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Tuesday
Dec022014

Fairie Dust Placeholder

I'm very sorry to inform you that I, Nathaniel, will have to watch "Peter Pan Live!" less than "live". If you're watching tonight from the West Coast, please note that Anne Marie and Margaret will be live-blogging right here as it airs in Los Angeles, 8 PM PST/11 PM EST

Tuesday
Dec022014

National Board of Review's Most Violent Awards

Glenn here with the NBR results as they come to hand. They used to be the first awards of the season to announce their winners, but now the National Board of Review are trumped annually by the Gotham Awards and the NYFCC in the merry-go-round that is award season. I maintain that unless you're a guild, your absence is more or less moot. However, it can definitely help get your name and face out there to be acknowledged early and often. The NBR is where the likes of Moulin Rouge! and Amy Ryan made it known that they would be forces to be reckoned with. What did this 105-year-old group select this year? Let's find out...

NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW WINNERS

  • Best Film: A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
  • Best Director: Clint Eastwood, AMERICAN SNIPER
  • Best Actor: (tie!) Oscar Isaac, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR and Michael Keaton, BIRDMAN
  • Best Actress: Julianne Moore, STILL ALICE
  • Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, BIRDMAN
  • Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
  • Best Original Screenplay: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, THE LEGO MOVIE
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, INHERENT VICE
  • Best Animated Feature: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
  • Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Appears to not exist this year?
  • Breakthrough Performance: Jack O'Connell, STARRED UP and UNBROKEN
  • Best Directorial Debut: Gillian Robespierre, OBVIOUS CHILD
  • Best Foreign Language Film: WILD TALES (Argentina)
  • Best Documentary: LIFE ITSELF
  • William K. Everson Film History Award: Scott Eyman
  • Best Ensemble: FURY
  • Spotlight Award: Chris Rock for writing, directing, producing and starring in TOP FIVE
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award: SELMA and ROSEWATER

What exactly does Clint Eastwood have on these people that they give him an award for almost every single movie he makes? Best director for American Sniper and a placement on their top ten (below) seems... extravagant.

 

 

Anyway, it was a big day for A Most Violent Year winning three big prizes including best film. Will this film fall alongside the likes of Quills as a NBR best picture winner without a corresponding Oscar nomination in the same category? That super, ultra, very-very late release date still makes me worried. Whatever the case may be, the NBR loved it and good on A24. Ever the wealth-spreader, the mysterious organization liked The Lego Movie enough to give it a rather shocking (although not entirely undeserved) screenplay win and top ten placement, yet Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 took out the animated film prize. They consolidated their breakthrough prizes into one award for handsome Jack O'Connell. Fair enough, I suppose. Meanwhile, after Jennifer Kent's win at the NYFFF and now Gillian Robespierre's win at the NBR, women directors are staking a claim to breakthrough director awards in 2014!

TOP FILMS
(alphabetical)

  • AMERICAN SNIPER
  • BIRDMAN
  • BOYHOOD
  • FURY
  • GONE GIRL
  • THE IMITATION GAME
  • INHERENT VICE
  • THE LEGO MOVIE
  • NIGHTCRAWLER
  • UNBROKEN

Remember, this is basically places 2-11 hence A Most Violent Year's omission. I don't claim to know how that works, but let's just roll with it. Very happy to see Nightcrawler here as now that the flurry of indie nominations have surpassed, citations for the Jake Gyllenhaal movie may be hard to come by. The rest of the list is pretty standard, although the people behind The Theory of Everything, Big Eyes, Foxcatcher, Into the Woods, Grand Budapest Hotel, Wild and Whiplash will all be a bit miffed that they didn't receive a single token nomination anywhere amidst the NBR's field. Selma, too, being stuck with that kiddie-table "Freedom of Expression" award feels like a disappointment for that team, too.

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)

  • FORCE MAJEURE (Sweden)
  • GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIAN AMSALAM (Israel)
  • LEVIATHAN (Russia)
  • TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Belgium)
  • WE ARE THE BEST! (Sweden)

I think the recognition of Lukas Moodysson's ace teen movie We Are the Best! is my favourite of the NBR's choices. Way to go, NBR! Y'all should go watch it immediately. Three of these films (plus Wild Tales, their actual foreign film winner - again, confusingly) are eligible for Oscar, with the Dardennes' Two Days, One Night now appearing on multiple award lists after the NYFCC yesterday.

Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)

  • ART AND CRAFT
  • JODOROWSKY'S DUNE
  • KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON
  • THE KILL TEAM
  • LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM

All six documentaries cited - Life Itself won the big prize as noted up top - are on Oscar's 15-wide doc shortlist. That's some good dart-throwing, NBR!

Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order) 

  • BLUE RUIN
  • LOCKE
  • A MOST WANTED MAN
  • MR. TURNER
  • OBVIOUS CHILD
  • THE SKELETON TWINS
  • SNOWPIERCER
  • STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS
  • STARRED UP
  • STILL ALICE

Ignoring the pure idiocy of a list like this that makes no sense (are independent films not eligible elsewhere?), this is a good batch of flicks. Blue Ruin! I was ecstatic to see Stand Clear of the Closing Doors get an acting nomination at the Indie Spirits the other day, and now this little mention. That film is so good and I suggest y'all check it out if you can. It's small, but beautiful. Beautiful can't be used to describe Starred Up starring Ben Mendelsohn and breakthrough winner Jack O'Connell, but I'm glad it showed up, too. Likewise The Skeleton Twins and Obvious Child, two of the best comedies this year that I'm sure the Globes will ignore almost entirely.

What do you make of this year's NBR awards? I'm sure we'll have more to say about them later when Nathaniel returns from hobnobbing with Angelina Jolie and I am salivating at the thought of another hilarious podcast as they discuss Clint Eastwood's magnetic hold over the NBR, but for now did they get it right? Embarassingly wrong? Let us know!

Tuesday
Dec022014

Ebert, Snowden and Wim Wenders on High-Profile Documentary Shortlist

The Academy has announced the 15-wide documentary shortlist and apart from one title, it's is a very high-profile group of names. At least they are if you follow the world of documentary. I had discussed with a friend recently that last year's field may go down as the greatest in the category's history, but depending on how the branch votes this year they may just surpass it. I have already seen nine of the 15 and can vouch for almost all of them. Let's take a look.

  • Art and Craft
  • The Case Against 8 (review)
  • Citizen Koch
  • Citizenfour (podcast | Glenn's review)
  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • The Internet's Own Boy
  • Jodorowsky's Dune
  • Keep On Keepin' On
  • The Kill Team
  • Last Days in Vietnam (review)
  • Life Itself
  • The Overnighters
  • The Salt of the Earth
  • Tales of the Grim Sleeper (NYFF review | AFI review)
  • Virunga

There are some big names in here. Apart from the likes of Edward Snowden Roger Ebert, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Clark Terry who are the subjects of the shortlist's most recognisable titles, there's also Wim Wenders (co-directed with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado) who is contending for his third documentary Oscar citation (after Beuna Vista Social Club and Pina) and first win with The Salt of the Earth, while Nick Broomfield is angling for his first ever nomination with Tales of the Grim Sleeper despite a big career. It appears the new documentary rules are finally working in his favor! Carl Deal and Tia Lesson are back with Citizen Koch after Trouble the Water was a nominee in 2008. While, most famously, Steve James, the director of Life Itself, is no stranger to Oscar controversies (but we'll talk about that in a couple of days!)

Since we all enjoy a spot of prognasticating, I'd be looking most heavily at Citizenfour, Keep on Keepin' On, Last Days in Vietnam (they love docs about Vietnam!) Life Itself, The Overnighters, although it would be sweet to see Broomfield finally nominated for an Oscar, especially since his pair of Aileen Wournos docs so heavily influenced another Oscar-winner: Monster. Finding Vivian Maier, the blockbuster of the field (until Citizenfour overtakes it this week) shouldn't be discounted either. I'd assume Virunga a threat for a nomination but between Project Nim and Blackfish, animal documentaries appear to be out of favor at the moment.

Left out of the field? Well, considering there were 134 semi-finalists, that's a long list! However, some of the more high-profile titles that didn't make the shortlist cut include The Dog, 20,000 Days on Earth, Rich Hill, Happy Valley, Particle Fever, National Gallery, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, Antarctica: A Year on Ice, Manakamana, Nas: Time is Illmatic, Finding Fela and Whitey: United States of America vs James J Bulger. Just quietly, I know it was popular and was assumed a shortlist placing, but I'm kind of glad Red Army isn't on here. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of those - The Dog, Manakamana and the Nick Cave-centric 20,000 Days on Earth especially - popped up on critic organisation lists though. As far as Oscar goes, however, they're sadly done.

Do you follow the documentary category now that bigger films and bigger names are finding themselves on the list? What are you doc hunches?

Tuesday
Dec022014

Team FYC: The Homesman for Cinematography

Editor's Note: For the next ten days or so as awards season heats up, we'll be featuring individual Team Experience FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, SAG, Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Manuel to kick things off. 


Rodrigo Prieto is one of the best cinematographers around. From the gritty urban landscapes of Amores Perros and the color-coded visual triptych that is Babel to the painterly tableaus of Frida and the kinetic Iranian vistas of Argo, Prieto has been slowly amassing quite the filmography, working with the likes of Alejandro González Iñarritú, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodóvar, Oliver Stone, and Ang Lee. It was the first collaboration with that two-time Academy Award winning director that netted Prieto his first Oscar nomination for capturing the breathtaking mountains that shepherded the tragic Western romance of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain.

He’s back in contention this year for another twist on the Western with Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman. The film focuses on Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and George Briggs (Jones) as they make their way from Nebraska to Iowa in hopes of delivering three unstable women to the care of Altha Carter (Meryl Streep) whose husband runs a church that cares for the mentally ill.

A patient and meditative film, The Homesman showcases Prieto’s great gift for making (in this case mid-) Western landscapes look sublime in the Kantian sense of the word. The barren lands Cuddy and Briggs traverse are grand, vast and majestic; “nature considered in an aesthetic judgment as might that has no dominion over us" as Kant would say. Much of The Homesman depends on the awe-inspiring and terrifying notion of that ever-receding horizon, at once limitless and infinite; promising evermore possibility while denying ever attaining it. In The Homesman, nature is both desolate and beautiful, something Prieto’s endless painterly frames evoke throughout Jones’s film. But while it’d be easy to attribute Prieto’s accomplishments to capturing the natural beauty of the Nebraskan wilderness, what struck me about Prieto’s lensing is the way his static frames both boxed these characters with a relentless indifference that indexed the harsh wilderness around them while also lighting them with a warmth that honed in on where the film’s empathy for the five travellers lies.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the way Prieto recycles seemingly clichéd images of a silhouetted lonely horse-riding figure lit by a brazen, fiery light: man framed against a godforsaken world. They’re two small moments that show Briggs and Cuddy succeeding over man and nature alike; both beautifully-lit and framed by Prieto, making use of an ever-receding natural light in one and of a blazing fire in the other. They’re striking, yes, but they also beautifully illuminate these characters’ resilience even as they’re being swallowed whole by the wilderness around them.

Can Nebraska make it two in a row in the cinematography category, after Phedon Papamichael’s nomination last year? The big push for Jones’s film seems to be in the Best Actress category, but I’m hoping that as voters queue this up for Swank’s wonderfully realized performance, they’ll also give props to Prieto, who’s overdue for a return trip to the Dolby.

Tuesday
Dec022014

Tweets o' the Week: Prada Reunion, Ill Juli, Flu Season

I have no idea if y'all like this now weeklyish roundup but I do so I'ma Keep On Keepin On. One fun thing that doesn't lend itself to highlighting elsewhere is reply conversations. So if you're interested in 'Bad Movies We Love' you should check out all the fun suggestions for favorite turkeys when I asked over Thanksgiving. I haven't seen several of the ones cited so I must get on that.

Anywhere here we go...

Tweets That Amused/Enlightened This Week, Non-Celebrity Division
Just for fun and with a smidge of Instagram...

 

LOL. "Starlog". Who is old enough to remember that magazine? Nathaniel asks while raising his hand sheepishly.

Best Broadway Trivia Ever

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec022014

Curio: Cinema Greetings

Alexa here with your weekly arts and crafts break. Every year around this time I hunker down with a good cup of tea (possibly spiked), some DVDs and a reliable pen so that I can start addressing all those holiday greetings.  Although I curse at having to address 100+ envelopes, I do love getting all the lovely mail in return. I am still waiting for someone to come up with a good Bad Santa greeting but here are some of the cooler handmade film-themed greetings spied this year.

Mark Darcy's jumper card available here.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec012014

Gotham Awards 2014. The Winners...

Will it be Birdman, Boyhood, Love is Strange, Grand Budapest Hotel, or Under the Skin tonight? Read on for the winners and commentary.   

8:01 Uma Thurman the awards host is even more mannered than Uma Thurman the actress. Who knew? (I love Uma so I can say that. If you're no Umaphile you'd best shut it! 

8:14 IFP is bragging about IFP. Which is okay. This is the raison d'etre of Awards Bodies essentially.

8:18 First Uma, now Heather Graham? It's getting very 90s up in herrre.

8:20 I've been pronouncing "Riz" wrong in "Riz Ahmed" as it turns out. Breakthrough Actor goes to Tessa Thompson in Dear White People. P.S. She's also really good in Selma. I love that they announce the juries. This prize was given by Shane Carruth, Michael B Jordan, Ron Simons and two actresses we love up in herre Famke Janssen & Brie Larson

8:25 Ana Lily Amirpour wins Breakthrough Director for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The other much-raved debut horror film from a woman this year (The Babadook wasn't nominated). Her acceptance speech is awesome. 

Tilda Swinton here and I'm like... GODDESS! Maybe if I can meet her and take a photo with her...

8:30 Meryl Streep is here to talk up Foxcatcher and give it a special prize for ensemble. She seems to really love it. Calls Channing Tatum a...

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