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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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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 ...


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? 


Beauty vs Beast: The Dream Team

JA from MNPP here, gleeful to say tis the season for spooky shenanigans, aka my favorite time of year - the trees are turning, the Moon is creeping out earlier every day, and the shelves of the local drugstores are stuffed with those beastly orange and purple Peeps - Happy Halloween-time, everybody! Y'all ought to know by now I'll take any chance I can to cram horror up in here, so here's the deal: we're gonna spend the next few ocassions leading up to The Big Night using our weekly "Beauty vs Beast" poll to face off some of our favorite Final Girls and the Big Bad Nasties they've faced off with.

This week we're getting the ball rolling with Wes Craven's classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, which celebrates it's 30th anniversary next month, to give you the choice between the police chief's haunted daughter Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and the man in the tattered fedora slicing and dicing up everybody's dreams, ol' Fred Krueger (Robert Englund)...


You have only seven days to sleep on your decision, so be wise about it, and do try to wake up in time. (And as an aside, a happy birthday to Jsu Garcia, who played Rod in the movie and gave my teenage self a real appreciation for the art of rocking tighty-whities.)

PREVIOUSLY Last week we shook and shimmied our business across the high and low-end stages of Las Vegas, attempting to answer one of life's most existential quandary: is it weird not having anybody cum on ya? No, not that. I mean Stardust or Cheetah, of course. In a battle of Showgirls' veteran diva versus the hard-knocks ingenue... we went Diva, natch. Cristal levitated above the competition with 67% of the vote. Said brookesboy:

"Gina Gershon is an actress of such uncanny resourcefulness she can find inspiration from a fried chicken leg or, here, drugstore nail polish. Gotta go with Cristal (trashiest spelling EVAH!)."


NYFF: Syria Plays Itself in 'Self-Portrait'

New York Film Festival is going strong and here is Glenn on one of the finest works of non-fiction at the fest.

A young boy named Omar walks through the rubble-strewn streets of Syria followed by a woman with a camera. He picks flowers, his eyes pop at something as simple as the size of a plant’s leaves, and giggles as his inquisitive mind asks questions to his unseen follower. The boy then tells the woman with the camera that they shouldn’t go down a certain street because there are snipers down there. It is spoken with such nonchalance by the child that one might assume he’s just re-enacting dialogue from a computer game or perhaps a movie. Rather it's just an average day in the life of this child as he navigates his way through his hometown of Homs.

This is a moment, a very confronting one, from Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait and the woman with the camera is Wiam Bedirxan. She is a young Kurdish activist and school teacher trapped in her home-country under heavy fire and also the co-director of this rather exceptional documentary who worked in collaboration via Facebook, Gchat and Skype with the politically exiled Ossama Mohammed who had previously fled to France and made this movie by compiling video from a reported 1001 Syrians who filmed the deadly revolution of their country on mobile phones and with photographs, uploaded to the internet platforms like YouTube, effectively creating a patchwork of a self-portrait of this nation under siege.

The conceit is a brave one especially given the quality of many of the images – footage, especially early on, is taken by Syrian men and women on the run from bullets, shelling and blood-loss; in one scene somebody gives chase after their phone, constantly filming, is nabbed by a passerby only to turn a corner and discover the thief has been shot and killed – and yet it is one that entirely works. It’s perhaps crude and the boxy, mis-shapen, heavily pixilated footage is rough around the edges, but it’s that very personal take from the frontlines that makes the documentary work. The assemblage is captivating and paints a picture that feels both broad and intimate at the same time.

Punctuated by somewhat cryptic title-cards and interspersed with even-harder-to-watch footage of maimed felines and youths being tortured that should wrench tears even out of audiences who feel desensitized by the onslaught of grim Syrian news. I could have done without the familiar bubbling sound of Skype that appears increasingly in the film’s tail-end, but the way it presents a country at a terrible crossroads is fresh and unique, penetrating through the glut of war documentaries in much the same way as The Square (albeit less accessible – Netflix won’t be acquiring this one). B+

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait screens on Wednesday Oct 8 (6.15pm)


Steve Martin: 2015 AFI Life Achievement Award Honoree

Manuel here with some Steve Martin news.

Did you all hear? Not content with having been pegged for an Honorary Oscar just last year (and a Kennedy Center Honors back in 2007 as well as an American Cinematheque honor in 2004), our favorite silver-haired comedian slash banjo enthusiast has been named the 43rd recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. This past June, they feted Jane Fonda, only the eighth woman to receive the honor, a statistic that would look surprising if it only it weren’t so familiar. Did you know women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films of 2013 while females accounted for 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters of said films? No wonder Reese, Gillian, heck even John Cusack, have been so vocal about this issue lately, following Geena Davis’s example.

But I got side-tracked.

We are here to celebrate Martin’s AFI Life Achievement news which will surely be a raucous affair come June 2015, and a well-deserved one at that. From The Jerk (1979) to Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), from Parenthood (1989) to It’s Complicated (2009), Martin has been delighting big screen audiences for decades. His silky smooth sense of humor, which can be quietly self-deprecating or explosively excoriating, is one of a kind. I’m personally attached to the Father of the Bride films, and while lately Martin has been playing it quite broad (Cheaper by the Dozen, Pink Panther), I can’t be the only one who hopes he has another Shopgirl in him, for those furrowed brows can definitely sell pathos as much as they can barter laughs. That wisp of a film is much too fragile (ever since I first saw it and was enamored by it I’ve been afraid to see it again lest it turn to salt) but it’s the type of small-scale human examination that so much of Martin’s humor can seamlessly tap into.

What’s your favorite Martin performance? Who are you hoping will be tapped to host; may it be frequent AFIer Mary Louise Streep? And who would you suggest AFI look into for next year?


NYFF: Mike Leigh's Exquisite and Frustrating 'Mr. Turner'

NYFF coverage continues with Michael C on Mike Leigh's latest 

When a film like Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner comes along you find yourself wishing you could take back all the “great cinematography” praise you tossed around so cavalierly on other films so that the words can carry more weight now that you really need them. Ideally, so far in 2014, one would have only applied the same praise to Darius Khondji’s work on The Immigrant. OK, yes, Under the Skin’s Daniel Landin also. It’s been an exceptional year.

Not content to merely display his paintings, Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope manage to permeate the air with the aura of J. M.W. Turner’s art. Some of the film’s images produced audible gasps at the screening I attended. The glory of the visuals grant Leigh and company the freedom to dispense with the many of the usual biopic clichés since we understand so much about Turner’s passion just by looking at the screen. Mike Leigh’s latest simulates what it might be like to see the world through the eyes of the great painter. This element alone makes Mr. Turner essential viewing.

Click to read more ...


Interview: Matthew Warchus (Pride, God of Carnage, Matilda The Musical) on Stage and Screen Transfers

Portions of this interview originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad discussing "Pride," the year's most adorable movie. This is the full interview with additional topics, Matilda the Musical's upcoming film adaptation chief among them.

If you didn't get to cinemas these past two weekends, the year's most adorable movie is still waiting for you, eager to please. Pride has been playing New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco but will add new cities next Friday. I expect all Film Experiencers to turn out for it! If you've read my review (aka paragraphs of me drooling on the movie) you'll know it's the true life LGBT story of a group of activists in the 1980s that stood up for striking miners during Margaret Thatcher’s bullying reign. The film is looking to be a "word of mouth" hit in miniature, but CBS Films plans to nurture it towards larger sleeper status. They'll be expanding carefully.

Two weeks back I had the opportunity to talk with the director Matthew Warchus who had just attended a pre-release screening with a "tumultous reaction" in LA. The 46 year old director, a stage veteran and Tony winner, recently replaced Kevin Spacey as the artistic director of the Old Vic so he isn't leaving the boards, he's just multi-tasking. He's already working on his follow up to Pride, a big screen adaptation of the Tony nominated hit Matilda: The Musical.

I talked to him about both projects, his stage directing skill set and how it affects his film work and how he approaches moving a property across mediums.

NATHANIEL R: You’ve done a lot of stage work before this. What do you think most prepared you for to tell this particular story and on film? 

MATTHEW WARCHUS: One great bit of preparation: I grew up in a village in the middle of nowhere in the North of England surrounded by coal mines and massively isolated. We had moved into that village so we were outsiders, wanting to to assimilate and be accepted. That gave me an understanding of how those communities work and the positives and minuses.

[Adapting musicals, sharing Pride, and more after the jump...]

Click to read more ...