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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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Wednesday
Oct082014

A Year with Kate: Love Among The Ruins (1975)

Episode 41 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn does a TV movie with Laurence Olivier and George Cukor, which might have been disappointing if it wasn't so good.

Whew! What a nice change of pace this breezy little comedy is after so many dramas. Don't get me wrong, I love Great Actresses performing Great Roles in Great Films, but sometimes you just want to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and laugh with your friend Katie, y'know? It's been 2 months since our last comedy (or less, depending on whether you laugh as hard as I do during The Lion in Winter), and I for one was cautiously excited to see Kate return to comedic form in Love Among The Ruins.

I say "cautiously excited" because even though so many of you pointed out how good this movie is, its existence a TV movie (albeit an Emmy Award-winning one) depressed me. The fact that three giants of the Studio Era - George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, and Sir Laurence Olivier - were forced to make their triumphant reunion on the small screen, when only a decade before they had commanded CinemaScope and roadshow releases, proved to me once and for all that by 1975, Old Hollywood was dead. And while I by no means begrudge the birth of New Hollywood and the waves of startling creativity that came from the auteurs of 70s counter culture, I nonetheless mourn the way we did (do?) treat our aging giants. So it was with bittersweet feelings that I turned on the television.

Kate delivering some quality sass to dumbstruck Olivier

It turns out that there is such thing as worrying too much.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct082014

Beauty Break: Jessica Chastain, Sarah Paulson, and Anne Hathaway

Three of our very favorite talented beauties, two of whom we've had the pleasure to interview right here at The Film Experience (Jessica & Sarah), have new photoshoots out.

This appears to be Jess's fav picture from the Interview photoshoot since she singled it out.

But before we drink in the triple gorgeousity let's look at today's kerfuffle with Jess. This very click-baity headline appeared on Page Six

Jessica Chastain: Give Anybody But Meryl Streep a Chance

It was of course a misquote. Jessica, who we all know is almost insanely positive and warm fuzzy hugs in her public persona, was just saying exactly what we're always saying right here: 'why is it only Streep?' She took to Twitter/WhoSay to clear things up:

That imaginary Jess/Streep throwdown behind us, more Chastain, Paulson, and Hathaway photos after the jump

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct082014

Drew & Toni together at last!

Manuel here catching up on a female-helmed, female-centered film coming our way in 2015 (one hopes!).

Have you guys heard about Miss You Already? The pic starting shooting in London just this past month and it stars none other than Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette. The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, whose filmography seems endlessly baffling to me: Thirteen (2003), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Nativity Story (2006), Twilight (2008), Red Riding Hood (2011), and something called Plush (2013; anyone seen it? IMDB tells me it stars Cam “Amos cookies” Gigandet). I mean, I know female directors have a hard time getting passion (or any other kind of) projects made, but can someone explain to me this set of films? I guess one could make a thorough-line about Hardwicke’s interest in young women’s lives, which makes Miss You Already an interesting departure.

The film centers on Milly and Jess “who have been best friends since childhood. Their friendship is put to the test as Jess struggles to have a much longed-for baby and Milly finds out she has breast cancer.” Barrymore gets the struggling mom-to-be role while Collette gets the cancer-stricken role. Maybe it’s the combination of these two endlessly watchable stars (and the semi-serious plot description), but I can’t be the only one who’s getting a Beaches vibe from this, or am I? Maybe it’s the dearth of two-female led films to choose from as a comparison (we usually see them in packs of three), though of course both Drew and Toni have great entries on that mini-genre what with Grey Gardens and In Her Shoes.

Then again, we also need to talk about that supporting cast: on top of Dominic Cooper (!) and Paddy Considine (currently in Pride), they’ve just announced the addition of Tyson Ritter (he of “The All American Rejects” fame). So many pretty boys for our leading ladies! Plus Jacqueline Bisset is playing Collette’s mother. Okay, so this cast may just be as eclectic as Hardwicke’s filmography.

Oh, and did I mention Toni shaved her head for it? She proudly showed it off earlier this week on People's Style watch:

Is a Barrymore/Collette film one of your fan-fic ideas come alive? What do you think of Toni's new look (especially given how beautiful her locks look in that earlier pic)?

Wednesday
Oct082014

Linktime Stories

Cinematically Insane #DontTouchTCM when it comes to Turner Broadcasting layoffs 
Richard Kelly, of Donnie Darko directing fame, lurves Gone Girl and write a whole epic essay about it while also touching on Eyes Wide Shut and Fincher's music videos
In Contention interviews cinematographer Robert Elswit (Inherent Vice, Nightcrawler)
MNPP gives Quote of the Day to Michael B Jordan on his costumes for Fantastic Four. "snug"
Deadline Scarlett Johansson about to do an Edith Wharton miniseries that was originally supposed to be a Michelle Pfeiffer feature film in the 90s. *sniffle*

Empire first images of Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Lange and Brie Larson in The Gambler remake
Vulture the exact moment Jennifer Garner fell in love with Ben Affleck 
Antagony & Ecstacy on The Boxtrolls. Glad Tim loved it
Boston Globe Mark Wahlberg's compound is finished. Holy third nipple, is he planning to house everyone who has ever appeared in any of his movies?
IndieWire 11 things learned about PT Anderson / Inherent Vice at the recent press conference
The Dissolve interesting video about shooting sex scenes from Joe Carnahan. Starring Patrick Wilson! Who...speaking of...
The Playlist interviews Jason Reitman who talks about the initial indifference to Young Adult, his Labor Day "misfire" and the critical savaging of Men Women and Children. I haven't seen the latter film yet so I don't know if it's gotten a fair shake or not but Reitman does have a point about film criticism today:

When I talk to directors and actors, "Young Adult" is their clear favorite of my films. I don't think ten years from now people will go, "Oh wow, I didn’t realize "Labor Day" was a such a masterpiece." But what it has taught me is that I can't really gauge what a movie is in the moment. To bring it round back to ["Men, Women & Children"]: film criticism has become a tweet. The moment the movie plays, people are writing about it and there's no digestive period.  

We were right about Young Adult all along, bitches.

 

I love this bookOff Cinema
Arts.Mic on the good news on GLAAD's annual gays on TV report. But...
Slate chimes in with a a more dismissive response: why count?
Pajiba ranking Kyle Maclachlan's TV roles since Twin Peaks

<-- Encyclopedia Madonnica I backed this 20th anniversary edition of the book at Kickstarter. There's a couple more days left to back it and insure your own copy. The book meant so much to me back in the day before you could look up everything instantaneously and when there weren't elaborate comprehensive fansites to celebrities yet. Plus it was just damn fun with lots of trivia and silliness. When I first met Matthew Rettenmund (Boy Culture) here in NYC several years ago I was a wee bit starstruck because of it. And speaking of the big M...
Billboard looks back at the Bedtime Stories album for its 20th anniversary 

Finally...
Esteemed stage veteran Marian Seldes has died at 86. Her regal mischievious face appeared semi-regularly in movies and on TV but usually in tiny roles. It was the stage where she experienced her enduring glorious reign.

I unfortunately only saw her perform live once. It was Edward Albee's "The Play About the Baby" (which also starred David Burtka, pre NPH) a sort of abstract minimalist reinterpretation of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and she was a-maz-ing in it. One of my favorite stories about her comes from 1978's "Deathtrap" in which she co-starred with Victor Garber. The hit comic mystery became a controversial movie in 1982 (a gay kiss - GASP!) with Dyan Cannon and Christopher Reeve taking Seldes and Garber's roles for the big screen. But when the movie premiered, Marian was actually still doing it on stage. She was with the play for its whole four year run and NEVER missed a performance. Amazing.

Here are good obituaries at The New York Times and Playbill

Tuesday
Oct072014

NYFF: Telling Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Our NYFF coverage continues - here is Jason on the serial-killer documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper.

As much as Tales of the Grim Sleeper is about telling the tales of the South Central Los Angeles based serial killer, who killed anywhere from ten to over a hundred women, presumed to be mostly drug addicts and prostitutes, over the course of twenty-plus years, Nick Broomfield's tremendously effective documentary slowly reveals itself to be more than these pieces - really its the very existence of these pieces, and the crew's ability to suss them out one after the other, that forms the true tale, which is one of a police department's indifference to the horrors being visited upon a poor, black community already destroyed by poverty, drugs and violence, and what those blind eyes have helped wreak.

Step back and look at what I just wrote to maybe assess some of the scope of the systemic failure on hand here - anywhere from ten to one hundred women. Over the course of twenty years. When Broomfield allows the doc's score to slide into subtle variations on the Psycho and Halloween theme music it's hard to decide if its the serial murderer or the black-hole absence of law-enforcement that's truly inspiring the horror show here. The wall that goes up from the LAPD is certainly far more frightening than any Michael Myers mask.

That's not to say that the Grim Sleeper himself - 57 year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was arrested in 2010 and is still awaiting trial - is by any means let off the hook here. The film drops itself down into his skeptical community (literally using Google maps to fall right into its tree-less urban endlessness) in the wake of his arrest and picks away at their distrust (distrust of these white documentary film-makers, or of anyone showing concern really) to piece together the picture of a man very clearly capable of much awfulness. His neighbors and friends and eventually his victims, finally given a voice, have, whaddya know, an awful lot to say.

But Franklin's probable guilt (and the horrific details that we come to form that opinion with) is not so much what you walk away from the film with - it's the fact that nobody has been bothering to listen to these voices before now that haunts - the years and the bodies that have been allowed to pile up. The lasting mark that Tales of the Grim Sleeper reveals is that of the erasure of the basic humanity from an entire community, and the vacuum that leaves in its wake. The guardians have ignored their oaths - it is they who sleep, the gates unmanned, allowing these grim nightmares to take root.

Tuesday
Oct072014

Lukewarm off the Presses: Tetris and Angry Birds Movies

All our jokes are coming true...

Margaret here, reminiscing back to when The LEGO Movie was first announced and we were all so dismissive and full of wisecracks. Hollywood must really be out of ideas, we said. What's next, a Tetris movie? 

Well, it's official: a big-budget, live-action Tetris movie is coming and there's nothing we can do about it. Cue the death knell for original stories! Also in the pipeline is an Angry Birds animated feature, which in addition to being less than inspired might also a bit past its moment. Sony has rounded up an enticing group of voice actors including Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Danielle Brooks, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, and Danny McBride; even so, the concept sounds destined for corporate tie-in mediocrity. Then again, that's what many predicted for The LEGO Movie, which turned out to be much better than it had any right to be. 

Perhaps even for the Tetris movie it's not too late. As yet there is no fixed plot or cast attached to the Tetris project. Brainstorm with me! How might we spin this in our favor? 

To start, here are some ideas for a Tetris movie in our favorite genre here at The Film Experience: Women Who Lie to Themselves

  • Julianne Moore is a celebrated game engineer, but in her personal life she just can't seem to make things fit. (Must include at least one extended crying jag.)
  • Lifelong friends Juliette Lewis and Emayatzy Corinealdi have inherited a factory that produces Tetriminos--apparently the official term for Tetris pieces-- and must rise to the challenge of managing it together.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer is a writer who, Adaptation-style, is tasked with writing a screenplay for a Tetris movie and grapples with artistic integrity and personal demons.

Pitch your ideas for a TFE-friendly Tetris movie in the comments!

Tuesday
Oct072014

NYFF: Debra Granik's 'Stray' Doc

New York Film Festival is in its final week and here is Glenn on Debra Granik's documentary 'Stray Dog'.

Debra Granik’s last film was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and catapulted its lead star into super-stardom. Naturally, she hasn’t made a film since. Just like Patty Jenkins, Kimberly Peirce, Courtney Hunt and more, it appears newfound success doesn’t necessarily breed an open door (or open checkbook) to future career possibilities for many female directors. We were recently talking about this in regards to Kimberly Reed, but artists tend to find a way to release their creativity, and so while Granik wasn't able (or at least hasn’t yet managed) to get adaptations of Russell Banks’ novel Rule of the Bone or a signposted HBO series off the ground, she has taken on the reigns of a documentary, a first for the Tennessee native.

Granik and her producing partner Anne Rosellini discovered the title character of Stray Dog, a Missouri-living biker and Vietnam veteran, when filming Winter’s Bone in 2009. Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall looks imposing, but as Granik’s wonderfully quiet and observant documentary shows, he is a man with demons. Much like all the other men who returned from the Vietnam war and others like it, he can’t get the images of death and destruction out of his head. Throughout the film he and his friends all struggle to hold back tears – many unsuccessfully – as they recall the nightmarish visions they witnessed for the sake of their country (a country that shamefully doesn’t do its due diligence in helping them).

Material like this is rife with the possibility of condescension. The idea that highbrow audiences will be watching this film and marveling at how they never knew those motorbike-riding hicks from the flyover states could be so gosh-darn nice, entertaining and feel good. Luckily Granik’s film swerves away from that, never letting the material approach caricature or colorfully adding mocking stylistic affectations or local music to make a point that, lol, they have such adorable small town attitudes (another NYFF doc, Red Army about a Russian hockey team, does just that).

One of the film’s most interesting passages comes late in the runtime as Alicia, Ronnie’s Mexico-born wife, goes back home to fetch her two children to come back and live with them. The boys with the lack of English and expectations of California sun and palm trees as seen in the movies makes for a fascinating transition and I almost wish it hadn’t have arisen so late in the production and had allowed Granik to follow it further. However, the story of the boys is nicely juxtaposed to that of Stray Dog himself. All of them are grabbing at the American dream, but Ronnie has been doing it for decades, hoping to stop the horrors of war from squandering the life he’s been able to make for himself. B+