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100 Best of the 21st Century?

"Carol >>>>>>>>>> most of these movies" - Clarence

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"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - The movie you're hoping to see every time you go in the cinema" - Jeremy

 

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Wednesday
Nov262014

'And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you...

...and burn your village to the ground.'

(Great Moments in Screen Bitchery #906: Christina Ricci in Addams Family Values)

Wednesday
Nov262014

A Year with Kate: Laura Lansing Slept Here (1988)

Episode 48 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn makes a truly awful houseguest.

Stars! They’re just like us! Except that they aren’t. An entire media industry has been built around bringing our cultural idols closer to us--Twitter alone delivers the illusion of intimacy 140 characters at a time--but at the end of the day, would you actually want to live with one? When George S. Kaufman had to host Radio Personality and Famous Critic Alexander Woollcott for a week, the experience was so aggravating that the playwright and his partner Moss Hart wrote a scathingly funny satire about Woollcott called The Man Who Came To Dinner. I bring this up for two reasons: 1) It’s a great Christmas comedy starring Bette Davis so go watch it right now if you haven’t and 2) This seems to have been more or less James Prideaux’s motivation when he wrote Laura Lansing Slept Here. If Prideaux is to be believed, Katharine Hepburn was witty, charming, and a gigantic pain in the ass.

Kate has played a lot of characters inspired by or based on her in some way, but Laura Lansing may be the most bluntly biographical since Tracy Lord. Laura is no actress, but a different kind of star: a celebrated author with a decades-long career. As Laura’s agent explains in a convenient bit of exposition:

“You were a sensation in your 20s, a household name in your 40s, an institution in your 60s, and now…"

Sound like anyone we know? Now Laura’s publisher is dropping her because she’s too out of touch, living in her NYC penthouse and only emerging for interviews. Laura’s agent begs her to retire, but she brushes off his suggestion with the typical Hepburn handwave. Instead, Laura makes a wager with him, the point of which can only be to move the plot forward: She will stay with an “average” family in Long Island for a week. If she flees back to the city, she must give up writing. Laura appears on the doorstep of an overworked accountant and his stay-at-home wife and immediately starts making demands. The results--to nobody’s surprise but Laura’s--are a disaster.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov262014

Podcast: An Interstellar Imitation Game

Travel with us into the black hole that is odd hit-and-miss reactions to the ambitious emotional Interstellar. We also discuss The Imitation Game and the controversy over its presentation of its gay protagonist. Starring: Nick Davis, Joe Reid, Katey Rich, and your host Nathaniel R.

33 minutes
00:01 Chris Nolan's Interstellar with asides to Inception and 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact and the ways in which it does or doesn't stretch Nolan's 
20:30 How does The Imitation Game machine work? Does its trifurcated structure work? And what of its collective performances?

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes. The Imitation Game opens this weekend. Continue the conversation in the comments! 

Interstellar / Imitation Game

Wednesday
Nov262014

And in Other Actressexual News...

Manuel here to share some news about TFE’s favorite ladies.

Did you catch Nicole Kidman at the premiere of Paddington this past week? She looks so excited! Maybe it’s because she knew they’d be releasing news about her upcoming David E. Kelley limited TV series adaptation of Liane Moriarty's book Big Little Lies alongside sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Reese Witherspoon? [Side-note, if you feel like you’re experiencing deja-vu, it’s because we had just been discussing other casting news about that property here at TFE a couple of months ago!]

I can’t be the only one who’s already picturing the red carpet and party pictures that’ll bring together Nicole and Michelle Pfeiffer (otherwise known as Mrs E. Kelley) and while I’d love to be able to share some Pfeifferrific news, the next best thing: share some news on Annette Bening and thus manage a TFE actressexual trifecta post.

La Bening’s newest film, The Face of Love will be in cinemas and available digitally from December 12 (though it'd apparently already come out back in March? Has anyone caught it?) The film follows Nikki, a recent widow who embarks on a relationship with a man (Ed Harris) who bears more than a passing resemblance to her husband. The film also features one of Robin Williams’ last performances. I also wanted to take this opportunity to share this Elle magazine cover, because, c'mon, she looks great:

Catch the trailer for the film below:

Will you pay your respects to La Bening? Are you excited about this Reese-Nicole collaboration? Julianne Moore and Amy Adams over at THR roundtable were just discussing the very rare opportunities actresses have to work with one another, so are there any actresses you could see working together?

Tuesday
Nov252014

Quick Impressions: "Madame Frou-Frou (Singing Voice)" in The Boxtrolls

New Series! In Quick Impressions we'll be looking at the working actor in key movie scenes. Consider it a celebration of SAG card-holders everywhere and free advice for casting directors for people who aren't famous ...in some cases "yet". So many showbiz dreams wander around on every film set and are embedded in each frame of your favorite movies. 

Today, we're talking to actor Sean Patrick Doyle who sings the title song in The Boxtrolls in that great scene when Madame Frou-Frou takes the stage. Sir Ben Kingsley is the voice of Archibald Snatcher / Madame Frou-Frou so Sean Patrick makes like a modern day Marni Nixon.

NATHANIEL: What is that process of "voice matching" and how did you get the part - it's so different from your other credits. 

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  A cockney villain posing as a female Czechoslovakian show hall performer? - different indeed!  Laika had auditioned many actors in LA but Heather Vergo at Atlas Talent put a call out to their commercial office in New York, seeking performers who could interpret the song but still voice match.  My commercial agent Michael had seen me perform a soprano aria in the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles.  He also knew that imitating famous singers is my party trick of choice.

I signed a few confidentiality documents, but was never told that the spoken recordings I was listening to were Sir Ben Kingsley. A week or so later, there was a bite at the line giving me feedback on my audition track and a slew of references to listen to before re-recording: Mae West, Edith Piaf, British Show Hall performers.  They also requested that I roughen up my sound a bit.  Dario Marianelli [The Oscar-winning composer] had done some digging online and turned up a video of me playing Fruma-Sarah in the 2008-09 National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof.  He was tickled that they had cast a male in the role for the first time, and advised “a little more of that wouldn’t hurt.”

Because I was doing a show here in New York, director Anthony Stacci and producer David Ichioka flew in from the West Coast. Co-director Graham Annable listened in from Portland and Dario from a studio in London.  It was collaboration across many time zones!

NATHANIEL: It payed off. The song/scene is amazing. Did you know what it would look like?

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  I was sent an animatic, which is a moving storyboard with rough sketches of the characters and their movement, along with the spoken voice performances in the Cheesebridge Fair scene.  When we recorded, the producers put up renderings of Snatcher and Frou Frou in the booth and also showed me footage of Ben recording his tracks in a lounge chair.  When seeing the movie, the real surprise was that they had turned it into a full production number, using live choreographed dancers to aid the animators.  They also had Mark Orton re-orchestrate the song with Portland band Loch Lomond, and bent some of the higher operatic notes (the ending note was originally a soprano A), so it sounded slightly different, too.  I think the finished product is very clever, and fits Ben’s colorful spoken performance.

NATHANIEL: Proposal: If the song is nominated for an Oscar, You and Ben Kingsley do the number in full drag. He stands at the microphone and you are behind him as a curtain opens up, the Kathy Selden to his Lina Lamont. 

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  It might take some convincing to get Sir Kingsley into a frock, but, hey, sign me up!  I know the Academy often favors a pop sound, but I’d be very happy to see Eric Idle’s cheeky lyrics and Weill-esque melody recognized on that level.

NATHANIEL: Speaking of frocks, First La Cage and now you're onstage in Kinky Boots (such a fun show!). So should we expect to see you next season on RuPaul's Drag Race

SEAN PATRICK DOYLE:  Haha!  Well, as much as I love watching those queens battle it out, the fulfillment I get from gender-bending roles comes solely from being able to play a character wildly different from myself. Recently I was playing nebbishy Eugene in Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse, and I just filmed an episode as a heroin addict in the final season of Nurse Jackie.  The further I step away from myself, the more fun the work becomes.  But as a lithe countertenor weighing in at a buck twenty, a few of my bigger jobs have involved elements of gender illusion.  It’s not in every actor’s skill set and I’ve used that to my advantage, but of course the goal is always to do really varied, interesting work!  Still, let me tell ya - it takes a real man to pump across a Broadway stage wearing a bikini and 7 1/2 inch heels.  Come to the Hirschfeld and I’ll show you! 

The Boxtrolls will be released digitally on Dec 23rd with the DVD/BluRay release on January 20th, 2015. You can follow Sean Patrick on twitter here. He is currently on stage as "Angel" in Kinky Boots (in the top hat and red coat, third from right by football star Michael Sam below). You can also listen to Sean Patrick's insane voice reel below if you're interested.

 

Previously: "Nervous Intern" in Gone Girl
Next Tuesday: American Horror Story: Freakshow

Tuesday
Nov252014

Cast This! Steve McQueen's Actressful Gangster Movie 'Widows'

The story: three armed robbers are killed during a planned heist, leaving behind three widows. Under pressure from the police and rivals to their late husbands' crime business, they team up to carry out the robbery themselves, enlisting another widow in the process. CEO of New Regency Brad Wilson, who financed 12 Years and will be producing again on this project, said it will be McQueen's "own version of a gangster film..[it] gives him the commercial jumping-off point, but then allows him to twist it into a Steve McQueen film."

Now, doesn't that just make you say "Oooooh"?

The film will take place in a modern-day American city instead of in the U.K., and will likely end up with a different title, but promises to be a showcase for four actressing talents. The plan is to be in pre-production by year's end.

Naturally, our question here at TFE is who should play the widows? Detailed character information is frustratingly scarce, but the parts are Dolly (the woman they turn to leadership), Shirley, Linda, and the addition to their group is Bella. The property has been dramatized three times with two British series (one in the 80s and one in the 90s) and an American mini in 2002 with Mercedes Reuhl & Rosie Perez. Did any of you see the latter?

My picks would be Michelle Pfeiffer for Dolly (Married to the Mob, you guys!), with Rosario Dawson, Jenny Slate, and Lupita Nyong'o filling out the rest of the team.

Make a case for your dream cast in the comments!

Tuesday
Nov252014

Stage Door: Emma Stone in "Cabaret"

Jose here. Earlier this year I reported back from the Kit Kat Club to share my impressions about Michelle Williams’ performance as Sally Bowles in the Roundabout Theatre production of Cabaret. Last night I went back to see what Emma Stone (Spirit-Nominated this morning) brought to the part...

Halfway through the first act of Cabaret, Sally Bowles realizes that life with her naive, new lover Cliff (Bill Heck) might be exactly what she needs. She sits with Cliff on a chaise lounge and for a moment she sees herself living the life of a wife and mother, satisfied with keeping home and raising her child. Suddenly, the Emcee interrupts this precious moment by bringing a microphone, its allure too powerful for Sally to resist, and drawn towards it as if under a spell, she performs “Maybe This Time”.

Onstage, the heartbreaking irony of this moment (Sally selling her soul to showbiz, while fooling herself into thinking she’s doing the opposite) is hard to detect if the actress playing her is too eager, or not eager enough; a delicate balance which I’m thrilled to report was beautifully achieved by Emma Stone.

Having already proved to be a truly magnetic screen presence, Stone brings her unusual sensuality to Sally Bowles by subverting the quirkiness that makes her so much fun to watch in movies. Gone are the traces of the goofy girl from Easy A, or the naivete of her Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man. If anything, she’s taking on the introspective self-destructiveness of her Sam from Birdman, the same volatile qualities that make her appealing and scary. Her Sally is a teenager who has convinced herself she can fool others into thinking she can play with the grown-ups. Her levels of delusion are such that she fails to notice she hasn’t really fooled anyone but herself.

Stone is also smart enough to know that in the stage version, Sally isn’t the star, she’s part of the ensemble. To a certain degree she's also a memory conveyed by Cliff who “writes” the show as it goes by looking back at his Berlin experiences. Stone’s Sally, while not the star of the show, is so seductive that we miss her whenever she’s not onstage, partly because we want to see her again, and partly because we are afraid of what will happen to her when we’re not looking after her. The audience develops caretaker feelings towards her, combined with sexual desire, making for Stone’s most mature performance to date.

And can she sing you ask? While she is obviously no Liza (then again who is?), Stone successfully delivers her numbers, bringing a raspy, sensual quality to them. (She often sounds like Lindsay Lohan did in her pop star moment!). Stone knows that singing isn’t her (or Sally's) true forte, so she lets this be an essential part of the performance, delivering the last third of the title song completely out of pitch, furiously fighting against the notes coming from the band. If a man can’t restrict her, why does this song think it can?