Oscar History

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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Kenneth Branagh may get those sequels he wants

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Spirit Nominations
Call Me By Your Name leads with 6

"I think Good Time is going to do better this award season then people realize. It's slowly developing a cult following similar to Drive. " - Mike

"Really happy to see Harris Dickinson in male lead. That's a great category." - Joseph

Ugh Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name reeks of Rooney Mara in Carol all over again. LGBTQ film with two obvious co-leads where one is relegated to supporting and pushes out a fantastic, legit supporting player (Sarah Paulson/Michael Stuhlbarg)." - Aaron

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Shine On, Beautiful Murder

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason on "A Kind of Murder" and "Always Shine"

I know it's blasphemy in these parts to speak ill of Mad Men (cue 90% of you automatically clicking away in disgust) but I could never really get into it because it felt too slavishly obsessed with 60s posturing - I love Mid-Century Design as much as the next Eero Saarinen disciple but I couldn't ever see the forest for the tulip chairs. That said, the new Patricia Highsmith adaptation A Kind of Murder (from the 1954 book The Blunderer, kind of a suburban copycat criss-cross of Strangers on a Train) makes Mad Men seem positively restrained in its period affectations - how you manage to turn a walking talking charm like Patrick Wilson into a walking talking turtleneck I'll never figure.

The turtlenecks! The martini glasses! The heavy salmon drapes and stone fireplaces! There were moments of such monumental airlessness, as if a plastic sofa cover was wrapped over every scene, where I felt it might be purposeful - where I thought of Todd Haynes' [safe] and the way that movie was built to make the audience hyperventilate while watching it... but A Kind of Murder is no [safe]. What it is is is an occasionally jazzy low-key thriller, with Eddie Marsan skulking about effectively making his case as our modern day Peter Lorre or Raymond Burr. But it ends up more of a put on, a face of perfectly applied make-up cast halfway in noirish shadow, than any sort of artful smear. Grade: C

Part of me wishes I had seen Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald in Sophia Takal's Always Shine before having seen Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston in Alex Ross Perry's Queen of Earth last year, because while I'm more inclined towards Takal's smoky and sinister edged film... that's a whole lot of Persona riffing in the space of twelve months.

Always Shine tells the tale of two actresses in one of those friendships so fraught with complications it would have doctors reaching for the defibrillation paddles - the pendulums of success and resentment, professional jealousy and personal affection, flinging through space so close that something's bound to rub off and muck up everything. 

And inevitably, muck. In this case the the muck under the misty cliff-faces and mossy canyons of Big Sur, California, an L.A. getaway close enough that when the sun sets the shadows from the Hollywood sign are yet still the first harbingers of nightfall. Here these ladies make their escape, a weekend coffee klatsch under the guise of nursing emotional distance, their carry-on's stacked with comedy and tragedy masks, plus sundresses. Inevitably, tragically, the two women end up flashing their SAG cards in each other's faces instead of laying bare their hearts, a battle of wiles not wills.

You know, actresses. And who doesn't love a movie about actresses? I think I'm preaching to the choir here. The performative commingling of these two still fresh talents is a blast - Davis I've already fallen head over for on Halt and Catch Fire (please tell me you're all watching that show) and FitzGerald is always fine despite a frustratingly written role on Masters of Sex; here these two fold into and under each other in smart - and, in this movie's true blessing, in unexpectedly funny - ways. Grade: B+


Happy Birthday, Jack Nicholson

We've been celebrating actors all month, and today one of our most legendary deserves a double dose of celebration: Jack Nicholson turns 79!

Nicholson is currently enjoying a low-key retirement. He hasn't been seen on the silver screen since James L. Brooks misfire How Do You Know, but his monolithic legacy of landmark work still feels fresh and the films rewatchable. We're lucky to still have an actor with us who can continue to inspire awe with performances like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's McMurphy or The Joker. It's saying something that he's Oscar's most recognized actor, but has plenty of worthy unnominated worthy performances to add to the heap - Batman, Carnal Knowledge, and even The Shining.

Yes, he remains Oscar's golden son. His winning performances - Cuckoo's Nest, Terms of Endearment, and As Good As It Gets - are a great example of the range of his talents: ferocity, graceful humor, and rascally sexuality. He very nearly missed a fourth win with About Schmidt, his most recent nomination and a performance that showed him to be an actor still ready to stretch and take risks.

If Nicholson wants to enjoy this retirment from acting, who can blame him with the long list of his films we still have to enjoy? Hopefully, even without a new film on the horizon, we'll see Jack back on an Oscar telecast in his usual from row seat, sunglasses and smiles. Admit it, you've missed him every time he's not there.

Happy Birthday, Jack - but come back soon, we miss you! What's your favorite Nicholson performance, nominated and not nominated?


Wilding Out at Tribeca

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason on "Hunt For the Wilderpeople".

About a year ago director Taika Waititi showed us the homier side of Nosferatu & Co with the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows... and the very next thing I knew he was being hired to direct the third Thor movie for Marvel. I always felt like a step was missing in there, and sure enough here's Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the adorable little rainbow bridge he took on over to the big leagues.

An adaptation of the well-loved 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress by New Zealand's favorite author slash adventurer Barry Crump, Wilderpeople feels more like a proper Movie than Shadows did - whereas that was a collection of funny bits hung together by silly string, this time out there's a more novelistic approach, with explicit chapter titles and also things like a beginning, a middle, and an end. An emotional journey, if you will! One that doesn't skimp on the giant pig monsters (which okay let's be honest, those are probably what got him Thor 3).

City slicker, street urchin, and roundly rejected foster kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) shows up to his latest familial assignment with a boar-sized chip on his shoulder, which Aunt Bella (a sweetly no-nonsense Rima Te Wiata) immediately sets about slaughtering. Uncle Hec (don't call him Uncle), played by Sam Neill with a beard it takes you a few minutes to find a face under, doesn't want any part of Ricky's rigamarole, but cue the heart strings as they're eventually forced to work together against the odds and find common ground, the music swells, a hug in front of a sunset in slow-motion.

Hold up though - thankfully the film is aware of those smarmy cinematic precedents (smarmy classics like the Stallone arm-wrestling epic Over the Top come to mind) and without being cutesy about it demolishes the cliches through good old fashioned hard-fought and battle-fatigued excellence. It's funny and true and a fine wilderness adventure to boot, snuffling out all emotional beats at its own pace, when it damn well feels like it, to the tune of its own drummer and the toot of its own horn section. It's like Rushmore in the bush - yes, it's Bushmore. Straight up magestical, people. Grade: B+


Farewell to the Prince

The beautiful ones,
You always seem to lose.

-"The Beautiful Ones"

Glenn here with some words about today's very sad news about the death of iconic musician and sometime actor/director, Prince Rogers Nelson. “Purple Rain” wasn’t the first time I ever heard Prince. Hell, I wasn’t even alive when the all things purple took over the zeitgeist in the summer of 1984. No, the first time I think I was consciously aware of who I was listening to was in 1991 when I laid eyes upon a video for the single “Diamonds and Pearls” on early morning music television. I was young, but already obsessed with music; making sure I watched the top forty countdown on Rage and recording my favourite videos from Video Hits onto an over-growing pile of VHS. I had been clocked into Madonna for a year or so by this stage, and Michael Jackson was regular fixture of my music listening habits with “Black & White” becoming a pop culture phenomenon at roughly the same time Prince came into my world. He was so different to anybody I'd seen before - his small frame and wild hair so at odds with the image of maleness that, especially growing up in suburban Australia, was preoccupied with overwhelmingly over-the-top masculinity.

If you ever need proof of some sort of other-worldly intervention in play in this life, then consider those three musicians were all born within just a couple months of each other. (More after the jump)

Click to read more ...


Tribeca: Custody

Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Manuel on "Custody".

"I wanted to have the film center on female characters." That was James Lapine in a post-screening Q&A of his latest film, Custody, which premiered this past week. And boy has he delivered. Steering pretty far from familiar ground for him (he of Into the Woods and Six by Sondheim fame), Lapine has crafted a mosaic-like portrait of the labyrinthine bureaucracy that are the family court proceedings in New York City. Sara Diaz, a young single mother of two (Catalina Sandino Moreno, putting those wounded eyes to great use), finds herself embroiled in a custody battle when an accident leaves her son with a black eye that forces the school to call child services. Sara is assigned to a freshly minted lawyer, Ally Fisher (Hayden Panettiere, in her most mature role to date) who quickly realizes there's more to this case than her client leads on. This makes pleading her case at Martha Schulman’s court all the trickier, especially as the city is still reeling from a previous tragedy caused by a failure in the system; all involved are committed to not letting another child be sent back to a negligent household.

The structure of the film is such that we see the court proceedings but also get to know these characters: we see Schulman (Viola Davis, imperious and sympathetic in equal measure) as she struggles with marital problems, and see Sara adjusting to the increasingly frustrating ordeal of being separated from her kids, while Ally finally attempts to bring closure to a family secret. And while these three actresses are fantastic all around, coloring their interactions with the complexity and nuance which Lapine's script demands, it is Ellen Burstyn, in two key scenes as Ally’s grandmother, that gives everyone a master class in acting. She's helped by a prickly (and at key times light-hearted) script that grapples with Big Issues but wraps them in personal stories that never feel (solely) didactic. 

That is, until the last 20 or so minutes when Lapine inexplicably gives Viola and Catalina two monologues that play like bluntly-written thesis statements for the film. They’re impassioned pleas that nevertheless sell the screenplay short, giving viewers who would dub this a "TV movie on the big screen" all the Law & Order/Boston Legal comparisons you'd ever need. 

Grade: B / Performances all around: A