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SMACKDOWN 1954

 "I love that two people independent of one another gave Claire Trevor an extra star simply for being Claire Trevor." - Glenn

"Interesting to see the take of young people on these movies." - Les

"That was fascinating. I love the thoughts on Executive Suite, post-post-WWII and the "benevolent patriarch." " - B.D.

 

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Entries in Best Ensemble (29)

Friday
Aug282015

Murder on the Orient Express: Ingrid Bergman steals the show - or does she?

We're near the end of Ingrid Bergman's career so here's the penultimate episode in our retrospective. Happy 100th to the superstar on August 29th. Here's Lynn Lee...

 

By 1974, Ingrid Bergman was a grande dame of film in the twilight of her career, with two Best Actress Oscar wins under her belt, and nothing left to prove.  Perhaps that’s why she deliberately opted for such a small part in the star-studded Murder on the Orient Express, despite director Sidney Lumet’s attempts to coax her into taking a bigger one.  And yet, despite her own efforts to stay out of the spotlight, it found her anyway, with her tiny role as a mousy, middle-aged Swedish missionary netting her an unlikely third Oscar.

We don’t see too many movies like Orient Express these days – A-list extravaganzas where most of the stars end up with little more than glorified cameos but just seem to be in it for fun.  And to be fair, the movie is fun and directed with flair, even as it plays up the absurd theatricality of the whodunit setup – something that doesn’t register as strongly when you’re reading Agatha Christie’s plummy prose.  It’s a bit much at times...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug242015

H8teful Eight vs Black Mass: Character Posters

Manuel here bringing you two sets of character posters that are sure to adorn plenty of dorms soon. White, red and gray is in, apparently, as the new posters for Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film The H8teful Eight (am I doing th8t right?) and the Johnny Depp-starrer Black Mass show:

Click to embiggen (or see them individually here)

We probably knew these were coming for the Tarantino flick (whose trailer we discussed in all its gif-tastic glory), but I can’t be the only one surprised that we’ve got such stylish character posters for that Whitey Bulger flick. When discussing its trailer, we talked about whether this might be the film to bust Depp out of its rut or further bury him in prosthetically-enhanced performance purgatory. Jury is still out, though not for long as the film opens September 18th. We have to wait a bit longer for Tarantino's latest which is waiting until Christmas to be unwrapped.

Click to embiggen (or see them individually here) 

So many male actors! Only Leigh and Johnson offer some much-needed actressing at the edges to both casts. Which set gets your vote?

Wednesday
Aug052015

"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. 

More...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug022015

Podcast Smackdown (Pt 1) Sense & Sensibility & Mighty Aphrodite

You've read the Smackdown proper. Now, it's time for its podcast companion piece in which Nathaniel and his guests discuss the movies in greater detail.

Part 1: 40 Minutes
00:01 Introductions & who were we rooting for back in '95
05:45 Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite and broad comic caricatures in this particular category
14:30 Mira Sorvino’s career
17:26 Apollo 13
23:30 Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility, editing and ensemble work
34:00 Sister movies (Supporting or Lead for Kate & Mare?)

continue to part two

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes tomorrow.  Please continue the conversation in the comments...

Smackdown 1995. Part 1

Saturday
Jan032015

The Heroes of "Pride" Wouldn't Stand For Their DVD Packaging!

I accidentally got two copies of the Pride DVD in the mail for Christmas. I had bought one not knowing that I'd be sent one from the studio. But no matter. Now I have one to gift and just about anyone would love to receive it. I recently talked to my best girlfriend from high school and I can't remember if I've shared this story but it's worth repeating even if I have. 

She and her husband had accidentally gone to see it at a movie theater in Michigan (I didn't interrogate the accidentally part) and liked it so much that they went again the following week and brought another married couple with them. Isn't that great? A decade ago when the theatrical window was longer the movie could have surely found a much larger audience.

About that DVD though...

A scoop from Pink News  today alerted me to the fact that I should pay closer attention to DVD packaging. It seems that Sony Pictures has removed all mention of "gay" or LGBT" from the packaging and official synopsis. If you look at the photo above you'll see that they've even photoshopped out the "Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners" banner in the background of one of the film's two Gay Pride marches.

 

"Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners" or LGSM  is the official name of the collective protagonist organization and exactly what the film is about. They made a huge difference not just for striking miners in the 1980s but for Union nondiscrimination laws thereafter. The synopsis now refers to the group only as "London based activists".

To put all these feisty gays and lesbians back in the closet when the entire movie is about people, gay and straight, who refuse to be bullied into submission by homophobes or Thatcher's horrible dehumanizing rule is every kind of wrong. The LGSM in the movie even questions whether they should work anonymously because of homophobic thinking and their own fear and decide that it wouldn't be right.

What was Sony thinking?!?

In Happier News
To not end on sour note I urge you to visit Nick's Flick Picks for this glorious long read celebrating "collaboration" in 2014. It's a particularly fresh angle for a year in review piece, and yet more wonderful for this film year when so many of the finest movies were about solidarity (Two Days One Night, Pride, Selma, etcetera) or, if they weren't, focused on small duos or trios with gripping connections. If you don't have time to read all pieces of this today visit a few times until you've absorbed them. I particularly enjoyed the write-ups of We Are the Best!, Happy ChristmasLilting, Pride and Reese Witherspoon & Laura Dern for Wild

 

Saturday
Dec202014

Critical Consensus: Boyhood or Birdman?

Birdman and Boyhood continue to split regional trophies. This round tips in Birdman's favor for a change though. I'm becoming more and more curious to see who SAG selects as "Outstanding Cast". Will they opt for the heartfelt dedication of 4 actors who spent a few weeks each year for over a decade making the same intimate masterpiece, or will they go with a very exciting movie that's about acting to a significant degree with the lively interactions of movie stars pretending to be theater stars who are actually acting together in frame in a way you rarely see in the movies but see all the time in theater where this is no camera and editing to distract you.

It's a tough predictive call though my vote goes to Birdman because there's far more acting with each other (and more consistency in the quality of each performance) something that is pure pleasure if you're a lover of the art of acting as interacting.

Results and commentary from Florida, Las Vegas, Utah and St Louis after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec102014

How to be SAG Snubbed Even When You're Nominated

As is our annual tradition we like to peruse the credits of the SAG Ensemble nods to see who got left out despite their film's nomination. The Film Experience started this kind of analysis ten years ago when The Aviator had some really dumb exclusions and inclusions but lots of other sites now cover the injustice. We never get credit for starting this line of Norma Rae righteous anger but, that said, at least a lot of people have it now.

Did SAG think her face looked like she'd licked a homelessman's ass?

If you aren't familiar SAG uses a system whereby only actors with solitary title cards are official nominees for the Cast category. This means if you are famous in a bit part and have a good agent you are more likely to be an official nominee than the unknown who delivered a better performance in possibly a much larger role than yours but had to share his or her card. There are occasionally exceptions to this rule; no actors in Woody Allen films get their own title cards, so in those cases SAG uses the first roll call title card but not the second and we see this solution with Birdman this year which does not give its cast separate billings.

What this means is that sometimes the person giving the single best performance in a film, like Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris a few years back gets the snub because they weren't famous enough even though they undoubtedly contributed to the nomination happening in the first place. Stoll is now famous enough to get his own title card which he can thank Midnight in Paris and all the things it led to (like House of Cards) for but at the time, despite inarguably contributing to the nomination appeal, he was left out. 

It's really an unfortunate system that a union like SAG should consider revamping: it essentially awards the rich and powerful and demeans the little guy which is kind of a union no-no, you know? So let's look at who's nominated (officially) and who's not from the nominated casts. Though, as I've often been reminded by those defending SAG, it is worth noting that the non-nominate nominees (errrr) still get some kind of 'congrats' citation from SAG and something to put on their resume and nobody really balks when they fudge the officialness and declare themselves a best cast nominee!

BEST CAST NOMINATIONS
(Listed in order of billing. This year proves to be far less egregious than past years in terms of thoughtless shunnings. But it's a tradition at The Film Experience so we'll soldier on through it)

BIRDMAN
Michael Keaton, Zach Galifanakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts [They all share an end-credit title card - like how woody allen films do it, with only Keaton interrupting the alphabetization] 

Who got the boot:  Lindsay Duncan, Merrit Wever, and Jeremy Shamos share the second actor credits page. The Emmy winning Wever, of Nurse Jackie fame, is blink and you'll miss her as the stage manager so it's no great loss in terms of a citation but surely Lindsay Duncan, who is rather key to the narrative as the much-discussed fearsome critic "Tabitha," should have been the exception to the rule and among the nominees. I believe Shamos plays the "terrible" actor that Mike Shiner (Norton) replaces in the play within the movie. Bill Camp (the crazy homeless man!) and Damion Young are the only other actors with a shared credit card.

BOYHOOD
Patricia Arquette, Eller Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, "and" Ethan Hawke [title cards end credits] 

Only "grandma" is left out of Boyhood's blood relative nominees

Who got the boot: Though this seems somewhat fair given the 12 years that the immediate fictional family put into the project, there are a few other players who stuck around a year or three or four with highlighted roles. So you could complain (though I'm never in the mood for complaining when it comes to this gift of a movie) about the lack of Libby Vallari (Grandma) especially. There's also Barbara Chisolm as the mom's protective generous friend (Carol) or either of mom's drunk later husbands Marco Perella (as Professor Welbrock) or Brad Hawkins (as Jim)

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Ralph Fiennes, F Murray Abraham, Mathieu Almaric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzmann, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Willinson, Owen Wilkinson, and  "Introducing" Tony Revolori

Grand Budapest has an insanely large cast so it makes sense that not everyone can be included. Sorry, prison gang!

Who got the boot: With the largest cast nominated, 17 players, all the important players as well as a few famous cameos are accounted for. So no complaints. Of those not "officially" included my votes for most memorable would go to Giselda Volodi as Serge's doomed club-footed sister and Florian Lukas as "Pinky" in the jail. Others might miss the cameos by the "The Society of the Crossed Keys" Wes Anderson regulars Bob Balaban, Wally Wolodarski and Waris Ahluwalia share that title card. 

THE IMITATION GAME
Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, "with" Charles Dance, "and" Mark Strong [title cards after prologue]

Who got the boot: Among the government corralled code-breaking teams James Northcote (who was also in Nymphomaniac and Belle this year) as "Jack Good" is left out, as are the young actors Alex Lawther and Jack Bannon who play Alan Turing and his mate Christopher in their boys school youth. And I might be a teeny tiny bit annoyed to see Tuppence Middleton left out since I loved her scene(s?) as "Helen" - and because she gifted Turing and Team with their scripted 'Eureka!' moment with all her flirtatious you know? But overall the nomination here is inclusive enough.

THEORY OF EVERYTHING 
Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, "and" David Thewlis.  [title cards end credits]

Harry Lloyd was Best Friend to Hawking, but doesn't get to enjoy the awards spoils

Who got the boot: The only principal cast members who got title cards but were left our are Maxine Peake and Harry Lloyd who had to share a card. This is a shame. Both Lloyd and Peake have major roles as Hawking's speech therapist of sorts and his best friend respectively so this is disappointing. Those are certainly much bigger parts and more impressive performances than, say, Emily Watson whose role Nick famously and hilariously summarized in our podcast as

You haven't met me. You should go to church. Bye!" 

 

What did you think of the SAG Cast Nominations, readers? Which films were you upset to see left out and which film are you rooting for for the win?