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100 Best of the 21st Century?

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

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Thursday
Feb122015

"The Last Five Years" Is Here

My two favorite Off Broadway musicals of all time have both now made the trek to movie screens. Hedwig and the Angry Inch which I saw thrice in 1999 right after moving to NYC became an instant cult classic in film form thanks to its brilliant creator / star / writer John Cameron Mitchell. He just returned to the role on Broadway (though he's out for a bit after an injury so Michael C Hall is back to fill in for him). The second The Last Five Years took much longer. I saw it during the last week of its original run (whew!) in 2002 and 13 years later it's on screens with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan as the troubled couple Cathy and Jamie who can't quite connect (illustrated narratively by his story moving forward while hers moves backwards through the relationship. It's not the unqualified success that Hedwig was but if you love the movie musical genre you really need to see it because it's a really unique beast.

Radius TWC is distributing which means there aren't many theaters playing it yet beyond Los Angeles, New York and Toronto but it's also available On Demand. On Oscar weekend it expands to several more cities. I'd love to hear from any TFE readers who see it. It's a very unusual musical to adapt since the concept is very theatrical and it's intimate whereas most movie musicals are big glitzy things. Wisely they cast two actors who can sing the hell out of its tremendously satisfying song score.

Two key blog posts in case you missed them...

Anna Kendrick Interview

Nathaniel: "Summer in Ohio"... I LOVE this version.
Anna Kendrick: I'm so glad. It was a ton of work. In the show she's writing a letter but I thought when I'm away from my boyfriend we Skype. And Cathy in that number is not just recounting her day, she's performing for Jamie because even at the beginning of their marriage she’s like “I have to keep him interested. I have to keep him in love with me”... [Read the Rest]

Toronto Film Festival Review

The first thing you see in The Last Five Years is a white brownstone. It looks almost like a ghost in the middle of a New York City block. As the notes begin to play, the camera drifts upwards to peer into windows and search for its movie star within them. No, that's not her.  Not her either. Ah, there she is. Anna Kendrick sings the entirety of "Still Hurting", moping around a dark apartment, crying. The camera moves around her (in strange patterns) and her voice is just beautiful. And then I realize I've forgotten to breathe and am gripping my armrest. [Read the Rest]

 

Thursday
Feb122015

10 Days Til Oscar... What's Your Excitement Level Like?

It's ten days until Oscar night so each day going forward expect "final predictions" for each category and one last look at the 8 Best Pictures. But a quick question: If we can't go back to a 5 wide shortlist  (TFE's preference) would you prefer that AMPAS had stuck with a top ten for symmetry's sake? It's so difficult to compare years with 5, 8, 9, and 10 nominees, you know? If it were still a top ten as it was for two short years (2009 & 2010) which films do you think would have been the two additional nominees in Best Picture this year? It appears obvious that against the odds Foxcatcher, given that "lone director" nomination, was one of them but maybe Nightcrawler wasn't given that it only won a Screenplay nomination?

But we only have 8 movies to deal with this year and since the Oscar race is all subjectivity let's get real objective and rank them by totally measureable stats for a moment.

 

  Box Office Longest To Shortest RT/MC Ratings Most Contemporary to Oldest Setting
 
1 Sniper (284) Boyhood (166) Boyhood (98/100) Birdman (Now)
2 Imitation (75) Sniper (132) Selma (98/89) Whiplash (Now)
3 Budapest (59) Selma (127) Whiplash (95/88) Boyhood (2002-2013)
4 Selma (46) Theory (123) Budapest (92/88) Sniper (1998-2013)
5 Birdman (35) Birdman (119) Birdman (92/88) Theory (1963-1990s)
6 Theory (32) Imitation (114) Imitation (89/73) Selma (1965)
7 Boyhood (25) Whiplash (106) Theory (80/72) Imitation (1920s-1954)
8 Whiplash (9) Budapest (100) Sniper (73/72) Budapest (1930s)

 

I guess I'm in a dark cloud mood today because I thought about adding "most to least onscreen deaths" but I realized beyond 1. Sniper 2. Budapest 3. Selma it was a 5 way tie for the others... unless well, what to do about Birdman? Again I was trying to stick to measureable things for fun this afternoon. And I thought about adding The Bechdel Test because it was just too damn depressing since I think only Boyhood passes it (maybe Birdman and Selma and Theory, too? Only if you're being generous and if they do its just barely)

While we're on the topic, make sure to vote on the Best Picture poll and on the other polls on the individual chart pages. 

 

 

Thursday
Feb122015

Women's Pictures - Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere

Is it trite to start a film review with a Langston Hughes quote? Near the end of Middle of Nowhere, after Rosie (Lorraine Toussaint) yelled out "Every year is next year for you!" I kept thinking of the Hughes poem Harlem“What happens to a dream deferred?” Hughes offered several possibilities, but his final warning rings truest for the characters in Middle of Nowhere:

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Ava DuVernay’s second feature casts an empathetic eye on how the day-to-day particulars of supporting a spouse in prison - the hours of travel, legal battles, fees, bus rides and delayed desires - slowly, inexorably wear down even the most hopeful people. So what does happen for those deferred dream people who wait for next year?

Unlike I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere is not based on personal experience. Regardless, the film feels intensely personal. It’s told from the point of view of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi, in what would be a star-turn if there was any justice in the world). Ruby drops out of medical school and becomes as a night nurse to support her husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick, sullen in a prison jumpsuit or smiling in Ruby’s memories). He is serving an 8 year prison sentence for an initially unvoiced crime. Though Ruby supports Derek financially, legally, and emotionally, her own support system is thin - a doting but directionless sister (Edwina Findley), a mother (Lorraine Toussaint) whose good advice is undermined by poor delivery, and an amorous bus driver (David Oyelowo). The cast is extraordinary, and the film is shot by TFE favorite Bradford Young, but what DuVernay does with her raw materials turns the film from simple melodrama to subtle character study.

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Thursday
Feb122015

Freakshow, Anthology Escape Clauses, and Forgotten Endings

a belated goodbye

Here's how you know a show has lost you: when you forget that you didn't finish watching it. I was faithfully tuning into American Horror Story this past season, and just like every season, I lost interest without realizing I'd lost interest before the finale. It's rather like a tire slowly deflating rather than blowing flat with that horrible disorienting noise.

In the case of Freakshow my attentions were interrupted by Oscar nominations and then awards shows and then Sundance. When I got done with all of that it took me a full two weeks to remember that Freakshow was still sitting there on the DVR waiting. In many ways Freakshow was the best looking season of AHS with the most promising first chapters. But it suffers as Vulture correctly observed from a horrifically ill advised finale, particularly its entire final sequence on Elsa's post-Freakshow career. That was the worst kind of television writing, really: nonsensical, unearned, aggravatingly ignorant of what came before it and beholden to an agenda (Jessica Lange Worship) that the text can't support or in this case actively fought against for an entire season.

More...

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Thursday
Feb122015

Would It Be Truly Terrible If 'Boyhood' Was in Fact About a Racist?

Roland Ruiz with Patty Arquette on the set of Boyhood (image via his Facebook page)Jose here. A recent article on Latino Rebels in which the author claims that Richard Linklater’s Boyhood contains the worst kind of racism has caused a bit of a stir. Grisel Y. Acosta uses the infamous gardener subplot, in which Patricia Arquette’s character unexpectedly turns around the life of the only non-white character (played by Ronald Ruiz) featured in the film, as his basis to explain that the film is racist both by omission (where are all the other Hispanic characters in a film set in Texas?) and also by depicting “the horrific ‘save me White person’ trope” that has been prevalent in American filmmaking since, well, always.

It’s a shame that the article turned up the week when Oscar voting ends, because now it will be dismissed as having an “agenda”, or being part of a “smear campaign”, when the truth is that, beyond silly movie awards, the piece only directs us to a conversation we should have been having since the movie came out.

As a Hispanic immigrant living in the United States, there is not a single week that goes by where someone hasn’t congratulated me for "bothering" to learn English “...and writing it so well”, assumed I was Mexican or Puerto Rican, or when I’m asked by a peer if I went to college, or have a random person ask me if I’m a doorman or a cab driver. I have learned to live with people’s assumptions because of my ethnicity, and I often brush them off, because race is not something that's easy to discuss in this country...

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Wednesday
Feb112015

Most Eligible Links List

Gurus of Gold rank the Best Pictures and possible surprises with a handful of days of voting left
Playbill At Roundabout Theater's Spring Gala "There is Nothing Like a Dame" a who's who of awesome Broadway stars will honor Helen Mirren
Playlist filmmakers who disowned their movies. I didn't know the hilarious Screenplay Oscar trivia situation with Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) , a movie I really loved as a kid
New York Times America's Sweetheart Tom Hanks writes an ode to the value of community colleges.

 

Henry Cavill's Site interviews the actor's stunt man Alainn Moussi who is getting his own lead role in the Kickboxer remake
AV Club HBO's brilliant comedy about nurses in an elderly care ward Getting On is getting one more very short season and then its bye-bye. 
Towleroad Laverne Cox cast in a CBS legal drama pilot Doubt as a trans lawyer. Too bad its not the lead role. That'd really be something.
Cinesnark has a good review of the most recent episode of Agent Carter which has proven itself as a fast, kicky, well acted and really fine TV show. I kinda love it. Agents of SHIELD has improved over its run but Carter's short run has only emphasized how weak it still is; I'm sad it's coming back because that mean Carter is over!

This Week's Must Read
Tilda Swinton gave a glorious wise speech about art and cinema and inspiration at the Rothko Chapel. Here's the full transcript  and I really urge you to read it.

It occurs to me on a regular basis that the cinema carries the potential to be perhaps the most human of all gestures in art: the invitation to place ourselves, under the intimate cover of darkness, into another person's shoes, behind another set of eyes, into another's consciousness. The ultimate compassion machine, the empathy enging.

Here is the darkness.

Here comes the light.

Beautiful. Just beautiful, don't you think?

 

Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Pride) one of our best out actors. Today's 'What Does This Word Mean?' Curiousity
Out revealed their 100 Most Eligible Bachelors list and it's wonderful to swipe through it realizing how many out actors we have now (I knew that once we had a few brave ones people would calm down about it and the floodgates would open) though the list is hardly actors-only. Thankfully the list has plentiful ethnic, age, and national diversity.

But the list is not without controversy because not all of the men are "Out" as it were like Ronan Farrow for example or the actor Jussie Smollett (who plays the gay son on Empire and is the brother of Jurnee Smollett from Friday Night Lights & True Blood). There might be other examples. I hadn't heard that the model Jon Kortajarena was gay either but maybe I just missed that somewhere. Most hilarious is their inclusion of famously NOT out Hobbit actors Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) who has a long history of being back in the closet which My New Plaid Pants lampoons constantly and Lee Pace who has a long history of not being out and recently denying the everyone-assumes Elf-Dwarf love affair with co-star Richard Armitage.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Black History Month: Song of the South's Forgotten Oscar

Tim here to kick off a daily miniseries for the team. It might seem disingenuous, if not outright perverse, to begin The Film Experience's rough chronological celebration of Black History Month by taking at peek at one of the most infamously racist movies ever made, but for good or bad, Song of the South (1946) is an important milestone in the all-too-thin history of African-Americans and the Oscars. Seven years after Hattie McDaniel's groundbreaking Best Supporting Actress win for Gone with the Wind (we recently dove deep into that film else we'd start with her) James Baskett became the very first black man to receive an Academy Award, and the last for 16 years.

Not, mind you, a competitive Academy Award. Baskett was the last adult actor to receive an Honorary Oscar for a single performance (rather than for a career), with the inscription:

For his able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and story teller to the children of the world, in Walt Disney's Song of the South".

[More...]

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