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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
Dec012011

Complete the Chastainy Sentences...

If I could ask Jessica Chastain one question it'd be this:  ________________________________________.

She's the new _________________ because  ______________ .

When I heard she won the first Supporting Actress award of precursor season I thought _______________________ .

I really hope she works with _________________ and plays __________________ .

 

Wednesday
Nov302011

Music, Mistletoe and Michael Caine: 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'

Kurt here. If you love Christmas, odds are there's an incarnation of A Christmas Carol of which you take ownership. For me, it's a stage production performed annually at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. For you, it might be the 1938 Joseph L. Mankiewicz classic with Reginald Owen. And for a special few, it's The Muppet Christmas Carol, a film that proves how effectively one beloved property can be used to refresh another. The worlds of Jim Henson and Charles Dickens intertwine rather beautifully in this 1992 musical dramedy, whose Muppet stars pull the Yuletide tale out of mothballs, but don't crank up the contemporary jabber so far as to brand it with a born-on date. The comedy is all about that distinct Muppet attitude, which, as the new Muppets film seems determined to emphasize, is as timeless as "Bah Humbug."

Charles Dickens is in fact a character in the film. He's played by Gonzo, who, along with Rizzo the Rat, narrates the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge (a game, sincere Michael Caine) and the spectral Christmas Eve that rids him of his jerkdom. You might think excessive hand-holding would result from having a pair of narrators guide you through a film that already sees its lead and his visitors guide you through second-act flashbacks, but that's never the case here, as Gonzo proves an entertainingly knowing voice and a funny teacher to Rizzo, who's ever-eager to listen and learn ("Why are you whispering?" Rizzo asks. "It's for dramatic emphasis," Gonzo tells him). It's a gentle form of un-dusty, all-ages comedy, and it's a far better rejuvenator than, say, a 3D shrunken-man rollercoaster

The narrating duo also add to a team element that seems to unfailingly manifest when it comes to the Muppets. Of course, the characters are their own traveling troupe (a factor that undoubtedly helps attract flesh-and-blood actors to work with them), but there are subsets of teams that appear within projects, and help to give the comedy that ultra-important communal feel. Jacob Marley, for instance, is given a brother, Robert (wink-wink), so the pair can be portrayed by the hysterical hecklers Statler and Waldorf, who may just offer the most enjoyable books-and-chains preliminary haunt the story has ever seen ("There's more of gravy than of grave about you," Scrooge says to the pair in his blame-it-on-the-food speech. "More of gravy than of grave?" they reply. "What a terrible pun! Where do you get these jokes?"). There's also Bob Cratchit's (Kermit the Frog) shivering team of bookkeeping colleagues, who famously initiate an impromptu Hawaiian dance when their request for more furnace coal is met with the threat of unemployment.  

Watching the film again, I was struck by just how many musical sequences it includes, and they're fine ones at that. The movie begins with the familiar marketplace bustle, through which Scrooge hurries home amid a whole town of scared and scorned onlookers. "There goes Mr. Humbug," they chant, "there goes Mr. Grim. If they gave a prize for being mean, the winner would be him." Even the Muppet-ized vegetables join in on the chorus, shaming the village grump. Later, the central cast members unite for "Thankful Heart," an ending tune that, like the others, was penned by Paul Williams (the score is credited to Miles Goodman). Off hand, I can't recall another Christmas Carol that presents itself as a musical, apart from the usual festivities at the house of Fezziwig (who, here, naturally, goes by "Fozziwig"). The story works great with the songs sprinkled in, and the music has an effect similar to the Muppet comedy: updated, but un-dated.  

What probably nets the biggest laughs is the recurring tendency of Gonzo and Rizzo to get physically involved with the story they're telling, be it by falling off an in-flashback shelf they describe as "old and decayed," or receiving a self-reflexive Christmas greeting from Scrooge himself. Gonzo, in particular, has fun with the different levels of fiction, playing an imaginary version of an author poking around in his own creation. "Great story, Mr. Dickens," Rizzo says at film's end. "You should read the book," says Gonzo.  

 

Wednesday
Nov302011

November. It's a Wrap

I regret to inform you that there is only one month remaining in 2011. It's been quite a year but we weep that it's nearly over. How can this be? In case you've recently rejoined us -- fair weather friend! -- here's a dozen must-read highlights from the month that just was.

How Long Has it Been Since You've Seen Close Encounters? It holds up.
"Consider"... Harry Potter live blogging an FYC ad.
The Covers, The Dreamers and Me JA reminisces about childhood love for The Muppets.
• Do Movies About Movies Win Oscars? Bad news for Hugo, The Artist and My Week With Marilyn.

Nicole Kidman's Perpetual Elephant Love Medley a new biopic for one of our favorites. 
Will "Monty" Consider Bridesmaids a feline Oscar pundit. 
Theodora Van Runkle (RIP) a costuming giant passes.  
Happy 50th Meg Ryan a look back at a supernova career
Mirror Mirror vs. Snow White and the Hunstman a double whammy of fairy tales for our Yes No Maybe So series.

Most Discussed: Roles for Which Meryl Streep was Not Nominated Though her nomination record is insane such roles do exist and Q&A: Favorite Kubrick Films and Grace Kelly casting
Most Popular: "Once More With Feeling" a 10th anniversary celebration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's musical episode.

Coming in December: YEAR IN REVIEW MANIA in... 3...2...1

Wednesday
Nov302011

The Scarlet Linker

Hollywood Reporter on the highlights from the Gotham Awards. Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Olsen were apparently big hits.
Tom Shone Best Performances of 2011. Love this fluid quick take annual feature.
I Need My Fix Is Christopher Meloni joining True Blood for Season Five? Could that show possibly contain yet more explosive sexiness?
GQ interviews director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows) and yes he actually talks about Madonna and the divorce.... which...
Lainey Gossip has an interesting take on what he means when he says "I'm glad I made money" in the interview with which I would totally agree if that's what I was sure he meant. But it seems highly interpretable to me. Maybe that's not what he meant at all. 
Stale Popcorn Glenn speaks out on Meryl Streep's anti-auteur tendencies and what's going on with the quest for that third Oscar. Good piece.

Coming Soon Lizard concept art from The Amazing Spider-Man 
Alt Screen get yourself to Film Forum over the next two months and bone up on the silent film masterpieces they're showing.
Liz Smith shares a funny e-mail from showbiz widow Tita Cahn about J. Edgar.

Worst line ever spoken between two men in a movie -  'will you be my number two?' "

Hee. That's just one piece of it.

Telegraph TFE friend Tim Robey pays tribute to the one and only Ken Russell, remembering their last encounter at a screening of The Devils
Perez Hilton Wow. Apparently Meryl Streep donated her Iron Lady salary to the National Women's History Museum
Movielicious offers up this poster comparison, Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War (which I'm not hearing good things about) and Angelina Jolie's In the Land of Blood and Honey (which I am).

Hmmmm... 

My New Plaid Pants Have you heard about this reboot of The Munsters. I'm trusting JA to keep me informed as he's knowledgable on all things Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls) one of the best and most idiosyncratic TV minds out there.
MTV Charlize Theron's 2011 Tour of Comedic Movie Star Amazement continues whilst discussing Snow White and the Hunstman.

I haven't really worked with [Kristen]. I've done some small things with her, but we're about to shoot our big showdown, and fingers crossed for me. It's the big battle. I'm just really, really, really hoping I get to kill her. That is how the story ends up, right?"

[For more on her awesome Tour of Tours check out the Actress Roundtable post and the DGA screening of Young Adult.]

Finally...

 Movie|Line has a great interactive Shame map. You can follow Brandon's ritual around the city. It beats an expensive trip to the Museum of Sex here in NYC. 

Tuesday
Nov292011

Top Ten: My Favorite Muppets... And Yours?

Camilla's favorite muppet is Gonzo. Duh!I'm going to let Kurt close out our Muppet week tomorrow with a holiday-specific post but before we stop oohing and aahing about our favorite felt friends, I just had to share this weird revelation. Over Thanksgiving break, while drinking with my closest friends I asked everyone "What's your favorite muppet?". Somehow I didn't know the answer to this question at all and I was shocked to discover that everyone's favorite Muppet described something very very real about them, though people weren't really giving explanations. For example, one of my friends, who fears nothing more than publicly humiliating himself and is wildly accident prone said "Tie: Fozzy and Beaker", another who is frustratingly cynical and hard to please said "Statler and Waldorf" instantly, and another who is just about the most efficient organized stage manager type you'll ever met said "Scooter". I didn't know that Scooter was anyone's favorite Muppet let alone one of my closest friends! It went on like that around the table, the answers were always telling.

I highly suggest trying this the next time you're partying with your close friends and report back. I feel safe in guessing that you'll be shocked at how well their favorite reflects them... which makes me appreciate this video about the adult personas of the Muppets much more.

For what it's worth I thought I'd list my ten favorites muppets off the top of my head. I'm sure I've forgotten someone I love but such are off the top of your head lists.

Nathaniel's Favorite Muppets


order varies and sometimes someone else will steal a spot away from them.
10 ROBIN THE FROG
09 SWEETUMS
08 ROWLF
07 JANICE
06 STATLER & WALDORF 

and the total favorites. always the favorites.
05 BEAKER
04 KERMIT THE FROG
03 ANIMAL
02 GONZO
01 MISS PIGGY 

Beaker and Animal make me laugh harder than any other muppets. Kermit and Gonzo really hit me emotionally on occassion. Though The Muppet Movie (1979) is clearly the best Muppet Movie, my actual favorite is The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) because it's the one that Miss Piggy just thoroughly owns. I lived for her appearances as a little boy. And what that says about me I can guess but would prefer not to!

YOUR TURN. Please to share yours in the comments. What did you think of the new movie and are you hoping that "Life's a Happy Song" or one of the other numbers from The Muppets (2011) gets nominated at the Oscars

Tuesday
Nov292011

Mike Mills on "Beginners" and Making Stories About Ourselves.

Christopher Plummer and Mike Mills promoting "Beginners"Sometimes the beginning of awards season offers pleasant surprises. Such is the case with Beginners, one of the year's best films, which recently debuted on DVD and is now suddenly on the shortlist of potential Oscar contenders with early and surprisingly robust attention from both the Gotham Awards where it won the top prize and the Independent Spirit Awards (3 nominations including Best Feature). 

I had the opportunity to speak with writer/director Mike Mills recently about Beginners, his second feature. The film famously draws heavily from Mills' own life to depict the relationship between a lonely artist named Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his gay father Hal (Christopher Plummer) who comes out late in life shortly before succumbing to cancer. Oliver does his own romantic soul searching with an actress named Anna (Melanie Laurent) after his father's death.

The film moved me deeply this past summer and I told Mills as much as we began to talk. I had just rewatched the film on the morning we spoke.

NATHANIEL: It's so fresh in my memory, but how about you? Have you watched the movie recently?

MIKE MILLS: No. You know, most of my friends are filmmakers. A lot of filmmakers I know, we never watch our films after they're done. They're like old lovers or old worlds we were in. Since I premiered it at Toronto in 2010 I haven't watched the whole thing straight through. I watch parts of it and when I do Q&As I end up watching the end a lot or I peek in. Parts of it are tolerable but watching the whole thing is slightly torturous. More than slightly torturous.

Because you've lived with it for so long?

MILLS: Yeah. I've seen it probably a hundred times in making it. It's not the same experience for me, obviously, as it is for the audience. I'm thinking of all the strings behind the puppets. Maybe in a few years. It's strange. It's kind of sad. My wife [Miranda July] doesn't -- I have a lot of director friends and none of us look at our movies. 

Well, Beginners is also so autobiographical. So is it at all harder to watch for that reason, than say your first feature Thumbsucker

MILLS: It's not -- well, I don't think so. While it is very autobiographical by the time I've written it, turned it into a story, cast Christopher and all these people, it is a story for me; it's not 1 to 1. For me, I'm the most aware of how much it is not my life. But having said that, I do watch the end a lot. So often, I watch Hal die. I've watched Hal die so many times. The section right after that where it talks about what you do when someone passes away, there are some very real things in there. The daisies at the end -- there's a black and white photo of daisies. That's my mom's photo. That part can really hit me. One, it reminds me of my mom. Two, 'whoa! I put something incredibly intimate and vulnerable in this very public thing.' It almost surprises me every time that it's in there.

"They're just personal photos, they're not art."

I was going to ask. It feels so personal. The very specific can become universal of course. But on the other hand, we are aware that it's based on your life. So...

I'm very happy to remember my dad. It's not like a painful thing. Even his death and even his illness and all of that, we had a lot of great times around that. We had more closeness than we had ever had. So most of the stuff I'm showing you in the film are positive memories, things I enjoy being around. To be honest, most of the stuff with the dad... I pretty much wrote down things my father said to me to the best of my memory. But by the time you've put it in a different place, you've put it into a larger fictional context, and you have Christopher saying it, I really don't go "oh, that's my pop". Do you know what I mean?

But those flowers slap me in the face. They kind of sneak up on my every time.  I worked on the father stuff so much and I got really used to thinking of it as the weird hybrid of personal and story.

[more on his fine screenplay, his art, and working with Oscar-buzzing Christopher Plummer]

 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov292011

Spirit Awards: "Take Shelter" & "The Artist" Lead the Nominees

The New York Film Critics Circle isn't even finished with its announcements yet and now we've got The Spirit Award nominations. They have the longest lag time between nominations and ceremony since they aren't even held until the day before the Oscars. Like the NYFCC they've been swerving ever closer to Oscar over the years, often championing a runner-up type of candidate like, say, Sideways or Black Swan. That could be good news for The Artist or The Descendants this year depending on which takes the lead in the Oscar race. Though if you believe the nomination tallies here this could be a very big night for Take Shelter.

BEST FEATURE
50/50 (3 noms total) -review
Beginners (4 noms total) -review
Drive (3 noms total) -review
Take Shelter (5 noms total)
The Artist (5 noms total) -review
The Descendants (4 noms total)

I'm super fond of ½ of this lineup and whenever you're super fond of ½ a lineup you should smile. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the way awards season is aiming to go, The Descendants is my least favorite from their preferred lineup.  

FULL LIST OF NOMINEES AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...