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 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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Sunday
Dec012013

Box Office: Hollywood Queen Beats Disney Princess

Amir here, bringing you Thanksgiving weekend’s box office report.

It’s a testament to the popularity and success of The Hunger Games series that Frozen, in its own right a breaker of multiple records this weekend, could not displace it as the number one film. Catching Fire has banked almost $300m in just ten days, leaving virtually no doubt that it will trump Iron Man 3 as the best selling film of the year. One can only imagine how much a Katniss vs. Tony Stark mash-up film would sell, though I struggle to think of any way in which Jennifer Lawrence is not superior to Robert Downey Jr. at the moment. Frozen, meanwhile, is now firmly positioned as the frontrunner for the animated film Oscar, what with positive reviews, strong word of mouth and incredible sales that guarantee every voter will be tempted to pop this screener in.

BOX OFFICE
01 THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE $74.5 (cum. $296.5) Review
02 FROZEN $66.7 *expanded* (cum. $93)
Review | Like Wicked? | Snow Queen History | Jonathan Groff Interview
03 THOR: THE DARK WORLD $11.1 (cum. $186.7) Review  
04 THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY  $8.4 (cum. $63.4) Discussion 
05 HOMEFRONT $6.9 *new* (cum. $9.7)
06 DELIVERY MAN $6.9 (cum. $19.4)
07 THE BOOK THIEF $4.8 *expanded* (cum. $7.8)
08 BLACK NATIVITY $3.8 *new* (cum. $5)
09 PHILOMENA $3.7 *expanded*  (cum. $4.7)
10 LAST VEGAS $2.7 (cum. $58.7)

None of the other new films fared even remotely as well as Frozen. You can now put Homefront in your DVD box of indistinguishable Jason Statham flicks right next to Chaos, Safe, The Mechanic and your pre-ordered copy of Heat. Black Nativity has roughly the same per screen average, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom proved that audiences are not hungry to see yet another generic political biopic, especially one so generic that the title literally spells out Name: Dull Greatest Hits Version of Life Events Ending in Triumph. Without a doubt the biggest flop of the weekend was Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake though. I have no desire to see it, mostly because I adore the Korean original, but I can’t help but feel a bit excited about Lee’s misfortune with this one. Yes, yes, I’m petty. Look down on me all you want! But after a series of “incidents” such as this and this, I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels gleeful schadenfreude.

I’ve had a great weekend so far. I didn’t have to leave the house but I caught up with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Grandmaster, The Dirties, At Berkeley and Viola, and with varying degrees of enthusiasm, I can recommend them all. What did you watch this weekend?

Sunday
Dec012013

Linkville

Television Blend Baz Luhrmann may direct Napoleon as a miniseries for television
House Next Door on the Oscar prospects of August: Osage County. Yet another critic who thinks Julia is the MVP. I'm mystified but congrats, Julia!
In Contention wonders if The Wolf of Wall Street is just what Oscar season ordered? We know that the SAG screening went sensationally well in Los Angeles. Our friend Paul, who we just featured in Reader Spotlight, thinks Leonardo DiCaprio is now the Best Actor frontrunner and tweeted this photo from the festivities:

 

 

Cinema Blend Jurassic World not a reboot (thank god) but a sequel set 22 years in future. Chris Pratt, suddenly in demand since slimming down and bulking up for ZDT, rumored for lead.
Variety Fernando Eimbcke's Club Sandwich wins the Turin Fest. We interviewed its actress icymi. 

RIP Paul Walker (1973-2013)
And finally, as you've undoubtedly heard by now, Paul Walker died yesterday in a car accident in California en route to or from a charity event of all things. Terrible. He was 40 years old. The actor starred in all but one of the six episodes of the big screen series The Fast and Furious. It's worth noting that The Fast and the Furious 7 is currently filming. There's no word yet on exactly how and what they'll do to finish it without him but the movie will undoubtedly move forward.

The original F&F franchise director Rob Cohen told Variety:

His American beauty, his athleticism, the directness of his approach to the character, his effusive, down-to-earth personality brought joy to me and everyone around him."

Aside from the F&F franchise we'll remember him most for that All American b&w jock beauty in  Pleasantville (1998) and one of the best B movies of the early Aughts Joy Ride (2001).

Sunday
Dec012013

Team FYC: Neighboring Sounds for Best Foreign Language Film

In this series Team Experience sounds off (individually) on their favorite fringe awards contenders. Here's Amir Soltani on Neighboring Sounds.


Since the Academy wisely overhauled its nominating process for the foreign language film award and Dogtooth nabbed that delightfully shocking nomination, pundits tend not to take any film's chances too lightly in this category. Still, a nod for Brazil's intense and quietly powerful submission would come as a major surprise. That's partly because the film ran the festival circuit last year and its buzz has been more of a hum for a few months now so it's hard to imagine the executive committee coming to its rescue. It's a real shame because Neighboring Sounds isn't just the best of the submitted films; it is quite possibly the year's best film, period.

Sounds opens with a series of black and white still photos attuned to a rousing score that provide more social context for the story in 57 seconds than most films do in 90 minutes. Kleber Mendoca Filho - on his first try at helm - paints an increasingly unsettling portrait of an affluent neighborhood in the Brazilian city of Recife that wants to remain oblivious to the poverty and corruption that engulfs it. The greatest accomplishment of the film, and its rich but anti-climactic finale, is that it creates a sense of inescapable unease in the audience, not entirely unlike what the neighborhood residents deal with routinely.

Neighboring Sounds subverts our expectations at every turn, playing games with the laguange of cinema - both in the construction of its images and, as the title suggests, sounds - to shape our understanding of characters and the film's geopolitical space. It is the rare film that builds energy through completely inconspicuous means. It is not the guns and criminals that escalate violence; it's a meditative dip in the waterfall or a casual conversation between neighbors on a rooftop. The underlying sense of discomfort is a result of the film's "guilty until proven innocent" approach toward all its characters. By the film's end, the mistrust between the neighborhood's residents has slowly creeped in on us and become impossible to shake off. This is a masterclass in crafting a suspenseful piece, given by a man whose assured control of his film betrays no sign of his inexperience. Here's hoping Academy voters take notice.

Previously on Team FYC

Saturday
Nov302013

November. It's a Wrap.

In Case You Missed Them... here are a dozen highlights from the month that was as we round the corner into the last leg of 2013 and sprint towards Oscar nominations.

My imaginary Actress Roundtable for THR. They need to mix it up a little for freshness. I've added Léa, Sandra and Margo.

Emma Thompson's Shoes... Nathaniel meets the actress over cocktails
Hollywood Actress Roundtable Oprah gushes over Lupita. Octavia and Amy listen. Julia and Emma steal the spotlight
Naomi Watts' Rough Year Paging Lacuna, Inc 
She's Finally Got It Angela Lansbury & Honorary Oscars
International Transgendered Day an Oscar Trivia List 
Critics Choice Young Actor/Actress Ballots who should be on them? 
Animated Features 2003 the 10th anniversary of a key Oscar shortlist
The Best Man Holiday opens big 

Frozen = Wicked is this the closest we're getting to the stage musical onscreen? 
Michelle Pfeiffer for American Horror Story? why she probably won't do it
Melissa McCarthy in The Heat her best line readings
Yes No Maybe So: Noah two of every what in Aronofsky's ark?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus the interview 

Coming in December
New releases American Hustle, August: Osage County and Wolf of Wall Street. Plus interviewpalooza with stars from Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave. And, of course, YEAR IN REVIEW MADNESS

Saturday
Nov302013

Interview: Jonathan Groff

If you’ve read The Film Experience for any significant length of time, it won’t surprise you to hear that if there’s one type of actor that melts my heart every time, it’s a singing actor. While Hollywood doesn’t nurture the triple threats (singing, dancing, acting) as much as they did in the Golden Age when musicals were a regular occurrence rather than a once a year event, this past decade gives the musical lover reason enough to hope. Musicals are far less uncommon than they were in the dark times between All That Jazz (1979) and Moulin Rouge! (2001). There are two in theaters right this moment! Lately several musically gifted actors have been ascending.

Jonathan Groff, a treat on stage for some time, is one of the best among them. This season he’s moving up to leading man status. He’s currently serving male romantic hero duties (of a kind) as Kristoff in Disneys’ Frozen and in January he headline’s HBO’s new gay series “Looking”. I interviewed him for Towleroad but here are a couple of bits I didn’t use there for you movie musical and Frozen fans.

Nathaniel R: Can I just tell you that I thought Frozen was great fun but when it ended I realized I was still waiting for another song from you. Were you disappointed that you only got one?

Jonathan Groff: They were apologetic. ‘We tried to find another place but we feel like it didn’t work with the character and we wanted you to sing a’ -- I was like 'Guys, why are you apologizing to me. I'm singing in a Disney movie! I don't care what it is or how long it is, even if it's for 30 seconds.' The answer to that is no. I'm just thrilled to be singing at all and I'm thrilled to be in this movie at all. They were so dead on at having my character sing when he does and at no other moments. It wasn't true to who he was.

One of the great things about this movie is that as classic and recognizable as the elements are in a Disney movie, there's a lot of unexpected things, where they turn it on its head.

When you were watching it, was there any moment where you thought 'Damn, I wish I could have been Kristoff in a live action film.'

Jonathan: Oh my god, yeah. Just the sleigh ride with the wolves would have been so fun. I've always dreamt of being in an action movie. And there's such intense action sequences - falling, running, whipping that tree in the monster's face. All of that stuff would have been fun to do in real life. I was amazed at how much action there was in the movie. It was really intense.

Do you view Frozen as a stepping stone or have you ever thought “This is my breakthrough” of any of your roles?

Jonathan: No, I think each part... It sounds a little hippie but I feel like each role that comes to me or comes to anyone comes for a specific purpose, something to work through. Whether you realize it in the moment ‘I'm learning this about myself’ or ‘this is happening in my life’ or you look back in five years and think ‘That's why that was in my life’.

Any more Broadway in your future?

The theater is where my heart is so I'm dying to get back on stage. At the end of the day it's just a matter of what project. The people you're working with and the thing you're working on are the two things that matter most.

 

much more Groff at Towleroad

Saturday
Nov302013

Introducing... Five Nominees 2003

For the buildup to this  year's Oscar race we thought it would be fun to revive StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown and so far it's gone just beautifully. This month we're hitting the 2003 lineup for its 10th anniversary. Unfortunately I have to announce a small delay: The Smackdown will now air on Thursday, December 5th at Noon EST instead of, well, right now.

But in its place our new Smackdown tradition which we keep meaning to turn into a regular non-Smackdown series. "Introducing..." in which we remember our first glimpse of key movie characters. You've met this month's panel but these events now include an extra panelist: You (the collective you) so feel free to send in your ballots (by tomorrow at the latest) if you'd like your vote to be counted. Here's how you do that.

Without further ado...

INTRODUCING... (in the order of how soon they appear in their films)

[no dialogue]

Shohreh Aghdashloo as "Nadi" in House of Sand and Fog
Arrival: 1½ minutes into the 126 minute running time, preceded only by Fog (and Jennifer Connelly) and Sand: She's reflected in the water in the opening credits and then glimpsed frolicking with her children on the beach, before a terrible visual omen strikes: trees felled nearby. Subtle!

I'm ready.

Holly Hunter as "Melanie Freeland" in Thirteen
Arrival: 3 minutes into the 100 minute running time. She stamps out a cigarette. Note the smart girly girl styling -- kudos to the makeup and costume team on this movie -- you don't even know she's not a teenager until the camera pans up. 

[no dialogue]

Patricia Clarkson as "Joy Burns" in Pieces of April
Arrival: 4 minutes into the 80 minute running time. While her family frantically searches for her, she's found waiting in the care for their Thanksgiving road trip. 

Where have you been? It's 3 AM."

Marcia Gay Harden as "Celeste Boyle" in Mystic River
Arrival: 16 minutes into the 138 minute running time. She's looking in on her sleeping child when her husband returns home with (gasp) what is that? Blood! on his hands!!! With Marcia's arrival the plot arrives to mingle with the foreshadowing prologue and completed character survey. 

Those cows want milkin'. If that letter ain't urgent then cows is, is what I'm sayin'. 

Renée Zellweger as "Ruby" in Cold Mountain
Arrival: 50 minutes into the 154 minute running time. And boy is the director (and the Zeéeeee) marking it. She steps into the frame like it's a proscenium, her face hidden by a huge hat as she turns from side to side. Cows even moo to introduce her and she sighs loudly before barking out her first line at Ada (Nicole Kidman) who is lost in her papers on the porch.

*

Did you know you were in for something special when these actors came into frame?