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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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Silence of the Lambs Retrospective

"That finger fondle is the most terrifying part of the movie; it literally sends a chill through my body every time I view it. Knowing what heinous acts he had committed, I felt very protective of Clarice and that is a testament to Foster's brilliance. I still believe the Oscar should have been split in half (Geena and Susan), but Foster's win here is more justified than The Accused."- NewMoonSon

"I do agree that the movie is well made, but it's about serial killers. Not everyone's cup of tea.." - Devon

 

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Entries in Best Actress (341)

Saturday
Nov072015

AFI Fest: Lady in the Van

Anne Marie here reporting from Hollywood & Highland.

Let's be honest: there's probably only one reason you (or anyone) is interested in The Lady in the Van. If you own a copy of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if you kept watching Downton Abbey even after Julian Fellowes killed two main characters and the series lost focus, then I have good news for you: you will love The Lady in the Van. Dame Maggie Smith is in top form, and the movie is devoted to giving her a variety of small acting moments that pop up in awards show montages and internet gifsets. Even if the rest of Nicholas Hytner's movie is unrelentingly average, Dame Maggie Smith is a delight.

First, let's talk about Maggie. In the last 20 years, the Dame has made a career of playing colorful, curmudgeonly women, effectively destroying - along with her Dames in Arms Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, and Angela Lansbury - the idea that older actresses aren't interesting. (There's a question to be asked about why all of these successful, terribly interesting older actresses are British, but that's a tangent for another day.) As the titular homeless woman who parks in the driveway of a put-upon playwright (Alex Jennings) for 15 years, Maggie Smith continues this fine tradition. Alternately infuriating and empathetic, crazy and charismatic, disgusting and distinguished, Smith creates a character so bizarrely contradictory that you understand why the writer allowed himself to be inconvenienced for almost two decades beginning in the 1970s. Sitting next to Nathaniel and eurocheese, I don't know that I've seen a festival audience react as gleefully to a moment so small as when Dame Maggie Smith, clad in a nightdress and a smelly rain coat, cracked a small private smile while riding a duck on a merry go round.

The rest of the movie is about what you'd expect from a BBC drama - familiar character actors, comedy stemming from British polite timidity - with one exception. The playwright Alan Bennett (who adapted his own play for the screen) splits himself into two characters: the man living the events, and the writer observing them. At first, the conceit is fun, since it gives the observing ego a chance to make the snide remarks that polite British gentlemen just won't say. However, as with many movies that rely on narration, eventually the writer gets didactic, and begins informing the audience how to think and feel about his story. But what he refuses to comment on is more interesting. While he was busy belaboring the connection between his guilt over his ailing mother and the homeless woman he allows to sleep in his yard, I was more curious about his closeted sexuality in Margaret Thatcher's England. 

Ultimately, as a showpiece for Dame Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van delivers. As a BBC drama, it's a little more interesting than usual. Jim Broadbent, Dominic Cooper, and James Corden all make appearances, but are criminally underused. There's one reason to see The Lady in the Van. But it's a good reason in itself.

Grade: Maggie Smith A / Rest of the movie C+ Total = B

Oscar Chances: In a less competitive year, Dame Maggie Smith would be a shoe-in for a Best Actress nomination. As it is, she probably won't make the cut.

Saturday
Nov072015

What was your 'Sophie's Choice Oscar Moment'? 

Kyle here. We’re rapidly barreling into the holiday movie season—aka, the time when we plebeians can catch up with all the fare deemed Award Worthy. I’m sure you’re aware, just how amazing our lineup of actress contenders is this year, as Murtada recently talked about. How difficult it’s going to be to be a fan this winter! Which is to say is there anything more painful than those moments when we’re torn between competing loyalties? Or between loyalty and taste? 

My most painful instance of this came in 2000, when Hilary Swank and Annette Bening duked it out for Best Actress. I loved Boys Don't Cry. It was such an important film—even its nomination was important, given its low-budget indie status—and Swank was utterly heartbreaking. But then there was Bening in American Beauty, tap dancing on that high wire. Her Carolyn Burnham is broad and deep, tenderly tragic and yowlingly funny at the same time. Bening not only achieves this difficult balance, but shows us that it’s indispensable to this character’s, this type of person’s, reality. 

So, what was your most painful Sophie’s Choice Oscar moment?

Wednesday
Nov042015

In Praise of Blanchett's Curls in Truth

Manuel here. There’s plenty to enjoy in the Dan Rather scandal film, Truth, but at the top of the list is the electric performance by Cate Blanchett who is really wiping the floor with everyone else lately. She was deliciously campy in Cinderella (which we should be taking more seriously Oscar-wise). She is perfection in Carol (few directors work as well with actresses than Todd Haynes). But her work in Truth is something else altogether. I figured we should celebrate a seemingly insignificant aspect of the performance that kept me enraptured: Cate’s gorgeous locks.

See how excited her curls are here?

Look, they even mirror Cate's anger!

So many scenes of hand-wringing that are followed by frantic hair-tussling. You can almost track the character’s state of mind by how carefully shaggy her blond curls are. Especially in comparison to Carol’s sleek and well-coiffed hair (always in its place, as composed as its heroine), Mary Mapes’s ringlets are always threatening to distract and take over the conversation.

Is it frivolous? Perhaps, but Blanchett is a performer who uses everything in her arsenal to build a character, and luscious curls are but another prop with which she created another amazing character to add to her already legendary roster.

Saturday
Oct312015

In Praise of Carey Mulligan in Suffragette

Murtada here, with a lot of love and respect for Carey Mulligan.

There's a scene late in Suffragette when Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) realizes the devastating enormity of the separation from her son. Mulligan’s face, in a second, flickers many emotions, all so overwhelming that you feel this woman’s pain in your gut. Yet she doesn’t overplay or milk the moment for maximum effect. She remains understated.

This is just one of many moments in the film in which Mulligan transcends her movie and reaches her audience with clarity and without exaggeration. Set in London in 1912, Suffragette tells the story of Watts, her education and indoctrination into the suffrage movement. When the film starts, she is working in a laundry, trying to survive a hard existence alongside her husband and young son. A chance encounter introduces her to the suffragettes and she becomes a member of their embattled movement. 

It is through Mulligan that we enter this world. Her character is a composite of many working women who were part of the movement and is built to be the audience surrogate. Her performance is so strong that the plight of these women is not only depicted effectively, but comes alive. I could not control my emotions or my tears. Mulligan’s performance is an emotional marvel and delivered with technical mastery. Her working class English accent is impeccable, her weariness and defeat is visible in her hunched back and heavy walk, her defiance rises to crescendo and is delivered with skillful control of her voice. This is why there are awards for acting.

The film is dividing critics and its reception is unfortunately lukewarm. Some accuse it of being well intentioned but conventional. "Earnest", "formulaic" and "schematic" are words used to describe Suffragette.

But the film derives most of its power from the performance at its center. Mulligan is riding on a wave of acclaim, with co-star Meryl Streep recently praising her:

"I’m in awe of your talent . . . I really am. I’m also in awe of your voice, which is like warm caramel poured over the English language. I applaud your taste in material and how you hold out for stuff. Even when you were young and didn’t have any money, you just did things that mattered. I can’t wait to see what Carey Mulligan will give us next, what new woman she’ll give birth to”.

In her earlier 2015 release Far From the Madding Crowd, Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdeen says "It's my intention to astonish you all". And you do Carey. Always.

Do you think Carey Mulligan in on her way to a second Oscar nomination?

Friday
Oct232015

Posterized: Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan at the Women in Hollywood Awards earlier this weekTwo Oscar hopefuls will hopefully dominate the conversation. Steve Jobs went wide today and the scrappy fighting-for-our-rights British period piece Suffragette is finally starting its US release in select cities. The movie has whethered some controversy of late and unexpectedly muted reception critically... at least in its first round. But release is a different challenge than pre-release buzz. If audiences like it, expect the Oscar buzz to reheat. At least for its leading lady who, we should remind ourselves, already had a minor unexpected hit this year with Far From the Madding Crowd.

Which means it's time to think about Carey Mulligan again.  How many of Carey Mulligan's 14 films have you seen? The posters (and more commentary) after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct222015

Jennifer Lawrence & The Race to Break Oscar Records

Nine year-old Jacob Tremblay (Room), fourteen year-old Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation), and 21 year-old Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) are the youngest actors who appear to be in the mix for possible Oscar nominations this year. But none of them will be breaking any records if they are as younger actors have been nominated in their categories. It's actually Jennifer Lawrence, an old lady at 25 (Kidding, but she sure does like playing older women) who is the one to watch for trivia's sake. She is likely to break a record that is currently held by another Jennifer. 

Jennifer in Duel in the Sun (1946) / Jennifer in Joy (2015)

 

Do you think Jennifer Lawrence will take Jennifer Jones Oscar record?
Duh! JLaw will be gunning for Bette/Katharine/Meryl records
Yes. JLaw will get another Oscar and a few more nods.
We'll see. Enjoy it while it lasts Jennifer.
No. This JLaw obsession must stop!
Poll Maker

 

Should Lawrence be nominated for Joy (talk about the new trailer here), she will have amassed an incredible four acting nominations by the age of 25. I assumed that record was held by Elizabeth Taylor but the record is actually held by one of the more forgotten superstars of the 1940s, Jennifer Jones.

A HUGE TRIVIA LIST AFTER THE JUMP...

Click to read more ...

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