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Entries in 10|25|50|75|100 (194)

Monday
Sep262016

The Furniture: Bored at the Border in "Hold Back the Dawn"

"The Furniture" our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the release of Hold Back the Dawn, the film for which Olivia de Havilland received her first Best Actress nomination. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t we have a whole month of de Havilland back in June, in the lead-up to her 100th birthday? Yes, we did. But I am here to inform you that celebrating this two-time Oscar-winner isn’t an occasional thing. It's an essential part of life.

Besides, the film is great. It’s a smart, cynical melodrama about a Romanian playboy named Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer), biding his time in a small Mexican town while he waits to be granted entry into the United States. It’ll be years, thanks to the National Origins Formula. Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder’s script was adapted from a story by Ketti Frings, but also took inspiration from Wilder’s own experiences as a refugee stranded by the quota system.

Fed up, Georges looks for other ways to get across. On the 4th of July he meets Emmy Brown (de Havilland), a thoroughly wholesome schoolteacher. She’s taken her students on a cross-border field trip... 

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Thursday
Sep152016

10th Anniversary: The Black Dahlia

David looks back at Brian de Palma's wildest film, ten years on from its release.

The Black Dahlia is a curious artefact. It is likely to be remembered simply by virtue of being in the catalogue of Brian de Palma, even if the film’s quality is negligible compared to his biggest hitters Carrie and The Untouchables. When compared to the other famous James Ellroy adaptation, the Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential (which celebrates its own birthday, its 19th, in just a few days), de Palma’s effort certainly pales. In the career of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (the film’s sole Oscar nominee), it’s likely to be a footnote in the late man’s incredible career, coming after his work with Spielberg, Cimino and Altman. The film’s stars probably took a year at most to write it off as a failure on all their parts.

Yet the film continues to fascinate - to lure you back into its craven web...

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Monday
Aug222016

The Furniture: Fantastic Voyage's Absurd Anatomy

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber... 

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage, as absurd and beautiful a film as Hollywood has ever made. It’s also a testament to what live action science fiction used to be like, before digital technology gave directors the tools to make every fantasy look realistic.

Inspired by the arms races of the Cold War, it chronicles a submarine trip into the tumorous brain of a brilliant scientist. The mission is to eliminate his cancer with a tiny laser, save his life, and preserve his miniaturization knowledge for the USA. It’s utterly ridiculous. Isaac Asimov, alarmed by the script’s plot holes, demanded the right to fix all of its problems for his novelization.

Of course, that might classify him as a bit of a fuddy-duddy. Trips into the body wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if they were realistic. If anything, they’d probably gross out the audience. 

Pixar understood this, creating an entirely new organ system for Inside Out. Fleischer’s team for Fantastic Voyage also prioritized the striking over the reasonable.

Much of this success is, of course, due to the production design...

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Thursday
Jul282016

Michael Mann's "Miami Vice" 10 Years Later

Please welcome back new contributor Bill Curran for a 10th anniversary look at Miami Vice

The major studio head-scratcher of its year, the ultimate distillation of Michael Mann’s brand of clean sheen noir, and the most authentically auteurist film of the aughts, Miami Vice was the movie offspring of a successful and ever-parodied 80s TV series that was nothing like the original. Instead, Mann unleashed a brooding and voluptuously pixilated peacock of a crime thriller upon an unsuspecting public

If only every recent remake had as much reckless spirit as this one did when it opened nationally ten years ago today. Though the film received favorable notices from top print critics, including a rave from A.O. Scott, the majority of reviewers (and almost all audiences) were simply confused...

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Wednesday
Jul272016

10 Things to Love About "Scoop"

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Woody Allen’s murder mystery romp, Scoop. The film followed the darkly sexy Match Point, reuniting the director with star Scarlett Johansson. Unfortunately, critics and audiences were less dazzled by the pair’s second feature together, and Scoop joined the ranks of Allen’s lesser films. 

Still, I have a soft spot for this quirky little film. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fun; a confection (more dessert than entree). It’s a movie you can put on in the background while working on a project or as a pick-me-up after a bad day. So in honor of its anniversary, here are ten things to love about the mostly unloved Scoop. 

10 THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT SCOOP
by Steven Fenton

10. GILES!
Everyone’s favorite Watcher (Anthony Stewart Head), appears in a brief cameo as a detective interviewing Peter Lyman. It always a thrill to see that discerning furrowed brow.

 

09. THE IMPERFECT SCIENCE OF MAKING SCARLETT NERDY
Johansson’s Sondra Pransky attends a swanky London party in a little black dress and...a scrunchie! Carrie Bradshaw would die. The costumers had the unenviable task of making Scarlett Johnasson a nerd. They put her in wire-rim glasses, frumpy brown capris, and truly unflattering button-downs. Their attempts do nothing to mitigate Scarlett’s sex appeal, but it’s a delight watching them try...

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Tuesday
Jul122016

Boyz n the Hood Turns 25

Lynn Lee revisits the John Singleton classic on its 25th anniversary.

Four young boys walk along a railroad track, idly chatting but in search of something specific.  They find what they’re looking for: a dead body.  A group of older boys arrives and harasses them.  The most pugnacious of the younger group fights back in a way that foreshadows his destiny as an adult.

Stand by Me?  No, Boyz n the Hood, which opened in theaters 25 years ago today.  And the parallels are no mere coincidence. Writer and drector John Singleton was intentionally referencing the earlier Rob Reiner film – perhaps as much for the differences as the similarities between the two narratives of boyhood and the cultural spaces they occupy...

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