in theaters

review index

new on DVD/BluRay

review index



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


Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun


"I loved Clarke's scenes with Edgerton in The Great Gatsby. I thought, oh now I'm watching men not boys, and now I'm watching actors not movie stars.-Adri

"He has become someone I look for in films because he always comes across with such honesty." -Henry


Keep TFE Strong

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience


For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

What'cha Looking For?

Best of Year Pt 1: I Am Thirty-Two Flavors

I tossed. I turned. I Excel'ed. I Worded. I laughed at myself. I laughed at everyone else and their equally crazy assertions during top ten season. I worried what y'all might think. I worried about how I do think! And then I cast it all aside and just started typing and getting real with myself. You see, in earlier drafts of this Hugo and The Tree of Life, for example, were much higher but you know what? This is not consensus. This is me. Year End "Best" naming rituals are meant to be personal even though they're communal. Gather 'round my fire. There are plenty of places to keep warm, this being just one of them. (If you must skip ahead a few pages The Tree of Life dropped a few notches and Hugo no longer appears at all; I do not miss it all and, thus, made the right call.)

I kept trying to find a cutoff point for my year end "best" that I feel comfortable with and the magic finally happened at 32! The thirty-two highlighted films are my touchstones from this year at the multiplex. They're the only ones I just could not let go of when I tried to gather my memories and glue them awkwardly into this online scrapbook thingie known as The Film Experience. Two of the films even got glued together and I couldn't get them unstuck (Longtime readers will know I don't approve of ties but what the hell: new decade, more flexibility! If you're a purist shove everything else down one notch.)

squint your eyes and look closer
I'm not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
and I'm beyond your peripheral vision
so you might want to turn your head
cause someday you're going to get hungry
and eat most of the words you just said

The following thirty-two pictures were presented in vaguely ascending order but then the stairs were all rearranged to fit them into categories and for flow so don't read anything into the order...

Planet Ape
The year's cinema was overflowing with adorable dogs (too many to mention) and doomed cats (The Future, Dragon Tattoo) but the animal that seized the heart and truly shook us -- opposable thumbs are so handy! -- was the chimpanzee. The Oscar documentary finalist Project Nim charts the disastrous emotional fall out of a science experiment in the 1970s in which a chimp ("Nim") was raised by agonizingly fallible humans and taught sign language. Rise of the Planet of the Apes charts the disastrous sociological fall out of a science experiment in the right-now in which a chimp ("Cesar") is raised by a agonizingly naive human and granted super intelligence. Nim was a very real living thing and his heartbreaking story makes you want to scream "NOOOooooooo" as forcefully as the imaginary Cesar does at the climax of his own tale. That Cesar feels nearly as real as Nim is thanks to the Marlon Brando of mo-cap acting Andy Serkis, a brilliant visual effects team, and the superb action direction of Rupert Wyatt. (Wyatt's command is so impressive that the pictures fairly obvious flaws don't even register until well after the movie ends. If I were a Hollywood executive I'd be wining and dining him and offering him every franchise job on the calendar until he picked one.)

Favorite Unrewardables
The best thing I saw this year that's not eligible for my annual Film Bitch Awards is The Loneliest Planet (previously reviewed), about an engaged couple exploring a foreign land, which went unreleased. It had me from the stomping alien mundanity of its first image but in the end what really made it work for me was its sense of touch. That's rarer and rarer in our weightless CGI world but the images just felt so tangible: a lovers caress, cold water in your hair, rocky ground under foot; turns out when a movie is that good at touching, it's hard not to feel it. I could reward Clio Barnard's The Arbor, which did get a brief release, but I wouldn't know how. It's ostensibly a memoir doc about the short life of the troubled playwright Andrea Dunbar. But is it a documentary? Barnard's riveting experiment still uses traditional documentary tools like reenactments and talking head interviews but performs them instead, with actors lipsynching. There are so many layers it's suffocating; all the better to pull you under with these lives trapped in hand-me-down poverty and addiction. That probably doesn't sound like an endorsment but The Arbor sure is a fascinating novelty act.

Hip To Be Square
Who knew that we needed a 29th version of dusty Jane Eyre? Turns out we did! Okay okay okay... even if we didn't it was welcome since it was a beautifully rendered stride forward in four cinematic journeys we're on board with: Michael Fassbender seems to take another leap forward every three months, Mia Wasikowska is one of our most promising young actresses and this is her best film performance yet, director Cary Fukunaga and his cinematographer Adriano Goldman, who are two for two (see also Sin Nombre) are not just unusually capable but also unpredictable. We'll jump on their next vehicle whether that means more speeding trains or horse drawn carriages or something else entirely.

Two more unhip choices, abundant foreign pleasures and a few "only you could make this" treasures... After the jump.

Click to read more ...


Happy New Year !

May yours be...

... as gorgeously lit and directed (but less violent) as Ralph & Angela's!

... as romantic as Harry & Sallys. festive but less scarily eventful than Shelley Winters'!

...and as hilarious as an evening with Martha Plimpton would be if anyone showed up!


be safe and happy and see you in 2012 right here! 


P.S. apologies on the top ten list. year in review starts in full force tomorrow. it's half written!


Five Linky Pieces

But You're, Like, Really Pretty has fun reimaginings of all those actresses once rumored for the Lisbeth Salandar role like Evan Rachel Wood. Mia Wasikowska is actually the closest to a Rooney Mara look and Anne Hathaway is just so wrong. (My what big eyes she has!)

The Hollywood Reporter looks at the 'Contender Cast-Offs'. Those films we kept wanting to put into Oscar lists but which kept not having release dates like Wettest Country and On the Road

The Atlantic thinks A Better Life made a stunning case for immigration reform. (That movie sure is keeping itself in the spotlight well past its summer run!)

The New York Times has a fun piece on the personal angst of top ten lists by Dan Kois.

Empire grills celebrities on movies they enjoyed this year. Zac Efron likes "freaky" movies like The Skin I Live In and Shame (who knew?) and Emma Stone is a walking FYC for Bridesmaids which she calls a "game-changer". Patton Oswalt, who I can vouch for as a movie maniac since I've heard him gab about movies casually in person with fellow industry types loves The Tree of Life and Bellflower


Distant Relatives: 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Tree of Life

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.

It's not exactly the secret of the cinematic year that Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terrence Malick's Tree of Life are two films of a similar kind. Indeed as Tree of Life hype grew to its crescendo this past spring and reviews started hitting the web it seemed like almost a requirement for writers to reference the 1968 science fiction classic. There were, I think, three reasons for this. First, which we'll get to shortly, that the two films do indeed have much in common in terms of theme and narrative. Second that both are epic length stories that many cinephiles consider high-water marks in the medium, and finally the involvement of Douglas Trumbull whose special effects work helped realize 2001: A Space Odyssey. When it was announced that he'd be working on The Tree of Life and creating sequences of a cosmic nature, the inexorable relationship between these two movies seemed predestined, and no one had even seen the Malick film yet. But with all the hooting about space and science fiction and experimental narrative and Trumble effects, the connection between 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Tree of Life now feels more like a solid fact to state and less like a flexible area to explore. So let's explore it.
Questions about the meaning of life, ponderances about the origin of the world and wonderment about how it all connects isn't a new or even unusal theme in moviedom. But most of the time, in fact almost all of the time, filmmakers feel the need to create an onscreen surrogate for both themselves and the audience to ask these questions. So most films about the meaning of life involve a solitary figure, a writer or an artist or a chess-playing knight meandering about wondering out loud what it all means. In movies about the meaning of life, it is the goal of the protagonist to find the meaning of life. Not so in The Tree of Life and 2001. While characters do ponder big mysteries, it's the narrative itself that takes us to the origins of creation. And to be clear, I'm using the term "origins of creation" pretty loosely here applying it to both the big bang for The Tree of Life and the early evolution of man for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Events past, much like stars in the sky, seem to be much farther from us and closer to one another than truth would have it. But in each film, the point is the same, that the events that will make up the significant dramatic conflict in the picture mean very little without cosmic context.

This context involves where we've been, where we are, and where we're going, scientifically & religiously speaking. The purpose of showing both the grandeur of the universe and the primal nature of man's past is to suggest our smallness and the smallness of the characters in these films. To them, their lives and their conflicts are the encompass of their universe. But in the scope of history, they are miniscule. Malick and Kubrick do this by creating worlds that at first seem dissimilar but upon further investigation are very alike. If there's any consistent criticism of Stanley Kubrick it's that he is a "cold" director, caring less for his humans than for his technique. 2001: A Space Odyssey plays into the hands of this criticism, featuring stoic human characters and providing our only emotional payoff from the mind of a machine. This seems in great contrast to Malick's film about the daily life, fears, loves and feelings of a family. But Malick's filmography has always presented us with the image of a harmonious world invaded by human violence, apathy, and destruction. The present set segments of The Tree of Life (the ones featuring Sean Penn that have been criticized as a somewhat pointless framing device) show us a world constructed, or is that destructed, by modern technology, and are as cold and austere as anything found in a Kubrick film.

But neither director holds as much ill-will toward the human race as you may suspect. Both films ultimately take us to our unknown future, whether that be the future of one man or all of humanity is, in both cases, ambiguous at best. Interpretations of the "star child" into which astronaut Dave Bowman turns at the end of 2001 are varied and range from the suggestion of alien manipulation to natural evolution to spiritual rebirth. Kubrick's film's finale may generally be considered more atheistic than Malick's but even the then pope (John Paul II, quite the film buff) was said to be a fan and considered the film one of great spirituality. This spirituality is how most people have viewed The Tree of Life's final sequence which presents us with a "heaven" that doesn't exactly adhere to any specific religion's interpretation of such a place, but still seems to present man's ultimate destination as one of great peace, community and beauty. In addition to this, both films seem to view mankind's journey to this ultimate destination as one essentially intertwined with the act of creation and the relationship between the creator and the created, whether it be ape and tool, parent and child, scientist and AI, god and man, and may I add, filmmaker and film. The message seems to be that it is creation that give us meaning, and advances us from insignificantly miniscule and suffering to, ultimately, a state of grace.

Other Cinematic Relatives: Such is the uniqueness of these two films, no other were immediately apparent to me. I'll let you fill in your suggestions in the comments.


A Raggedy Oscar Podcast Reunion

Surprise! The old team is back together momentarily. Clearly we need more time than 40 minutes to get into everything that's going on in the Oscar race so this one is a totally raggedy conversation... a la Margaret and Rampart, two films that are discussed.

So welcome back to Katey, Joe, Nick from Nathaniel, your host here at The Film Experience.

UPDATE: The entire podcast is embedded below but it is having some trouble playing all the way through with Google Chrome. Works perfectly in Firefox or download from iTunes

Topics include but are not limited to:
• Cooking tips from The Help
The Iron Lady and Streep's hard sell for the third Oscar
• Team Margaret and Team Rampart, two wildly underseen movies that share some intuitive storytelling and vivid ensemble work.
• Critical advocacy in the age of consensus
• The silly battle lines drawn between Hugo & The Artist
• Shailene Woodley and Nick's Descendants agnosticism.

A Raggedy Oscar Reunion


Papa Linkes

AV Club Excellent "Why don't you like this?" argument over Hugo. I liked Hugo more than Tasha does but significantly less than Scott but I found the Moulin Rouge! comparisons especially fascinating. crunches the numbers on Best Director, with 15 directors already honored somewhere or somehow.
Vulture who had the bluest eyes in War Horse? Not Joey, the humans. 

Roger Ebert on why movie theater audience is down. Normally I think this topic is overworked but he gets a few really succinct points in and I had no idea that Netflix's instant watch streaming numbers show a preference for art film fare!
First Showing David Fincher on why he made each of his pictures. That people are still wondering why he felt he needed to make Dragon Tattoo even after seeing it, is maybe a problem. :)
Movie|Line I lol'ed heartily reading this calendar of dates to watch in 2012 David Ehrlich's writes a quite funny piece on the "Overrated" titles of 2011

What are you doing New Year's Eve? ♫

Ahhhhh (500) Days of Summer reunion for Winter!

Indiewire the top ten box office hits, subtitled division. France rules as per usual.
Anne Thompson on why The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is struggling at the box office. 
Cinema Blend on disappointing films of the year. Death to hype!

Finally... I wanted to take this moment to say goodbye to Cheetah from the Tarzan movies who supposedly died this past weekend. A lot of chimps played Cheetah of course as there are a ton of Tarzan movies and The Wall Street Journal claims this could not have actually been the one from the Weismuller/O'Sullivan movies. Supposedly Cheetah was 80 but life expectancies for his species is like 35 so that's baffling. Human life expectancy is like 67 years and how many 140somethings do you know? It seems weird to say "favorite thing!" about obituary madness but I was delighted to see Mia Farrow tweeting about it.

I'd been debating whether or not to make a big to do of Tarzan's centennial in 2012 (October to be exact) though I suspect most readers aren't into that particular swinger since comments tend to be lowsville on Tarzan moments here. That's one franchise that really seems dead. RIP. 


The Oldest Living "Best Actress" Nominees

Let's hear it for ladies of a certain age!

Mary Tyler Moore, television icon and an Oscar nominee for a terrifically icy variation on one of Oscar's favorite archetypes 'the monster mom' in Ordinary People (1980) turns 75 years old today. The last picture I can find of her out and about is the one to your left taken at the premiere of "Follies" starring Bernadette Peters (DO NOT MISS IT IF YOU'RE IN NYC!) which is just about the most appropriate show an aging diva can be seen at since it's all about aging showgirls looking back on their lives. (It's also one of the best musicals ever written but let's not get distracted...)

Mary Tyler Moore got me to thinking about the endurance of our beloved Best Actress nominees. There have been various media Oscar mash notes over the years that have claimed that winning an Oscar helps you live longer and while I can't possibly aim to verify that it does give one pause to realize that Mary Tyler Moore and Vanessa Redgrave just barely made this list. Jane Fonda &  Liv Ullman didn't even qualify.


01 Luise Methusaleh Rainer (nearly 102 years old)
This two time Oscar winner, the first back-to-back competitive Oscar winner (The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth) is the oldest living Oscar winner or nominee from any category. She turns 102 on January 12th.
Still working? Nope... though she still holds court on occasion. She left the movies behind pretty quickly after her prime.

02 Olivia de Havilland (95 years old)
03 Joan Fontaine (94 years old)
Still working? Nope. The famously estranged Oscar-winning sisters were born to British parents in Japan and became Hollywood stars in short succession in the late 30s. Though Joan beat her older sister to the first family Oscar, Olivia triumphed by winning twice. They're both retired and rarely seen in the media. Fontaine supposedly still lives in California. De Havilland, who has lived in France for decades, did show up at the latest Cesar Awards (the French Oscars) where she received a well deserved standing ovation.

Eleanor Parker was a member of one of the most famous Best Actress shortlists of all time in 1950. The year of Bette vs. Gloria when Judy Holliday snuck in and won.

04 Eleanor Parker (89 years old)
The star of Caged (1950) won the Venice Volpi Cup but Oscar always eluded her despite three nominations. If Oscar would ever think to give actresses honorary Oscars, rather than vaguely film-related female celebrities and men from any film profession, she would certainly be worth considering. She's most famous nowadways for her Baroness role in The Sound of Music for which she was not nominated.
Still working? No. Extremely low profile since that last gasp of TV guest work in the 80s.

05 Doris Day (87 years old)
Speaking of Honorary Oscars... her fans get noisy about that all the time. One of the few people you can say "living legend" about without anyone disputing the title. 
Still working? No. Some people believe that Oscar isn't interested in an honorary because she's not likely to show up.

06 Julie Harris (newly 86 years old)
She was an awards magnet in the 1950s, winning Emmys and Tonys and being Oscar nominated for The Member of the Wedding (1952). She played James Dean's girl in the classic East of Eden. It's on the stage where her legend truly resides though. She's won five competitive Tony Awards, which means she's tied with Angela Lansbury for the most wins ever.
Still working? Every once in a while -- her last film was The Lightkeepers (2010).

06 Fernanda Montenegro (82 years old)
The Brazilian legend won a well deserved Oscar nomination for Central Station (1998) which was also up for Best Foreign Film.
Still working? Yep. Next up is a role for Manoel de Oliviera, Portugal's 103 year old prolific director!

07 Joanne Woodward (81 years old)
Mrs. Paul Newman, one of the most acclaimed actors of her generation, won her gold man for The Three Faces of Eve but have you ever seen her work in her husband's debut directorial film Rachel, Rachel? Wow!
Still working? Very very infrequently. Her last major film year was 1993 when she played Tom Hanks's mother in Philadelphia and provided the narration for Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence.

More powerhouse legends after the jump... Gena, Baby Doll, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and a couple of Dames that are still acting and hugely beloved for multiple generations. 

Click to read more ...