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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, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Thursday
Jul042013

Four for the Fourth: America in the Movies

It’s Tim, here to wish all of the U.S. readers of the Film Experience a Happy Independence Day, and to everyone else, "Happy Thursday!"

This particular holiday isn’t one commemorated in movies as much as many others – the odd scene here or there, but rarely an entire film dedicated to the themes and meanings behind the day. In order to save everyone from watching the classic but overfamiliar Yankee Doodle Dandy or 1776 – or the Roland Emmerich / Dean Devlin explode-o-rama Independence Day, if that’s the way you roll – or the miserable direct-to-video slasher movie Uncle Sam, if that’s how you roll, and for that you have my sympathy – I thought I’d put together a little list of a few films about America, in its many different forms, that might make for somewhat more novel viewing than seeing James Cagney speak-singing George M. Cohan songs for the 20th time. 

 

(Though if you haven’t seen the film, for God’s sake do it, he’s a dancing genius!) Four great movies about America below the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul042013

"American Graffiti" is a Wonderful Ride. Take It. 

I honestly can't tell you why I've avoided American Graffiti (1973) for as long as I have especially since my childhood was filled with Star Wars trilogy mania to the extent that I even devoured a George Lucas paperback biography in the early 80s. But as the only remaining unseen nominee from an unusually diverse and entertaining Best Picture Vintage (American Graffiti, Cries and Whispers, The Exorcist, The Sting, and A Touch of Class) I thought it was time. My assumption that a leisurely drive back into American nostalgia would be just the ticket for the Fourth of July holiday was correct. What surprised me was the drive itself, which "leisurely" does not accurately describe though modern sensibilities might describe the unrushed pacing in just that way.

America Graffiti spends a single night cruising with a group of friends and new acquaintances (a couple of whom, at least, have just graduated high school though the film is less clear on where the other characters stand in the age and education continuum). It's just any night but it's also not. Best friends Curt (Richard Dreyfuss, Golden Globe nominated for this performance) and Steve (Ron Howard), are due aboard a plane headed for college the next morning. But the road they and their friends travel isn't a straight shot, despite the frequent threat of drag race challenges. It's filled with detours, cul de sacs, snack breaks, and confusing cross, tail and headwinds fighting their course.  

Dreyfuss is a dreamer in "American Graffiti"

There are no convertibles to speak of in American Graffiti but you dont even have to be exposed and in motion to feel like the past and future are whipping your hair about and fighting for control of your vehicle, your life, your now. The main characters from hotshot drag racer John (Paul LeMat who won the now defuct "Promising Newcomer" Golden Globe for this performance), to cheerleader Laurie (Cindy Williams, BAFTA nominated for this performance), to best friends Curt and Steve... are visibly confused about the future and even their feelings about the past though they're hanging on, sometimes consciously, to its familiarity. Graffiti's screenplay and ensemble work is strong enough to even let the secondary characters in on this past/future action a bit too, in more subtextual ways. 

The cinematography by Jan D'Alquen & Ron Eveslage (who according to IMDb never worked again after this???) with guidance from the legendary Haskell Wexler isn't particularly showy but it is complicated given the multiple light sources, reflections, moving vehicles, and dark of night. And it's sometimes beautiful, too. Since this series is about individual shots, we have to choose one. My runner up is this brief two-shot between Laurie and Bob Falfa played by Harrison Ford in a precise (and wonderfully telling) debut. I love the light of the passing cars, the reflections, and most of all the acting...

Laurie is angry with her boyfriend Steve and gets in Bob's car only to realize the vacuum of chemistry therein. She doesn't know why she's done this exactly. Bob is also less than smitten, and they're immediately rude to each other. To break the silence Bob comically croons "Some Enchanted Evening" in the way boys clown about to avoid discomfort. In a great comic beat Laurie scoots as far away from him as she can and it'd be even further if the car weren't in motion. Both actors absolutely nail the 'what am I doing here? will i always be doing this? what's next?' ambivalence in a comedic miniature way and what's beautiful about that is that it's the same effect, really, that the film and characters arcs are going for in a dramatic longform way. I even love the art director's touch of that hanging skull in Falfa's car. Maybe's it's a little on the nose for a film that trades so heavily on Fear of the Future and even (inelegantly) foretells death in its credit sequence but it's funny and character-specific.

But that choice, finally, felt too much like a choice based solely on which paragraph I wanted to write (funny how that happens in this series!) rather than a sound decision. Best Shots don't always come from Best Scenes but this time I'm siding with synergy. The best scene in the film, the one where the omnipresent golden-oldies soundtrack, direction, performance, editing, themes and cinematography all coalesce perfectly is at the high school dance the characters reluctantly drop in on despite having just graduated. Steve and Laurie, who have been arguing for the whole first half hour of the movie, are revealed to us to be basically the King & Queen of their high school and they're called up for a spotlight dance right in the middle of a very heated break-up. The scene is two whole minutes in length and every second is beautiful. 

best shot

As they dance in circles under the blue spotlight we get, in brilliant miniature, the ebb and flow of their entire relationship from first date to first kiss to now, as their future looms -- they're not at all sure it's going to be a shared one.

The scene ends with a perfectly judged cut to a closeup as Laurie suddenly clings to Steve, tears in her eyes, wishing for her past to also be her future no matter how pissed she is at present. But since the ending to this absolute gem of a scene is more of a best cut, really, I'll select this image (above) from the middle of the sequence as its best shot. How perfect that the characters are looking in separate directions, that Laurie is driving the scene (as she does throughout despite Steve being the protagonist), that the "62" of their graduating class is lit up, and most of all that Laurie is shifting from angry historian to sentimental scrapbook artist of her own romance in the process of retelling it.


*sniffle*

NEXT WEDNESDAY': David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988) [Amazon | Netflix | iTunes]
Join us by watching it and sharing your choice of best shot. We'll link up.

MORE GRAFFITI ?!
These blogs are boss. Go visit them!
Antagony & Ecstasy thinks this is George Lucas's masterpiece
Coco Hits NYC is unfamiliar with car culture but loves the movie
The Entertainment Junkie on the volatile cocktail of adolescent emotion
Film Actually on the teenage iconography of "lover's lane"
The Film's The Thing "something great is out there waiting for you"
A Fistful of Films proves you don't have to have complex screen capture technology to deliver wonderful posts for this series (join us next week people!)
The Matinee alkdgs
Sorta That Guy visits the radio station with Curt. will he stay or will he go?
Stale Popcorn "they won't have moments like this much longer"
We Recycle Movies on quests and myths and aimless heroes

Thursday
Jul042013

'The Heat' Winners

Congratulations to the winners of The Heat (reviewed) poster contest though sadly none of you took up my offer to recreate the poster for your entry. I know TFE readers are creative from previous contests people. Don't pretend otherwise and let me down next time ;)

The winners are: 

  • FRANK in NY
  • JEREMY in NY
  • MIKE in MO
  • STEPHANIE in CA
  • TAYLOR in CT

Your prize packs* are on the way from the studio!
(*Sandra & Melissa sold separately but currently flying off the shelves)

 

Wednesday
Jul032013

Visual Index ~ American Graffiti's Best Shot(s)

Where were you on 7/2? Hopefully watching American Graffiti (1973) to better appreciate today's edition of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", our collective series in which we invite anyone who loves movies  'round the web to select their favorite image from a pre-selected movie. [Next Wednesday we'll be discussing the brilliant and disturbing Dead Ringers (1988) so do not miss that.] This week we return to simpler times...

1962 by way of 1973, in point of fact, courtesy of George Lucas's first Best Picture nominee, the very fine nostalgia fest American Graffiti which we thought an appropriate choice for the 4th of July Holiday. more...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul032013

Woody Allen to be Jacki Weaver's (Third Time) Lucky Charm?

Glenn here to discuss one of his favourite topics: the career rejuvination of Jacki Weaver!

When Weaver scored a seemingly improbable Oscar nomination a few years back for Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom (a nomination I predicted an equally improbable year in advance), most expected the diminutive Aussie to crawl off back home with her pride, some glamorous memories and little else. The rest, however, as we all know, went much differently. She hasn't been working anywhere near as much the lady that bested her to the statue - that'd be Melissa Leo who's accepted everything in her path - but she's been afforded the chance to work with some great auteurs and got a second nomination earlier this year to boot. More...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul032013

Thoughts I Had... While Staring at New Images from "The Counselor"

Two newish stills from The Counselor recently surfaced

When I saw this one all I could think was Michael Fassbender IS Scott Summers/Cyclops. But, uh, that's not right. They'd have to recast his franchise by messing with the timeline. X-Men: Days o Fassy: Days of Future Past.

The second image of Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz calls for a poll!

 


previous polls
/ previous random thoughts

 

Tuesday
Jul022013

Team Top Ten: Women Who Deserve An Honorary Oscar

Amir here, to bring you this month’s Team Top Ten on a topic that remains one of our biggest collective pet peeves here at The Film Experience.

Every year when the Academy announces the list of recipients of the Honorary Oscar, we can expect only one thing: they will all be men. Sure, the odd woman wins the award here and there, but consider this: between 1993, when the honor was bestowed upon Deborah Kerr, until 2009, when Lauren Bacall shared the award with two men, not a single woman was deemed worthy of the biggest honor AMPAS has to offer. Apologists can point to the fact that men have run the industry at large since its inception. They would be right; the industry as a whole is equally at fault, if not more, but take a look at the list of women still awaiting their first statue – or *gasp* first nomination – and tell me they don’t deserve better than one golden man every sixteen years. If the drought is as depressingly long this time as it was between Kerr and Bacall, it can be 2025 before we see another lady take home an honorary Oscar!

Deborah Kerr in 1993 and Lauren Bacall in 2009 and a great chasm between them

We know all too well that complaining about the Academy’s decision doesn’t get us anywhere, but since we found recently that they do have a listening ear, we’ve decided to do our part and help them correct this injustice. Let’s give voters the benefit of the doubt and assume that all they really needed all these years was a list of suggestions. So, here is ours: the top ten women who most deserve an honorary Oscar, under the following three criteria: they need to be alive, above the age of 55 and Oscar-less.

 GIVE THESE WOMEN THE HONORARY! 

[tie] 10. Marni Nixon
You may not know what Marni Nixon looks like, but I guarantee you know what she sounds like. If you've seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Secret Garden (1949), The King and I, An Affair to Remember, West Side Story, or My Fair Lady, you have heard Nixon's golden voice coming from the mouths of some of Hollywood's most legendary actresses. As if it isn't hard enough work to try to make your voice sound just like someone else's, in some instances Nixon had to do so in secret, the studios wanting to hide the dubbing from their big stars. Nixon's onscreen credits may number only in the single digits (her role as Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music being the most famous by far), but had she actually performed the roles she dubbed onscreen, she would have had at least two Oscar nominations by now. She's an indelible part of film history, and she never received any onscreen credit for her most famous work. If that isn't cause to give someone an Honorary Oscar, then I don't know what is.
-Daniel Bayer

10 more legends to honor after the jump!  

Click to read more ...