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Entries in Colorology (61)

Wednesday
Nov232016

Manuel Gives Thanks!

Manuel here. This is now my third year giving thanks as part of the TFE team and it really is a gift to be part of such a wonderful group of writers and commenters. One should always give thanks in front of food, so be sure to order some Cuban food from the hot Miami cook in the back.

This year, I'm thankful for...

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Tuesday
Nov222016

Lynn Gives Thanks

Let’s face it: this is a difficult year for many of us to be thankful – at least if we’re focusing on the news (and how could we not?).  2016 has taken so much and so many from the world, it’s hard not to greet Thanksgiving with the kind of benediction Wendy (Christina Ricci) delivered in The Ice Storm...

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Monday
Aug292016

The Furniture: Wiener-Dog's Sickly Green Cages

by Daniel Walber

Wiener-Dog is a deceptive movie. It is technically a sequel to Todd Solondz’s cult classic Welcome to the Dollhouse, but only for about a quarter of its running time. It’s actually an anthology, built around the often tragic life of an adorable, stoic dachshund. Each stop is totally separate from the last, each new character a slightly different riff on solitude and bitterness.

Yet even this structural diversity is deceptive. For while the film contains a variety of stories and locations, it is essentially one long expansion of a single set. The opening credits play over an anonymous animal shelter, where Wiener-Dog patiently waits to be adopted. One side has bars, the other a clear panel. The bright light highlights the sickly green walls, like the antiseptic glow of a dystopian hospital.

Wiener-Dog makes it out, but the cage lingers...

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Wednesday
Jul062016

Interview: That Neon-Loving Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn. Photographed by Tom Hoops for Lab MagazineNicolas Winding Refn, the Danish auteur whose made a career of candy colored violent films after grimier movies at home, is both exactly what you'd expect and unexpected. The expected: he's a little bit eccentric pacing the room rather than sitting, a little intimidating, and a little impish -- it's difficult to know if he truly means what he says in some instances, or if he has just mastered the art of provocation. The unexpected: he's relatively friendly, surprisingly generous about his collaborators despite the auteur's ego, very tall, thin and surprisingly attractive, something you wouldn't necessarily think since he's so often been photographed with inhuman gods like Ryan Gosling who make everyone but other movie stars look crumpled and basic.

As we talk we find mutual ground in Christina Hendricks adoration ("the perfect woman," he says) but elsewhere it's like he's speaking a foreign language and I don't mean Danish. His films, though quite serious on the surface, betray a dark sense of humor, and yet it still surprises me to hear him drop "I think it would be fun to make a spy movie" as we're saying our goodbyes. Why is this surprising? I couldn't quite tell you but such is the fascination of meeting this singular director, whatever you make of his increasingly divisive movies.

Our interview follows....

NATHANIEL: Let's talk about your opening scene. It's such a bold tableau. Did you ever worry you were coming on too strong. Like 'how will I top that first image?'

NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I'm setting the stage knowing that, if you look through the film, you'll see the same dynamic in all the other scenes of death and beauty.

NATHANIEL: So you're laying the theme.

NWR: I'm laying the theme right on. Most films -- storytelling in mass media -- start slowly, introducing. Eventually it gets to some kind of dramatic point in the first act. That means the second act is how do we solve it and the third act is resolution. But i don't necessarily believe that's the right order...

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Wednesday
Jun222016

Judy by the Numbers: "Be A Clown"

Just as there are films that shine bright in a star's history, there are also films whose histories are controversial at best. The Pirate is an odd contradiction of a movie. As one of Judy Garland's most expensive films, it was also her first MGM bust. Released two years after childrearing had put Judy on hiatus, it was nonetheless stuck in preproduction for five years before that. While it landed Judy another hit song, the knockoff written four years later would become a classic. Though The Pirate was the loudest, brightest movie Judy had made to date, its most interesting sequences were left on the cutting room floor. What to do with The Pirate?

The Movie: The Pirate (1948, MGM) 
The Songwriter: Cole Porter
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, directed by Vincente Minnelli

The Story: The Pirate must have seemed cursed from the start. By the time Vincente Minnelli started filming, it had already been stuck in pre-production hell since 1943. This meant that even though Minnelli tried to keep costs down, enough money had already been sunk into it that the budget ballooned to almost $5 million. Judy wasn't helping either - she reported sick to work 99 times. Then there was the issue of reshoots. The song "Voodoo" apparently enraged Mayer so much that he ordered the nitrate negative burned. The ending was a mess and had to be reshot. Then that ending got the boot in the South because it featured black men tapdancing

All of these production problems took their toll, and the resulting movie is a little bit of a beautiful mess. Nonetheless, there are three reasons to see this movie:

  1. It's the first A Movie appearance of the Nicholas Brothers
  2. Vincente Minnelli makes really beautiful color movies
  3. Judy Garland throws china like a red-haired Bucky Walters 

However, the scene that would make the film famous was "Be A Clown." As previously mentioned, it would become a modest hit for Judy, but the real hit came four years later when Judy's friend Donald O'Connor sang "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singin' in the Rain. Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed whipped up the song while trying to find a number for O'Connor. Luckily for them, Cole Porter was under MGM contract and wasn't feeling particularly litigious. While Judy would continue to sing the original throughout her career, ultimately Singin' in the Rain made Freed's version more popular. Even great talent couldn't keep The Pirate from sinking.