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 | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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Happy Birthday Amadeus!

Today is the 258th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Of course he didn't live to see 258 (unless there's a vampire Mozart creeping around), dying an ignoble pauper's burial death at 35 despite a lifetime's worth of legendary brilliant compositions already behind him. Remember how great Amadeus (1984) was back when the biopic genre still produced huge quality epics? Remember when The Academy understood that movies could have two leads of the same gender? [More...]

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Bridget Fonda At 50

JA from MNPP here to wish Bridget Fonda a tremendously happy 50th birthday today.

Indeed I hope that hitting 50 is such a momentously joyous experience for her that it stirs a renewed something-or-other inside her belly and reignites Ye Olde Acting Bug, because I don't know about you all but I really miss this lady.

It's been a full twelve years since she last acted - twelve years! Can you believe that? She side-stepped all of her 40s in the public eye - her last acting role was as the Snow Queen in the 2002 tele-movie of that name, about that same Hans Christian Anderson tale that inspired this year's hit Frozen. Maybe Bridget took her son to see Frozen and was all "Hey, I remember what it was like shooting icicles from my fingertips, that was fun! Acting ho!" If Frozen reinvigorates Bridget Fonda's acting career it'll be the greatest thing to come from that movie - yes, even better than "Let It Go." 

Anyway to celebrate just a smidge of the twenty or so years of her career that we do have, for now, I figured I'd single out a few of my favorite scenes from her movies. The ones that come right to mind when I think of her....

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We Can't Wait #9: Boyhood

[Editor's Note: We Can't Wait is a Team Experience series, in which we highlight our top 14 most anticipated films of 2014. Here's Tim Brayton on Boyhood.]

Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-production epic follows one child from age 7 to 18, as he and his parents grow up in front of our eyes. There’s no readily apparent plot details beyond that --  unless you're reading spoilers from Sundance reviews -- but I’m hoping for robot vampires.

Director-producer-conceiver Linklater is joined by his ever-ready partner in long-form narrative, Ethan Hawke, as well as Patricia Arquette. Ellar Coltrane, in the longest-gestating breakthrough performance of all time, stars as the boy himself.

Why We Can’t Wait
The excellence of the every-nine-years entries in the Before… series have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Linklater has a unique gift for telling stories about the way that people’s lives, outlooks, and even personalities mature and evolve as the years go by. And if anything, the hook behind his newly-completed project is even more exciting: watching a child experience all the confusions and difficulties of adolescence in something like real time, the actor living through the same process of maturation as his character. To do justice to that kind of deeply human-scaled content would take a uniquely great director of actors and children, and luckily, in Linklater we have one of the best: his 2003 School of Rock features some of the very finest child acting in recent memory.

Richard LInklater and the cast of Boyhood at Sundance

And if there was any doubt that the one-of-a-kind project was worth paying attention to, the absurdly glowing reviews out of Sundance would seal it. The "dissenting" views from the general chorus of raptures tend to be along the lines of "this unbelievably ambitious and sprawling and exciting project has some rough patches in the plot and a few scenes that don’t land". It would be worthy getting excited for what sounds like the most singular, game-changing film of the year based on the buzz alone, but for those of us who’ve been patiently following along with the film’s production since Before Sunrise was a standalone, the great reviews are merely the capstone to a generation’s worth of anticipation.

But We Do Have To Wait
Well, not everybody – Nathaniel caught it at Sundance. The rest of us will have to wait until confirmed distributor IFC picks a release date; May worked well for Linklater and Hawke’s Before Midnight last year, and rumors are that the same timeframe is likely for this one.

Previously: #10 Big Eyes | #11 The Last 5 Years | #12 Gone Girl | #13 Can a Song Save Your Life |  #14 Veronica Mars | Introduction


Sundance: 'Life Itself' Inspires and Entertains

Our Sundance Film Festival coverage continues with Michael Cusumano on "Life Itself".  

Is there any point in pretending I can be impartial in reviewing Steven James’ documentary adaptation of Roger Ebert’s autobiography Life Itself? I, like no doubt a lot of critics, feel Ebert is in no small way responsible for the fact that I write about film. I purchased a copy of his Movie Home Companion around age 13 that I read and reread until it literally fell apart at the seams. In college I wrote him with a question about Memento and he mentioned me at the start of his review (no fooling), which remains one of the cooler things to ever happen to me. At a time when I was badly in need of encouragement he posted a link to my blog on his Facebook page and sent a Biblical torrent of traffic my way. 

So yeah, it would be a challenge not to pass this movie with flying colors simply because I miss the guy dearly and am happy to spend two hours in his company. Luckily Steve James has made a documentary that I can safely say I would recommend regardless of the subject, although for hardcore fans the abundance of new interviews and previously unseen archive material makes the film a must-see. Life Itself is straightforward, funny, well paced and surprisingly moving. 

For long stretches the doc most resembles the final scenes of It’s a Wonderful Life with the movie inviting us to ponder what the film landscape would look like without Ebert's (and Siskel’s) influence. Filmmakers from Errol Morris to Ramin Bahrani to Werner Herzog testify how they would likely not have careers had Ebert not used his considerable influence to help them break through. In the film’s most memorable scene Martin Scorsese recounts how a career tribute from Roger and Gene helped pull him back from the brink of depression so bad he wanted to give up on films. Even the film itself is a gesture of gratitude since the director owes much of his success to the relentless championing Siskel and Ebert gave Hoop Dreams in 1994. 

Not that the film is a glowing hagiography of the man. Some of its most entertaining stretches delve into Ebert’s flaws: his massive ego, his alcoholism, his petulance when he couldn’t get his way with Siskel. Time is given over to those who feel that 'Siskel and Ebert' cheapened film criticism. Then there is the section recounting the bizarre circumstances that somehow led to Roger writing the Russ Meyer camp classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. A.O. Scott's attempt at finding a delicate way to describe the appeal Roger saw in Russ Meyer’s oeuvre brought the house down at my screening.

James was filming right up until the end, and there is footage of Roger in early 2013 right after tumors were found along his spine and doctors gave him months to live. Like all great biopics Life Itself manages to be about something more than the simple recounting of events. It’s about living a life full enough that when the end comes you can face it with some semblance of the dignity and clarity Roger Ebert demonstrates here.

Grade: Probably an objective B/B+, but I can only review it from my own perspective and I had an A- experience.


Sundance's 'Young Boys in Trouble' Sub-Genre: White Shadow, Hellion, Web Junkie

Our Sundance 2014 coverage is entering the home stretch - Nathaniel

Aaron Paul and Josh Wiggins ham it up at Sundance

The 30th Annual Sundance Film Festival closes tonight -- they're screening all of last night's prize winners one last time today in their prescheduled TBA WINNER slots for each of the categories (World Dramatic, US Doc, etcetera) -- but we've got a bit of a backlog so I hope you can stick it out through two more days of wrap up reviews whilst we travel home. Well, actually, I'm the only one still left in Utah but I return to NYC in the morning. I've had a great time but I can't wait to resume normal living with my own bed, my cat, my laundry, my kitchen, etcetera. I'll sure miss that ski-lift though.  

So herewith quick thoughts on three films about teenage boys who've lost their parents, either literally or emotionally, and are in very deep trouble. Web Junkie, White Shadow, and the most high profile of them Hellion starring Aaron Paul and breakout teen star Josh Wiggins pictured above...

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Box Office: I, Failure

Amir here, with the weekend’s box office report.

It was a quiet weekend for new releases, with only one film opening wide, and it might as well have not bothered at all. I, Frankenstein opened to a catastrophic $8m on a $65m budget. By next weekend, it will most likely be out of the top ten and most definitely out of our collective memory. I really don’t have much to add the pile of ridicule that’s already been heaped on the film, chiefly because I can’t figure out what the hell it’s even about despite the good half an hour I spent this morning researching its advertisements. I will just leave you with this brilliant tweet instead:

Ride Along remained at the top of the chart after its strong opening weekend, though it’s sure to be dethroned when the bizarrely titled That Awkward Moment opens next week. Meanwhile, Frozen broke yet another record this week and became the highest grossing original animated film of all time. That is a fantastic feat for Disney and an indication that despite what the studios continue to believe, female protagonists can sell as many as tickets as their boy counterparts – though I don’t mean to insinuate in any way that Frozen’s appeal is limited to gender or age; it’s been successful precisely because it’s drawing everybody in. Next weekend it gets a sing-along version in theaters.

$21.1m (cum. $75.4m)
$12.6 (cum. $93.6m)
$12.3m (cum. $40.2m)
$9m (cum. $347.8m)
$8.8m (cum. $30.1m)
$8.2m new
$7.1m (cum. $127m)
$5m (cum. $26.5m)
$5m (cum. $98m)
DEVIL’S DUE $2.7m (cum. $12.8m)

On the Oscar front, Hustle and Wolf are still going strong, while Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave all expanded (or re-expanded, as in the case of the latter) and did modest business. Not enough has been written about the box office success of Steve McQueen’s film, but I personally think $43 is a really solid number for a film that has been constantly dubbed 'brutal' and 'unwatchable' in the media. Irrespective of how well the nominees do in the remainder of their theatrical run, the sum total of their gross will remain the second lowest in the post-5 best picture era after 2011, when only one film (The Help) sold more than $100m.

I didn't hit the theatres this weekend but dedicated my time to some classics instead. What did you watch?


Sundance: 'Dear White People' Aims To Provoke

 Our Sundance Film Festival coverage continues with Michael Cusumano on breakthrough talent winner "Dear White People"  

At the fictional Ivy League University of Westchester Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) hosts a radio show called ‘Dear White People’ in which she delivers a series of confrontational, button-pushing edicts directed at the school’s majority white population. For example:

Dear White People, the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has been raised to two. Sorry, your weed man Tyrone doesn’t count.” 

It’s sharp material, and Justin Simien’s Dear White People would have done well to apply the same biting insight to the rest of the film. [more...]

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