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Entries in Best Picture (186)

Friday
Sep092016

A Brief Note on Moonlight's Oscar Buzz

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto Film Festival

I'll need more time to process Moonlight, a stunning triptych about a black gay man named Chiron at three stages in his life (played by Alex R Hibbet as a child, Ashton Sanders as a teenager, and Trevante Rhodes as an adult). A full review then is yet to come. Barry Jenkins' film inspired by the play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" is beautifully calibrated to explore its central theme of finding your identity. It provides no easy answers as to how to do that and no simple catharsis which could make it a difficult sell. If anyone is up to the task it's the distributor A24 who will platform release the film beginning on October 21st. 

As to the reductive topic of all the Oscar buzz, I am uncertain. Yes, it's going to be a huge critical success and some people's favorite of the year. Barry Jenkins has most definitely announced himself as a exciting formidable writer/director. Yes the cast is performing the material gorgeously particularly Mahershala Ali as a complex father figure to Chiron in the first act, and Trevante Rhodes who pulls all the Chiron's together with heartbreaking interiority in the last act. (Of note: Naomie Harris as Chiron's drug-addicted mother is the only actor to appear in all three chapters but she's impactful each time). But, how to put this... it's definitely an art film that's going to work best for audience members for whom identity politics resonate (*raises hand*). It's also a double minority story about being black and gay.

Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches Chiron (Alex R Hibbet) to swim in Moonlight's first chapter "Little"

Oscar is, rather infamously, a majority instution if you get me. They normally need some "in" for LGBT or black stories, in the form of an already renowned director for the former or a famous historical event or famous actor in celebrity bio or some such for the latter. We'll see.

I repeat: If anyone is up to the task it's the distributor A24! 

Wednesday
Aug312016

Best Picture Updates: La La Land Up, Birth of Nation Down

It's the final blind read Oscar charts update... after Venice/Telluride/Toronto each year things clear up a lot which is both fun because "the Oscar race has begun" and horrible since it's nice to hold on to multiple impossible dreams. After festival season is over you have to winnow the impossible dreams down since so many of the films have shown their faces and people get to decide how attractive they are and if they want to keep talking and thinking and looking at them for the next five months. 

At the very current moment La La Land is enjoying a deluge of ecstatic responses at Venice which makes us feel good about having predicted it from moment one. At the very current moment, The Birth of a Nation is reminding everyone that being a "frontrunner" a year before the actual ceremony is usually an untenable situation for a variety of similar reasons each time (boredom, hype backlash, "that ol' thing?" annoyance, etcetera) and also for specific unique reasons each time.

In the case of The Birth of a Nation we're dealing with the very unsavory business of a past rape incident. It feels grotesque to view such things through the lens of "what does it mean for Oscar?" which is largely why we've stayed relatively mum on the topic at The Film Experience. Nevertheless we should note that this is not necessarily the end for the movie. History is filled with bad press situations overcome and Hollywood is forgiving when they want to be. There are still four months left until Oscar nominations - plenty of time for more hot takes and backlashes against backlashes and so on. Nate Parker's willingness to talk at length about this is probably a good sign for both his future and the picture's, like this candid must-read interview with Ebony magazine. We can debate about how sincere and/or ignorant he is /was about consent (yes, yes, cultural understanding around sensitive topics does evolve over time but it was never okay to invite your friends to have sex with a passed out woman;  you didn't need modern understandings of "consent" to know this in the 90s) but I think we can all agree that rape culture is a very forgiving place for accomplished men, however awful that sounds. 

On the other hand once voters realize how much diversity there is in front of and behind the camera in 2016's movie offerings (Fences, Loving, A United Kingdom, Queen of Katwe, and Moonlight are all still to come) they might be eager to run far afield of the icky Birth of a Nation situation without worrying about any #OscarsSoWhite fallout because they can run right into the arms of less troubled filmmakers and warmer films. 

It's all so gross. So on to something more fun. Did you know that Alicia Keys, Tori Amos, and Sia all wrote Original Songs for movies this year? They did. See it on the music chart. 

CHART UPDATES Pre Festival Edition
INDEX |  BEST PICTURE | BEST DIRECTOR 
FOREIGN | FOREIGN A-F | FOREIGN F-N | FOREIGN N-Z
SCREENPLAYS | VISUALS | SOUND & MUSIC ANIMATION & DOCS
Acting chart updates tomorrow!

Sunday
Aug282016

Box Office Special: 1984 Hits

Rather than talk about this weekend's boring box office results (nothing new to see here beyond a big weekend for that new kill-the-trespassing-teenagers flick Don't Breathe) let's travel back to 1984 which was a hugely influential year for franchises of many kinds. What can the biggest hits tell us about the then and the now? 

TOP TWENTY OF 1984
numbers adjusted for today's dollars via box office mojo

01 Ghostbusters $589.6  
Two Oscar nods. Spawned 1 terrible sequel, two animated TV shows, and this year's reboot

02 Beverly Hills Cop $581.5
Led to two sequels, a TV remake, and a TV pilot that wasn't picked up. Beverly Hills Cop 4 has been in some stage of development for 20+ years and is still supposedly being made. We'll believe it when we see it.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug162016

Stream This: No Country For Freddy's Happyness

I trust you're all Netflixing today to prepare for Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Get Down" tonight. We've missed Baz Luhrmann, haven't you? Netflix hasn't announced its September availabilities yet but here are a few things that just arrived as well as a few you'll need to watch quickly, if you have any desire, as they expire shortly. Let's freeze frame them at random places and see what turns up, shall we?

NEW TO NETFLIX

She will now lay her eggs - eggs with a truly remarkable destiny.

Flight of the Butterflies (2012)
That sounds uneccessarily dramatic, like it's a tagline for a butterfly blockbuster. This is, you guessed it, a documentary on butterflies. Pretty pretty.

(seven more movies after the jump)

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug072016

Posterized: Woody Allen's Filmography

Will Cafe Society win Oscar attention? It certainly looks handsome.Woody Allen's Cafe Society is the prolific auteur's 46th full length theatrical feature. He's been so regular a presence at the movie theaters he even makes speedy Clint Eastwood look like a slacker. In fact, though he's got his first television series due in September starring himself, Miley Cyrus and Elaine May (the six episode season will be called Crisis in Six Scenes and debut on September 30th), it won't be slowing down his theatrical output since he's already working on the 47th feature as well (which will star Kate Winslet and Justin Timberlake as previously noted).

It's too early in Cafe Society's run to know where it will stack up in terms of success, but it appears to be tracking to be one of his mid-range pictures, the kind that do fine but are neither true hits nor flops. We shall see. But for now let's look back at that highly prolific theatrical career. His pictures have earned a total of 52 Oscar nominations and 12 wins and they were once so popular they finished in the top ten hits of the year (can you imagine? Ah the 1970s when moviegoers were far crazier about what they'd turn out for)

How many of his 47 films have you seen (we're including the omnibus film New York Stories because why not)? All the posters and waves of his career are after the jump...

Click to read more ...