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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 | letterboxd


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Yes No Maybe So - Big Eyes

"The trailer won me over with two phrases:
1) "Lady art doesn't sell".
2) "I've been lying to my daughter".
- Adri

"A Tim Burton movie with the title Big Eyes that features neither Ricci, Ryder, Keaton nor Bonham Carter just doesn't seem right..." -Paul



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Entries in Best Picture (93)


TIFF: Twelve Ye... Oh, Let's Just Oscar Update

Twelve Years a Slave is... God, I'm going to need some time to collect myself. Good grief but that movie is harrowing / amazing. That's all I got for now. Can we discuss later when I've stopp... I think I have something in my eye.

But since we're talking powerful and overwhelming emotion, our minds should naturally drift to actresses. Patsey the slave (Lupita Nyong'o) confides memorably to Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) that she has no comfort in this world. But Supporting Actress is deeply comforting to us and we need comfort right now after this movie.

Reducing great movies to Oscar talk is awful. I know I know. I hate myself for typing this but LET'S TALK OSCAR'S BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS RACE (UPDATED CHART). I went in to 12 Years a Slave anxious to see what McQueen & Fassbender could do (I'm happy to report that they're three for three under the umbrella of utterly amazing director/muse collaborations) and wasn't thinking about the actresses much at all. A rarity. But still, once I remembered to think of them I was curious about Qu'venzhane Wallis (barely in it... in fact most people won't notice that she is) and Alfre Woodard. Alfre at least has a juicy and blessedly atypical scene to chew on. It's kind of a relief really from the scenes surrounding it and every harrowing story needs catch your breath moments. Especially if you've forgotten to breathe. Which kept happening to me.

As it turns out Lupita Nyong'o as the slave girl "Patsey" and Sarah Paulson as her cruel mistress "Mary Epps" are where it's at for supporting actressing in this movie. Their every scene together is knife's edge brilliant.

Also @ TIFF
Labor Day in a freeze-frame nutshell
Paranoia Mano-a-mano Thrillers Enemy & Pioneer
Jessica Chastain at the Eleanor Rigby Premiere
August Osage County reactions Plus Best Picture Nonsense
Rush Ron Howard's crowd pleaser
TIFF Vow: Dreaming of 2014
The Past from Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi & Cannes Best Actress Berenice Bejo
Queer Double FeatureTom at the Farm and Stranger by the Lake
Boogie Nights Live Read with Jason Reitman and Friends
First 3 Screenings: Child's Pose, Unbeatable and Isabelle Huppert in Abuse of Weakness 
TIFF Arrival: Touchdown in Toronto. Two unsightly Oscars


Today in Stupid: 20 Best Picture Nominees & Standing Os for August: Osage County

Relax. The headline is misleading, thank the baby Jesus. Variety is merely wondering if there should be 20 nominees and the only argument they can see against it is that it would make the ceremony even longer?!? Why would anyone propose such a thing? Oh, yes, shameless traffic-baiting is always the why. A website gotta have hits. But since we're feeling generous we've indulged them with a link.

The Film Experience would rather go back to 5 when a Best Picture nomination meant something and was difficult to procure. Even with 10 slots available it's so diluted. One unfortunate side effect is the Best Director category which, despite some fascinating surprises last year, has lost some of its appeal since gone are the days when you could wonder about the "lone wolf" nominee. With any more Best Picture nominees all the tension and drama that comes with annual competition would instantly be sucked out of it, like a zigzagging balloon with knot untied, falling to the ground in a rubbery lump of no fun who cares.

In other stupid news there seems to be a weird notion floating around twitter that the Standing Ovation for August: Osage County is a big deal somehow or that it's "rare".  Standing ovations are the furthest thing from rare at festival screenings if the cast or director actually shows up... unless they went and changed the definition of rare while I was up flying the friendly skies. They're kind of expected... that thing you do to say 'thank you for coming, movie stars!' 

Julianne, Dermot, Julia, Juliette, Ewan & Abigail at the premiere

Nevertheless August: Osage County is clearly where your head is out (I read the comments sections) and where Twitter's been sl let's discuss the reactions after the jump

Click to read more ...


Gurus of Gold Begins

What will Oscar love this year? It's the question that never quite leaves the mind of the Oscar fanatic. Especially not this time of year when the bulk of the baity films are about to reveal themselves at festivals and on movie screens. August is practically the last moment of "anything could happen" dreaming. Reality (or whatever passes for it in the land of Loud Opinions) is about to set in.

So it's a perfect time for the Gurus of Gold to begin. This long running group of key awards pundits, assembled by David Poland at Movie City News has a new member this year. Me. I'm truly grateful for the honor of a place at that table.

To "set the field" we were asked to submit our top fifteen (unranked) assumptions about which films might be Best Picture bound. My fifteen won't be difficult for you to guess since they're there on TFE's Updated Best Picture Chart but here is the Guru chart. The joy of group punditry is investigating where consensus emerges and where pundits are out on limbs alone. For instance, I'm the only Guru that named Ridley Scott's The Counselor as a Best Picture possibility and I don't have much company at all when it comes to Dallas Buyers Club either. Spike Jonze's Her, JC Chandor's All is Lost, and Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, all featured in my top ten (not just my top fifteen) don't seem to be inspiring consensus opinion in terms of Best Picture heat either. As for the consensus titles that I'm cooler on than the almost all the other Gurus, that'd be Monuments Men (the trailer worried me) and Inside Llewyn Davis (I just don't see how the Coen Bros can hit gold every time) but I have good company in doubting those with Pete Hammond and Mark Harris, respectively.

12 Years a Slave was one of only 3 films to receive 14 of 15 votes

What'cha think? The Gurus of Gold chart (as well as my own) will invariably be shaken up by TIFF the festival that always changes everything by way of "First!"

Picture | Director | Actress | Actor | Supporting Actress | Supporting Actor

p.s. why aren't you following me on twitter? do it!
p.p.s. and while we're social media'ing - like us on facebook 


She's Gotta Link It

Deadline Happy news! Billy Magnussen, who is fabulously funny on Broadway in Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike (I reviewed it) will play Rapunzel's Prince in the film version of Into the Woods
Variety I started with happy news because ABC Family cancelled Bunheads which is just killing me right now. Another singular piece of entertainment shuttered too soon because networks don't have the guts to support shows that aren't entirely formulaic and interchangeable with other shows concurrently airing. They say "we took extra time to try and find ways to bring the series back for another season" but I see no evidence that they did that. 
Signs and Sirens a provocative think piece on Melissa McCarthy's aggressive rise to the top of film comedy

Los Angeles Times RIP Actor Dennis Farina (Get Shorty, Midnight Run, Law & Order)  
AV Club bless them for publishing this list of 22 Best Picture winners that were released in the first six months of their years. This topic is dear to my heart and I'm always trying to sell it to Hollywood and nobody seems to believe me. Maybe people will believe the AV Club? 
New York Times on Woody Allen's gift with vivid female characters 
Cinema Blend The Freddie Mercury biopic is falling apart because surviving Queen members want it to be PG clean? Oy. Best that this project falls apart!
Movie City News David Poland does some thinking aloud about Netflix. I love reading about this even though he loses me once he starts getting into a fast food analogy. But I wish someone would address the issue of accessibility. I really am having nightmares about this post-Netflix world when suddenly it's so complicated to find movies again. For a short while, the first few years of Netflix it seemed like ANY movie was available for watching and for only one monthly price. It was heaven. Now it's constricting again and you have to really search for movies and pay per view instead of subscription fees. I hate it! I do not want to have to look at Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix and godknows what else every time I want to seek out a piece of Oscar history. Each new technology change we lose pieces of the history of the movies. It happened with VHS to DVD and it's happening now with DVD to the splintering market of Streaming. It saddens me. 

Another day, sorta disingenuous Kickstarter plea to get a rich celebrity funding for a movie that they claim they couldn't make within the system even though they got a lot of shit made through the system in years past!  Spike Lee is the latest millionaire asking his fans for cash. Now, I respect Spike Lee as a filmmaker far more than the guy who popularized this trend - Lee has made several provocative ballsy movies outside of and within the system that only he could have made. Some of his joints are even incredible movies (Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour) and even his failures tend to be interesting!

This is a mothafuckin body of work right here 

I like Spike Lee and  I am not against asking for money as my sidebar reminds but asking for money is for people who don't have it ;) People who earn a substantial living doing what they do -- should they really be the same ones shaking tin cans on the street? It's a distortion of the point of crowdfunding. The people who can't get movies made within the system are the ones that Hollywood doesn't know exist, not the ones Hollywood already supports with paychecks. I wouldn't find this trend so distasteful if even one of these celebrities would just speak the truth which is this:

'I COULD get the movie I wanted to make made within the system and get paid for it but it might take a longer time than I'd like and I heard this is an easy way to do it and I don't want to part with my own money  -- remember when Francis Ford Coppola went bankrupt with 'One From the Heart'? So just give me some, okay?

You know?  


"American Graffiti" is a Wonderful Ride. Take It. 

I honestly can't tell you why I've avoided American Graffiti (1973) for as long as I have especially since my childhood was filled with Star Wars trilogy mania to the extent that I even devoured a George Lucas paperback biography in the early 80s. But as the only remaining unseen nominee from an unusually diverse and entertaining Best Picture Vintage (American Graffiti, Cries and Whispers, The Exorcist, The Sting, and A Touch of Class) I thought it was time. My assumption that a leisurely drive back into American nostalgia would be just the ticket for the Fourth of July holiday was correct. What surprised me was the drive itself, which "leisurely" does not accurately describe though modern sensibilities might describe the unrushed pacing in just that way.

America Graffiti spends a single night cruising with a group of friends and new acquaintances (a couple of whom, at least, have just graduated high school though the film is less clear on where the other characters stand in the age and education continuum). It's just any night but it's also not. Best friends Curt (Richard Dreyfuss, Golden Globe nominated for this performance) and Steve (Ron Howard), are due aboard a plane headed for college the next morning. But the road they and their friends travel isn't a straight shot, despite the frequent threat of drag race challenges. It's filled with detours, cul de sacs, snack breaks, and confusing cross, tail and headwinds fighting their course.  

Dreyfuss is a dreamer in "American Graffiti"

There are no convertibles to speak of in American Graffiti but you dont even have to be exposed and in motion to feel like the past and future are whipping your hair about and fighting for control of your vehicle, your life, your now. The main characters from hotshot drag racer John (Paul LeMat who won the now defuct "Promising Newcomer" Golden Globe for this performance), to cheerleader Laurie (Cindy Williams, BAFTA nominated for this performance), to best friends Curt and Steve... are visibly confused about the future and even their feelings about the past though they're hanging on, sometimes consciously, to its familiarity. Graffiti's screenplay and ensemble work is strong enough to even let the secondary characters in on this past/future action a bit too, in more subtextual ways. 

The cinematography by Jan D'Alquen & Ron Eveslage (who according to IMDb never worked again after this???) with guidance from the legendary Haskell Wexler isn't particularly showy but it is complicated given the multiple light sources, reflections, moving vehicles, and dark of night. And it's sometimes beautiful, too. Since this series is about individual shots, we have to choose one. My runner up is this brief two-shot between Laurie and Bob Falfa played by Harrison Ford in a precise (and wonderfully telling) debut. I love the light of the passing cars, the reflections, and most of all the acting...

Laurie is angry with her boyfriend Steve and gets in Bob's car only to realize the vacuum of chemistry therein. She doesn't know why she's done this exactly. Bob is also less than smitten, and they're immediately rude to each other. To break the silence Bob comically croons "Some Enchanted Evening" in the way boys clown about to avoid discomfort. In a great comic beat Laurie scoots as far away from him as she can and it'd be even further if the car weren't in motion. Both actors absolutely nail the 'what am I doing here? will i always be doing this? what's next?' ambivalence in a comedic miniature way and what's beautiful about that is that it's the same effect, really, that the film and characters arcs are going for in a dramatic longform way. I even love the art director's touch of that hanging skull in Falfa's car. Maybe's it's a little on the nose for a film that trades so heavily on Fear of the Future and even (inelegantly) foretells death in its credit sequence but it's funny and character-specific.

But that choice, finally, felt too much like a choice based solely on which paragraph I wanted to write (funny how that happens in this series!) rather than a sound decision. Best Shots don't always come from Best Scenes but this time I'm siding with synergy. The best scene in the film, the one where the omnipresent golden-oldies soundtrack, direction, performance, editing, themes and cinematography all coalesce perfectly is at the high school dance the characters reluctantly drop in on despite having just graduated. Steve and Laurie, who have been arguing for the whole first half hour of the movie, are revealed to us to be basically the King & Queen of their high school and they're called up for a spotlight dance right in the middle of a very heated break-up. The scene is two whole minutes in length and every second is beautiful. 

best shot

As they dance in circles under the blue spotlight we get, in brilliant miniature, the ebb and flow of their entire relationship from first date to first kiss to now, as their future looms -- they're not at all sure it's going to be a shared one.

The scene ends with a perfectly judged cut to a closeup as Laurie suddenly clings to Steve, tears in her eyes, wishing for her past to also be her future no matter how pissed she is at present. But since the ending to this absolute gem of a scene is more of a best cut, really, I'll select this image (above) from the middle of the sequence as its best shot. How perfect that the characters are looking in separate directions, that Laurie is driving the scene (as she does throughout despite Steve being the protagonist), that the "62" of their graduating class is lit up, and most of all that Laurie is shifting from angry historian to sentimental scrapbook artist of her own romance in the process of retelling it.


NEXT WEDNESDAY': David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988) [Amazon | Netflix | iTunes]
Join us by watching it and sharing your choice of best shot. We'll link up.

These blogs are boss. Go visit them!
Antagony & Ecstasy thinks this is George Lucas's masterpiece
Coco Hits NYC is unfamiliar with car culture but loves the movie
The Entertainment Junkie on the volatile cocktail of adolescent emotion
Film Actually on the teenage iconography of "lover's lane"
The Film's The Thing "something great is out there waiting for you"
A Fistful of Films proves you don't have to have complex screen capture technology to deliver wonderful posts for this series (join us next week people!)
The Matinee alkdgs
Sorta That Guy visits the radio station with Curt. will he stay or will he go?
Stale Popcorn "they won't have moments like this much longer"
We Recycle Movies on quests and myths and aimless heroes


Visual Index ~ American Graffiti's Best Shot(s)

Where were you on 7/2? Hopefully watching American Graffiti (1973) to better appreciate today's edition of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", our collective series in which we invite anyone who loves movies  'round the web to select their favorite image from a pre-selected movie. [Next Wednesday we'll be discussing the brilliant and disturbing Dead Ringers (1988) so do not miss that.] This week we return to simpler times...

1962 by way of 1973, in point of fact, courtesy of George Lucas's first Best Picture nominee, the very fine nostalgia fest American Graffiti which we thought an appropriate choice for the 4th of July Holiday. more...

Click to read more ...


The Halfway Mark Pt 1: Pictures & Screenplays

We're halfway through the calendar, if not the film year exactly given the backloaded release schedule. So, let's take stock as to where we've been. Herewith my choices for Best thus far... which means I'm hoping that AMPAS and all awards groups will give them a try before the mad traffic jam of year-end Oscar vehicles.

Disclaimer: But first of all... did I miss anything? Sure. You can't see everything though I see my share (full list). My biggest 'oops' for 2013 is definitely Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley's docudrama about her family history which most people I trust at least like and some love. But I also wish I'd seen the Israeli Oscar submission Fill the Void which didn't compete for the foreign film Oscar but did win a release and great reviews.


Original Screenplay

Click to read more ...


I Am Linking

Hollywood Richard Matheson, sci-fi novelist of I Am Legend fame, dies at 87. You can (partially) blame him for the zombie apocalypse craze that's still with us today.
Kevin Patrick O'Keeffe on why Teen Wolf is the most important show on TV for gay viewers. Interesting argument even while admitting that the sole gay character is largely left out of the action.  
TFE Don't forget. The 4th season of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" returns next Wednesday with American Graffitti. Will you be joining us? 

In Contention alerts us to an awesome thing. iTunes has 88% of the Best Picture winners available for purchase or rentals. 
Antagony & Ecstacy thinks Bling Ring might just be Sofia Coppola's best work

World War Link  
Empire James Badge Dale lines up yet another new role. That character actor career is booming and with good reason. How good was he in Flight, World War Z and Iron Man 3?
The Film Doctor discusses World War Z and zombie conventions with a young film buff
Hammer & Thump another take on World War Z as a three-headed movie

Tweet LOLz
For fans of Wonder Woman... I know you're out there. This exchange from my an old online friend Pfangirl and GarethNN made me lol this morning.




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