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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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Sunday
Dec082013

FYC: The Conjuring for Best Sound Editing

We're looking at our favorite fringe awards contenders just to widen the conversation. Here's Tim Brayton on the year's biggest horror hit.


Since as far back as the thudding echo of footsteps that stalked Jane Randolph in 1942's Cat People, savvy horror directors have understood that one of the surest ways to wring the audience into a terrified frenzy isn't to wage a frontal assault on our sense of taste with gallons of stage blood and pig organs, but to instead mount a side attack on our ears. Some of the scariest movies of all time have gotten that way above all because of their skillful use of sound effects, and the sound editing in director James Wan's terrific The Conjuring - led by supervisor Joe Dzuban - is so hugely important that it was even foregrounded in the film's outstanding teaser trailer. Anybody can show a ghost jump out of the darkness to give you a quick, cheap freak out. It takes genius to get the same jolt from of the well-applied use of harsh, distant clapping.

And if that's the only thing that The Conjuring had to recommend its audio landscape, we could stop right there - a terrific setpiece is fine, but not the stuff that year-end recognition is made of. But while the Clapping from Hell is easily the *showiest* aspect of the film's soundtrack, it's not at all the most important. For that, we might sooner listen to the frequent near-silence that penetrates the story's central haunted hause: to create the idea of a place that hums with danger and malevolence, the sound team literally built in humming, a deep vibration in the bass that frequently crops up just to mess with our perception. And then, there's the hard flatness of the "normal" sounds, which land on the ears with a sort of shrill hollowness. The sound contributes significantly to the feeling that this house where so much of the film's terror occurs is a dead, suffocating place.

In all great horror, the effect on the viewer isn't just created by the big gestures, but by a backdrop which permits those gestures to hit with the most impact. That describes the distorted sound of The Conjuring to a T: unrealistic and vivid and deeply unsettling. This horror hit is not dignified enough to attract trophies, but the craft, and the glorious way it knocks the viewer around, is as impressive and effective as anything with more overt artistic aspirations.

previous FYCs
Actor Tye Sheridan | Editing Stories We Tell | Screenplay In a World... | Supporting Actor Keith Stanfield | Song The Great GatsbyScore Nebraska | Costume Design Lawrence Anyways | Foreign Film Neighboring Sounds | Supporting Actress Cameron Diaz | Picture The Spectacular Now | Make-Up Warm Bodies | Sound Mixing World War Z | Director Edgar Wright | Production Design The Conjuring | Supporting Actor Ulysses the Cat

Saturday
Dec072013

American Horror Story: Sound of Music

This thing on my DVR was the 4th season pilot, right?  

I kid I kid. But horrified I was. If you miss live "events" it's difficult (one might say pointless) to write about them later so I promise to be quick about this. What I enjoyed far more than the show, which I caught a day later, was catching up on the articles and tweets about the show wherein people either hilariously skewered it or contorted themselves memorably to find nice things to say or excuse its Carrie Underwoodedness. Her acting was far far worse than I'd been told, recalling Julianne Moore's dead on approximation of porn star acting in Boogie Nights only dumber and with less of a nose drip to help with the dead eyes. I initially was surprised that Carrie wasn't oversinging it but the surprise soon faded because after the hills came alive with the sound of music she decided to shout-sing the rest. Not a wise choice when the poor girl couldnt even make it up and down the Von Trapp family staircase without breathing heavily. It was absolutely mean to pair her with musical performers as gifted as Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald, two of Broadway's richest voices... neither of whom ever need this silly oxygen thing to get through a long-ass musical phrase. Vampire Bill was a better match for Carrie (albeit not chemistry-wise) with his shaky voice bringing him down to her shaky-acting level (somewhat). 

I should say that I was less surprised than most people seemed to be that the stage musical is so different from the film. I've seen it performed live before and though critics are generally unkind to the film version it's one of those rare adaptations that improves on virtually everything from its source material structurally in terms of song order and character arcs and even in pacing though it's longer. Plus it's got Julie Andrews who you know, owns all when it comes to twirling around on mountaintops or believably portraying both sexual longing and religious piety in equally wholesome and relatable ways as Maria. I know it's uncool among cinephile's to consider it great cinema or whatever. But I do. Full stop. The Sound of Music became its best self in the translation to the big screen. 

we must've done something good to deserve the 1965 classic

The gargantuan ratings suggest that more "live" musical events are on the way. It has to be family friendly so why not Oliver! which could use the legacy resuscitation? Since giving the stuff away never seems to hurt actual sales of entertainment (weird, that) they could even do something that's about to be a movie like Annie or Into the Woods. Or why not something more contemporary that not everyone can afford to see on Broadway. Why not The Lion King or Wicked even since that movie is clearly never going to happen. I'm thinking about Wicked constantly these days because of its doppelganger Frozen and "Defying Gravity"'s doppelganger "Let it Go" , and because of these drawings by Oscar nominated animator Minkyu Lee, and the rumored Idina & Taye breakup (sniffle. is that true? they were so adorbs together) and the possibility that Idina might perform on Oscar night. I'd rather think about Wicked right now, okay?!  My beloved Sound of Music is in a hospital in Austria somewhere recuperating. It's a survivor. I have confidence it will live to spin on mountain tops once more.

Saturday
Dec072013

European Film Award Wi -- what? Scorsesaywhat? 

I watched a bit of the European Film Awards live streaming earlier today and the first sight that greeted me was Anke Engelke looking like she'd stepped out of the Capitol to announce the next Hunger Games. The only thing she got wrong was that her hair and makeup were too demure. Tim said she looked a "teensy bit too lindt bunny" which made me giggle.

While attempting to watch the show I was pulled into an endless twitter debate about misogyny and glorification/condemnation thereof in The Wolf of Wall Street - a conversation which I expect will rage throughout awards season unless the veritable army of Scorsese stans succeeds in stamping out open discussion about the movie's merits; they're weirdly adamant that one should only do adrenaline fueled wolf howls at it which is, I don't mind saying, one of the worst things that can happen to a movie that merits any kind of considered conversation.

SOOOOOO, while I didn't make it all the way through the EFAs and am ashamed to note that I missed Catherine Deneuve's tribute altogether (argh) here are 5 thoughts from the ceremony...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec072013

Team FYC: "The Great Gatsby" for Original Song

This FYC series brings together all Film Experience contributors to highlight our favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Andrew Kendall on a tune from Gatsby, a movie which just won two Grammy  nominations

Too often when we consider original song contenders we tend to focus on the lyrics at the expense of the music but my favourite number of Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby soundtrack manages to excel on both levels. Considering “Over the Love” lyrically, it would win in the battle in find which song has the most fidelity to its source novel. It features references to the “yellow dresses”, “green light” and that “ocean in the way”. But, it’s the musical arrangement of the song which takes it from lovely song into a true contender. I like Luhrman’s Gatsby, even though it falters in an example of reach exceeding grasp. What “Over the Love” manages to do is retain the steady rise from sanguine charm to a heady feverish climax with aplomb, which seems to be what Luhrman is going for but doesn't quite succeed at.

The song begins with the piano as its sole accompaniment and the faintest howling of winds in the background – ominous. The song continues as you expect, verse + chorus + verse + chorus with the piano and a steady percussive sound marking time as well as suggesting a subtle sense of time running out. Then, with a minute and a half left it's launched into the bridge with the evocative line.

“Cause you’re a hard soul to save, with an ocean in the way. But I’ll get around it.”

It's an unsubtle lyric, recalling Gatsby’s own vow to return to Daisy. The lovers are divided by water in the present day where the chasm of  the space between East Egg and Long Island Sound in West Egg separates. But, it's also the Atlantic Ocean, more water, which separates them when Gatsby heads off to war. The double meaning is a nice touch, but it's oddly chilling in the way its rendered ominously, as much a promise as a threat when sung by Florence. And instead of a bridge + chorus + ending like most ballads, Florence’s “cry” leads us into the freneticism of the song’s last bars. Everything builds as “I can see the green light. I can see it in your eyes” is repeated building to an agitated climax until the song ends. It does not fade out to an end, like some songs, but ends decisively, abruptly on an utterance of the choral “I can see it in your eyes”. It is as if musically the song has reached this feverish pitch only to abruptly expire.  Like Gatsby’s life, it feels suspended. A song good in its own right, but haunting in the way it ends just at that climax.

On its own, without context to the film's story, “Over the Love” would still be a beautiful song. But the way its wailing tones not just lyrically but musically enhances the film, and is in turn enhanced by knowlege of the film is what makes priceless. It’s impactful in a way songs written for films don’t always manage to be.

Saturday
Dec072013

Who will LAFCA choose tomorrow?

The LAFCA (Los Angeles Film Critics Association) is inarguably an important critics prize in terms of influence and reach to AMPAS. Why? The answer is three fold. First, geography. Second, they're an institution having handed out prizes since 1975 (Dog Day Afternoon + One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was their inaugural best picture decision and their last tie ever for the top prize) Third, they don't stray too far from Oscar's own aesthetics which surely makes them more accessible to voters. In short they're more likely to gently nudge voters than shout bold statements at them.  In their 38 year history to date they've only given their Best Film prize to movies that didn't end up competing for Best Picture 7 times.

Only LAFCA Winners Not To Enjoy Oscar "Best Pic" Nods
Brazil (1985)
Little Dorritt (1988)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995, surely in the dread 6th position w/ Oscar)
About Schmidt (2002)
American Splendor (2003)
WALL•E (2008) 

Trivia: As a general rule they love the films of Alexander Payne so Nebraska will win something tomorrow but a fourth best picture win for a filmmaker who has only made six features will surely feel extravagant to them. They also love subtitled performances in Best Actress (9 wins over their 37 years... which I think you'll agree is a lot) so this is Adèle Exarchopoulus (Blue is...) or Paulina Garcia's (Gloria) best shot to turn acting branch heads.

Repeat Winners? Last year LAFCA honored both Amy Adams (The Master) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook). And -- look at that -- they're now co-stars in American Hustle, the film that won the NYFCC prize earlier this week. If that's too much of a do-over for LAFCA but they're still feeling member-of-the-club generous, Michael Fassbender, Joaquin Phoenix and Alexander Payne are all recent winners who could theoretically triumph again.

Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were celebrated at their awards gala in Jan 2013

What and who do you think they'll go for tomorrow?
The Boston Society of Film Critics (which I'd personally rank as 4th on the scale of important critics prizes, ahead of Chicago merely because they're less fussy and puffed-up "nominations first!" procrastinators about it) also announces tomorrow.

Saturday
Dec072013

Grammy Noms for Gatsby

Somewhere in the past 5 years I lost the thread of popular music -- I can only keep up with so many things and film is obviously my happyplace -- but even when I was firmly ensconced in the music side of pop culture,  the Grammys never made much sense to me. Needless to say I'm lost when it comes to the major nominations though I generally listen in or around the top three categories (Album, Song, Record) to see if something pricks my ears. But I digress. Let's talk about the fields that relate to what we do here at The Film Experience. Grammy has categories for everything including prizes for stage, film and television... but since they're on a different timetable than Oscar, it's a mix of 2012 films and new releases mostly The Great Gatsby that could win Grammy gold.

And the nominees are...

Click to read more ...