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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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Distant Relatives: 8½ and Synecdoche, New York

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.

Portrait of the Artist as a Confused Man

Perhaps the idea of a filmmaker making a film about himself, his fears, his hopes, his life, is inherently self-indulgent. It's hard to argue otherwise though self-portraits have always been a staple of art. Perhaps Da Vinci and Rembrandt were self-indulgent too. Still, something about the self portraits is so necessary. Someone has to explore the life of the artist. Biopics, whether celebratory or critical, are often too structured and viewed from outside looking in. Only autobiographies allow the filmmaker the ability to really explore their internal rot. The cinema this creates may not always be compelling but it always feels essential. Federico Fellini's career is saturated in self-exploration, from the continual casting of his wife Giulietta Masina (La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, Juliet of the Spirits), to his reminiscence on his childhood (Amarcord) to his contemplation on the de-evolution of social ascencion (La Dolce Vita). Fellini's career is a tribute to himself, and never more than in , a film so self-referential that its title is devised from the number of films Fellini had made to that point. It is his eighth and a half. Charlie Kaufman's career too is filled with expressions of his own desires and anxieties. He sees his life as that of the impotent artist, and they appear throughout his films in one form or another. The fact that Kaufman had already written a film, Adaptation that featured himself as the lead character (writing a film that featured himself as the lead character) shouldn't detract from the fact that Synecdoche, New York's Caden Cotard is very much a Kaufman stand-in. In fact, Adaptation's use of Kaufman as character may have even freed up the real Charlie Kaufman into a more subtle (if that's possible) cypher for the later film. Adaptation feels a bit like a warm up for Synecdoche, New York with its musings on love and death and the meta-realities of art. Both titles refer to the artistic process as well (self-referentially like Fellini's). Adaptation is obvious. As many of us learned only upon the relase of the film, a "synecdoche" is a part of speech where a part of something is used to represent a whole, such as saying "threads" to mean "clothes" or "set of wheels" to mean "car." And so it is with art, the attempt to use one small story to represent some truth about the whole of existence.
In both films, 8 1/2 and Synecdoche, New York we begin with a misanthrope, unwell in health and heart, about to embark on the ultimate boondogle of his career, whether he knows it or not. Continue...

Click to read more ...


Nicole's Perpetual Elephant Love Medley

As if Nicole Kidman hadn't done enough for the mystique of elephants! Ten years ago in Moulin Rouge! (see previous posts) she famously lived, loved, and playfully sang on top of a giant bejewelled 'phant. Now she'll be interacting with the real thing on the silver screen. In early 2012 she'll be heading to Africa to film My Wild Life, a drama about the work of elephants advocate and conservationist Dame Daphne Sheldrick. Phillip Noyce (Salt, The Quiet American) will direct. Sheldrick's autobiography will be published in the spring and by this time next year (or thereabouts), if all goes according to plan, we'll see Nicole Kidman reenacting her adventures just in time for next year's Oscar race.

We assume that the bulk of the film will take place between 1955 and 1976 when Sheldrick (who was in her 20s and 30s at the time) and her husband were the co-wardens of Kenya's Tsavo National Park. Sheldrick became an expert on rearing wild animals particularly elephants and rhinos. According to The Hollywood Reporter the film has been gestating for longer than elephants themselves do (22 months if you need to know) and in previous incarnations Julia Roberts and Kate Winslet were both interested in playing Sheldrick. 

David and Daphe Sheldrick. No word yet on who will play David.I believe Sigourney Weaver was the last actress to get an animal husbandry biopic / Oscar nomination (Gorillas in the Mist, 1988)? It can't be too frequent an occurrence given that we don't see too many of those on the big screen. Even animal husbandry with super powers (Aquaman) never makes it to the big screen.

It occurs to me: the family Elephantidae must have secured good representation in Hollywood ten years back. Ever since Nicole & Ewan's "Elephant Love Medley" they've been getting bigger and bigger roles starting with key supporting parts in action movies (The Lord of the Rings and Ong Bank franchises). Lately they've taken to starring in documentaries (One Lucky Elephant - see previous post) and ampliying and romanticizing the charms of their leading ladies (Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, Reese Witherspoon in Water For Elephants). 

P.S. Here's a fun take on Moulin Rouge's "Elephant Love Medley" with the original songs dubbed in.

P.P.S. There really ought to have been a special Oscar for the song scoring / arranging / adaptation of Moulin Rouge!


The Best Thing Joel Schumacher Has Done Since...?

Sweet relief! Should anyone feel compelled to ask oft-derided director Joel Schumacher "what have you done for us lately?" he need no longer sheepishly mumble "Trespass with Nic & Nic". Instead he can point right to this great fake ad, shot by Steven Meisel, which announces the launch of Joel Schumacher's fashion label "Made to Measure".

Love it.


Here's the accompanying text:

Joel Schumacher, 72, might not seem like the most obvious man to front a glamorous high-fashion label in the vein of Halston. But long before he was directing such films as St. Elmo's Fire and Batman Forever, Schumacher was a fashion kid, designing window displays for Henri Bendel and styling stories for Diana Vreeland at Vogue. Additionally, "he's just so chic," says Enninful. 

More of Meisel's fake advertisements from the new issue of W Magazine.

I snuck my two favorites in after the jump: "Tantrum" and "Pizzazz"

Click to read more ...


John Williams Heading Toward Oscar Nomination #46 

John Williams © Chad Batka, New York TimesIn the long history of the Academy Awards, only one man can claim more nominations than composer John Williams. And that man, long gone, is now less a man and rather more like a symbol, a legend, an industry, a way of life. 

John Williams never opened a theme park and his name is decidedly less distinctive that "Walt Disney" but he's also inextricably embedded in our popular culture. In a very literal way John Williams has scored our collective dreams and adventures for over a half century now. Though the movies of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are hardly his only playground in terms of beloved movies, they're probably the scores that people think of first. (The fan tribute video below provides a thorough overview of just that.)

After an unusually long break from features the much celebrated composer is now back at work. He's got three new Spielberg movies on the way (The Adventures of Tintin, War Horse, Lincoln) and he could be celebrating his 80th birthday in February as a 46 or even 47 time Oscar nominee. Take that, Streep, with your piddly 16 nominations!

Tribute to John Williams, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas from whoispablo on Vimeo.

Do you think John Williams (45 nominations / 5 wins) will finally break his nomination tie with Oscar's other most awarded composer Alfred Newman (45 nominations / 9 wins) this January. Either War Horse or TinTin could do it. But will it be both? 

Oscar Predictions - Aural Categories
Recent New York Times Interview
Awards Daily posted pieces from the Tintin score


Kiki, the Runway Bride

Here comes the bride, all dressed depressed in white ♬

Should the Apocalypse ever need to take wife, it couldn't do better than to kneel before one Kirsten Dunst and beg for her hand in unholy matrimony. Isn't she aesthetically effective and spectacularly depressing in a wedding gown?! Two of her signature characters, Justine in Melancholia and Marie Antoinette in Marie Antoinette march toward certain doom in their white and ivory splendor. 

I was thinking about Dunst for four reasons today. 


  1. It's Marie Antoinette's 256th birthday today. Eat cake.
  2. I was just reading that she'll reteam with Orlando Bloom, her Elizabethtown co-star for, sort of in the Roger Donaldson's new interlocking stories thriller Cities. I believe she'll be involved with Clive Owen's character in the film, a NYC hedge fund manager. But the Elizabethtown connection is worrisome only in that that film seemed to lead to the sudden downward spiral of her career, Bloom's career, and director Cameron Crowe's career who disappeared thereafter. (But he'll be back soon with We Bought a Zoo.)
  3. That coincidentally nervous-making news aside, she's been making all the right moves career-wise lately and I couldn't be more pleased. She's such a fine actress.
  4. Melancholia opens on the 11th, expands on the 18th and I have something special planned for it that I think you'll enjoy. Something more interactive than you're accustomed to in movie reviews. My review will arrive late next week... and I hope you'll see the movie first chance you get. It's very very sticky.


So... Kirsten Dunst: Does she make you hear wedding bells? 


Open Thread

Today, I am off blog visiting an advanced ESL class -- i'm teaching interview skills -- and then it's on to a Tintin screening. In short: swamped but I'll write at you as soon as possible. What's on your mind cinematically speaking? Speak up. What movie be stuck in your head? (Today I've got T2 buzzing around for some reason).


Feinberg & Friends

Scott Feinberg started a podcast at the Hollywood Reporter a month back. Each week he has a different guest and it's yours truly this week. I haven't listened to it but, then, I was there during the recording so that should count. (I have the same mundane problem as most of the verbal world in that I hate hearing my own voice. Editing my own podcast --returning soon-- is enough torture in that department.)

We're discussing Best Picture, Costume Design, actresses who bare it all for the gold man, the double-supporting-actress nomination, and category placements for Carnage (everyone has officially gone supporting!) among other quick topics. Have a listen...

Thank you to Scott at the Hollywood Reporter for the conversation. We always love to talk Oscar.