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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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INTERVIEWS

Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane)
Gael García Bernal (Neruda)
Billy Crudup (20th Century Women)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival

 

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Wednesday
Nov122014

A Year with Kate: Grace Quigley (1984)

 Episode 46 of 52: In which Katharine Hepburn makes a comedy about suicide with Nick Nolte because she's a living legend and she can do whatever she wants.

The truth about a career that spans seven decades, is that for the majority of that career, you'll be what’s traditionally thought of as “old.” Hollywood does not like “old.” The magnificent part of watching Katharine Hepburn age has been watching her flip old age (and Hollywood) the bird. True, her head wobbles, her hair is gray, and her voice is reedy. Still, she leaps after hot air balloons, bicycles, hauls wood, and even wins Academy Awards at an age far past what would traditionally be considered “her prime.” For the past few years, Kate has looked old, sounded old, and even talked about being old, but the stubbornly energetic woman has never felt old. Which is why Grace Quigley is more than a little scary.

Grace Quigley (originally titled The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley) is meant to be a black comedy about assisted suicide. Think Arsenic and Old Lace by way of Harold and Maude. Nick Nolte stars as a neurotic hitman with the misfortune of meeting Mrs. Quigley (our own Kate), an octogenarian who blackmails him into starting a business with her: killing people who want to be killed. Homicidal hilarity ensues, or would, except it isn't very funny. Despite a striptease set to Tchaikovsky, a hearse chase, and several attempts at witty banter, the movie vacillates between morbidity and dullness. The problem is threefold: 1) director Anthony Harvey (who’d beautifully directed Kate in The Lion in Winter and The Glass Menagerie) lacks the light touch needed for black comedy. 2) Nick Nolte’s character is about as good at killing people as he is at delivering one-liners (which is to say not good at all). Most importantly, 3) For the first time onscreen, Katharine Hepburn looks so frail that it is uncomfortably easy to believe she wants to die.

Kate's brush with death and life affirmations after the jump.

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Wednesday
Nov122014

2014 European Film Awards Nominations

Manuel here bringing you some more awards talk from across the Atlantic. 

Ida, the nomination leader with 5 citationsTis the season for awards and so before we could even digest those British Independent Film Awards nominations, here come the European Film Awards to dole out their own. They bring great news to several Best Foreign Language Oscar hopefuls. Poland's Ida, Russia's Leviathan, Sweden's Force Majeure, Italy's Human Capital, Turkey's Winter Sleep, Austria's The Dark Valley, and Belgium's Two Days, One Night are all well represented. Take a look at the below-the-line categories and you'll find a number of welcome inclusions (one must give respect to any awards body which gives Mica Levi an award for his hauntingly discordant score for Under the Skin). Kudos to the TFE team who have reviewed all the films up for 2014 European Film.

27th European Film Awards Nominations

European Film 
Force Majeure
Ida
Leviathan
Nymphomaniac Director’s Cut – Volume I & II
Winter Sleep 

Catch the full list of nominations after the jump.

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Wednesday
Nov122014

Interview: Director Hong Khaou on "Lilting"

Director Hong Khaou on the set of "Lilting"

Jose here. Director Hong Khaou’s touching drama Lilting centers on the ways in which we deal with grief, filtered through two characters who are in pain over the loss of the same person but who can’t share this pain, because they don’t speak the same language. The death of Kai (Andrew Leung) leaves his Cambodian-Chinese mother Junn (Cheng Pei-pei) completely devastated, but little does she know that Kai’s boyfriend Richard (Ben Whishaw) is going through the same. As he tries to fulfill the protecting-role Kai would expect of him, he finds Junn to be reluctant to his attention.

Tenderly directed by Khaou, who with this makes his feature length directorial debut, Lilting is a quiet, yet poignant, chamber piece anchored by the subdued, beautiful performances of Cheng and Whishaw. Exploring themes of cultural shock, intolerance and rediscovering life’s worth, the film is one of the most unique portraits of love to be put on the screen this year. I spoke to director Khaou, who eloquently elaborated on the film’s origins, the process of making his first film and how his own upbringing shaped this project.

How did you decide that this would be your first feature film? Did you conceive it as a short originally?

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Tuesday
Nov112014

Stockholm Film Festival: French Films Lack Luster with Big Stars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he shares thoughts on three French films starring big names Catherine Deneuve, Jean Dujardin, and Gemma Arterton.

In the Name of My Daughter

As is common during a film festival, I had taken a seat in a cinema and completely forgotten what I was set to see. When the title card came up announcing ‘French Riviera’, I thought they were playing the wrong film as we had no such film on our schedule. Me in my festival state, stupidly didn't realise this was merely a location card. It wasn't until I checked the guide that I actually realised its name was In the Name of My Daughter. That title, far more verbose and clunky than is befitting André Téchiné’s movie, rather uncomfortably links the film to Jim Sheridan’s famous 1993 IRA drama despite not sharing anything in common. And, in further contemplation, actually comes off as rather offensive when comparing this trifle’s rich, white characters of privilege with those played by Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Posthlethwaite.

Catherine Deneuve and Adéle Haenel star as Renée and Agnés Le Roux, mother and daughter. Renée manages the floor of a casino on the southern coast of France and Agnés has just divorced and returns to the French Riviera to open a book and ethnic trinket and knick-knack shop on her mother’s dime. With the assistance of her mother’s smooth operator assistant, Maurice, a ridiculously handsome and suited-up Guillaume Canet, she seeks to separate herself from the downward spiral of her mother’s business that could see her inheritance reduced to a pittance.

And therein lies the biggest problem with Téchiné’s film. Unlike before in films like Wild Reeds or The Witnesses (and perhaps the six other collaborations between Deneuve and Téchiné, none of which I have seen) his characters are horrifically hard to care about. Haenel and Deneuve, puffing on cigarettes at every turn, aren’t given enough material to make their characters identifiable as human beings worth empathizing over; their bourgeois, petty squabbles over money increasingly difficult to care about. A third-act turn into mystery territory at least gives audiences something to latch on to, that of a mother’s devotion to discovering the truth about her missing daughter, but it’s far too little too late and the lack of genuine development in their characters makes the stakes significently dim. A brief moment featuring the predominantly non-white employees of the mother’s casino being told they no longer have jobs threatens the prospect of Téchiné navigating something interesting in looking at the population for whom the French Riviera doesn’t mean easy-living, but it’s short-lived and cannot save this bland affair. C-

More films after the jump...

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Tuesday
Nov112014

Top Ten: Worthy Performances That Will Win No Awards

Jose here. Every year as the awards race picks up, it seems as if we’re all collectively Lacuna-ed into forgetting all the great performances that came before Oscar narrows them down to twenty that by then, have won or been nominated for dozens of other awards. But what about the performances so “small”, “weird” or “foreign” that stand no chance in hell of competing with the FYC ads in the trades and/or Harvey Weinstein’s Sauron-like powers? We celebrate those performances, right now:

10. Keira Knightley - Begin Again

Sure, The Weinstein Company is behind this one, but even Harvey knows there is no point in trying to get a nod for this low-key, charming musical, especially not when he can get Keira an Oscar for a WWII flick, which makes more sense, right? Her performance here reminded me of Last Night in which she does so much with her eyes, which is something Begin Again director John Carney achieves with everyone in this cast. I’m still shocked that not a single awards body back in 2007 recognized the subdued and lovely performances by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in Once. Why do you think this kind of acting seems so unworthy of awards?

More after the jump...

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Tuesday
Nov112014

Curio: Paris Texas, 30 Years Later

Alexa here with your curio of the week. Wim Wenders' seminal film Paris, Texas was released 30 years ago, and over time it has become one of my all-time favorite films. So this week I thought I'd dig into my old magazine stash and share this 1984 issue of Film Quarterly that I scored at an estate sale awhile back. It includes a fascinating interview with Wenders, who discusses his "American period" and how its past failures (including Hammett) in may ways resulted in his success with Paris, Texas. Here are some selected quotes from the great philosophical meanderer. 

On casting Harry Dean Stanton:

We chose Harry Dean because he...is one of the few adults I know who...has kept the child that's dead in most adults, and certainly a lot of actors, with him. He has an innocence about him, despite a long career and being 58 years old. In Paris, Texas he and Hunter change roles: sometimes you find Travis in the position of the child and his son as he adult.

 

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Tuesday
Nov112014

Tuesday Top Ten: Fictional Pop Culture of 2014

Manuel here bringing a fun list to enjoy the fictional pop culture 2014 has brought us.

I have to admit it; I like my pop culture like I like my ouroboros - constantly eating itself. That is to say, I’m a sucker for meta-fictional drama and particularly enjoy when films, books and TV shows create their own pop cultural world to satirize, comment on and critique (it won’t surprise you that two of my favorite movies, All About Eve and All About My Mother, are twinned images of one another). We’re weeks away from end-of-year Top 10s, but I figured we could begin early by I celebrating the fictional pop culture landscape of 2014.

The criteria? I looked for fictional pop cultural things in the films and TV shows from this past year that I wish were real and we've definitely had plenty to choose from. There was reality TV show Black Face/White Place from Dear White People, “The King in Yellow” (a fictional play embedded in the eponymous novel that featured so prominently in True Detective), the 30 Rock-esque Hammy Bear trilogy from Chris Rock's upcoming Top Five, SNL's amazing-looking The Beygency, not to mention Inside Amy Schumer's spot-on Sorkinean parody The Foodroom. These are, of course, all runners-up to the 10 I've chosen to make up our list. Incomprehensible algebraic equations were designed to rank them all, though I'm eager to hear what I inadvertently missed and/or placed too high. 

TOP TEN FICTIONAL POP CULTURAL ARTIFACTS OF 2014

10. "Everything is Awesome!!!" from The LEGO Movie
You could say the entire film is a pop cultural kaleidoscope as it is both creating a universe dependent on our own pop culture (Wonder Woman! Gandalf! C3PO!) yet populated entirely by beings unaware of it. Unsurprisingly then, this ear worm of a conformist anthem (written by The Lonely Island, they of “D**ck in a Box” fame) was as ubiquitous in the film as it was in everyone’s minds after watching the film. To assure us of its own pop cultural caché, the song was recorded by, implausibly enough, Tegan and Sara! Shoutout to the wonderfully plausible CBS-like sitcom “Where are my pants?” which fits oh so well in this perfectly mundane yet quirky LEGO World.

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