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Entries in 10|25|50|75|100 (189)

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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Friday
Jul012016

Posterized: Happy Olivia de Havilland Centennial !

Photo shot last week in Paris, via People magazineHappy 100th birthday Olivia de Havilland! She's our oldest living Oscar winner  and oldest living bonafide movie star (Kirk Douglas, also still with us, is five months younger) and her list of classics is long. She may not have gotten along with her movie star sister Joan Fontaine -- their contentious relationship stretches back to childhood (it didn't start when they were Oscar-nominated against each other and Joan won) wherein she supposedly made a will at nine years old stating:

I bequeath all my beauty to my younger sister Joan, since she has none"

 ...but that infamous feud aside she was beloved by many. The list includes legends like Erroll Flynn (8 pictures together) and Bette Davis (several pictures and a friend) and actors everywhere owe her for the freedom she wrangled in the 'de Havilland decision' in the 1940s which Tim discussed in his write-up of The Heiress. I hope she feels the love in France today where she lives. She recently told Vanity Fair that she plans to live to be 110.

We still have two more pieces coming up on individual performances (why cut the bday festivities short?) but let's look at the whole filmography in poster form after the jumpHow many have you seen? 

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Thursday
Jun302016

Gird Your Loins. The Devil Wears Prada is 10! 

Gird your loins.

We really had meant to do The Devil Wears Prada anniversary up big but the month got away from us. Today, 10 years ago, The Devil Wears Prada opened in theaters as counterprogramming and blew up, becoming one of 2006's biggest hits and endearing La Streep to a whole new generation of fans. Sadly she didn't win her third Oscar then (it would have solved so many problems later on. Plus, more importantly, she deserved it!). Because time slipped away from us, and tales of our incompetence do not interest her, we present this classic from the old site on this special occasion.

Ten Best Miranda Priestley Line Readings

My flight has been cancelled... "

10. How incredulous and put-out she sounds without even raising her voice. The way she says "school" when referencing her kids recital which she's desperate to attend is giggle worthy, too. So childish. Translation 'How could such a thing happen to the center of the universe... me?'

There you are Emily. How many times do I have to scream your name?"

09. 'Actually my name is Andrea.' Oh shut it Hathaway. She doesn't care. She will call you what she likes and you'll come running...

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Tuesday
Jun282016

Olivia @ 100: Light in the Piazza

For Olivia de Havilland's Centennial (July 1st) we're hitting classics and curios in her career. Here's Chris Feil on a forgotten film that became a new classic musical...

I came to Olivia de Havilland's work in Light in the Piazza thanks to a (still enduring) obsession with the Adam Guettel musical, both adapted from Elizabeth Spencer's novella. While it's not surprising that the film hasn't endured (it lacks the stage version's soaring emotional heights), de Havilland's performance deserves a better place in her legacy. Even with a youthful love story as its center and gorgeous Florence as backdrop, you can't take your eyes off of the concerned mother - and not just because she spends the entire film drenched in custom Christian Dior!

As Meg Johnson, de Havilland is spending a holiday with her young daughter Clara, who falls in love with a charming Italian boy. The reason for her overbearing concern is the secret of Clara's developmental disability that freezes her to a childlike disposition - something the musical uses as an Act Two reveal that the film never hides. By addressing this conflict early on we understand Meg from the outset, especially thanks to the actress's relatability. De Havilland's real prowess in the role is her deep emotional access and intelligence; she keeps the film from stooping to the cheap sentimentality that's all too common in films about disability.

Her Meg is not simply a foil to Clara's love story. De Havilland is telling her own fading romance with her husband, projecting the aches and heartbreaks of their lifetime together in a very specific struggle of weathered marriage. Her dissent against her husband in regards to Clara's care could cause the end of her marriage or may be its only hope, but she plays it solely as selfless motherly affection. Meg's final "I did the right thing" would be hokey final note in the hands of a less soulful actress, de Havilland makes it a hard-won personal triumph with her pure connection to character.

Victoria Clark may have taken the character to glorious Tony winning vocal heights on stage, but this performance is emotionally transformative in its own way. The film may have been forgotten in the broader de Havilland filmography, but the star is in top form and as accessible as ever.

Previously: The Heiress (1949), The Dark Mirror (1946), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and It's Love I'm After (1937).

Friday
Jun242016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 4: "The Exorcism"

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Directed by Mike Nichols | Adapted by Ernest Lehman from the play by Edward Albee
Released by Warner Bros on June 22nd, 1966
Nominated for 13 Oscars, winning 5.

Four-Part 50th Anniversary Celebration
Pt 1 "What. A.Dump!" by Nathaniel R
Pt 2 "Firing Squads & Flop Sweat" by Daniel Crooke
Pt 3 "Get the Guests" by Kyle Stevens (author of "Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and The Reinvention of Psychological Realism"

...and now the finale 

Pt 4 (Finale) by Chris Feil

Clink.Clink.

1:36:43 Sounds like Martha put her own ice in her drink this time, and not chewed it down. She's also dispensed of her tight "Sunday chapel dress" for looser fits. At only 3 outfits, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is surely Elizabeth Taylor's fewest costume changes ever on screen.

1:37:32 Nick’s putting his watch on now that their real round of Hump the Hostess is over. By the looks of these two, it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering to say the least.

Martha starts doling advice to Nick on how to take care of a drunk Honey, not unlike George's begrudging earlier attempts. The kind motherly expression on her face makes you wonder if her son has always been blonde-haired and green eyed before tonight.

1:39:00 Nick's pointing fingers as if he's exempt from the night's cruelty and absurdity. Luckily, Martha calls him out on his hypocrisy.

Relax. Sink into it. You're no better than anybody else.

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Friday
Jun242016

Olivia @ 100: The Heiress

We're counting down to Olivia de Havilland's historic 100th birthday (July 1st!). Team Experience will be looking at highlights and curiosities from her career. Here's Tim...

Olivia de Havilland is more than a living link to the Golden Age of Hollywood, more than a gorgeous movie star, more than a two-time Oscar winner. She's one of the most significant figures in the history of the American film industry: the woman who broke the back of the studio contract system when she successfully sued Warner Bros. for career independence in 1943. As Hollywood's first independent movie star since the silent era, de Havilland was suddenly in a position to make all of her own creative decisions, leading to a string of challenging dramatic roles that didn't simply trade on her good looks and holy innocent persona.

Both of de Havilland's Oscar wins came about thanks to this period of chasing her own projects, and the second of these performances, in 1949's The Heiress, is a particularly fine example of the movie star as Serious Actress. Based on a play adapted from a Henry James novel, The Heiress tells a straightforward enough melodrama: in 1840s New York, a woman with an annual income of $10,000 from her mother's will and another $30,000 to come when her father passes. A painfully shy, relatively homely women crawling up in years, she falls for the first man who pays her any attention, and he of course turns out to be a craven gold-digger. When her father threatens her with disinheritance the cad leaves, giving her plenty of years to grow good and bitter.

What enlivens this material is, in large part, the exemplary casting of the four main characters: de Havilland as the naïve heiress, Ralph Richardson as her father, Montgomery Clift as her shiftless lover, and Miriam Hopkins as her spinster aunt, unhelpfully projecting her own romantic visions onto the young lady. That's a lot of acting power, and having such great scene partners helped to raise de Havilland's own game, allowing her to have more complicated, and much darker, reactions that most of what she'd been able to achieve in the years prior to that.

She's great at playing a wallflower, in the second film in two years (following The Snake Pit) where she de-glammed herself for Art and Oscars. De Havilland can only look so ugly, even with the hair and make-up department raising her hairline almost to the top of her head, but the actress sells herself as a plain, awkward frump by constantly shrinking herself inwards, hunching down, delivering all of her lines a little bit too quietly and with nervous pauses. But she's even better in the last third of the movie, when she's playing the cold fury of a scorned romantic: there's a deep revulsion burned into her eyes and voice, giving the material its necessarily outraged finale. Without her fury, The Heiress is a handsome soap opera; with her, it becomes a dark tragedy.

For a performer who'll always forever be linked with the fairytale saint Melanie from Gone with the Wind, the haggard look on de Havilland's face and the raw pain in her voice are uniquely shocking and potent. It's as self-effacing as any star turn in the 1940s, and it's an achievement that could only come about in the brave new era of self-directed acting careers that de Havilland herself helped to create.

Previously: The Dark Mirror (1946), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and It's Love I'm After (1937)

Monday
Jun202016

Olivia @ 100: The Dark Mirror

We're counting down to Olivia de Havilland's historic 100th birthday (July 1st!). Team Experience will be looking at highlights and curiosities from her career. Here's Jason...

I'm proud of my fellow Film Experience members Dan and Josh for keeping their focus on the films so far in this series, but it seems kind of impossible to talk about Olivia de Havilland's 1946 thriller The Dark Mirror, which has her playing good and evil twins, without diving into the gossipy froth of her legendary lifetime rivalry with sister Joan Fontaine. The Dark Mirror sits somewhere between an exorcism and a single-gloved slap-fight - Fight Club via Film Noir. It offered Olivia the chance to play versions of both her and her sister's popular images, exaggerated and unloosed upon one another.

In a 2015 Time magazine piece on the sisters' feud it's said that Olivia was known for playing "pretty and charming, naïve" (like Melanie in Gone With the Wind) while Joan's roles were more "moody, intuitive and emotional." (Think the second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca.) Those broad descriptions fit the broad characters of Terry and Ruth Collins to a tee -- one's a suspected murderess, coarse and vulgar but forthright, while the other is noble and suffering do-gooder who seems to be allowing her sister to walk all over her and orchestrate a cover-up. But which is which (and who'll win that damn Oscar???)

To her profound credit de Havilland clearly relishes tearing into both roles and complicates the "good" and "bad" aspects of both women every chance that she gets - the real tragedy by the film's end is seeing what made the two women so unique begin to dissolve away, swap out. Early on, showing exquisite control over her body language and voice, de Havilland manages to make it clear which sister is which even beyond the aid of the oft black/white costuming.

But even more impressively as the film progresses and the sisters start playing each other she makes Ruth-by-Terry and Terry-by-Ruth their own creations, allowing each sisters' perspective on the other poke out from underneath. We can always tell who's in control... 

...until we can't. Not to spoil anything but there is a moment where the mirror cracks and the film upends our understanding of who's who and who's doing what, the violence of the moment hinging entirely on de Havilland's performance, and it's a corker. And sure, I can only conjecture, but it seems that this sort of performance-playing with public versus private personae might've been informed by being one-half of an Oscar-winning sister duo bobbing along on the top of the world. And come with the scars to prove it.