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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Lessons from the success of "It"

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Oscar Charts: All Categories Updated!

Spotlight or Martian? Rooney or Alicia? Brie or Saoirse? Joy or The Revenant or Hateful Eight among the unseen? If we're asking these questions we're playing into awards season narratives that are already in place. And not "narratives" that belong to the Oscar stories of the movies themselves -- i.e. the narratives that matter -- but the plotting that's emerging from the thundering din of The Movie Internet where we all conjecture about things we haven't seen or presumed precursor momentum that has yet to take place for months on end. Welcome Awards Season!

The Martian has planted a lot of Oscar seeds. Will they be ripe for harvest?

So at The Film Experience we like to focus on nomination conjecture and not wins. That's how our charts our arranged, not by likelihood of win. One "race" at a time, thank you. Please to enjoy the new charts which were all updated earlier this week. TFE is currently predicting The Martian to lead the nomination tally with 10 and Bridge of Spies to surprise as your second in charge with Spotlight and The Revenant in hot pursuit for Third Most Nominated. Though it's breaking our heart to predict only 4 nominations each and in none of the top categories for Carol and Mad Max Fury Road, that's what we're doing. Is this to inocculate us against disappointment later on? Ding! Ding! Ding! You're so smart, readers.

The new Gurus of Gold charts in the top 6 categories are also up. General consensus is clear in some places (Spotlight and The Martian) and totally foggy in others. I see I'm more bullish on the actors from Youth and Room and the overall prospects of The Danish Girl and Sicario than other pundits and more doubtful about the films that have yet to emerge. The Gurus excitement about Joan Allen in Room is causing some second guessing chez moi. As you know yours truly (Nathaniel R) thought the role wasn't meaty / showcased enough but she keeps propping up in conversations. Maybe it's because people miss her so much ... as well they should. 

Investigate the Charts and report back in the comments!
PICTURE and  DIRECTOR (big movement for The Martian and Ridley Scott), ACTRESS (gains for Lily & Saoirse), ACTOR (gains for Hanks & Damon), SUPPORTING ACTRESS (gains for Rachel McAdam who I believe will be hanging on tight to those Best Pic coattails), SUPPORTING ACTOR (Mark Rylance nearing "locked" status), SCREENPLAYS (Bridge of Spies is saying it's an original despite the same title as a book on the same subject), VISUALS (Mmmmm eye candy), SOUND, and shakeup eligibility for ANIMATED FILMS, DOCUMENTARIES and SHORTS


What was your 'Sophie's Choice Oscar Moment'? 

Kyle here. We’re rapidly barreling into the holiday movie season—aka, the time when we plebeians can catch up with all the fare deemed Award Worthy. I’m sure you’re aware, just how amazing our lineup of actress contenders is this year, as Murtada recently talked about. How difficult it’s going to be to be a fan this winter! Which is to say is there anything more painful than those moments when we’re torn between competing loyalties? Or between loyalty and taste? 

My most painful instance of this came in 2000, when Hilary Swank and Annette Bening duked it out for Best Actress. I loved Boys Don't Cry. It was such an important film—even its nomination was important, given its low-budget indie status—and Swank was utterly heartbreaking. But then there was Bening in American Beauty, tap dancing on that high wire. Her Carolyn Burnham is broad and deep, tenderly tragic and yowlingly funny at the same time. Bening not only achieves this difficult balance, but shows us that it’s indispensable to this character’s, this type of person’s, reality. 

So, what was your most painful Sophie’s Choice Oscar moment?


Ballet 422 & A Ballerina’s Tale

Manuel here talking about two documentaries about the New York City ballet scene.

Ballet 422 follows Justin Peck, the youngest ever choreographer tapped with creating a ballet for the New York City Ballet. As a behind-the-scenes look at how a ballet piece is put together, from choosing a musical piece to deciding what color the costumes should be, the Jody Lee Lipes film is illuminating. The film, available on Netflix already, mines all of Peck’s whose nervousness in the run-up to the debut of his ballet for all the drama it’s worth, though the more fascinating moments of the doc come courtesy of the grueling rehearsal process that’s peppered throughout. More interesting, perhaps, is the latent argument for contemporaneity and youthfulness that characterizes the decision to choose up-and-comer Peck for this prestigious honor, but in making a film about dance, it makes sense that those larger cultural conversations are kept in the background rather than taking center stage.

A Ballerina's Tale has loftier goals. Currently playing in select cities, the film follows ballet superstar Misty Copeland. Nelson George’s doc is at both a look at the effects of the punishing art of ballet dancing on Copeland, as well as a living document of the systemic and institutional biases that the first black ballerina to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT's 75-year history, has had to deal with on a daily basis. It is a testament to Copeland’s commitment to honoring those that came before her, that what would easily (and in many ways still is) a vanity project that enshrines her as a central part of African-American cultural history, A Ballerina’s Tale spends most of its running time contextualizing Copeland’s own rise to fame and the way she’s used her platform to advocate for a more diverse vision of ballet, one that moves beyond the relatively recent post-Balanchine history of ballet as overrun with prepubescent, waif-like white ballerinas.

Ballet 422 and A Ballerina's Tale, (the former on the hunt for the Documentary Oscar), make a great double feature on an art that’s clearly struggling with how to appeal and mirror its modern audiences. Any TFE readers who are also ballet aficionados care to weigh in?


AFI Fest: "By the Sea" Premieres

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles. I've been offline so I have to thank the team for keeping us up to date in the news. In the interest of not getting too far behind, let's talk about Thursday's opening event.

A rental car misshap nearly prevented me from attending the glitzy premiere of Mr & Mrs Pitt aka By the Sea but I made it in the nick of time. Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt manage the uncommon feat of looking as beautiful as the seaside scenery onscreen and just as beautiful offscreen. They were both glammed up like it was Oscar night in full tux & perfectly groomed hair (Brad) and shimmering form fitting white gown (Angie). Their new film is a marital vacation drama that feels like an uncomfortable fusion of three film types. The first is the enigmatic 60s Italian pictures -- think Antonioni letting Monica Vitti languidly sex up the camera and drive everyone mad while everyone forgets about the plot because "plot? --  how banal!" The second is a kind of meta-interest "vanity project" like a Burton & Taylor joint and I use the term vanity project in the most flattering way possible; no one earns vanity like the great movie stars and both Brad and Angie qualify for that designation. The third is hostile vaguely unreal marital drama erotica. In all three cases the film doesn't go nearly far enough: it needs to be more enigmatic / indifferent to the audience like L'Avventura OR more terrible and superstar campy like, say, Boom!, OR more sexually charged and surreal like maybe Eyes Wide Shut.

It's tough to imagine who the film might satisfy as its mostly inert and repetitious (not a total problem if you like art films), approaches sexually charged material rather timidly (a bigger problem), and is oddly backloaded story-wise which suddenly makes the film feel ill at ease with its languid despair at the last moment "oh, there needs to be A Story" 

But for what's it's worth it's an interesting curiousity. Along with a few truly great moments, it's fun to hear Brad Pitt speaking French and he acts drunk well.

It's interesting that Jolie  keeps challenging herself with different types of films even though she doesn't seem like a "natural" at directing, truth be told. I refuse to call her "Angelina Jolie Pitt" -- women need to stop defining themselves as belonging to a man and it's even worse when celebrities do it. Nearly all instances of famous people changing their public name for marriage end in tears and it looks sloppy on filmographies. Joanne Woodward didn't change her professional name to Joanne Newman when she married Paul and look how happy they were and remained for his whole life!

Gena Rowlands at the opening night partyAt the after party, I wasn't able to get close to Angelina or Brad and didn't spot the beautiful French stars Melanie Laurent & Melvil Poupaud (though they were at the premiere as the other couple in the film) but the most famous married movie stars in the world were real troupers hanging at the party for a good long while and speaking to well wishers in their über glamorous duds. The after party did provide one moment of pure movie bliss though: I was able to congratulate Gena Rowlands on her impending Honorary Oscar. It was brief but heavenly. She was gracious and beaming. Sasha Stone snapped the picture of this blessed moment. Thanks Sasha!

More from the AFI fest soon!


The Honoraries: Rowlands in Six Dance Lessons

For the next week we'll be celebrating all three of the Honorary Oscar Recipients at TFE. Here's Manuel talking about Gena Rowlands' most recent screen outing.

Whenever we do retrospectives for actresses or directors, I always have the opposite impulse that such an endeavor necessitates. Rather than wanting to go as further back as I can in someone’s filmography, or as higher up as I can in their approved canon, I tend to want to revisit later, more often than not forgotten, works. That’s what I did for our Ingrid Bergman centennial when I watched Cactus Flower and what I did this time around as we celebrate Gena Rowlands, choosing the recent Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.

While earlier films bristle with the promise of future success, and classics merely reaffirm those initial inklings, later films can offer a chance to evaluate a performer’s career trajectory. What to make, then, of a film as ineptly if earnestly made as Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks?

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Interview: 'Theeb' Director Naji Abu Nowar on Bedouin Culture and Being Selected as Jordan's Oscar Submission

Jose here. Set in 1916 Theeb centers on the title character, a Bedouin boy, played by Jacid Eir Al-Hwietat, who’s lived his whole life in the desert. He is being trained as a guide by his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh) and the opportunity for him to try his new skills arrives when a British soldier (Jack Fox) and his companion (Marji Audeh) hire the siblings to show them across the desert. As they discover they are being tracked by enemies, Theeb is forced to fend for himself in the unknown. Combining elements of coming-of-age stories and adventure films, director Naji Abu Nowar is able to craft the rare film that entertains and enlightens. He subverts genre conventions in unexpected ways, for instance this time around it’s the nameless white man who treats others with contempt and shows little regard for their traditions.

If anything Theeb is a necessary film, which might be why it was selected by Jordan to represent them at the Oscars. I sat down with director Nowar to talk about the autobiographical elements in the film, learning film distribution lingo, and how instinct is what matters the most when it comes to directing.  


JOSE: Let’s get started with a business question. How is it to have your film being distributed in the States?

NAJI ABU NOWAR: It’s amazing! I lived in the desert making this film with the Bedouin, and the edit was done very close to them in case I had questions, so we really almost finished the entire film completely separated from the industry. We just assumed since we weren’t an English language film we would never play in America, so it’s been such an amazing ride to see the film do really well in Britain, and to now see it in America is unbelievable. We hope audiences respond.

JOSE: The film won awards at the 2014 Venice Film Festival, but I’m sure as a filmmaker your purpose is to do films that go beyond festivals? Especially because Theeb is essentially an adventure movie, not an art film. [more after the jump]

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