Oscar History
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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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The Next La La Land?

"It looks like fun and Hugh and Zac make a cute couple" - Jaragon

"Why do we keep treating La La Land like some sort of longsuffering, put-upon, misunderstood underdog? It's like making time to assure the prom queen that she's pretty and popular.." -Hayden

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INTERVIEWS

Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane)
Gael García Bernal (Neruda)
Billy Crudup (20th Century Women)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival

 

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Thursday
Jun252015

Women's Pictures - Agnes Varda's The Gleaners And I

At the 2013 AFI Fest, Agnes Varda told her audience that if one really wanted to understand her, they should look to her documentaries. Varda made documentaries throughout her career, interspersed with shorts and features, on a variety of subjects. Her best-known documentary was 2000's The Gleaners and I, an examination of France's cultural history of "gleaning," in all the word's definitions. There are crop gleaners who follow the harvest, protected by French law, and immortalized in art. There are urban gleaners who pick through trash to find food or art or inspiration. And of course, there is Varda the filmmaker, gleaning what truths about life that she can from her interview subjects, while also turning her digital camera on herself. What follows is a complex documentary that - like its director/subject - has many definitions and perspectives.

The film opens with Varda introducing her viewers to the romantic image of gleaners they're probably most familiar with - a series of paintings depicting gleaning as a noble, if backbreaking, labor. Varda quickly dismisses that halcyon image by introducing the viewers to modern day gleaners - thrifty, poor men and women stuffing potatoes or oysters or apples into plastic bags and pails. A different film would have stayed with these homeless folks on the fringes of society, but Varda doesn't dwell solely on their poverty. This is a film about people, and Varda finds some fascinating examples - chefs, anarchists, lawyers, teachers, and artists, of course.

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Thursday
Jun252015

Introducing... The Supporting Actresses of 1948

It's your last day to vote on the Smackdown! Send in those ballots

Since your collective interest in pre '70s film years is often less robust, consider this an attempt to pump up your excitement levels with a teaser for this weekend's Smackdown. How are our contestants introduced in their movies, how soon, and is it clear from scene one that they'll be Oscar-nominated?

We'll take them in the order in which they appear in their movies, starting with "The End." Wait, what? Oh never fear it's just an ol' hoary framing device for our first contender, who's just finished writing the stories we're about to see unfold onscreen at the very beginning of her movie. 

Meet...

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Thursday
Jun252015

Corset Kate: Winslet's Best Period Piece Performances

With "A Little Chaos" opening tomorrow, abstew looks back at Kate in corsets. - Editor  

Oscar winner Kate Winslet returns to the screen tomorrow in A Little Chaos (in select theaters and available on VOD). It's a fictionalized story of how the elaborately lush gardens at the Palace of Versailles were constructed for King Louis XIV. The film is a reunion for Winslet and Alan Rickman (who stars as Louis and also directed the film), who haven't worked together in 20 years. But more importantly, the film reunites Winslet with the corset, getting laced-up again for the first time since 2004's Finding Neverland. For the first few years of her career, Winslet only appeared in period pieces (it wasn't until 1999's Holy Smoke! that she finally starred in a film set in modern-day) so it's time to look back on three of her best performances in those waist-cinching garments! (For purposes of this list, I decided to not include her 1950s set films - a girdle just isn't the same...)

 

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Proving that the period piece was a good fit from the start, Winslet's first Oscar nomination came for her wildly romantic turn as Marianne Dashwood in the Best Picture nominated adaptation of Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. But director Ang Lee had to be convinced that Winlset was the right actress for the role as he hadn't cared for her film debut in 1994's Heavenly Creatures. And even after casting her in the role, on the first day of filming, he was unimpressed with her work, telling her that she'll have to be better. The criticism must have lit a fire under her because Winslet completely throws herself into the role with determination and gusto. Her Marianne is all bleeding heart that she pins tellingly on her sleeve for the world to see. Incapable of hiding her turbulent emotions, she allows herself to be ruled by love. And Winslet plays her without judgement of her impulsive nature, embracing Marianne's romanticism and temperament. But even the strongest wildfire can't blaze brightly forever. In the most heartbreaking scene of the film, Marianne's passionate ideals are extinguished as she walks across the moors to gaze upon the home of the man that has abandoned her. Influenced by her devotion to poems and romance novels (as preparation, Winslet read and studied works of the period to achieve Marianne's mindset), she is willing to die for her dreams of love. But instead of death, Marianne experiences a rebirth, allowing herself some of her sister's practical reasoning. Able to look at things with a little more understanding. Marianne's transformation could very easily feel like the character has become defeated, but what Winslet does beautifully is bring Marianne a newfound maturity without losing the spark that makes her still believe in the possibility of love. 

Jude (1996)

In this little-seen, but devastating film, Winslet gives one her most complex performances as Sue Bridehead, an independent and headstrong woman in late 1800's England. As the tragic events unfold in Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's controversial novel Jude the Obscure, Winslet's magnetic star-turn saves it from becoming a dreary slog. Her early scenes with Christopher Eccelston's Jude, as they begin to get acquainted, have an easy playfulness, especially in a flirty pub scene in which Sue smokes and drinks beer with the bar patrons. It's reminiscent of Winslet's below-deck escapades in Titanic but the scene here plays earthier and sexier, as Winslet seems more relaxed and natural than she ever does as Rose. And the two actors have wonderful chemistry together, willing us to want their characters to eventually get together despite the fact that they are cousins and already married to other people. Unfortunately Sue's constant need to defy convention, her refusal to comform to the standards of Victorian society, becomes their ultimate undoing. No spoilers here, but the tragic incident hits you like a gut-punch. For most of the harrowing scene, Winslet is silent and still, completely numb to pain. It's in the scene directly after that we get our catharsis as she lies facedown on the ground, twisting her body as she lets out animalistic howls of despair. We are no longer watching an actress give a performance, but viscerally feeling the character's bottomless grief. 

Hamlet (1996)

In a part that has been played on film by Jean Simmons, Marianne Faithful, and Helena Bonham Carter, the definitive screen version of Shakespeare's ill-fated heroine Ophelia, has to be Kate Winslet. In Kenneth Branagh's unabridged, 4-hour version featuring such esteemed thespians as Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, and John Gielgud, it is Winslet that emerges as the film's most memorable player. And it's all the more impressive because, unlike most British actors, Winslet never trained in the classics. Later she even turned down an offer to appear in Sam Mendes' The Bridge Project, performing in Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, because she didn't feel like she could tackle them properly. It's surprising because on film, Winslet is an actress never afraid of a challenge and her Ophelia works precisely because of that fearlessness. This is an Ophelia not afraid of her sexuality, a young woman discovering the harsh realities of men's actions and what it means to give yourself to someone. Winslet endows her with womanly understanding while still maintaining the fragility that leads to her downfall. Ophelia is definitely a showy part with its descent into madness, but instead of being overly theatrical or studied, Winslet plays those scenes manic and unhinged, surprising us with bold execution and raw modernity. Which is not to say she's incapable of delivering Shakespeare's language the way it is intended. It's just that she's not slavishly devoted to it, more concerned with capturing Ophelia's state of mind and allowing the text itself to feed her emotions. In a 400-year-old play, the most often produced of all of Shakespeare's work, Winslet interpretation helps you feel like you're witnessing it for the first time.

 

Do you agree with these three choices as Kate's best work in a corset? If not, what's your preference?

Wednesday
Jun242015

Team Experience: Collective Emmy Ballot, Comedy

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: RED SHOES WILL BE UP IN THE MORNING. RUNNING LATE !

See Part 1 for Drama
Here's Part 2 of 2... COMEDY!

Eleven members of our team, those most excited by television, turned in full Emmy ballots. So here is what we communally hope for when the real Emmy nominations are announced. Nomination ballots are due tomorrow, June 26th so if you happen to be an Emmy voter, check out our FYC series (shameless plug).  The Emmy nominations will be announced on July 16th though who knows why it takes them over three weeks to tally the results. Slackers. 

Comedy Series and acting races after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun242015

Oscar Non-News, Taye Hewdig-Diggs, and Link Roundup

Before we get to the link roundup a bit of Oscar Housekeeping. There are no significant changes to the rules this year so we're stuck with "somewhere between 5 and 10 nominees" in terms of Best Picture (I'd been hoping for a set number, no matter what that set number was, as I like the awards to have proper comparative pleasures in the grand scheme of history). Wisely though in minor changes, the visual effects category gets an expanded finalist list before nominations (smart), and  the shorts category get longer finalists lists to choose from and the number of nominations per category is set at a concrete five (it's usually five but sometimes it's less depending on how voting goes, currently). I do like the consistency but I wonder why they're still holding out on Makeup and Hair -- EVERY FILM USES IT which is more than you can say for a lot of categories. The makeup branch should get 5 nominated slots like every other Oscar branch category. Sucks to be them.

Links
MNPP Flaunt and Jason try to convince us to love Aaron Johnson. Hey, no one else will.
A Fistful of Films reviews Inside Out from a parental perspective and cries all the way through it 
Dissolve David Tennant takes over a Robin Williams voice role in the animation adaptation of Chew. I didn't actually know they were making this but that comic, which a friend of Anne Marie's turned me on to, is SO good and weird. So I'm excited for this 
Towleroad somehow I missed this Magic Mike XXL clip of Matt Bomer singing. When perfect gets more perfect it's just so not fair, you know?
Kenneth in the (212) RIP Dick Van Patten. Remember "Eight is Enough"?  
Mike's Movie Projector looks back at Dirk Bogarde in 1960
Movie Mezzanine looks back at The Blues Brothers (1980) -- I knew so many people who loved this movie growing up but I never "got" its appeal
The Hot Blog David Poland talks Inside Out's "Bing Bong" 

Screen to... Other
Theater Mania 45 years after Love Story (1970) Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal are working together again -- they'll tour with the play "Love Letters" which had a short run on Broadway recently with rotating older celebrities
AV Club Fight Club (1999)... for kids? 
Playbill Michael C Hall (Dexter) will star in a new Off Broadway David Bowie musical based on The Man Who Fell To Earth this fall. It's called "Lazarus"
Deadline Emmy winning Laurie Metcalf, so brilliant currently on the underseen sitcom Getting On has replaced Elizabeth Marvel in the upcoming Broadway adaptation of Misery (1990). So she does the Bruce Willis hobbling honors now

Showtune to Go...
The first photo of Taye Diggs as Hedwig has been released to excite you for his theatrical run in one of the great roles! So naturally our Showtune to Go this time is a Hedwig toon.

 

Wednesday
Jun242015

Team Experience: Collective Emmy Ballot, Drama 

Part 1 of 2... DRAMA!
Part 2 -- Comedy 

Eleven members of our team* turned in full Emmy ballots. I've compiled the results for you here. This is a very limited pool versus the thousands from the Television Academy who will vote on the actual Emmys but I thought it might be interesting for readers who are invested in this 'new golden age' of television. 

REMINDER: THESE ARE NOT PREDICTIONS

What follows is what we communally hope for when the nominations are announced. Voting on the nominations for the real Emmys ends this Friday, June 26th. The nominations will be announced on July 16th (what takes them so long to tally it?) and the ceremony happens on September 20th. It's a ridiculously wide spread of time -- nearly double the Oscar voting spread.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

  • The Americans (FX)
  • Empire (FOX)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • The Leftovers (HBO)
  • Mad Men (AMC)
  • Masters of Sex (SHO)
  • Orange is the New Black (NETFLIX)

Twenty-two different series received at least one vote but there were no votes at all for two Emmy regulars in this category (Downton Abbey & House of Cards). No series made every ballot though Mad Men and Masters of Sex were out front together in that regard. I forgot to hold a tiebreaker vote between The Leftovers and The Fall for the final slot so I made the choice myself, and erred on the side of way more ambition though The Fall was arguably more consistent. The nearest misses were The Affair and Agent Carter. The Agent Carter contingency surprised me even though I adore the show but then we're friendlier to non-prestige genre shows here (The Flash, Orphan Black and Daredevil also received votes). We shouldn't bring up the painful years of snubs for Battlestar Galactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, two of the finest shows TV ever produced. Neither of which could get arrested by Emmy voters in major categories. (sigh)

Acting Categories after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun242015

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

We're looking back into 1948 ahead of this weekend's Smackdown. A world away from all of those women, though, John Huston was making one of cinema's most famous films about men. Here's David...

It was evident from the gilded treachery on display in The Maltese Falcon that John Huston was a filmmaker fully aware and largely in thrall to the darker side of human nature. World War II changed him, as it did millions of American men. An adaptation of B. Traven’s 1927 novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was the first feature Huston made following his time making war documentaries for the U.S. government, and while its setting and subject are quite estranged from the war – three men mining for gold in 1925 Mexico – it betrays the even grittier experiences Huston had witnessed abroad. If the film is about greed, as has long been celebrated, it just as much about the deep insecurities of masculinity.

More...

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