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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 | letterboxd


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Burning Questions: How Much is "Overdue" Worth?

Michael C here to introduce my new column: Burning Questions. Every week I will tackle an issue of pressing importance to film lovers the world over - or I'll just let fly with whatevers on my mind when I sit down at the laptop. Either way, I'm jazzed to get started. First up, the question of the "career honors" Oscar win. 

One of my most vivid memories as a young Oscar viewer is the '97 race when Juliette Binoche beat out Lauren Bacall’s heavily-favored performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces. The press had declared Bacall a mortal lock. Not only was she Hollywood royalty, she was overdue Hollywood royalty. Should've been nominated for To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep and a half dozen others, so forget everything else and bet the farm on the former Mrs. Bogart. The unmistakable shock on both her and Juliette’s face when the envelope was opened suggests they had read the same coverage I had. It turns out that when voters were presented with the privacy of their ballots, Bacall's history of snubs proved no match for a strong performance in a popular film.

Yet despite this, every year we still get prognosticators writing about this or that star's overdue status as if it were a simple bank transaction, collect enough overdue points and trade it in for a shiny new trophy. This year the race is crowded such names. From Christopher Plummer with his career stretching back to Sound of Music, to the equally legendary Max Von Sydow, to five-time runner up Glenn Close, Albert Brooks, Nick Nolte, and the still never nominated Gary Oldman. With so much delayed Oscar justice poised to be dealt out it begs the question:

How much is “overdue” status really worth?

Of course, it's impossible to pin down the murky motives of Oscar voters with much certainty since the Academy doesn’t conduct an exit poll (Now there’s a thought). People often attribute Henry Fonda’s win for On Golden Pond to career honors, to name one example, but I think it had more to do with the fact that his was the strongest nominated performance and it was from one of the year’s most popular films. I think it’s safe to assume even if he had he won for Grapes of Wrath way back in the day, his performance in Pond would have gone home with the trophy anyway. 

To be fair, there are more cut and dry examples. One could make a strong case for John Wayne’s and Paul Newman’s Oscars being as much about career achievement as the winning performances. But even if that were true, it still shows the limits of such sentiments. Both triumphed over relatively weak, or in the Duke’s case divided, competition. If Wayne’s True Grit had come out a year later and gone up against George C. Scott’s Patton, all the overdue standing in the world would not have brought him a victory.

On the other hand, the list of superstars who missed in their last stabs at Oscar glory is long indeed. The wildly overdue Richard Burton lost for the seventh and final time to the youngest Best Actor winner ever up to that time, Richard Dreyfuss. Both Judy Garland and Monty Clift received their last career nominations for Judgment at Nuremberg and both were pushed aside to make way for the fresh-faced stars of West Side Story. The urge to hand Fred Astaire his first and only nod at age 75 was good enough to see him nominated for tripe like Towering Inferno, but all that good will went out the window when he went up against the young DeNiro’s take on Vito Corleone.

And let us not forget Peter O'Toole, the patron saint of Oscar also-rans, who set the all-time record for nominations without a win in '06 when he received his eighth Best Actor nod for Venus.  And what did all that accumulated good will buy him? A front row seat to witness the Forest Whitaker juggernaut cruise to victory - on his first nomination, no less.

So for all the importance placed on it I think it’s fair to say “overdue” status is over-valued. It’s a bump. A nudge. A tie-breaker. Did it help Alan Arkin eke out a win over Eddie Murphy? Probably. Will it be good enough for Glenn Close to beat this year’s stiff Best Actress competition if Albert Nobbs' reception remains lukewarm? Doubtful. In the final tally, the greatest benefit of overdue status lies less in garnering votes and more in garnering buzz, bringing attention to performances that are worthy on their own merit. All the career honors chatter is great for winning Beginners viewers, but when the ballots go out better for people to remember how terrific Plummer is this year than to think back on how badly he was snubbed for The Insider.

Any other questions you want me to tackle? Let me know in the comments. You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm


Carpet Convo: New Years Eve & War Horse

Nathaniel: R‪eaders. Welcome back to red carpet convos... It's been forever since we did one which you may interpret as Nathaniel tripping on his heels or stars not bringing it to events or, more accurately, time management issues. But I was actually on a red carpet this week so I figured it was time to reboot the series. Let's start with the glitziest red carpet which was for New Year's Ev‬e. A carpet I was not on. 

Jose: But you should've been! At least to congratulate Lea Michele for not doing one of her obnoxious red carpet faces.

Nathaniel: ‪She seems to be going for some World Record for most photographed (2010-2011). Every time you see events like this the photographers seem to snap 100 photos of her to every 4 of anyone els‬‬e. You'd think she was the star of a TV phenom or something.

Lea, Hilary, Abby, Zac, 'chelle

I love ...but I have a thing for Broadway Babies. Always have. Other things I have a thing for: plunging necklines and champagne dresses on brunettes.

Jose: ‪I find her obnoxious but LOVE the dress and the hair. I think it's the first time where i have no objection whatsoever to how she looks. She often ‪looks too severe and constipated, this is perfect though. Makes me want to go drink with ‬her.

Nathaniel: Hilary wants to go with you guys. "Pick me!"

Jose: She's not invited. The two of them together would be too annoying. 

Nathaniel: But, awwww, she seems so... eager.

Jose: Well she should. Isn't she doing her "forgive me for loving dictators" tour right now?

Nathaniel: I must have the concert tee!

Jose: I'm surprised she didn't show up in a Captain America costume.

Nathaniel: That makes me want to put her in a Wonder Woman outfit. Photoshop Attack! If you wrap a golden lasso around Hilary Swank think of all the truths that would spill out. "I did not deserve my second Oscar" ... "I thought Amelia was boring, too!"... "____complete the sentence in the comments_____"...

Jose: OMG Is that Abigal Breslin? When did she start looking like Nia Vardalos?  I hate that she's all old now.

Nathaniel: What are you? a Hollywood executive? "Get her to a nursing home!" Jesus. She's only 15. Don't feel old, Jose. Young starlets grow up fast.

Jose: I'll want to tear my eyes out when she kisses someone in that movie! She's my Little Miss Sunshine. She shouldn't be kissing boys. I just want cute child stars to retire when they hit puberty. Unless they're Jodie Foster.

Pfeiffer, Tori Amos Tangent and War Horses of different colors (actually just one) after the jump


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Yes, No, Maybe So: "The Five-Year Engagement"

Amir here with a new edition of Yes, No, Maybe So. Today’s film is The Five-Year Engagement from the Apatow production machine, starring Emily Blunt and Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the film. 


JACKI WEAVER EVERYONE! The Oscar-nominated Aussie surely deserves more demanding roles but at least she didn’t totally fade away as we feared, given her age and outsider status. The movie also has Mimi Kennedy who never fails to make me laugh out loud. After Midnight in Paris, this looks more than a bit like typecasting to me, but if she can find a way to be as funny as in In the Loop we’re in for big laughs.

•Jason Segel’s been having a good few years after he forgot Sarah Marshall. He’s actually proved to be a better comedy writer than an actor. His most recent feature is, of course, in theatres now (The Muppets) and it’s been extremely well-received. Can we assume his hot streak will continue?

No, Maybe So... and the trailer after the jump.

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Blurb Whore Overachiever of the Year

Top Ten List O' the Day: Peter Travers.
I don't know how many of you watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC but during Herman Cain's brief presidential campaign she began to treat it, hilariously, as a piece of performance art i.e. This just can't be real! I feel much the same way about Rolling Stone's Blurb Whore Legend Peter Travers. I don't mean to fixate on him as much as I do -- every year I marvel for the same reasons --  but I grew up reading and loving his reviews and only later, as I began to read more film criticism did he come to embody the Film Critic as Film Publicist problem. The man can definitely turn a phrase which is why if he wasn't making the presumably big bucks he makes at Rolling Stone, he'd surely be a highly paid ad man.

But this top ten article made me laugh so much. It's performance art. It has to be. He begins with Drive and literally the first words are...

Screw Oscar..."

After which comes a top ten list that includes not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, not eight but  literally all the contenders you'll see on anybody's Oscar prediction top ten Best Picture charts barring the unscreened 'Extremely Loud'. Which is to say that The Artist, The Descendants, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Tree of Life... are all accounted for. To make sure he's covered all the Oscar bases there's a three way tie at #10 between War Horse, The Help and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Seriously

I bow down to one of the greatest pieces of year-end list-making performance art that film criticism has ever seen. Peter Travers, you are genius.


Occupy Q&A! Purposefully Bad Acting & Post-Movie Etiquette

Roughly one hundred years ago on November 18th, 2011 I took questions for the next Q&A and after what was meant to be a short diversion answering the oddly abundant small screen questions I am now answering them. I am many things but I am nothing if not punctual. This is Part one of two as there is much to answer. Tomorrow's edition will actually arrive tomorrow night as it's already written. Yay me!

Just to stretch out the variety a bit I asked y'all to refrain from any questions about legendary actresses this time -- my favorite topic and apparently yours since many of you didn't listen ;) -- so  in this week's column, the men get a little time to shine. Let's go!

ANNIE: What was your favorite experience of seeing a movie with an audience, where the audience's reaction actually enhanced your viewing?

I've had many screenings like this that have enhanced my love of the movie we're all watching together. Which is why I believe so emphatically in the sanctity of moviegoing, and why I wish studios and theaters would lower prices before they price themselves out of populist relevance. TV is free and home theaters are getting larger so the movies really need to understand that they can't be making it so difficult for families to hit the multiplex or who will go? Movie attendance is a fraction of what it once was no matter how big the box office numbers seem and that is sad.

Jack and Leo discussing how awesome Barbra Streisand is in "Funny Girl"In terms of special events almost nothing beats Funny Girl's revival at the Ziegfeld several years ago here in NYC. It must have been sold out and that theater is HUGE. I saw at least one semi-famous person in the crowd and everyone was obviously there because they loved the movie. Seeing such a legendary star-making performance super-sized in a historic theater that had actual ties to the movie? Bliss. Nobody was raining on anyone's parades in there. It felt like oxygenated euphoria in that house. Also you know what movie was fun to watch with a typical noisy multiplex crowd just a few blocks from there? The Departed ! I still relish the audience reaction when you-know-who gets shot so mercilessly without fanfare or warning. It was as if there were tiny rugs under every individual theater seat and diabolical trickster Martin Scorsese had yanked them all at once and all OH.HELL.NO broke loose in there; the most fun you'll ever have watching someone get shot in the head!

How's that for a double feature: Funny Girl and The Departed ? Hee.

JOHN-PAUL: With three summer releases still alive in the Best Picture race (The Help, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life) and fall Oscar-bait movies seemingly underwhelming left and right (J. Edgar, The Ides of March, Carnage, A Dangerous Method, etc.), do you think the so-called "Oscar season" will become less relevant in the coming years?

I wish I could say "Yes" but this happens on a fairly regular basis and nothing changes. What's more this year has even more "one week qualifiers" than usual (4 or 5 by my count), so the system is definitely not changing for the better. I hate to be a broken record but I firmly believe that AMPAS should change the rules drastically. I don't think a film should be eligible for the Oscars unless it has allowed regular moviegoers to watch it in at least the top six markets. The current system gets called elitist on a regular basis but for stupid reasons ("Hey they didn't vote for that lame-ass blockbuster sequel that audiences flocked to for habitual lemming-like reasons!") and never for the actual elitist problem which is that you can show yourself for seven days in one theater in LA and ignore moviegoers totally and still be eligible for Best Movie prizes. That's all kinds of elitist, suggesting that the only audience a movie need concern itself with is 6000+ voting members of AMPAS. 

Mr. W: Any thoughts on Jean-Jacques Beineix' 'Diva'?

Have you ever seen DIVA (1981)? It's quite a time capsule.

Love it. Saw it three times at least in the 80s on VHS. Unfortunately I remember little about it other than its distinctly 80s new wave aesthetic and the fantastic diversity of the cast (black, asian and white characters on equal footing in the narrative? So rare in the 80s! And even now). I also liked that the story was built around something as mundane but unusual as a bootleg concert of an opera singer who refused to be recorded. No one speaks of "bootlegs" anymore -- they were put out of business by illegal downloads and leaking. 

JOHN T: Which legendary male actor would you like to pull a Christopher Plummer and make a comeback and get his first nomination-must be 65 or older to enter.

[The answer and more questions after the jump including awesome bad acting, Occupy Wall Street and post-movie etiquette.]

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"Speak as you might to a small child or golden retriever"

This past week I've become concerned with the awards prospects of Shame (is Carey Mulligan going to win anything?) and Martha Marcy May Marlene (which I loved) on account of its loss of every breakthrough actress and best first film contests thus far (in the admittedly young awards season.)

I began to wonder if the problem wasn't the constant withholding of the comfort food that is exposition. So I put in my screener to Margin Call, which keeps beating MMMM to prizes and while I enjoyed the film, I was immediately struck at the ginormous difference in verbosity. One movie tells you everything through it's play-like dialogue. The other tells you only so much and nearly always through its visuals.

So I wrote about ambiguity vs. directness in my Oscar column for Fandor.

There's even an infographic! Apparently I believe in both showing AND telling.



The No Longer Mighty Patty Jenkins

Hi folks, Glenn here wanting to discuss the troublesome case of Patty Jenkins.

As you may have heard, the Monster director was all set to take over the director’s chair for Marvel’s Thor 2, but things got derailed within the last 24 hours and now Jenkins is out citing that old chestnut of “creative differences” and will be replaced by somebody else, presumably quick smart since the film has a release date of November 2013.

As much as I adored Thor, the fate of its sequel is far from the biggest concern to come out of this news. No, I am more worried about what will happen to Patty Jenkins, the woman who broke through in 2003 and helped win Charlize Theron an Academy Award. Since directing Monster, Jenkins hasn’t made a single feature film and has seemingly fallen prey to the terrible female director curse that also afflicted Kimberley Peirce (Boys Don't Cry... 9 years between films) and Courtney Hunt (Frozen River... 4 years and counting). Why can’t these breakthrough indie women who were responsible for providing Oscar wins and nominations not get secondary projects up and running? Oh sure, Jenkins directed some TV recently – Emmy nominated for The Killing – but Thor 2, as strange as it sounds, was to be her return to films and I was mighty excited. 

An even more disappointing angle to the story is that Jenkins’ appointment was a significant notch in the ever-fluid trajectory of the plight of female directors in Hollywood. Not since Mimi Leder and Deep Impact has a woman been given the job of directing such a big property (or none that I can think of) and now with Jenkins out of the game, I wonder where that leaves her. “Creative differences” tends to be code for “difficult to work with”, doesn’t it? I have no worry that Marvel will find a suitable replacement for Thor 2, but wasn’t the idea of a Jenkins-helmed Thor sequel just curious and curiouser? While Sofia Coppola is making movies about Hollywood thieves, Julia Leigh is caressing controversy with Sleeping Beauty (my review), Phyllida Lloyd paints beige portraits of Margaret Thatcher, and Kathryn Bigelow does everything but give James Cameron a run for his money, it was nice to know someone of Jenkins’ status could be given the keys to such an important vehicle. What could have been will now never be realised.

I do wonder, however, what other left of centre female director choice could Marvel make for Thor 2. Maybe Mimi Leder could be brought back to big budget blockbusters? Perhaps Lisa Cholodenko is secretly just biding her time to direct a superhero movie? And you just know Gillian Armstrong has nothing to do right now. 

Who would you like to see direct Thor 2 if only they’d be given the chance?