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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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Michelle Pfeiffer and Grease 2

"I can't pass a ladder without seriously considering whether I should climb it and start belting Cool Rider" -Joey

"No matter what anyone says (even Nathaniel!), Grease 2 is awesome and Pfeiffer is wonderful in it."-Charlie

 

Interviews

Melissa Leo (The Most Hated Woman in America)
Ritesh Batra (The Sense of an Ending)
Asghar Farhadi (Salesman)

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Monday
Dec292014

Reviewish: Into the Woods, Musical Numbers Ranked

This review originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Once upon a time Stephen Sondheim wrote a musical classic Into the Woods. The first act brings together classic fairy tale characters into one comic misadventure and the second act debunks the “happily ever after” myth and transforms the whole play into a masterpiece about virtually all the Big Stuff: growing up, parenting, marriage, death, rebuilding after great loss.

Cinderella's family mocking our movie musical anxiety

When it comes to lines we can repurpose to talk about the prospects of a film version, Little Red said it best:

It made me feel excited. well, excited and scared.

Isn’t that how devotees of the movie musical feel each time a new one arrives? A bit of background to justify the high-anxiety. The live-action movie musical died alongside Bob Fosse's alter ego in All That Jazz (1979). The genre was six feet under for two full decades despite intermittent attempts at excavating its exquisite corpse (Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies). The Disney animation renaissance of the 1990s renewed interest and the genre was successfully reborn at the turn of the century by the one-two-three-four punch of Dancer in the Dark, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Moulin Rouge! and Chicago. That's a four consecutive high quality film run that this ancient-newborn genre has yet to match since. And why is that exactly? Some people blame the lack of strong directors who are skilled in the form, others the resistance to new blood (nearly all modern musicals are adaptations). Still more culprits are Hollywood’s frequent miscasting since musical skill is considered optional.

But The Witch (Meryl Streep) would like us to stop bitching and get on with this review...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec292014

Lead Actress Chat-a-long

Epix only uploads tiny pieces of this for viewing but someone has uploaded their whole Best Actress roundtable. The Supporting Actress version was up briefly before being pulled so watch it while you can. Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Emily Blunt, Shailene Woodley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Jessica Chastain.

 

They talk for about 10 minutes at the beginning about singing and musicals -- someone needs to cast Gugu in a traditional musical straightaway!  

UPDATE: Though the special presentations are not available in full for embedding, you can see all five of them here at the Epix site.

 

Monday
Dec292014

Interview: James Marsh on (True) Storytelling from "Man on Wire" to "The Theory of Everything"

It's rare for acclaimed documentarians to make a dramatically successful leap into narrative features but with The Theory of Everything, a marital drama about Stephen and Jane Hawking, the 51 year old British filmmaker James Marsh (of Man on Wire and Project Nim fame) is finally doing just that. Man on Wire was one of the most successful documentaries of the past decade but his new affecting biopic, which is actually Marsh's fourth narrative feature, is already his most successful film having racked up an impressive $26 million and counting worldwide to date.

It's also been collecting plentiful Oscar buzz.  The Film Experience had a chance to chart with this articulate thoughtful Oscar winner so we jumped right in. Here's our conversation:

Nathaniel R: Given your filmography, both documentaries and features, The Theory of Everything is...

JAMES MARSH: Go ahead. You can say it.

Nathaniel R: Ha. Well, it's a much different direction for you. It's romantic drama and it's also old school biography. What prompted your interest?

JAMES MARSH: You’re right in terms of its scale for sure and perhaps its emotional spectrum. But it’s a true story and that’s my background in films I’ve done. It’s a story of a marriage as much as a biopic. That felt like an interesting challenge: to try and examine a relationship that evolves and changes over time given all the impediments and unusual and very difficult circumstances. It felt also that I could go somewhere that a documentary could not go in terms of the intimacy of the relationship. 

You're right that it's different but it does have curious connections with Man on Wire. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec292014

2015: Blanchett's Year?

Manuel here bringing you some news on reigning Best Actress, Cate Blanchett.

2015 is shaping up to be quite the busy year for Ms Blanchett. She's currently on screens in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; she seems to have made the cut on Terence Malick's Knight of Cups; her costumes for the upcoming live action Disney film Cinderella have us breathlessly waiting to see what she'll be wearing to the ball; and then, of course, there's Todd Haynes' Carol (the most anticipated film here at TFE for 2014 which is all but confirmed to premiere in the spring; may it crop up at Berlin?)

It seems Cate is adding another project to her 2015 resume, one that places her a tad outside the big screen. She's currently collaborating and shooting with artist Julian Rosefeldt on the latter's newest video installation called Manifesto:

Manifesto combines artist manifestos of different types and times with contemporary mundane situations, all performed by CATE BLANCHETT. The project is an attempt to show that these manifestos have contributed not only to art history but also to the way we think and to what we are today.

Above you can see one of the twelve looks Blanchett will don in the installation, currently being filmed in Berlin. Always up for an artistic challenge, Blanchett's entire dialogue will be made up of the manifestos in question (the Futurists, Marxist, Dadaist, etc.); needless to say, it sounds fascinating, so if you're in Sydney, be sure to catch it when it premieres next year and tell us all about it.

I keep trying to figure out which manifesto this funeral scene could be representing; any one care to help me with that? With 2015 primed to be another banner year for Cate, which of her projects are you most excited for? And yes, you may include her sure-to-be-radiant appearance at the Oscars to announce Best Actor.

Monday
Dec292014

55 Days Until Oscar ~ Ballots Go Out Today

Alas I have no Oscar Trivia involving the number 55 to parcel out on this occassion but it's an important day to mark nonetheless. Oscar ballots fly out to the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences today (Monday, December 29th) so consider this coming week the buzz freeze. Whatever's happening now is the last minute push.

Many voters have already made up their minds of course but it's up to the campaigns to keep the names and titles of those in the hunt ever present so they don't slip the mind when it comes time to fill out those ballots. This weekend's box office holiday festivities brought coveted attention to Into the Woods and Unbroken (both probably on the Best Picture bubble) and to a lesser degree to Selma (which feels like a sure thing despite its late start) and American Sniper. But other earlier releases have already made their cases. Only A Most Violent Year (with a hugely entertaining performance by Jessica Chastain) and the foreign film hopeful Leviathan have yet to open and are risking New Year's Eve releases.

Though there's a place for advocacy in film-blogging we do enough of it here that we shouldn't press our luck by doing it again today. We only ask that any AMPAS member who has stumbled upon this message watch three more screeners before returning their ballots. Carve out six more hours, you can do it. Especially if you're not quite satisfied with your ballot.  

And try this nifty trick: Glance over your choices for your branch category and for Best Picture. Are any of the names or titles you've scribbed down simply from power of suggestion - because you've heard it over and over again? If you're looking at the name and you don't feel any passion, chuck it. Vote your heart. Or if you're stumped check out the Oscar charts and consider a longer shot that you totally loved. The only way those triumphs ever get nominated is if the passion vote turns out. It's just like a real election in that way.

No, Keira. You don't get points for finishing your ballot first. Take your time.

I love what James Marsh, the director of The Theory of Everything told me about his ballot (read the interview)

I take it quite seriously. I do indeed evaluate. You can separate technical virtuosity in a film that doesn’t necessarily cohere for you as a movie. 

It’s both a pleasure and a duty that should be done carefully and properly. It’s an honor to be an Academy member. And should be one where you meet your responsibilities and not in a cavalier way.

Happy balloting! 


P.S. If you're not lucky enough to have a ballot, let's play the game that the gurus of gold just played (they stumped for Nightcrawler en masse) and suggest three final screeners that each voter should watch before returning their ballot. Go!

Sunday
Dec282014

T-T-T-Torrance!

I sizzle
I scorch
But now I pass the torch

The ballots are in
And one girl has to win

She's perky
She's fun
And now she's number one

K-Kick-It...Torrance!
T-T-T-Torrance!

Sunday
Dec282014

Box Office: The Battle of the Holiday Releases Part 2

Manuel here offering up the sequel to last week’s Battle of the Holiday Releases you didn’t know you needed. Those Middle Earth dwellers are nothing if not resilient warriors and thus it comes as no surprise that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies held on to #1 for the second week in a row despite some competition from a singing witch and a martyred soldier, both proving quite the challengers. That bodes well for the awards prospects for Rob Marshall’s big screen adaptation of Into the Woods and Angelina Jolie’s uplifting war drama Unbroken. Box office alone does not win awards (or nominations) but it surely doesn’t hurt. It was a busy Christmas week -- even embattled and corporate freedom of speech poster boy The Interview made a dent in a little over 300 screens. 

Random Trivia: This is the first time since December 2007 when two live-action musicals have made it to the Top Ten. Can you name them? Hint: they also involved Disney & Sondheim.

TOP SIXTEEN

01 HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES $41.2 (cum. $168.5)
02 UNBROKEN $31.7 NEW (cum. $47.3)
03 INTO THE WOODS $31.02 NEW (cum. $46.1) Interview
04 NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB $20.6 (cum. $55.3)
05 ANNIE $16.6 (cum. $45.8)
06 HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PT1 $10 (cum. $306.65) Review
07 THE GAMBLER $9.3 NEW (cum. $14.3) Review
08 THE IMITATION GAME $7.93 (cum. $14.6) Review, Glenn's take
09 EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS $6.75 (cum. $52.5) Review
10 WILD $5.4 (cum. $16.3) Review, interview, podcast
11 BIG HERO 6 $4.8 (cum. $199.9) ReviewBrief take
12 TOP FIVE $3.8 (cum. $19.2) Brief take
13 THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR $3.2 (cum. $66.9) Review
14 INTERSTELLAR $3 (cum. $177.3) Review
15 BIG EYES $2.98 (cum. $4.4) Open Thread
16 THE INTERVIEW $1.8 (cum. $2.8)

There’s a fascinating discussion to be had about the way Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (notching the highest limited box office for Christmas Day record) and James Franco/Seth Rogen’s The Interview (making history by well, being released?) were released the same day as Ava DuVernay’s Selma. Together they make quite the triptych on American politics, don’t you think? While Tim Burton's Big Eyes struggled, The Weinstein Company must be happy with the way The Imitation Game is expanding (cracking the Top Ten while being in less than 1000 screens; has it made it near you?).

PLATFORM (Under 100 screens)

01 AMERICAN SNIPER $0.61 4 locations NEW (cum. $0.85)
02 SELMA $0.59 19 locations NEW (cum. $0.91) Review, podcastpremiere
03 MR TURNER $0.25 24 locations (cum. $0.49) Review, Interview 
04 INHERENT VICE $0.2 16 locations (cum. $0.96) Conversation, FYC Josh Brolin
05 WHIPLASH $0.18 87 locations (cum. $5.45) Review, JK Simmons
06 CITIZENFOUR $0.06 40 locations (cum. $2.1) Podcast, FYC Editing
07 THE HOMESMAN $0.059 61 locations (cum. $2.1) Review, brief take
08 THE BABADOOK $0.058 47 locations (cum. $0.6) Interview

Below these, two foreign language films bolstered by good reviews opened at two locations: Two Days One Night, featuring the luminous Marion Cotillard ($0.48 for the five-day frame) and Oscar-shortlisted Leviathan ($0.023 for the week).

What did you catch Christmas Day?