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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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London: "Coriolanus", NYC, and an Oscar reject

David here with another report from the London Film Festival. First up, a Shakespeare adaptation with even more pedigree than usual.

"Anger is my meat. I sup upon myself." So proclaims Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) halfway through Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut Coriolanus. In person at the press conference, the raggedly bearded Fiennes' couldn't be more affable, but Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes, following Olivier and Branagh by directing himself in a Shakespearian lead) lives, and perhaps fosters, a world of fearsome aggression. In both the narrative and the extra-filmic reality of the cast, the hierarchy makes itself apparent: as Redgrave powers her way through her titanic final monologue, her terribly veined neck strained upwards as she spits and crows at Fiennes, she burns through Fiennes' schizophrenic celluloid, a scorch mark on a scuffed rug. Redgrave outacts everyone in sight because Shakespearean dialogue is part of her bloodstream, but also because she is so precise in how much of herself she commits to each moment. Redgrave's vibrant poise and direct anger are graciously straightforward without compromising on character depth.

The remainder of Coriolanus cannot be gifted with such lavish praise.

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Oscar Horrors: Jonathan Demme, Silence'd

Editor's Note: in this new series we're exploring Oscar nominated or Oscar winning contributions to the horror genre to get you in the right mood for Halloween. For this edition I've invited first time contributor Mayukh Sen, to offer up his provocative thoughts on an Oscar winner -Nathaniel.

Here lies... Jonathan Demme's early career. There was a time when he was the most promising young American director of his time.  But we lost all his potential the minute he won his Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Demme was a humanist in an era that desperately needed one.  He loved people, and he possessed grace, sensitivity, and a lack of condescension toward his working-class characters.  Kind of like McCarey or Renoir, he had a way of illuminating human flaws and virtues without passing judgment and was capable of expressing patience -- talents many directors lack.  Demme's universe seemed unhinged by the good-evil binary that pervades how many artists render America's lower- middle class. He refused to make human idiosyncrasies seem foolish or naive.

Around the time of Lambs, though, Demme lost one of his salient characteristics – lightness of touch.  Demme seems conscious of the fact that he is directing a “thriller”, and thus that he must downplay his sometimes offbeat, pop art-influenced aesthetic impulses for us to digest the narrative’s direness.  And, though he does still demonstrate considerable compassion for his characters, Demme seems more interested in asserting Clarice Starling's singular heroism than probing the moral ambiguities of the other characters.

This may seem like a petty complaint, but watch some of his earlier works – Caged Heat, Last Embrace – and you’ll understand what exactly we're missing from the old Demme.  Pauline Kael, one of Demme's earliest champions, said it best when she criticized Lambs for treating pulp as art.  She was right -- there’s nothing urgent or passionate about it.

This has happened with many directors. Post-Last Tango, Bertolucci never achieved the sensuality that characterized Before the Revolution or The Conformist.  Success brought upon more ambition, and the intimacy of his earlier work was lost.  

A part of me will always remember Lambs as the point at which Demme jumped the shark. Though Lambs is effective and, at times, fascinating, it doesn't have the charge of early Demme.  At best, his subsequent films function on the level of interesting failures.  I’m afraid that Demme's school of satiric humanism is unlike anything we'll ever see from him again, and I attribute this to his acceptance at the hands of the Hollywood elite.

16 More Oscar Horrors
From The Exorcist through the Fly and on to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane...


Q&A: Ryan's Harem, a SMG Triplet, & Streep/Close Duet.

Because I am super late in this week's (er.. last week's Q&A column) I'm answering more questions than usual. So let's get right to it. 

Ed: After Michelle Williams and Evan Rachel Wood, which actress under 30 would you love to see Ryan Gosling falling in love in the big screen?

I've been joking with friends (offscreen) that Ryan Gosling has basically made it his goal to bang every hot future Oscar winner in Hollywood (onscreen): Rachel, Evan, Kiki, Michelle, Carey, Emma. He's the envy of every straight and/or actressexual moviegoer out there. So pretty soon he'll have to get around to ANNE HATHAWAY, right? I'd be interested to see what he'd be like paired with Andrea Riseborough, Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), and... Oooh... totally random also small screen that needs to be bigger: Katee Sackhoff! She's 31 (Ryan's age) but she never gets good roles despite so much screen presence and I'm imagining that they'd completely burn holes in the celluloid if paired. (Unless they were shot digitally of course.)

Andrew K: I've seen you mention, in passing, that X actor should campaign in leading instead of supporting and although you're usually referring to the despicable nature of category fraud I'm curious as to whether or not you consider a Leading Oscar superior to a Supporting One.

I do not. And I don't think anyone else would either if it wasn't so often used as a demotion just to get a nomination or statue for the big stars. But the combination of egregious widely-accepted category fraud, the use of supporting statues to honor novelty acts or entire movies instead of performances (you all know what I'm talking about)  and the natural human tendency to think being a movie star (i.e. lead) is better than being a character actor (i.e. supporting) have only strengthened this belief that a supporting Oscar is an inferior prize. An Oscar is an Oscar if you ask me.

Julian: Christina Ricci, under-rated or over-rated? 

Depends on who you're talking to. I'd say early Christina is underrated and contemporary Christina is overrated. I mean it when I say she should have three Oscar nominations already: Addams Family Values (1993 -- not joking), The Ice Storm (1997) and The Opposite of Sex (1998). She's still totally watchable and charismatic but there's some missing ingredient lately. Black Snake Moan seemed like such an ideal opportunity to wow again but she didn't quite elevate it. In Pan Am she just seems like window dresssing. Adorable and pretty and funny window dressing yes... but not much more. It seems weird to hire her and then give all the good storylines to the lesser known actresses in that show? 

Daniel: What´s your favorite musical? And song in a musical?

My favorite musical is West Side Story which had its 50th anniversary this weekend and I was so stressed out I forgot to celebrate it godddddddamnit. I've long thought about doing a top ten favorite song performances in musicals but I'm not sure I'd ever be able to narrow it down. It depends on the mood...

favored songs, TV soaps, and a Streep/Close switcheroo after the jump.

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Open Thread

I regret to inform you that I am typing this from the dentists chair (ouch) so I'm living inside a horror movie. What's happening in YOUR world and would it make for a good movie?


London: "Like Crazy", A Conversation

Editor's Note: As a special treat for our London Film Festival coverage, I asked our correspondents Craig and David to share conversations about the movies that they happen to see together. Today, LIKE CRAZY and the Oscar buzz baffles them...

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are lovers in and out of it in "Like Crazy"

David: I think the first thing we should probably note about Like Crazy is how, well, un-crazy it is. 'Like Cute' would be a more fitting, if rather more nauseating, title. Perhaps I've just grown too cynical, but I don't think that's it. A piece of furniture tells us they love each other 'like crazy', but they don't. One of the few scenes I'd pick out was just after Anna (Felicity Jones) has introduced Jacob (Anton Yelchin) to her parents - they start kissing like mad, and for those few seconds I felt the heat between them, the flush of a youthful romance. But there wasn't nearly enough of that to establish the connection we're supposed to feel throughout the whole film.

Craig: I think the cuteness of the pairing was the thing director Drake Doremus seemed to want to eagerly translate the most, what with all the chair inscriptions and diary notes. (Clearly that chair wanted to be Like Crazy’s “Rosebud”.) Haven’t we seen this kind of meet-cute cinematic dalliance before, in things like Garden State, Elizabethtown etc? I was over quirk-filled romanticised moping the moment it began. Here it comes with a slightly dourer and artfully managed sense of itself – like a mini-me Blue Valentine... The Formative Years, yet without that film’s tender baggage.

Humor, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar buzz, after the jump...

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Curio: Costume Dramas

Alexa here.  Every year my desire to arrive at the perfect Halloween costume sees me trolling the internet for ideas.  Unlike my husband, who can throw together the perfect Carl Spackler costume in 10 minutes, I need to plan ahead, and I can't sew well enough to get really creative.  Someday I'll create the perfect Maude Lebowski Valkyrie look, but this year, on my daughter's orders, I'm going as a chicken.  Here are some looks I'd rather be wearing for Halloween.


A Black Swan Rodarte replica, $700, from this shop.

Take a flowered house dress, some duct tape, and this book, and you'd have the perfect Geena Davis Beetlejuice look.

Click for more including Marilyn, Catwoman, and Mattie Ross...

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Oscar Horrors: "The Tell Tale Heart"

BOO! In this 17 episode miniseries, suggested by Robert Gannon, Team Film Experience will be exploring Oscar nominated or Oscar winning contributions from or related to the Horror Film genre. Happy Halloween Season! 

HERE LIES... The Tell Tale Heart. Its insistent beating was drowned to death by the cacophony of musical noise coming from the instruments of Walt Disney's Toot Whistle Plunk and Bloom which won the Best Animated Short Film Oscar for 1953.

What is more horrifying than a madman who thinks himself sane, like the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe's legendary horror story The Tell Tale Heart? I can actually name four.

1. That an Oscar nomination by no means makes your film easy to find for future generations. This is especially true of any nominations outside of Picture, and Acting. Have you ever tried to find all the nominated short films to watch from any given calender year? SHUDDER. (YouTube has reanimated some of their corpses but otherwise, they're tough to dig up!)

2. That animation is still synonomous with children's entertainment despite all the disparate moods the medium is capable of. This short proves that animation is just as suitable for the macabre as it is the goofy slapstick. Note how the animator's makes creepy visual associations between a harmless old man's blind eye and mundane objects... and that director Ted Parmalee and his animators know as much about shadows as good noir filmmakers.

3. That the great James Mason never won an Oscar. CHILLING!, right? Not even for The Verdict or A Star is Born! He can do more with a few line readings than some actors can do in whole films. 

See how calmy and precisely I can tell this story to you? Listen.

The eye was always closed. For seven days I waited -- You think me mad? What madman could wait so patiently, so long -- in the old house, with the Old Man, and the eye that... 


4. That this short was rated X (X!) by the British censors in 1953... ...and now you can see things 100,000 times as grotesque and violent every night on television without parental guidance and with 100,000 times less humanizing guilt. 

Had you ever seen this short before?
What do you make of the new fictional Edgar Allen Poe themed thriller "The Raven" starring John Cusack?