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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, or by a member of our amazing team as noted.

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Yes No Maybe So - Beauty & The Beast

"Nice teaser but it going to be hard for Disney to top one of their true masterpieces of animation" - Jaragon

 "I don't have high hopes for the principals either, but the real draw is the supporting cast. I'm a NO on McGregor's accent and a YES on McKellen, so put me down as a MAYBE SO." -BD

 "CGI chandeliers? Damn, DIsney, let them build a set." -Jacob

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Monday
Nov172014

The legacy of The Little Mermaid, 25 years later

Tim here, to celebrate the silver anniversary of one of the most important films in the annals of American animation. 25 years ago today – some of you are going to have to brace yourselves, because you’re about to feel very old – Walt Disney Pictures released The Little Mermaid, in one fell swoop rewriting the landscape for family entertainment and animation alike.

As hard as it is to believe now, once upon a time, Disney was an embarrassing underdog, whose theme parks were solely responsible for keeping its saggy movie division propped up. 1989 was only four years removed from the disastrous release of the pricey The Black Cauldron, and the takeover of the company by executives Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, who managed to stabilize the live action filmmaking division, while putting the animation studio under the command of Peter Schneider.

It was Schneider who managed an ambitious and terrifyingly foolhardy plan, concocted by Jeffrey Katzenberg  to restore the luster of Disney animation after a generation or more of mismanagement, by releasing a new animated feature on an annual basis. The first film produced on that model was 1988’s Oliver & Company, a rock-solid hit, but hardly the triumphant return of Disney animation that everyone was hoping for. That came with the second film in Schneider’s plan, The Little Mermaid, and the rest is history.

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Monday
Nov172014

New Trailer: 50 Shades of... Prada?

Manuel here offering an off-beat theory on that new 50 Shades of Gray trailer.

The worldwide phenomena got a Beyoncé-scored trailer that debuted during last week's Scandal which suggests the marketing team at least know who they're courting. "Haunted" really is a great trailer song & when paired with (intentionally?) campy dialogue like

My tastes are very... singular.
Enlighten me then...

it makes for quite the breathy, pulpy trailer, but am I the only one noticing that this trailer makes the film look like an oddly humorless gender-bending fan-fiction of The Devil Wears Prada?

Between the Runway-looking office reception, Jamie Dornan's teased "gird your loins" entrance, and Dakota Johnson's Andy Sachs-esque outfit, I half-expected Dornan's Gray to give us a sibilant monologue on cerulean fabrics. Alas, despite its gorgeous London skyline shots and a "getting ready to meet Mr Gray" setup scene that might as well be scored to KT Tunstall's "Suddenly I See," this trailer doesn't seem to be aiming for the fun and flirty sensibility of that other best-selling novel adaptation. So many moody shots seem right at home in a horror flick (is he stalking her at a... hardware store?) suggest this film will try to battle its sudsy image by wearing a self-serious smoldering scowl. To be fair, Dornan wears those well (anyone else watch The Fall?) and despite an odd accent and a lack of his usually gorgeous facial hair, his Gray is sure to be the most ogled male film lead since the Magic Mike boys dropped trou. Of course, now I'll just keep imagining what Gray would've been in the hands of Streep; might that have netted her her fourth Oscar? I kid, though it does seem odd that this trailer would so openly (if unconsciously) crib images from that 2006 flick, or am I just imagining things?

Check out the full trailer below and tell me you weren't sad when there were no Emily Blunt or Stanley Tucci one-liners to buffer the self-seriousness of it all:

Enlighten me readers, does this new trailer whet your apetite enough to buy a ticket? Are these just words you're scrolling through in hopes I saved a shirtless Dornan shot at the end of the post?

Monday
Nov172014

Beauty vs Beast: I'm Not That Innocence

Howdy folks, Jason from MNPP here with Monday's weekly dose of "Beauty vs Beast" -- you might be forgiven for having mistaken this series for an episode of G.L.O.W. as of late (please tell me that some of y'all are my age and know and love that reference) - it seems like it's been a lot of lady match-ups, I mean. So when I saw that today is Martin Scorsese's 72nd birthday, at first I was all, "Finally I can inject some testosterone in here! Pesci! De Niro! Guns and phalluses and junk!"

But then I looked at Marty's filmography I saw the first thing I always regrettably see these days - namely his last movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. And I haaaaaaated WoWS. And my stomach tumbled. And so in my indignation I turned against the testoterone, and where did that leave me? Lady fight!

 

I know aksing The Film Experience community to even consider a vote against Michelle Pfeiffer is akin to blasphemy, but know this: my vote is for May, May all the way, May got her man and didn't slink away without a fight. All the prime years of Daniel Day-Lewis were hers; nyah nyah nyah Countess Loser.

PREVIOUSLY And speaking of hauling ass to the ladies, last week we trained our eyes on the cutthroat world of high school girls, which also involves a lot of whispers in hallways and note-passing - in the battle for the Queen of Clueless, it's Cher Horowitz who gets the seat at the center of the lunch table. Said Ben:

"Have to go with Cher, due to our shared love of Beavis & Butthead and Snickers. And can you believe they still haven't put R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty? As if!"

Monday
Nov172014

Oscar Prediction Updates. 10 Questions

It's a participatory round! The Oscar Charts are updated in every category but here are ten questions that are on my mind. Try to answer them (or at least some of them) in the comments. 

01. Why am I the only pundit that has faith in Jake Gyllenhaal as a Best Actor nominee?
Many many people were more than wow'ed by his work. I realize that as a non-recovering Gyllenhaalic for many years now my wildcard prediction will be thought of as Wishful Thinking but I've heard so much negativity about Foxcatcher that I'm starting to think only Ruffalo makes it. That makes room for other leading contenders to rise if Carell and Channing are weaker than expected.

02. Can Ava DuVernay and Damien Chazelle both really score Best Director nods? 
The Academy has been notoriously standoffish about female directors. But has the tide turned with all the attention that's been paid to that factoid? Will they admire her grasp of a large canvas or is she still too much of an outsider? Is passion for Whiplash growing or levelling off? I hear it brought up at every industry party like "oh, I LOVED that movie." Or will a Screenplay nomination have to do for 2nd time young director Damian Chazelle? If you think they're missing who do you think would be there instead?

03. Is it insane that I have Birdman leading the nomination tally with 9? 
Divisive formally ingeniuous showbiz meta pictures aren't exactly the norm for the Academy but neither are there all that many of them made. For nominations, passion counts for a lot with #1 placements.  If you don't think it's Birdman, what do you think will lead the pack on Nomination Morning?

04. If Whiplash is not the 5 nomination Best Picture threat that I think it is, does that mean Supporting Actor is an actual race?
Or do you think J.K. Simmons' name engrave on a statue is going to happen regardless? Confession: So rooting for either Ruffalo or Norton to finally win.

Selma's cinematography. Most of it isn't this showy.

05. Can Bradford Young finally get an Oscar nod for Cinematography?
Or will his work on Selma and A Most Violent Year split his support within that branch? 

06. What do you think of TFE's predictions for the Foreign Film 9-wide Finalist List?
Too strong? Too weak? Just right? Which country do you think absolutely shouldn't be underestimated right now?

06. Will anyone remember Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
That was such a big critical and audience deal this summer and it seems like a likely contender in several categories. But is anyone talking about it? Or will it end up like its predecessor with only a Visual Effects nomination despite its incredible Production Design and so on.

08. Who do you want to see performing our Original Song nominees?
I'm just throwing darts at this category because god only knows with the music branch. Is even "Lost Stars" safe since they regularly shun presumed powerhouses in the category? 

09. Interstellar's Reviews Mean...?
We know that some major directors admire it but Nolan has still not been nominated for Best Director. Does the mixed response mean this is closer to The Dark Knights Rises Oscar nomination tally (0) or Inception's (8)

10. Which movie do you think lands the most Oscar nods without a corresponding Best Picture placement?
I suspect that's going to be either Into the Woods, Interstellar or Grand Budapest Hotel depending of course on which doesn't make the list and how many Best Picture nominees we actually get. It can't really be 9 films every year! 

every Oscar chart 

Monday
Nov172014

Review: Rosewater

Michael C. with your weekly new release review...

A key part of Jon Stewart’s appeal is that no matter how maddening the news is he doesn’t lapse into ironic detachment. His isn’t someone throwing up his hands in surrender, but the guy who can’t help but marvel at the variety of ways government finds to sabotage our best intentions and allow stupidity to win out over rationality. So it should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Stewart that Rosewater, his directorial debut, is marked by the same earnest intellectual curiosity.

As director and screenwriter Stewart brings a sly complexity to material that could have been one note or overwrought in other hands. His trademark wit is not absent from the film but it has been restrained and left to simmer under the surface as Maziar Bahari’s months long imprisonment and torture at the hands of Iranian government steadily edges into the realm of absurdity. “Why would a spy have his own TV show?” Bahari protests when his interrogator presents a Daily Show appearance during which he is jokingly referred to as a spy as evidence. It’s a moment of indisputable logic that gets him nowhere, oppressive regimes not being famous for their sense of humor.

Of course, Bahari’s arrest, torture, and solitary confinement for over 100 days was not simply the matter of a joke gone awry. [More...]

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Sunday
Nov162014

AFI Fest's Gala Premieres: 'The Gambler' and 'The Homesman'

Margaret here, reporting from the LA festival beat with short takes on some would-be Oscar contenders.


The Gambler
Screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed), director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and star Mark Wahlberg joined forces on this remake of the 1974 James Caan movie of the same name, and the result is certainly stylish. It's well-shot, coolly assured, and smartly paced. Wahlberg leads the movie capably as Jim Bennett, a man from a rich family with a solid career who has nonetheless dug himself to rock bottom with extravagant compulsive gambling. 

The film is at its best when it engages with the question of why someone whose life is granted so much privilege so systematically pisses it all away. John Goodman, typically scene-stealing as a dangerous loan shark, makes many salient points about Jim's decisions, which are either self-destructive or indefensibly stupid.  To its detriment, the film ultimately succumbs to the impulse to romanticize its protagonist, asking the audience to cheer and respect him when he  finally makes his first sound decision.

The supporting cast is largely excellent; it will surprise no one that Jessica Lange wrings every ounce of personality, pathos, and curdled maternal affection from her few minutes of screentime. Even so, she makes little impact on the movie because, like the protagonist, it brushes her away. The Gambler can claim the dubious achievement of completing the Stock Female Character hat trick: (1) a maternal figure who exists to thanklessly prop up the male lead, (2) a pretty young thing (Brie Larson) who we're told is a stone-cold genius, but is given no development arc and has inexplicable romantic interest in the lead, and (3) a passel of nameless and faceless strippers. Slow clap. 

These are not deal-breakers for every moviegoer, but they're emblematic of the film's general reliance on familiar beats instead of showing us something new.

 

The Homesman
BREAKING NEWS: Tommy Lee Jones smiled upwards of twice when introducing his newest film at AFI Fest. He had glowing things to say about the whole cast, particularly  "the miraculous Hilary Swank", who more than earned her praise. The Homesman is a stubbornly unromantic and prickly western, but Swank anchors it with a very fine, emotionally vivid performance.

The Homesman's portrait of life in the Nebraska Territory is bleak; life is hard, and heroism a luxury. When a town meeting is called to order the transport of three mentally ill women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, and Sonja Richter) back to family in Iowa, their husbands shrink from the task. The staunchly moralistic Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) takes on the assignment, knowing it will be a miserable and dangerous enterprise, because no one else will do it and she knows it must be done. Upon acquiring a traveling companion in a self-interested claim jumper who may be named George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), she sets off with her dead-eyed charges.

There are many well-conceived notes in the movie. A knife fight over a disinterested captive, Mary Bee silently playing an embroidered set of piano keys for lack of a real instrument, a flashback to a passenger's slow break from sanity-- each hints at a poignancy that never feels realized in the film as a whole. The tone occasionally veers into incongruous places-- Tommy Lee Jones' introduction is oddly slapstick, and there's a vengeful sequence in the third act that would have been more at home in Django Unchained-- and while the story doesn't conform to any expected trajectory, neither does it end as strongly as it began. 

The movie didn't leave me sure exactly what story its makers wanted to tell, or at least, it never convinced me of why they were telling it. Even so, it's at times both moving and starkly beautiful, and will not be easy to forget. 

Sunday
Nov162014

Stockholm: Wrapping Up with Uma, Ingmar Bergman and ABBA!

Glenn's last report from the Stockholm Film Festival...

The Stockholm International Film Festival is now over and as I try and drain the last remaining symptoms of jetlag out of my body (not to mention any recurring dependence on restaurant food, great wine, and luxurious European comfort that such a trip offers) it’s time to take one last look back. I will miss seeing the image of Uma Thurman lording over her loyal subjects as I walk down Drottningattan every day.

The FIPRESCI jury – combined of myself, Quirijn Foeken of The Netherlands, and Dieter Wieczorek of France – awarded our price to Hungry Hearts from Italian director Saverio Costanzo. The film stars Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher (you may remember her from I Am Love) as a couple whose impending child brings about an avalanche of potentially fatal paranoia. It was the first film that we saw at the festival and despite some rallying by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s Tales, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, and Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross, it just felt right.

For what it’s worth, this was my top ten, hastily scribbled on a napkin...

(ABBA, Bergman’s chair, drinks with Debra, Force Majeure, and more after the jump…)

 

Now that the winner of #sff14 has been announced, I can share this list of my top ten from the festival and what I voted for.

A photo posted by Glenn Dunks (@glennwithaniphonecamera) on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:20am PST

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