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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 | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Entries in DVD (63)

Thursday
Jul302015

Vintage '95

The Supporting Actress Smackdown 1995 Edition arrives on Sunday so let's talk context since we haven't revisited as much of 1995 as we'd hoped to! We've only hit the Jane Austen trend, Nicole Kidman's breakout year, a Bonus Podcast on Actresses and Films to Revisit, and Dolores Claiborne. Damn, we had planned much more. But many of you will already have your own personal context for the year, which isn't true of many years of "Smackdown" events so it's fine.

In many ways, though, 1995 was a completely different world. The internet was still in its list-serve infancy. The idea of computer generated movies was a joyful novelty. And aside from Batman, superheroes were still mostly relegated to "light" TV shows. Remember Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark ?

EW photoshoot from June 1995

Great Big Box Office Hits: 1) Toy Story... the first wholly computer generated feature film 2) Batman Forever 3) Apollo 13 4) Pocahontas 4) Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls 6) GoldenEye 7) Jumanji 8) Casper 9) Se7en 10) Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Michelle & Coolio. They had a hit film, smash video, and the year's #1 single. But zero oscar nodsOscar's Best Pictures: Braveheart (10 noms / 5 wins), Apollo 13 (9 noms / 2 wins), Babe (7 noms / 1 win), Sense & Sensibility (7 noms / 1 win), and Il Postino (5 noms / 1 win).

My theories as to what was just outside the shortlist plus more '95 goodies follow...

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Thursday
Jul302015

Clouds of Sils Maria. Or, How To Act Like a Star.

With Clouds of Sils Maria on DVD now, here's Kyle Stevens on actors playing actors.

If you’re a reader of The Film Experience, then you’re probably no stranger to Juliette Binoche, who arguably has more masterpieces to her name than any other actor in cinema history. Binoche became a bona fide French star with André Téchiné’s Rendez-vous in 1985, which was written by the now celebrated director Olivier Assayas. Last year, Binoche asked Assayas to write something for her so that they might again collaborate. He came up with the astounding Clouds of Sils Maria.

Their film follows the great star Maria Enders as she struggles to accept playing Helena in Maloja Snake, a play written by her recently departed friend. The difficulty for Maria is that she first became famous playing the ingénue role, Sigrid, decades earlier, and so, the role of Helena forces her to confront her feelings about aging, feelings compounded by the fact that, within the play, Helena desires and resents Sigrid. To make matters even more baroquely complicated, Helena and Sigrid’s relationship mirrors Maria’s interactions with Val, her personal assistant, coolly played by Kristin Stewart. (Eventually, Chloe Grace-Moretz appears as a third bone-faced brunette, younger still, to play Sigrid.)

Given the laurels recently heaped upon flamboyantly reflexive turns in Blue Jasmine and Black Swan, is it too much to hope that Binoche will leave the red carpet well-worn come awards season—even if the early release and critical attention for Kristen Stewart make that seem unlikely now? [More...]

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Tuesday
Jul212015

Can we talk about that Second Best Exotic ending?

Manuel here talking about that mouthful of a sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is out on DVD today.

 

I only just got to watching it the weekend before last at the swanky Crosby Hotel which hosts its very own Film Club every Sunday. (I even spied Spider Man v.1.0 Mr Tobey Maguire in the lobby!). Just as with its first, I have to hand it to John Madden, Judi Dench, Lillete Dubey & co. for making a thoroughly predictable film aping Bollywood tropes and focused on India’s exoticized ability to help old white people learn about aging, not only enjoyable but surprisingly melancholy.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the film’s handling of Muriel Donnelly, Dame Maggie Smith’s character, and especially her ending (obviously, SPOILERS ahead). At this point in her career, Smith has arguably become a parody of her own self. And yet, that's harder to say if you actually watch her work. Sure, she’s got the grouchy old bitter hag thing spouting prickly witticisms down pat, but there’s always something else lurking in the quiet moments in her performances. There’s a weariness married to a nimble sense of emoting that goes on behind those weathered if sprightly eyes. That's put to best effect in the final moments of Madden's film which gives us the happy ending we always knew we'd get but spiked with an ambivalent sense of loss:

It makes sense that the heavy lifting (read: the dramatic and non-comedy-of-errors part of the film) would fall on Smith's sturdy shoulders; she can turn even the slightest of complaints about tea into resonant character bits, commentary on US/British relations and even a meditation on her own sense of mortality. 

As soon as we left the 90-seat theater at the Crosby (I did say it was swanky, yes? what with its free popcorn and all) my friend asked “So, does she die?” which seemed to be both the type of obvious question I usually hate (“did the top stop spinning?!”) but which seemed precisely the right one to ask, especially if one follows it with “will she kill herself?” a melodramatic, though not for this film, inappropriate question.

We feel the weight of Mrs Donnelly’s life and it somehow strikes me that the film’s ambivalence about her demise, even amidst an ending that ties everything else in a pretty bow is rather transgressive and pretty much all wrapped up in Smith's final close-up which ends the film.

Did this sequel leave you wanting a Third Best Exotic Hotel and mentally casting which other British acting royalty could join Dev Patel in a trilogy closer? (My vote is for Vanessa Redgrave, obviously)
Thursday
May072015

When do you see movies? When do you like to read about them? 

An open question for all readers. We've often expressed disdain for the internet model (prevalent on most well-read movie sites, even the good ones) in which the bulk of conversation about a movie happens BEFORE its release. But what to do about it? We try our best here to talk about movies mostly after they open (with the exception of the YNMS series, Oscar predictions and short news bits) which has surely cost us readers in the anticipatory-madness of current online culture. However one thing we're not good about is knowing when to discuss films. WHEN DO YOU SEE NEW MOVIES? Are you at the movie theater every week? Do you VOD? Do you rent DVDs? Do you just bit torrent everything (naughty-naughty)? Or are you totally beholden to when Netflix decides to stream something if, in fact, they ever get around to streaming it at all? (Netflix, once a godsend for cinephiles, has become something of a curse.)

It used to be so much simpler when there was just one release date but now viewing is so staggered between so many types of services, subscription and pay-per-view models, and so many exclusivity windows that it's hard to even have a DVD column that's anything close to relevant. (It's the chief reason, I believe, why piracy has grown so large and rampant: there are just too many obstacles to audience seeing a movie they want to see when they want to see it). I ask these question because so many movies we've discussed in the past but perhaps in not as much detail as we should have are released each week on DVD. Recent newbies that I've wondered if we should discuss again or in more detail (links go to previous coverage) include: The Last Five Years, Miss Julie, Mr Turner, Selma, Fifty Shades of Grey, Paddington, Mommy, The Boy Next Door, Inherent Vice. And each week brings new titles fitting that same criteria. In the coming weeks Beloved Sisters, Blackhat, Still Alice, American Sniper, and Leviathan among others arrive. 

Any thoughts on the problem of staggered viewing and how to unite us all?

Friday
Apr172015

Revisiting Rebecca (Pt 4) the Original Gone Girl

Previously on Revisiting Rebecca -  Nathaniel introduced us to our nameless heroine whose youthful, clumsy charm lands her the brooding Maxim de Winter. Abstew attended their nuptials and the first of the second Mrs. de Winter's trials at Manderley. Then Anne Marie ventured into Rebecca's room to see how deep Mrs. Danvers obsession goes. Will our mousy leading lady ever find the peace and love she desires at Manderley or will the ghost of Rebecca prove too great an obstacle?

Part 4 by Angelica Jade Bastién

We begin where Anne Marie left off, with #2 (aka The Second and Less Fabulous Mrs. de Winter) getting her wish for a costume ball. After failing to come up with a costume to her liking Mrs. Danvers offers to help. But, #2 soon learns that Mrs. Danvers version of help is quite dangerous. 

1:16:06 Costume balls, much like Halloween, allow people to become what they deeply want to be even if it’s just for an evening. For #2 this is especially true as she takes Mrs. Danvers advice and dresses up as Lady Caroline de Winter based on one of the many family portraits that punctuate the walls of Manderley. Lady Caroline represents everything #2 is not: poised, beautiful, disarming. 

While some of our team hasn't warmed to Joan Fontaine in this nameless role, I agree with Anne Marie's estimations. Fontaine perfectly embodies her. When we first see #2 in her costume she is nervous with desire, unsure of her decision. She carries herself with a sort of clumsiness I remember from my high school years; trying to have some sort of grace but instead bristling against the confines of early womanhood. Which makes me wonder how old is #2 supposed to be exactly? [More...]

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Thursday
Apr162015

Revisiting Rebecca (Pt 3): Don't Go Into Rebecca's Room

Previously on Revisiting Rebecca - Nathaniel introduced us to a mousy girl with no name and no money, whose awkward charms land her Maxim de Winter. Abstew guided us through their nuptials and the introduction of Manderley, Maxim’s humble family castle. Turns out it’s filled with Maxim’s dead wife’s things, including a creepy servant named Mrs. Danvers. Just how much sway does Rebecca still hold over Manderley?

Part 3 by Anne Marie

We begin where abstew left off, with #2 (aka Mrs. de Winter the Second, aka Mrs. de W2 - with about as much personality as a tax form) asking Crawley to describe Rebecca’s character. Crawley answers back with a vague, glowing physical description that makes #2 twitch and me roll my eyes. Yes, yes. Rebecca was beautiful. Maybe the moral of this movie is not to judge a woman's moral character solely by her good looks.

55:55 There’s a quick montage of a fashion magazine and crossfade to #2 dressed uncomfortably in a black dress with pearls. Eagle eyed observers may remember that this is the same outfit she promised Maxim she’d never wear.  [More]

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