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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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what did you see this weekend?

"Well, I saw MOMMY on Saturday, and it kind of spoiled my Sunday movie-going, it was so good. " - Bill

"THE SKELETON TWINS. Darker than advertised." -Charlie G

"MAPS TO THE STARS at the cinema. It's certainly very "Cronenberg", satyrical and darkly funny...and Julianne Moore is absolute dynamite. It must have been so much fun for her! - Carlos

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Entries in Directors (108)

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?

Wednesday
Sep032014

Podcast Pt 2: Steel Magnolias, Parenthood, and Movie Memories

Did you listen to part one and read the smackdown?
(If not, do both first.)

In the second half of our Smackdown 1989 companion conversation we discuss the 'regular family' subgenre in movies and television, and our histories with both Parenthood and Steel Magnolias. We also revisit Julia Roberts feud with her director Herbert Ross and debate how Parenthood has aged and where it sits in the raunchy comedy continuum.

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes Continue the conversation in the comments. We'd love to hear your thoughts on these two films. Who's your favorite from these huge ensembles? 

And a big round of applause please for our awesome panel: Nick DavisKevin B LeeTim RobeyTasha RobinsonTodd VanDerWerff  and your host Nathaniel R. We hope you'd give us at least ♥♥♥ 

until next time...

Smackdown Pt 2: Parenthood & Steel Magnolias

Friday
Jul182014

Review: Double Linklater with 'Boyhood' and 'Double Play'

Glenn here. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has been receiving a lot of attention lately. For good reason too, I should say, even if I don’t quite agree that it is the transcendental experience that many others think. (Nor do I think those opinions are invalid, though the rabid if-you-don’t-love-it-you’re-just-wrong brigade started before the film had even premiered outside of festivals). Personally, I had issues with the film's first hour and have wrestled with the quandary of thinking that by making the lead character such an audience cypher it dangles perilously close at times to lacking something (outside of its form, obviously) that is truly unique. Why this boy; why this boyhood? He's almost too saintly, especially when it comes to women and sex, the latter of which the film is shy about. But then I also suspect that not having grown up in America, some of the reverence paid to certain apparent rites of passage didn't quite hit me with the wave of nostalgic emotion that it has others.

In a neat turn of events for fans of Linklater, Boyhood isn't the only chance to spend time with the director in theaters right now

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul152014

Queen of the Desert Pic and Nicole in the Oscar Race?

Queen of the Desert, Werner Herzog's biopic on Gertrud Bell starring Nicole Kidman wrapped filming in March. Though it's still looking for a distributor it looks like post-production is all done since producers are tweeting about the final cut and calling it "EPIC". Herzog has also expressed real enthusiasm about Nicole's performance in his slightly oddball way of speaking.

"Now, Nicole Kidman,” Herzog said of her lead performance in "Queen Of The Desert." “Wait for that one. Wait for it. I make an ominous prediction: How good she is.”

(You can even hear his voice when you read quotes from him, can't you?)

Nicole shared this photo of the wrap of shooting.first official image. will they keep this aspect ratio? it's so Lawrence of Arabia long

Of course all of this is from people who are involved in the picture so they'd never be anything less than enthusiastic. But I myself have high hopes and I'm not involved. Unless you count my heart which belongs to Nicole.

Though I'd love for Werner Herzog to have a major Oscar success -- imagine how fun he would be on the campaign trail all season? -- the truth is Oscar has resisted him over and over again. Despite a prolific acclaimed filmography his only Oscar success is Encounters at the End of the World (Documentary Nomination, 2007). Nope, they didn't even go for the classic going insane in the jungle epic Aguire, The Wrath of God (1972) or the classic going insane building opera houses movie Fitzcarraldo (1982) or the classic already insane and hanging out with bears in the wilderness doc Grizzly Man (2005) all of which attracted awards heat elsewhere... just not with AMPAS. (Does Nicole Kidman go insane in the desert? I'm sensing a theme here.)

This sudden burst of news about the picture and our love of Nicole Kidman has us hoping she can climb the Oscar charts. But given that last year's Best Actress Shorlist had the most communal previous nominations of all time  I'm sensing this is the kind of year where Oscar is going to want some fresh blood.

UPDATED OSCAR CHARTS
BEST ACTRESS and BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 

Tuesday
Jul082014

All That Link

It's been so long since we had a link roundup! You were all partying over the long weekend anyway. But we're back to normal. Please to enjoy these fine, discussable or just fun posts around the web...

Antagony & Ecstasy looks back at Thelma & Louise now that Susan Sarandon is on the road in Tammy's crime spree
VF Jennifer Lawrence meets Emma Watson
Leigh Alexander on internet sexism - the dos and don'ts 
BuzzFeed Matt McGorry and Samira Wiley from Orange is the New Black recreate Matthew McConaughey movie posters. Love.
WSJ Taylor Swift fancies herself a journalist suddenly and writes about the future of fandom, music careers and record sales 
AV Club on that potato salad kickstarter 
Deadline on new controversial strict rules for documentary eligibility at the Oscars. I understand the arguments against the new ruling but I would also like to caution documentarians to think about what they're asking for. The Oscars are larger than your particular craft and they really are supposed to be about CINEMA (i.e. things that play in theaters) so shush. These kinds of rulings may hurt at first but there should be a difference between television and movies. Television has its own awards for you to win if your film is great. Don't be greedy. I do agree with one complaint though: what's fair for docs should also be fair for features so Oscar needs to tighten up its eligibility rules across the board.

Hey, Look

It's the first image of Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in a forthcoming biopic. Filming has just begun. I guess Cheadle hasn't moved to TV for good (i *really* hate House of Lies) but at this point he seems far more likely to win an Emmy than an Oscar. The movie is apparently more about his marriage than his music. The best news about the project by far is that it gives Emayatzy Corinealdi a follow up leading role to her great work in Middle of Nowhere. She plays Miles first wife Francis Taylor.

Bob Fosse and Roy Scheider at Cannes for "All That Jazz"Fosse Fosse Fosse
Sound on Sight has an excellent retrospective of Bob Fosse's astounding but weirdly forgotten cinematic career from Mynt Marsellus. I wish Marsellus hadn't hedged on his ending - Fosse absolutely is equal to the other far more famous auteurs cited (Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, etcetera). They are only better remembered / respected I'd argue because they:

a) have comparatively gigantic filmographies
b) are still alive and working twenty-seven years after Fosse's death (Fosse was older than all the other crucial 70s breakout auteurs save Robert Altman and Fosse also died relatively young at only 60)
c) made their best films in genres that are more typically male than the film musical and thus escaped the pervasive destructive sexism that tends to devalue all rich work in more traditionally "feminine" fields like musicals, romances, and melodramas. We see this all the time in film criticism. Still.

Wednesday
Jun252014

Let's Stop Pretending We Don't Have The Talent Base For Great Movie Musicals

Over at IndieWire Max O'Connell writes an impassioned essay about the terrible direction that keeps sinking movie musicals. While I do not agree that Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys is the best-directed musical of the past 10 years (yikes!) the case is stronger than I was expecting that that is at least debatable.

Why does Hollywood have such a hard time making musicals?

Many of the essay's points are memorize / share worthy. I merely wish that Max didn't succumb to the tired notion that there simply aren't enough charismatic stars with musical theater chops for the genre to really be alive again. This notion is brought up nearly every time people talk about the state of the film musical (or when they're casting and have to defend strange choices) but it's just patently false. 

Here's that bit of the otherwise stellar article:

Maybe there aren't enough modern equivalents to Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers or Judy Garland has made it difficult to churn out great musicals on a regular basis.

That last bit might have a lot to do with it: Few movie stars have the song-and-dance skills required to knock a musical out of the park, and not all musical theater performers have the charisma required for the camera. That leaves a lot of directors to choose between Russell Crowe and Pierce Brosnan warbling their way through well-known songs or John Lloyd Young, the original star of "Jersey Boys," who reprised his role in Eastwood's film, showing up and singing beautifully -- but lacking the fire to keep Frankie Valli interesting when he's not singing. There is a third option of pulling a Marni Nixon and dubbing Michael Cerveris singing over Johnny Depp or Patti LuPone over Helena Bonham Carter, but then you've got a star's ego to deal with.

(Sigh)

Repeat after me: There is ALWAYS a better choice than Crowe vs. Brosnan vs. Someone People Have Never Heard Of Who Isn't Great on Camera. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun252014

List Mania

Two interesting lists came out in the past couple of days which are worth discussing / poring over / loving deeply / fuming at for various reasons.

Three LGBT Films I'm Always Wishing More People Had Seen. Paris is Burning (#3), Lilies (#64), and Show Me Love (#168)

• The Advocate crowd-sourced the 175 Essential LGBT Movies list which is a mix of non gay movies that gays love and actual queer films. Brokeback Mountain (2005) tops the list and the top ten is really cool and varied though it's obviously skewing toward historically important cinematic breakthroughs (regardless of quality) which I suppose explains the high ranking of Philadelphia (1993) which is not a good movie and so so timid and Making Love (1982), just outside the top ten which is interesting and way less timid than many movies which came after it (how's that for an odd turn of events) but it's also stiffly made. I've seen all but 34 of these pictures but some of the choices are... unfortunate. The foreign classics are shoved toward the back of the list (Almodóvar is present of course but woefully underrepresented and poorly ranked) but basically every popular American gay film from the last 25 years that actually sucks is accounted for; it's a myth that gays have good taste!

P.S. My Beautiful Laundrette, which we were just discussing, comes in at #21. 

 

And now a more mainstream list...

Only 5 live action musicals made the list. No Cabaret (1972)? I weep.

• The Hollywood Reporter surveyed industry types like Oscar winners, studio chiefs, and TV personalities and came up with a list of Hollywood's Favorite 100 Films of All Time. As a very mainstream list that only grazes Old Hollywood with the most iconic pictures (All About Eve, Gone With The Wind, On the Waterfront - that sort of thing) and heavily favors New Hollywood (roughly the 70s forward) it's fun. But you have to know what you're getting into. Most interesting to me is how beloved the year 1994 is with Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump all in the top 15 !!! The most recent picture listed is Inception (2010) which... gross. Spielberg, Coppola, Hitchcock and Nolan all have multiple entries. Curiously Hollywood only loves modern animated movies - nothing made earlier than Beauty & The Beast (1991) which comes in at #86. Brokeback Mountain (2005) comes in at #76 (Crash is nowhere to be seen. I think Hollywood was embarrassed about that Best Picture win as soon as the morning after if not as soon as Jack Nicholson read the card).

P.S. Since we were just surveying 2004 I think it's worth noting that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the only picture from that year listed... none of the actual Best Picture nominees made the cut, not even Million Dollar Baby

What should we make lists of here at TFE? Summertime is obviously ideal for movie lists since nothing is actually happening at the movies (besides, you know, CG robots, monsters, and explosions)