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Friday
Jul252014

Yes No Maybe So, Eros: "Miss Julie" & "50 Shades of Grey"

It's a steamy class-conscious double-feature edition of Yes No Maybe So today with the recent debuts of two adult-oriented "nasty thoughts" dramas. They're both directed by women which is an unexpected plus from the complete rarity of it and oh my god I never want to type that sentence again because it's so infinitely gross that it's being typed in 2014. First we have iconic actress turned director Liv Ullman's adaptation of Strindbergh's classic Miss Julie about a cross-class dalliance between a lady (Jessica Chastain) and a servant (Colin Farrell) and then we have rising director Sam Taylor-Wood turned Sam Taylor-Johnson*'s adaptation of the not-classic best-seller 50 Shades of Grey which is also a cross-class dalliance between a fledgling reporter (Dakota Johnson, spawn of Melanie & Don) and a billionaire  (Jamie Dornan, who has already spawned thank god because those genes must not go to waste!). 

Which of these movies do you most want to have sex with right now?

Don't be shy.

Let's get to the YNMS breakdown starting with Miss Julie. There is so much more after the jump... I'm longwinded today.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul252014

True Story: Boredom, Bananas, Bond

On Wednesday I drew a picture of James Bond on a Banana and posted it online.

Nathaniel R. "Bond on Banana" 2014. Mixed Media on Fruit, 9"x1½"

I have no explanation for this other than the perfect storm / terrible timing of innate online playfulness fused with genuine insanity and egged on by dread over Jury Duty to commence the following morning. Jury Duty is so boring (you just sit in a very official dull room in monotony waiting for your name to be called for 16 hours! I'm still there right now as you read this.) that on Wednesday I felt something akin to complete preemptive desperation to amuse myself. So when The Incredible Suit (whose blog I've always loved) promised he'd review it if someone drew Bond on a Banana, I did.

He kept his promise and I am left frightened at how deeply burrowed Daniel Craig in a blue speedo must be in my psyche. The worst part of the story is that I didn't have any bananas in the house when the promise was made. So... yeah.

I will be voluntarily committing myself to Bellevue Psychiatric shortly. It was nice knowing all of you!

P.S. I am mildly allergic to bananas but not to Bond's banana.

Friday
Jul252014

1973 Look Back: Terrence Malick's Debut "Badlands"

To give the impending Smackdown some context, we're looking at films from 1973. Here's Abstew on a spectacular debut...

With only a half dozen films released over the past 40 years, director Terrence Malick has already earned his place among the greatest American filmmakers. Despite his relatively small filmography, he has carved out a distinct brand of filmmaking that inspires (sometimes as much as it confuses or bores). But before he was an admired and respected filmmaker, he was just a former Rhodes scholar that graduated from Harvard working as a philosophy professor at MIT. His first film, Badlands, began to take take shape as he studied film at the American Film Institute. It was immediately hailed by critics on its initial release in 1973, where it was the closing night film at the New York Film Festival. That year's festival also saw the debut of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streetsm proving that 1973 was not only a very good year for film, but a landmark year for new voices. Both films were sold to Warner Brothers on the same day.

Set in South Dakota in the 1950s and loosely based on the real-life incident of Charles Starkweather who went on a killing spree with his teenage girlfriend in 1958, Badlands follows former garbage man Kit Carruthers (played by Martin Sheen in the role that established his own career in film, having working almost exclusively in television up until then) as he and his 15-year-old girlfriend Holly (Sissy Spacek in only her second film) take off cross-country after Kit kills Holly's disapproving father. Although seen as rebels (Kit is often compared to the original rebel without a cause, James Dean), the two are more simple-minded than that. They seem to be going along for a ride not quite knowing what they're doing or why exactly they're doing it. 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul252014

Day 1 at SDCC: Batman, Cosplay, & Frozen oh my!

Anne Marie is reporting from Comic Con in between her weekly A Year With Kate postings. And all with sprained shoulder. What a trouper. - Nathaniel


Anne Marie, Her Sling, and A DragonGreetings from San Diego! Comic Con officially started yesterday morning, and despite absolutely massive crowds, I managed to squeeze myself (and my sling) through the convention center floor and into a few panels to pass the good news on to you. Pro tip for first time congoers with sprained shoulders: A sling does not work as a well as a handicap sign. I got jostled and outright pushed until (no joke) a man dressed as Superman yelled out, "Step aside, citizens! This woman is injured!" He really is a boyscout after all.

Here are a five things I learned at Comic Con today...

1. Marvel dominates the movies, but DC has its eye on TV 
DC has five different TV shows on network television this season: Arrow (3rd season on the CW), The Flash (CW), Constantine (NBC), a midseason replacement called iZombie (CW) that was pitched by DC's VP of Marketing as 'The Walking Dead meets Veronica Mars,' and Gotham, the much-buzzed-about police procedural/Batman prequel for Fox. Once again, DC is splitting its properties between different networks (as opposed to its competitor, which is keeping it all under one studio/network), which means that the only shows with a chance of creating a crossover universe are The Flash, Arrow, and iZombie on the CW. The Flash and Green Arrow fight zombies. That would be weird.

2. DC is riding Batman's cape-tails as long as possible...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul242014

Tim's Toons: The voice of Sandra Bullock

Tim here. The mission statement of this column is “something to do with animation” (I suck at writing mission statements), which would seemingly preclude me from taking part in Celebrating Sandra Week here at the Film Experience.

But wait! As it turns out, there was exactly one time that Sandra Bullock voiced an animated character, in 1998’s The Prince of Egypt (as opposed to Gravity, where she was the only thing onscreen that wasn’t animated).

An adaptation of the Biblical story of Exodus, this was only the second film ever released by DreamWorks Animation (after 16 years, it remains one of their best). It was also the second DreamWorks film to favor a voice cast chosen for marquee value over skills in voice acting, building on a tradition that the studio would proudly continue for the rest of its existence. And in this case, it continues the longstanding Hollywood habit of populating stories from Hebraic scripture almost exclusive with non-Jews: Jeff Goldblum is the sole Jewish lead in a film whose voice cast includes Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Patrick Stewart, and Ralph Fiennes (the latter two aren’t playing ancient Hebrews, at least), alongside Bullock, one of the most famous subjects of the “Is she Jewish? I guess not” game of all time.

More to the point, that list of people includes nobody other than Stewart and Goldblum whose voice is so obviously distinctive that they’d necessarily make sense to put into an animated movie, but that’s DreamWorks for you. Among such company, Bullock doesn’t stand out as particularly grating or out-of-place (apologies to Nathaniel, but Pfeiffer pretty effortlessly takes Worst in Show, as far as that goes). In fact, watching the film for the first time with a particular ear for Bullock’s work, I’d go so far as to call her one of thebest members of the cast. Compared to Kilmer’s generic mid-Americanisms in the lead role, it doesn’t take all that much for anybody to stand out in the cast, of course, but Bullock is especially noteworthy in that she has the exact same liability as Kilmer – a voice carefully trained to sound like it comes from absolutely nowhere in particular, but probably Ohio-ish – and still manages to shade her line readings just enough to suggest a kind of formal pre-modern attitude, something that none of the other Americans in the cast ever really manage.

That being said, she has hardly any time to make an impression, with a role whose brevity is matched only by Helen Mirren’s (so, not an actressexual-friendly movie, basically). Bullock’s own unenthusiastic description from the officially sanctioned making-of featurette of 1998 is that her character, Moses’s biological sister Miram, “is sort of the believer, the one who holds on to the faith… She helps her brother cross over, and see where he came from.” And if that sounds like a stock character who gets nothing interesting to do, that’s because it’s exactly what she is (she’s also the lead singer of the Oscar-nominated song “When You Believe”, but Bullock didn’t do her own singing).

Still, she puts some heart into it, and a lot of earnestness, and it’s enough to put the character over as a real personality, even if she’s a bit one-note in her “Moses! Are you gonna lead the chosen people yet?” characterization.

It’s more then Goldblum doing Goldblum in ancient Egypt can claim. It’s a lot more than Martin Short and Steve Martin doing nothing at all but cashing checks can claim. The problem with the DreamWorks casting trend (that has since infected virtually all animated filmmaking in America, not just that studio) is that movie stars typically look more interesting than they sound, as true for the bulk of The Prince of Egypt as anything in the Shreks or the abysmal casting of Brad Pitt as the white-breadiest Sinbad in film history. And by all rights, it should apply to Bullock as much as anybody; but she pushes herself just enough to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a largely unimaginative performance of a role that means only a little bit to the movie as a whole, but she manages to make a real impression, and given what she was working with, that’s a real, if small triumph.

more Sandra | more from Tim

Thursday
Jul242014

That's What I Call Movies: The Hits of '73

To give the impending Smackdown some context we're looking at the year 1973. Here's Glenn on tickets sold...

1973 was like the end of a box-office era. While year-end charts weren’t suffocated with superheroes, CGI natural disasters, and dystopian visions of futuristic societies for a little while yet, but 1973 was as far as I can tell the last year to not have a single now-traditional effects-driven film in the top ten hits of the year. Just one year later in 1974 the end-of-year charts would include the one-two punch The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (plus Airport '75), and 1975 essentially ushered in the modern era of the blockbuster with Jaws and since then it's been a steady increase.

Here is what the top ten films of 1973 looked like.

01 THE STING $156m 
02 THE EXORCIST $128m
03 AMERICAN GRAFFITI $96.3m
04 PAPILLON $53.3
05 THE WAY WE WERE $45m
06 MAGNUM FORCE $39.7
07 LAST TANGO IN PARIS $36.1
08 LIVE AND LET DIE $35.3m
09 ROBIN HOOD $32m
10 PAPER MOON $30.9m

Just look at those films and let them sink in for a moment.

The runaway hit film of 1973 was a period-set heist movie. Then there was a religious horror film (always popular with audiences, but rarely to this extent), a nostalgic indie featuring mostly unknowns, a romance about class and marxism, a European X-rated erotic drama, a Disney kids cartoon and a black-and-white comedy set during the Great Depression. Only one franchise film (the weird Blaxploitation-themed James Bond entry Live and Let Die) is on the list, and not a single spaceship or flowing cape amongst them. 

It’s cliché and frankly rather boring to decry the so-called death of movies for adults in favour of Hollywood’s constant churn of male-centric fanboy action films. I think it misses the point in many ways, not least of which that it is predominantly adults that are making Man of Steel, Fast & Furious 6 and Star Trek Into Darkness the colossal hits that they are rather than just the teenage boys that they once may have been.

Still, it’s fascinating to look at this list and compare to it today’s. It seems crazy to realise the likes of Battle of the Planet of the Apes (the fourth and worst sequel), Soylent Green and Westworld were all beaten at the box office rather handily by Paper Moon, but let’s not pretend that the kids and their comic book and Young Adult adaptations are the ones to blame for the disparity of 1973’s Oscar best picture being no. 1 of the year and 2013’s (12 Years a Slave) ranking at no. 62 beneath adult-targeted films like Last Vegas, A Good Day to Die Hard and Now You See Me.

 For what it’s worth, the top film at the box office 41 years ago was Enter the Dragon  which was released not even a whole week after the death of its now iconic star Bruce Lee. It held the number one spot for four weekends.

Thursday
Jul242014

Sandra and The Kiss

We're celebrating Sandra Bullock as she hits 50. Here's Matthew Eng on her most infamous awards show moment - Editor 

I'm not sure why exactly the Critics' Choice Movie Awards need to exist, except as another obvious precursor ceremony for glorified Oscar season star-baiting with ridiculous genre-segregated acting categories (so glad we all got to rightfully recognize Evangeline Lilly in The Hobbit as a nominee for Best Actress in an Action Movie!) and a prime airtime on the CW, and whose only (only!) difference from the Teen Choice Awards is that the former hands out actual trophies, whereas the latter gives out surfboards.

That being said, I remain eternally grateful to this over-bloated awards pageant for providing us with perhaps the single greatest, or at least most-rewatchable moment of the 2009 Oscar season five years back: the Meryl-Sandra kiss...

Click to read more ...