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Alicia Vikander cast as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Only supporting actress winners are allowed to play this role!

"What on earth can Alicia bring to this role, and why bother? Good luck." - Tom F

"How long must we wait for Dianne Wiest as Lara Croft!?" - Mike

 

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Friday
Sep122014

Stage Door: This is Our Youth

Here's Matthew Eng on a theatrical revival in NYC of interest to movie fans...

There’s always a bit of wariness involved when approaching our favorite artists’ earliest works, a back-of-the-brain hesitancy that carefully warns us to temper our expectations for these formative, often preliminary pieces. You know what I mean: those scrappily ambitious but almost inevitably uneven calling cards, the ones that were created pre-renown, even pre-agent. They were toiled over on the side, while dwelling in dubious “studio” apartments during stationary years spent wage-slaving in temp jobs, originally imagined while dawdling on a dorm mattress or in a childhood bedroom, when success was a foreign and totally faraway desire.

Success has surely been a much more familiar if nonetheless scattered concept for Kenneth Lonergan in the years since This is Our Youth broke out Off-Broadway in 1996, launching his own career on stage and screen, as well as those of original cast members Josh Hamilton, Missy Yager, and, most notably, that trusted Lonergan staple, Mark Ruffalo. I’m not overly acquainted with Lonergan’s playwriting aside from Youth, but as an ardent fan of You Can Count on Me and Margaret, it’s easy to see the same writerly penchant for considerate, character-driven narratives that would give us both Sammy and Terry Prescott, and (after much delay) Lisa Cohen and her entire, erratic orbit of friends, family members, and tragic, tenacious, and tough-talking passersby.

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Friday
Sep122014

Is There a Right Way to Watch "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby"?

abstew in the house to ask a Burning Question...

Almost a year ago today, director Ned Benson premiered his film debut, an ambitious two part film about the breakdown of a modern relationship called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, at the Toronto Film Festival (and Nathaniel was there). The film was not just one, but two films of the same story, each told from the different viewpoint of its two main characters played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. It was an interesting concept and much like this summer's Boyhood, seemed like an amazing opportunity to show something unique and ambitious in the cineplex. 

Today the film finally arrives in select movie theaters. However, 12 months later, the way the film is coming to us is far different from the way it was originally conceived. The version that opens in NY and LA this weekend (and expanding next week) is actually a spliced two-hour combination of the two films now subtitled Them (which made its debut at Cannes this past May) with the original concept of two separate films, now called Him and Her, to be released a month later in October. But with three different versions of essentially the same story...

Is there a right way to see The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby? And perhaps more importantly, can all three films sustain enough interest across so many versions? [more...]

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Friday
Sep122014

TIFF: Wild, Or How Witherspoon Got Her Groove Back

Nathaniel's adventures in Toronto. Running on fumes... 

Color me surprised that my favorite among the consensus Best Picture hopeful Oscar launches from festival season (the others being Foxcatcher, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything... though I have yet to see Birdman which didn't play here) is Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild, an adaptation of the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. How could a months long solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail be so cinematic? The answer is in its smart mosaic, visual and aural, as Reese hikes through expansive physical and intimate mental terrain. The present and the past converse and overlap consistently in the sound design like fragments of song sung, hummed or played as if remembered - who is singing? and snippets of dialogue the same evocative way. 

There's not much to say about the plot, the film's most recent kin being Into the Wild though Wild is the stronger film. Reese Witherspoon reminds us why we were all so excited about her in the first place with effortless star magnetism. She doesn't turn on any megawatt charm or do anything strenuous at all with it other than trust that innate cinematic charisma to walk with her on the trail as film-elevating protective gear. That's gear Cheryl needs because those boots aren't made for walking and good god she's got a lot of baggage, both literal (her comically large backpack) and metaphoric, having let herself completely spiral towards a personal abyss with the death of her mother.

More...

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Friday
Sep122014

"The Women" turns 75

Anne Marie here to celebrate a personal favorite. There are two ways to enjoy George Cukor’s sparkling comedy, The Women. The most obvious is to thrill in the delights of the best that a 1930s MGM comedy had to offer: an A-List, all-lady cast including Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard and Joan Crawford; costumes designed by Adrian (with a Technicolor fashion show bonus), and lavish sets, from department stores to nightclubs to Reno, including a bizarrely beautiful bathtub courtesy of Cedric Gibbons. But strip the elegant frivolity away, and you see the true nature The Women: A claws out, teeth bared, no-holds-barred bitchfest.

The Women is social satire aimed squarely at the myth of love in marriage. Neither Clare Boothe Luce (original playwright) nor Anita Loos (who adapted the screenplay) was shy about uncovering the backbiting of upper class socialites. The fights get more vicious as the stakes rise for these rich women for whom marriage is as much a job as a happy accident of love.

The film centers on two knock-down, drag out fights.

ROUND ONE: Saintly Mother Mary Haines vs Perfume Counter Girl Crystal Allen in the dressing rooms of Saks Fifth Avenue. The barbed insults fly as Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford, MGM’s reigning royalty, face off.

WINNER: It seems to be a draw. Crystal doesn’t fight fair, but Mary gets a few blows in for motherly morality.

ROUND TWO: Old Wife Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) vs New Wife Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard) in the wilds of Reno, all pretenses of civility stripped:

WINNER: Miriam gets a scar, but she also gets Sylvia’s husband. Here’s where the film gets tricky: Sylvia’s presented as a comedic villain, but she’s also in the exact same position as Mary, losing her husband to a lower class woman. The fact that Miriam Aarons is the victor in the fight and in the audience’s sympathy makes The Women better than a simple divorce comedy.

Of course, these are just two scenes in a film with more insults and innuendo than a Hedda Hopper gossip column. So this weekend, paint your nails Jungle Red, open a bottle of wine, and watch the film while thanking heavens you don’t have friends like these.

Whom do you root for: Mary or Crystal or Miriam or Sylvia?  Post your favorite moments below!

Thursday
Sep112014

Tim's Toons: Some voice actors you should know

Tim here. Earlier today, we posted our Team Top 10 for the best voice performances in the movies, focusing on ten individual performances that impressed us the most. But as good as those vocal performances all are, I wanted to follow that post up by singing the praises of a different sort of voice acting. As great as any one performance in a single feature film can be, there’s also something truly exceptional about those people who have created entire careers out of voice acting without necessarily having the kind of showcase roles we were talking about today. With that in mind, I’d like to share this list of some of the most important contemporary voice actors that you should know about. 

Jim Cummings

Why you know him: He’s the current voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for Disney. 

Where else you’ve heard him: An astonishingly prolific Disney workhorse, he’s also active in television and video games, and it sometimes feels like the rarer projects are the ones where he’s not providing background voices or a small character. In recent years, his biggest featured performance was as the Cajun firefly Ray in The Princess and the Frog, but his most widely-heard turns are probably the small roles he had in helping to boost singing voices in The Lion King and Pocahontas. Ever noticed how Pocahontas’s father suddenly sounds like Pooh bear when he starts to sing? That’s why.

 

Maurice LaMarche

Why you know him: He voiced the Orson Welles-sounding mad scientist mouse Brain in Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, titles which have the status of holy text for a certain generation of cartoon watchers.

Where else you’ve heard him: He also voiced the Orson Welles-sounding Orson Welles played in the flesh by Vincent D’Onofrio in Ed Wood. Mostly, though, his best work is on TV, including his small army of characters on the voice actor lover’s paradise Futurama, where he played the miserable green alien Kit. He was the voice of Elsa and Anna’s soon-dead father in animated musical Frozen, which you may have heard of.

 

Tress MacNeille

Why you know her: She’s a supporting member of the cast of The Simpsons, with her most prominent character being miserable, abusive old lady Agnes Skinner.

Where else you’ve heard her: She voiced the leading ladies on Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs  (Gadget, Babs Bunny, Dot Warner) back in the 1990s, which on top of The Simpsons makes her perhaps the single most recognizable voice actress in history to a whole generation. She’s also Disney’s current Daisy Duck, in those rare occurrences where Daisy Duck makes an appearance, and like damn near everybody else who does voice acting professionally, she’s had a few iconic roles in Futurama


Frank Welker

Why you know him: He voiced Megatron in the ‘80s Transformers cartoon, and started voicing the mutated form of Megatron, Galvatron, in this summer’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. Now, I know you didn’t see Age of Extinction, because you are classy and have good taste, but a whole lot of other people did.

Where else you’ve heard him: Everywhere. Welker’s stock in trade isn’t voicing characters who speak words, but providing animal noises and sound effects. He was Flit the hummingbird in Pocahontas; he was the footstool dog in Beauty and the Beast; he provided the squeaky voices of the killer Martians in Mars Attacks!; he contributed to the sounds of Godzilla in the misbegotten 1998 Godzilla; he’s been more dogs than I can count. He voiced the anaconda in 1997’s Anaconda, for God’s sake. Who knew that the anaconda even had a voice? Well it did, and it was Frank Welker, and he was AMAZING.

Share your own favorite voice actors in comments!

Thursday
Sep112014

Team Top Ten: All Time Greatest Voice Performances

Amir here, with this month’s edition of team top ten. As the art of acting and our interpretation of it evolve, definitions of what we consider a good performance change. It’s become an annual tradition to discuss whether a motion capture performance or some “alternative” form of acting deserves to be in the awards race. Last year’s topic of conversation was Scarlatt Johansson’s voice work in Her and that's the topic we’ve turned our attention to. (Thanks to Michael Cusumano for his suggestion!)

Voice acting has existed since cinema found sound and it has contributed to the medium in more memorable ways than a list of ten entries can represent. We were not limited in our option to animated films or any genre. So long as the voice performance was not accompanied by visual aids from the same performer (e.g. Andy Serkis’s work in LOTR was not eligible), it was fair game. Naturally, our list is animation-heavy, but there were others firmly in the race like Alec Baldwin's exquisite narration of The Royal Tenenbaums or especialy Marni Nixon – of whom The Film Experience is a big fan – who received several votes but just not enough.

Without further ado, here the collective top ten created from the rankings of each contributor's individual ballot

Top Ten Voice Performances of All Time

10. Peter O’Toole (Ratatouille)
Peter O’Toole’s Anton Ego doesn’t have much screen time in Ratatouille but his contribution to Pixar’s best film outside of the Toy Story trilogy is immeasurable. The final monologue by Ego – what an apt name for the food critic, or any critic, really – has become a reference point for film writers. The text is definitive, reminding us that “in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” Yet, the bitter truth in the text wouldn’t strike the right chords had it not been for O’Toole’s sombre, elegiac tone. Remarkably balancing his authority with a palpable sense of resignation, O’Toole’s final words elevate the scene beyond criticism.
-Amir Soltani

9. Eleanor Audley (Sleeping Beauty)
Angelina Jo-who? While the voluptuous star brought sexiness and unnecessary warmth to the part of Maleficent in this summer's blockbuster adaptation, she still doesn't hold a candle to the incomparable work of Eleanor Audley in the 1959 animated version. The actress bookended the 1950s for Disney through two of their most iconic creations, having also voiced Cinderella's stepmother in the 1950 version. For Beauty however, she was firing on all Machiavellian cylinders as she brought a sense of immeasurable dread to what was considered to be a children's film. Her Maleficent is barely in the film, but she makes every line count. We don't need to hear her entire (or any) backstory to know that she was truly evil in ways we could only begin to imagine. In a time before villains were cool, she's the most interesting character and when she says "listen well, all of you", you couldn't pay us to ignore her command.
- Jose Solis
(more on this performance

8 more great vocal performances after the jump...

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Thursday
Sep112014

X(avier) Marks the Spot for Jessica Chastain

Glenn here to talk about two of my favourite people, Xavier Dolan and Jessica Chastain. We don't usually discuss casting here at The Film Experience, especially this early into a film's existence, because they can so easily fluctuate and change without a moment's notice. This, however? This is casting news we absolutely must discuss.

Dolan's most recent film (it's hard to keep track) is Mommy, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and is getting big plaudits out of Toronto including this one from Nathaniel labelling it his best work best. Not one to rest on his 25-year-old laurels, the Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan has cast Jessica Chastain in his English-language debut!! I'm not sure how much about The Death and Life of John F. Donovan we know already, but the exceptionally coiffed Dolan says it is a satire of the industry and that Chastain will play the villain, an editor-in-chief of a gossip magazine. Jessica is getting her Miranda Priestly on and I'm sure Dolan's hyper-stylized panache will make it yet another must see for both exceptionally talented individuals. Here's what he had to say, courtesy of /bent.

It was this friend of mine -- a journalist -- who had brought to my attention that Jessica Chastain had seen Mommy in Cannes and had liked it and tweeted about it ... It dawned on me that I should ask Jessica about playing the 'villain' role in 'John F. Donovan ... I reached out to Jessica and she read the script. She loved it, and we got along like hotcakes. That's basically it. I can already foresee all the pleasure we'll have working together.

This is the tweet in question and it's yet another example of why it amuses me so much to see filmmakers actually talking about other films and filmmakers. It's a great way of predicting who will be in this industry for the long haul if they're out there seeking films beyond the usual LA/NY red carpet events. It shows they're much deeper into their craft than it being a mere "job". Kudos to Chastain.

Despite how amazing the two of them are, the news makes me doubly happy because it will surely mean that  Xavier Dolan will get even more of a name for himself and hopefully his films can start coming out in America faster than they have been (Tom at the Farm *still* doesn't have a distributor!) What their collaboration will produce who can tell, but good grief are we keen! Not even the news that Dolan wants Taylor Kitsch, too, can dampen the excitement. What about you, does Jessica or Xavier excite you more?