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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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I Googled "Les Miz Songs" For A Title To This Post

... so pretend it's called "I Dreamed A Dream... of Music!" or something thereabouts. Be creative, in the wake of my early morning total lack thereof. JA from MNPP here. As I made horrifically clear to everyone back when we played “Make Me Watch A Musical” a couple of years ago, I have… well, it’s more than a blind spot, more like a black hole when it comes to movie musicals. It’s been awhile since then and I haven’t much improved my standing with the genre, either. I’ve seen several of the Busby Berkley musicals and I really enjoyed them (Team Blondell! Ruby Keeler can suck an egg!), but then I suffered though – suffered being the operative word – Funny Girl to see who this Barbra Streisand character everybody talks about is all about and wow, not for me! I say this not to offend you Barbolytes (Streisfans? Babsilonians?) but to make it clear how Byzantine my pathologies towards the genre are. There’s no rhyme or reason. 

Which is why I find myself writing this post today. A couple of years ago, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway lit up the stage at the Oscars, and me along with most of the rest of you lit up alongside it. What a hoot! And now they’re reuniting to make a musical, which is totally something I would watch.  They have charisma that captivates me. The musical is Les Misérables, to be exact. My familiarity with Les Miz can be summed up by this post here. That’s the honest truth. Totally clueless. I’ve never even read Hugo’s book. The French Revolution is involved? Maybe somebody steals some bread? I don't know.

So I want a lesson. I’m asking you musical lovers to tell me what I need to know going into this. Gimme "The Gospel of Les Miz According To TFE Readers." How right or wrong is Hugh Jackman for the part he’s playing? How about Russell Crowe? And lovely Anne, can she be a Fantine, whatever the hell that is? Who could you see playing the parts better? And what about all the other roles, who would you cast? What are they going to have to do to adapt the source into a successful movie? I don’t know! I am asking you!


Distant Relatives: The General and How to Train Your Dragon

Robert here with my series Distant Relatives, which explores the connections between one classic and one contemporary film. This week we continue the admittedly pointless but always fun Keaton vs. Chaplin debate and contrast it with the Dreamworks vs Pixar animation debate. The important thing is to remember that you can love all of these films and it's not a competition.

Last week I started off with Modern Times representing the Chaplin collection and WALLE as the Pixar film and declared them the "frontrunners" in our non-competition based on the fact that more people could identify Chaplin's Tramp and WALL•E than could Keaton or Dragon's protagonist Hiccup, which seems like a fair assessment. But that's about as far as I and many others are willing to go. Quality is a different question. Indeed the days of Chaplin towering over Keaton as a matter of fact are long gone, and probably were never really that significant to begin with (indeed Keaton was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar before Chaplin). And let's not forget that the first Best Animated Feature Oscar wasn't awared to the Pixar powerhouse, but a Dreamworks film. If Chaplin and Pixar represent old-fashioned, sentimental storytelling, then Keaton with his stone-faced subtlety and Dreamworks with it's clever revisionism (think twisted fairy tales in Shrek or villian protagonist in Despicable Me) are, and have frequently been declared the more "modern" sides to this debate.

Men with Certain Talents

One immediate difference that viewers of The General and How to Train Your Dragon will notice from their Chaplin/Pixar counterparts is that these films' heroes, Hiccup and Johnny Gray have serious talents. They're not just characters of coincidence. Nor do they have only their determination to guide them. Oh, they have determination but their possession of a singular specific talent that elevate them above others in their world is a characteristic simply not found in last week's films. These abilities are thus: Keaton's Johnny Gray is a train engineer, and clearly an industrius one at that. Hiccup is something of a Dragon engineer, possessing the ability to train and ride the creatures that his people are at war with. 

In fact, both films are set during a time of war, In Dragon it's a war between those mythical monsters and Hiccup's people, the vikings. In The General, it's the American Civil War.

Unconventional war heroes and r-e-s-p-e-c-t after the jump.

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Red Carpet: "Women in Hollywood", The Event

In Red Carpet Convos, a rotating group of panelists looks at what people are wearing to events like The Emmys, film festival premieres, and various random events, and use it for an excuse to talk about actresses. Today's guest is Guy Lodge from In Contention. 

Nathaniel: The annual Women in Hollywood even took place this weekend -- or perhaps Monday? all the days be running together lately -- so let's start with the Household Names. You can just say "Pfeiffer", "Aniston", "Witherspoon" and "Heigl" and everyone knows who you're talking about. Even people  that don't go to the movies (strange strange people, though they be!)

the über famous

Guy: You know it's the Women in Hollywood event because This Is Serious and Serious Women Do Not Wear Color.
Nathaniel: Michelle has been serious her whole life. If she's feeling unusually frisky she'll throw a red at'cha but it's almost always, 90% of the time, black.
Guy: As if she needs its slimming effect.
Nathaniel: Right.

Guy: I realize that to say a word against Pfeiffer at the Pfilm Experience is a bit like pissing on the crucifix in a cathedral, but I"m... not crazy abotu this look on her? The mid calf length, combined with the severity of the black, is a bit schoolmarmy.
Nathaniel: Well, you're a good sport about my dissings of Aniston so I can take it.
Guy: It's interesting that her belt resembles a roll of film, though, since she seems to have so little interest in the medium these days.
Nathaniel: [sniffle] I do love that she's gone all out with the detailing though to make up for the absence of color.

Guy: Yes, Pfeiffer's always been good with the details -- the glasp on her purse -- CLASP not glasp-- on her purse looks a bit like the vial from Death Becomes Her.
Nathaniel: You were thinking "[gasp] NOW a warning?!?" which is totally understandable because Michelle is 53 years old so she's clearly been to see Lisle for that age-defying potion. 

We have to discuss the psychological profiling of their individualistic choices in cleavage, though. Immediately Reese is confusing me because when i first saw this i swear to god i was thinking "chest hair". it totally threw ‬me.

Guy: I'm glad I'm not the only one puzzled by it. I was wondering if she has a giant sunflower tattoo in progress on her chest -- just the petals haven't been added yet.
Nathaniel: Decolattage as character profile: Pfeiffer: angular, classic; Aniston: freewheeling California golden; Reese: .....; Katharine:" Look at me! No, don't look at me. Ack. What am I doing?" 
Guy: Still, I'm grateful for Reese's weird chest-lace. It's the only thing  keeping her from looking like she's abotu to sell me a house.
Nathaniel: Tell her the price is too high! Too high! 



Nathaniel: Another fun game we could play is "Which of these four women has the worst taste in scripts?"

More on these superstars and nine more actreses after the jump.

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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.

Click to read more ...


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?