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Wednesday
Sep032014

Podcast Pt 1: Smackdown Companions & Left Feet: A Love Story

As a companion piece to the Supporting Actress Smackdown, we recorded a companion podcast. In the first half we talk misleading movie posters, Oscar campaigns, the outcome of the smackdown, Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot and Paul Mazursky's Enemies A Love Story and directorial,  acting choices, sexism, and point-of-view storytelling.

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments. We'd love to hear your comments on either film, and what your big takeaway from this month's Smackdown was. 

Smackdown Pt 1: My Left Foot Love Story

Wednesday
Sep032014

Back to School. Tips from "Matilda"

Hello all, Margaret here celebrating another day of "back to school" week. I'm sure there are plenty mourning the end of their summer, but I know I can't be the only one who feels a thrill of excitement every time September rolls around. Even if you're past your school years, doesn't the arrival of autumn get you itching to pick up some clean blank notebooks and a fresh set of pencils? Perhaps that attitude is why Matilda (both of the 1996 Danny DeVito film and the classic Roald Dahl novel on which it's based) has always been a personal hero.

Matilda Wormwood was a girl genius, and even though she had execrable crooks for parents and was subject to outrageous familial neglect, she didn't let that get her down. In or out of school, there is a lot we can learn from Matilda.

Keep yourself sharp. Left to her own devices from a tender age, Matilda didn't take that as an excuse to let her mind idle. She charged on down to the local library, and had read every book in the place by her sixth birthday.

Negotiate creatively. When her parents denied her requests to enroll in school because they'd rather have her at home to sign for UPS packages, Matilda was undeterred. She mixed in a little bleach in with their hair tonic and engaged in a little telekinetic TV exploding, and she was in kindergarten in no time.

Don't be afraid to be smart So what if her class was only on the two times tables? If you can multiply 13 by 379 in your head, sing out!

Develop a signature look. When Matilda decided somewhere around age four that the hair ribbon worked for her, she stuck with it.

Stay away from school principals who favor military jackets and knee shorts. This one should speak for itself.

Keep these tips in mind and you should be able to navigate back-to-school season (or the post-Labor Day work week) with style.

Now, who else out there was a school-loving Matilda type? Reveal yourselves!

Tuesday
Sep022014

Best Shot Season Finale: The Matrix (1999)

I'm not proud to say so but I'd probably take the blue pill. 

BEST SHOT

It's not that I reject reality so much as that I keep misplacing it. It's easy to forget about it you're drawn to the fantasy. My spirit animal is Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo, what can I say?

So here we are completing another season of Hit Me With Your Best Shot and again I've scheduled the final episode for the very moment I'm about to leave the country giving me no time whatsoever to produce anything like a suitable Season Finale with enough pomp and circumstance. [Note to self: Season Six must end before the suitcase has come down from the shelf for the Toronto International Film Festival.] So I'll make it up to you with a little look back at Season 5 in a couple of days.

But that image above, more than any other... apart from the cascading green symbols as visual motif (remember when that screensaver was all the rage?), is what I think of when I think of The Matrix. It needs us to embrace utter fabrication and complicated fantasy for the film to work and yet, as its narrative throughline it demands that Neo completely reject the same for cold hard wet and slimy truth. Is this what the dystopian genre is inherently for, to present dark truths about humanity and our future in the comforting garb of the unreal while screaming "REALITY!" as it pretzels itself back into fantasy like the greatest of contortionists?

I think so. 

Here's what the 12 other Best Shot Participants chose as their defining image. 

THE MATRIX (1999) BEST SHOTS
click on the image for the corresponding article 

The Film's The ThingAntagony & EcstasyFilm ActuallyEntertainment JunkieSorta That GuyLam Chop ChopPop Culture CrazyVideo ValhallaCinematic CornerDancin' Dan on Film
Allison TooeyBest Shot in the DarkTeo Bugbee

What image defines The Matrix for you? Do you see it here?

 

Tuesday
Sep022014

Iceland, Norway, and Foreign Chart Updates

We travel now overseas to two of my all-time favorite places on Earth. I lived in Norway many years ago (and went back for the first time just last summer for my birthday). And Iceland is just about my favorite vacation spot  these days. Well, okay, I've only been there twice but I'm eager for a third. It's so otherworldly beautiful. If you saw Land Ho! this summer (reviewed), that sweet comedy is basically one long commercial for booking a flight to Reykjavik, post-haste.

NORWAY
The land of the midnight sun has chosen three finalists for consideration for Oscar submission and I write this prematurely since they'll name their official pick tomorrow. I'll be travelling to Toronto so you might hear before I do. The race is between these three films: Bent Hamer's 1001 Grams, which premieres in Toronto, a romantic drama about a female scientist who travels to Paris and falls for a Frenchmen; Hisham Zaman's Letter to the King an immigrant drama about five refugees who travel to Oslo; and finally Eskil Vogt's Blind, about a blind woman with a potent imagination and a troubled marriage. I loved this film at Sundance so I hope they pick it. Vogt is the co-screenwriter of Joachim Trier's beautiful and highly acclaimed movies Reprise and Oslo August 31st. This is Vogt's first time in the director's chair and it turns out he's got quite an eye as well as a tongue.

ICELAND
They've narrowed it down to four films: Paris of the North, Life in a Fishbowl (which is playing in Toronto) Metalhead, and Harry & Heimir. My friend A.D. (who you also may know as Dzong2) who cowrites the Oscar charts in this category with me, suspects its between Life in a Fishbowl which is extremely popular at home and Paris of the North (which recently played Karlovy).

I'm betting on Life in a Fishbowl due to its spectacular hometown reviews. When you get blurbs like "The Best Icelandic Film In History" and "The Golden Age of Icelandic Cinema Has Begun" and such, people don't just like you - they're obsessed. 

NEW OFFICIAL SUBMISSIONS:  Sweden has chosen Force Majeure (also known as Turist) which made a good splash at Cannes; Finland has chosen Concrete Night; Estonia is submitting a film called Tangerines; Croatia has chosen Cowboys as its submission, Serbia has chosen See You in Montevideo; Luxembourg went with Never Die Young; Venezuela and The Phillipines are also down to just a few films so they'll announce soon. You can read about them all at the Oscar charts which have been fully updated as of today.

UPDATE 11:18 PM: Venezuela has just finished voting and chose the historical drama "The Liberator" in a tight race with the gay-themed poverty drama about a boy and his mother called "Bad Hair" (of which I am a huge fan)

Tuesday
Sep022014

50 Appropriate Ways to Celebrate Keanu Reeves Birthday!

In honor of Keanu Reeves' half-century mark today, 50 appropriate ways to celebrate the day. Please report back with the number you plan to accomplish today. Party on dudes!

01 Become a "cool breeze over the mountains" like his name (consider it an acting exercize)
02 Consider Beirut, Lebanon where Keanu was born
03 Find it on the map if you're not familiar 
03 Take the red pill
04 Join us tonight for "Best Shot" - we'll be choosing our favorite image from The Matrix
04 Be excellent to each other
05 Party on, dudes!
06 Watch Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
07 Play a game of hockey


08 Drive a motorcycle
09 or, a a bus
10 Wait. Those are both probably illegal without a special license so why not just take a bus and pretend your driver is Sandra Bullock)

11 ...or go surfing
12 The point is physical activity. Do lots of it. Keanu is always on the move.
13 Read our Team Experience anniversary piece on Point Break (1991)
14 Look amazing in a wetsuit
15 Get wet frequently today; It's a good look for you
 
(35 more ways to celebrate after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep022014

A Brief Celebration of Lily Tomlin in "Nashville"

Here's Andrew with one more Lily Tomlin tribute. Yes, yes, we got a little carried away for her 75th what with polls and memorabilia and now this. But that's because there's just so much to love and there's one exciting brand new project on the horizon - Nathaniel R

We can't let the celebration of Lily Tomlin pass without devoting just a few words to her excellent performance Nashville. Or, part of it. There are too many great things to say about Tomlin’s performance but let's zero in on a brief, but essential moment of Linnea Reese’s journey that’s always stuck. It's probably the first moment you think of when you hear the words Nashville and Lily Tomlin… the "I’m Easy” scene.

Nashville is many things, and a musical is one of them. Its Oscar-winning number “I’m Easy” arrives over two hours into the movie. From Carradine’s soft crooning, to the excellent lyrics, to Altman’s brilliant direction – it’s a great, tender moment of irony for the film. The rascal Tom Frank (Keith Carradine) dedicates this number to “someone special” in the audience and sings about how fragile his heart is, when it’s anything but. In performance the actual song becomes secondary to the reactions it evokes. There are three other women watching, in addition to Linnea, who are certain the song is about them, or hope that it could be.

 But even as all the actors are making this scene work it’s Tomlin’s Linnea that is most profound. It is her scene. I saw Nashville for the first time a few years ago and Linnea seemed so contradictory with the image that Lily Tomlin had always evoked, not because it's a dramatic role but because the essence of the performance is its stillness. That's not something easy to play, and often comes off as underacting. Not for Lily in this film, though, and especially not in this scene.

In a recurring shot Linnea sits somewhere near the edge of the frame looking desolate, surrounded by the rest of the audience. It's a wonder how just watching her reaction evokes such strong feelings. She may not be the only woman responding to Tom's "I'm Easy" lies, but even as she remains still there’s an electricity to her. Altman wisely let's the camera be drawn to her.

This gospel singer and mother of two deaf children doesn’t utter a single word and yet when the final note is sung we’ve learned so much. Just look at that face! Every longing desire, every hope, every secret lustful thought climaxes here. That she and Tom will come together some time after is inevitable. It’s a brief bit in the gargantuan excellence that is Nashville's 160 minutes and but a drop in the greatness of the enduring Lily Tomlin, but essential nonetheless.

previous Lily enthusiasms
Rose vs Sadie Big Business 
Memoirs of an Usherette Lily's history of loving the movies 
Jane & Lily reunited for Netflix 

Tuesday
Sep022014

Summer (lovin') happened so fast

Hello all, Manuel here wishing you all a great “back to school!” week with some choice words from your favorite singing and dancing adults-playing-teens.

I've had the best summer of my life and now I have to go away. It isn't fair."

To all the Sandys out there who have spent their summer nights bowling in the arcade, making out under docks, and getting friendly in the sand, it must surely seem unfair that it’s that time of year again when we bid goodbye to fun summer flings and have instead to prep ourselves for another school year. We could spend the next couple of weeks moping about the end of summer, and wishing we didn't have to spend the last beautiful days of the year indoors pining away, but, like Grease itself, we should see this coming back to school moment as an opportunity to engage in a high-energy musical number. True, Frankie Valli's rendition of Barry Gibb's "Grease" opens the film (while cartooney versions of our leads get ready for their first day of school) but it is "Summer Nights" which officially kicks off this musical comedy, framing the entire narrative of the film as an attempt to reclaim and repurpose the spirit (and romance!) of those summer nights amidst the dreary day to day of senior year.

“Okay girls, let’s go get ‘em!”

I had a friend in high school who, without a doubt, would always bring up "Summer Nights" on our first day of school ("tell me more! tell me more!" he'd joke, though I rarely had anything as interesting as Sandy to share with him). I never told him this, but thinking back on it, I would have much rather us role-play being the Pink Ladies (rather than dear old "Sandra Dee"!). I mean, in terms of heading back to school, I think Rizzo and the Pink Ladies have the right attitude. Can you really go wrong with sunglasses, pink jackets, gum and a killer strut?

Did you have, like Sandy, an unforgettable summer that you wish would never end? Have you already chosen what fabulous outfit you’ll be wearing when you make your grand return to the classroom this fall? Tell me more, tell me more!