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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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Mike Leigh 4 Film Retro for his 75th

secrets and lies, vera drake, happy go lucky, and topsy-turvy

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Months of Meryl: Sophie's Choice

"This is the best Streep performance ever captured on film. "That's all."" - Dorian

"I support this movie, partially because I loved the Styron novel and, along with Schindler's List, it's one of the best American movies to teach people about the holocaust. Streep is sublime in it, and it's such a great role - she gets to play Sophie before the war, during the war, after the war, etc. " - Tom

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Wednesday
Sep072016

5 Wishes for the Production Design Emmys

By Daniel Walber.

The Emmys can be, for lack of a better word, boring. Television is in a "Golden Age," or so everyone says, but its Academy has a tendency to reward the same shows every year. This phenomenon doesn’t only happen at the top of the ticket, either. Game of Thrones has been as much of a mainstay in tech categories as Modern Family was in Best Comedy Series.

And so, rather than fully handicapping the five production design races, I’d like to share some more modest hopes for this year’s winners. Here are some selections from my favorite work in the category, regardless of the odds.

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)

This is the Game of Thrones category, and it’ll probably stay that way. That said, I find the work on Penny Dreadful a lot more intriguing, at least for this season. 

 In just one episode, “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places,” there are at least three sets worthy of recognition. The work so lavish that one wonders if it was canceled because it was too expensive...

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Wednesday
Sep072016

Swing Tarzan Swing: Casper Van Dien in "The Lost City"

Nathaniel R's been revisiting (and ogling) past Lord of the Apes this summer. We've now reached the late 90s...

In our Swing Tarzan Swing series we've now reached the late 1990s. A time in which I, Greystoke-loving Nathaniel who is known to swing enthusiastically on the ropey vines of time between decades, am stunned into something approaching silence. I've sat on this one for over a week, struggling for something to say. 

What possessed anyone involved to dive headfirst into a schlocky old school Tarzan plot/adventure while also incongruously connecting itself to the (comparatively) high-brow Greystoke? Early Tarzan films avoided England but for onscreen talking points or origin story allusions. After Greystoke Tarzan films must begin there, goes the apparently unspoken rule. So we first meet John Clayton (Casper Van Dien) as a rich heir happily immersed in all things Jane (Jane March) in England. As with the new 2016 Tarzan, it begins that way before John learns that his former friends are in trouble back in Africa. Into this stew of old and new Tarzan impulses we throw a few other odd tasting ingredients. This 1998 debacle (it grossed 10% of its budget) also wants to compete with the then relatively nascent and still "B" genre of the superhero picture (films like Spawn and Blade preceded it and X-Men was just around the corner). Its CGI, though, looks closer to work done in the mid 80s.

And, speaking of the 1980s, Lost City even lifts from Conan the Barbarian's (1982) snakey shape-shifting finale...

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Wednesday
Sep072016

Natalie Portman, Round Two?

by Nathaniel R

Anyone fearing a fiasco like Naomi's Diana or Nicole's Grace of Monaco can breathe a sigh of relief in regards to the latest prestige pic about an obsessed-over hugely influential royal icon household name. Pablo Larraín's Jackie, a portrait of the most famous First Lady in the wake of her husband's assassination, is getting great ink. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are tossing out blurb-ready words like "remarkable," "meticulous," "profound," "incandescent" and many many more slobbery adjectives. (Though it should be noted that Larraín makes tough movies that never coddle audiences which might prevent this from being a breakout.)

Anyone fearing another round of Natalie Portman Mania at the Oscars might want to tense up, though. Her reviews are truly glowing. Will Natalie get to quote her Black Swan self about Oscar a second time?

He picked me, Mommy.

Wednesday
Sep072016

DVD Review: The Meddler

By Chris Feil

Earlier this year, Lorene Scafaria's The Meddler sadly came and went quietly before summer kicked (and punched and brooded) into high gear. Unlike Susan Surandon's needling mother at its center, the film is laidback and unimposing, the kind of lovely simple comedy we beg for more of and too often ignore once it arrives. Now on DVD, the film is a gem that you'll need to catch up with...

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Wednesday
Sep072016

Shock Corridor (1963)

1963 is our "year of the month". Here's Sean Donovan on Shock Corridor

In Robert Polito’s Criterion Collection essay on Samuel Fuller’s 1963 film Shock Corridor, the firebrand filmmaker Fuller is quoted saying “it is not the headline that counts, but how hard you shout it.” This spirit of loud, unabashed aggression perfectly epitomizes Shock Corridor, a singular, strange entry in the cinema of 1963. The film follows an ambitious journalist Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) who gets himself committed to a mental hospital (after faking incestuous urges in a meeting with psychiatrists) to crack a mysterious murder case from the inside-out, hoping to get the secrets from the inmates on their own level. If it sounds like the makings of a sleazy pulp fiction novel, that’s exactly what is.

Shock Corridor is pure b-movie Hollywood gutter trash, but with Samuel Fuller at the helm, it becomes something fascinatingly independent and bizarre... 

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Wednesday
Sep072016

Judy by the Numbers: "Snowflakes"

What on odd year is 1963 in the history of Judy Garland. 1964 marks the last year of Judy Garland's film career, and the boom of Judy's television career. The first of Judy's final two movies reunited Judy Garland with producer Stanley Kramer and actor Burt Lancaster, with whom she'd worked only two years before in Judgment at Nuremburg. By the early 1960s, Kramer was establishing himself as the prestige producer of hard-hitting social issue cinema. A Child Is Waiting, about an institution for developmentally challenged children, was no different.

The Movie: A Child is Waiting (Universal, 1963)
The Songwriter: Marjorie D. Kurtz
The Players: Judy Garland, Burt Lancaster, Gena Rowlands, directed by John Cassavetes

The Story: While the majority of Judy Garland's career was dominated by Technicolor musical extravaganzas, the last few films of her career do signal an attempt at darker, "more serious" work. Surrounded by Method artists like Rowlands, Cassavetes, and (to some degree) Lancaster, Judy clearly embraced a more fluid, less "Studio" form of acting. Her improvisation with the students shows this transition. This scene, not a "musical number" in the conventional sense, sees Judy attempting to teach a song to her students through many tactics - banging on the piano, half-quiet mumbling, sing-shouting, etc - while playing a range of tensions in the scene, from timidity to irritation to joy when they start to get it right. It is a subtle musical performance.

Most of the drama in A Child Is Waiting happened behind the scenes between Kramer and Cassavetes, but ultimately no battles or cute children could save the film. It lost $2 million among mixed reviews, a frustrating end to an artistic leap on Judy's part.