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Entries in Directors (218)


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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Michael Cimino & the Best Director Oscar Since

Eric here with thinking about the past 40 years of Oscars Best Director category.

This past Saturday, director Michael Cimino passed away at age 77.  Cimino won the Best Director Oscar for 1978’s The Deer Hunter, beating Woody Allen (Interiors), Hal Ashby (Coming Home), Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (Heaven Can Wait), and Alan Parker (Midnight Express).  While those five actual films are of varying quality, the names behind them are all heavyweights and it was formidable company.

The Deer Hunter was a divisive film upon its release and remains so today (praised for its leisurely-paced first half and its capture of inexpressive male friendship; criticized for the Russian Roulette melodrama and its depiction of the Vietnamese). With The Deer Hunter, Cimino aimed to make something epic and classically Greek in its storytelling, and watching the film you can actually feel his young talent. Cimino next famously (infamously?) went on to direct 1980’s Heaven’s Gate, a film of disastrous proportions that has been covered ad nauseum as one of cinema’s biggest catastrophes.  He directed four more films after that, none to any significant acclaim, the last one released 20 years ago.   

It’s interesting to look over the list of the men (and one woman) who have won the Best Director Oscar since Cimino in 1978 to see where their careers have gone...

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Best Shot: Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) 

To Catch a Thief (1955) is minor Hitchcock. Let's get that out of the way. But even minor works by an indisputed master can look awfully major when you stack them next to regular ol' films which is why we keep hitting Hitchcock in this series. There's a clickbait article going around (no I'm not linking) that argues that The Shallows (Blake Lively vs shark) is a better film than The Birds (Tippi Hedren vs, well, birds). Which is crazy talk but film twitter always always takes the bait.

True story: the last two films I screened were The Shallows (2016) and To Catch a Thief (1953) and I would have never thought to pair them until this silly shark vs birds kerfuffle which erupted immediately after I had just seen both of the movies. Truth bomb: The Shallows is a really good "B" movie (I don't mean grade, but yes: B) but it's awfully slight. It's just girl, shark, a few good scares, smart direction, and not much meat to chew on beyond "wow, that was kinda good." To Catch a Thief is a pretty good "A" movie (I don't mean grade) and it's somewhat slight. But here's the thing. People aren't going to be talking about The Shallows in 2070. Please note: People are still talking about Hitchcock's entire oeuvre a half-century plus later.

Even in a trifle like To Catch a Thief, which is maybe too long considering it's shy on plot and stakes, is a joy to watch for a number of reasons, the first of which is its surprisingly robust sense of humor. [More...]

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Posterized: Duncan Jones

Duncan Jones has had a tumultuous few years so we wanted to honor him with a quick Posterized today. In January the 45 year old filmmaker lost his father David Bowie (he's the superstar's only son). His first child is due this month. His other new baby, the long-gestating video game big screen adaptation Warcraft is getting savaged by the critics.

And yet...

It wasn't so long ago that he was getting 'Hot New Director' drooling from the media, starting off strong with the sci-fi drama Moon. His second film Source Code wasn't as ecstatically received but performed decently. Three films isn't much to go on so we shall maintain high hopes. Do you think he will rally with a fourth film and make good on that initial promise? His next sci-fi film -- he's not straying from his preferred genre -- is called Mute, and stars Alexander Skarsgård as a silent bartender and Paul Rudd as some kind of mysterious doctor.  We don't generally think of Paul Rudd as mysterious but we're willing to give it a shot. (There's some internet speculation that Sam Rockwell will reprise his Moon character -- which would be very intriguing given the ending of Moon -- since Jones has indicated that Mute takes place in the same universe.)

How many of his films have you seen?
And if you've seen the first two, are you planning to hit Warcraft despite the reviews? 


The 50 Greatest Films by Black Directors

Slate magazine has drawn up an interesting list of great black films, the twist being that they have to have been directed by a black person rather than about the black experience so out go Old Hollywood musicals like Carmen Jones or Cabin in the Sky or Oscar favorites like Sounder.  In the wake of recent conversations about Hollywood's power structures and overwhelming whiteness, Slate assembled a field of critics and filmmakers and scholars to produce the list.

Eve's Bayou

I need to get cracking on my gaps in knowledge from this list, especially because of the titles I've seen from this list several were great and the ones I didn't personally connect to were still interesting (Night Catches Us) or memorable (Eve's Bayou - I've been meaning to give that another shot now that I'm older). Unsurprisingly Spike Lee has the most titles with six. Curiously, though I've seen many Spike Lee joints (and tend to like them - I'd have included Chi-Raq on this list), I've only seen half of his titles that actually made it (gotta get to Mo' Better Blues, Crooklyn, and When the Levees Broke soon). The list is after the jump...

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Who should direct / star in the next Bond? 

In not surprising news, Sam Mendes is moving on from the 007 franchise after Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015). Daniel Craig is probably moving on, too, but rumors about who will replace him are, as ever, premature. The names floating about this time are Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston (wishful fan thinking, maybe, since the internet has been suggesting these two names forever) and 30 year old Jamie Bell which is an interesting idea and probably not a bad one. If chosen he'd be the youngest Bond since Sean Connery (who was 30 when he was cast for Dr. No (1962) though most subsequent Bonds have been around 40 when they started. Plus Bell is super charismatic but underused in cinema.

Though Bond films are largely regarded as producer driven and leading actor focused pictures, rather than directorial feats, the man in the chair is important. In the past the franchise has generally relied on mid level directors rather than auteurs, the two with the most success outside the franchise are Oscar winner Sam Mendes and Oscar nominee Lewis Gilbert. Once the franchise even handed the reigns to a Bond editor who graduated to the director's chair (John Glen) for his directorial debut.

Directed the Most Bond Films

  1. John Glen - 5 Bonds: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, License to Kill (and he edited a few more before those); Key Picture Outside the Franchise: Not really
  2. Guy Hamilton -4 Bonds: Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun; Key Picture Outside the Franchise: Force 10 From Navarone
  3. [TIE] Terence Young - 3 Bonds: Dr No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball; Key Picture Outside the Franchise: Wait Until Dark AND Lewis Gilbert - 3 Bonds: You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker: Key Picture(s) Outside the Franchise: Alfie (Oscar Nomination), and Educating Rita
  4. [TIE] Sam Mendes - 2 Bonds: Skyfall, Spectre; Key Picture Outside the Franchise: American Beauty (Oscar win), and Road to Perdition AND Martin Campbell - 2 Bonds: GoldenEye, Casino Royale; Key Picture Outside the Franchise: The Mask of Zorro

 If you could bend producer Barbara Broccoli's ear...
What would you whisper to the woman behind the franchise who makes those final hiring decisions?  



Cannes Winners 2016

Despite what was generally regarded as one of the strongest Cannes lineup in many years, George Miller's jury wasn't having the critical consensus. At all. They didn't remotely follow the "buzz" whilst handing out their honors...

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