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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Guest Actress in a Drama
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Wednesday
Apr202016

Review: Confirmation

Kieran, here. Politics, even at their most abstract are ultimately personal. At its best moments, HBO's Confirmation directed by Rick Famuyiwa’s (Dope) and written by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) understands this. Anita Hill’s (Kerry Washington) 1991 allegations of sexual harassment against Justice Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce) on the eve of his confirmation to the US Supreme court is a subject about which few who can remember are indifferent. Who was lying and about what? What did the Anita Hill’s testimony say about the positions of gender, race and political alignment in this country? These are the kinds of questions that evoke vociferous, often angry opinions and the film doesn’t offer up easy answers.

The truth of whether Clarence Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill is secondary. Thomas, as rendered by Pierce in what is actually a small role with few spoken lines, is a beleaguered public figure, forced to defend himself and deal with the consequences these allegations had on his personal and professional life. I say this not to imply that Thomas is innocent (I’ve always thought he was guilty). But, as is often the disgusting and sad truth about men who commit these crimes, they’re not always technically lying when they maintain their innocence under oath. In order for it to truly be a lie, these men would have to believe that they did anything wrong in the first place. Whatever mental gymnastics Clarence Thomas had to go through in order to get to this place, his own words and Pierce’s subtle but precise performance clearly illustrate that Thomas does not believe he was guilty of any wrongdoing. When the film is examining the implications of a culture that allows men to make these leaps and how it turns victims into villains, it shines and Pierce is a key component of what makes this element works. He opts not to turn Thomas into a monster for it’s not the “monsters” who violate women and irrevocably damage lives. They are simply people, a much truer and scarier fact to fathom.

more...

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Wednesday
Apr202016

Lukewarm off the Presses: Hamilton, Banks, Anastasia, Cloak & Dagger. Plus Tony Buzz!

Nathaniel, back from the Nashville Film Festival where I juried on the "New Directors" competition. More on that once our awards are announced. Until then, I'm under hush order. But let's catch up on all sorts of movie & entertainment news that happened over the past handful of days that we didn't cover here.

• Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer for his Broadway smash Hamilton and, giddy squeal, The New Yorker's television goddess Emily Nussbaum won the Pulitzer for criticism. If you haven't read her, you must. She's just wonderful.
The Golden Globes have clarified their rules for what drama and comedy mean in a probably futile attempt to get campaigns to stop trying to game the system.
• I forgot to mention that teen superhero duo Cloak and Dagger are getting their own TV show (yay! always loved them in the comic books) but Kate Beaton has two words for you "tit windows"
• Elizabeth Banks plans to direct a revival of the Charlie's Angels franchise and she's also playing the villain in the new Power Rangers movie resulting in a horrifying photo.
• Beloved bossy TV mom Doris Roberts has died. The supporting actress won 4 Emmys for her role on Everybody Loves Raymond and also had memorable roles on St. Elsewhere (another Emmy win), Remington Steele, and Angie. She was not only well loved by audiences but co-stars too.
• Carrie Fisher has officially blamed George Lucas for inspiring her writing career because his Star Wars dialogue was so terrible
• Johnny Depp and Amber Heard made some sort of weird apology video for that dog business in Australia
• Adapting animated features into Broadway musicals isn't just for Disney anymore. Anastasia (1997) becomes a stage musical this summer in London and is eyeing the 2016/2017 Broadway season
• There are some who are suspicious that this news is not really official but Nicole Kidman is supposedly returning to Broadway this fall with Photograph 51, after its London run
• Industry people got really excited about 3D high frame rate footage from Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk at a Future of Cinema Conference
• The Academy is STILL trying to explain their new voting rules. So do we get it now?

RANDOM CASTING & DATE SHIFTS
No links just news ICYMI: Daisy Ridley will headline a new film from Marielle Heller, director of Diary of a Teenage Girl called Kolma, a 'mystical' romance; Willem Dafoe joined Justice League (role unknown); Walton Goggins has replaced Joe Manganiello (they're so alike. um...) in History Channel's forthcoming Navy SEALs series Six; Naomi Watts will headline the Netflix psychological thriller series Gypsy (not the musical!) in which she plays a therapist who gets mixed up in her client's lives; Kurt Russell & Kate Hudson will star in the TV series Barbary Coast, a period drama about the gold rush in the 19th century; Kate McKinnon may star in the new back-to-school comedy Senior Year; Nicole Beharie, who was so amazing in Shame (2011) and then starred in TV's Sleepy Hollow, will play the lead female role in the remake of 90s thriller Jacob's Ladder; The Golden Globes will take place on January 8th, 2017 this coming awards season. 

THIS JUST IN
Slightly fresher news before we go

Two of Broadway's Funniest Ladies: Laura Benanti & Jane Krakowski, in "She Loves Me"

• Doug Kraner, a production designer on TV's "Gotham" and several movie hits including Uncle Buck, Sleeping with the Enemy and Enough, has passed away.
• A24 is on board a new James Ponsoldt (Spectacular Now) project a true story drama based on the book "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution"
• The Tonys are coming. The Tonys are coming. That means precursor madness. Yes, as with the Oscars there are many precursors to the Tony Awards. The Outer Critic Circle Nominees and Drama League have already announced their nominees (with Drama Desk to come next week). Since all the groups have slightly different rules for eligibility Hamilton is out of the way for some of the precursors (though obviously not for Tony) since it was eligible while it was Off Broadway last season. With the 800 lb gorilla caged (for the moment) that means good news for other musicals: She Loves Me, American Psycho, Bright Star and The Color Purple all appear strong going into the Tony nominations. The schedule is as follows:

April 28th. Drama Desk Nominations
May 3rd. Tony Award Nominations
May 20th. Drama League Awards (Hosted by Megan Hilty & Zachary Levi)
May 26th. Outer Critics Circle Awards 
June 5th. Drama Desk Awards (Hosted by Michael Urie)
June 12th. Tony Awards (Hosted by James Corden)

P.S.
Meryl Streep also recently spoke at the "Women in the World" summit and at the end of her speech she sings a snippet from Hamilton making this an even better week for Lin-Manuel Miranda and the upcoming Tony Awards.

 

Wednesday
Apr202016

Califórnia at Tribeca

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Manuel on "Califórnia".

California could very easily have been called "Diary of a Teenage Girl." In fact, Estela, the young Brazilian teen in the 1980s at the heart of Marina Person’s film, would get along swimmingly with Minnie Goetz. They share not only a passion for eclectic art (visual in Minnie’s case, musical in Estela’s) but also a growing awareness of their own body and their sexual desires. I hate opening reviews with comparisons like these but Person’s film works so much like a beautiful companion to that other coming of age tale that I wish I could’ve caught them back to back. They have plenty to say to one another about teenage girls, sex, and the ways we seek in artistic outlets as a way to make sense and escape our own lives. Scored by what may well be the hippest mixtape soundtrack at the festival (Bowie! Joy Division! The Cure! New Order!), Person’s film even manages to lace through Estela’s story (via her uncle Carlos who’s come home from the west coast state from the film’s title) an AIDS subplot that doesn’t devolve into melodrama or mere background scenery.

Grade: B

Wednesday
Apr202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Chin Up! Cheerio! Carry On!"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

1941 was a year of beginnings and endings for Judy Garland. It was the year of Judy's last Andy Hardy film (Life Begins for Andy Hardy, wherein nobody sang). And she wasn't just growing up on film - 1941 was also the year of Judy's first marriage: to David Rose, the musical director of the Tony Martin Radio Show. At only 19, Judy Garland was transitioning from child sensation to full fledged star.

 

The Movie: Babes on Broadway (1941)
The Songwriters: E.Y. Harburg (lyrics) and Burton Lane (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Virginia Weidler, Fay Bainter, Margaret O'Sullivan, directed by Busby Berkeley.

 

The Story: As the country entered World War II, the Freed Unit was lining up a series of nostalgia-inflected new hits starring Judy Garland for MGM. While Babes on Broadway looks at first glance like the typical "let's put on a show" backyard musical of 30's Mickey and Judy, some palpable differences manifest. First, there's the emphasis on Americana and patriotism, from Judy urging young British youths on in "Chin Up Cheerio!" to the (racist blackface) closing number, "Robert E Lee." This was the influence of World War II. Though Pearl Harbor happened mere days before Babes on Broadway was released, national sentiment was already turning towards the patriotic messages that would define wartime Hollywood. However, the movie's bigger hit was a more conventional Judy Garland number "How About You?"

In many ways, Babes on Broadway looks and sounds like the old Judy and Mickey - the two doe-eyed lovebirds sing to each other at a piano or on a stage while Mickey pulls faces. However, there are two marked differences: First, Mickey is no longer the focus of the movie - the two actors share camera equally. Second, Garland has graduated from the giant lace sleeves and tulle-lined skirts of "in-between" childish Judy, instead dressed fashionably in the latest style. Ziegfeld Girl and Little Nellie Kelly had proven Judy's talent was mature. Now it was time for her star image to reflect that transition, too.

Tuesday
Apr192016

Best Shot: The Beguiled (1971)

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot subject is Don Siegel's fascinating whatsit called The Beguiled (1971). It's little like Siegel's other collaborations with his muse Clint Eastwood and assigning it to a genre is also difficult both of which might explain its fairly quiet reputation. With the news coming that Sofia Coppola will soon be remaking it, our eyes drank every frame up. And wow is this story of a wounded Yankee grifter in A Confederate girl's school ripe for a revisit. You might say that imagining how Coppola's halflidded female gaze might view this is nearly as exciting as the movie itself but in some ways it already feels like a Sofia Coppola film. Profound interest in sensual and anthropological gazing at the desires of women who can't articulate their desires? Check!

Some of the English language posters are hilariously false, suggesting it's a shoot-em-up manly western. One poster actually has four men on it when Eastwood is the only man of significance in the movie and practically the entire film involves a group of women buzzing around and hypnotized by the sick man in their midst. So I've illustrated with a French poster that feels right.

Best Shot choices are after the jump...

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Tuesday
Apr192016

We Could Be Equals Just For One Day

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason on Equals.

I'd be curious to know if Lil Nicky Hoult got into his parents Blockbuster stash around the tender age of eight and saw some things he wasn't supposed to see... like perhaps the 1996 film Trainspotting and the 1997 film Gattaca? Because he's totally spent the past year trying to remake the two of them. Kill Your Friends, the Trainspotting wannabe, has already come and gone without much love lost or gained, and now we have Equals, a shiny "doomed by science fiction" romance for the Swipe Right Age.

Equals - the tale of a gleaming future where emotion's verboten - makes a much more successful case for itself. Yes it echoes Andrew Niccol in every perfume-ad pretty shot, all futuristic silvers and golds shimmering beneath the camera's upturned palm. You've never seen skin as devastatingly luminescent as Hoult's here - he resembles nothing less an unnamed organism from under the sea seeing light for the first time, a spectacle of unspeakable translucence squinting at the sun.

His purity has a point and a purpose though, beyond just its usual pretty surface charms - his cheeks flood with color, bathing the screen and the palette, pinkening, tells us he's seeing what a lot of us have for awhile now... namely hot damn, Kristen Stewart, you're on fire! Burn it up!

Yes, the other half of this romance is no stranger to the soft glow of twilight (you know, Twilight) but far from sullen here KStew is a barely contained nervy jangle, a tremor, dark eyes sunken in a sea of foam. She makes you lean in, which is what this romance needs - look closer. Closer. And once you do, once you're spinning in their orbit, wham, that's that. You're under. They make a surprising pair but they work, and there's defnitely a queerness to it - they're meeting in the middle, gender-wise, with their utilitarian costuming and eyelashes for days; love like an invention, self-built, new and shiny... so shiny it stings.

Grade: B