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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


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

 

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Saturday
Sep202014

Tim's Toons: The CGI spectacle and unrealism of Sky Captain

Tim here. This week marks the ten-year anniversary of one of the most important milestones in modern feature animation, though it’s a form of animation that tends to make itself invisible. But when most of the sets, and several of the major characters in movies from Avatar to Gravity to Guardians of the Galaxy are created entirely in a computer by digital artists, can we really keep blithely calling these “live-action movies” without briefly wondering if our pants have just burst in flame? It’s not Disney/Pixar-style cartooning, but these are partially or wholly animated worlds by any definition I can come up with. And it was on September 17, 2004 that Paramount released Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which made history as the first Hollywood movie made entirely on green screens, with every single location created artificially in post-production...

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Tuesday
Jul222014

Happy 50th to the Inimitable John Leguizamo

Happy 50th to the enduring character actor and one man show trouper John Leguizamo. He has his first (film) hit in years this summer as part of the ensemble of Chef and he's arguably even its secret weapon; his cheerful sideline energy helps cut the sometimes sour taste of the movie's vaguely offputting self pitying / self aggrandizing central character business featuring Jon Favreau.

But Leguizamo has been doing that for years, significantly boosting or even altering the energy of pictures he was fourth or fifth or, you know, twelfth billed in. It's true that his brand of sideline showmanship often teeters towards hardly altruistic hamminess; he's an unrepetant scene stealer. But it was a treat to see him again, I raedily admit, and so shortly after I happened to watch his most recent one man show "Ghetto Klown" on cable or streaming or something (I forget) wherein he talks about this impending 50th birthday, the disintegration of his film career and trying to get things back on track. 

That story has a happy ending given that it's hard to miss his earnest but unforced exuberance in Chef and wish him well on future gigs. Especially if you have any fond recollection of past gems like...

From top left: Summer of Sam, the most all-around underappreciated of Spike Lee's quality joints, gave him a rare leading role as Vinny the hairdresser; he was wonderfully too much and Golden Globe nominated as Chi-Chi in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar like an excited drag puppy that couldn't stop peeing; and of course there's his unrequited romantic highly-fictionized version of Toulouse Lautrec in the classic Moulin Rouge!. These are his greatest film roles and it's just perfect that two of them have exclamation points in the title since he's that kind of actor. 

I only speak the truth ♫ I only speak the truth "

What's your fondest memory of Leguizamo's career?

Tuesday
Jul152014

Best Shot: Any Batman Film (1966-2012)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot returns from its June hiatus for a 75th celebration of the masked vigilante with a thing for winged rodents (here's the future schedule - next week is Under the Skin). We asked anyone who wanted to play to pick a theatrically released Batman film (there are 9 of them) and choose its best shot. Here's what the participants saw when they looked at these pictures.

Click on the photos to read the corresponding articles. It's the Same Bat-Time on Same Different Bat Channels. 

BEST SHOTS IN BATMAN FILM FRANCHISE
29 images selected from 9 films by 17 participants

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Friday
Jun062014

1964: Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker

Tim here. Ordinarily, I take this space to talk about animation, but with it being 1964 Month at the Film Experience, I wanted to go someplace else – not least because the state of animation in 1964 was not terribly exciting, unless you’re one of those people for whom a semicentennial tribute to Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear sounds like the absolute best conversation we could be having.

Instead, I’d like to use this bully pulpit to call attention to one of my perpetual favorite picks for Hugely Underrated American Film Masterpiece You All Need to Have Seen, Like, Yesterday: The Pawnbroker, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rod Steiger, who received an Oscar nomination. It premiered 50 years ago this very month, in competition at the 14th Berlin International Film Festival (they festival’ed differently in those days), not premiering until the following year in the States due to its nudity and generally sour tone. A half of a century has, beyond question, blunted the impact of the movie’s most boundary-pushing elements (not least being the fact that naked women have become so blandly normalized in mainstream film, a development this very movie did a tremendous amount to encourage), and even its then-unprecedented engagement with the Holocaust, including the first scene in an American film set in a concentration camp, feels a little quaint today.

But the grime of humanity isn’t so easily wiped away, and Steiger’s devastatingly committed performance – it’s the best thing he ever did, I’d say, though I’m admittedly dubious about Steiger as often as not – is still a raging powerhouse of human torment. Lord knows The Pawnbroker isn’t any fun, but it’s moving and visceral like few films then or now would dare to be.

More...

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Thursday
May222014

How Does 'Fahrenheit' Hold Up?

Taking a trip down memory lane Michael C revisits an atypical Cannes winner...

I knew all this politics crap would be brought up," he said. "We all agreed that Fahrenheit 9/11 was the best movie of the competition."

That was Cannes Jury president Quentin Tarantino talking to the BBC back in 2004 -- 10 years ago this very day -- defending his decision to make Michael Moore’s political hand grenade of a movie Fahrenheit 9/11 the first documentary to win the Palme d’Or since The Silent World in 1956. Fahrenheit went on to become and remains, the highest grossing documentary of all time by a significant margin.

Tarantino continued:

"I just whispered in his ear and said, 'I just want you to know it was not because of the politics that you won this award, you won it because we thought it was the best film that we saw.'"

I would sooner stick my head in a bag of scorpions than reopen the toxic debate over the accuracy of Moore’s film. But now, on the 10th anniversary of Fahrenheit’s big Cannes win, I would like to take issue with the above statements. With the safe distance of time, with all the political consequences long since passed, is it safe to admit the plain truth: Tarantino's statements are transparently false...

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Friday
May162014

Tim's Toons: Cannes competitor Shrek 2, ten years later

Tim here. Cannes is in the air, and as we do, I’ve been thinking about festivals past, when I landed on the fact that this very day is the tenth anniversary of the premier of Shrek 2 on the Croissette. And just as I started writing up a whole thing about big English-language crowdpleasers and their history of opening up the festival, talking about the toxic reception that Grace of Monaco has received in that slot (as so many of them do), when I landed on the further fact that Shrek 2 wasn’t that year’s opening night film (Almodóvar’s Bad Education was). No sir, Shrek 2 was an official selection in that year’s main competition. Which feels genuinely insane – no other American animated film, to my knowledge, has ever competed at Cannes, so how would something as unapologetically commercial as Shrek 2 get the nod? And yet it did, and somehow managed to receive not a single award from Quentin Tarantino’s jury.

Anyway, the date serves more generally as an ideal moment to look back from across the intervening decade at what remains the highest-grossing animated feature in U.S. box office history – neither the Zeitgeist explosion of Frozen (with nine years of inflation to help it) nor multiple releases of The Lion King were even been able to seriously threaten its crown – and one whose massive success caused it to influence so much of mainstream animation over the intervening years.

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Thursday
May082014

Tim's Toons: The Best Moms Ever Drawn

Tim here. Mother’s Day weekend is just around the corner, and not just any Mother’s Day weekend: this year marks the 100th anniversary of the proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson establishing the second Sunday in May as a national day of celebration.

In the honor of the century of mothers that have come and gone since then, and since this is the Film Experience’s dedicated animation corner, I though it might be fun to pay tribute to some of our favorite cartoon mothers. Of course, with motherhood being one of the most death-prone professions in the world of animation (all those Disney princess with just a father, if they’re not orphaned outright… and let us never forget the national childhood trauma that is Bambi), there are fewer such women than we might like. These are three of the best.

Helen Parr (voice: Holly Hunter)
The Incredibles

To me, this is the easiest and most obvious answer there could ever be to the question, “who’s the best mom in the history of animated movies?” And not just because of Hunter’s fantastic performance, though I hope I don’t need to mention that it helps. We’re all Hunter fans here, right? Good.

The genius of the character lies in part in the playful metaphor behind her: taking care of her kids, household and husband requires Helen to stretch herself as thin as can be, so what of course would have to be her superpower, but infinite elasticity. But it also lies in how fully Hunter and writer-director Brad Bird commit to making the character more than just a collection of Eisenhower-era feminine tropes. Helen is a wonderfully complicated character, in fact, and complicated women are common in neither American animation nor superhero movies. The subtle interplay of emotions that she expresses over the course of the movie, and the vivid intelligence, wit, and self-reliance that she acts with at all times, makes her a fully-feeling person and not just a reactive wife and mother. And it’s precisely because we get so much more of her inner life that her considerable strength in those roles is so clear and involving.

 

Chicha (voice: Wendie Malick)
The Emperor’s New Groove

This one can, I think, be fairly described as my against-convention pick. From the Disney movie that everybody underrated until it developed a cult that is sending it merrily on the way to being overrated, Chicha isn’t one of the film’s biggest characters by any stretch (by my count, she comes in at fifth, right ahead of “guy who gets thrown out the window in the opening sequence”), but she makes a hell of an impression in just a couple of scenes as the level-headed focus of reason in a film where just about everything is operating at a high-level pitch of cartoon anarchy. It’s the “wife in a CBS sitcom” role, basically, but Malick’s warmly calming performance and the general excellence of the character’s interactions with her manic kids make her one of the highlights, for me, of a film full of highlights: the mom everybody wants and needs, who lets you goof off and be silly right up until it’s time to knock if off, a gentle totalitarian with a good sense of humor.

 

Mrs. Jumbo (voice: Verna Felton)
Dumbo

The horrifying moment when Bambi’s mother gets shot is all well and good. But for my money, the single most devastating moment of parent/child agony in the whole of the Disney canon is when the little mute elephant with giant ears goes to the cage where his mother has been locked up as a rampaging beast, and curls up on her trunk, the only part of her body she’s able to reach out to him. Something about the tenderness and cruelty intermingling in that moment is just overwhelming – and the plaintive lullaby "Baby Mine" playing over the scene doesn’t hurt matters one iota.

Here and everywhere else, the relationship between Dumbo and his mother is an absolute triumph of animation, making exemplary use of the Disney animator’s understanding of how to communicate the sensitive and emotion of physical touch through their drawings.

With neither character speaking much at all (Mrs. Jumbo has a single line, naming her child), it falls entirely to the images to create the emotional truth of their relationship, and this is done with amazing skill throughout: from the charming bath scene to the lacerating "Baby Mine," Dumbo is a film that consistently depicts gentle, loving caresses between mother and infant with a sweetness and sensitivity I can think of nowhere else in film. Not just in animation, but in live-action too.

I’ll turn it over to you now. Who are your favorite animated moms? Share with us in comments!

 

Monday
May052014

Tyrone Power Centennial. Can We Get a Biopic, Please?

Behold the beauty of young swashbuckler Tyrone Power. Though I'm not really a fan of Zac Efron, may I propose a Power biopic starring the young hunk? Just look at the photos and marvel at how easily Efron could do it, aesthetically that is. And, anyway, all classic stars deserve biopics, if only to reintroduce them to modern audiences.

Today marks the romantic leading man's 100th birthday so we'll celebrate after the jump with a Beauty Break and a few notes on his career. 

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