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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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Remember Jesse L Martin's "I'll Cover You"

Ten years ago today the quickly forgotten film version of Rent (2005) premiered in movie theaters. At the time Rent had been a visceral sensation on stage for nearly a decade and was just a few years short of closing its nearly $300 million grossing Broadway run. Let's just say the movie didn't have a prayer of measuring up, even financially, grossing only $31 million worldwide in theaters. Rent (the movie!) was a dubiously near-perfect example of all the things that can go wrong with movie musicals and despite many other films teaching Hollywood the same exact not-all-that-complicated lessons, Hollywood is still having trouble learning.

You nearly always need these three things: visually stylish directors who also understand storytelling within the musical idiom (it's not an easy thing to move from the abstract friendly medium of the stage to the usually literal medium of the cinema); sly confident casting and gifted performers (transferring entire Broadway casts absolutely won't do. And neither will its opposite, replacing them all with "names" whether or not they can sing and dance. Why? Both strategies just reek of insecurity); and, finally, the right blend of zealous passion and merciless intelligence from the filmmaker since musicals are complicated and needy and fragile and they tend to come with a tricky but essential mix of artifice and sincerity. 

Of course Rent had it's own problems apart from failing to meet those three essentials. It is also a story wherein New York City is as much a leading character as Roger, Mark or Mimi. In the abstract friendly environments of the theater, a simple flourish like a fire escape can represent and entire teeming city with millions of stories in it with ease. If you try to fake New York City in the movies without a stylized visual approach, it just going to look cheap and weak.

But for all of its problems Rent (2005) did give us Jesse L Martin singing onscreen and for that we'll always be grateful. I mean, just listen to his superbly emotive instrument.

A couple of years ago Martin was supposed to headline a biopic about Marvin Gaye and though his casting was inspired financing fell through somewhere along the production phase so the movie seems like one of those phantom features now, caught somewhere between development hell and actual existence. Other roles for Martin just haven't satisfied his musical fans. The much missed Smash (RIP) did a lot of things wrong in its two seasons as a network musical but one of its true unforgiveable sins was actually giving Jesse L Martin a job IN A MUSICAL and then denying the audience that voice. (We keep waiting for The Flash to have a meta-human musical episode since a hefty percentage of its principle cast comes with gorgeous pipes and real musical theater cred.)

Did you ever see Rent on stage? If not do you have any strong memories of the movie?


GoodFellas at 25: why it's cinematic perfection

David here celebrating 25 years of what might be Scorsese's masterpiece...

When I signed up to write about Goodfellas, the main motivation was simply that I hadn't seen it in years - the ideal opportunity to force a rediscovery before an overwhelming onslaught of new movies. When it came to actually writing this article, though, things didn't seem so simple any more. What could I possibly say that hasn't already been said? Pieces about things you 'never knew', about where the cast are now, about the making of the movie are already widespread across the fare internet shores, because the film remains one of the all-time favourites of the straight white male demographic that dominates both film criticism and film fandom. I mean, did you miss this New York Post article a few months back? Everyone else just doesn’t get it.

The fact remains, though, that Goodfellas is a classic, and incontrovertibly so.

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Tim's Toons: Corpse Bride, ten years later

Tim here. This past week marked the tenth anniversary of the festival premieres of two very different stop-motion animated features. We've recently chatted a bit about Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, so other than reminding you that it exists, and it's still delightful a decade on, I will pass it by in silence. Instead, I want turn everybody's attention to Corpse Bride, or if you prefer - the boys in marketing clearly did - Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. The second movie's reputation has gone off in a very different direction over the last ten years: while Were-Rabbit remains a touchstone of sorts thanks to its iconic stars, I'll bet that a good number of you just thought, "Huh, Corpse Bride, I forgot all about that".

That’s not unfair. Revisiting it for the first time in most of that same decade, I found it to be visually inventive, and dangerously rushed as a narrative: based on a Russian folk tale of a young man who accidentally weds a beautiful dead woman, the films never quite shakes the sketchy structure of a fable.


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British diplomats, evil pharmaceuticals and The Constant Gardener

Andrew Kendall looks back at The Constant Gardener for its 10th anniversary...

"This whole machine is driven by guilt."

To look back, after ten years, at the overly stylised hand-held camera visual style of The Constant Gardener, it might not seem particularly noteworthy; but, the almost unintelligible camerawork of Fernando Meirelles' first English language film, just off the success of City of God, remains key to what makes The Constant Gardener one of the century's most effective (pseudo)-political thrillers. True, it has faded in history as one of the slew of dramas that tried to break into that impenetrable 2005 Best picture line-up. We remember it for Rachel Weisz’s luminous Oscar winning turn, but The Constant Gardener has more to offer than just its place in awards history – it’s an unflinching, exact, and effective film which has not lost its vigour in the ten years since it premiered.


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50 Appropriate Ways to Celebrate Viola Davis' Birthday

Margaret and Anne Marie here, with suggestions of how best to rejoice in 50 years of national treasure VIOLA DAVIS...

  1. Set something on fire with only the power of your measured, penetrating gaze
  2. Look sensational in a jewel-hued gown
  3. Drink a tall glass of bubbly while wearing said gown
  4. Enter a room with unparalleled grace
  5. Have a professional task you feel is beneath you? Pick it up and blow it out of the water. Because you can.
  6. Make your coworkers look great
  7. Give sage & loving advice. Or take someone else's
  8. Pull up a dick pic on your phone, and accusingly approach strangers with it

  9. Consider making a donation to the Segue Institute for Learning or the Hunger Is campaign, which are two of Viola Davis' preferred charities
  10. Visit Rhode Island
  11. Do a few sets of tricep curls 
  12. Write a thank you note to Shonda Rhimes.
  13. Paper your neighborhood with Emmy For Your Consideration ads.
  14. Walk up to the most respected person in your chosen field and gracefully, modestly, utterly outshine them.
  15. Outshine some nobodies too, just for fun

    35 more ways to celebrate after the jump!

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Ingrid Bergman Centennial: The Film That Brought Her to Hollywood

August 29th marks the Centennial of Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982), one of the greatest of all movie stars with a career that stretched from the early 30s through the late 70s, encompassing multiple classics, multiple countries, and multiple Oscars. We'll be proceeding mostly in chronological order. Here's Abstew to kick things off with "Intermezzo" - Editor

Had it not been for a Swedish elevator operator working in the building that housed the New York offices of Selznick International Pictures, the world might never have discovered the young actress that would become the Hollywood legend Ingrid Bergman. It was 1936, and the soon-to-be star had just appeared in a Swedish film named Intermezzo about a famous concert violinist (played by Sweden's first stage star Gösta Ekman) that leaves his wife and family and has an affair with his much younger accompanist. There was clearly something special about the actress playing the love interest. The elevator operator wasn't the only one to see it, but he happened to have the ear of Hollywood producer David O. Selznick's talent scout Kay Brown (since she rode in his elevator everyday), telling her to seek out the film and to pay special attention to the girl in the picture. And in the early part of 1939, Brown flew to Stockholm and persuaded the young actress from Intermezzo to come to America and star in the Hollywood remake. Thus launched the international career of Ingrid Bergman and, as they say in the pictures, a star was born.

But her path to stardom in Hollywood wasn't without its hurdles...

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"Junebug" is more than just Amy Adams

Lynn Lee revisiting Junebug, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week…

Junebug is best known as the film that launched Amy Adams’ into the A list, and deservedly so.  Her wonderfully layered portrayal of the bright-eyed, meerkat-loving Ashley, should have taken home the supporting actress Oscar for 2005 (with apologies to Rachel Weisz).  But for a change let's talk about the best scene in the movie, in which another, more elusive character suddenly, if fleetingly, comes into focus. 

I’m referring to the scene in which George (the always-welcome, perennially undervalued Alessandro Nivola), the returning native who’s brought his new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) to visit his small North Carolina hometown, attends a church social with his family.  By this point, Madeleine’s outsider status has already been made starkly clear: a long-limbed, graceful, effortlessly stylish and posh-accented art dealer whom George met and married in the big city, she stands out without even trying, like a greyhound among border collies.  George’s status, on the other hand, is more ambiguous. 


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