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Best Heroes & Villains of 2016

THE SHALLOWS, THE WITCH, ZOOTOPIA, and more...

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Entries in Directors (202)

Thursday
Jan072016

Sicario's Hell in Harmony

Chris here. Available this week on DVD/Blu-ray is Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, a controlled descent into the cartel battles being waged between the Mexican and American borders. Like the ongoing war on drugs, Villeneuve's film presents a complex landscape of violence wherein rulebooks have been forsaken - and on both sides. It's a masterful piece of filmmaking (recently nominated by the PGA, ADG, and WGA), and Villeneuve has assembled an intimidating group of craftspeople working harmoniously to create a living hell.

Front and center is Emily Blunt's idealistic and by-the-book agent Kate Macer, straining composure and grasping for opportunity while in over her head. Blunt is ferociously present and flummoxed, giving as much subtlety and nuance as she has in her broader roles like The Devil Wears Prada. She's so believably rattled that you're reaching for fistfuls of cigarettes along with her. It's a performance that deserves to be right in the thick of the Best Actress conversation, even in such a deep field as this. While many have claimed her to be far too passive, her lack of control is just another element of Villeneuve's all-pervasive synthesis.

more after the jump...

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Thursday
Dec312015

Women's Pictures - Celine Sciamma's Girlhood

In Yes Please, Amy Poehler writes,

If you ever want to see heaven, watch a bunch of young girls play. They are all sweat and skinned knees. Energy and open faces.

Celine Sciamma's 2014 film Girlhood opens with just such a small slice of heaven: a group of French teenage girls play American football in an empty stadium. Unobserved by outside eyes, the girls throw, and tackle, and sprint. If not for the flashes of eyeliner and braids peaking out of their helmets, you'd be hardpressed to figure out who these young athletes were at all. This brief but intense scene is the last time these young women will be so carefree and unwatched. The rest of Sciamma's film is about growing up watched and watching, as one girl tries to break free of the constraints placed on her by class, gender, and race.

Marieme is a tall, shy tomboy living in the outskirts of Paris. Played with openfaced observance by Karidja Touré, Marieme is a frustrated dreamer. Told by her counselor that she doesn't have the grades for 2 years of high school, she leaves school rather than accepting vocational training. [More...]

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Friday
Dec252015

Ava DuVernay, the Year's Best Christmas Gift

One of TFE's cinematic heroes Ava DuVernay -- she made our top ten list with both of her recent films in 2012 & 2014 respectively -- had a tremendous year in 2015. She kicked it off with a Golden Globe Best Director nomination, a hit film in theaters (Selma) and she ended it immortalized in collector Barbie doll form via Mattel. The Mattel doll sold out in less than an hour earlier this month. And when Amazon briefly offered more of them they sold out just as quickly. 

More...

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Thursday
Dec242015

Women's Pictures - Celine Sciamma's Tomboy

A young boy moves to a new town with his family. He's a goofball, a caring older sibling, and a shy kid. On his first day on the block, he runs into a girl and introduces himself as Mikael. She introduces herself as Lisa, and invites him to play a game of tag with her friends. Later, as he's taking a bath with his younger sister, his mother calls him Laure. She laughs and tells them: "Girls, get out of the bath!" It's almost 20 minutes into the movie before Celine Sciamma upends the expectations of her audience. In Tomboy, Sciamma examines how identity is constructed through performance in childhood, specifically in regards to gender.

The main character of Sciamma's 2011 film is still in that period before hormones kick in when all kids are basically agender in appearance. What separates genders from each other is how they move and how they present themselves.

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Saturday
Dec192015

Interview: Director and Star of 'Son of Saul' on Making Art in a Politically Correct World

Jose here. The evils of the Nazi regime have been documented in myriad ways, and in practically every medium possible. Film in particular, has created a subgenre that consists of harrowing stories about concentration camps, the diabolical genocide of the Jews, and other events that put all the human race under a shameful light. However, perhaps because of Hollywood’s tendency to overpraise the human spirit, and its relentless need to “inspire”, Holocaust films have become a “niche” meant to help actors and directors win awards. Holocaust films in a nutshell always go for the emotional and rarely, if ever, attempt to touch the intellectual.

Enter first time director László Nemes, who caught Cannes by surprise with his unique Son of Saul, which has just opened in US theaters, a film that dispenses of each and every cliché you’ve seen played in every other Holocaust movie. There are no string-filled overwrought scores, no movie stars losing weight, gaining accents or donning beards, and most surprisingly, there are no attempts at oversimplifying the Holocaust as anything other than a series of personal infernos lived in a collective reality. The inner hell in this case, is that of Auschwitz prisoner Saul (Géza Röhrig), a Sonderkommando member, who one day makes a gruesome discovery that drives him to make a decision that might have deadly results.

The interview after the jump...

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Thursday
Dec172015

Women's Pictures - Celine Sciamma's Water Lilies

Those who say, "I wish I was young," probably don't remember just how painful being young can be. French female filmmaker Celine Sciamma remembers, and she brings the hopes and pains of early teenagers to the screen in her 2007 directorial debut. Water Lilies is an uncomfortable movie to watch as an adult. Teenagers are sometimes naked and often sexual; two things American try to avoid in our mainstream depictions of 14 and 15 year old girls. However, though Water Lilies is about young female sexuality, the young females are not sexualized. At least, not by Celine Sciamma's camera. It's an important distinction, because the film will be uncomfortably familiar to anyone who remembers their first friends, first loves, first lusts, and the heartbreaks that come from each.

Water Lilies circles around the awakening of two girls from the French suburbs. Anne (Louise Blachere) is a big-boned synchronized swimmer whose weight and clumsiness put her in the lowest ranks of the team, socially and competitively. Her best friend is Marie (Pauline Acquart), a slight, mousy tomboy who says little but watches everything. They play with Happy Meals with toy spyglasses and spit water at each other for fun like kids do, but they're also beginning to develop feelings: Anne for Francois, the captain of the boy's water polo team, and Marie for the star of the synchronized swimmers, a beautiful girl with a bad reputation named Floriane (Adele Haenel). Unlike Marie and Anne, Floriane understands what desire is, or at least how to recognize when someone desires her. She's known since the adult swim coach started chasing her around the room. What Floriane doesn't know is what she herself wants.  [More...]

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Tuesday
Dec152015

Contrarian Corner: Mad Max Fury Road

Lynn Lee test-drives a new, potentially recurring feature wherein TFE members voice dissent on Oscar hopefuls and critical darlings.

If you’re on this site, it’s safe to assume you pay attention to movie critics. It’s also a fair bet you’re likely—or at least more likely than the average person—to agree with the critics when they coalesce around a particular movie. But if you’re like me, every once in a while a film comes along that generates a level of critical enthusiasm you just don’t get. You’d like to share or at least understand it, but instead find yourself feeling like the lone non-believer in a church full of the radiant converted.

That’s how it’s been for me and Mad Max: Fury Road, which met with rave reviews and solid box office when it hit theaters this summer. More recently, it’s picked up a raft of critics’ awards and nominations that have kept it in the Oscars conversation - not just in the technical categories but the majors, including picture and director. Any doubt about its chances stems from the fact that it’s a “genre” film, not its intrinsic merits, which most agree transcend its genre. [More...]

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