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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 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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Amy Adams for Janis Joplin

"It's baffling to me that Amy Adams will potentially have as many nominations as Blanchett, Winslet, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Thelma Ritter, Deborah Kerr, Sissy Spacek, and Glenn Close. This is weird, right?" -Aaron

"What is happening with Nina Arianda's Janis film with Sean Durkin? It's still listed as "announced" on her IMDB. Are we to assumed that it is a lost cause?" -Ryan

 

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Entries in Directors (114)

Wednesday
Nov192014

Steve McQueen to Helm a Paul Robeson Biopic (& other news)

Manuel here bringing you news about Steve McQueen's next film project.

Surely one of the joys of this past Oscar season was McQueen's ebullience, no?

While we know McQueen has been busy casting his lead for his HBO pilot, Codes of Conduct, it was less clear what his follow-up to his Academy Award winning 12 Years a Slave would be. Well, now we have an answer: a Paul Robeson biopic. He’s quoted by The Guardian, noting that,

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger. But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.”

Robeson’s life will surely offer McQueen quite a bit to play with, though I’d love for him to focus on Robeson’s impact and role in the Harlem Renaissance; might I be selfish in wanting him to craft an entire movie out of Robeson’s (in)famous Emperor Jones production? I feel we’ve yet to get a big-screen treatment of that colorful era, with so much necessary cultural history embedded within. After 12 Years’ historic win, it seems fitting that McQueen (who’s teaming up with Harry Belafonte for the pic) would use his leverage to get his passion project off the ground and particularly timely as 2014 continues to see films for, about, and by black artists taking center stage in mainstream conversations.

And for those of you who want to champion and support work by African American women (also beautifully being spotlit recently with Ava Duvernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood, as well as Brit Amma Asante’s films all receiving warm critical and box office notices), the African-American Women in Cinema festival kicks off today in New York City. It looks like a wonderfully diverse slate; the opening night film Seasons of Love features Taraji P. Henson, (also soon to be seen in the upcoming Lee Daniels’ produced television show Empire which will hopefully give her the juice role she deserves) as well as the fittingly and timely titled Afraid of the Dark documentary which attempts to answer the question, in director Mya B.’s words, “Why is everyone afraid of black men?” Let us know if you make it to any of the films! 

Taraji & Gladys Knight in Seasons of Love 

Who do you think McQueen should cast as Robeson? And while we’re on the subject, share with us your favorite film directed by a woman of color (mine’s The Watermelon Woman); I’m always on the lookout for new titles from voices that veer away from the stronghold of the straight white male director.

Sunday
Nov162014

A Multitude of Links

Some of these links (which I collect until I have a moment to share) are a few days old and some are brand new. But it's time to clear out the cache!

We Are Movie Geeks recounts highlights of AFI and the fest winners including Ukraine's The Tribe and the Olympic documentary about Russia's Red Army hockey team which has major Oscar dreams and might achieve them since it's quite entertaining!
Pajiba a fun look at Jessica Chastain's career before she broke out in movies: L&O and E.R. and so on
Vulture interviews Bill Irwin, one of our favorites, on his work as "Tars" in Interstellar 
In Contention moderates a SAG Q & A for The Grand Budapest Hotel. I've been meaning to watch that one again 


Dissolve First look at Bryan Cranston as Trumbo in the 2015 feature. (Sad that there's not much in the way of costume here because I had lunch with the designer Daniel Orlandi when I was in LA. Will this HBO blacklist drama be up for Emmys in 2015? What'cha think?)
Interview Magazine Stanley Tucci interviews his pal Patricia Clarkson, looking better than ever 
In Contention Stephen Hawking weighs in on Eddie Redmayne's performance of him in The Theory of Everything
Speakeasy Finn Wittrock on his breakout year via American Horror Story 

Friends & Collaborators of TFE
The Atlantic Joe thinks the Oscar race for Animated Feature is between Big Hero 6 and The LEGO Movie. I disagree. Has everyone noticed how hard Dragon 2 is pushing? 
Antagony & Ecstacy Tim discovers Gloria (remember how wild I was about that one last year?) 
My New Plaid Pants Jason has a great (mixed) take on A Most Violent Year 

 

Must Reads
LA Times great piece on how social media has affected awards season
Grantland Wesley Morris pays homage to America's Bitter-Sweetheart Reese Witherspoon (Wild).
AV Club An instant classic article on "fake deaths and cheap resurrections" in entertainment. This is a month old piece which maybe I've shared before (?) but if you haven't read it you simply must. I can't get over it. This has long been something I've struggled with in movies and TV and it's beautifully put to words here by William Hughes.
Slate interesting essay about the decline of the serial killer in real life and its 'golden age' (blech!) in film and television  

Today's Watch
Got an hour? Here's Bennett Miller giving a "Master Class" talk on directing to promote Foxcatcher. This is from the NYFF but it's just available now in its full form.

 

Finally...
You may be wondering why I didn't watch, tweet, or blog about The Hollywood Film Awards. 

It isn't a competition so much as a publicity arrangement.

Let's just say I agree with Sasha Stone's quote about it (<--- and look, I finally met her in L.A. after 10+ years of knowing each other online!). Since that is true, and since it's a fake awards show and we already have enough of real ones, why give it any space? If you need further evidence of how disinterested people are read these bitchy quotes from Tim Gray's article in Variety

Thursday
Oct302014

The Honoraries: Harry Belafonte in Carmen Jones (1954)

Welcome to "The Honoraries". We're celebrating the careers of the Honorary Oscar recipients of 2014 and the Jean Hersholt winner (Harry Belafonte). Here's longtime TFE reader and new contributor Teo Bugbee, whose work you might have read at The Daily Beast, on Belafonte's biggest film...

Even in the fantastic canon of classic Hollywood musicals, Carmen Jones is a standout. It’s got all the colors—Deluxe, not Technicolor, which as any John Waters fan will tell you is the real deal—it’s got the timeless score by Georges Bizet, but before we talk about the film itself, let’s take a minute to look at the backstory, if only because what was going on behind the scenes in Carmen Jones is at least as interesting as what made it on film. 

Though he never really made particularly political films, director Otto Preminger was a modern man when it came to his politics, and he proposed the idea of adapting the Broadway smash Carmen Jones into a film as a means of showing off the black talent that he felt Hollywood was excluding. But despite Preminger’s substantial box office clout, no major studio wanted to take on a film with an all black cast. So Preminger took Carmen Jones to United Artists and set out making it basically as an independent film.

Harry Belafonte was brought on immediately as Joe, but Preminger took a longer time to find his star, testing a number of black actresses. 

Lusty affairs and a singular film after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct162014

Interview: Jorge Gutierrez & Guillermo del Toro on "The Book of Life"

Jorge Gutierrez has won two Annie awards and an Emmy, but in order to get his passion project The Book Of Life (which opens tonight!) onto the screen, he needed a little help. Gutierrez found it in Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican fantasy director has been using his production company to foster new visions in genres like horror and animation. A little bit Orpheus and Euridice, a little bit Dia de Los Muertos, and a little bit musical theater, The Book Of Life is anything but ordinary.

Anne Marie here. I was lucky enough to interview Guillermo del Toro and Jorge Gutierrez when they came to San Diego Comic Con in July. But before I could even start asking questions, del Toro noticed the squid design on my necklace, and launched into a rhapsodic monologue about his favorite movie, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. From that point on, I basically just held on to my seat as del Toro and Gutierrez riffed on each other with the ease of good friends and partners. They discussed everything from Ray Harryhausen to the purpose of a director to whether children’s movies need bad guys.

Here's how it went...

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: [20,000 Leagues Under the Sea] is a magnificent movie. And to this day I collect models of the Nautilus.

ANNE MARIE: Of the Nautilus?

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: Yeah. I have, I think I have most every one, except the ten meter one, which is too big for me... But I have the 3 ft one. I have the little ones, the medium ones, the electric ones, the ones that light up [JG laughs] the ones that make a little noise, all of that. That and The Time Machine are my two favorite sort of steampunk-y pieces of design.

JORGE GUTIERREZ: It’s awesome. It holds up, too. Anyways! [Laughs]

ANNE MARIE: You’ve both described The Book of Life as a personal pet project. Can you talk a little about the process of getting it going?

JORGE GUTIERREZ: Absolutely! Fifteen years I’ve been working on this, based on a student short I did at Cal Arts. When I graduated I pitched it everywhere. Everyone said, “Nah, you’re just a kid out of school. No one wants to see this stuff.”

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: “You don’t understand.”

JG: “You don’t understand. We need talking animal movies.” Literally, that’s what I was told at every meeting.

[More...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct072014

Familiar Faces: The David Fincher Players

Up until The Social Network (2010), when a version of this article first appeared, David Fincher was, moderately, a creature of habit when it came to casting. Certain character actors would pop up in miniature roles in more than one film though only one star was a recurring lead (Brad Pitt). Since then it's been more of a free for all with (mostly) new faces in his films.

For Gone Girl it's all new faces but for three men who you'll miss if you blink:

Darin Cooper, Brett Leigh, and Lee Norris

Brett Leigh appears as a nervous intern (he was previously a Phoenix Club hazer in The Social Network); Lee Norris, best known for "One Tree Hill" and "Boy Meets World," shows up as "Officer Washington" after a gig in Zodiac; and Darin Cooper, who played one of Facebook's lawyers in The Social Network, returns as  "Moustached Man"

We hope next time Fincher finds a way to reuse these three and pulls more performers from his past, too. Why? When directors apply previous actors like favorite daubs of paint from their auteurial palettes, it adds a little magic, don't you think? It's like the films are all part of the same universe no matter how different they are. Let's investigate further with...

The David Fincher Acting Hierarchy
(Quantitatively Speaking)


4 Films. 
There's a three way tie for the top honor, each beating Brad Pitt by one film, albeit with much much smaller roles...

• Richmond Arquette 
Yes, that's the least famous member of the Arquette clan (brother to Alexis, David, Rosanna & Patricia). Fincher gives him tiny roles but some are key: he makes the dread box delivery at the end of Se7en, makes the first two kills in Zodiac and he's also in Fight Club and Benjamin Button. He recently had a fine co-leading showcase in Chad Hartigan's This is Martin Bonner.

• Christopher John Fields 
He stretches the furthest back with the director, all the way to Fincher's debut feature Alien³ (1992) where he played "Rains" one of the first victims of the acid-blooded beastie (pictured left), poor guy. He's also The Game's Detective Boyle, Fight Club's dry cleaning man and a copy editor in Zodiac. He appears to no longer be working, though.

• Bob Stephenson 
You might recognize this actor from series regular gigs on TV's Jericho or The Forgotten. He's part of the SWAT team in Se7en (pictured left), a security officer in Fight Club and a killer in both The Game and Zodiac. He recently appeared on an episode of both Agents of SHIELD and Mom.

3 Films
Much more and this man that needs no introduction...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct052014

Interview: Matthew Warchus (Pride, God of Carnage, Matilda The Musical) on Stage and Screen Transfers

Portions of this interview originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad discussing "Pride," the year's most adorable movie. This is the full interview with additional topics, Matilda the Musical's upcoming film adaptation chief among them.

If you didn't get to cinemas these past two weekends, the year's most adorable movie is still waiting for you, eager to please. Pride has been playing New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco but will add new cities next Friday. I expect all Film Experiencers to turn out for it! If you've read my review (aka paragraphs of me drooling on the movie) you'll know it's the true life LGBT story of a group of activists in the 1980s that stood up for striking miners during Margaret Thatcher’s bullying reign. The film is looking to be a "word of mouth" hit in miniature, but CBS Films plans to nurture it towards larger sleeper status. They'll be expanding carefully.

Two weeks back I had the opportunity to talk with the director Matthew Warchus who had just attended a pre-release screening with a "tumultous reaction" in LA. The 46 year old director, a stage veteran and Tony winner, recently replaced Kevin Spacey as the artistic director of the Old Vic so he isn't leaving the boards, he's just multi-tasking. He's already working on his follow up to Pride, a big screen adaptation of the Tony nominated hit Matilda: The Musical.

I talked to him about both projects, his stage directing skill set and how it affects his film work and how he approaches moving a property across mediums.

NATHANIEL R: You’ve done a lot of stage work before this. What do you think most prepared you for to tell this particular story and on film? 

MATTHEW WARCHUS: One great bit of preparation: I grew up in a village in the middle of nowhere in the North of England surrounded by coal mines and massively isolated. We had moved into that village so we were outsiders, wanting to to assimilate and be accepted. That gave me an understanding of how those communities work and the positives and minuses.

[Adapting musicals, sharing Pride, and more after the jump...]

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep072014

TIFF: Vignettes with Mike Leigh

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Day 2

Day 2 was just magical from start to finish with 3 great movies and 1 solid one. Two of the films you've already read about here in Sweden's stellar Oscar submission Force Majeure and Norway's Out of Nature about one man hiking around in the wilderness on a long weekend. I like to think of the latter as Norway's counterpart to Reese Witherspoon in Wild - which I'll be seeing soon - though I doubt Reese takes her clothes off for a wank and runs around starkers. Day 2 was something of a vignette day since I will remember it primarily as the day I saw Mike Leigh twice and hid from the rain with him (long story - save it for the podcast!), the day I scarfed down melted cheese sandwiches with Nick & Joe in an highly unglamorous take-out setting, and a day of not one but 2 great movies composed of vignettes.

WILD TALES. an amazing Argentinian delightVignette films, like their cousin the omnibus, are tough beasts to pull off because you're essentially asking the audience to reinvest in the movie every 20 minutes or so, as if they've stumbled into a short film festival. They're also bound to feel uneven with some segments much richer than others. But here's two films that pull it off with real aplomb...

Argentina's Wild Tales is directed by Damián Szifrón but produced by TFE's favorite Pedro Almodóvar who I imagine is just thrilled with the results. It seems like a movie he would love what with its colorful characters, amusingly melodramatic and twisty stories, and at least three vivid female characters though it's not as actressy as his movies. Let's just say everyone in this six story movie is ...on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, and not just the women. Wild Tales was a big hit at Cannes earlier this year and it might possibly be Argentina's Oscar submission. It's easy to see why since the title is accurate. You feel like anything could happen primarily because not so very many minutes into the terrific opening vignette, it does. It starts just like any movie might with a beautiful woman being chatted up by a handsome older stranger as their flight takes off. But then they realize they have an acquaintance in common. Another passenger overhears them, interrupts and...

No, I shan't tell you more because this movie is best seen cold as the surprises are half the fun. Let's just say this free-fall into insanity sets the tone for the whole film which plays like a highwire act of dark comedy, violent thrills, and romances gone awry. Of the six segments, of which only one is just "good" (that'd be the one starring Argentinian cinema's Mr Ubiquitous Ricardo Darin), I had two favorites. The third vignette takes place on a long stretch of dusty highway where two men piss each other off while driving. Neither of them can let any affront go. It's a stretch of cinema that should make the majority of the world's action directors ashamed of themselves for not bothering to pack in as many thrills and cleverly choreographed beats into 2 hours that Szifron manages in 20 minutes. The final sequence centering on a wedding reception that goes sour and descends into utter chaos is also pretty damn great, and funny too. Don't read anything more about it and if gets released, jump in. A-

VENICE GOLDEN LION WINNER!
Sweden's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence comes from one of Mike Leigh's favorite directors Roy Andersson. Hence the first Mike Leigh sighting of the day since he came to the show with Mr Turner's primary non-Timothy Spall Oscar contender Marion Bailey. The room was jam-packed with press many of whom were laughing out loud and very frequently which is not all that common in critics screenings, I have to tell you.

A Pigeon... which does indeed include pigeons sitting on branches (albeit mostly offscreen),  bills itself as the final part of a trilogy of what it means to be human. And it starts with three short scenes called "Three Encounters With Death" which are beyond hilarious. I will never forget the ancient little lady hanging tightly on to her purse because she wants to take it with her when she goes. Every scene in the film is its own little continuous shot vignette in which the camera does not move but the things within the frame do, albeit sometimes very slowly. The two most frequently recurring characters are gag salesmen who keep announcing that they're there to help people have fun but are the glummest downers you ever did see, perpetually frowning, failing, frumpy and shuffling as if they're zombies across Andersson's often brilliant mise-en-scène . Not that anyone in the frame looks "alive" per se, since Andersson's figures are nearly all chalky white with a touch of ginger in their hair. The salesmen turned out to be my least favorite running gag in the movie and definitely wore out their welcome a bit though they're super funny at first. My favorite recurring bit was the generic repetitive dialogue heard whenever anyone onscreen answers a telephone. As if all the disconnected oddness weren't perplexing enough, there are three amazing period piece scenes involving warring soldiers, a musical number in a diner, and a slave ship (a very disturbing sequence).

Andersson strikes me a singular director, but there is one comparison point I feel comfortable sharing. I kept thinking of Jacques Tati, because the longer you stare at the sometimes crowded sometimes spare shots, the funnier they become and the bigger their comic payoffs whenever anything changes within the frame you've been visually searching for more things to discover or giggle about. I'm still scratching my head over this film but I'm already kicking myself for having missed Andersson's previous films. Several people have told me that I would love them. They were right and I am a fool for taking so long to get to them. A-

one of many screamingly funny but morbid scenes in "A Pigeon..."

Can you tell that I'm having a great great festival this year?