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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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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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Entries in 10|25|50|75|100 (208)

Monday
Jan162017

The Furniture: Appropriating Chinese Design in "The Shanghai Gesture"

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. This week Daniel Walber looks back at one of the Art Direction Oscar nominees of 1942 for its 75th anniversary.

While Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture was still in production, the studio received a letter from T.K. Chang, the Chinese Consul to Los Angeles. Having read the script, he objected to its vicious and absurd portrayal of Shanghai’s underbelly and cautioned the producers to take “consideration of Chinese sentiment.”

Producer Arnold Pressburger defended the film as merely a fantasy. “This imaginary world has no connection with the realistic aspects of today,” he replied. This argument even wound up in the final cut, in the form of an opening title card: “Our story has nothing to do with the present.”


Chang saw right through Pressburger’s nonsense. “Such imaginations always prove to be constructed from the raw material of realities,” he wrote back. He was right. The Shanghai Gesture attempts a menacingly ahistorical flare by appropriating specifically Chinese decor. This is, of course, impossible. But the Oscar-nominated failure of art director Boris Leven (West Side Story) is fascinating...

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Thursday
Jan052017

What's your favorite Jane Wyman?

It's Jane Wyman's Centennial.  The actress was born on this day in Missouri in 1917 as Sara Jane Mayfield.

Like many major stars her legacy rests on a period that's only about a decade long -- in Wyman's case the mid 40s through the 50s, or more specifically the Best Picture winner The Lost Weekend (1945) through the Douglas Sirk classic All that Heaven Allows (1955) a period in which she specialized in childlike women and their inverse young widows-- but her career was long, stretching from bit parts in the early 30s through TV stardom in the 80s.

Her greatest hits and Oscar triumphs after the jump. Which is your favorite?

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Tuesday
Jan032017

Your First Film Screening of 2017? Mine was "Casablanca"

Happy 2017, everyone! Dancin' Dan here, to celebrate how I rang in the New Year in cinema.

I personally opted not to go with any of the new releases, instead choosing January 1st to see a 35mm print of one of my Top Three films of all time, Casablanca. Apparently the print is making the rounds in honor of the 1943 Best Picture winner's 75th Anniversary. The timing, as always with Casablanca, is confusing: Casablanca premiered in New York in November of 1942 but it didn't become Oscar eligible until the 1943 film year winning the Oscar in March 1944 sixteen whole months after its premiere. Technically it's not quite 75 yet.

But never mind that, because Casablanca is always worth celebrating. It's so easy to fall in love with the shared beauty and charisma of stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and to applaud the film's witty, instant-classic lines. This time around, though, I was particularly struck by two things...

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Monday
Dec262016

The Furniture: Fame Flattens Your Dreamgirls, Boys

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

 This probably goes without saying, but movie musicals tend not to take place in the real world. Gene Kelly doesn’t just serenade French children in An American in Paris, he leads the cast through a dream ballet of wild abstraction. The oddness of public singing is often just the door to an even more fantastical world. Even those about actual musicians, who need no special excuse to croon, often break free from realism.

In this context, Dreamgirls is a bit of an odd duck. Director Bill Condon tries to split the difference. Some of the songs are entirely within the context of a real performance, while others incorporate non-musician characters and non-realistic settings. The back and forth can be a bit confounding...

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Monday
Dec262016

10th Anniversary: Children of Men

David here on the tenth anniversary of a modern masterpiece...

Watching Children of Men at the end of this particular year is an almost surreal experience, because P.D. James’s dystopian vision of the world seems even more feasible than ever. It’s hard to not feel like the new president elect is leading us to a world like the one we glimpse on the video screens, where all cities the world over have been devastated by riot and ruin. It’s hard to not see the xenophobia of the Brexit referendum result in the end of the same video, which declares ‘Only Britain Soldiers On’, as if there’s some value to be had in a country that cages immigrants on train platforms and allows the privileged white man to shut himself off in glacial towers. “You know what it is, Theo?” says Danny Huston’s government minister of his cousin (Clive Owen), when asked how he lives contentedly shut off from the devolution outside. “I just don’t think about it."

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Sunday
Dec182016

Christmas Classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

A few members of Team Experience will be sharing posts on their favorite Christmas movies. Here's Tim...

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a great classic: it was on December 18, 1966, that the world got its first look at the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, adapted from the 1957 book by Dr. Seuss and directed by cartoon legend Chuck Jones. There are too many ways we could quantity the importance of this television special: as the last of Jones's masterpieces before he settled into Elder Statesman status, as the progenitor of a line of generally strong Seuss adaptations that didn't stop until the beginning of the 1980s, as the third in a line of deathless cartoon Christmas specials that premiered one per year from 1964 to 1966 (Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas are the others).

But since it's the holiday season, let's start with how this is one of the loveliest and most heartfelt stories of the True Meaning of Christmas ever filmed. That is, in no small part, because neither Seuss nor Jones were overt sentimentalists: the author had a slightly arch, caustic tone to his highly precise rhyming that's too self-aware to be saccharine, and Jones built his career on anarchic cartoon comedies, making no fewer than three films on the theme "how many ways can we shoot Daffy in the face?" And with that kind of attitude underpinning the proceedings, How the Grinch Stole Christmas ends up being a little bit saltier than most of the other canonical Christmas classics. Obviously, it gets to the expected place where we all learn important lessons and feel better and embrace tradition, but it works a little bit harder than usual to make sure that it's earned.

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Thursday
Dec152016

"Dreamgirls" at 10

by Chris Feil

With La La Land, isn't it great to have a musical out in front again this Oscar race, especially one that brings such joy (sideyeing you specifically, Les Miz)? And as Nathaniel pointed out, that shouldn't be taken for granted.

Ten years ago, Dreamgirls was a more traditional genre high, and ulitmately taught us not to get too comfortable with a musical's Oscar chances after it landed that year's highest nomination tally but missed Best Picture and Director. But maybe that miss resulted from voters tiring of a campaign that started a full year before release, and not from the quality of the film.

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