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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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Entries in documentaries (111)

Wednesday
Apr302014

Hot Docs '14: Actress

[Amir, our Canadian correspondent, is reporting from The Hot Docs Film Festival, the biggest documentary festival in North America currently underway in Toronto.] 

Where does an act end for a performer? What happens if the persona seeps in so deep that the performer can never shake it off? Can an actress adopt the traits of the characters she once embodied so deeply that she permanently remains in their skin? How far can passion for the craft take an artist? These are all questions that Robert Greene’s intelligent, artfully constructed documentary, Actress, poses to the audience in the first few minutes.  

The subject, Brandy Burre, played the part of Theresa D’Agostino, a recurring character over a 15-episode arc in the third and fourth seasons of The Wire. She was never a star, but her future seemed bright, having taken a prominent role in one of television’s best reviewed series...

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Tuesday
Apr292014

Tribeca: The Best Film I Saw Was "Bad Hair" (and Other Oscar-Related Thoughts)

I hope this is Venezuela's Oscar entry!

This article is an expansion of a brief piece originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

The best of the LGBT lot at Tribeca this year was surely Love is Strange, which I reviewed at Sundance. I didn't see all the gay titles but that's a safe assumption since Ira Sach's drama about newly married seniors (John Lithgow & Alfred Molina) who lose their longtime apartment is already feeling like a future classic. But though the other titles I took in were lacking, Mariana Rondón's spanish-language Bad Hair is a worthy runner-up to Love is Strange's crown.

The film opens next month in Venezuela and it would be a worthy Oscar submission from that country which has yet to secure a Best Foreign Language Film nomination. A submission is certainly possible as Rondón was submitted once before for Postcards from Leningrad in 2007 and most countries tend to favor directors they've previously embraced with submissions. [More...]

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Tuesday
Apr222014

Tribeca: Holla for 'Mala Mala'

Our Tribeca Film Festival coverage continues with Glenn on Mala Mala

Christine Vachon is a national treasure. That is a fact. Without her then it’s highly questionable whether queer cinema would even exist in the somewhat minor capacity that it does. Seeing her name appear in the credits of Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini’s Mala Mala was a refreshing surprise because it’s rare to find documentaries with subject matter like this coming from such a major name, and yet also not at all surprising because the film has a beautiful polish to it that comes from having the resources that a name such as Vachon’s allows. It was also the film’s exceptional good fortune to get a connection to RuPaul’s Drag Race, too, giving the film a pop culture connection that can only help its important subject matter reach a wider audience.

Mala Mala is a documentary that looks at the trans and drag communities of Puerto Rico. Focusing on several key members of the island nation’s community, it proves to be a funny, sad, poignant, and ultimately refreshing experience. I certainly wasn’t aware of Puerto Rico’s sizable community and their struggles and for that the film provides a valuable service. Even better, however, was that the filmmakers didn’t shy away from their subjects’ bad sides with some working as sex workers and others having very strong, unflinching thoughts about what it means to be trans. As a film that chronicles the efforts to get government equality for transgender men and women it proves to be a rousing one, but it is these darker corners that give it the power necessary to possibly become something akin to Paris is Burning for a new generation.

That groundbreaking 1990 documentary by Jennie Livingston lingers over the proceedings of Mala Mala like a vogueing ghost. Featuring former Drag Race contestant April Carrion (the reveal of what would have been her “Snatch Game” persona is a hoot) as she jets off to compete, it’s hard not to think of the Houses of Paris is Burning and the massive steps made in pop culture acceptance of not only gay and drag culture, but LGBTIQ people in general. Mala Mala doesn’t reach the stunning, soaring heights of that earlier film, but the two would make an outdragous double feature.

Even when the film falls into standard doc practices like talking heads, Mala Mala stands out from the documentary crowd. Exceptionally lensed with a vibrant use of color and framing as well as frequently hypnotic imagery, this is one of the most gorgeous docs in some time. The sound work, too, is wonderfully done, full of pulsating music that recreates the evocative sounds and beats of Puerto Rican drag life. This is most certainly not another drably assembled work of non-fiction (like, say, other Tribeca doc titles such as The Newburgh Sting and Regarding Susan Sontag), but an exciting fusion that suggests its debut directors have the smarts to potentially go far. Christine Vachon would be wise to take Sickles and Santini up on their shimmering, almost sensual promise as exhibited in Mala Mala, a vital new film in the constantly evolving landscape of queer cinema.

April Carrion (RuPaul's Drag Race) at the Tribeca premiere


Tuesday
Apr012014

Are You "Divine"? On Recent Divas, Heroes, and Sexpots


A NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN: I am aware that you're impatiently awaiting 2014's April Foolish Oscar Predictions but please to note: I am aiming for April 13th but they definitely won't be here today and that's no April Fool's Joke.

With 2013's best films all soon to or already arrived on DVD, let's wrap up the Film Bitch Awards which are getting later and later each year, damnit! I'm leading with "the most beautiful woman in the world" to your left, Divine, who also went by the alternate title "filthiest person alive." Can't they both be true? If you haven't caught up with the documentary I Am Divine, you should. It's really fun. I saw it about a year ago at the Nashville Film Festival at a late night screening in which two of our fellow moviegoers, utterly sloshed girls we accidentally befriended at a festival party, got lost in the theater looking for each other and tumbling down stairs in the dark (no one was hurt). It was a memorable midnight screening let's just say.

I'm never sure if I should include documentary figures in our extra special 'character-specific' awards but sometimes you just gotta have it. And by it I mean the mad brilliance of Divine. She famously inspired one of Disney's all time greatest villains (Ursula the Sea Witch) but she's competing for the gold in Best Diva this time with another instantly iconic character: Queen Elsa from Frozen.

On the new Film Bitch Awards chart (We've only one page to go and we're done woo-hoo) you'll also find movies like The Heat, Stoker, Man of Steel, in our choices for Best Hero, Best Villain and Diva and Sexpot of the Year. Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon & Her) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and American Hustle) both managed double nominations this year so have a looksie.

And please do comment away - I don't relish solitude like Elsa.

 

Sunday
Feb232014

Review: "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

This review originally appeared in my column at Towleroad


I saw Elaine Stritch’s famous one woman Broadway show “At Liberty” in the last days of 2001 a couple of years after moving to New York. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was nothing short of spiritual ecstasy but then showbiz is my religion and actresses are my only gods. You might then justifiably say that I am predisposed to love the hell out of the new documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me and you’d be right. But I can still tell a peak performance from a Wednesday matinee and the last doc I saw on Stritch, which shared its title with “At Liberty” was significantly less stellar. Shoot Me is a must-see, even if you only know this Broadway legend from her hilarious guest appearances as Jack Donaghy’s impossible mother on 30 Rock

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Thursday
Feb132014

Surprise. "Freeheld" Back On. Now With Julianne Moore!

You're forgiven if you've long since forgotten that Ellen Page was trying to get a feature version of the Oscar winning documentary short Freeheld (2007) off the ground. She first tried in 2008, shortly after her rise to fame with Juno (2007). The film, based on a true story, is about a lesbian couple, the young Stacie (Page) and her older police detective partner Laurel Hester (Moore) who receive devastating news: Laurel is terminally ill and the government won't let her assign her pension benefits to Stacie. At the time this was first announced it looked like a great Oscar project for Page but nothing ever came of. The good news: It's back on!

But the news gets even better...


Julianne Moore is on board to play Laurel so maybe she's finally got her Oscar role. Not that Oscar is the most important thing here. The important thing is tell good stories about women with great actresses playing them. Curiously several of Julianne's roles have been gay or gay-adjacent (Far From Heaven, The Hours, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The Kids Are All Right, Chloe, A Single Man, Savage Grace, Psycho). If Freeheld is anywhere near as good as The Kids Are All Right, The Hours, or Far From Heaven, her gayest and most Oscar celebrated films, we're in for such a treat. 

The news gets even better.

Peter Sollett, who directed the little-seen but totally amazing gem Raising Victor Vargas (2002) and later the slightly more seen but still underappreciated Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) and nothing since (seriously is he waiting tables?) will direct. 

The news gets even better.

Since the project now has three stars (Zach Galifianakis will play an activist) it looks like it is really going to happen and aims to start production this summer. 

UPDATE 02/15: THE NEWS JUST GOT BEST
Ellen Page came out as a gay woman on Valentine's Day 

Saturday
Feb012014

Maximillian Schell (1930-2014)

The most famous Austrian born actor prior to Schwarzenegger, and Oscar's favorite Austrian/Swiss actor ever, died overnight at 83. Maximilian Schell film debut came with the German anti-war film  Kinder, Mütter und ein General (Children, Mother, and the General) but it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling. 

He won a role supposedly through a misunderstanding/accident in the Brando/Clift vehicle Young Lions (1958). Global fame was just a few years away when he co-headlined the mega-star cast of the seminal Oscar Bait giant Judgement at Nuremberg (about Nazi war crime trials) with Hollywood legend Spencer Tracy and they were both were nominated for Best Actor - it's a oft-repeated fallacy of modern Oscar campaigning that people say that splits your vote and prevents you from winning; see also Amadeus. Schell also won the Golden Globe for that film. (As Rhett from Dial M for Movies pointed out on Twitter this morning, his death makes William Shatner (!!!) the sole surviving credited cast member from the courtroom classic)

Schell was quite gracious in his Oscar win and his acceptance speech is well worth watching. I'd argue he was fully aware of why he won ("honoring the movie"*) and I love that he doesn't do just the usual cheek kiss but actually a little bow/handkissing...as diva Joan Crawford warrants. 

Schell had a fine and long run as an actor with two more nominations following his win for The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) and Julia (1977 -- and yet another example of a double nomination in the same category. His co-star Jason Robards won that time). He won his second Golden Globe as recently as 1994 for a TV miniseries and a Lifetime Achievement Bambi in Germany just 5 years ago, which coincidentally was the same ceremony wherein Christoph Waltz, a clear modern equivalent of Austrian/Oscar love, won for Inglourious Basterds.

Schell's talents were many, though, and also behind the camera. He turned to filmmaking within a decade of winning Best Actor. His first two feature films First Love (1970) and The Pedestrian (1973) were both nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category for Switzerland and West Germany respectively. And then his first documentary Marlene (1984) which was about his legendary Nuremberg co-star, was also nominated in its category. That's a lot of awards love and a long and full career worth remembering. 

*Judgement at Nuremberg couldn't really win much elsewhere. 1961 was the year of one of Oscar's true phenomenons. West Side Story made nearly a clean sweep of its nominations winning 10 of its 11 Oscar nominations! Nuremberg only bested it in the Adapted Screenplay category where musicals have historically had a very hard time winning. Only two have ever managed: Going My Way (1944) and Gigi (1958). 

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