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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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Oscar Horrors: An Irish Ghost Story

HERE LIES... Hilton Edwards' short film Return to Glennascaul, mauled by Disney's Bear Country.

Andreas here with another spooky Oscar Horrors case file! This time, it's a ghost story. And who doesn't love a good ghost story? (Other than the Academy, I suppose.) Return to Glennascaul (1953) retells a traditional urban legend, that of the "vanishing hitchhiker," but with so much flair and atmosphere that its overfamiliarity doesn't matter. The set-up is classic: it's late at night, on a winding road outside Dublin, and the narrator stops to pick up a stranded motorist. But aha, a twist: the narrator is in fact Orson Welles, on a break from Othello! What better addition to a ghost story than Orson, that master raconteur, he of the perfect radio voice?

Aother small twist: his passenger isn't a ghost, but instead has his own eerie story of two mysterious women and the old abandoned house he drove them to, a house called Glennascaul. All these framing devices, coupled with Orson Welles playing a wry version of himself, make the short feel like a "friend-of-a-friend" anecdote. Like something built up too plausibly not to be true. And hey, who knows what can or can't happen in the misty Irish countryside? The women themselves (one old, one young) seem harmless enough, if a little kooky, until Orson's new friend contacts the realtor trying to sell Glennascaul... and, of course, learns that they've both been dead for years. (If that's a spoiler, then you should really bone up on your campfire stories.

This is some subtle horror, certainly, but it grows in power as the climax hits—as the gentleman makes the titular return, only to discover a dusty, desolate house with no residents to speak of. Truly haunting. In addition to Orson's baritone, the film's carpeted by a sparse piano and harp score, and it's shot in chiaroscuro black and white; exactly the minimalism that the material calls for. Sometimes, as Return to Glennascaul teaches us, all you need to tell a chilling story is 20 minutes, a little music, and an old house. Oh, and Orson Welles.

It may not have won the Oscar (thanks, Disney) but it will send shivers up your spine.

Recent Oscar Horrors 
Jaws - Best Editing
Aliens - Visual FX
Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte - Supporting Actress

All Oscar Horrors


"The Loneliest Planet" Finally Lands in Theaters

One of my favorite films from last year's New York Film Festival was The Loneliest Planet starring Gael García Bernal. I sometimes jokingly think of the pocket-sized actor as the mascot of Oscar's Foreign Language Film Category since he appears in frequent submissions and because he really ought to have been nominated himself by now. Worthy performances have included Amores Perros and Bad Education but he's top notch in just about everything whether rescuing a movie from itself (see The Crime of Father Amaro) or being self-effacing and excellent when the film is so much more than just a leading actor's vehicle (see the neo classic Y Tu Mama Tambíen or the Chilean Oscar submission No. No really, see them when you get a chance.) I hadn't really forgotten about The Loneliest Planet but I had given up hope of the ever-delayed theatrical release which has finally come to pass. It opens today in limited release hot on the heels of its Best Picture citation at the Gotham Awards.

So I thought I'd revive last year's review to convince you to see it. Beau recently asked me what the "big spoiler" was but to purposely spoil this gorgeous contemplative picture for yourself is so masochistic. It's not a twist movie per se but in some ways it is all about a shocking split second moment at the center of the picture and why know that beforehand?


Click to read more ...


First & Last: 'something off the port bow'

the first and last images from a motion picture. Always with the water, I tell you... years of doing this feature has taught me that more filmmakers like to begin and end on shots of water than any other single image.

first line

Cap! Something off the port bow."

[hint: that something is pretty gruesome]

last line?

[not really. a man shaves and a woman tries on clothes.]

Can you guess the movie?


Feline Oscar Twins: Anne & Michelle?

In the hall of fame of superhero/villain catchphrases “oops” (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises) never stood much of a prayer against “me-ow” (Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns), nor could the dark side self importance of 2012’s “there’s a storm coming Mr Wayne” ever best the sexier playful 1992 ‘dark side?’ retort “no darker than yours Bruce”  But catch phrases aren’t everything...even when you've got zingy ones like "life's a bitch now so am I" In the great Catwoman wars of popular culture, it’s always in some ways a draw. Every generation and every aesthetic gets their own James Bond and so it goes with all enduring characters which win several iterations. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle may never claim the easy universally agreed upon “Best Catwoman Evah!” victory you’d expect given Pfeiffer’s mammoth performance (give or take Heath Ledger, the most psychologically precise, overachieving & seismically inspired in superhero cinema) but what can you do? Before The Dark Knight Rises premiered I braced myself for the onslaught of “best catwoman ever” pieces which I knew would proliferate. In truth they would have even for a  performer less dazzling than Anne Hathaway’s.  Out with the old and in with the new is, generally speaking, the law that governs pop culture. It’s just How Things Work.

Catwoman watching Catwoman. Feline staring contest in 1...2...

With the recent news that Anne Hathaway would be campaigned as Best (Leading) Actress for the role, a strategic move which has been taken more seriously than I was expecting given that she has no prayer in hell of a nomination for everyone’s favorite good/bad girl in spandex, this Hathaway/Pfeiffer story wouldn’t leave me.

Twenty years back when Michelle Pfeiffer lept into the feline role vacated by Annette Bening she nailed the role winning “best in show” reviews, winning a massive new army of fans, achieving her biggest box office hit, and sailing on to an Oscar nomination for the year (albeit not as Catwoman). Leap forward a couple of decades and history repeats itself four times over…. Well three times over for now but we all know Anne Hathaway will make it four-for-four once Les Miz hits.

It's worth thinking about Hathaway and Oscar through the prism of Pfeiffer. It's not a perfect identical twin situation but the similarities don't end with "what happened with Catwoman." At the time of Batman Returns/Love Field Michelle was a 34 year old previous Oscar nominee who had been famous for 10 years and had already co-starred in one very major also-ran Best Picture nominee (Dangerous Liaisons). At the time of The Dark Knight Rises/Les Miserables Anne is a 30 year old previous Oscar nominee who has been famous for 11 years and has already co-starred in one extremely major also-ran Best Picture nominee (Brokeback Mountain). Both actresses played Catwoman in the summer and followed it up at Christmas time by starring in something more typically Oscar-friendly, Pfeiffer in a civil rights drama and Hathaway in an epic musical. 

On top of all of Fantine's problems... she never return her DVDs to the video store

But here's where the similarities end and Hathaway's Oscar story may have a much happier ending. For one, Anne Hathaway's Catwoman arrived in a culture that has moved past viewing superhero films as "fluff" and is therefore less shy about recognizing acting achievements inside of them. For another, the eventually nominated performance by Hathaway is likely to be "the right one of the two" whereas Michelle was chosen for the wrong performance -- not that she isn't very good in Love Field, but it's not the inspired no one else could do this work that her Selina Kyle was. Finally and most obviously Les Miserables will be no Love Field, a film that was barely released and was largely only acknowledged -- if it was acknowledged as all -- as a vehicle for a Michelle Pfeiffer nomination. If you want to stick to the Pfeiffer narrative Les Miserables is far more likely to be Hathaway's own Fabulous Baker Boys... only this time there's no Jessica Tandy in sight to steal the statue away from a glorious actress in the full bloom of her star power.


Oscar Horrors: Bringing the Aliens to Life

Here lies... the alien queen, expelled into space using strings, pulleys and dummies. 

Amir here to look at the Oscar-winning Visual Effects of James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). Cameron’s films have an extraordinary record with the Academy when it comes to this category. His first two features were unrecognized – and let’s be honest, anyone who’s seen Piranha II: The Spawning will surely side with the voters – but he’s enjoyed five nominations and four wins from his next five attempts. The public has come to accept him as a revolutionary director too, a man whose every work will “change the language of cinema.” Cameron’s built his career on these visual spectacles and his upped the ante with every new film, but it all started back in 1986 when Aliens was released.

Long before he became a powerhouse Hollywood director, Cameron began learning his craft on the sets of the legendary Roger Corman. For the production of Aliens, Cameron brought in the Skotak brothers, visual effects supervisors and collaborators from his Corman era, to create a whole new world surrounding Ridley Scott’s Alien mythology; a world that was wilder, gorier and more expansive than Scott’s...

More after the jump...

Click to read more ...


It's Hitchcock's World...

Yesterday I received my invitation to Hitchcock and I nearly let out a scream of delight. Not that the trailer convinced me a masterpiece awaited me or that I've rushed to read "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" in preparation but I do tend to get excited for most things Hitchcock. The power of branding! I still remember the day I received the Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection box set (a gift from a generous reader some years ago) which felt like 15 Christmases at once.

Wouldn't it be neat if more Golden Age era directors had the sort of modern profile that The Master of Suspense still enjoys? Wouldn't it be neat if baby cineastes pored over every page of "William Wyler and the Making of Jezebel" (not a real book) or if the film version of "Billy Wilder and the Making of Some Like It Hot" (not a real book)  retitled simply Wilder (not a real film) was a sudden hot Oscar buzz prospect for 2013 or if you could say "George Cukor" to anyone and they wouldn't think you were referring to a coworker or neighbor they didn't know. Wouldn't it be great if "King Vidor" didn't sound more fictional to people than Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genova?

But I digress.

My mind suddenly jolted to Hitchcock and his immense fame a record six times already this week: when Manuel Muñoz's (author of the Psycho-adjacent novel "What You See in the Dark") wrote up Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte for the blog; when I read Interiors Film Journal's look at the motel room in Psycho (What an interesting choice as I've never much considered it as a space before... just as a violent eruption of glass shard like images if you will, and again when I was ); when Vanity Fair posted those photos of young prankster Mitt Romney and the one of him with the etch-a-sketch totally had me shivering from its Norman Bates like quality only scarier because I can escape Bates' knife if I don't stay in his motel but how to escape Mitt's destructive capabality if he becomes President?; when Beau sent me a text saying "The Girl" (that other Hitchcock making-of bio) sucked; when the invite arrive and; first and foremost when I my friends covered me in seed and pidgeons landed all over me in Puerto Rico's Old San Juan (I'm just back from a week in the sun!) which made me want to watch THE BIRDS again immediately...

me in Old San Juan earlier this week. Amor a Puerto Rico

Well... immediately after a shower. They're so dirty!

P.S. This image doesn't even hint at how many of those birds land on you when you're holding bags of seed. They peck so furiously that your arms have polka dot imprints afterwards but the sound of their begging cooing right in your ears is remarkably endearing/freaky/surreal.

TALK TO ME... Which classic movie director outside of Hitchcock do you most wish had a higher profile these days? How high would you rate your anticipation of "Hitchcock" on the coming soon meter? Have you seen The Girl?

On an off-cinema note, have you ever been to Puerto Rico?



c'mon. take another little piece of my link, babe

Next Movie Evan Rachel Wood & Juliette Lewis would rather they play Janis Joplin than Amy Adams! Agree?
Hark! A Vagrant stops for Quiz Time with Queen Elizabeth. If only Elizabeth: The Golden Age was this (intentionally) funny!
Stale Popcorn loves the costumes of Argo (as do I) 
Playlist will we see a Fincher-helmed sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. So many questions. So few answers but I am going to say a hard "yes" on my guesswork on this one. I have my reasons. 

Salon wonders if horror has reached a new golden age and whether European (Spanish to be precise) cinema is to blame. 
i09 Wally Pfister, the Oscar winning cinematographer of Chris Nolan's filmography will direct his own feature now. Johnny Depp to star.
/Film Zero Dark Thirty and Stand Up Guys have adjusted their release plans to barely show in 2012 but still be Oscar players. Oy... I hate this part of the otherwise glorious last quarter of each year. In related news: yes, I'm fully aware that I need to add Jessica Chastain to my Actress chart. Updates this weekend!
Playbill Whatever happened to that Soapdish remake? Never mind, it's now being adapted into a musical. Quite a starry lineup they're gathering for a reading: Kristin Chenoweth & Jane Krakowski? Blonde musical comedienne sensation x 2 !

Gawker 'my pussy is the temple of learning' Madonna's Sex and Erotica turn 20 years old this week. I love them both muchly. If only they were movies I would devote the whole week to them. Please do not say "Body of Evidence" as its the only embarrassing part of that Madonna 92/93 trifecta that's no cause for celebration. (Should I write about them anyway and just force the film connections?)
Cinema Blend Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone for Cameron Crowe's next movie? 
Pajiba on the Empires of the Deep trailer. Hmmm Errrr. The only recognizably non-computerized thing in it is one shot of Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) One senses this won't be her Resident Evil poor thing. 
In Contention talks to the very busy very awesome character actor John Goodman