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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R

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

 

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Q&A: Which Oscar nominees will be back soon?

"I like your 2026 predictions for longevity (Bale, Vikander, Hardy)" - Bella 

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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+

Tuesday
Oct072014

Familiar Faces: The David Fincher Players

Up until The Social Network (2010), when a version of this article first appeared, David Fincher was, moderately, a creature of habit when it came to casting. Certain character actors would pop up in miniature roles in more than one film though only one star was a recurring lead (Brad Pitt). Since then it's been more of a free for all with (mostly) new faces in his films.

For Gone Girl it's all new faces but for three men who you'll miss if you blink:

Darin Cooper, Brett Leigh, and Lee Norris

Brett Leigh appears as a nervous intern (he was previously a Phoenix Club hazer in The Social Network); Lee Norris, best known for "One Tree Hill" and "Boy Meets World," shows up as "Officer Washington" after a gig in Zodiac; and Darin Cooper, who played one of Facebook's lawyers in The Social Network, returns as  "Moustached Man"

We hope next time Fincher finds a way to reuse these three and pulls more performers from his past, too. Why? When directors apply previous actors like favorite daubs of paint from their auteurial palettes, it adds a little magic, don't you think? It's like the films are all part of the same universe no matter how different they are. Let's investigate further with...

The David Fincher Acting Hierarchy
(Quantitatively Speaking)


4 Films. 
There's a three way tie for the top honor, each beating Brad Pitt by one film, albeit with much much smaller roles...

• Richmond Arquette 
Yes, that's the least famous member of the Arquette clan (brother to Alexis, David, Rosanna & Patricia). Fincher gives him tiny roles but some are key: he makes the dread box delivery at the end of Se7en, makes the first two kills in Zodiac and he's also in Fight Club and Benjamin Button. He recently had a fine co-leading showcase in Chad Hartigan's This is Martin Bonner.

• Christopher John Fields 
He stretches the furthest back with the director, all the way to Fincher's debut feature Alien³ (1992) where he played "Rains" one of the first victims of the acid-blooded beastie (pictured left), poor guy. He's also The Game's Detective Boyle, Fight Club's dry cleaning man and a copy editor in Zodiac. He appears to no longer be working, though.

• Bob Stephenson 
You might recognize this actor from series regular gigs on TV's Jericho or The Forgotten. He's part of the SWAT team in Se7en (pictured left), a security officer in Fight Club and a killer in both The Game and Zodiac. He recently appeared on an episode of both Agents of SHIELD and Mom.

3 Films
Much more and this man that needs no introduction...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct072014

Curio: Andrew DeGraff's Movie Maps

Alexa here with your fix of movie art. Philadelphia illustrator Andrew DeGraff has a way with cartography. He harnesses this skill to create unbelievably detailed movie maps.  He draws each location of a film in relation to all the others, and then traces the path of the protagonists, effectively capturing the action of each film from a bird's-eye view. Every map, like one below based on North by Northwest, is done my hand in pencil and guache, and takes hundreds of hours to complete. 

More favorites after the jump including Lord of the Rings and The Shining...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct072014

138 days til Oscar: That's your Best Picture length!

138 is a magic number. It's the average length, in minutes, of a Best Picture winner. Here are the running times of all winnners from longest to shortest. You'll see that the majority of winners are over 2 hours long which has caused no end of padding in "serious" movies but alas, not enough padding for tender buttocks watching the interminable movies. 

Here are your Best Picture winners from longest film to the shortest.

  1. Gone With the Wind (1939) 238 minutes
    Just two minutes shy of four hours, but worth every second. Lots of Gone With the Wind discussion here. Did you see its recent two day theatrical screening?
  2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 216 minutes
  3. Ben-Hur (1959) 212 minutes
    Currently in the process of being remade because that's how Hollywood do. Although this film was itself a remake so... we'll let it pass. Still there is no way its signature scene, the chariot race, will be as thrilling with CGI.
    ˆˆˆ over 3½ hours ˆˆˆ
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 201 minutes
  5. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) 200 minutes
  6. Schindler's List (1993) 195 minutes
  7. Titanic (1997) 194 minutes
  8. Gandhi (1982) 191 minutes
  9. The Deer Hunter (1979) 182 minutes
  10. Dances With Wolves (1990) 181 minutes
    ˆˆˆ over 3 hours ˆˆˆ

    other long ass movies and how it relates to this year after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct062014

FYC: Marion Cotillard in 'Two Days One Night'

Jose here. You know how sometimes a performer will win a gazillion awards for their breakthrough performance and then never be recognized again, even as they deliver much more complex, superior work? It’s the “been there done that” syndrome, which has sadly made most awards groups forget all about Marion Cotillard, who is once again Best Actress material in Two Days, One Night (Michael reviewed it here)


As the recently laid-off Sandra, Cotillard is unforgettable. We follow her as she visits her co-workers’ homes asking them to help her win her job back. As some show support, others display contempt and pity, making for a harrowing moviegoing experience. The Dardenne brothers, who in the past have been reluctant to work with movie stars, put their trust in Cotillard and the payoff is evident. The actress sheds all her glamour and star presence to play someone so fragile it seems as if being filmed is causing her pain. Sandra doesn’t talk much, but her face says everything. In one of the film’s most devastating moments, the Dardenne’s give Sandra some inner peace through a song in the radio, not only do they allow Cotillard’s smile to finally shine, but they also highlight the actress’ ability to reshape herself according to the emotions of her character. All throughout the film, Cotillard seems to be physically smaller, something she did in her Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf. The trick is more powerful here because Sandra is a “regular human being”.

Throughout the film we feel her pain and at times it’s so unbearable that it made me wonder what someone like Lars Von Trier would do with such a vulnerable character. The Dardenne’s are much more sensitive than the mad Dane and give Sandra her dignity, but not without pointing out how willingly she submits herself to humiliation in the name of survival. During most of the film Sandra wears a coral t-shirt with a ribbon pattern, which I feel Cotillard chose for the character. It makes her plea even more heartbreaking, as she knocks on doors trying to be festive and optimistic, when inside she’s completely destroyed.

Many cinephiles thought this turn would finally bring her the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival but it became the first Dardenne brothers’ film not to win a single award at Cannes. It was Marion's third straight loss at the festival (2012 Rust and Bone, 2013 The Immigrant) which is a head-scratcher considering who won in those respective years. As Two Days One Night gears up for its Oscar-qualifying release later this year, I can’t help but wonder, does Marion have to knock on every AMPAS’ member’s door to finally get nominated again?

Why do you think Oscar keeps ignoring Marion? Where do her recent performances rank among your favorites for each year?