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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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yes, we had a good time at the movies in 2016


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The Next La La Land?

"It looks like fun and Hugh and Zac make a cute couple" - Jaragon

"Why do we keep treating La La Land like some sort of longsuffering, put-upon, misunderstood underdog? It's like making time to assure the prom queen that she's pretty and popular.." -Hayden

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INTERVIEWS

Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane)
Gael García Bernal (Neruda)
Billy Crudup (20th Century Women)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival

 

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Tuesday
Sep232014

NYFF: Ethan Hawke Introduces 'Seymour'

The New York Film Festival begins this Friday and Glenn continues our pre-fest coverage by looking at 'Seymour: An Introduction'.

It’s curious that Ethan Hawke has appeared on screen this year with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and now returns behind the camera (after Chelsea Walls and The Hottest State) to direct Seymour: An Introduction. Curious because both films get their life-source from demographics at opposite ends of the age spectrum that are both treated somewhat like lepers of cinema. Teenage boys in Boyhood and kindly old senior citizens aren’t usually treated with such respect and humility as these two Hawke projects. I have not seen Hawke's two previous directorial efforts, but this first foray into documentary is a nice step for this Hollywood stay who has clearly wrestled with being an artist in an industry that doesn't necessary encourage it.

Having said that, this “introduction” to the 86-year-old (I hope I am remembering the age correctly as information about it appears non-existent online) suffers from, perhaps, too much of a need to be charming, rarely digging deep enough into this man’s life to eke out a portrait of lasting relevance. Seymour: An Introduction is nice and lovely and 80 minutes spent with delightful company, but while Hawke flirts with finding something deeper within the renowned pianist’s history to delve into – a brief snipped mentions he has lived alone in the same apartment for 57 years; he begins to tear up at recalling his days performing for troops in Korea – they are shortlived.

Hawke instead prefers to keep his film predominantly observational to his life as it stands today. He tutors students of various ages, performs open-to-the-public masterclasses (which are the film’s highlights), goes for tea at Tipsy Parson café on 9th Avenue, and extols wisdom with bonmots such as “without craft there is no artistry” and “if you feel inadequate as a musician, then you’ll feel inadequate as a person" that frequently verge on the wise old crackpot scale. His observations about classical music, particularly as it pertains to one’s own personality including the masculinity of Pollock, Brando and Beethoven, are enlightening. So, too, are the occasional memory lane throwbacks to other famed pianists like Glenn Gould and Sir Clifford Curzon.

Bernstein and Hawke after the screening

Hawke does appear on screen, briefly early on and then again towards the end where he introduces Bernstein’s return to public performance (he had given it up many decades ago after a well-reviewed performance at Alice Tully Hall nearly crippled him with nerves and doubt about the industry’s integrity) to a small group of pupils and recognizable faces (Mark Ruffalo can be seen in the crowd, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it). In another way that it plays as an opposite of Boyhood, Seymour: An Introduction settles for telling the story of one man rather than hoping to tell a story of more wider-reaching grasp. I think the film certainly could have benefited perhaps from more exploration of the Upper West Side's role in the forming of these prodigal talents as well more insight into Bernstein's place amongst modern musicians from people who aren't his friends or students. I just wish the film had a bit more meat on its bones to make it a more memorable introduction. B-

--

Seymour: An Introduction screens on Saturday Sep 27 (12pm) and Monday Sep 29 (9pm). NYFF will also host "An Evening with Ethan Hawke" on Tuesday Sep 30 (6pm).

Tuesday
Sep232014

Retro Quickie: Cinderella Liberty (1973)

File Under: I have had this Netflix disc out for so long and it really has to be returned to unclog my queue. -Nathaniel

You got a terrific knack for being nice and a prick all at the same time.

Have any of you ever seen Cinderella Liberty? Back when we were doing our 1973 celebration, I rented it since it was the sole Best Actress nomination I hadn't seen from that year. Marsha Mason plays a prostitute with a heart of... well, not gold exactly. But she's got one. She's raising Doug, her biracial teenager (Kirk Calloway nominated for Best Newcomer at the Golden Globes) on her own but she's doing a pretty shit job of it. Enter: James Caan, fresh off the double whammy star-making years of Brian's Song (1971) and The Godfather (1972), as a sailor named John Baggs Jr. who hooks up with her. In actuality it's Baggs' story and Maggie is missing for good stretches of the movie. Seemingly on a whim, this goodhearted sailor decides to stick around and decides to fall in love with her. That's the one thing that's most clear and most enigmatic about the movie. 

I found it a fascinating watch primarily because, though Mason is just fine as a moody blowsy hooker who can't manage her life towards something better, it was Caan's masculine reserve and softly shaded performance that drew me in...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep232014

Deadpool Solo Film is a Go


Margaret here, with the latest in superhero news. Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel Comics have firmed their long-rumored plans to produce a Deadpool movie. A popular Marvel character, Deadpool (alias Wade Wilson) is a motormouthed mercenary with powers including regenerative healing and expert swordsmanship. He appeared in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as played by Ryan Reynolds, to much fan favor. Though Reynolds is not yet attached to the upcoming film, in the grand tradition of superhero tentpoles a release has already been fixed for February 12 of 2016. 

When Reynolds appeared as Deadpool five years ago, his star was quickly on the rise. The warm reception to his performance in Wolverine helped him land the lead in DC Comics' mega-budget Green Lantern movie, which (remember? We were so young back then) was expected to become a major franchise. The film ended up tanking spectacularly, and Reynolds' next several major-studio projects fared little better. Like many floundering movie stars before him, he retreated to the indie-movie scene, but Marjane Satrapi's The Voices (which played Sundance) is divisive and Atom Egoyan's The Captive (Cannes) was critically panned. 

Can this Deadpool project reverse his trajectory? Does Ryan Reynolds even have any chances left?


Tuesday
Sep232014

NYFF: Growing Up, Italian Style in 'The Wonders' and 'Misunderstood'

The New York Film Festival begins this Friday. But our screenings have already begun. Here is Glenn on two Italian films, "The Wonders" and "Misunderstood"

If Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (2013) was an ode to the fantastical visions of Federico Fellini's Italy, then Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders is an appropriate return to the world of the country’s famed neorealist movement of the 1940s and ‘50s, concerning itself with the economic and moral quandries of so-called everyday Italians. Coming in second place at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it follows a family in rural Italy who scrape by due their honey farming, but an encounter with a television production in their hometown spearheads the eldest daughter’s desire to lift herself and her family out of the poverty line that they barely manage to survive above.

Perhaps Rohrwacher’s greatest achievement with The Wonders is the way she is able to authentically represent the  rural life of this Italian family without reducing their countryside suffering to lazy miserabilist bleakness. Their world of naturalistic overcast greys and damp browns is countered by the beauty of a region. Rohrwacher lets these moments of beauty linger, too, punctuated by occasional fleeting figments of fantasy at the hands of the wonderful Monica Bellucci. Her appearance as the host of a (rather perplexing) TV show, adorned in billowing costume and pitch-white wig, brings to the film an extra element of surprise that shows the director as a keenly smart filmmaker who knows when to highlight the plight of her characters and when to allow them a reprieve. [More...] 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep232014

"Beauty, Brains, Breeding, and Bounty"

I'm such a square and Cry Baby don't like squares! I missed the entire John Waters festival here in New York (Blame Canada!) and also this past weekend the news that Polly Bergen had died. Goodbye to a lovely lady that had it all: beauty, brains, breeding, and bounty (of talent). 

Tuesday
Sep232014

Curio: Danielle Buerli's Three-dimensional Tributes

Alexa here with your weekly art appreciation.  In my frequent perusals of the pop culture artwork shown at Gallery1988, Danielle Buerli's work has always stood out.  Danielle is an illustrator working out of Zurich, Swizerland.  While in art school, Danielle's illustrations began to emerge from the page, and now she primarily creates diorama environments with found materials, often with inspiration from popular culture. 

Here are some examples of her wonderful movie tributes (more after the jump... )

"Milk Plus"

 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep222014

Fiddler on the Roof is 50

Fifty years ago today, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway and was an instant success with audiences and also won 9 Tony Awards including the big kahuna Best Musical. It would become the longest running musical in Broadway history until it was surpassed by that crop of 80s mega-musicals from Britain. The musical has been performed countless times since in stage productions all over the world and four revivals on Broadway (76, 81, 90, 04). 

Best Actor nominee Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971)

By 1971 there was a movie adaptation that was nominated for 8 Oscars including Best Picture and I don't believe we've ever discussed it. That ain't right. I've been thinking about 60s and 70s musicals a lot recently due to that book "Roadshow!" and while the movie studios were definitely overinvested in the genre after the gargantuan back-to-back mega hits that were Mary Poppins and Sound of Music occassionally a hit would crop up within the string of flops that killed the genre thereafter. It helped that Norman Jewison was helming. As "Roadshow!" recounts:

I've never seen a distributor, an exhibitor... or the head of a studio ever improve on a film," said Jewison, "Only creative people can improve on a film." Cinematographer Oswald Morris said, "Norman was under hideous pressure from United Artists to keep costs down. To give him his due, he withstood all this; he had a vision for Fiddler, which he wasn't prepared to compromise, no matter what the front office said, and I greatly admire him for this." Jewison immersed himself in classic Jewish culture. I think he knows more about Judaism today than I do," said Topol. Fiddler lyricist Sheldon Harnick noted that Jewison, "isn't Jewish, but he did so much research in preparation for the film that he became quite knowledgeable about things Jewish. As a result, either Topol, or someone else suggested that he should be made an honorary Jew and renamed Norman Christianson!"

When signed, Jewison was hot off the double Oscar success of The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966) and In the Heat of the Night (1967) with his best work still far in the future; That's Moonstruck (1987) -- you know this to be true!

Critical reactions to Fiddler varied and some people objected to its relentless downplaying (within the marketing) of the Judaism of the story, but it raked in big bucks. Or as "Roadshow!" puts it: 

Roughly half of "The Sound of Music"'s earnings, but half of "Music" still qualifies as a blockbuster.

My last visit with this property was not the movie but the stage show's gorgeous 2004 revival starring Alfred Molina (the set design and lighting were just exquisite stage triumphs but it weirdly won no Tonys despite plentiful nominations) and I was stunned to realize or, rather, remember that virtually every song is a classic. It's one of those musicals.

What's your favorite number in that show and do you like its film version?