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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. "Like it" on facebook!

 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Monday
Sep102012

"Lolly had always said..."

A sentence from the book I'm reading...

Lolly had always said that a Meryl Streep movie was as good as chicken soup, a best friend, a therapist, and a stiff drink."

I get the first three but... a stiff drink? That's debatable though I might place Plenty (1985) in that category.

So which of Meryl's movies are chicken soups, therapists, friends, and stiff drinks? Divvy them up in the comments or add your own simile.

Monday
Sep102012

Chaplin: The Musical 

Hey everybody. Michael C here fresh from seeing one of the legends of the cinema sing and dance his way through his life story.

At one point during Chaplin, The Musical which opens tonight on Broadway, a troop of Little Tramps march on stage to perform a chorus line version of the classic dinner roll dance from Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. It was at this point that I began to suspect that the show had not quite licked the problem of how to adapt the life and times of the silent film genius to the Great White Way.

Trying to cram anybody’s life into a coherent story structure is always going to be a daunting task. Chaplin, The Musical attempts to compensate for the familiarity of their approach with heaping helpings of Broadway razzle-dazzle. And while there is an undeniable thrill to watching performers executing in real time the kind of stunt work that Chaplin would take dozens of takes to perfect, it isn’t nearly enough to distract from the fact that we are once again being pulled through the same old biopic paces.

Two Chaplins: Robert Downey Jr in 1992, Rob McClure now

Robert Downey Jr.’s uncanny screen performance in the title role was the main selling point of Richard Attenborough’s disappointing Chaplin (1992), and the same could be said of Rob McClure’s work as Sir Charles on stage. McClure is splendidly effective when performing Chaplin-esque pantomime during Charlie’s pre-fame days and manages to convincingly evoke the enormous appeal of the Little Tramp. His recreation of that most famous of movie characters holds up even when a giant screen is produced on stage to incorporate the actor into some of Chaplin’s most famous images. Yet McClure’s efforts are never able to gather momentum as Chaplin, The Musical proceeds haphazardly from event to event, in the familiar fashion of unfocused biopics. From Chaplin's series of young gold-digging brides to the controversy over his outspoken leftist politics. From his struggle to adjust to the advent of sound to the torment of dealing with his institutionalized mother, who acts as the story’s Rosebud, the motivation behind all his choices artistic and personal. Chaplin often veers dangerously close to Walk Hard territory in moments like the one where Mack Sennett commands Chaplin to go from onscreen novice to comedic genius literally overnight or be fired.

Chaplin could have compensated for its well-worn material with some dynamic musical numbers, but unfortunately the songs by Christopher Curtis- though enjoyable enough while being performed – evaporate from memory upon reentering brightness of Times Square. It’s difficult to recall any song specific to Charlie Chaplin. Rather, we get generic showbiz material and love ballads that could be from a dozen other Hollywood stories.

costume sketches for Charlie young and old by Amy Clark

That said, it's hard to imagine a Chaplin fan isn’t going to have some fun at this show, despite all its flaws. The choreography by Warren Carlyle, fresh off his smashing work on Follies, is consistently inventive and the set decoration and costumes do a nice job evoking the black and white world of Chaplin’s films. Most important of all, the creative team succeed in expressing their deep love of the subject, even as one wishes they had endeavored to find a fresher approach. As tiresome as all the movie to stage adaptations have become I can’t help but think they would’ve had more success simply making a musical version of Modern Times or City Lights. As it stands, Chaplin, The Musical fails to conquer that central question that faces all biographies, be they musicals, movies or otherwise: Why isn’t the viewer’s time better spent experiencing the work which made the subject famous in the first place? 

Monday
Sep102012

A Comeback for The Zeéeeee?

Renée earlier this year. Still a fashionistaTravel back with me through time just nine years hence. Renée Zellweger was on top of the world: A list career, consecutive Oscar attention, hit movies, red carpet superstardom.  She was so ubiquitous that she became the arch-enemy of The Film Experience only ever referred to as She Who Must Not Be Named™. By the time Hilary Swank had robbed her of the Most Hated title round these parts, she seemed depleted of everything else as well. In the past few years I've begun to feel bad for her and the way the public can suddenly turn on actors they once rushed out to see (see also: Meg Ryan). I now affectionally call her The Zeéeeee in remembrance of the five happy years we spent together (1996-2001).

While there's no such thing as an Oscar curse, Oscar wins quite often, and maybe quite naturally, mark the peak of an actor's career. Whether snagging showbiz's ultimate prize depletes the ambition you need to survive Hollywood, whether Oscar winners feel crushing pressure to prove they deserved their win and stiffen up, whether personal problems derail a career just as it seems to be perfect, whether a well earned vacation turns into a "we didn't miss you" extended hiatus ... well, who can say, really, but many stars fumble immediately after being crowned king or queen of Tinseltown for a year.

Recent movement in Zeéeeee's camp suggests she's ready for her career's second (third?) act now. She'll make her directorial debut with a film called 4 ½ Minutes which will star Johnny Knoxville as a struggling comedian. He is hired to babysit the Zeéeeees son and hijinx ensue. She's also lining up her Broadway debut in an adaptation of The Hustler, presumably in the Piper Laurie role. (Poor Piper! Leave her signature alones, people) Both projects are being scripted by Anthony Tambakis who wrote the screenplay to the fighting brothers drama Warrior. Some reports say that Tambakis is also co-writing a television series with the actress called Cinammon Girl to air on Lifetime. They must have hit it off.

Do you think this career can be saved? If so what would it take.

Sunday
Sep092012

Catching Up: Oscar Buzz & Blunders, Festival Debuts & Misses

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Fall Film Season is upon us. And with it the 0 to 60 Oscar buzz. Even if you're blessed enough to have the means to jetset from Telluride to Venice to Toronto to New York, chances are you can't keep up with it all. I know I haven't been able to while juggling other demands. Before I fly up to Toronto on Wednesday for the last heady days of TIFF, I should do my best to catch up on the buzz and update those dusty Oscar charts. They're not yet a month old but.... 0 to 60, you know. The movies are upon us!

BUT FIRST LET ME VENT...
So, they announced the winners of the honorary Oscars this week and as per usual, they've demonstrated their complete lack of respect for Actresses. There are so many fine actresses who never won Oscars who are still alive and yet year after year they ignore all of them to honor various men. I don't mean to take anything away from this year's talented recipients who all deserve a congratulatory round of applause (mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, stuntman Hal Needham, documentarian D. A. Pennebaker, arts advocate George Stevens, Jr.) it's just that the pattern is obvious and concerning.

Worse yet, when AMPAS does honor a woman, it's someone without a rich acting background (Hi, Oprah Winfrey). By the time this year's Oscars have wrapped, for a twenty year stretch from 1993 through 2012, thirty-eight people will have been given honorary Oscars or Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards and there are only three women among them (Deborah Kerr, Lauren Bacall, Oprah Winfrey). Oscar has a very real problem with women so if living screen giants like Maureen O'Hara, Doris Day, Catherine Deneuve, Mia Farrow, Eleanor Parker, Angela Lansbury, Gena Rowlands and other classic actresses ever want an Honorary prize, they might want to look into sex change operations or at least a tuxedo rental. Exasperating!

Now on to movies people have talking about...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep092012

Podcast: Summer (Part 2) and Forward Into Fall

Part 1 -best films, moldy releases, nervous mormons, and summer crushes

For the second half of this Summer Jamboree Joe Reid, Nick Davis, and Nathaniel R (c'est moi) wrap up our summers at the movies and dream of the fall ~ Forward not back! 

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Alex Pettyfer in Magic Mike
  • Princess Merida, Hawkeye or Katniss? Choose your favorite archer of 2012
  • Jeremy Renner in The Avengers
  • Movies We Hated
  • Sleeping through Snow White and the Huntsman despite Charlize Theron!
  • Adapting Cosmopolis
  • Did The Dark Knight Rises get away from Chris Nolan?
  • Movie Characters We'd Like To Introduce
  • Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
  • Nick's newfound love of comedy: Ted, Wanderlust, 21 Jump Street
  • Retro Screenings This Summer: Sorcerer, Dog Day Afternoon, and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte
  • Fall Film Madness: Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, Zero Dark Thirty, Skyfall, The Hobbit, Flight, Amour and More...

You can download the podcast on iTunes or listen right here. Join the conversation in the comments. What's the best old movie you screened this summer? Which fall film are you most looking forward to and which two movie characters would you like to introduce?

I Know What You Saw... Part 2