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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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Burning Questions: Repeat Viewing Discoveries

Michael C here. Now that Toronto has kicked the Fall movie season into high gear it’s useful to remember that for most of these films February’s impending Oscar ceremony is the beginning of the story, not the end. An Academy Award is a great leg up when it comes to securing a film’s legacy, even if it’s only as a footnote, but the real test of a film’s shelf life will be its ability to stand up to the gauntlet of repeat viewings. The test of time is much more accurate measure of a film’s worth than awards season's five month carnival of hype.

You only need to look back to recent movie history to see how the years can build up some films while grinding others down without mercy. I cannot recall the last time I’ve read a film lover reference a great scene from former big event films like Babel or The Queen. Yet the reputations of other less celebrated films from that time period like Eastern Promises or Let the Right One In grow with every passing year.

So this leads me to the question I’m curious to have answered:

Which recent films are coming alive on repeat viewings?

I’m not talking here about complicated films which reward repeat viewings. Yes, dense films like Gosford Park and LA Confidential play better with a foreknowledge of the story, but their quality was clear even when lost in the weeds of the initial viewing. No, I’m talking about films that hit us as average or even so-so the first time around but which linger in the memory and nag at us and then – BAM – sucker punch us with their previously unseen strength when revisited.

This happened to me recently when I was struck to realize that I had watched the Coen brother’s True Grit no less than half a dozen times. I had a positive, if somewhat underwhelmed, reaction to the western in theaters. It was the usual A+ stylistic Coen brothers job, but hit me as an unusually straightforward genre exercise from them. I wouldn’t have even bothered to picked up the DVD if not for the fact that my parents wanted to see it and the only way to get them to watch a movie is to personally interrupt an episode of NCIS with it.

Once I owned it I was surprised to find True Grit become my go-to feature. I now understand that the Coens did with True Grit what Tarantino did with Jackie Brown. Tarantino says he wanted Jackie Brown to be a hangout movie. The sort of film you watch first for the plot but return to for the downtime between the big moments, just to spend time with the characters. I realized that on repeat trips to Grit I wasn’t looking forward to the big set pieces as much as I was anticipating the odd little encounters like the unexpected run in with a bearskin clad backwoods doctor who wants to bargain for the teeth from a corpse Mattie cut down from a tree. Or the way the film's main heavy, Barry Pepper’s Lucky Ned, turns out to be unexpectedly reasonable when they finally catch up to him. (Admittedly it also helps to know in advance everything Bridges is saying) I suppose I should have known better than to trust my snap judgment when it came to the Coens, whose Big Lebowski is one of the great repeat viewing success stories of the last twenty years. I suppose it’s time I gave Burn After Reading another spin.

Have any of you had any recent repeat viewing discoveries? Do you see a consensus emerging around any titles that flew under the radar in theaters? Let me know in the comments.

Follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm. And read his blog Serious Film.


TIFF: Oscar Talking Points and Personal Favourites

Amir here, wrapping up my coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.

I have to apologize for my absence yesterday on TIFF's closing weekend. A broken laptop charger prevented me any access to the internet. As you already know, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook snatched the coveted People's Choice Award. In keeping with my tradition of not watching films with set public release dates at the festival, I passed on the film in my original planning. And yesterday, when people lined up for the film’s honorary additional screening, I was in a different theatre watching my favourite actress Julianne Moore playing a rock star in What Maisie Knew

More including Oscar buzz and a Festival jury of one after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Sick In the City 2

I guess spending all day at the beach in ice cold water and bright sunlight after months of shut-in city dwelling is maybe not the best move? I'm totally sick today hence the lack of posting. I have a fever and I do nothing but sleep and watch bad television. [Cue violins]

This is how sick I am: When Sex and the City 2 came on cable earlier, I didn't even have enough energy to reach for the remote and the horror washed all over me again. Good Christ but that movie is atrocious. So much worse than I remember it being!

What's the worst movie you've subjected yourself to recently or again... and what's your excuse?


"Silver Linings" Wins TIFF. Here's What It Means Statistically For Oscar.

The Toronto International Film Festival wraps up today (movies are still being projected, though, even as I type) and the awards are out. Silver Linings Playbook took the Audience Prize, which is usually a good sign for Oscar. 10 of the 34 past winners have gone on to Best Picture nominations with 4 eventually winning the top prize (The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty and Chariots of Fire). That group of 34 films also includes 1 Best Documentary Oscar winner and 9 Best Foreign Language Film nominees (5 of them eventual winners.)  It's not fail safe of course. Last year's winner Where Do We Go Now? looked strong for Oscar foreign play but wasn't nominated and the previous winner's list includes various sixth-slotters like Amélie and Hotel Rwanda which didn't quite make their respective Best Picture lineups. But to make this long story much shorter this is the silver lining for Silver Linings come December; expect big golden things.

Other Winners...

Canadian Feature: Xavier Dolan's transsexual drama Laurence Anyways starring Melvil Poupad.
Canadian Directorial Debut: [TIE] Brandon Cronenberg's (Son Of David!) body horror drama Antiviral and Jason Buxton's teen violence drama Blackbird two chillers from up north.
Canadian Short: Keep a Modest Head by Deco Dawson

Brandon Cronenberg's debut features Sarah Gadon, his dad's current muse (A Dangerous Method / Cosmopolis).

FIPRESCI Prize Special Presentation: François Ozon's In the House which stars Kristin Scott Thomas as the wife of a French teacher (Fabrice Luchini) whose gifted teenage student is writing too intimately about the people in his life.
FIPRESCI Prize Discovery: Mikael Marsiman's Call Girl is based on the true story of a 1970s prostitution ring in Sweden.
Audience Award Documentary: Artifact finds Jared Leto's band "30 Seconds To Mars" battling their record label. More on this one soon.
Audience Award Midnight Madness: Seven Psychopaths from the singular comic talent Martin McDonagh
Asian Film: Sion Sono's Japanese tsunami survival drama The Land of Hope 

THE LAND OF HOPE (The Impossible isn't the only tsunami drama out there)

TIFF hits that lost out included Sarah Polley's reportedly bewitching Stories We Tell and the two runners up to the big People's Choice prize: Ben Affleck's Argo (of which you're already as familiar as you can be without seeing the damn thing) and Eran Riklis' Zaytoun which is a war drama about an Israel fighter pilot (Stephen Dorff) shot down over Lebanon.

TIFF devotee we appreciate most: Amir. 

TIFF virgin we're crazy jealous of: Nick

TIFF fringe dweller who never even made it to Canada: Nathaniel... [sniffle]

For what it's worth expect much more festival coverage for NYFF (coming very soon). Michael Cusumano and I will both hit the fest and share our reactions right here.


Take Three: Series 3 Wrap-up 

Craig here with a wrap-up entry for the third and final run of ‘Take Three’, The Film Experience series that looked at three notable performances from a supporting or character actor's career. Click on the actors’ names for their respective Takes.

It’s perhaps fitting that last week’s Take Three featured Brad Dourif as, when the idea for the series was first mooted, Dourif was the first actor who entered my mind. It’s odd perhaps that I left him so long, but I’m glad he was included in the end. I was also glad to include a quintet of actors – bigger names, well versed in veering between lead and character actor roles – who have vast and interesting careers under their belts: Christopher Walken (one of Seven Psychopaths due in cinemas soon), John Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones (currently sexing it up with Streep in Hope Springs), Danny DeVito and Chris Cooper. Series 3 started off with one of today’s best, Melissa Leo (receiving acclaim this week for her role as Francine); she was closely followed by another, Anne Heche.

Actors who did a lot of great work during the ‘80s and ‘90s and still continue to add class and/or grit to cinema now, albeit in perhaps more peripheral parts, got some ‘Take Three’ love this series: the always watchable Vincent D’Onofrio was a joy to write about; ditto Michael Rooker. Both Rosanna Arquette and Alfre Woodard have their many admirers, and rightly so; I hope their Takes were enjoyed by their respective fans. As with previous years’ Takes on the likes of Isabella Rossellini and Harry Dean Stanton, my inclusion of some Lynch regulars continued: first Piper Laurie, then Grace Zabriskie (both of whom appeared in Twin Peaks) received well-deserved outings during this run. Classic horror and film noir female performances were also considered with entries on Barbara Steele and Ida Lupino, two of the finest character actors who worked most prominently between, respectively, the fifties and the seventies and the thirties to the seventies.

A range of some of the most essential contemporary supporting/character actors got the T3 treatment this time out, too. Two of today’s best British actors, Samantha Morton (currently chatting up R-Pattz in a limo in Cosmopolis) and Toby Kebbell (who shared screen time with Morton in Control) were featured. Eva Mendes (presently transfixing Denis Lavant in a basement in Holy Motors) and the versatile French actor Cécile De France are both cementing their places as two of today’s most alluring screen performers. Finally, it was a sheer pleasure to research and rewatch the three films for John C. Reilly’s Takes – and, as with many of this series’ actors with vast and varied careers, I wished I could have including at least six more Takes.

As a final note, I sincerely hope all Film Experience readers have enjoyed this and both previous Take Three series. It has been an absolute pleasure to write and I’ve enjoyed all the discussions and opinions in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

Although this is the last Take Three series, I may well be writing a new column next year. In the meantime, I’ll be reporting for Nathaniel from the BFI London Film Festival in October and you can also follow me on Twitter – @DarkEyeSocket – or at my own site here. Related links: season 1 wrap-up entry here and season 2 wrap-up entry here. (Both contain all previous Take Threes between them.)

So... who were your favourite Take Threes? Show any and all of these fine actors your love in the comments...


TIFF: Four Short Takes

Amir reporting from Toronto.

The Place beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to his marriage drama Blue Valentine is a three-part genre piece about a stunt motorcycle rider (Ryan Gosling) who enters a life of crime when he realizes that a short fling in the past with Romina (Eva Mendes) has resulted in a son. When a young cop (Bradley Cooper) gets involved with his case, his criminal activities take an abrupt turn.

Fans of Cianfrance's previous film and also those who were expecting "Drive redux" based on the minimal promotional material available are in for a surprise, though in my case the surprise was a very happy one. This robust story of complex morality and corruption is told with grace and gravitas. It is intermittently both a white-knuckle action film that keeps you on the edge of your seat and a dense drama that explores father-son relationships. Think of it as a crime thriller with the emotional punch of Blue Valentine

Gosling gives yet another superbly intense performance but it's Cooper, and arguably Dane DeHaan, who steal the show with their surprising depth.

Prospects: Given the presence of two major stars and the potential to market the hell out of the genre elements, it could be a big hit, but the rumoured early 2013 release affirms my conviction that no one is expecting awards for this one.

Three more movies after the jump... 

Click to read more ...