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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
Oct272014

Interstellar Mania in 3...2...1

If you've been on the internet at all in the last half hour you're likely to have seen a tidal wave of Interstellar reviews. The embargo broke on Christopher Nolan's first feature after his release from Batman prison today at 11 AM. The film makes it debut in theaters on Friday November 7th in a variety of formats but see it in IMAX 70 MM because it is epically large and immersive that way.

If you've been putting up with The Film Experience for any length of time you'll know that yours truly, Nathaniel, is not the speediest critic. My interest in screaming "first" is practically less than nil which can be a disadvantage online but it's not who I am. Never cared about it. Never will. Time is a flat circle, yadda yadda yadda. My review is forthcoming at some point. It was meant to go up today but I caught a cold so I may surround myself with screenings and kleenex rather than writing. To Be Determined.

Let if suffice to say for the moment that I liked it and it might well be my favorite Nolan since The Prestige (2006) though it should be noted again that I am not at all indicative of public reaction when it comes to the Internet's Chosen One to whom I am relatively cool. I'm still parsing my thoughts on it but I found it endearing in some of the exact same ways that I normally find his films offputting. Go figure and we'll get to that later. The Oscar Prediction charts are fully updated in all categories.

P.S. It seems people are freaking out about the non-spectacular early RT score already. T'was ever thus with Nolan films

Monday
Oct272014

Rome & London Film Fest Winners

Manuel here to bring you some more film festival news. Toronto, Venice, Telluride and New York are behind us but that doesn’t mean we’re done with film festivals; across the pond, London and Rome have recently wrapped up which means: awards!

BFI London Film Festival (8-19 October)

Official Competition winner – Best Film: Leviathan – Andrey Zvyagintsev (reviewed at Cannes and winner of Best Screenplay at that fest)
First Feature Competition winner – The Sutherland Award:Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy for The Tribe (Critics Week Winner at Cannes)
Documentary Competition winner – The Grierson Award: Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait – Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan (reviewed by Glenn at NYFF)
Best British Newcomer:  Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – actor Catch Me Daddy
BFI Fellowship: Stephen Frears (we were just discussing his new film!)

Rome Film Festival (15-25 October)

BNL People’s Choice Award | Gala - Trash by Stephen Daldry
People’s Choice Award | Cinema d'Oggi - Shier gongmin / 12 Citizens by Xu Ang
People’s Choice Award | Mondo Genere - Haider by Vishal Bhardwaj
BNL People’s Choice Award  | Cinema Italia (Fiction) -F ino a qui tutto bene by Roan Johnson
People’s Choice Award  | Cinema Italia (Documentary) - Looking for Kadija by Francesco G. Raganato

TAODUE Camera D’oro Prize for Best Debut Film
- Andrea Di Stefano director of Escobar: Paradise Lost (Gala)
- Laura Hastings-Smith producer of X+Y by Morgan Matthews (Alice nella città)
- Special Mention: Last Summer by Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli (Prospettive Italia)

DOC/IT Award to the Best Italian Documentary
- Largo Baracche by Gaetano Di Vaio (Prospettive Italia)
- Special Mention: Roma Termini by Bartolomeo Pampaloni (Prospettive Italia)

The big takeaway from Rome is that audiences flocked to Daldry's latest -- that is, in fact, what the prize represents as it was tabulated by tickets purchased rather than votes tallied. If you had no idea Daldry had a new film out, you're probably not alone as it bypassed the North American festival route, premiering as the closing film of the Rio Film Festival earlier this month, and is headed for a UK debut January 2015, with no US release plan in place. Find the trailer below:

Are you curious about Daldry's Slumdog-looking film? Are you ready to place a bet on Leviathan to take a Foreign Language Film nomination? Any of these other films we should all be looking out for?

Sunday
Oct262014

Box Office: Keanu & the Ouija Board

Amir here, reporting to box office duty. If there is one trend box office enthusiasts can always count on, it’s a double-figure, profitable opening for a mediocre horror film. Ouija didn’t disappoint its makers and despite the letters on the board spelling disaster, a fat $20m cheque was pocketed. Ouija had a comfortable lead over the weekend’s other big opening, John Wick. It’s an action flick starring cult hero Keanu Reeves as a man who goes after the heartless Russian criminals who kill his cute puppy. Quite a stretch, that premise! I refuse to believe good reviews for Keanu’s films until I see them, so it’s with a giant grain of salt that I inform you this one’s winning praise all around.

TOP TEN WIDE
01 OUIJA $20 NEW
02 JOHN WICK $14.1  NEW  
03 FURY $13 (cum. $46) Michael's Review
04 GONE GIRL $11.1  (cum. $124)  Jason's Review
05 THE BOOK OF LIFE $9.8 (cum. $29.9) Interview
06 ST. VINCENT $8 (cum. $9.1) Michael's Review
07 ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE... $7 (cum. $45.5)
08 THE BEST OF ME $4.7 (cum. $17.6) 
09 THE JUDGE $4.3 (cum. $34.3)
10 DRACULA UNTOLD $4.3 (cum. $48.3) 

Anyway, ‘tis the season of awards, so let’s look at how contenders did this week: Gone Girl continued its marginal drop and will become Fincher’s best selling film in the next couple of days, surpassing the multiple Oscar-nominee Benjamin Button. Alejandro Innaritu’s Birdman expanded from four screens to 50 and still maintained the weekend’s best per screen average. As I mentioned last week, I still have doubts about its wide potential, but the signs are definitely encouraging. Whiplash also expanded but has struggled to break the million dollar mark as of now. It strikes me as one of those films that we, in our relatively small cinephile blogosphere, have been talking about loudly for ages, but out there in the real world, I wonder how many people have heard about it at all. Finally, Citizenfour, as close to a shoe-in as we have in the documentary category at this point, opened to strong business on five screens. Expect to hear a lot more about it in the next couple of months.

As for myself, I’ve seen four films so far: Black Coal, Thin Ice; Maps to the Stars; Two Days, One Night; and Fury. I would rate them, respectively: A-, F, A-, B-. Now I’m off to see A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Force Majeure.

What have you watched this weekend?

Saturday
Oct252014

Meet the Contenders: Sam Rockwell "Laggies"

Here's abstew with this weekend's profile of an outside Oscar contender. While this weekend's release is not quite as buzzy as other contenders, Rockwell is always worth celebrating.

Sam Rockwell as Craig in Laggies

Best Supporting Actor

Born: November 5, 1968 in San Mateo, California

The Role: Lynn Shelton's latest film (the director's previous work include mumblecore films Humpday and Your Sister's Sister), that premiered at Sundance this year, takes on a story of a woman with arrested development. Megan (Keira Knightley) is in her late 20's and all her friend's are doing adult things like getting married. But when Megan's own boyfriend proposes, she freaks out, goes into a quarter life crisis, and ends up hanging out with a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), while finding herself drawn to the girl's divorced father (Rockwell).

Rockwell took over in the role of Craig, which was originally supposed to be played by Paul Rudd. (Knightley also took over for Anne Hathaway who had to drop out due to filming of Interstellar.) And due to an illness that left him in the hospital, came in at the end of the shoot to film his part. He said that his recent hospital stay brought a more subdued nature that worked for his character. 

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct252014

Review: Fury

Michael C here wondering if we are ever going to get more films about 20th Century conflicts other than World War 2? How long has it been since we've had a solid Vietnam film? Did Three Kings and Jarhead say all there was to say about the first Iraq war?

At this point, it feels like there are enough World War II movies to reconstruct something close to the entirety of the conflict, across all theaters of operation. Audiences can be forgiven if the appearance of yet another crew of hard-bitten soldiers marauding through the German countryside in David Ayer’s Fury strike us as more than a bit superfluous. The diffrence this time is that Fury wants to strip away the gauzy Greatest Generation glow that has diminished other depictions of this subject matter. No American flags flapping in the wind, no swells of violins, no famous battles. Just the anonymous, grisly work of tank combat in the waning days of the war, where the only task left is to feed enough of the remaining enemy into the meat grinder to hasten the inevitable German surrender.

It's a compelling argument for Fury's existence, at least for the first half of the film. As the tank rolls along, however, Fury surrenders its attempts to navigate the harsh no man’s land where ethics and war collide. What began as a corrective against the false comfort of your granddaddy’s war films morphs into a compilation of war movie clichés, complete with characters dying in order of billing, and glorious hero shots of doomed last stands against impossible odds. By the end it’s Frank Miller’s 300 with tanks. 

“Ideals are peaceful, history is violent,” says Brad Pitt's weathered tank commander Wardaddy. 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct242014

Posterized: Best Documentary Winners of the Past 30 Years

THE TIME OF HARVEY MILK (1984), a true classic. Have you seen it?
If there's anything that makes me feel unsophisticated when it comes to the cinema it's my general relationship to documentaries. Like your average movie consumer (non cinephile division) I only see them if the subject matter interests me. If there were a narrative equation wouldn't that be "i'll only see this or that genre"? And ewww, that's not the way to be. Variety is always best when consuming art. Man cannot live by multi-quandrant blockbusters OR art films alone. 

Over the years as The Film Experience has expanded we've given more space to documentaries largely because Glenn & Amir are obsessed with them. So for today's Posterized, a special edition surveying the last 30 years of the Best Documentary Feature category. I went back that far because The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) is basically one of my favorite things that I've ever seen in my life and I wanted to know if YOU have seen it. I enjoyed Milk (2008) a lot when it came out but it was very deja vu since so much of it was in this great film.

Anyway, I'm taking an informal survey to gauge your interest in this type of movie (and it's adjacent Oscar category) in the comments so do tell. How many of these Oscar winners have you seen?  There's actually 31 of them in the past 30 years since there was one tie. I have only seen 10 which I am embarrassed to admit as an Oscar pundit but there it is. I am not a total completist each year. Most of these films are available on DVD still though sadly not many are streaming.

HOW MANY HAVE YOU SEEN?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct242014

The Wide Open Spaces of Best Supporting Actor

With only six presumed major contenders yet to be screened by these eyes (Unbroken, Big Eyes, Into the Woods, A Most Violent Year, Selma, American Sniper) it's awfully late in the year for there to be so little in the way of clues as to what the full Supporting Actor lineup might look like. In a more competitive year Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Edward Norton (Birdman) probably wouldn't seem like cast iron locks in October. But they do. 

Kingsley (Exodus), Waltz (Big Eyes), Caine (Interstellar), Duvall (The Judge). 19% of the nominees in this category in the past 20 years have been previous winners.

In the fantasy world inside my head, the Academy board of governors throws up their hands and admits defeat, making a special ruling that from this day forward there will be 7 Supporting Actress nominees each year and only 3 Supporting Actors because everyone knows that's the way it should be given the disparity gap in quality between the two categories. But the world doesn't operate by my actressexual logic, as tragic as that may be. 

Given the Academy's lack of imagination for this particular category -- it's by a significant ratio the least quality-oriented among Oscar's long history with acting honors -- we'll most likely see some scenario where very traditional Oscar Bait or Category Frauders or Respected Men who they like regardless of the role / picture show up. Maybe a twofer from this previously nominated bunch: Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes), Robert Duvall (The Judge) Michael Caine (Interstellar), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice -- I love this performance by the way. Not trying to paint it with an underserving brush), or maybe even a double whammy like Tim Roth/Tom Wilkinson (Selma) though the Supporting Actor category hasn't had a double since Bugsy way back in 1991 with Ben Kingsley and Harvey Keitel. (Back then I pretended Keitel was nominated for Thelma & Louise instead  - it made infinitely more sense)

My point is this: two spots are wide open for which truly no one can legitimately claim to have any solid traction for (yet). Frankly any actor with a good size role this year who is either a) respected or b) in an Oscar friendly movie, would be insane not to be shaking hands and kissing babies and doing a bajillion interviews. And as I've long maintained, campaigning as a long shot is NOT bad for your career. It helps you with momentum, even if you don't make it, the next time you're great in a picture. Pardon the pun, but it's a golden opportunity.

Here, for your hopeful amusement and ponderings, some contenders that aren't being discussed...

LONGSHOT CONTENDERS OFF BEATEN PATH
... FOR YOUR 'WHAT IF' PONDERINGS...

TYLER PERRY, Gone Girl
Elvis has arrived... at the Dolby Theater? I was the first pundit to suggest this and honestly I don't see why it's so far-fetched. He's a known commodity seen in a new context (often an attention-grabbing combo) in a crowd-pleading part in a blockbuster hit. Plus Supporting Actor, of all the acting categories, is arguably the one that's least concerned with actual performances and roles and more with the men in question. This is the category where they regularly shove people they just want to congratulate, people they just generally like regardless of the part, and careers that are there to be honored. (Plus its where they shove leading men who aren't strong enough to make it in the Lead Actor category but let's not get into Category Fraud today!) The real question here is whether AMPAS members love Gone Girl and I'm getting conflicting info on that.

Billy Magnusson at the Tony AwardsCHRIS PINE and BILLY MAGNUSSEN, Into the Woods
Look, I know how Oscar works. They're more likely to nominate Johnny Depp as The Wolf no matter what he looks like therein since they like the familiar faces. Still, in nearly every production of Into the Woods the Princes are awesome and funny. No one thinks "comedy!" when they hear the name Chris Pine unless they're obsessed with Just My Luck and if so they deserve our collective empathy but I assure all of you that the other prince, stage actor Billy Magnussen, is the real deal as comically gifted actors go. He's probably too young / too unknown by AMPAS types to win one of those "silly" nomination even if they end up loving Into the Woods but maybe that "Agony" duet will be a real showstopper?

ALEC BALDWIN, Still Alice
For symmetry's sake with Iris (2001), they could nominate the long-suffering husband of the Best Actress with Alzheimers.  If they do, everyone will be absolutely stunned to realize that Alec Baldwin is older now than Jim Broadbent was back then. True fact.

ANDY SERKIS, TOBY KEBELL, and JASON CLARKE, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
People seem to have forgotten about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which is a bit weird when you consider how obsessed people were for at least two weeks earlier this year. Serkis and Kebell are both doing motion capture performances that everyone was wild for as the film's star ape and his antagonist. Oscar might not be quite ready to go there yet, but Oscar pundits and think piece essayists most definitely are each time. Eventually something like that will happen but I'm guessing we're about 10 years away from that scenario. Still, you never know and if the movie has a late revival and they're too scared to nominate an Ape there's always rising star Jason Clark in the lead role to consider for supporting. Can this movie's campaign team remind everyone how respected this cast was over the summer for some Best Ensemble traction at least? We'll see.

MARTIN SHORT, Inherent Vice
Hear me out and try not to hate me. I am not a fan of Martin Short. I know this makes me an outlier but his screen persona / performance style is too broad to take seriously in non-slapstick situations. Yes, even in the rare circumstances when he's doing drama. Nevertheless I am not blind to the crazy love other people feel for him and at least at the screening I attended for Inherent Vice his extended over the top cameo as a lecherous drug-addled dentist with a much younger girlfriend was a huge hit with the crowd. The Academy isn't opposed to oddball nominations in the supporting category if it means they can honor a veteran. Maybe this isn't so far-fetched at all... IF and only if the critics rally for Inherent Vice which they might despite it being Paul Thomas Anderson's worst movie. 

ALBERT BROOKS, A Most Violent Year and... uh... Drive
Fantasy Scenario Inside My Demented Oscar Brain: Feeling frisky the Actors Branch refuses to comply by AMPAS rules and forces a double nomination for Albert Brooks. First for his supporting role in the late breaking A Most Violent Year and a special write-in for Drive (2011) the very first retroactive nomination for a past snub along with a full page apology in Variety. Sorry about it, man. You were such a good sport that year. Here's two nominations! 

FRESHLY UPDATED OSCAR CHARTS...
(more to come)
ACTRESS |  SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESSANIMATED FEATURES