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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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Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
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Friday
Nov072014

HTGAWM: He Deserved to Die

Here's Manuel taking over How To Get Away With Murder Recap duties for the next two weeks.

Is it is me or was this the first wholly uninteresting HTGAWM episode yet? And might that have to do with the fact that we were focused on arguably the least fascinating character on the show, Rebecca Sutter? I can’t tell whether her schizophrenic characterization (is she wily or is she broken? is she indifferent or just cooly in control?) is an intentional if badly executed performance choice or a result of the show’s fragmented storyline which depends on withholding information in order to propel narrative tension from week to week. I’d recommend its writers watch every season of Damages to see how to use flashbacks to keep audiences guessing (and how to build tension by refracting known information rather than continually serving up new revelations) but it’s clear that HTGAWM is sadly constricted by its by-the-week network formula.

And so, with that said, watch me tackle this week’s episode with an attempt to break down said formula so you too can write your own HTGAWM spec script! (Beware, spoilers and a slightly NSFW gif ahead)

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov072014

Review: The Overnighters

[The Overnighters was recently longlisted as one of the 134 films in contention for this year's Best Documentary Feature Oscar. Here's Amir with his thoughts on the film.]

Jesse Moss spent more than a year in the North Dakotan town of Williston following a news story he had found about mass immigration to the oil rich area. When the practice of fracking began to turn the fortunes of the Midwestern state around after recession, thousands of men flocked there from all the around the U.S. in search of a new life. The sudden, unsustainable upsurge in population caused tensions to grow between the local residents and the itinerant workers, fuelled by reports of theft and sexual abuse that were alleged to be committed by the “overnighters”.

 In the midst of this, pastor Jay Reinke of the Concorida Lutheran Church is opening the doors of the church (and its parking lot) to these men and allowing them to sleep there at nights. His congregation feels uneasy about the presence of the nomads. The more reserved church members complain ostensibly about the mess and chaos left over by allowing more people in the small space than it was designed for, or bring up fire hazard issues. The more outspoken members mention the past records of the temporary workers, some with felony charges, others with their names listed on the sex offenders list.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov072014

Inside the Dolby. AFI Fest Begins!

Anne Marie and I had a stupendous time tonight at the premiere of A Most Violent Year which we were  mpressed by: tense, gorgeously shot, with a fiery Jessica Chastain and an ice cool Oscar Isaac. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. But for now -pics & tweets.

(We got there early and couldn't resist geeking out a bit inside The Dolby, the home of Hollywood's High Holy Night each year, The Oscars. [More photos after the jump]

 

I am inside the Dolby, land of Hollywood's High Holy Night. Streep is amused.

A photo posted by Nathaniel R (@nathaniel_tfe) on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:46pm PST

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Thursday
Nov062014

Tim's Toons: A history of animated Marvels

Tim here. Tomorrow sees the release of Big Hero 6, the 54th feature made by the Walt Disney Animation Studio canon, and the first time that studio has collaborated with its corporate cousins at Marvel Entertainment. The result is certainly the most prestigious animated project ever based on a Marvel comics title, but far, far from the first. In fact, Marvel superheroes have been showing up in cartoons for almost a half of a century now. I give you a tour of some of them.

The Marvel Super-Heroes (1966)
The very first Marvel TV series, airing 65 episodes in syndication. The first time I ever heard of it was about an hour ago, so I can’t begin to say if it has an kind of rabid fanbase or lingering influence on Marvel writers and artists, but it stands out in my eyes for having extraordinarily cheap animation even by ‘60s syndicated TV standards, basically just waggling still drawings underneath the camera. Seriously, watch that video.

Lasting cultural impact: None, but from now on, if I ever meet Mark Ruffalo, I’m going to chant “watch them change their very shape before your nose!” at him till he punches me in the face.

Classics and new shows alike below the jump!

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov062014

Yes No Maybe So: Into the Woods

After a number of official still images, a lovely teaser, rumblings of behind-the-scenes drama, an extended featurette, a bunch of EW covers, and plenty of anticip... ation, the trailer for Rob Marshall's take on Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's classic musical, Into the Woods is here! More so than the teaser, this trailer introduces us to the main conceit that brings all these characters together: the search for a way to have a curse reversed, something that can only be accomplished by, as the Witch tells us, going into the woods and getting,

One: the cow as white as milk,
Two: the cape as red as blood,
Three: the hair as yellow as corn,
Four: the slipper as pure as gold.

Will the Baker and his Wife (the lowly, unfairy-tale couple at the heart of the show) be able to break the curse and survive the treacherous woods? If you've seen the show, you know "happily ever after" only takes you to the end of Act 1. But enough exposition, here's Manuel playing YES NO MAYBE SO, trying to keep our excitement for this Disney property in order.

YES

- Meryl Streep.
- Meryl Streep. Singing. Sondheim. Need we say more?
- Meryl Streep looking amazing..
- (I can’t help it, she’s front and center in the marketing material. They know what they’re selling and what we’ll be buying; I appreciate the pandering, embrace it, even!)
- Can we talk about how lush and gorgeous Sondheim’s score sounds?
- “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” Chris Pine, delivering the line of his life.
- “Oh dear, how uneasy I feel.” Runner-up for best line reading in the trailer; Lila Crawford nails the droll delivery (both wistful and jaded) required for this piece to work.
- There's music! Finally a musical billing itself as a musical and not playing the bait-and-switch game (remember Sweeney Todd?)
- Colleen Atwood and Dion Beebe are definitely bringing the pretty (in another version of this post I would merely put up hundres of screengrabs: That popping red cape! Those thorny branches! That golden Cinderella dress! Those amazing step-sister outfits/hairstyles! The Witch’s makeover look! Kendrick on the steps of the castle! Wet princes running our way!)


- I actually love the ethereally earthy (can I trademark that?) look of the piece, at once grounded in the grime and mud of the woods while also using metallics to connote the necessary element of fantasy that pervades this world.
- I love so many of these ladies (Kendrick! Baranski! Ullman! Blunt!), but then we probably all said the same about Marshall’s last musical. Indeed, I’m crazy about the entire cast except for...

 

NO

- ...Johnny Depp. Obviously the biggest deterrent (and that costume isn’t helping matters, is it?) The Red/Wolf scene is going to be particularly hard to pull off; has it been defanged by Disney execs and/or by Depp’s cartooney take on the Big Bad Wolf?
- The CGI-ness of it all gives me pause; might it overwhelm the material?
- I can’t decide if “Be careful what you wish for” is barely serviceable or merely uninspired.
- I promise I'm trying to find other things to notch as NOs, but I'm afraid I'm besotted by this trailer.

 

MAYBE SO

- Whither be our Billy Magnussen? (get out of the way, bushes!) I know he can’t get any type of billing, but there’s not enough of that big hunk of man in this trailer. #Agony
- I’m curious and hesitant about Blunt; this is a tricky part (one which fellow Streep co-star Amy Adams had trouble with a couple of years ago in Shakespeare in the Park)
- Am I the only one noticing that Meryl may not be the best at lip-syncing?
- That giant is… giving me Bryan Singer's Jack the Vampire Giant Slayer vibes.
- It’s still unclear how the numbers will be staged (thankfully away from Marshall’s tried and true stage-as-fantasy conceit) and whether Marshall & co. have managed to ‘open up’ the musical without sacrificing the dramatic beats that make Sondheim and Lapine’s piece work so well on stage. We get a glimpse of Meryl’s number but I’m more curious to see that first ensemble piece play out; the proximity of all these characters is what makes those group numbers sing; can it be replicated on screen?

Ed. Note: Watch it below (and thanks to Anonny for reminding me that in my stupor I'd forgotten to include the trailer itself!)

Unsurprisingly, I’m a "YES! I wish I could have this film in front of me now!" (Though maybe I should be careful what I wish for?) I love the material and this trailer shows there’s potential for greatness. Am I blinded by my love for Streep? By my obsession with Sondheim? By the pretty pretty pictures? Chime in! Calling all the Sondheim purists, the Marshall skeptics and the “I’m over Meryl”s, bring me down from my Into the Woods-induced high! Point me to things that should temper my giddy excitement!

Thursday
Nov062014

Your 2014 animated Oscar contenders

Readers, an apology. Here I am, the Film Experience's resident animation expert, and I'm late with news twice over. First, on Tuesday, the Academy annouced the full list of 20 contenders for Best Animated Feature. Nathaniel prepared a post discussing this development, but wasn't able to publish it before traveling to California. Here are his thoughts on the subject:

As expected we will have a full five-wide Best Animated Feature category this year. It only takes 16 contenders to trigger that and we have 20. This branch is definitely not the most predictable when it comes to nominees -- or even, sometimes winners (remember how competitive the Brave year was?) --  often opting for a few little seen critical and foreign darlings. The internet seems to be rooting for The Lego Movie which is by a significant margin the most popular animated film of the year in the US. What's interesting is that it's uniquely American appeal means that internationally the numbers are much different and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is, globally, the biggest cartoon of the year. It's also probably the frontrunner for Gold but you never know. It's not as undeniable as Toy Story 3 (a universally acclaimed capper to a hugely beloved trilogy that wasn't able to be honored with the competitive Oscar until then since the category hadn't existed).

Disney's Big Hero 6, opening this week, I can't personally see winning the category but it's a likely nominee and, what's more, the short before it called Feast, which tells the tale of a human's love life through his hungry puppy, is a strong contender for the short film Oscar. It was love at first sight for me and I'm not even a dog person.

THE ELIGIBLE 20 (plus 10 eligible animated shorts after the jump)...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov062014

The Honoraries: Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients including Hayao Miyazaki. Here's Manuel on an animated gem...

Spirited Away, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro all wowed me on first viewing. In that sense, I agree with Tim, to choose just one Miyazaki is close to impossible. I know it will date me (more on that in a minute), but while I love what 3D animation can (and has!) done, to me, there’s nothing more exhilarating than traditional, hand-drawn animation. This may be because I come from a household where animation is the family business (little do people know that my mother owns the longest-running animation studio in Colombia) so I pretty much grew up around animators, scanners, and spent many a weekend waiting for a certain scene or episode to finish ‘rendering’ before we could head home, while perusing the “Art of” books that lined the shelves at the office.

So to commemorate Miyazaki’s Honorary Oscar I thought I’d treat myself and look at one of his films I’d never seen before. I ended up choosing Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind which turned (like yours truly) 30 this year and boy is it a beauty. 

Nausicaä soars on the back of its eponymous protagonist. Catching it in 2014, it’s hard to gage whetherNausicaä was ahead of its time or whether pop culture has been slowly feeling its influence since its premiere. Probably both. I mean, here we have an environmentally-conscious plot about a strong-willed and empathetic teenage girl set in a post-apocalyptic world who refuses to engage in the needless killing and destruction that adults around her seem committed to as a way to survive; hard to deny that that sounds familiar no? But to say that Nausicaä is a precursor to Katniss Everdeen (and her fellow YA kickass dystopian gals) is to sell Miyazaki’s film and protagonist short. This is not only because, as Tim noted last week, Miyazaki is less interested in ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ (there’s no President Snow and The Capitol to hate here), but because his Nausicaä wouldn’t be caught dead in a love triangle, sadly still a staple whenever we’re granted a female-led action adventure franchise. Indeed, Nausicaä may be an even greater feminist film than that dystopian trilogy for the way it presents its protagonist’s strengths as both born out of but not tethered to her own gender.

Nausicaä, attuned to the natural world around her (including the seemingly hostile ‘toxic jungle’, home of the dangerously angered Ohm), spends the entire movie presenting empathy as her strongest asset, even when this is constantly demeaned by those around her as mere naïveté. In that, she seems both a throwback as well as a novel protagonist. It may seem outmoded to praise a film for playing into cultural tropes about the connection between women and the earth but Miyazaki is keen to position Nausicaä’s intuition as a source of strength not nearly as incompatible with her physical prowess as we might think. At a critical moment, she’s so blinded by grief and rage (so overwhelmed with feelings) that she lashes out and knocks many a soldier down. A scene that might normally lead to a lecture about “controlling one’s anger” (because it leads to the dark side, remember?) instead quickly taps instead into Nausicaä’s own loyalty and affinity for her people, getting her to privilege pragmatism over her own blinding rage. But it is also that ability to feel and empathize with those most unlike her that ends up saving the day. Like I said, it’s both oddly quaint but also quietly transgressive.

It helps that this type of gender politics becomes a part of Miyazaki’s storytelling fabric rather than its central thread. The film is a classic because it is both a thrill-ride as well as a meditation on mankind’s relationship with nature; it’s an entertaining adventure that doesn’t shy away from Big Themes, it is surprisingly rich in world-building without ever feeling bogged down in exposition; it is kinetic even in quiet moments of reflection; it is beautiful in its simplicity, Miyazaki’s clean lines equally capable of sketching an in-flight action set-piece as well as an almost-forgotten tender childhood memory.

This is all a way of saying that if you haven’t sought Miyazaki’s work, you should do yourself a favor and watch a clear example “they don’t make ‘em like they used to, but also no one ever did ’em like this anyway.” 

Previously in The Honoraries: Maureen O'HaraJean-Claude Carrière, and Harry Belafonte