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 | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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"Thank you to all the contributors & commentors for teaching me about movies!" - Andrew

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Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Summertime"

For this week's episode of Best Shot, the collective series in which bloggers are invited to choose their favorite image from a pre-selected movie, we went to Italy for David Lean's Summertime (1955) starring Katharine Hepburn. The film won both of them Oscar nominations, for Direction and Acting respectively, and since I'd never seen it it fills in two Oscar gaps in my 1950s cinema.

It's a relatively modest picture all told, concerned not with big sweeping travelogue beauty (though the travelogue beauty is accounted for) but with an internal flowering. Spinster Katharine Hepburn goes to Italy, goes a little wild (well, wild for an American spinster from Akron Ohio), and then -- spoiler alert -- leaves Italy again. It's all very E.M. Forster really! (See A Room With a View and Where Angels Fear to Tread).

She was coming to Europe to find something. It was way back in the back of her mind was something she was looking for, a wonderful mystical magical miracle. I guess to find what she'd been missing all her life."

My runner up shot comes early in the picture and I include it because I love the way it dialogues with my favorite image at the movie's end. Jane Hudson has just arrived at her summer home, and she has a conversation with her landlady about a girl she met on the way to Italy. She describes in detail the reasons the girl is travelling abroad. Jane is too guileless to be talking about herself in the third person but she is, in essence, talking about herself, whether or not she knows it. She's also prophesying her own journey including an amusing a "let loose a bit" comment that Katharine waves off with prudish modesty.

I find the light in this sequence quite astute. The women are not in silhouette exactly -- the scene is about Jane, after all, rather than Italy -- but Italy is bright and beckoning anyway. She's not really looking at Italy... not yet at least... wrapped up as she is in connecting with other people (she hopes to make friends) and her own internal possibilities. 

I often find Hepburn a little too fussy as an actress -- particularly in her later work -- but I think she's marvelous in key scenes here really capturing Jane's internal battle between her desire to connect and her own internal nature. Even in the scenes which are very much about her attraction to Renalto (Rosanno Brazzi) she's often just looking off into space and, one assumes, her own thoughts. Jane's just not very good at connecting for as much as she'd like to. She has too many fussy walls up.

I think that's why I found the final scene so moving, despite not particularly caring for the movie. My choice for best shot comes with the film's ending. Jane has opted to leave Italy and Romantic Love behind. She likens it to leaving a party before she's worn out her welcome. It's common sense really given the circumstances of the affair but you hurt for her for giving up the thing she's always wanted and you have to wonder if it isn't partially fear and retreat to a safer lonelier home. Whether or not Jane will be more open to love after the movie is up for debate. Yet in that sudden alarming lurch outward to wave goodbye one last time to Renato (but really, to Italy and Love) I think Hepburn's gestural performance provides a marvelous clue. If returning to Ohio is, in fact, a comfort zone retreat why does her body move with such spirited abandon? 

Next Week
We're staying in Italy for The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). You know you want to sound off on that one. So join us, will ya?

14 More People Summering in Italy with Hepburn
Amiresque is overwhelmed by architecture
Encore's World on the quintessential 'spinster' performance from Hepburn 
Antagony & Ecstasy wants to talk about Aspect Ratios... and perceptions of "low points"
The Film's The Thing a Cinderella of a certain age 
Cinema Enthusiast goes to a real ball with gardenias
We Recycle Movies on David Lean's undeniable obsession with trains 
Pussy Goes Grrr this is how you stage a breakup 
Cinesnatch really goes all out with shot commentary, contrasts and travelogue beauty 
Film Actually has coffee -- or doesn't rather -- with Hepburn 
She Blogged By Night picks the first shot I think we've ever seen in this series devoted to an extra. It's beautiful! 
Los Mejores Planos gives out gold, silver and bronze medals for his favorite shots 
Cal Roth sees Jane's secret sensuality
Dancin' Dan on the scene that makes the movie 
My New Plaid Pants memories of Italy come flooding back 


Team Experience: Great Losers, Actress Edition (Pt. 2)

As long time readers know The Film Experience started out as a one-man show. That man being myself, Nathaniel R. (Remember in Ye Olden Times when posting two goodies a week made you a prolific must-read web star? I still remember David Poland's Hot Button which did just that!) Over the years the royal "We" has stopped being royal and become literal... both from necessity of content-need and desire of companionship - writing can be lonely! I still do the bulk of the posting but now there are a handful of regular columnists and a dozen more occasional voices. Seeking out perspectives other than one's own keeps you fresh and alert. 

So I love these Team perspectives (and I love Amir for dreaming them up / hosting them!) even when they cause me pain. Of course, I get to vote too but, being a Benevolent Dictator, my vote only counts once. DAMNIT. Which is to say that though I loved reading the "Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers Best Actress Edition" I was more than a little freaked out not to see a picture of unravelling Deanie in her bathtub staring back at me needily.

the best performance of 1961: Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass

Where is Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass?!?" 

I bellowed internally.

Then I imagine this reaction was shared by many of you 'out there in the dark' albeit with a rotating snubbed actress /film causing the indignation. As it turns out Natalie Wood did make lists other than my own but not enough to secure her a top ten placement. Natalie and other divas who missed the list are after the jump...

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May Flowers: Liz & Dick

May Flowers blooming daily in the afternoons…

Andrew here to start things off. It only makes sense that the melancholic showers of Anna Karenina and The Truman Show would give root to the gloomy blossoms which open May Flowers this year. Connotatively you’d expect flowers to be a symbol of good things – life, hope, colour. But, not so in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In Nichols’ adaptation of Edward Albee’s play it’s just another thing in a long line of objects which sparring couple George and Martha use to play games. Who cares about the danger of confusing truth and illusion when there are so many games to play? 

Here George comes to deliver our bouquet...

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I Dreamed of Gatsby

Last night I had the wildest dream (with spoilers). Baz Luhrmann had delivered a Moulin Rouge! remake with vampire characters set in the world of F Scott's Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby". No matter what happened to the characters -- whether they were shot, or run down by custom cars, or what have you -- they just kept getting back up good as new like genetically modified super soldiers or like, well, vampires.

One should never say that 'this = that', emphatically, with dreams since they're often inscrutable but the last three movies I watched were Kiss of the Damned, Iron Man Three and The Great Gatsby so perhaps this nightmare was inevitable.

When I woke up I knew it was only a dream... except for the part about Baz sucking Moulin Rouge!'s blood.



Remember When...

...Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette were the hot new actresses Hollywood had to cast in everything? 



Team Top Ten: Oscar's Greatest Losers (Actress Edition)

Hepburn won 4 Oscars. Every win leaves a trail of four lossesAmir here, to bring you our newest Team Top Ten. You may remember we tackled the best directors of the new century in our first episode and each first Tuesday of the month Nathaniel and all the contributors will vote on a new list. This time it’s all about two things I’m sure you all love as much as we do:

...Actresses & Oscar.

This is a list of the greatest performances that lost the Best Actress award. We’ve looked at the pool of 337 performances that were nominated for an Oscar in that category but failed to win and we ranked them in the order of our individual preference, irrespective of the actresses that won in any given year.

It was quite a heavy task, as you can imagine. How would you go about choosing only ten among so many stellar turns? 80 different performances managed to get at least one vote from our contributors. Actresses who have had multiple unsuccessful nominations were generally the victims of an internal spread of votes. Meryl Streep is the most glaring example, of course. Four of her performances garnered votes, but none was popular enough to make the cut. Katharine Hepburn’s performances were similarly divisive, though one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest as you will see below. There were surprising inclusions and even more surprising exclusions but the main takeaway was consensus over performances that have found their place in the critical canon. Only 6 ladies from this new century made the top 30, which is reason to rejoice, in my opinion -- old treasures aren’t forgotten just yet.

Swanson gave good face.

Nathaniel will share runners-up and some juicy trivia and stats because this experiment really deserves a lot more than a list of ten names. For now, however, here are the actresses Team Experience deems the greatest Oscar losers of all time:

are after the jump...

surprise! Holly Hunter made the list

10. Holly Hunter (Broadcast News, 1987)
Lost to Cher in Moonstruck

"The leads in so many romantic comedies blend together into a blandly likable blur. Not so with Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. She takes the trope of the hardworking professional woman who is great at her job but unlucky in love, and imbues her with a crackling specificity. Far from sanding down her rough edges, Hunter embraces them, from her crying jags, to her stubbornness, to her clumsy grabs at love, to that southern accent she makes no attempt to disguise. Hunter’s Jane Craig topped my ballot because she is the gold standard against which I measure all other romantic comedy performances."
- Michael C.

nine more iconic performances after the jump...

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Curio: Kate Curiosities

Alexa here kicking off a theme week at TFE, featuring a very special actress. This Sunday I will not only celebrate Mother's Day but also the birthday of the inimitable (well, except by Catherine O'Hara) Katharine Hepburn with a viewing of Bringing Up Baby, Manic Pixieness be damned

Hepburn quote art, available here and here.

It's always been a goal of mine to follow her lead, except for the playing golf part, which I will never, ever do. She supplies all the wisdom any woman needs to get through life on quotes alone. After the jump, some Kate art, collectibles and curiosities... including a life mask?

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