Oscar History

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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Curio: Hotel Keytags

Alexa here with your weekly film curiosities. Remember when hotels used real keys instead of key cards? Yes, our age is showing. My nostalgia for these days of yore made me immediately take notice these clever keychains at KeyChainsRUs. Made to resemble those Route 66-style plastic motel key tags, they reference some of our favorite film overnights.  

Which set of keys after the jump would you grab for a night's adventure?

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All Mariah Carey Wants for Christmas is LEGO

This time of year you'd expect to hear Mariah Carey's name because of people like me starting their Christmas music early. Today, Christmas comes early and we got the news that she is lending her voice to The LEGO Batman Movie.

Wait... what??

How delightfully bonkers! This is the kind of news Glitter enthusiasts have been waiting 15 years to hear: the opportunity for Mariah to once again give us full camp. Originally reported to be playing Commissioner Gordon (because that would be too insane for our tender hearts), she is instead voicing the mayor of Gotham. This isn't the Mariah Carey political comedy we deserve, but the one we need.

Jokes aside, Mariah delightfully exceeded our low expectations in Precious with a performance as honest as any in that lively ensemble. She proved there that given the chance to try something different, she's still an engaging performer, so why not welcome another cinematic left turn. Oddball, unexpected casting such as this also promises that even without the original's directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller the follow-up will still preserve the original's madcap wit. Rosario Dawson is also playing Batgirl, so this is a win for us all.


Beauty vs Beast: Take My Spouse, Please

Jason from MNPP here with this week's edition of Beauty vs Beast, pitting cinema's good guys and bad guys against each other in a polling orgasm of gorgeous vicious oneupmanship! And you'll forgive me for getting a wee bit over-passioned there with my adjectives since this week I'm surrounding us with two of the most gorgeous creatures to ever grace the big screen, much less the marital bed -- this Friday the cinematic supernovas Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt are reuniting on-screen in Jolie's most recent directorial effort, the swooning-in-sunglasses drama By the Sea. (You can read what Nathaniel had to say about the film here.) It's been ten full years since the last time the stars combined their movie star wattage onto one fortunate screen, and that's where we look for this week's contest...

PREVIOUSLY Last week we bonded with James & Co. (bonded, get it, ha ha, sigh) in honor of the latest 007 flick (Did you see it this weekend? Thoughts?) -- looking back at Skyfall it was Daniel Craig himself who left us shaken and stirred over Bardem's baddie, taking about 63% of your vote. Said tom:

"In this case, I vote for Bond. the first half of the movie was just building up the character of Silva and when we finally meet him, disappointment. That isn't completely Bardem's fault, but no vote from me."


AFI Fest: James White

Kieran, here reporting from AFI Fest in Hollywood.

James White (played by Christopher Abbott) is a 21-year-old whose life is in a kind of disarray that's sometimes indistinguishable, at least from the outset, from typical millenial aimlessness. He spends his evenings binge drinking, getting high and instigating bar fights all while harboring vague notions of becoming a writer. His estranged father has recently passed away and he sleeps on the sofa of his ailing mother, insisting that he's only there to take care of her. There's a lot in that plot description to suggest something trite and indie-by-numbers. My own antennae were up for yet another indie about a disaffected, yet ambiguously wealthy young white man. Thankfully, writer-director Josh Mond's directorial debut (he was previously a producer on Martha Marcy May Marlene whose director, Sean Durkin is a producer here) opts for something more specific and lived-in here.

The film's saving grace, at least on the script level, is that it manages to be kind to its lead character without co-signing his worldview or behavior. Yes, James is "a mess" as a family friend played by Ron Livingston tells him during a job interview that's going terribly in every possible way. [More...]

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Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" - Still angry, still timely

TFE is celebrating the three Honorary Oscar winners this week. Here's Lynn Lee on one of Spike Lee's most controversial joints...

Is Spike Lee an Angry Black Man?  Reductive as the label is, it’s hard not to associate with an artist as reliably outspoken as he is accomplished—if only because so much of his best work is fueled by genuine anger at the condition of African Americans and the state of American race relations generally.  The irony of having achieved major critical and commercial success by channeling those frustrations surely hasn’t been lost on him, even if it’s done nothing to diminish them.

Bamboozled (2000), an incendiary, balls-to-the-wall satire about a disaffected black man who creates a pop culture monster, shows Lee at his angriest and most conflicted.  The film takes its cue from Malcolm X’s famous wakeup call:

You’ve been hoodwinked.  You’ve been had…You’ve been bamboozled”

It tells the tale of a Harvard-educated black TV writer (Damon Wayans, sporting a deliberately outlandish pseudo-French African accent) who pitches a hideously racist modern-day minstrel show as a fuck-you response to his white boss’s demand for “blacker” material—only to have the show become a megahit despite, or rather because of, the controversy it causes.  [More...]

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AFI Fest: Hitchcock/Truffaut

Hitchcock/Truffaut has a kind of sacred place among film books. Though it's rarely assigned in class, since its original 1966 publication the collected interviews between Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut have unofficially defined auteurism, the role of the director in Western film, and - most obviously - public opinion about Hitchcock. The immediate result of the publication was to turn public opinion about the Master of Suspense from lowbrow entertainer to underappreciated artist, and to further solidify Francois Truffaut's image as critic-cum-creator, a critical distinction upon which the members of the French New Wave thrived. With a book this prominent in film history, a movie about the book is a lofty goal to say the least. Historian and director Kent Jones uses his movie as an unfocused if zealous love letter to Hitchcock, that ultimately falls short of its goals.

The movie Hitchcock/Truffaut attempts to be many things. On the one hand, it is a historical documentary which explains who Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut were and why their legendary interviews exhaustively analyzing every single one of Hitch's films was so important to film history. In this endeavor, Jones is primarily aided by the original recordings of the interviews. Unedited and untranslated Hitchcock is even more blunt and humorous than the published book let on. He gives a rather graphic explanation of the famous green-lit scene in Vertigo before suddenly cutting the interview short with a clipped "Off the record!" Jones includes the scenes that Hitchcock and Truffaut discuss, which allows the audience to observe critically with the directors' eyes and compare what Hitchcock says he's doing to the end result. It's a testament to Hitchcock's notorious control that there's little difference between what he describes and what appears onscreen.

This leads to Kent Jones's second goal in Hitchcock/Truffaut: a formal analysis of Alfred Hitchcock. As this was the primary motivation of the original book as well, parts of this can feel redundant. Jones brings in various directors to explain what they love in Hitchcock's films - Richard Linklater talks about time, Wes Anderson talks about precision, David Fincher talks about suspense, Scorsese talks about everything. The more directors Jones brings into the conversation, the more wide-reaching he reveals Hitchcock's influence to be. Directors who at first glance have little stylistically in common react with the same joy to discuss their favorite parts of Hitchcock's films. However, this formal analysis begins to drag, as very little new is discussed beyond what Hitch himself states.

That is the greatest flaw with Kent Jones's film: he doesn't add more to the conversation. Hitchcock/Truffaut was published nearly 50 years ago, but the movie doesn't have anything new to say about either the book or its subject. In trying to be too many things - a history, an analysis, a tribute - Jones's movie wanders aimlessly. 80 minutes spent with Hitchcock is never time wasted, but ultimately I wonder: why make this movie?

Grade: B

Oscar Chances: Low, though the Academy does like insider baseball.