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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Monday
Jun202016

Olivia @ 100: The Dark Mirror

We're counting down to Olivia de Havilland's historic 100th birthday (July 1st!). Team Experience will be looking at highlights and curiosities from her career. Here's Jason...

I'm proud of my fellow Film Experience members Dan and Josh for keeping their focus on the films so far in this series, but it seems kind of impossible to talk about Olivia de Havilland's 1946 thriller The Dark Mirror, which has her playing good and evil twins, without diving into the gossipy froth of her legendary lifetime rivalry with sister Joan Fontaine. The Dark Mirror sits somewhere between an exorcism and a single-gloved slap-fight - Fight Club via Film Noir. It offered Olivia the chance to play versions of both her and her sister's popular images, exaggerated and unloosed upon one another.

In a 2015 Time magazine piece on the sisters' feud it's said that Olivia was known for playing "pretty and charming, naïve" (like Melanie in Gone With the Wind) while Joan's roles were more "moody, intuitive and emotional." (Think the second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca.) Those broad descriptions fit the broad characters of Terry and Ruth Collins to a tee -- one's a suspected murderess, coarse and vulgar but forthright, while the other is noble and suffering do-gooder who seems to be allowing her sister to walk all over her and orchestrate a cover-up. But which is which (and who'll win that damn Oscar???)

To her profound credit de Havilland clearly relishes tearing into both roles and complicates the "good" and "bad" aspects of both women every chance that she gets - the real tragedy by the film's end is seeing what made the two women so unique begin to dissolve away, swap out. Early on, showing exquisite control over her body language and voice, de Havilland manages to make it clear which sister is which even beyond the aid of the oft black/white costuming.

But even more impressively as the film progresses and the sisters start playing each other she makes Ruth-by-Terry and Terry-by-Ruth their own creations, allowing each sisters' perspective on the other poke out from underneath. We can always tell who's in control... 

...until we can't. Not to spoil anything but there is a moment where the mirror cracks and the film upends our understanding of who's who and who's doing what, the violence of the moment hinging entirely on de Havilland's performance, and it's a corker. And sure, I can only conjecture, but it seems that this sort of performance-playing with public versus private personae might've been informed by being one-half of an Oscar-winning sister duo bobbing along on the top of the world. And come with the scars to prove it.

Monday
Jun202016

Beauty vs Beast: The Dog Days of Romance

Jason from MNPP here at "Beauty vs Beast" o'clock, wishing everybody the happiest First Day of Summer possible... and if you're like me and you hate this season as much as I do then that includes a locked door, some drawn shades, and an air conditioner on full blast. Heat! Sweat! Sunshine! Blah! I want none of it. I have the opposite of what Mama Cass had in "California Dreamin'" - I dream of such a winter's day. (And that's why I live in NYC.) But you know what? There are only 93 days of Summer... it could be worse!

PREVIOUSLY Knowing full well that Finding Dory was about to flood the marketplace we went Pixar-themed last week too, asking y'all to pick sides in the Great Toy Battle of 1995 - Are you a Buzz or are you a Woody? Turns out that 75% of you are Woodies, who knew? Said BVR:

"I love that Pixar resisted the urge to endear Woody to us, instead playing up the mad, jealous, even scheming nature that springs from within as he sees his #1 status being gradually taken away. You would think this would make me vote for Buzz, who seems totally innocent, delusional and oblivious to Woody's schemes; but as funny as that quality is, I just love Woody for being so flawed and human."

Monday
Jun202016

YNMS: Denial

Manuel here with yet another sign of the Rachel Weisz renaissance we all so spiritedly discussed a few weeks back. When the trailer for The Light Between Oceans surfaced I was probably not alone in earmarking her supporting role in that Vikander/Fassbender weepie as a chance for the actress to nab her second Oscar nomination (which most of us had vainly hoped she’d net with her beautiful work in The Deep Blue Sea). Well, there may be a clearer path for the actress with Denial which is, after all, squarely focused on that most Oscar-ey of topics: the Holocaust.

Rather than focus on the event itself, the film centers instead on a very public libel suit in the UK in the 1990s between a writer, David Irving (Timothy Spall), and a historian, Deborah E. Lipstadt (Weisz) after she accuses him of denying the Holocaust. Let’s break down the trailer YNMS-style after the jump...

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Monday
Jun202016

The Furniture: Orlando's Otherworldly Pageantry

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

Sally Potter’s Orlando is a work of otherworldly character. It does not take place in a fantasy land or on a distant planet, but all the same it does not really seem to take place in our own reality. This might seem an obvious thing to say about a movie whose protagonist is an Elizabethan nobleman (Tilda Swinton) who lives for centuries and abruptly becomes a woman midway through the story, but there’s more to it than that. Its mood is one of near-anachronistic magic, built with a narrative logic that resists the strict signposts of linear storytelling, and lit by a shimmering queer sensibility.

Each of the film’s changing atmospheres has something quite specific to say. The central Istanbul section, filmed in the ancient walled city of Khiva, Uzbekistan, uses architecture to isolate Orlando in the disorienting fog of war. A later chapter, labeled “SEX,” wraps the Lady Orlando and her lover, Shelmerdine (Billy Zane), in the windswept Victorian fantasy of a Bronte novel.

But the singular triumph of the production design team, led by Ben Van Os (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and Jan Roelfs (Gattaca), is the Elizabethan first act. Here is when the young Lord Orlando is the most vulnerable, the most restricted, and the most confused.  [More...]

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Monday
Jun202016

Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)

This calendar year has been filled to the brim with unthinkables. The latest terribly sad happening: The talented Russian-American actor Anton Yelchin died yesterday in a freak accident at only 27 years of age. He was crushed by his own car on its steep driveway incline.

Yelchin was best known to general audiences as Chekov in the modern Star Trek franchise but to us he'll always be Byrd Huffstodt (the sensitive brainy teen in the underappreciated cable drama Huff) or awestruck poseur Ian (from the hipster vampire greatness that was Only Lovers Left Alive), and especially Jacob from the college romance drama Like Crazy (2011). Though Like Crazy was mostly heralded at the time for Felicity Jones's work as his British girlfriend, it was Yelchin that gave the movie its lovestruck foolish soul... but nuanced emotionally astute work by male actors, especially young ones, in romantic dramas are rarely given their just critical props. Even when miscast (when Hollywood thinks you're the next big thing they'll put you in anything, even if it's an obviously uncomfortable fit) as in Fright Night or Terminator Salvation, Yelchin was always, at the very least, watchable. 

A tiny gift of remembrance to fans which in no way makes up for this truly absurd loss: Yelchin worked so steadily as an actor that we will still see a handful of new performances released posthumously. The forthcoming films are: Star Trek Beyond (due July 22nd), Rememory (with Peter Dinklage), the family drama We Don't Belong Here (with Catherine Keener as his dysfunctional mother), the international romantic drama Porto (with French actress Lucie Lucas - Yelchin was fluent in multiple languages and it seems likely he would have pursued more international films later in life if Hollywood offers ever got too repetitive or unchallenging), and the thriller Thoroughbred (with Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch).

He will be missed. Do you have a favorite Anton Yelchin memory at the movies or on TV? 

Monday
Jun202016

Things that happened on Nicole Kidman's Birthday over the years

On this day in history as it relates to the movies...

1893 Lizzie Borden acquitted of the axe murders of her dad and stepmom but everyone still thinks she did it. I still haven't seen that show where Christina Ricci played her. Oops.
1905 Lillian Hellman, playwright and screenwriter is born. 
1909 Swashbuckler supreme Errol Flynn is born
1910 Fanny Brice debuts in "Ziegfeld Follies". The moment was recreated (see photo above from the Academy's archives) and heavily fictionalized of course, in Barbra Streisand's Funny Girl (1968)
1915 Director Terence Young is born. Goes on to kick off the Bond franchise with Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Thunderball and direct Audrey Hepburn to her last Oscar nomination for Wait Until Dark (1967)
1928 Martin Landau is born. 66 years, 9 months, and 7 days he wins a well-deserved Oscar for Ed Wood (1994)

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