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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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"All three look a little insufferable. The stupid music and the "based on a true story"/"an unforgettable story" shots and the critics quotes instantly turn me off. But I'm in for most things Lonergan, even though the plot of Manchester By the Sea is clearly Baby Boom meets Good Will Hunting." - CharlieG

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Monday
Jan192015

Looking for Returns: In Search of Gay Intimacy

Manuel here checking in on the Looking boys this week, after their carnal sojourn into the woods last week.

We open with Kevin and Patrick in bed and if we didn’t know any better, their adorable reminisces about their queer childhoods, including talk of what is arguably one of the gayest videos ever, read like an intimate scene from a healthy burgeoning relationship. Of course, it’s lunchtime and they’re at a motel (“don’t you guys find seedy motels kind of sexy?”), indulging in what Patrick refuses to acknowledge is an “affair” (“I really like him and the word ‘affair’ is starting to feel rather shitty to me”). In many ways, this scene feels taken straight out of Andrew Haigh’s own Weekend, a film that was thoroughly fascinated with contemporary gay intimacy and gay identity. What does intimacy look like within a community that is still encumbered by secrets and closets, even as it prides itself on openness and honesty? It’s also no surprise that Patrick and Kevin end up coming up with a gay-themed card game that works as a brief run-down of various gay archetypes (“hot-shot”, “drag mother,” “lusty lads of London,” “gay-for-pay,” “the ashamed gay”).

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan192015

Beauty vs Beast: Blue Beauty On Velvet Beast

Jason from MNPP here wishing everyone a blue blue Blue Monday. When I tell you that it feels as if I've been having an awfully Lynchian series of months, I'm sure your first reaction is to 1) shudder and 2) to call the police on my behalf. But this is not a cry for help, don't worry - I haven't turned into a door-knob or anything.  It's just been a random confluence of events - I saw David Lynch speak at BAM a few months ago; then I read Lynch on Lynch (a terrific book of interviews with the director); then there was the news about the Twin Peaks revival; then I met Laura Dern at a party and told her she needs to get herself into the Twin Peaks revivial; then I went to Philadelphia and saw an exhibit of his paintings. It's been Lynch up the wazoo, basically.

And since tomorrow is Mr. Lynch's 69th birthday it seems a heck of a good time to give him the "Beauty vs Beast" treatment. I mean, what other director works in such extremes of dreamy beauties and nightmare beasts after all? Laura Palmer and the BOB at the end of her bed, for instance. And when the beauty & beast meet, watch out - you could argue that Laura Dern's become the perfect muse for him since she can so effortlessly stretch her sunny beauty out out out way too far for comfort. Those examples aside, it was pretty clear where we needed to mine this week's competition from...

 

Treat yourself to some cherry pie, climb inside a stranger's closet, do whatever it takes, and then hit the comments to tell us whose disease you want put inside of you in the next seven days, and why and how. And here's to your...

Monday
Jan192015

Box Office: American Sniper Towers Above Oscar Nominees

Amir here, back from my very long vacation to hit you with some box office news.  Did you know that this group of eight Best Pictures is the least popular set of nominees since the turn of the century, going by box office receipts? The average gross of about $39m is the lowest of the past fifteen years, though it will probably edge out 2005’s collective (standing at $49m) once the theatrical run of all these films ends. It is also the first time since that year that none of the nominees have hit the $100m mark, though American Sniper is about to change that. 

Chart via Box Office Mojo. Estimates as of Sunday January 18th

It is easy to forget sometimes what a small bubble we occupy in the film blogosphere, and how differently people in the real world perceive and consume these films. It feels like Whiplash has been around for ages, having first entered the conversation all the way back in January. It’s shocking to see what little impact this expertly directed film has made at the box office, barely edging out Amour and Winter’s Bone to avoid becoming the lowest grossing best picture nominee of the century.

Oscar wasn’t interested in what people liked this year, despite finally getting on the Wes Anderson bandwagon for his biggest hit – and a decade too late. Several of the year’s biggest hits either missed out on nominations entirely, or underperformed with the Academy. File Gone Girl, Noah, The LEGO Movie, Edge of Tomorrow and even Fury under that category, though only one of those had any hope of a best picture nomination. What has been surprising is that Eastwood’s late party-crasher performed as well as it did, breaking all sorts of records for January releases and R-rated films, grossing $90m on its first wide weekend.

American Sniper is going to be the savior of this collective, financially speaking. According to Box Office Mojo, the film has made more than Birdman, Boyhood, Whiplash and The Theory of Everything combined. Its gross this weekend is wildly beyond expectations, but the magical combination of Bradley Cooper, conservative material and Eastwood in his comfort zone have totally hit America’s sweet spot. This caps an outstanding year for Cooper, who just netted his third consecutive best actor nomination and starred in the year’s biggest box office hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. You’d have been called a lunatic if you predicted this as recently as three years ago and yet, here we are, witnessing Cooper’s reign. And for what it’s worth, he’s a better king for Hollywood than most of his contemporaries.  

Have you seen American Sniper? Which gaps do you still need to fill in your Oscar slate?

Monday
Jan192015

Fairy Tales, Witches, and Oscars. An 87 Year History

Over on Twitter Alex posed an interesting question to me and I thought I'd share it with you. Is Meryl Streep the first actor to be Oscar-nominated for playing a witch, or anyone in a fairy tale for that matter? As far as I can tell the answer is "in the way that you mean, yes" and "I believe so."

Though no witches in the fairy tale or broom-riding sense have been nominated before Streep, technically a witch star turn has won an Oscar and another spell-caster has been nominated. The first would be Ruth Gordon's diabolical coven leaderbusybody in Rosemary's Baby which we discussed in worshipful detail here.  And Sir Ian McKellen was nominated for playing "Gandalf the Grey" who, being a sorcerer, is basically the male equivalent of a witch. Otherwise, no witches. The famous witches we think of when we think of the movies weren't actually nominated. No, not even the greatest of them all, Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz (1939). 

After the jump let's look back through cinema history and see how fairytale or witchy films like Into the Woods have fared at the Oscars shall we?  (This is an incomplete history. Feel free to share things I missed. Especially great witchiness.)

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan192015

Lensing Black Faces: Why the Bradford Young Snub Stings

Manuel here taking the MLK holiday to discuss the cinematography category in terms of its aversion to honor black faces.

Young on the Selma set

Amidst all the outrage surrounding Selma’s near-shutout at the Academy Awards (nabbing only two nominations in Best Picture and Best Original Song), the focus has been on Ava DuVernay’s absence in the unsurprisingly male best director lineup and David Oyelowo’s absence in the unsurprisingly white best actor lineup. I want to focus today on Bradford Young’s absence in the best cinematography lineup. Had Young been nominated, he’d have been only the second African-American black D.P. [Ed. Note: thanks for correcting me on this crucial distinction, Ian & 3rtful] to be nominated for an Oscar (the first and only so far is Remi Adefarasin, nominated for his beautiful work on Elizabeth). Of course, this also reveals the systemic lack of diversity that TFE bestie Jessica Chastain brought up just last week at the Critic’s Choice Awards. Can you really focus on this type of statistic without addressing larger institutional issues? Not really. Or rather, not constructively. And so, rather than focus on this one snub which is already quite disappointing given Young’s rising profile, I wanted to know what it might tell us about the academy’s reticence to celebrate D.P.’s that lens black faces.

I’m never satisfied with the way I see my people photographed in movies. I think it comes from a lack of consciousness – if you grew up in a community where you don’t know black people, I wouldn’t suspect you would photograph them in a concerned way. - Young on the Politics of Lensing Black Films

The Academy, as it turns out, has been rather skittish about nominating directors of photography who have worked with the type of canvas Young so skillfully paints with in Selma. Indeed, several films with predominantly black casts have been on the hunt for a cinematography award before, sometimes coming quite close to landing that coveted distinction... 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jan182015

Curio: The Babadook Book

Alexa here with your film curio of the week.  Like Nathaniel, Jennifer Kent's The Babadook was one of my favorite films of 2014.  I thought it a masterpiece on the horrors of isolation, a sibling to The Shining, but with a feminist spin, a modern horror version of "The Yellow Wallpaper."  And I think it criminal that Essie Davis's performance was not a major part of the Oscar discussion.

So I couldn't let today pass without mentioning the crowdfunding campaign that ends tomorrow Monday the 19th to print the pop-up book from the film. Although the minimum order of 2000 has been achieved, guaranteeing copies of the book will creep out legions of children in the future, if you pre-order a copy by midnight Monday PST your copy will be signed by Jennifer Kent!  And, according to this article in The Times, the book will "include much of what appears in the film version, with additional narrative to bring its story to a conclusion." 

 Order your copy here, if you are willing to accept the consequences.

Saturday
Jan172015

If you fused two Hulks together could they smash J.K. Simmons?

That's the question I keep asking myself about Best Supporting Actor. My Oscar-clogged brain works like that, taking flights of fancy when it finds true facts too boring to contemplate any further. J.K. Simmons could only lose the Oscar if he suddenly became a different person before ballots were due and was unmasked as a terrorist or a serial killer or what not. He's going to win because in addition to giving a big beloved performance, he is also very well liked. As with Patricia Arquette, it's churlish and unbecoming to root against a long time actor finally getting the role people will remember them by. 

In any other year, though, this particular Oscar race would be a weird superhero collision between two very fine famous actors who both happen to get green when they're angry. Former Hulk Edward Norton vs. Present Hulk Mark Ruffalo. Both would have tremendously strong narratives for a win in that "They haven't won yet? But they're always great!" kind of way. But they'll both lose.

Silver lining: Perhaps if you tally the final votes in a month's time, their combined totals would beat Simmons? No never mind. He's too far ahead even for that.

See the Best Supporting Actor chart here! Find out how they got nominated*, how many films they've made, and vote on the poll for who "should" win - it's Reader's Choice.

*theorizing for entertainment purposes only - we can't read voter minds