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Six Short Reviews

"While there was imagination to Swiss Army Man, I am on the hate side of it." -Chris

 "I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane on a long flight Tuesday. It felt like a cross between Misery, Room and an end-of-the-world sci-fi horror B movie. I liked it." -Paul

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Friday
Dec052014

Team FYC: The Babadook for Original Screenplay

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Michael on The Babadook

Years of horror films have trained audiences how to guard against all the tricks of the genre, but Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook gets around those defenses and needles us in ways for which we aren't prepared. Kent understands that all great horror touches on some form of primal terror. Something deeper than the surface shocks. The Shining had our fear of isolation. Jaws had our helplessness in the face of nature's power. The Babadook taps into our dread of our own offspring. The fear that they might destroy our life and the fear that we may hate them. Kent’s film burrows so far under the skin you can practically hear it scrape against bone.

The Babadook's screenplay does so many things so effortlessly it’s easy to miss the scope of her achievement. Part of the reason the scares are so effective is that the film has been so convincingly grounded in reality before the horror elements creep in. If the haunting had never materialized the story could continue quite well as an affecting portrait of a struggling single mom. Kent also lands a killer ending, one that manages to leave the audience both satisfied and thoroughly unsettled. Count on your fingers how many other modern horror films pull off that trick and you will have enough digits left over to cover your eyes when The Babadook gets too terrifying.

The Babadook has been widely heralded as one of the best horror films of the new century, if not the best, yet it is all but certain to be ignored by the Academy. It deserves to join the slim ranks of Best Picture nominated horror titles alongside The Exorcist, Jaws and Silence of the Lambs, but since that is not going to happen, the least they can do is recognize Kent’s achievement in conceiving of Mr. Babadook in the first place. And after all, wouldn’t it be fitting if the story of a monster who lurks on the printed page found its recognition in the writing category?

Related
We talked to Jennifer Kent about her brilliant debut

Other FYCs 
Original Score, The Immigrant
Supporting Actress, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl
Visual FX, Under the Skin
Cinematography, The Homesman
Outstanding Ensembles

Thursday
Dec042014

50th Anniversary: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Tim here. December means two things: one of these is frantically trying to keep up with year-end awardage and last-minute qualifying releases, and we have that well-covered this month at the Film Experience. But it also means forcible nostalgia and hankering back to the traditions of childhood, and in this mode, we come to a very important anniversary this weekend. It was 50 years ago, on December 6, 1964, that NBC first aired the hourlong Rank/Bass special Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, and thus created one of the most durable pop culture artifacts of the Christmas season.

Rudolph wasn't the first TV Christmas special, nor even the first one that was animated: Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol had beaten to the latter punch by two years. Its enormous success meant that follow-ups were inevitable, so Rudolph was merely at the forefront of quite a large number of animated tales of finding the true meaning of the holiday and this and the other thing. And yet out of that wave of productions, virtually nothing, including Quincy Magoo’s turn in Ebenezer Scrooge’s shoes, has had the lasting cultural currency of Rudolph, which has been aired somewhere on American television for every single one of the 50 years of its existence. The fledgling Rankin/Bass (then working under the name Videocraft) made a cottage industry out of Christmas specials in the years following, but none of its follow-ups have become institutions in the same way as their first attempt.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec042014

PETER PAN LIVE! Live Blog with Margaret & Anne Marie

ANNE MARIE: Good evening, Lost Boys & Girls. Anne Marie here with the ever-youthful Margaret to live-blog NBC's Peter Pan Live! Or it would be live, but Los Angeles does everything on a delay, so instead it's a late-blog three hours after the original event began.

MARGARET: Thank goodness they don't do this with the Oscars.

ANNE MARIE: A word on my credentials: Like millions of children, I was basically raised on the Mary Martin/Cyril Ritchard broadcast. Until I was six, I thought I was going to grow up to be Peter Pan. I've also been in it, designed for it, and seen the Cathy Rigby version (twice).  Oh, and for actual credentials, I have a minor in theater and have stage managed in LA for six years. I also liveblogged The Sound of Music Live! last year. This isn't my first trip to Neverland, is what I'm saying. 

MARGARET: While I haven't Anne Marie's technical background, I also grew up a huge fan of the Mary Martin production. My copy was taped from a TV broadcast on an ancient VHS (look it up, kids) and I watched it so much I memorized the commercials. Since I am also a great fan of (1) celebrities looking uncomfortable and (2) anything with a strong potential for disaster, tonight's entertainment is right up my alley. I hope I'm not alone in that.

ANNE MARIE: If you're on the East Coast, check in with us and think back on fond memories made just three hours ago. If you're on the West Coast, follow along as we experience childhood anew. If you're in one of the middle states, then you're kinda like the Lost Boys: nobody pays attention to you and we spend a lot of time flying over your head. 

Are you ready? OFF TO NEVERLAND!

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec042014

AHS: Freakshow "Blood Bath" 

There be spoilers ahead. On the latest episode of American Horror Story: The Dandy Show television's most beautiful, most Emmy-worthy, and most bratty psycho-killer goes to see a disembodied psychiatrist (why are they hiding his face: stunt casting?), kills his mother and makes like Countess Bathory with her remains.

Some other stuff probably happened in this episode, too, but the titular bath was uh... distracting

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec042014

Team FYC: "The Immigrant" for Original Score

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Jose on The Immmigrant

Director James Gray has stated on many occasions that he owes his inspiration for The Immigrant to music, to be more specific: opera. How it was when he was watching Puccini’s Il Trittico at the LA Opera, with tears streaming down his face, that he realized he needed to tell this story. Inspired by Puccini’s sinful sister Angelica, he created the character of Ewa (Marion Cotillard) a Polish immigrant forced into prostitution by the conniving pimp Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) who in a way is perversely in love with her. Gray wanted to tell a grand story about a woman in the vein of the Barbara Stanwyck films he loved, all of which were snootily referred to as “melodramas”.

And it’s precisely in this marriage of music and drama where The Immigrant proves to be absolutely sublime, Gray understood that to make an “operatic” film he needed not to exaggerate but to seek a depth of emotion heightened by the work of composer Christopher Spelman. The two have worked together in the past (going all the way back to Gray’s first film Little Odessa) and specifically they have used Puccini before, with Spelman arranging the orchestrations for the pieces used in Two Lovers.

In The Immigrant Spelman not only arranged the pre-existing opera pieces we hear throughout the film, he also composed a series of haunting melodies which both pay homage and carve their own way from where the Puccini ends. Spelman’s melancholy pieces are infused with a sense of longing that will have you humming them inexplicably days, months even, after you watch the film, making for an experience that’s quite operatic indeed.

Other FYCs 
Original Screenplay, The Babadook
Original Score, The Immigrant
Supporting Actress, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl
Visual FX, Under the Skin
Cinematography, The Homesman
Outstanding Ensembles

Thursday
Dec042014

Thoughts I Had... While Looking at Cate Blanchett's 'Cinderella' Poster

Take it away Margaret...

 

  • If you've got (1) Blanchett looking imperious, or better yet (2) Blanchett looking imperious in a fabulous hat, I'm already sold. I sort of hope the whole movie is just Cate posing with glacial elegance in an increasingly imposing series of chapeaux.
  • Now that she's bagged Oscar #2, the time might just be right for her to try some camped-up villainy. 
         * pretending Indiana Jones 4 doesn't exist, pretending Indiana Jones 4 doesn't exist *
  • I love Cate as a redhead. Reahhhlly I do.
  • And oh look, It's DAISEH from Downton Abbey! Hi, Daiseh! I stopped watching your show in season 2 but I think it's safe to say whatever Julian Fellowes is doing with you, you deserve better.
  • Merciful heavens, the florals are strong with this one. Is that supposed to be what makes them wicked? A heavy hand with competing patterns?
  • Something about the stepsisters being decked out in those bright shades of pink and yellow makes me think of the Power Rangers. I will now be taking volunteers to write the treatment for a Cinderella/Power Rangers crossover.
  • The Oscar campaign for Most Costume Design 2015 starts now. Our gal Sandy Powell should start drafting gloriously blunt acceptance sound bytes now.
  • Not sure what to make of the March release date. Certainly when a big studio picture with no major competition opens in March it has potential to take off into an enormous hit (à la Eyesore in Wonderland or Oz the Great and Powerful) but by that same token it's often where weaker films get sent when they can't hold up against the blockbusters..

What does this new poster bring to your mind?

Thursday
Dec042014

Linkless

Whoa we're getting behind on the linkages... here ya go

The Babadook order the pop-up book so that I have someone to commiserate with when it keeps us awake at nights in 2015
NYT looks at Ava DuVernay's direction of Selma
MNPP Continually undersung TFE favorite Alessandro Nivola celebrates the shortness of his shorts and how it helped A Most Violent Year win NBR's Best Picture. Hee
The Credits on the makeup work on Wild. How to keep Reese dirty?!

Hey U Guys interviews the always welcome Judy Greer on Men Women and Children and Ant-Man
Dissolve Sundance announces its titles for 2015. I should probably go again but haven't committed yet
Carpetbagger interviews costume designer Albert Wolsky on Birdman's briefs and super suit
In Contention Kris interviews TFE's communal husband, cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma / A Most Violent Year) 
Awards Daily mad scramble of wide open Oscar year
Heat Vision Suicide Squad, which I guess is a Batman movie without Batman (isn't TV's Gotham already covering that beat), gets an all star cast: Smith, Hardy, Robbie, Jai Courtney and Jared Leto as the Joker risking Heath comparisons less than a decade later. Yikes.
Boy Culture on Madonna's much talked about new Interview photoshoot 
The Atlantic Joe Reid thanks the NYFCC for expanding rather than narrowing the Oscar conversation this year (may other orgs and associations and circles do likewise)
/Film everyone is talking about the Fantastic Four synopsis which I find incredibly strange since its the vaguest thing ever and everyone already knows it (four young people are cosmically transformed in super odd ways and have to face an enemy that was once a friend - duh!)
Variety a bunch of major screenplays are ineligible for the WGA awards this year including The Theory of Everything and Selma
Daily Mail Kathleen Turner profiled for Dumb and Dumber To

I don't look like I did 30 years ago, get over it.

Sorry Kathleen, I'll never get over you! Then or now. (Though I'll skip this type of cameo and wait for the next great stage performance)

Absolute Must Read of the Day
Garden & Gun 98 year-old two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland gets sassy remembering her career and Gone With the Wind (1939). On working with some of the greatest directors of all time from George Cukor to William Wyler...

They didn’t get the performances out of me. I gave the performances to them.

Videos o' the Day
Louis Virtel details all the reasons why Madonna is the greatest celebrity of all time. And David Ehrlich countsdown his 25 favorites of the year with a neato montage with wonderful music choices

 

THE 25 BEST FILMS OF 2014: A VIDEO COUNTDOWN from david Ehrlich on Vimeo.

 

Top Ten / List Manic Season Begins
John Waters the inimitable director does his annual duty for Artforum. It's always refreshingly eclectic and this year he loves Maps to the Stars and Nymphomaniac
Washington Post from Boyhood to Under the Skin 
AV Club kicks off it's best & worst of the year with comedy albums, least essential albums (heh) and worst tv. ouch.
The Film Stage looks at the best of 2014 according to Cahiers du Cinema from Under the Skin to Love is Strange
Sight & Sound from Boyhood to Mr Turner

THE FILM EXPERIENCE's YEAR IN REVIEW begins Dec 11th
[Lee Pace doesn't believe us! ------->]
I've seen nearly all the films one has to see (but I have about 10 more I'd like to screen or rescreen before the list-making proper). We'll have a couple of days of "Cinematic Shame" beginning on the 11th to cleanse the palette and from December 14th through January 14th is when "everything is awesome" and we celebrate the Best Ofs. But, as you know it's tough to keep up 'in the season' so some lists/categories from Year In Review will obviously trickle out after the Oscar nominations on January 15th. Stay tuned!