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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, or by a member of our amazing team as noted.

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Tuesday
Apr082014

"Poor Ivy”: August: Osage County’s Underappreciated MVP

Here's Andrew to celebrate the release of last year's embattled August: Osage County newly arrived on DVD. Significant spoilers ahead.

Each year there's at least one film which wins middling to good reviews and manages Oscar nods but is promptly forgotten as soon as it's released. August: Osage County was 2013's victim of that unfortunate annual tradition. Sure, it earned those two acting nominations it seemed assured early on but no one was particularly interested in talking about any aspect of August: Osage County, but for its Oscar belly-flop elsewhere and the Oscar queen at the centre. Perhaps, it was an automated response to Meryl Streep usually being at the centre of films with little else to offer than her star turn (The Iron Lady, Julie & Julia, Music of the Heart, etcetera). It's a shame because the former awards’ hopeful had so much more to celebrate than just the fire-breathing matriarch in the middle.

The strongest asset was undoubtedly that excellent cast. Aside from Streep and Roberts, only a few players picked up significant praise and even then the one most deserving was the one afforded hardly any attention: Julianne Nicholson as middle-child Ivy.

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Tuesday
Apr082014

ICYMI, Which *I* Did

Hello my beautiful cinephiles. Nathaniel, back from my rejuvenating weekend. It's possible that you haven't missed me since the team has been doing a great job but I missed you

For my annual post-Oscar getaway I took my first cruise. On the left you'll see me finishing up some cherry & umbrella accented cocktail. That said I wasn't very boozy at all because cruises are cheap but they find other ways to charge you (aka alcohol). I brought no internet screens because cruises are cheap but they  find other ways to charge you (aka wi-fi at 75¢ a minute!). The break was good for my eyes and soul so I'm excited to talk movies again (where do we even start?). The break was not, however, good for my skin; I am an unholy mess of three colors (blinding white, near-bronze, and cherry red) because I am not accustomed to sunlight. Sunscreen is, as ever, an imperfect science when applied by human hands. Right before I left Florida I caught a brief bit of news that they were expanding their insane "stand your ground" law rather than repealing it as they should so it's a good thing I made it out alive. (Florida's politicians and electorate seem determined to remake Florida in the image of a lawless saloon in a Western with gunfights at every plot point. Shameful.)

If you've been elsewhere like me, catch up as I just did on the week's offerings...

The Great Beauty an Oscar-winning sensory experience from the Criterion Collection
One From the Heart and Dracula - Celebrate Francis Ford Coppola's 75th
Heath Ledger would have been 35 this year. What might have been?
Michelle Williams on Broadway in the Sally Bowles role in the revival of Cabaret
Jezebel and Bringing Up Baby - revisiting two Old Hollywood classics 

Divisive Listings
10 Greatest Working Cinematographers - our opinionated team chose two consensus giants (Lubezki & Deakins) up top, but the other eight are more surprising. It's interesting how few of them have won an Oscar, right?
Many Faces of Jude Law - more a chameleon than he's given credit for but people never seem to agree about him... 

And finally...
Things were super. Marvel's patriotic hero Captain America was a consistent talking point in review, the greater context of the Marvel Universe (how many have you seen?), and the box office where he unsurprisingly reigned. Scarlett Johansson is bereft of actual superpowers as The Black Widow but she makes up for that in the Lucy trailer

Tuesday
Apr082014

Top Ten: Lars Von Trier's Actors

Jose here with your weekly top ten.

 

Visionary. Lunatic. Nazi. Enfant terrible. Misogynist. Genius. Poseur.

Lars Von Trier is called so many things that we often forget that he's a terrific director of actors. With his strange sense of humor and world views, his films are often as alienating as they are enlightening, but actors seem to die to work for him. He's led three of his actresses to wins at the Cannes Film Festival and has injected new life into the careers of actors like Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe and now Uma Thurman. Whether you're a fan of his films or not, his contributions to directing actors are incomparable. Now that both of his Nymphomaniac volumes are out in theaters (reviewed), it's a great time to look back

Ten Best Performance in Lars von Trier Films
(after the jump)

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Tuesday
Apr082014

From Russia With Love's Visual Style

On the 50th anniversary of "From Russia With Love"'s US release our friend and James Bond expert Deborah Lipp (she even wrote a book about him!) is here to talk 007...

Sean Connery in "From Russia With Love" released 50 years ago today in the States

After 23 official films and 2 unofficial ones, From Russia With Love, the second James Bond adventure, remains the greatest of them all. Considered an iconic film in many ways, it may surprise the casual Bond viewer to note that certain "iconic" aspects of the Bond franchise were missing from or created in this film.

Let's focus on From Russia With Love's extraordinary visual signature on this anniversary

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, featured the production design of Ken Adam. Adam is justifiably famous. In Dr. No, he designed such sets as the nuclear launch room, and, needing one last set when the budget ran out, came up with an exquisitely simple interrogation room, as perfect as any of his more elaborate work. Adam worked on a total of seven Bond films, creating such sets as Goldfinger's Fort Knox and the hollowed-out volcano lair in You Only Live Twice. He is considered synonymous with the look of James Bond movies, but he didn't do From Russia With Love. He was busy working on Dr. Strangelove—go ahead and revisit the war room scene in Kubrick's film and ask yourself if it doesn't look an awful lot like a James Bond movie.

No, art direction for From Russia with Love was done by Syd Cain. Cain is kind of impressive. Like Ken Adam, he did multiple Bond films and worked with Stanley Kubrick (in Cain's case, on Lolita). 

The eye-popping chess tournament scene in From Russia with Love, in which the chess game takes place on a raised dais above a checkerboard floor mimicking the chessboard itself, is Cain's work. The movie also featured Blofeld's yacht-based lair, extensive scenes on the Orient Express, and location footage in Istanbul augmented by opulent set design. In fact, opulence is a good word to hang on Cain's work, and FRWL is an opulent movie.

Another iconic visual element in Bond films is the title sequence. Title design by Maurice Binder is considered part of the Bond signature, and Binder was there from the beginning. Dancing girls, silhouettes, sinuous animated movement, and the famed gunbarrel sequence were all Binder's designs. He did the title sequences for every Bond film from the first one in 1962 through License to Kill in 1989. Except two: From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. Robert Brownjohn did those. 

FRWL's title sequence features the credits projected on the mostly-nude body of a bellydancer. It's beautiful and so very Bond, so typical of Binder's signature work that you may wonder if Brownjohn wasn't influenced by the first Bond title sequence. He wasn't: Dr. No's titles are a psychedelic explosion of colored dots. Male and female dancing silhouettes come in around the 1.40 mark, and by 2.15 we're into the "Three Blind Mice" sequence—three blind beggars who turn out, as the movie begins, to be assassins. Nope, the sensual body of a woman in Bond titles wasn't made iconic by the iconic Bond title designer. 

From Russia With Love is great for many reasons: Plot, dialog, cast, and locations all play important roles. But the visual style is a key component. How interesting, then, that it stands separate from what we think of as "the" Bond style.

 

Tuesday
Apr082014

Review: Nymphomaniac: Parts I & II

Michael C. here fresh from a four hour romp through Lars von Trier's sexual subconscious. First a review, then a hot shower. Or five.

It’s tough to think of a recent film more resistant to review than Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Not only to does it vacillate wildly in quality between brilliant and dreadful, but it also feels redundant to review a movie so thoroughly engaged in the act of reviewing itself.  

We are first introduced to Charlotte Gainsborg’s Joe laying beaten and unconscious in an alley. When Stellan Skarsgård’s Seligman picks her up off the ground and gives her a place to rest, she narrates her lifelong saga of sexual exploration to him by way of lengthy explanation for her current state. [More]

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Monday
Apr072014

April Showers: Home Alone 2

waterworks each weeknight at 11 as we turn on the cinematic shower. Here's Andrew Kendall on Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

No, it’s not December, but I'm taking a trip down memory lane to ubiqutious Christmas film. The Macaulay Culkin Home Alone films were ubiqutious during my childhood and I was obsessed with them. Kevin McCallister is just the kind of precocious child that children would be enamoured with. And, still, for all the obsession for some odd reason I never saw the first five minutes of the New York based sequel until a few years ago, which robbed me of some essential information regarding one of two important showers in it. As the family prepares to go out to a Christmas shower Kevin laments that his Uncle Frank is keeping him from getting dressed.

“My tie’s in the bathroom. I can’t go in there ‘cause Uncle Frank is taking a shower. He says if I walked in there and saw him naked I’d grow up never feeling like a real man. Whatever that means.”

Whatever that means - I wonder how many children left the movie asking their parents what that meant? Kevin's Dad just brushes him off and tells him to go get his tie. And, so he does.

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Monday
Apr072014

Stage Door: Michelle Williams in "Cabaret"

Jose here. I have a confession to make that might make me very unpopular around here: I don’t get Michelle Williams. I understand the reasons why she’s beloved and acclaimed and why she’s earned three Academy Award nominations so far, but I can’t bring myself to declare myself as part of her fanclub. The reason behind this is that I can’t fully fathom her as a true sexual being, yet time after time she’s asked to portray characters for whom sex is an essential trait. For instance, as much as she aced the moves, comedic timing and picaresque tone of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, she played the most famous sexual icon of all time as a timid porcelain doll, whose internal turmoils kept her from having an emotional life. What is the point of having Marilyn onscreen if you’re not having at least mildly naughty thoughts about her?

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