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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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Loveless (Foreign Film Nominee)

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Blade Runner 2049 (Prod. Design)

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Monday
Sep122016

Blue Velvet at 30

by Jason Adams 

With our host Nathaniel off in Toronto seeing movies this week; some good, some bad... but which ones will last forever? It's a question I put forth because David Lynch's masterpiece Blue Velvet played at the Toronto Film Festival exactly 30 years ago today. Did those fortunate souls sitting there in that audience know they were seeing a stone-cold American classic unveiled unto the world. I can't imagine they didn't know they were seeing something unlike anything else they'd ever seen before, that much seems clear. The film made some noise!

Blue Velvet's one of my Top Five Favorites so let's celebrate its anniversary (it was released in US theaters one week after its screening in Toronto). In honor of 30 years here are 30 favorite Blue Velvety facts, figures, and fun stuff, starting with...

1. LAURA DERN'S FACE

2. But seriously this is Lynch's first collaboration with his muse and most important collaborator (so says me and that cow he stood on Hollywood Blvd with) and it's a pleasure to contrast the character of Sandy with the places the two would later go - the sweetness and naivete here evenautally giving way to all kinds of craziness; it's impossible not to look at this nice young lady now and not see the wild woman -- Lulu Fortune anybody? -- about to come beating out from underneath those fuzzy sweaters.

Ears and lots of the F-word after the break...

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Monday
Sep122016

Beauty vs Beast: I Dream of Tommy Lee

Jason from MNPP here, fighting the urge to begin and end this week's edition of "Beauty vs Beast" wth a long monologue about the past and/or the dreams I had last night (although regarding the latter Aaron Taylor-Johnson may or may not have been involved - Hi Aaron!), for one of our finest actors, Mr. Tommy Lee Jones, who is turning 70 this week.

I make reference of course to his great performance in the Coen's masterpiece No Country For Old Men, a performance which is always overshadowed (and yes, I preemptively expect the same to happen here) by Javier Bardem's big hair trigger, but not, in my estimation, rightfully so. As I've revisited the film over the years since its release Bardem's scare show has begun to sink into the background and it's Jones' work as the titual Old Man that lingers - as he delivers the dream monologue that closes the film I find myself wanting to stare at his face and all its hills and valleys and sad wisdom for another hour, and another after that. It is a gift. Or maybe you just feel more comfortable voting for someone who'd dare to threaten Kelly Macdonald...

PREVIOUSLY Two weeks back we went full goofy with a love-fest for Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin, an admittedly awful movie that I nonetheless watch whenever it's on the TV - in a villain-off it was Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy whose green touch warmed our hearts over Arnold's Mr. Freeze. Said Roger:

"As a queer little Earth child mixing potions in the garden, Poison Ivy really spoke to me. Years later, discovering Uma was a fellow Taurus, child of Venus, made worlds of sense to me. I was in green and cherry-red love."

Monday
Sep122016

The Furniture: Love & Friendship's Country Charm

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

Chirp.Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) finds the countryside boring. She’d much rather be in London, safe from her daughter and her other dull relations. Yet she’s broke and bound by obligation to spend time at a large country estate. This is the central problem of Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, a delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan.

The estate in question is Churchill, the home of her brother-in-law Charles Vernon and his wife, Catherine Vernon (nee DeCourcy). Granted, as the amusingly dim-witted Sir James Martin points out, there appears to be neither church nor hill on the property. Instead there is only period-appropriate finery and some very subtle efforts to manipulate audience loyalty.

Production designer Anna Rackard and art directors Louise Mathews and Bryan Tormey go about this with great care. 

Lady Susan is a selfish, scheming character whose relatives almost certainly deserve more of our sympathy. Yet she’s the protagonist, and also quite funny. We can’t be allowed to tire of her too quickly. And so the production design team emphasizes a point on which many of us can agree with Lady Susan: The countryside is the worst...

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Monday
Sep122016

TIFF Quickies: A Monster Calls, Colossal, Santa & Andrés

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto Film Festival 


A Monster Calls (JA Bayona, USA/Spain)
This fable about grief and growing up will surely be someone's favorite movie. Alas, it isn't mine. A Monster Calls is a simple fantasy about a boy named Connor (Lewis MacDougall) whose mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer. His grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and father (Toby Kebell) attempt to console him but the only solace Connor can find is in visitations from a giant tree monster (voiced by Aslan... excuse me, Liam Neeson) who promises to tell the boy three stories in exchange for the boy's own. The film is somewhat moving and fantastically visual in its three animated stories within the movie; they're sensory overload mashups of computer generated imagery, watercolor fluidity, and bold color choices. In both its earthbound and magical moments, though, A Monster Calls is relentlessly gilding the lily. It's so concerned with putting its parables over that its' constantly explaining them and telling us how to feel about grief and loss. Still, Bayona's movie is always coming from a place of compassion and humanity which can be a godsend in the soulless landscape of CGI heavy movies. While the tech elements are strong, particularly sound and visual effects (though why does the creature look so much like Groot?),  it all comes down to the boy and his mother if you want the tears. MacDougall & Jones are beautifully cast as they both look and feel like mother & son. MacDougall, who made his debut as a Lost Boy in Pan last year, impressively carries the movie with something like ease while filling up all the unspoken spaces with heartbreak and fury about his impending loss. Felicity Jones half-gone feeling in her final scenes provides generous Oscar clipping. If only the movie had given the emotions more room to breathe and to speak for themselves. If trees can walk and talk, and demand that we listen, feelings deserve the same respect. Less CGI and scripted preaching, more intuitvie tears, please. [Animated Stories Within the Movie: B+ /Movie: C+ ]

Colossal (Dir. Nacho Vigalondo, Canada)
Finally a movie that Hathaway fans (*raises hand high and shamelessly*) and the "Hathahaters" can enjoy together. This oddball movie from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo places Anne Hathaway at the center of a kaiju movie. Nope, she's not a scientist or a hero - believe it or not she's the kaiju. Yes, she's Colossal's rampaging beast destroying Seoul ... not figuratively but actually! She's also "Gloria" a drunk who gets thrown out of her boyfriend's apartment (Dan Stevens) and ends up returning to her hometown where she takes a job with a former friend (Jason Sudeikis) who still harbors a crush. When Gloria realizes she's unknowingly wreaking havoc all the way around the world she's even more freaked out by her self destruction and drunken blackouts. If that all sounds like it might work better as a midnight madness short, you could be right. Colossal starts brilliantly with a priceless perfectly-pitched prologue in South Korea with a little girl and her dolly. Though it's numerous twists have a kind of welcome insanity, the length of the thing, and particularly its deadly over-investment in the Jason Sudeikis character (to the detriment of Gloria's own emotional arc) undoes it. Lop off an entire half hour of this film's running time and it might just work as a delightfully weird and funny cult oddity but as it is Colossal is something of its own kaiju, an lumberingly awkward, self-destructive beast which keeps crushing the precious little movie its building. [Anne Hathaway's Willingness to Do This Project: A / Movie: C+]

Santa & Andrés (Dir. Carlos Lechuga, Cuba/Colombia)
Havana born director Carlos Lechuga takes aim at the disconnection of idealogies amongst Cubans in this 80s set drama about a homosexual writer deemed a dissident and the woman assigned to monitor him to keep him from contacting international press and delegates at a local political event. Initially this drama's slow burn doesn't seem to be paying off with a dull first half hour and lots of shots of Santa & Andrés warily staring at each other and barely speaking. But their eventual emotional, if not political, understanding is wonderfully portrayed by the actors and smartly delineated in the screenplay. What the patient filmmaking lacks in verve it makes up for in insight, with each painfully tentative kindness between them feeling like a precious miracle in a climate of hopelessness. B

Sunday
Sep112016

A Cocktail with Sigourney

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

That's me telling Sigourney Weaver some story (presumably about how awesome she is). It's all a blur...

You have to act quickly in these situations as you only get a minute. The event was a party for A Monster Calls in which Sigourney plays the emotionally distant British (!) grandmother of a young boy (Lewis MacDougall) whose mother (Felicity Jones) has cancer. As escape from his life or possibly as solution to it the boy meets regularly with a giant tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who tells him morally ambiguous stories about witches, princes, and apothecaries.

I didn't once mention Ripley because I'm sure Sigourney hears this daily (on the red carpet outside there were people with Aliens posters wanting her to sign them) but took the opportunity to tell her how much I loved her on Broadway in Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike. Especially in the second act with her Snow White costume.

I almost wore that tonight.

...she quipped. Hee. Then she said it was funny I'd mentioned it because she had just emailed a playwright friend saying "we need a reunion" because she'd love to get back on stage. 

Now off to another screening! TIFF moves so quickly on the first weekend.

Sunday
Sep112016

Alexis Arquette (1969-2016)

Alexis Arquette, the youngest sister of the Arquette acting family, passed away today at the age of 47 after a lengthy illness. She was the fourth of the five Arquette kids, all of whom became actors, with Rosanna Arquette leading the way to fame in the early 80s. Alexis was surrounded by all her siblings when she died as they listened to her favorite songs. She passed during David Bowie's "Starman." (So many sad goodbyes in 2016.)

Born Robert, she took the name Alexis early on, long before coming out officially as transgendered. Onscreen her first appearance was uncredited in the Bette Midler comedy Down & Out in Beverly Hills  (1986).

as "Georgette" in Last Exit to Brooklyn

Her official debut though was as the trans prostitute "Georgette" in one of Jennifer Jason Leigh's most critically acclaimed showcases Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)... 

 

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