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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

 

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Thursday
Sep202012

Francine

Beautiful "Francine" poster illustrated by Michael GilletteMichael C. here. If I’m going to write about Francine I need to start by admitting that I’m not what one would call an animal person.

I certainly like animals. I appreciate their beauty and marvel at their grace... but from a respectful distance, preferably involving a high fence or some sort of indestructible leash. In close contact animals and I tend to put each other on edge, and from there it is a tension filled waiting game until claws make an appearance. As a result of this I was easily pulled into Brian M Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s Francine much the same way my debilitating fear of heights kept me riveted to Man on Wire. At one point during the film the lead character grabs a kitten in each hand and rubs them over her face like a healing talisman. I found the directness of this moment incredibly moving even though I would no sooner attempt it than I would try to hug the guy on the subway carrying on a heated disagreement with Jesus. 

When we meet the title character, played in a nearly silent performance by Melissa Leo, she has just finished lengthy prison sentence for an unspecified crime. She is set free to reenter society like a domesticated animal returned to the wild once all traces of its survival skills have been erased. Francine no longer has the ability - or the interest it seems - to navigate the intricacies of human relationships. She opts instead to seek oblivion at every opportunity, including boozing, headbanging to a local metal band, and anonymous sexual encounters. It’s only when Francine begins taking in pets does she find something approaching peace. Her oasis in the uncomplicated love of the owner/pet relationship is the beating heart of this modest, but effective, character study. 

The story tracks Francine’s metamorphosis into a Crazy Cat Lady. Her tiny house is soon overrun with pets of all species and Francine is dumping dog food directly onto floors covered layers deep with foul newspaper. But unlike those reality shows which hold up shut-ins for our judgment and ridicule, the filmmakers here ask for understanding and empathy, not shock and pity. We root for Francine to find some small measure of happiness even as her unbalanced behavior clearly approaches a tipping point.

It might take a few scenes for fans of Melissa Leo to adjust to her in this role. Her trademark has always been outspoken toughness, but as Francine she is downright mousy. We catch hints of the familiar brash Leo persona peeking through but we sense that if that used to be part of this character it was beaten out of her long ago. Jean DuJardin recently won an Oscar for his wickedly charming riff on silent acting but if you want to experience real silent acting, straight up, check out Leo’s work here. 

I wish I could report that the directing team of Cassidy and Shatzky were up to the level of their star. It’s not that they fail Leo, so much as they fail to completely connect the audience to Leo's performance. They set out to tell the story visually with minimal dialogue, but in that case the images need to carry more weight than they do here. The indifferent shooting style and slack pacing keep the viewer too far removed from the main character. To their credit, the directors do have a sharp eye for observing character detail, and when all is said and done providing Leo with such a solid showcase certainly outweights any shortcomings. Francine is a moving little sleeper of a film.

 

(Warning: There is a very convincing sequence involving a dog being put down that will surely be excruciating for pet lovers to watch. Rest assured - it's not real.)

Wednesday
Sep192012

Which TV Shows Do You Watch and Read About?

It's Emmy Week so the small screen is naturally on my mind. This time of year I'll usually try out a show or two and roll my eyes in disgust. Revolution was SO terrible: generic actors, pandering action sequences, and terrible authenticity problems. I should elaborate so here's just one example. If there's no electricity and there hasn't been for 15 years why have men's hairstyles not evolved into something manageable that doesn't require the weekly use of electric razors or blowdryers or what have you to maintain??? All the actors looked so freshly scrubbed clean, perfectly coiffed, and flawlessly made-up like they've never spent even one minute away from their huge hair and makeup team in a nearby trailer, let alone been without luxury beautification for 15 years! 

Despite the easy-to-ignore mediocrity of the TV landscape (easy to ignore given that the highs are so very high and you're reminded of them weekly while the dross you only have to see once!) I do watch my share of TV.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep192012

From Link With Love

Pajiba wonders if The Master's insane per screen average this weekend will finally translate into mainstream box office dollars. (No P.T. picture has ever grossed more than $40 million in US theaters)
First Showing Melissa Leo prepping for a busy 2013. So many films, one of them (Prisoners) is with Hugh Jackman from the director of Incendies.
Cinema Blend Gong Li may become The Last Empress... but she needs a director first

The Guardian on Mitt Romney and his choice of favorite film O Brother Where Art Thou?
Geekologie impressive fan sculpture of He-Man 
Pajiba on the casual barely-trying success of the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises
Coming Soon has an exclusive with Oscar Isaac (Drive) singing songs from two new films 10 Years (it's a song he co-wrote) and the Coen Bros Inside Llweyn Davis. Here's the oft-covered "Dink's Song" from that forthcoming Coen Bros picture... 

...and we end with a little tangentially 007 related business (we'll have a Bond series soon with guest star Deborah Lipp of "Basket of Kisses" and "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book" fame) 

Press Play
 Matt Zoller Seitz on From Russia With Love and Singin' in the Rain and "unsophisticated" audiences...
Monkey See responds to this article with more on the problem of contemporary audience's "ironic distancing" from older films. Very worthy topic o' discussion
Movie|Line a tale of two posters for Skyfall 

Tuesday
Sep182012

Naked Gold Man: Les Miz Slows Down, Oscar Speeds Up

As surely as the weather cools and kids go back to school en masse, we begin to shift gears towards Phase One of Awards Season. That's the pre-nomination time frame when all the hype and guessing gives way to actual buzz (or not) and more educated guessing as the films arrive and are met with shrugs, boos, huzzahs, and precursor nominations . On nomination morning, Oscar gets the last word. Phase One happens to be my favorite part of awards season and today we learn that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has shortened my joy by two whole weeks!

I've had to adjust our side bar widget. That was a quick two weeks we lost! Nominations will now come early on January 10th. That's just 112ish days from now and every 24 hours will count. Which means that instead of the usual month between nominations and Hollywood's High Holy Night we'll have a painful six weeks of running on fumes with the narrower range of people and films to talk about. People are going to be so sick of the chosen few by Oscar night!

This early nomination news arrived on the heels of the news of a delay:  Les Misérables has abandoned its December 14th release date and will try its luck with everything else come Christmas time. Voters won't have much time to see that particular movie -- or many others. This might mean that the precursors will be more influential than ever, essentially filling out voter ballots for them by narrowing their focus when they're losing it in a sea of screeners --all of which they're expected to watch over their holiday breaks. Since the studios simply refuse to give up their beloved December 18th-31st strategy -- the only one they have implicit trust in -- the best thing that could ever happen in Oscar world is two consecutive years of voters enjoying their family over the holidays instead and burning their screeners and only nominating films they'd seen earlier in the year.

Shut up --  I'm allowed to fantasize! It would just be seismic for the enjoyment of serious films all year round because the industry would have to rethink. But that's another topic and a broken record round these parts! 

With so little time for the buzz to settle in December before voting  I suspect we'll have a less volatile season than usual with fewer surprises on nomination morning and the studios will have more say in what gets nominated since they can control the dialogue better before people see the movies.

Important Dates to Know
Dec 1st Governors Awards
Dec 13th Golden Globe Nominations
Dec 17th Oscar Nomination Voting Begins
Jan 3rd Oscar Nomination Voting Ends and PGA Nominees Announced
Jan 8th DGA Nominees Announced
Jan 10th Oscar Nominations Announced
Jan 13th GOLDEN GLOBES NIGHT
Feb 4th Oscar Luncheon
Feb 8th Final Voting Begins
Feb 19th Final Voting Ends
Feb 24th OSCAR NIGHT

Which brings me to another question that's been needling me...

Fantine prays for God's forgiveness. And Oscar traction

You may recall that when they first announced the new voting strategy for Best Picture (the one in which the number of nominees would change each year depending on how many films muster up enough votes) we were told that they had run the numbers on the past several years of 5 nominees only and found that there would have been years with 5,6,7,8, and 9 nominees (but never 10 though the rules allow for it). But here's the catch that no one discussed at the time. The numbers were run on past ceremonies in which every voter was fully aware that only 5 films would be nominated. Many pundits and casual Oscar watchers were surprised last year -- i know I was -- to see 9 nominees in the inaugural year of the new rule. I just didn't see the support for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but lately I've been wondering... 

Does the knowledge that the rules are different fundamentally change the way Oscar members vote?

Think it over. If, in years past, your favorite film of the year was one which had zero traction, would you have thrown your vote to your second favorite instead since everyone agreed that one was a legit spoiler possibility for Best Picture? Now that members are fully aware that up to 10 films can be nominated if they can find enough ardent fans, it seems likely that a 5 wide Best Picture year is a thing of the past. Why would anyone abandon their favorites in this new more permissive climate?

 

Tuesday
Sep182012

Just Act, Naturally

Parker Posey teaches Emmy Acceptance Speeches. There's still time to enroll before the big night! Only $899.