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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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"I didn't even notice the stars at first but that's why I like it. Tag line is clever. I hope Burton gone substance over style (while being stylish) with this one." - Jija

"The art is ugly creepy kitsch... that is, slightly above dogs playing pool and black-velvet Elvis. I have a hard time grasping why we should care who created it..." - Owen

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Do Movies About Movies Win Oscars?

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) has had it with the movies in "The Artist"Over at Fandor's Keyframe blog I'll be musing about the Oscar race on a biweekly basis. This week's topic is the unusual abundance of movies about movies in this year's Oscar race from Marilyn Monroe (My Week With Marilyn) to George Melies (Hugo) to Hollywood's seismic sound shift in the late 20s (The Artist). But one thing I didn't dwell on too much in the article (which I hope you'll go and read!) is the lack of Oscars won for movies about movies.

Everyone predicting a win for The Artist (2011) before the nominations are even announced should consider the following list and sobering fact: No movie about movies has ever won Best Picture.

Movies About Movies: How Do They Do With Oscar?
(Best Picture Nominees are in red) 

Janet Gaynor (already an Oscar winner) was nominated again for playing an actress who wins a fictional Oscar in "A Star is Born"1930s
What Price Hollywood (1 nomination. 0 wins)
A Star is Born (7 nominations. 1 win + 1 honorary) 

Was Hollywood too busy with patriotism to make movies about movies? Or were they still too enamored by live theater to turn their cameras on themselves?

Sunset Blvd  (11 nominations. 3 wins)
The Bad and the Beautiful (6 nominations. 5 wins)
The Star (1 nomination. 0 wins)
Singin' in the Rain (2 nominations. 0 wins)
A Star is Born (6 nominations. 0 wins)

Sweet Bird of Youth (3 nominations. 1 win)
8 ½ (5 nominations. 2 wins) 
Inside Daisy Clover (3 nominations. 0 wins)
The Oscar (2 nominations. 0 wins)

Day For Night (4 nominations. 1 win) 
The Way We Were (6 nominations. 2 wins)
The Day of the Locust (2 nominations. 0 wins)
California Suite (3 nominations. 1 win)
All That Jazz (9 nominations. 4 wins) 

The Stunt Man (3 nominations. 0 wins)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1 nomination. 0 wins)
The Kiss of the Spider Woman (4 nominations. 1 win)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (6 nominations. 3 wins. 1 special achievement.)
Cinema Paradiso (1 nomination. 1 win) 

Baby Herman (a handful off camera) and Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)... which would have been a worthy Best Picture contender.

Postcards from the Edge (2 nominations. 0 wins)
Bugsy (10 nominations. 2 wins)
Barton Fink (3 nominations. 0 wins)
Chaplin (3 nominations. 0 wins)
The Player (3 nominations. 0 wins)
Ed Wood (2 nominations. 2 wins)
Boogie Nights (3 nominations. 0 wins)
Gods and Monsters (3 nominations. 1 win) 

Jude Law as Errol Flynn and Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator"2000s
Shadow of the Vampire (2 nominations. 0 wins)
Mulholland Dr (1 nomination. 0 wins)
Adaptation (4 nominations. 1 win)
The Aviator (11 nominations. 5 wins)
Tropic Thunder (1 nomination. 0 wins)
Nine (4 nominations. 0 wins)
Inglourious Basterds (8 nominations. 1 win) 

The Artist (we shall see)
My Week With Marilyn (we shall see)
Hugo (we shall see)

A semi-random selection of movies about movies that Oscar ignored: The Cameraman, Man With a Movie Camera, Sullivan's Travels, Stand-In, Peeping Tom, Contempt, Beware of a Holy Whore, F For Fake, The Last Action Hero, Stardust Memories, Blow Out, The Majestic, Irma Vep, Living in Oblivion, Be Kind Rewind, Guilty by Suspicion, Los Angeles Plays Itself,  etc...

You'd think that Hollywood's High Holy Night, which is one big self-congratulatory spectacle, would embrace movies about movies and they do to a point. But perhaps even Hollywood's notoriously fulsome egos feel sheepish about taking it all the way. Do they fear it would be overkill, the back-patting night of nights morphing into something far more orgiastic, a daisy chain of self regard? 

What are your favorite movies about movies? Do you think The Artist can buck the trends here?

Related: my new keyframe article and a previous roundup on Keyframe "top ten films about filmmaking" which I also had the pleasure of contributing to and which should give you plenty of rental ideas.


The Only Upside of 3D That I Can See...

... is that we get great movies back in theaters where they're meant to be seen. If it takes a 3D conversion, well that's what it takes.

Next year, the only animated picture ever nominated for Best Picture in a field of five films -- don't you love the qualifier? -- Beauty and the Beast will arrive in the January graveyard. That's the month usually reserved for slow-ass expansions of Oscar nominees and terrible Nic Cage movies. Later in the year Titanic arrives for the centennial of the infamous watery disaster. That's good news: 2012 is guaranteed to have at least two great movies. (Yep, I love both of them.)

Given that many of the biggest hits of all time are epically romantic, why is Hollywood making so few romantic movies?

Remember early in the year when articles started popping up suggesting that 3D would be shortlived (as it's always been in the past) since its market share was starting to ebb after all the 2009  Avatar excitement and the perfectly timed hideous 2010 cash-in of Eyesore in Wonderland ? Good times. Yet the statistics, which suggested that the novelty appeal was wearing off and many people would prefer to go back to 2D, were too optimistically misleading. The further along we march post Avatar, the more the industry invests in 3D with an eye towards the next thing "Holograms!" and the the less likely it seems that it will ever be leaving us.

Which makes me sad. I hate the glasses. I hate the fussiness of it. I really enjoyed Hugo EXCEPT for the 3D. It's done very very well (that team of filmmakers is top-notch) and looks beautiful but who needs all those dog noses and hands shoved in their faces? If I want "immersive" entertainment experiences, I'll just pick a good movie to see. The good ones are always immersive, no glasses required. 

Even in films where 3D feels conceptually right somehow, like in Pina where you can understand the spatial relations of the choreography or in Hugo where the 3D plays into the idea of film artists experimenting with a new technological medium I have never once thought "Oh, I'm so glad this wasn't in 2D!" But It's looking like it's here to say. Major film artists like Herzog, Scorsese and Cameron and so on are beating the artistic drum for it and the studios are happy with the short-sighted extra bucks they can charge for it. I say shortsighted because if they keep raising the prices, they price themselves out of relevancy and further cement TV as the opiate of the masses, far and away more popular than film; don't think the price points aren't a major part of that.

How long before we have to split the cinematography Oscar categories like they used to have to with black and white vs. color until black and white I mean 2D is totally gone? Sigh.

So while I shed my little psychic tears about the death of my favorite medium as it becomes something else entirely -- I love holograms but I don't really think of them as "movies". Can't we have both? -- I take comfort that I'm not alone and that I have one bright side. It's an obvious bright side now that Belle and the Beast will soon be spinning in ballrooms and Jack & Rose will be falling in love above and below deck again. Presumably more grand entertainments will follow. Encore!


"Open Up and Say... 'AAAAaaahhhvengers'"

I find these very disturbing all lined up like so...

Shouldn't the letters read Avengers when it's in banner form -- it's the exact right amount of characters -- and  a simple logoriffic "A" when it's not. Otherwise it's all "say AAAAAAaaaaaahhhhh"

Please note that ScarJo is the only player who gets a butt shot. That's part of the whole gender typing superhero sexualization disparity thing as seen here and here.


The Covers The Dreamers And Me

[Editor's note: It's Muppet Week! I asked  Team Experience to share their favorite Muppet memories. Like JA, I'm 1000% in love with this 1979 Oscar Nominee for Best Song. Feel free to sing along. - Nathaniel] 

JA from MNPP here. Let's just get this outta the way right up front - "The Rainbow Connection" is my favorite song of all time. It's also part of one of my earliest memories, and definitely my very first movie memory - I couldn't have been more than three or four and I'd been dropped off at a babysitter's house for the first time ever while my parents took off to do god knows what. I was miserable, horrified, I distinctly remember the babysitter staring at me with terror in her eyes as I bawled like a maniac (so much time has passed and the only thing that's changed is now it's my boyfriend's face giving me that look).
But it all changed as soon as the babysitter turned on the TV and whaddya know, there was The Muppet Movie just starting. Some little green frog was warbling his little tune on his little banjo on his little log in his little swamp, and magic - Muppet and movie alike - carried me away, and I've never looked back. When my parents showed up before the movie was over I refused to leave until it ended - a cinemaniac (with a secret felt fetish, shh) was born.

Thirty years or so have passed since that life-defining moment, and  I will still break into immediate awestruck tears when I hear it. Lines like "I've heard it too many times to ignore it. It's something that I'm s'posed to be..." actually honestly helped me through the coming out process in my early 20s. The debt of gratitude for forming a basic piece of who I am - and a really basic decent part, I think I can say truthfully - that I owe to Jim Henson and songwriters Paul Williams and Kennth Ascher is beyond measure.
So with The Muppets out in theaters this week, I figured we could take a look back at that song and the thirty years that it's been a living breathing beautiful thing in our lives. There are literally dozens of these to pick from but here are my five of my favorite covers!


Curio: Muppet Madness

Alexa here. Lately I've been busying myself by introducing my daughter to the Muppets, in hopes that the new installment will pan out and there will be more Muppet fun to come. (So far, Miss Piggy's Esther Williams routine and the Steve Martin hosting with balloons and banjo appear to be her favorite moments.) My attempts to find her a reasonably priced Miss Piggy doll have been thwarted, due to the lack of merchandising out there; maybe Disney is taking an uncharacteristic wait-and-see approach? In the meantime, here are some cool indie designs that fill the Muppet merchandise void.

Fabulous retro Muppet concert posters by Michael De Pippo.

Ever-prolific Alex Kittle does a great Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem gig poster.Click for more, including Miss Piggy with donut...

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The Family of "Hugo" Cabret

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Hugo a second time at my favorite* NYC theater, the Ziegfeld. It's an enormous "Old Hollywood" feeling place, one of the last of its kind so it couldn't have been a better setting for an all guild screening of a movie that's obsessed with the history of the movies just like Martin Scorsese himself. Let's call him "Papa Scorsese" today since he brought along nearly his entire movie "family" apart from cinematographer Robert Richardson (referred to as "Bob") who Scorsese joked was  'off filming a movie with this new guy called Quentin somebody (?)'

3-time Oscar winners Thelma Schoonmaker and Sandy Powell await their cue © Nathaniel Rogers

Everyone else was there: Legendary art director Dante Ferretti, legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker, legendary costume designer Sandy Powell... well you get the idea...


Dante Ferretti, Art Direction
His job didn't change much in 3D, he revealed. He joked that the room we're sitting in is 3D. It took him six months to build the sets. He and his team built everything: the station, the glass movie house, even Papa Georges's (Ben Kingsley) apartment. With the look of the film they were attempting to base it not on realistic research but on images from the cinema and French cinema of the period specifically.

Ellen Lewis, Casting
She had not seen The Boy With Stryped Pajamas when the casting search for the lead role of Hugo began in New York, London and Los Angeles simultaneously. Someone sent her the movie and she met with Asa Butterfield the first week she was in London.

She added:

Many times, oddly, in casting children you find the child you're looking for in the first week or the last week. I don't know how to explain why."

They decided to have everyone speak in British accents after casting Asa because they didn't want to alter his voice and he was the first actor cast. 

Visual Effects
The visual effects supervisor -- his name escapes me in. Apologies -- had this to say about George Melies as the originator of special effects?

He didn't have anything to refer to besides his own imagination. Before I started the movie I had only seen Voyage to the Moon and I thought it was okay but then I started to really study his films, like that clip where he throws his head up into the stanza of music. That's genius. I had to play it back three or four times to figure out how he did it. He did this in 1905 so I felt rather small."  

Costume recreations, Scorsese joking about budgets and more after the jump.

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Scene Work: Demián Bichir & Chris Weitz on "A Better Life"

In this new miniseries, we'll be discussing some of the most memorable individual scenes of the movies of 2011. So let's start with the penultimate scene from the immigration drama A Better Life. Have any of you seen it? 

At a recent luncheon honoring Demián Bichir (Weeds, Che), currently on the Best Actor campaign trail, I had a brief chat with the star and his director Chris Weitz. Our conversations kept drifting to two scenes in the movie, the aforementioned emotional peak when Carlos (Bichir) explains to his son, as best he can, the reason why he moved to America and had a child, and an earlier intense sequence that sets much of the plot in motion as Carlos (Bichir) makes a fateful mistake while shimmying up a palm tree in his day job as a gardener.

I told Bichir that I've always wondered how scary it is for actors to work on those slow build performances. Many performances have several peaks but A Better Life is quite a linear drama and Bichir keeps the performance very low key for a long time. It's all building to his intensely emotional monologue as he sits in a deportation center with his son. I wondered how nerve wracking that scene must have been for him. He plays the scene beautifully, with so much pent up painful intimacy. But as character arcs go it's very backloaded; his entire performance and indeed the film, rests on it.

That's why I had you. For me. For me. For a reason to live."

"Interesting," Bichir says, considering the question. "I try not to think about that. I never think ahead." he confesses, explaining that he tries to take the journey in sequence with the character, though he readily admits that you know the scenes in every script your first time reading through.

"So I don't think about it," he elaborates. "It's like in life. You know, when you're in love you don't think 'what if we break up?' You don't think about the fears or the negativity." The emotional place you have to get to you just work towards day by day, he explains. They were lucky to shoot almost chronologically which really helped him.

Oscar Campaigning and a unexpected Twilight diversion after the jump.

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