what their pr people tell me - nobody's post-marital relations are that good). What do we think about Mendes heading back into Bond waters? are we sad that Nicolas Winding Refn isn't happening?

May Flowers in "Bright Star"

Andrew here using May Flowers celebrations to talk about one of my favourite 21st century films.

If you asked me to pick a single image to represent movies from 2000 onwards chances are that I’d choose this specific image from Jane Campion’s Bright Star. It’s still one of those movie images seared into my brain, four years after I first saw it. Campion’s 2009 film has so many things going for it, and Greg Fraiser’s peerless cinematography is somewhere towards the top. It’s not quite my favourite film of its year but it is, easily, my choice for “most beautiful” and that’s not just because it has the prettiest couple heading its romance. [more...]

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Stage Door: Showgirls with Kinky Boots

I'll be out of the country for the Tony Awards this year on a much needed vacation but before they arrive I thought I'd share with you my final theatrical experiences of the season, the first of which is way Off Broadway (though close to Broadway geographically)  and the second is one of your major Tony contenders.

Both of them adapted from movies because that is what gets financed these days!

Elizabeth Berkeley (Nomi Malone) and Rena Riffel (Penny/Hope) in Showgirls (1995)

Showgirls: The Musical is playing Wednesdays and Saturday nights at XL Nightclub. I raced to see it with friends since I love the movie so much. Plus I was fascinated that "Penny" herself, excuse me, "Hope" ("no one wants to fuck a Penny!"), the actress Rena Riffel, is reprising her role for the stage. She's self-aware enough to embrace Showgirls infamy as a career (she's also the star of the straight to DVD Showgirls 2: Penny's Revenge) the way C list stars of certain sci-fi programs end up as geek convention regulars hawking their wares. It's a honest living! I totally wanted to hug her or at least let her sign my ass or something. What a good sport! [more on Showgirls and "Kinky Boots" after the jump]

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