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Monday
Aug242015

The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

A couple of weeks ago news spread around the internet that Universal might revive The Creature From the Black Lagoon as part of their planned Classic Monsters universe (every studio wants their own connected franchises now post Marvel Studios). It didn't seem like much of a news story at the time, full of "mights" and "possibly" and "they're interested in Scarlett Johannson." Scarlett for the buxom conquest, not the amphibious creature of course!

You know the type of "news" I'm talking about. The type we get when there's no story at all yet. But since we're celebrating 1954 next week with the Smackdown, why not travel back in time to the original to see if it's worth reviving at all?

I may or may not have seen this old horror flick as a child on TV but if so I had no recall whatsover so this would be like a first screening. I imagined from the posters that it would be like a watery King Kong, a tragic beauty & beast story. This was quite wrong. 

Thoughts I had while screening... 

• Rather unexpectedly the film begins with a brief "Creation of the Earth" myth complete with Biblical narration and visuals of explosions, clouds, and an earth-like sphere, followed eventually by more nature footage of stormy oceans and sand.

It's surprisingly easy to picture Terrence Malick at 10 years of age agog at a drive-in in the Midwest when the movie arrived in early 1954. (10 might be the ideal age for this.)

More after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug242015

Curio: Getting Intimate With Ingrid

Alexa here with a curio in honor of Ingrid Bergman's centennial.  A few years ago, during a stop at Brooklyn thrift shop The Thing for some record shopping, I spied a paperback lying with a small pile of vintage books. There's nothing I love more than a pulpy celebrity biography, so I left the store without any LPs and with Ingrid Bergman: An Intimate Portrait in my bag instead.

It turned out to be perfect summer reading...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug242015

Miscellania: Tarantino's Quotes, Horror's ROI, and Crown's Actors

Dan Callahan interviews Ingrid Bergman's daughters for her centennial
Vulture Quentin Tarantino interviewed. He likes the films of the Duplass Brothers, loves The Newsroom (um, okay?) and disses on Cate Blanchett and Oscar Bait. 
Salon is Daniel (Ralph Macchio) the real bully in The Karate Kid? A contrarian reading
Planet Money Horror films continue to be the best return on investments for producers 
AV Club rumor has it that George Miller is being courted for Man of Steel 2. Danger! There's no way Warner Bros would let him go as expectation averse wild with that franchise as he allowed himself to go with his own franchise for Fury Road 
Grantland rising screenwriter Max Landis (yes, son of John) talks American Ultra, studio franchises versus original material and admits he "despised" Jurassic World

Salon talks to Gaby Hoffman (Transparent, Girls) about her unique roles of late
Mashable now superheroes are even entering the beauty industry with face mask treatments
Variety names ten actors to watch but some of them have been with us a long time like mumbling Emory Cohen (he's got a huge role in Brooklyn later this year, and thankfully he's dumped the mumbling and excessive tics for that one) or are couple of years into it like Short Term 12's Keith Stanfield. Glad to see Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) and Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl) on the list
Empire the great Alfre Woodard joins the cast of Luke Cage for Netflix in a very big role 
Film School Rejects on the best shows of the summer coming from the most unlikely places (like USA's Mr Robot or Lifetime's UnReal). But maybe they kill their own argument with MTV's "Scream" which I keep hearing is truly terrible. 

About Male Privilege and Hollywood's Resistance to Female Directors
/Film good essay with very solid points on the lack of female directors being offered big studio jobs and Colin Trevorrow's recent responses about the problem. He clearly means well but his response is naive - suggested that women have too much integrity is a bit too flatteringly sexist -- like a 'but women are sugar and spice and too noble to lower themselves thusly!'

Off Cinema
The Hugo Awards this year's sci-fi literary awards had all sorts of drama with shady ballot stuffing and conscientious objecting to said ballot stuffing and so on so they've elected "no awards" in several categories. But big winners were Marvel's "Ms. Marvel" for graphic story "Guardians of the Galaxy" & "Orphan Black" for the drama prizes. The top prize for Best Novel went to "The Three Body Problem".
Boy Culture "Beat it, I'm Madonna" a great video mashup of Michael Jackson & Madonna
Vimeo Penis painting the Queen and Princess Diana. No really. And obviously NSFW 

Actors in The Regular News
Variety turns out one of the all time best French actors was on that Amsterdam to Paris train that was attacked. He sounded the alarm. Well done, Jean-Hugues Anglade.
The Wrap sad about this - Rosie O'Donnell's 17 year old mixed up with drugs, a 25 year old alleged heroin dealer arrested for endangerment of minor. And Rosie just played a sad mom with a troubled teen daughter onThe Fosters.

Finally
Netflix is making a series The Crown about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth. Helen Mirren had to step down from her signature role this time since the series takes place when she was but 21 years of age and inherited the thrown. Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall, plays the royal. People magazine has photos but they don't share this one so I thank Kevin Daly for providing. It's John Lithgow as Winston Churchill and the wondrous screen bitch Harriet Walter as someone... not sure who.

Love her. And she doesn't get enough credit. She's so terrifically callous in Sense & Sensibility (1995) and we've seen her several times in other costume dramas: Young Victoria, Downton Abbey, Cheri, A Royal Affair.

Monday
Aug242015

Beauty vs Beast: Audrey in the Middle

Jason from MNPP here with this week's "Beauty vs Beast" -- you're probably vividly aware at this point that this month's Supporting Actress Smackdown is tackling the ladies of 1954, especially since just the other day the Smackdowners listed some of their favorite things about that year. And what a year it was! I was pretty tempted to give this week's contest over to my favorite movie of all-time Rear Window (it's in a lifelong dead heat with Rosemary's Baby for that mantle, actually) but... well that's awfully expected of me. How many of these posts have I already dedicated to Hitchcock movies?

So I looked a smidge deeper and found a perfectly pleasant second pick -- after all, who wouldn't want to put themselves in Audrey Hepburn's designer shoes for a moment? Sabrina it is! Make like you're Billy Wilder's leading lady and choose -- Bogart's puppy-eyed businessman or Holden's suave playboy?

PREVIOUSLY Last week we brought it on with the rival cheerleading squads of Bring It On -- but who brought it bigger in the end? In a reversal of the movie's well-reason donouement we've handed our trophy to the loveable cheaters the Rancho Carne Toros! The curse of the dropped spirit stick is broken! Said Jonn:

"Team Jesse Bradford brushing his teeth isn't an option?!"

Monday
Aug242015

H8teful Eight vs Black Mass: Character Posters

Manuel here bringing you two sets of character posters that are sure to adorn plenty of dorms soon. White, red and gray is in, apparently, as the new posters for Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film The H8teful Eight (am I doing th8t right?) and the Johnny Depp-starrer Black Mass show:

Click to embiggen (or see them individually here)

We probably knew these were coming for the Tarantino flick (whose trailer we discussed in all its gif-tastic glory), but I can’t be the only one surprised that we’ve got such stylish character posters for that Whitey Bulger flick. When discussing its trailer, we talked about whether this might be the film to bust Depp out of its rut or further bury him in prosthetically-enhanced performance purgatory. Jury is still out, though not for long as the film opens September 18th. We have to wait a bit longer for Tarantino's latest which is waiting until Christmas to be unwrapped.

Click to embiggen (or see them individually here) 

So many male actors! Only Leigh and Johnson offer some much-needed actressing at the edges to both casts. Which set gets your vote?

Sunday
Aug232015

Podcast: Straight Outta U.N.C.L.E. and Into Old Lady Movies

For this week's edition of the podcast, Nathaniel and Nick gab about old lady movies (I'll See You In My Dreams, Ricki & The Flash, and Grandma). Nick hasn't seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Nathaniel hasn't seen Straight Outta Compton so they tell each other about them, too.

Contents (43 minutes)
00:01 Grey Gardens to Straight Outta Compton?
06:45 I'll See You In My Dreams, Ricki & The Flash
19:30 Grandma
27:00 The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
30:00 Sam Elliott
33:00 Miscellania: The Gift, Tom at the Farm, Sand Dollars, and being over Helen Mirren


You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes

Straight Outta Old Lady Movies

Sunday
Aug232015

What did you see this weekend?

Question: Do you think that that amazing Straight Outta Somewhere internet meme, which was going strong for weeks before the film opened, helped the amazing box office tally for Straight Outta Compton?

The film has no "name" actors and is performing like a true blockbuster these past two weekends. I mean even I got into the act on twitter and instagram (see image below) and I have no real emotional connection to N.W.A. (Rap and Hiphop were never really an interest of mine outside of Missy Elliott in totality and a couple of dozen other songs and/or artists) 

In limited release both Grandma and Learning to Drive had solid starts and if word of mouth kicks in they could be looking at healthy runs. Phoenix, the German sleeper hit, continues to expand and will break the magical $1 million mark for arthouse imports any second now. Joe Swanberg's latest Digging For Fire with Rosemarie DeWitt had a tough time finding its audience though.

BOX OFFICE WIDE
August 21st-23rd estimates

01 Straight Outta Compton $27.8 (cum. $112.5)
02 Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation $11.7 (cum. $157.7) Tim's Review
05 Sinister 2  $10.5 new  Interview
03 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. $7.6 (cum. $26.8) Kyle's Review
04 Hitman Agent 47 $7.5 new 
05 American Ultra  $5.7 new
06 The Gift  $4.3 (cum. $31) Jose's Review
07 Ant-Man  $4.2 (cum. $164.6)  Tim's ReviewPodcast, on Paul Rudd
08 Minions  $3.9 (cum. $320.1)  Tim on the Minions phenom
09 Fantastic Four $3.6 (cum. $49.5) Tim's Review

BOX OFFICE LIMITED (EXCLUDING PREVIOUSLY WIDE RELEASES)
August 21st - 23rd estimates

01 Mr Holmes $.6 (cum. $15.3) on 430 screens
02 The End of the Tour $.5 (cum. $1.6) on 355 screens
03 Phoenix $.3 (cum. $.9) on 108 screens Interview
04 Mistress America $.2 (cum. $.3) on 32 screens
05 Diary of a Teenage Girl $.1 (cum. $.4) on 69 screens Michael's Review
06 Amy  $.1 (cum. $7.6) on 100 screens Glenn's Review
07 Grandma  $.1 on 4 screens NEW Nathaniel's ReviewJoe's ReviewPosterized: Lily Tomlin
08 Learning to Drive  $.06 on 4 screens NEW
09 Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet $.04 (cum. $.1) on 24 screens
10 Listen to Me Marlon  $.04 (cum. $.2) on 26 screens Amir's Review

 

Sunday
Aug232015

Coming on August 30th: Supporting Actress Smackdown 1954

The Supporting Actress Smackdown (and companion podcast), 1954 Edition, arrives in exactly one week. So let's...

MEET THE SMACKDOWN PANELISTS

We'll be discussing the Supporting Actress Oscar race of 1954 as well as the films themselves: The High and the Mighty, On the Waterfront, Broken Lance and Executive Suite. And you know how these things go. Sometimes other films from the year sneak in. This time we don't have any newbies but an All Stars Edition if you will with all previous panelists. 

Returning...


MARK HARRIS

Mark Harris is an editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, a Grantland columnist (about the Oscars and other things), and a contributor to New York magazine. He is the author of Pictures at a Revolution (2008) and Five Came Back (2014). He lives in New York City. [Follow him on Twitter]  

(Mark previously participated in the 1973 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

I think of 1954 as a year with one foot planted in two different decades. It's just before Blackboard Jungle, just before rock 'n roll, just before Elvis, just before James Dean. In some ways it feels like the last year that you could describe as "post-WWII" before the country transitioned into being "pre-"something else. In terms of movies, I think of a kind of thick, glossy romanticism--Magnificent Obsession, Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Sabrina.

I think of capitalism and camel-hair coats and cigarettes and immense cars--the American dream inscribed in retail objects. And I think of Brando's first Oscar and of what his performance in On The Waterfront meant to the future of screen acting..

 

MANUEL MUNOZ 
Manuel Muñoz is the author of three books, including the Hitchcock-inspired novel, What You See in the Dark.  He teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

(Manuel previously participated in the 1968 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

With the right drink and the right circle, 1954 means me arguing that "Rear Window" was Hitchcock's strongest Best Director nomination and, after that's settled, listening to anyone who can tell me why Jane Wyman was nominated for "Magnificent Obsession".

 


TODD VANDERWERFF

Todd VanDerWerff is the Culture Editor for Vox.com, where he writes a lot about TV and movies. Before that, he was the TV Editor at The A.V. Club. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Grantland, Salon, Hitfix, and The House Next Door. [Follow him on Twitter]  

(Todd previously participated in the 1989 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

I suppose I could say 1954 means nothing to me. Both my parents turned 5 that year, so that's something, I suppose. Wikipedia tells me that Lassie debuted in 1954, and Willie Mays made "The Catch" at the World Series. Those were both things!

When it comes to the films, however, 1954 is a year where I'm really familiar with the biggest hits (Rear Window! On the Waterfront!) and woefully underseen on some of the smaller treats. For example: I loved White Christmas (the year's top film) when I was 9. Would I still? Who knows. Godzilla hit US shores in 1954, something that's worth celebrating, even if it won't factor into our discussion. But I chose this year precisely because I know so little about the nominees. I look forward to getting to know them.

 

ANNE MARIE KELLY
Anne Marie is the author of TFE series A Year With Kate and Women's Pictures.
Her love of film began as childhood adulation of Katherine Hepburn & the Marx Brothers, and grew into a passion for Technicolor, Hays Code movies, and B-picture scifi. This led to a career in film preservation & history. Anne Marie is currently pursuing a Masters in Cinema Studies at USC. When not writing about movies, Anne Marie can be found working on movies, talking about movies, or watching movies. She also has several other hobbies and occasionally goes outside. [Follow her on Twitter.]

(Anne Marie previously participated in the 1941 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

Even though I wasn't born yet, 1954 is the year that changed my life. In 1954, A Star Is Born was released, re-edited, and re-released in a shorter version. Thirty years later, a film historian named Ronald Haver rediscovered the lost scenes, and put together a nearly complete version of George Cukor's theatrical cut. And twenty years after that, my mom gave me the DVD of Ronald Haver's version for Christmas. My confusion at finding production stills in the middle of a WarnerColor Judy Garland musical sparked an interest in preservation that eventually blossomed into a vocation in film restoration. And I owe it all to Judy Garland.

 

BRIAN HERRERA (aka "StinkyLulu")
Brian convened the first Supporting Actress Smackdown and hostessed more than thirty. He is a writer, teacher and scholar presently based in New Jersey, but forever rooted in New Mexico. Follow him on Twitter. Or read his new book "Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in 20th Century US Popular Performance .

(Brian created the Smackdowns originally! He gave us his blessing and participated in the relaunch right here at TFE for the 1952 race)

What does 1954 mean to you?

1954 feels like the decade's pivot year -- the Salk polio vaccine trials begin, Brown v Board is decided, Joe McCarthy goes down in flames -- but it doesn't carry much personal resonance. Aside perhaps from the fact that it was the first year that the Miss America Pageant was televised. (Oscar went live-on-TV the year before.)

 

And your host...

NATHANIEL R
Nathaniel is the founder of The Film Experience, a reknowned Oscar pundit, and the web's actressexual ringleader. He fell in love with the movies for always at The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) but mostly blames Oscar night (in general) and the 80s filmographies of Kathleen Turner & Michelle Pfeiffer (specifically). Though he holds a BFA in Illustration, he found his true calling when he started writing about the movies. He blames Boogie Nights for the career change. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1954 mean to you?

It's rather a horrible Oscar year for me as I am NOT fond of the Best Picture list and it was the monster birth of deglam (it may have started before that but Grace Kelly definitely popularized it as an Oscar tactic). But here are a few things I think of that give me great pleasure:

 

Marlon Brando saying "I coulda been a contenduh," Marilyn Monroe in general who kind of defines the 1950s (don't you think?) and had gone supernova the year before, and the following musical pleasures: Judy G singing "The Man That Got Away," the "Sisters" number from White Christmas which two of the most popular girls in my high school used to sing at our Concert Choir events, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse's  sexual chemistry while dancing to "The Heather on the Hill" in Brigadoon and that barn dance in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Did you know there were over 20 musicals released in 1954?! It didn't use to be a special event only genre.


What does 1954 mean to you dear readers?

Do tell in the comments.

And remember to get your votes in on these ladies who give the performances within the films that we'll be discussing. Your ballots are due by Thursday August 27th - only vote on the performances you've seen as we weigh the ballots so that underseen or everyone-has-seen-it doesn't hurt or help.

The Nominees

The 95 smackdown was an absolute squeaker so since YOU are the collective sixth panelist you never know when your vote might count. On the smackdown podcast we'll surely consider this odd factoid: Several Oscar-favored actresses had supporting roles this year but none were nominated: Ritter (Rear Window), Moorehead (Magnificent Obsession), Stanwyck (Executive Suite), McCambridge (Johnny Guitar). What was that about?