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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Drag Race: The Sounds of My Fury

Here, in picture form, is why I've been unable to function whenever I tried to write about RuPaul's Drag Race

somehow the blurry screenshot seemed appropriate so i didn't try again

Laganja Estranja's bottomless need for attention coupled with her lack of deserving any but mostly her limitless capacity for meaningless affectation completely broke me. As did the epic 3 hours of episode last week -- 3 hours in one single night. Turns out that's enough glitter, saturated color, and aural assault to even give Baz Luhrmann pause. But mostly it was Laganja. If I could describe in writing the clucking, mouth popping, meaningless "words" issuing from her frosted lips I would but judge Michelle Visage summed it up brilliantly in a weirdly accurate gibberish approximation of Laganja's unprocessed non-integrated robotic regurgitation of every drag vocal affectation that the show has ever produced. <-- Good lord that last sentence was a mouthful. I'm gagging on it.

Now that Laganja has sashayed away, the aural nightmare is over (the blazing fury I felt from the sounds a fictional "reality" tv character can make surprised me). And I am free to write about the show again. "Halleloo!" (er... speaking of meaningless vocal affectations!) So instead of trying to catch up we'll just proceed from the now for the sake of all of you who are watching. Cher's family members (mother Georgia Holt and son Chaz Bono) guest starred in order to be interviewed by the queens and Courtney Act basically summed of all of their reactions to the camera...

 Not that that excitement helped them focus because for the most part, they were terrible at being talk show hosts. Trinity K Bonet, who sashayed away, was the worst. She kept calling Chaz Bono "Chad" which might have been funny if it were shady but it was just basic incompetence.

Courtney, who didn't suck at TV gabbing at all, won the night with a stunning wing span (the runway theme was animals) and in addition to the feathers (Trinity) and fur (Bianca) and lion-like manes (Adore), Darienne killed it with Elephant tusks, and Ben de la Creme made a fab entrance in a fly costume... even if it tilted more Costume Shop than Cronenberg. "Help meeee"

Group Regret: Everyone at my viewing party wished they could have seen what Milk would have dressed as in this particular runway challenge. Rawr. She left too soon.

Belated Confession: I really like Joslyn Fox as a person in the workroom (if not as a competitor) so I feel bad for how roundly I was dissing her in the first couple of posts. She's not as dumb as she came off... or at least she's people smart.

You can watch the episode right here if you missed it

Are your favorites still your favorites? Or are your allegiances shifting as we rapidly approach the finale?


Eisner Award Nominees

The Eisner Awards, the "Oscars of Comics" have announced their nominations for the current season (they follow more of a Tony Awards timetable) and the results are heavy on Image comics with Marvel scoring in the top "continuing series" category with the current run of Hawkeye. Maybe there's hope for Jeremy Renner's unloved movie hero after all?  Or maybe not. It's up against last year's winner Saga

I want to share two categories that have particular appeal to us here at TFE. They have an adapted category (which sometimes pulls from movies) and a digital comics category and you know I keep trying to start one though admittedly I never fully commit.

Best Adaptation from Another Medium

  • The Castle, by Franz Kafka, adapted by David Zane Mairowitz and Jaromír 99 (SelfMadeHero)
  • The Complete Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, adapted by by Rob Davis (SelfMadeHero)
  • Django Unchained, adapted by Quentin Tarantino, Reginald Hudlin, R. M. Guéra et al. (DC/Vertigo)
  • Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground, by Donald Westlake, adapted by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
  • The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, by Edogawa Rampo, adapted by Suehiro Maruo  (Last Gasp)

Django Unchained, huh? I was hoping everyone was over that post 12 Years a Slave. Please tell me they drew Jamie Foxx's upside down penis in that torture sequence and did justice to the only brilliant part of that movie: Samuel L Jackson as Stephen

Best Digital/Webcomic

The only one of those I'm familiar with (and love) is The Oatmeal. It received another nomination for its wondrously funny and sad short story "when your house is burning down you should brush your teeth" which I've read like five times. But I'll be sure to check these others out. i09 has other days pointing out 51 webcomics that weren't mentioned. I wasn't aware of this but apparently webcomic creators don't think highly of the Eisner committees understanding of webcomics. Like most new media of any medium it takes a while to be understood by old media and the Eisner's have a long long history with print comics.


A Year with Kate: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Episode 16 of 52 as Anne Marie screens all of Katharine Hepburn's films in chronological order.

In which Katharine Hepburn wins it all back and then some.

For Classic Hollywood stars whose images so often transcended or eclipsed the films they appeared in, there often emerges one film that becomes image-defining. This film has the power to stretch forward and back in time, coloring biographical details and even other performances by that actor. It’s the film that will show up in retrospectives and Turner Classic Movies montages, be quoted by fans and impersonators. For Bette Davis, it’s All About Eve. For Gloria Swanson, it’s Sunset Boulevard. For Katharine Hepburn, it’s The Philadelphia Story.

What sets Kate and The Philadelphia Story apart is how deliberately this star-defining was done. Davis was a last-minute replacement for Claudette Colbert, and Swanson was on a list of Pre-Code potentials that included Mae West. But from the beginning, nobody but Kate was Tracy Lord. The part was written for her by Philip Barry, purchased for her by Howard Hughes, and performed by her first on Broadway, then on tour, then finally back on the silver screen again, less than two years after she’d departed. Tracy Lord is Katharine Hepburn, and Katharine Hepburn would spend much of her career playing variations on Tracy Lord.

So who exactly is Tracy Lord?

Click to read more ...


Yes No Maybe So: "Maps to the Stars"

Yesterday two new trailers appeared for David Cronenberg's Maps to the StarsI'm not embedding them specifically because I can't find sharp images (the main one floating around seems like a bad stolen print of a trailer - very underlit) and the international one (NSFW) has too many auto-play ads and works less well as a coherent snapshot of the movie.

I'm hoping Maps skirts the usual trends of public reaction to Cronenberg films. It often follows this pattern:

1. Healthy amount of media coverage and excitement before their films premiere (remember all the A Dangerous Method hoopla?)
2. A curiously muted release (sometimes only limited) with a tiny bit of coverage focused on whichever big star is doing whichever genuinely weird thing they're asked to do in the movie. Think Robert Pattinson getting an enema in the limo in Cosmopolis
3. Almost no follow up conversation online or lines at the box office despite the movies always being genuinely strong conversation pieces...

Click to read more ...


DiCaprio + Iñárritu = ???

I am not, in any way according to the Internet, a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Never mind that I saw him first and was proselytizing about his gift for at least ten years after seeing the double whammy of This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993. Alas, I have no proof of this fact as I was not writing for the internet at the time. But, it is true that I began to sour on him starting with Gangs of New York (2002) the first obvious sign that he was quite fallible indeed and that maybe he needed to be, you know, directed, rather than coddled by the auteurs he blesses with his unusually foolproof bankability. I may be the only person alive who thinks his relationship with Martin Scorsese, The Departed aside, has not been good for developing his once prodigious talent. But at the risk of angering his devout legion again, I feel confident in proposing that he is now in the exact place that his Titanic partner Kate Winslet was in the mid to late Aughts wherein she simply refused to do anything other than try to win statues; prestige piece after prestige piece after prestige piece. Movie stars need more variety than that in their filmography to stay sharp, if you ask me. She won, as many stars of her magnitude did, and so will Leo. And yet, as surely as Kate's fanbase turned on her for "wanting it too badly" and winning for a "lesser" performance, so will they turn on Leo whenever he wins which will undoubtedly be for a lesser performance because that's how 'overdue' Oscars work.

In the meantime he'll just keep trying to win one.

I've been saying for a long time that a light and breezy comedy (something like Catch Me If You Can) would go a long way towards relaxing him on the screen again and revitalizing his heavy and repetitive acting. And maybe it's churlish of me to assume that The Wolf of Wall Street which wasn't quite his best but was certainly his loosest performance since Catch Me... won't be the trigger for the same kind of rejuvenation. But a newly announced project is killing the dream that it might.

Honest question that isn't meant as snark: Is there any director currently working with a heavier hand than Alejandro González Iñárritu? His best film is Powder Keg (2001) and that's precisely because it's so freaking short at 8 minutes that it only has enough time to be sobering and impressive and exciting without overstaying its welcome and smothering the viewer dead in misery as Amores Perros, Babel, Biutiful and 21 Grams did. Otherwise his films are the epitome of the kind of portentously thematic "prestige" mediocrities that are jerry-rigged to be wildly overpraised by virtue of their importance. His next film, which Leo will lead, is The Revenant and it'sbased on Michael Punke's "The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge" which is about a fur-trapping frontiersman left for dead after a bear attack in 19th century Northern America. It's not the bear he wants revenge on but the party that abandoned him.

Maybe DiCaprio's natural tendency toward furrowed brow depression and Iñarritu's natural tendency towards furrowing our brows with depression will cancel each other out and they'll surprise us with a range of feeling in this grisly period drama? One can dream.


Seasons of Bette: The Letter (1940)

Multi-tasking again. Herewith a new episode of three recurring series: Seasons of Bette, "Introducing..." and Hit Me With Your Best Shot in which I, Nathaniel, refuse to show you Bette Davis's face. For here's a perverse truth: none of my three favorite shots of The Letter (1940) include it.

honorable mention: Leslie recounts her crime

Pt. 1 "Introducing..."
Meet Leslie Crosbee, murderess. We're only one minute into the movie when she unloads six shots purposefully nto the back of one Geoff Hammond who is attempting to escape her house. He doesn't make it beyond the foot of her steps. Her face is a frozen severe mask as she drops the gun. It's Bette Davis's most potent entrance into a movie yet.

Where the hell do you go after your protagonist makes an entrance like that? To her confession, as it turns out. William Wyler, here adapting a play by W. Somerset Maugham, is appreciated today mostly as a great actor's director, but he's so much more than that. He's not content to rest on the power of his actors alone, despite the three Oscars and multiple nominations they'd already received at this point. In one of his boldest moves, he even lets the entire cast turn their backs on us -- this movie is cold -- while Mrs Crosbee calmly recounts an attempted rape and the resultant murder in great detail. The camera (cinematography by Oscar favorite Tony Gaudio) becomes a kind of detached slave, following Bette's vocal cue and showing us now vacant rooms, steps and floorboards, as if it exists only as an empty stage for her drama. Given how rapturously and literally shady our leading lady is (oh the sinister cast shadows of film noir!) it's not much of a spoiler to tell you that she's a liar.

best shot: the equally shady widow

Pt. 2 Best Shot
The title character in this noir, is an incriminating letter written by Leslie which is in the possession of Mr Hammond's mysterious Asian wife (Gale Sondegaard in "yellow face"). The movie is casually racist, a product of its time, or at least suggestive of the casual racism of its time. Leslie's lawyer remark that Hammond's marriage to this woman, immediately makes the colonist of questionable character and thus presumed guilty of the rape Leslie has accused him of. And Leslie herself is the most verbally racist of the film's characters, grotesquely repulsed by Mrs. Hammond

Then i heard about that -- that native woman Oh, I  couldn't believe it. i wouldn't believe it. I saw her walking in the village with those hideous spangles, that chalky painted face, those eyes like a cobra's eyes. 

But fortunately for the film, this fetishistic attention to Mrs Hammond's "exoticism" in any scene in which she appears actually serves to level the playing field. That's especially true of this scene which is tricked up in every way possible with "Asian" signifiers in the scoring, decor, and "dragon lady" costuming (it's worth noting that Mrs Hammond is the only Asian in the film costumed and presented this way as if she's barely real at all but a projection of Leslie's own jealous and racist obsession with her). And in this case, doesn't one have to excuse or even applaud all the exoticism? If you're going to engage in an epic staredown with Bette Davis in which she must suddenly be cowered by you, you'd better bring it by any means necessary. Sondegaard and the cinematography do.

In a curious way, though, The Letter's most fascinating character is the man with six bullets in his back. What kind of a man could own the vengeful hearts of two such lethal women? In his own stiff way he's the perfect embodiment of film noir's powerfully confusing phobic relationship to the female gender. It loves them like no other genre while also living in perpetual fear of their power and agency.

runner up shot: Guadio & Wyler find several great uses for Bette's hands in this film. I love her fingerprints grazing her victim here.

To be Continued...
Tonight at 10 PM we'll post the visual index of all Best Shot entries for this famous noir. 
Thursday Seasons of Bette continues, back-tracking one year for Dark Victory since we fell behind.


Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Visual Index ~ The Letter (1940)

William Wyler's The Letter (1940) was nominated for seven Oscars in 1940 and remains a compelling example of two essential noir staples: dramatic lighting and the art of the femme fatale. I was watching it for Seasons of Bette, but the dramatic cinematography and Bette's heyday called out for a closer investigation from multiple sets of eyes...

The Letter's 11 Best Shots
in rough chronological order (click on the image for the 12 corresponding articles)

Her body language that it bleeds such layers into her character...
-A Fistful of Films

When William Wyler controls the moonlight, it shines with the all power of a Hollywood spotlight...
-We Recycle Movies

'Oh, it was all instinctive. I didn't even know I'd fired.'
- Sorta That Guy 

The right blend of scared innocent and hardened survivalist, enough to be believable to her in-movie audience while sending out signals to the theater audience... 
- Alison Tooey

We are witnessing a flashback occur in the present without leaving the scene...
- The Film's The Thing 

The shadows of blinds in the protagonist’s face might be something that we now immediately associate with film noir...
-Coco Hits NY

Wyler is founding noir right here...
- Cal Roth 

This fetishistic attention to Mrs Hammond's "exoticism" actually serves to level the playing field...
 - The Film Experience 

But what I really love about this particular shot is the costuming...
-Entertainment Junkie

 It's almost like a standoff in a Western, except the women aren't on equal footing... 
- Film Actually

One of the most visual performers of the sound era offers up an entire film's worth of great expressions...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

I try to think this is the moment where the film ends...
-Manuel Betancourt 


Next Tuesday night (April 22nd)
Disney's POCAHONTAS (1995). Can you sing with all the colors of the wind? If so, please join us by selecting your best shot. The more pairs of eyes, the better the cinematic visions. [More Upcoming "Best Shot" Episodes]