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Tuesday
Jul242018

50 Kristins for Kristin's 50th

by Jorge Molina

Today, Tony, Emmy and Grammy-winner (that’s right, she only needs an Oscar to EGOT; get on it, Hollywood) and human ray of sunshine Kristin Chenoweth turns 50 years old. To honor her career, her legacy, and that impossibly high pitch matched only by her charisma, let’s take a look at 50 roles and appearances that she has gifted the world in almost three decades of work, in no particular order:

1) Her Broadway debut in an adaptation of Moliére’s Scapin as Hyacinth in 1996. 

2 & 3) Her two most iconic Broadway roles: A featured Tony-winning turn as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1999, and the Best Actress Tony-nominated performance as Glinda, the Good Witch in the world phenomenon that was Wicked in 2003.

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Wednesday
Jul182018

The Furniture: Mattes, Moons and Mountains in For Whom the Bell Tolls

Daniel Walber's series on Production Design. Click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Sam Wood directing Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper in 1943's top picture

It can seem kind of crazy that For Whom the Bell Tolls was the top box office hit of 1943. The star power of Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper played into it, of course. So did the fact that it was an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s popular and recent novel. And there’s the obvious appeal of Cooper fighting a bunch of Fascists, a year and a half after America’s entry into World War Two.

The thing is, he doesn’t actually do all that much fighting. No one in the film does. It’s mostly a contemplative interlude on the fringes of the Spanish Civil War, a brutal vacation with a band of hardened guerrillas, a doomed love story built from trauma and consummated on the high rocks. It’s 165 minutes of memory, frustration and stasis.

It also wound up with nine Oscar nominations, including both cinematography and art direction. And the collaboration between cinematographer Ray Rennahan and the design team of Hans Dreier, Haldane Douglas and Bertram C. Granger is really the highlight of the film, even against the life-giving energy of Katina Paxinou’s Oscar-winning performance...

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Friday
Jul132018

Bergman Centennial: Death and "The Seventh Seal"

by Chris Feil

The Seventh Seal begins with some of the most enigmatic and iconic imagery of Ingmar Bergman’s career. Which is saying something considering the auteur’s filmography is composed almost entirely of meditative frames. Here Max von Sydow's post-Crusades knight Antonious Block is visited by a black cloaked Death and the two take part in a literal and intellectual game of chess. It’s a grave way to start a film, one that still endures for its thematic impact and how it establishes the rest of its stark narrative as spiritually timeless.

Named for the passage in the Book of Revelation marking the final opening of the apocalyptic scrolls and the resulting period of silence in heaven, the film lives in that quiet Godlessness...

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Wednesday
Jul112018

The Furniture: Theatrical Magic in "Fanny and Alexander"

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, our weekly series on Production Design returns for Season 3! Kicking off with an episode of our Ingmar Bergman Centennial Mini-Series.

There is so much to say about Fanny and Alexander. It has the visual density of The Age of Innocence, the spiritual ascent of Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Ingmar Bergman’s remarkable way with character. These elements gather together to form a benevolent and mystical dome, one which will define the young Alexander’s relationship to his family and his world. The film is built with a free sense of reality, leaping across time but lingering in resonant moments. Bergman casts the Ekdahl family as practitioners of a magical humanism, which which whisks the audience through these many hours as if in a dream.

Much of this atmosphere depends upon the film’s Oscar-winning production design. 

Its furniture magic takes center stage in the first act, late into the early morning hours of Christmas. Oscar Ekdahl (Allan Edwall), Fanny and Alexander’s father, spins a fantastical yarn about an otherwise unremarkable wooden chair. Its long history and hidden power, he says, make it the most valuable in the entire world. Between the flickering gas lights, the holiday atmosphere and the mood of childlike wonder, we are all taken in...

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Monday
Jul092018

Bergman Centennial: Winter Light (1963) and the echo of First Reformed (2018)

Team Experience will be celebrating one of the world's most acclaimed auteurs for the next week for the 100th anniversary of Ingmar Bergman's birth. Here's Sean Donovan...

Perhaps none of Ingmar Bergman’s films do more to conjure clichés of what a ‘Bergman film’ is than 1963’s Winter Light. While Persona is undoubtedly the cinephile consensus choice for his best film, and The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries are his most widely-seen, frequently adorning college syllabi about the history of European cinema, the morose sadness for which his work became known feels most exemplarily expressed in Winter Light. The second part of a trilogy about “the silence of God” (starting out grim already), Winter Light’s infinite quiet, stark black-and-white cinematography, freezing cold exteriors, and tear-soaked monologues scream BERGMAN in capital letters. It’s strange viewing with which to start a hot summer weekday morning, but here we are. Though the severity of film that threatens to overwhelm you, it is my personal favorite of the Bergman canon, superbly acted and filmed with a brisk lightness that befits an auteur frequently in danger of getting weighed down in heavy-handedness. A freezing shot of aquavit on the rocks can knock you over and have you questioning the purpose of your life. 

Winter Light may be reaching new audiences this year as it has received a renewed relevancy from Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, an unofficial remake blatantly taking the premise and applying it to the contemporary United States...

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Wednesday
Jun272018

Soundtracking: "Wall-E"

by Chris Feil

It’s a rare thing for a Disney film to borrow music for a film rather than provide original material, but Pixar’s Wall-E is an even rarer brand of masterpiece. Today, on its tenth anniversary, it is still as sublime an experience for the senses as it ever was.

When the film opens with a musical theatre classic, we are told instantly that we are in for a different kind of science fiction world view. Its nearly dialogue free visual storytelling has been rightly lauded, detailing the a polluted post-evacuation earth through the robots left behind. But one crucial and charming aspect to the silent love story it tells is how swiftly it reveals character through its needle drops...

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