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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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What did you see this weekend?

"Colossal - has a great hook but doesn't live up to that promise. Kind of likable, but no part of it really excels" - Dave

"A Quiet Passion! I did not expect such piercing wit and laugh-out-loud humor from Terence Davies. "- Jonathan

"The Zookeeper's Wife, Jessica Chastain looking glamorous while resisting the nazis, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon" -Choog

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Thursday
Feb192015

Have You Seen "The Fall"?

A wee break from Oscar talk since a few of you will surely need it.

I bingewatched The Fall this weekend a serial killer drama from Northern Ireland and tweeted this... 

 I thought it was *so* good (despite a molasses slow first episode) with intoxicatingly subtle handling of its relatively blunt ideas and horrific storyline. I particularly loved its very confrontational finger to the audience in a videotaped sequence from the serial killer (that'd be Jamie Dornan as the Belfast Strangler though that's not a spoiler since we know who the killer immediately) and Anderson's completely self-possessed intimidating performance... there's not a single moment where she's asking for audience favor and her Detective Super Intendent is ice cold.

Because I don't follow TV closely I ask those of you who do: was this not eligible for Emmys? I'm noticing it had no Emmy or even BTCA attention, not even for Jamie Dornan (who received some overseas nominations) or the superb Gillian Anderson (who, like Marisa Tomei, just keeps getting better looking with age). Is this just not well loved or widely seen? I understand there's no official word on a Season 3 yet. That's the danger of bingewatching I suppose unless a show is already off the end and you know when the end is coming.

Thursday
Feb192015

Women's Pictures - Ava DuVernay's Selma

Nothing about Ava DuVernay’s career up to 2014 suggested the epic sweep of Selma. I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere are both quiet dramas, focusing on one central character and a handful of supporting players as they navigate a major, life-altering event. Race is the background against which these stories are set - coloring a heated music discussion, or shading the convict’s biased parole hearing - but racism isn’t explicitly addressed. This changes dramatically with Selma. In a year that has seen protests in Ferguson and serious discussions about diversity in the Academy, Selma has been called everything from controversial to current to incorrect. For its director, it’s proof that 6 years and 3 movies can rapidly mature a talent.

When telling the story of Martin Luther King’s 1965 protest march in Alabama, DuVernay focuses not on a man, but on a movement. She studies the Civil Rights movement as if it were a character, following not only Dr. King’s glossy speeches, but also the many behind-the-scenes maneuvering. King’s arguments with President Johnson, Johnson’s arguments with Governor Wallace, the student organizers’ arguments with King’s men, even quieter discussions between Coretta Scott King and Malcolm X expose the precarious balance between ideology and strategy that's needed to succeed. DuVernay manages to write her characters with humanity as well, populating the film with people, not symbols. Early on, Dr. King (dignified David Oyelowo) comments lightly that the reason he's in Selma is because he needs a bully to catch national sympathy, and the racist sheriff is that man. As men start dying, those words hang over King's head like a cross.

If I have one complaint with Selma, it’s that the violence is too beautiful. DuVernay deftly stages the action of hundreds of protestors for the camera, and re-teams with cinematographer Bradford Young. The result is similar to Raging Bull: every protest is shot differently, so that each violent outbreak feels fresh. If the night march feels familiar to 2014 audiences, if the first march feels claustrophobic, if the violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge looks like a hallucinatory war film, that’s not unintentional. In Selma, Ava DuVernay has matched epic sweep with humanity and brutal vision. It’s a hell of an achievement for a third film.

This close to the Oscars ceremony, reviving the question of whether Selma was snubbed is pointless. But regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Ava DuVernay has joined a different illustrious company: unnominated female directors whose films were nominated for Best Picture. In an attempt to divine DuVernay’s future, I did some research, and discovered a pattern: Of these nine female directors, seven are still directing. Of those seven directors, four (including DuVernay) are now working in TV.

As anyone with a remote or a streaming subscription knows, we are currently in a second Golden Age of television. This is due in no small part to the diversity of creative talent. Every year, more shows are created by, directed by, and starring women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. In this increasingly colorful TV landscape, Ava DuVernay will be a welcome addition when she launches her show on OWN. But at what cost to film?

2014 has been widely criticized as the whitest, most male-dominated year of the Oscars in a long time. As much as I would like to blame our old scapegoat, the White Male Voter, this is also because of the homogeny of the films being offered to the Academy. When we can count the number of Oscar nominated female directors on one hand--likewise for directors of color--we should be shouting for more of these voices in film, instead of celebrating when the ones who’ve already proven themselves move to television (where they can get snubbed by the Emmys instead). I love Ava DuVernay’s work. I can’t wait to see what she creates with Oprah’s blessing. But surely I’m not alone when I say: Ava DuVernay, please come back to film soon.

 

Thus concludes our first month of Women's Pictures. Next week will be a vote to choose our next female filmmakers. Who do you want us to cover? If you have suggestions for future Women’s Pictures directors, post them in the comments or find Anne Marie on Twitter!

 

Wednesday
Feb182015

Podcast Pt 2: Oscar Predix Finale

In case you missed part one of this finale, that's here. Let's wrap up our final pre-Oscar prediction discussions: Joe pretends he's not an Inherent Vice fan, Nick sadistically hopes Imitation Game "gets Up in the Aired", and Nathaniel goes full blurb whore on Mr Turner

Oscar Prediction Finale Pt 2
41 Minutes

00:01 -Production Design & Costume Design. Into the Woods spurs dark memories and self parody. But can Grand Budapest actually win both and will Wes Anderson career tribute be the cause?
08:40 -Cinematography. Beautiful across the board
13:12 -Screenplays. Are these the two most difficult categories to predict? Consolation prizes, career tributes, or Best Picture heat?
21:45 -Acting Races. Whose running second behind Julianne Moore?
27:32 -Best Director & Best Picture. Who would we vote for and what about the Academy: will it be Richard Linklater and Boyhood or Alejandro G Inarritu and Birdman or some combo thereof. Either way long-standing theories of everything get disproven and the Academy gets dinged.
36:10 -Exit Game: Who would last year's winners vote for? We read the minds of Blanchett, McConaughey, Leto, and Nyong'o.
40:00 -Boyman Goodbye!

Supplemental Material for this Podcast:
Prediction Finale Part 1
Nick's Top Ten List (in progress)
Joe Reid ranks all 60 Oscar nominated films

Please to enjoy and continue the golden conversation in the comments. You can listen at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes.  

Oscar Prediction Finale Pt 2

Wednesday
Feb182015

Black History Month: Endless Love (1981)

I know what you're thinking. You're working out some variation of "how perverse to feature a lily white teenage romance for a Black History Month feature!"... and I get it. But let's travel back to 1981 together anyway and I'll explain.

The Italian auteur Franco Zeffirelli had found great success in America directing Romeo and Juliet (1968) which became both a populist hit and an Oscar magnet finishing in the year's top five at the box office and in the Best Picture shortlist. A dozen or so years later Zeffirelli took another stab (pun intended) at the zeitgeist with a similar if much cruder tale of an ill advised tempestuous and horny teenage affair. Endless Love was critically panned (multiple Razzie nominations) though it managed to be a hit if not quite a blockbuster. Its eponymous Best Original Song nominee "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie on the other hand was a monster...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb182015

Best Actress. An Oscar Thrill & Personal Ballot

It's just four days until Oscar and I remain stunned and overjoyed that god* will be taking home her first Oscar. I can scarcely believe it. I thought it would be a nail biter given that this never happens. It's true we're about to get our first fiftysomething Best Actress winner in 62 years and I couldn't be happier about it! Given Oscar's very limited idea of what constitutes great acting (let's face it they were never going to "get" how well Scarlett Johansson was embodying a inhuman alien psyche distracted by curiousity) they didn't have much to choose from this year. But we cinephiles did. Best Actress is always a tough category for the actressexual, so I truly wish I had 8 nominees each year. I truly do. Of course then I'd weep for the 9th. You're always going to have to leave people out.

I force myself to narrow it down to 12 semi-finalists each year for a happy dozen before I make the final calls so here's a last shout out to a dozenish favorite leading ladies of 2014 (in alpha order) though this time it's a baker's dozen because I had to include the baker's wife albeit in her other incarnation this year.

Let's hear it for this incredible work. (Weak year my ass)

  • Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow
  • Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
  • Essie Davis, The Babadook
  • Anne Dorval, Mommy
  • Luminita Gheorghiu, Child's Pose
  • Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
  • Keira Knightley, Begin Again
  • Agata Kulesza, Ida
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice / Maps to the Stars **
  • Elisabeth Moss, Listen Up Phillip
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

See the Film Bitch Awards Best Actress nominees here!

* Julianne Moore is God.

** I could never understand what the f*** was happening with Maps to the Stars (Globe eligible but not Oscar eligible - what the hell?) so it is not included in my 2014 awards though I would surely have nominated Juli for it. I haven't yet decided if I will consider it for 2015 -- it supposedly opens February 27th -- but it seems to have been lost in the gap between film years. I will never understand this predilection of distributors to confuse potential audiences and critics in year end prizes. Never ever. It fills me with such bile every annum.

Wednesday
Feb182015

In Two Weeks: "Best Shot" Returns!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot, our series celebrating our relationship to the image and the brilliant ways directors and cinematographers capture it to tell the story, returns in March. We hope you'll join us and spread the word to other cinephile friends. The more is truly the merrier with this season since we're looking at the same movie through multiple eyes.

Tuesday March 3rd THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
How do you solve a problem like Maria? You don't. You just fall madly in love with her and then hire her to mother your enormous brood. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Best Picture winner with us by choosing your best shot. We'll share links to all of yours at 9 PM

Tuesday March 10th PARIS IS BURNING (1991)
"O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E. You own everything!" but you don't need to own this movie to play along since its on Netflix Instant Watch. It's only one of the best documentaries and most important time capsules of all time. It schooled the world in drag and trans culture and vogueing and "realness" and balls and "shade" and "reading" long before RuPaul's Drag Race was a colorful pop culture phenomenon - hell, before anybody even knew who RuPaul was. 

Tuesday March 17th THE QUIET MAN (1952)
For St. Patrick's Day, we're off to Ireland with John Wayne & Maureen O'Hara. Winner of Best Cinematography at the Oscars [Amazon Instant | Netflix Instant

You're playing along for every episode this time. Make it your 2015 goal!

 

 

Wednesday
Feb182015

Best Live Action Short: Sally Hawkins Takes the Lead

Glenn here again, and as if yesterday’s look at the Best Documentary Short category didn’t prove it, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules when predicting the short categories. In live action short especially they go with serious issues, except when they don’t. They frequently go foreign, except when they don't. They're not overly thrilled with big stars or Hollywood directors, except when they are. It’s all a bit of a gamble, really. This year’s contenders, however, seem a little easier to decipher in terms of what has the potential to win and what hasn’t a hope in hell. Sorry, Butter Lamp, but I think that means you. You will always be my winner.

 

The Nominees:

Aya, dir. Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis (40mins)
Boogaloo and Graham, dir. Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney (14mins)
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak), dir. Hu Wei and Julien Féret (16mins)
Parvaneh, dir. Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger (24mins)
The Phone Call, dir. Mat Kirkby and James Lucas (21mins)

Right now it seems pretty hard to look past The Phone Call given it stars an Oscar nominee (Sally Hawkins) and an Oscar winner (Jim Broadbent) and is emotional in ways that many will find belies its 20-minute runtime. Despite the curio factor of both doc and live action short Oscars potentially both going to films about suicide prevention hotline operators, I still feel rather confident over that prediction. It's certainly feels like a more complete film than, say, Boogaloo and Graham, which has wisps of nostalgia floating through its brief runtime and its cute children with pet chickens, but feels relatively light-weight compared to the rest (it gets to The Troubles right in its final shot, which seems like a more logical place to begin, but maybe that's just me).

I was a fan of Parvaneh about an Afghani girl in Switzerland and her friendship with a partying street kid, which feels like the most likely usurper to the throne given the Academy has shown an affinity towards films that bridge between the races. Maybe my hatred of the Israeli nominee Aya is clouding my judgement on that one, but what I do know for certain is that the best of an okay bunch is the sublime Butter Lamp, set in Tibet and focusing on a nomadic photographer who arrives in a village and who, in vignette form, has to deal with locals for whom photography isn't that common. It's wonderfully observed and it's an amazing example of how a film can thrill with restraint. I audibly gasped in the final shot despite it being so very simple. If it pulls a highly unlikely win out of the hat then I will scream with joy, but I think it's impressive festival haul (plus win at the Golden Horse Awards) will have to suffice.

Will Win: The Phone Call
Could Win: Parvaneh
Should Win: Butter Lamp