NOW PLAYING

in theaters



new on DVD/BluRay


review index

HOT TOPICS



Welcome

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

 

Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

COMMENT DU JOUR

Keep TFE Strong

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

What'cha Looking For?
Subscribe
Thursday
Dec152011

Distant Relatives: The Pawnbroker and A Single Man

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.

Dead spouses are great dramatic devices. They can give your lead character an extra dose of pain and pathos and add some emotional heft to a bland plot, some sympathy to a distant character, or in the case of a good-old-fashioned revenge movie, incite the action. At its most banal, the dead lover is an obvious cliche. But occasionally it can sweep us up into the protagonist's psyche, force us to ask their same questions about our lives and loves. Those questions, pondered and feared by anyone whose ever been in love: "What if this person died, suddenly, tragically, unexpectedly?" "What if I weren't there to save them, help them, comfort them?" "What if their death were no more to me than a vanishing act. One day here, the next gone... no farewell, no funeral." "What would become of them?" "What would become of me?" These are worst case scenarios to be sure, and we repress the thoughts by telling ourselves that such occurrences are rare (I imagine the exact same thing that anyone whose ever experienced it told themselves too). We watch movies about people who've had such experiences not out of morose voyeurism but out of a desire to understand a state of being that we hope never to be in but realize we easily could.
 
Our two films today follow men who are mourning the death of a companion and who are, to use a cliched phrase, dead inside themselves. The Pawnbroker tells the story of Holocaust survivor Sol Nazerman (Rod Steiger), a man who lost his family and now lives surrounded by the dirt and corruption of New York City. At roughly the same time, on the other end of the continent, George Falconer (Colin Firth) is barely coping with the death of his partner Jim. George, the subject of A Single Man lives among the sunny skies and bright colors of 1960's Los Angeles. The environments of George and Sol, while polar opposites serve the same dramatic purpose, to highlight their state of mind. Sol's is representative. George's is sadly ironic. Added to this is more than a hit of expressionist style, the gritty choppy manic pacing of The Pawnbroker contrasted with the color boosting and desaturated highs and lows of A Single Man.


Both George and Sol have similar supporting characters in their lives. There are two to whom I'd like to draw your attention. They, in turn, represent George and Sol's impossible futures and unattainable pasts. To George, his friend Charlie's (Julianne Moore) propositions of a move back to England and a quaint straight existence are both impossible and offensive. And for Sol, the advances and attempted comforts of a neighborly Social Worker are something he has no intention of dignifying. Both paint pictures of a future that neither man wants to partake in, yet they only serve to emphasize the pain of the present. As for the past, it shows up in the form of two young potential proteges. For George that man is Kenny, a student who is fascinated by him and a bit flirtatious. For Sol it's his shop assistant Jesus, whose desire to learn the business he continually ignores or rebuffs. Both of these young men possess not necessarily much optimism or intelligence but a youthful exuberance, an almost recklessness that neither Sol nor George have present in them anymore. While George engages with Kenny in a way that Sol does not with Jesus, it may be because George has given up on life and planned a suicide while Sol has decided to go on being a living ghost.
 
Ultimately these films don't have any particularly encouraging messages for the man whose loved and lost. George and Sol float through their existence, flashing back to the moments that have defined them, whether they were present or not. Both men are presented opportunities to feel again, and though they resist and resist, they eventually give in tho their humanness in different but equally tragic ways. For Sol it is a new sadness too deep to ignore, for George a fleeting optimism, quickly snuffed out. Both men are outsiders in worlds that should be embracing them and comforting them, but instead are shunning and fearing them. Both men may have to work too hard to heal. But messages about learning to love again and letting people in aren't the point. The point is to get into the minds of these men and understand what makes them work, how their sorrows manifest, how their lives have become irreparably changed. These films give us insights into the inner workings of men on a precipice none of us ever hope to be. Neither film promises much jubilation but both deliver plenty of humanity.


 
Other Cinematic Relatives
: Veritgo (1958), Last Tango in Paris (1973), About Schmidt (2002), Up (2009)

Thursday
Dec152011

Golden Globe Nominee Madness

It's the last of the big three precursor nominee announcements this morning. Hot on the heels of the BFCA and the SAG announcement we have the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, more commonly known as the Golden Globes. Film and television stars Gerard Butler, Woody Harrelson, Rashida Jones and Sofia Vergara announced the nominees at 8:30 AM EST which went like so...

MOVIES

BEST PICTURE, DRAMA

  • The Descendants
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball
  • War Horse 

For a split second when we reached five nominees I thought War Horse would be shut out and for once the Globes wouldn't stump for one of the big movies that was about to open, but nope. The Ides of March is the iffiest film here for an Oscar transfer given lukewarm reception but it's still possible. Especially since it's right in their wheelhouse. 

Ryan Gosling drank the Clooney Koolaid in "Ides of March". So did the HFPA who gave Clooney 3 nominations and Gosling 2

BEST PICTURE, COMEDY or MUSICAL

  • 50/50
  • The Artist
  • Bridesmaids
  • Midnight in Paris
  • My Week With Marilyn

 People are wondering how Marilyn is a comedy. But, you know, Kenneth Branagh is very funny in it.

It's like teaching Urdu to a badger.

Plus it's got musical numbers so I think it qualifies for their split. The Artist probably has this in the bag but for the Globes willingness to surprise (i.e. far more than other groups) 

BEST DIRECTOR 

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • George Clooney, The Ides of March
  • Michel Hazanavicus, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Sofia Vergara garbled cutely as she does. "Marine Scorsez" is quite the auteur! Expected list here but for Clooney who was an already a guaranteed show at the ceremony due to the Best Actor nom. The HFPA gets a lot of flack for star-fucking but some of their decisions can't really be explained that way. The star doesn't get to show up twice if you nominated them thusly, and you've cut off the opportunity for another star to show.

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA

  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin

People are going to love Mara as "Lisbeth Salander" in that movie so this isn't too much of a surprise. Plus there was room with Williams heading to Comedy/Musical. This omission hurts Kirsten Dunst's campaign. Her traction seemed to begin and end with the Cannes prize for Melancholia. Also shut out was Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene.

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY or MUSICAL

  • Jodie Foster, Carnage
  • Charlize Theron, Young Adult
  • Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
  • Kate Winslet, Carnage

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the morning, Carnage snagged 40% of the Female Comedy honors though the film didn't garner a comedy film nod and having Foster and Winslet (who was already coming for Mildred Pierce) knocked out their opportunity to invite Cameron Diaz or somesuch. See what I mean about cock-blocking their own star-fucking?

I think they can mail this one to Michelle Williams.

more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec142011

Critics Prizes Dotting The Map

You may have noticed that The Film Experience never publishes the lists of nominees from small critics organizations. The winners we like to cover, yes. But nominees? This is, in my opinion, the last thing the already crowded landscape of movie awards needs is for each tiny critics organization to attempt to share not just their advocacy for Best of the Best but all the other ones they liked too. If winners announcements are good enough for the three most prestigious societies (NYFCC, LAFCA and NSFC) they should be good enough for the smaller groups. It all becomes too much noise. The multiple daily announcements actually bring one of We Need To Talk About Kevin's best scenes to mind. Tilda's weary mom stops near a construction site to allow a jackhammer to drown out the endless crying of her demon baby. Hilariously wrong but you feel for her. 

But now that we have some winners, here we go! 

San Diego Film Critics Society

Film The Artist
Director Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Actress Brit Marling, Another Earth
Actor Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Supporting Actor Nick Nolte, Warrior
Ensemble Performance Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Animated Film Arthur Christmas
Documentary Project Nim
Foreign Film I Svil
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Editing Oliver Bugge Coutté, Beginners
Production Design Dante Ferretti, Hugo
Original Screenplay Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen
Adapted Screenplay Moneyball by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
Score Alexandre Desplat, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Body of Work Jessica Chastain
Kyle Counts Award Lee Ann Kim, San Diego Asian Film Foundation

Houston, Toronto, Indiana, and the African American Film Critics Association after the jump with more cities to come...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec142011

Ask Nathaniel

You know the deal by now. Ask a question and I pick 10 or so to answer in the next Q & A column. Since the Golden Globe nominations are tomorrow, make sure not to ask any questions that will be rendered useless by tomorrow's announcement.

Have at it in the comments!

Wednesday
Dec142011

BEST ENSEMBLE... Except You Corey Stoll in "Midnight in Paris"!

It's become something of a tradition here at The Film Experience to take issue with the Screen Actors Guild and their problematic "Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture" prize. Year after year they don't even seek to address an issue that you'd think would matter to the 90,000+ guild members: the preferencing of "names" over character actors, no matter the size or importance of the role. As you may know acting is one of those fields were you're lucky to just be working and those who make millions are few and far between. Yet the guild, which should be protecting their less-famous members often lets them be crushed by fame and its perks (aka getting your own title card or high billing). If you don't have your own title card you usually don't end up in the "ensemble" list. Our interest in this situation was first stirred by The Aviator (2004) when we were horrified to realize that the very famous Gwen Stefani was included as a nominee for essentially walking and sitting onscreen in Jean Harlow drag while Matt Ross, who was excellent in MANY scenes as Howard Hughes's right hand man was excluded. 

So who is nominated and who is excluded this year? Let's take a looksee.

THE ARTIST
nominees: Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, and Penelope Ann Miller
who is excluded? Missy Pyle who has a fun cameo and Beth Grant who appears in the movie briefly in its final act ...and Uggie the dog who some people think is best in show. 

BRIDESMAIDS
nominees: Rose Byrne, Jill Clayburgh, Ellie Kemper, Matt Lucas, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Chris O'Dowd, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig.
who is excluded? This is fairly representative of the film though Ben Falcone, Air Marshall Jon (and Mr Melissa McCarthy in real life), is excluded. Also missing though understandably given that he went "uncredited" is Jon Hamm.

THE DESCENDANTS
nominees: Beau Bridges, George Clooney, Robert Forster, Judy Greer (Interviewed), Matthew Lillard, and Shailene Woodley.
who is excluded? Nick Krause as "Sid" who has been given quite a lot of attention in the movie's trailer and appears in several scenes. An even more important character, the youngest King daughter played by Amara Miller is also absent. We'll forgive them for omitting Patricia Hastie as Elizabeth King. (Not that it's not difficult to appear comatose for scene upon scene upon scene; I could never sit still that long, I don't know about you.)

THE HELP
nominees: Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Ahna O'Reilly, Sissy Spacek, Octavia Spencer, Mary Steenburgen, Emma Stone, Cicely Tyson and Mike Vogel.
who is excluded? With the largest amount of nominees, they do fairly well at covering the movie but there is one key player missing: Aunjane Ellis who plays "Yule Mae" and gets a few really good scenes involving her struggle to send her boy to college. Other exclusions: Tony winner LaChanze who plays "Rachel" in one of the most heartbreaking scenes as her mother is fired from a lifelong job, and the diminutive Leslie Jordan who bosses Emma Stone around frequently at work between meatier scenes is also absent.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
nominees: Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, and Owen Wilson (who are all listed alphabetically, as is Woody's generous ensemble-friendly way, on the first title card)
who is excluded? Where to even begin? Each year one of the nominees takes the cake for the year's most bizarre exclusions and this is inarguably that film for 2011.

The nomination does not include the three co-stars who were, arguably, the most fun to watch. Corey Stoll who won the lion's share of "stole the show!" plaudits for his breakthrough work as Ernest Hemingway is missing. Perhaps even more baffling, given their higher degree of fame before this film, is the exclusion of Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as the Fitzgeralds. I spoke to Corey Stoll this morning (read the interview) and since I was particularly aggravated by his absence from the list, I asked him how he was feeling about it:

That's a nomination for us whether we go there or not. We are undeniably a part of the ensemble and we brought a lot to the table. But it's strange that it's SAG that does that. I could understand something that's more critic or producer-centric but acting? From my union, I think it's a little strange. 

We wholeheartedly agree!

Other key cast members of Midnight in Paris who appear with "Hemingway" & "the Fitzgeralds" on the second title card and were thus excluded from the honor were: Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller (the future in-laws), Léa Seydoux (the vintage shop worker) and Nina Arianda (Michael Sheen's fiancé).

SOLUTION / SUGGESTION
Wouldn't SAG do better by its own union members if productions were expected to choose the nominees themselves (up to a certain number of people), the way Oscar nominated films must choose who gets the credit fo such efforst as producing and visual effects and what not? 

 

Wednesday
Dec142011

SAG Nominations: Surprising, Silly, Shame-less 

Regina King and Judy Greer announced the SAG nominees

Before we begin can I get something off my chest. You've possibly noticed that I always list actresses before actors when I do lists or my own awardage. Beyond my own actressexuality there is another reason for this. It galls me that they're listed second everywhere as if they're just slightly less important than actors. Now, you might say that's just a matter of alphabetics since "Actor" comes before "Actress" in correct alphabetization and that's true enough. But it's not only alphabetics, its our lazily sexist society. Please to note that SAG makes a point of calling all acting professionals "actors" without gender division and yet they do this and then STILL list men first even though "female" comes before "male" in correct alphabetization of category titles.

Grrrrr and also "girl!"

So women first when I list it because that's how we like it! 

MOVIES

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A MOTION PICTURE 

  • The Artist
  • Bridesmaids
  • The Descendants
  • The Help
  • Midnight In Paris

These are strong nominees this year but as usual they left great actors out, even when their films were nominated.  Some comments on that problem in a separate post.

One theory of SAG ensemble voting is that actors vote for the movies that they wish they'd been in and that theory definitely holds up this year. All five of these sets must have been a blast when you think of the actors involved, the costumes, the color, the comedy (all five have comedic spirit even the two that are dramas).

 

 

 

It's also worth noting that this list is 80% identical to the BFCA list for ensemble. The only difference is you need to swap out Midnight in Paris for Ides of March. Still... it's clear that voters don't watch the more under the radar movies. I wish A Separation had opened a few months ago and built up to the acclaim it so deserves.

How fun would a win for Bridesmaids be as a ceremony capper? I demand a Wilson Phillips song be played when they take the stage should it occur.

COMPLETE LIST OF NOMINEES & MAJOR SURPRISES AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec132011

Interview: Judy Greer on "The Descendants" & "Archer"

It can't be just that we're both from Michigan. Perhaps it's her voice on the other end of the line, which sounds too much like an old high school friend's? There's something about Judy Greer that seems familiar. No, no, I just see a lot of movies is all. It's merely the cumulative effect of her filmography, I tell myself, which often presents her to us as relatable sideshow: friend, sister, neighbor, co-worker, everywoman. Maybe she strikes casting directors this way, too. I can't imagine I'm alone in this feeling, though to our mutual amusement, this girl next door vibe she gives off turns out to be surprisingly literal. As we begin to talk the small talk stretches out and out as the revelations come. We lived 3 miles from one another as children! We went to the same dance clubs as teenagers! We were scared of the same freeways while driving!

"Anyway, hiiiiiiiiiii" she says laughing, as we reboot out conversation. We'd better get to talking about the movies!

After years and years in showbiz how does this sense of familiarity sit with her, strangers feeling like they know her. How uncomfortable must this 'Where do I know you from again?' sensation be?

"It happens to me all the time but I don't consider it a problem," she says, instantly getting the question. There was a time, she offers, that people would always actually think they knew her. At some point in changed. Now they know she's an actress but they can't quite place from where. 

Mr & Mrs Speer (Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard) in "The Descendants"Eventually that signature role will hit and there'll be no mistaking the "who?" and the "were from?" The Descendants is definitely a forward step in that direction. Though it's another brief supporting role, her Mrs. Speer is a lynchpin character in an acclaimed Oscar buzzing film at that. She can already taste the difference and is "flattered" to be included in all the promotion for the movie for such a small role. The cast has already been nominated for Best Ensemble at the BFCA Critics Choice Awards. Judy herself will announce the SAG nominees on Wednesday where The Descendants is also expected to score.

Without spoiling the film, let's just say that George Clooney's Matt King befriends her character with an agenda; he knows something about her husband that she doesn't and he wants to get closer to her in order to get to him. She only has three scenes but all are opposite Clooney himself and all three are crucial to the emotional journey of the film.

Once we got to the movies, The Descendants was the only place to start.

[Judy on Nice George, Naughty Archer, Descendant Enthusiasm and her best roles after the jump]

Click to read more ...