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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Wednesday
May062015

Best Shot Special: The Orson Welles Centennial !

HMWYBS: Mid Season Finale 

Orson Welles  burst on to the cinematic scene in 1941 with Citizen Kane, which has led numerous film polls across the decades as the 'Best Film Ever Made'. (Kane's nearest rivals for the title in frequent pollings here and there seem to be Vertigo and The Godfather) It famously lost all but one of its Oscar nominations (Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz his co-writer took the Original Screenplay prize, Welles' only competitive Oscar) but genius is rarely fully appreciated in its time. Incredibly, the writer/director/actor was only 26 at the time but he was no one hit wonder adding several more classics to his filmography before his death at 70 years of age in 1985. For today's Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode, our midseason finale (the series returns on June 3rd), I asked participants to choose between Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, my personal favorite of his), and The Lady From Shanghai (1948) depending on what they felt like watching.

Gawk at beautiful screengrabs from those movies from 10 Best Shot participants. Click on any of them to be taken to the corresponding article singing that shot's praises...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May062015

Mad Men @ the Movies: "Lost Horizon"

Lynn Lee, back again with Mad Men at the Movies.

With just two episodes left, “Mad Men” still has too much business to wrap up to spend much time on or at the movies.  But it’s surely no accident that the title of this week’s episode was “Lost Horizon” – a reference that’s popped up before on this show, but never with such direct resonance.

Lost Horizon, a bestselling novel written by James Hilton (who also penned Goodbye, Mr. Chips) between the two world wars, was made into a successful 1937 movie starring Ronald Colman and is most famous for introducing Shangri-La, fabled utopia of blissful ease and tranquility.  But while Shangri-La may be a haven, it’s also a prison—and, even within the narrative of Lost Horizon, possibly an illusion.  The entire plot is driven by a plan to deceive and kidnap a small group of random strangers and bring them by force to Shangri-La, where they each react very differently to what it offers them.

The parallels are obvious as our Sterling Cooper survivors gingerly transition to their new roles at McCann Erickson.  More...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May062015

"A bright guilty world." - On The Lady From Shanghai

Hit Me With Your Best Shot S6.10
Mid Season Finale (See all the pics tonight at 11!)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)
Directed by Orson Welles. Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.


Though we're usually tasked to watch the same film for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, today for the Orson Welles Centennial, participants had their choice of three films. I chose The Lady From Shanghai (1948) largely because the only image I ever see for it online is Orson Welles seizing Rita Hayworth, both of them reflected by mirrors in the über famous "Crazy House" finale. It's one of those movie sequences you learn by osmosis just watching other movies (remember Woody Allen's take on it in Manhattan Murder Mystery?) even before you get around to this 1948 noir (Technicall IMDb says 1947 but it was released practically everywhere in 1948). Though the hall of mirrors contains roughly 50 shots that could justifiably be called "Best" it's their proximity and their dizzying accumulation of lies (all about to shatter) that really does it for me so I looked elsewhere.

The Lady From Shanghai is gorgeously uncluttered. It's as if only the basic tropes have room to exist: the femme fatale, the narrating dupe, the shadows, and the crimes. It's so self aware it even toasts its own genre halfway through...

Here's to crime!"

You might even call it minimalist despite the famously baroque visual finale. It was the fourth Orson Welles picture and the first to be ignored entirely by the Academy when it opened in the summer of 1948 but it won the important battle: standing the test of time.

The movie plays its hand immediately, informing you that Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) will be Michael O'Hara's (Orson Welles) undoing. But every time you look at her, which is often since Welles and Lawton Jr give Hayworth star vehicle closeups throughout, you hope it won't be true.  One very smart recurring visual motif is that Mrs Bannister is bathed in light more often than she's in shadow. She so clearly has her own key light that at the tail end of the movie's first sequence, when Welles jumps in a horse drawn carriage with her, their images seem artificially conjoined since he's so shadowy and she's so bright.

But this lighting motif is a lie, one you catch if you a) believe the narration and b) listen to the dialogue of the film's oiliest and most repulsive character who refers to the paradise around these rich sharks as a  "bright guilty world." One notable exception, the one I'd select as Best Shot if I could have two conjoined images to illustrate a point, is when Elsa and O'Hara meet in an quarium. This time they're both bathed in shadows though something is very different about the shots: when O'Hara stands next to the glass they're like harmless magnified fishies; when Elsa picks a spot to stand the marine life is far more disturbing, gasping for air. 

But for Best Shot I'm going minimal, and brightly lit, conveying the intoxication of Rita Hayworth. The shot below is breathtaking in its sensuality; Elsa gets the full glamour treatment, the glistening eyes and slightly parted mouth, the soft but ample lighting. But Welles doesn't rest on his co-star and lover's beauty alone. There's an impressive array of choreographed movement that keeps whiplashing the camera back to her, reclined, through lots of business with her three men and one cigarette. You're constantly aware of the relationships between the four principles. This is is not a typical triangulated affair or evil quartet but a circle with Elsa Bannister always at its center.

best shot

And since we're speaking of juxtapositions, if you pair this hypnotic sequence -- your eyes are getting heavier... You will do whatever Rita breathily implores! -- with an even more brightly lit but far less serene shot of her face in the climax, this star turn reveals itself as quite a bifurcated triumph; it's half fawning iconography (until the mask of her glamour finally drops) and half shifty performance. 

By all means if you haven't seen this movie -- or any of Orson Welles's masterpieces, do. 

Wednesday
May062015

Critics Choice TV Nominations 2015

The BFCA's sibling, the BTJA (Broadcast Television Journalist Association) has released their nominations for the 2014/2015 television season. Let it serve as your annual reminder that for as much as the world likes to complain about official industry-insider nominations each year, sometimes critics don't improve it a whole lot. I mean this is a whole separate organization and they still can't bother to nomination RuPaul for reality television categories? The Shade of It All. They're still nominating Jessica Lange for American Horror Story even though she looked fairly bored to be there this year doing the same ole thing (faded has been beauty desperate to hold on to her glory) in a show that's meant to give its actors new characters to play each year. They also skipped on Mad Men's final season which is pretty unforgiveable if you ask me given how excellent it's been. But perhaps with the nominations hitting this early, they voted before they had seen much of it. 

The best thing I can say for them is that they don't seem to be trying to predict the Emmys at all (witness the low showing for Game of Thrones and Modern Family for example) which we can only hope will happen one of these years with the BFCAs in relation to the Oscars. Their nominations, which you've already guessed horrify me beyond a surprise nod for horrified Eva Green are after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May062015

Smackdown May 31st - Pass It On !

UPDATE / MAKE NOTE: Date Changed to Sunday June 7th. 

It's decided. After listening to your comments and perusing the lists again we've narrowed down which years we'll be doing this summer. The next Supporting Actress Smackdown will be 1979... So get to watching out there for maximum enjoyment when it arrives. And your enjoyment comes before that if you do because, BONUS, this is a good batch of films even beyond these talented ladies. 

  • Jane Alexander - Kramer Vs. Kramer
  • Barbara Barrie - Breaking Away
  • Candice Bergen - Starting Over
  • Mariel Hemingway - Manhattan
  • Meryl Streep - Kramer Vs. Kramer

PANELISTS TBA

P.S. This also means that 1979 will be our unofficial 'year of the month' so we'll have other '79 related bits and bobs for you at the end of May. Please to enjoy. Any requests?