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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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William Holden in Picnic

"I find Holden has a more earthy sex appeal in his early roles, you could kick your shoes off and put them on his lap and he wouldn't flinch." - Mark

"My mother's favorite actor. His dance with Kim Novak is an unforgettable movie moment." -Jaragon

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Wednesday
Jul132016

Yes, No, Maybe So: La La Land

During the Oscar campaign for Whiplash (2014) I was able to meet its breakthrough writer/director Damien Chazelle a few times and he even dropped hints to me about his plans for La La Land. I couldn't believe my ears that we would get a real musical from him. Given that both of his first two films centered around musicians, it shouldn't have been such a surprise. 

Here we are nearly two years later with the first teaser trailer and what sounds like a surefire Best Original Song nominee in "City of Stars" (now available to download) have emerged and we're already yes yes gimme.

The film's synopsis (which we hope is just an excuse to hang swoony scenes and musical numbers on) goes like so:

Jazz musican Sebastian and his girlfriend, aspiring actress Mia, struggle to cope with the pressures of trying to make it big in Hollywood. 

Let's talk about the teaser after the jump, breaking it down with our Yes No Maybe So system.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul132016

Judy by the Numbers: "I Don't Care"

Though nobody foresaw it at the time, 1948 was a major turning point in what would be Judy Garland’s last few years at MGM. After the one-two Freed Unit punch of Easter Parade and Words and Music at the beginning of 1948, Judy was supposed to head straight into her third Arthur Freed film,The Barkleys of Broadway. With Fred Astaire coaxed out of retirement, the duo of Astaire and Garland looked to be a new box office guarantee. Unfortunately, what wasn’t a guarantee was Judy’s health. After two months of rehearsal, Judy backed out of The Barkleys of Broadway, to be replaced by Ginger Rogers. This decision sounded the death knell for her partnership with Arthur Freed, the producer who had created the Judy Garland formula. Judy was too tired, too thin, and too weak to go on filming, until another producer from her past swooped back into the picture: Joe Pasternak.

The Movie: In The Good Old Summertime (1949, MGM)
The Songwriter: George Evans (music), Ren Shields (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Van Johnson, Buster Keaton, S.Z. Sakall, Spring Byington, directed by Robert Z. Leonard 

The Story: Joe Pasternak would end up producing what would be Judy Garland’s last two pictures at MGM. The first was In The Good Old Summertime. Pasternak used many of the Freed Unit tricks, including recycled music and a recycled plot, this time from the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner (which would also be remade again into a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks comedy and a Broadway musical that was revived just this year). Despite the title, In The Good Old Summertime was shot in Fall and set during Christmas. Such is Hollywood. It teamed Judy with the affable black hole of charisma Van Johnson, the (at the time) nearly forgotten Buster Keaton, and a cameo by three-year-old Liza Minnelli. This movie also gave us Judy Garland’s single most gif-able song.

There’s a lot to love about this number. Judy is healthy, smiling and sassy. With less focus on footwork, we get some great Judy gestures and a lot of broad comedy from the diminutive diva. (The foot kick is my personal favorite.) As is so often the case during these high-energy numbers, Judy looks like she’s having a lot of fun and by all reports that was really the case, because Joe Pasternak did one thing very different from Arthur Freed: he refused to overtax his star. No more pressure, no more forced slimdowns. And it worked! Judy finished the shoot incident-free. Unfortunately, MGM took this as a sign that her health and ability had returned, and immediately cast her in Annie Get Your Gun. Judy wouldn’t complete that picture, though the film she made after would add another iconic performance and sad chapter to the Judy Garland legacy.

Select Previous Highlights:  
"Dear Mr Gable" (1937), “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (1941), "For Me and My Gal" (1942), "The Trolley Song" (1944), "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946), "I Love a Piano" (1948),  "Johnny One Note" (1948)

Wednesday
Jul132016

Hollywoodland. And other anniversaries today

On this day in history as it relates to the movies...

1793 Jean-Paul Marat is born in Prussia. Goes on to become a famous political activist and journalist during the French Revolution. His murder is dramatized in the famous play Marat/Sade (also known as The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade which was made into a film in 1968 starriing Patrick Macgee and Ian Richardson. I once saw a production of this play in Harlem and it was just fascinating.
1863
British Egyptologist, "Grandmother of Wicca" and proto-feminist Margaret Alice Murray is born in India. I only mention this because so many fascinating, influential and controversial women exist in history but we only ever get biopics of men. Why doesn't she have a biopic? It could be great.
1923 The iconic HOLLYWOOD sign is officially dedicated in California. It originally says "Hollywoodland" but the "land" is dropped twenty-six years later.

more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul122016

Q&A: Oscar-Free Dames, Supporting Shortlists, Disney Renaissance

Just answering six reader questions this afternoon for time constraints so we'll do another handful later in the week. Thanks for all the great Qs, readers! Here we go.

GSHAQ: Do you feel the gap is widening between the stories told in mainstream movies and contemporary issues? Oops, that might be an essay. 

NATHANIEL: This question hurts my brain but I'll try. I do fear for the health of cinema which directly addresses contemporary issues. For a long time the movies have preferred past-tense filters for social and political issues, once it's safer since history has sorted out consensus. The best of those past-tense films also address the here and now through their resonant power (see: Selma). And there's something to be said for the facility that good genre films have in addressing the way we live via metaphor (The Babadook, Bridesmaids, and Melancholia are MUCH better films about depression than some earnest dramas that directly take it on) Even superhero films can be reflective of the here and now in spite of (or maybe because of) all their mixed messages and contradictory 'have it both ways' politics. I don't think it's an accident that Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War, whatever their disparate qualities, are asking the same questions about Might Equalling Right and whether we have the right checks and balances in place for those in power. These are issues that we're facing in very real ways all over the world. But, that said, we do need a reenergized contemporary cinema. If we can only think about tough issues through metaphor or by dwelling on the past, we have some maturation to do as a society!

It's true that movies made in the right-now about the right-now can age quickly (see movies we've recently discussed like Working Girl)  but if they're any good -- and sometimes even when they aren't -- they make great time capsules about the way we were, the things we valued, and the issues that laid claim to our collective mental real estate.  

BVR: Rank the animated movies from the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999). Extra: which is the most underrated?

NATHANIEL: This is cheating and asking for a top ten list but here's a NON commital answer after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul122016

Best Shot(s): Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Commence squealing. For what could be more delightful than an evening with two perfect musical comedy performances? It's time to talk Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. The film, currently streaming on Netflix, was the runner up in our Readers Choice polling for Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES
20th Century Fox. Released on July 15th, 1953 in New York
Director: Howard Hawks; Cinematographer: Harry J Wild 
Starring: Jane Russell as 'Dorothy', Marilyn Monroe as 'Lorelei', Charles Coburn as 'Piggy', Elliott Reid as 'Malone', Tommy Noonan as 'Esmond Jr'

Howard Hawk's classic was not the first iteration of the story. It was based on the stage musical which itself was based on a book which had already spawned two non-musicals. The 1949 stage musical, a huge hit on Broadway, had introduced Carol Channing to the world. New star Marilyn Monroe got Channing's  star-making "Lorelei" role for the screen. (The same thing would happen to Channing sixteen years later with her other signature role Hello Dolly) But sometimes a movie turns out so spectacularly well that it's impossible to imagine it existing in any other shape than the one it's in, all other versions prior or subsequent feel like faint cultural echoes. 

Best Shots after the jump...

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