NOW PLAYING

in theaters


review index

new on DVD/BluRay


review index

HOT TOPICS



Welcome

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

 

Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

COMMENT(s) DU JOUR
JASON CLARKE INTERVIEW

"I loved Clarke's scenes with Edgerton in The Great Gatsby. I thought, oh now I'm watching men not boys, and now I'm watching actors not movie stars.-Adri

"He has become someone I look for in films because he always comes across with such honesty." -Henry

 

Keep TFE Strong

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

What'cha Looking For?
Subscribe

Entries in Emma Stone (32)

Wednesday
Nov052014

The Way Big Hero Looks in the Moonlight

As you read this I am en route to L.A. to join Anne Marie & Margaret at the AFI this week so expect coverage of A Most Violent Year and The Gambler premieres, a sneak peek at Selma, a Sophia Loren tribute, and more. But before that all start, and as I fly over some of you, brief thoughts on...

THREE SCREENINGS

THE WAY HE LOOKS 
Opens November 7th in limited release
Glenn has already smiled upon this Brazilian coming-of-age film in our ongoing Oscar foreign film race coverage but I wanted to offer my own thumbs way up, too. Like all niche audiences, LGBT people are sometimes too forgiving of bad movies so long as they meet their particular niche needs. But you can love The Way He Looks without any of the guilt that sometimes accompanies pleasure because it's very good.

This affecting high school drama is a love triangle of sorts that plays, smartly, more like a friendship triangle... since all three of its leads are still feeling their way toward their own futures, figuring themselves out. That's particularly true of Leonardo, who is blind and painfully aware that that limits his options. He still dreams of moving out of his parents house and really wants to do a foreign exchange program. His two best friends are Gabriel, a new boy in town who immediately puts him at ease, since he's unphased though sometimes a bit confused about the blindness, and Giovana his best girlfriend since childhood who walks him home every day from school and is so protective that she's become entirely codependent. Giovana resents Gabriel's growing place in Leo's life and nobody ever understands quite what anybody else if feeling. They're all immediately bruised by each other but still walking tightly arm in arm which makes for a hugely sympathetic totally relatable tale of first loves, young friendships and heartbreaks. It's endearing and, like Big Hero 6 (discussed next) it admires the good natures of its characters and their capacity for kindness and love. I don't mind sounding Pollyanna about this: I love seeing basically decent loving people dramatized on film.  That seems to be out of fashion in film and television characters so it's a special treat now when you see it, like a unicorn. B+

BIG HERO 6
Opens November 7th
Daring the long long shadow of The Incredibles, one of the best animated films and one of the best superhero films of all time, this initially very charming movie is about a genius robotics nerd named Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) whose older supremely good-natured brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney), also a tech wizard, convinces him to develop his skills at college instead of wasting them on robot fights. Take that Real Steel! Tadashi's best invention is that white inflatable marshmallow like A.I. you've seen in the trailers named Baymax. A fateful series of events, which I won't spoil though I'm betting the trailers I haven't watched already did, changes everything and suddenly Hiro is furiously reconfiguring Baymax with armor and jetpacks and taking him far from his original purpose as an inhome nurse. Hiro teams up with his new college friends (hence the plurality of the title) to fight off a supervillain in a kabuki mask. The second half of the movie is quite a deflation, sadly. You can feel the pandering for all demographics and senses of humor and like so many visual effects movies the climax is just a mess of OVERLONG NOISY ACTION SETPIECE without much character weight, steering this movie towards "fun but predictable/disposable action-comedy".

But, you know, the things it does well are awfully hard to shake. And boy does that initial brotherly bond stick in the heart. The movie is decidedly pro education (nice to see in a movie), the animation is beautiful, and it's nothing short of wonderful to see a blockbuster family movie led, unambiguously, by people of color. They even used Asian actors for the voices. Well done.  B


MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT
Coming to DVD/BluRay in December
I had remembered this getting relatively mild reviews, inspiring neither loving nor loathing, so it was a surprise to discover a quite emphatically bad movie dully staring back at me. I didn't buy one single moment of it from Emma Stone's strangely lackluster star turn, to Colin Firth's mannered fussiness to the various relationships and plot "twists". I amend: I didn't buy one single moment of it that didn't involve Eileen Atkins as "Aunt Vanessa" who is the film's sole bright light, totally charming and authentically aunt-like both emotionally involved and appropriately removed from whatever is ailing her incorrigible celebrity nephew's heart and soul. That's really too bad because the core idea of the movie is "fun" if you will and there's a whole slew of good actors standing around with nothing good to play with. What's more the real life magician its riffing on, an Englishman who was globally famous, not as himself but in yellowface as a Chinese illusionist named Wei Ling Soo, is also richly fertile ground for a screenplay. It's easy to imagine a pretty great movie emerging from that historical figure and obviously several pretty great movies have emerged in the romantic comedy genre by pitting competing agendas against each other in the form of a man and a woman for whom falling in love is a gigantic inconvenience. But it doesn't remotely work, the romance especially (Firth & Stone have zero chemistry) and the smothering atmosphere is one of laziness... like no one is trying at all (particularly Stone & Allen) or like they're trying too hard (Colin Firth, Hamish Linklater) sensing the inconsequential piffle around them or like they're standing around wishing someone would ask them to try at all (Marcia Gay Harden). D

Sunday
Oct192014

Review: Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

An abridged version of this review was originally posted in Nathaniel's weekly column at Towleroad. It is reposted here, with their permission.

 

A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing. Not what is said of that thing." 
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as befits its duality perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what is film criticism or its more popular cousin, after-movie conversation over dinner drinks or online other than conversation that attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether

... which is not unusual in Birdman.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct182014

Meet the Contenders: Emma Stone "Birdman"

Each weekend a profile on a just-opened Oscar contender. Here's abstew on this weekend's new release, BIRDMAN which is marvelous as previously noted.

Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Best Supporting Actress

Born: Emily Jean Stone was born November 6, 1988 in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Role: Known for his sprawling (and epically depressing) Oscar-nominated films (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful), writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu tries his hand at a more comedic film with Birdman. Don't worry, it may have laugh-out-loud humor, but it's still as satirical, dark, and complex as we would expect from the filmmaker. The film centers on a movie star, Riggan Thomson, most famous for playing a costumed superhero (played by Best Actor contender Michael Keaton) that attempts to revive his career by mounting a play on Broadway. Stone plays his resentful daughter, who was recently released from rehab and now works as her father's personal assistant. She also forms an unlikely bond with the play's egotistical leading man (Best Supporting Actor contender Edward Norton).

Previous Brushes with Oscar and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct122014

Birdman Conference & Party: Egos, Creative Challenges and "A Critical Presence"

Choosing Birdman as the closing night film of the 52nd New York Film Festival was a smart move. Premiering in the slot right after it would have been a truly humbling experience for another film. Not that I wish to inflate Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's ego any further.

Iñárritu, Norton, Watts and Amy Ryan at the premiere

In the press conference that immediately followed our screening yesterday he admitted that it's already enormous. "Inquisitor. Tyrant. Dictator" are just three of his names for his own ego and the idea for Birdman was to explore the inner struggle with ego and the creative process. Innaritu says he starts most creative projects thinking  "This is great, fantastic, very genius!" and shortly thereafter has a bipolar switcheroo "You're a stupid asshole. This is a piece of shit, no one would care about it!" He thought this creative struggle would  be a cool thing to dramatize on film though he didn't mean it to be specifically about the ego of actors. He actually thinks they don't have big egos. "Politicans have bigger egos...even my dentist!" he added spontaneously to much laughter in the room. "He's an asshole. He makes me suffer and I pay him."  

Michael Keaton's internal creative struggle takes a slightly different turn "I go through, 'Oh you're the greatest, you're wonderful. And then 20 minutes later... no, you're actually more than that Michael!"

Throughout the conference the actors found ways to keep the mood light and funny. Somehow Naomi Watts became the favorite member of the cast to tease, which was interesting because the actress she plays onscreen is riddled with insecurity. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul162014

Lukewarm Off Presses: Colin, Emma, Birdman and Thor

You might have thought you were done discussing these but I'm just getting around to posting about them, so don't shut your trap just yet. Here's five stories that we didn't get to in anything like a timely fashion but so what? Time is a flat circle

Story 1 COLIN IN TALKS
I was going to wait to post about this until it was official and not just "in talks" but since the internet moves with the speed of everything casually mentioned as fact that everyone is aware of and will be old tomorrow, it should be noted that it looks like Colin Farrell will be the leading man of True Detective Season 2 (possibly Taylor Kitsch beside him). Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey will be tough shoes to fill but as I relayed on twitter, he's a smart idea because people will be surprised when he's great because they haven't noticed that he often is. It's very Matthew McConaughey if you think about it. An actor who was always talented and then only through a unique set of career moves did people admit it and suddenly acted like he was a brand new actor. And then they overpraised but that's another topic. 

Colin has been utterly amazing a couple of times (Tigerland and In Bruges) but even in his less heralded successful or more divisive pieces where the performance arguably feels more strained (A Home at the End of the World, Alexander, Saving Mr Banks) he often feels like he's reaching for greatness. He doesn't phone it in... which is more than can be said for many actors who get paychecks that big.

Story 2 FESTIVALITIS
The Fall Film Festivals are approaching which means before too long I will be having weekly nervous breakdowns trying to keep up with all the news and discuss all the Oscar buzz. I'm waiting on my TIFF credentials now but it's exciting to hear that Venice will open with Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance starring Michael Keaton and Emma Stone. (I had never quite processed that it had a longer title than just "Birdman" though we've already discussed the brilliant trailer) Websites are already speculating on which films will show up at which festivals but I prefer not to try and guess. Half the excitement of festivals is all the "another present? for me!? ABUNDANCE!" elation that comes with discovering the goods. And since I can't afford to go to them all I don't want to worry about the films I'm missing at the other ones.

Story 3 A FEMALE THOR
It's probably worth mentioning that Marvel has announced that we'll have a female Thor for awhile (in the comics. Don't worry for Chris Hemsworth's career just yet) and she'll be wielding Mjölnir. Superheroes are replaced more often than the layman thinks within comics (and actors are replaced in movies too -Bruce Banner holla!) but it almost always reverts back to the original guy.

Besides messing up all of our favorite Thor/Dr Horrible jokes...

...this news bugs me for two reasons.

  1. A female hero (Yay!) but she'll just be a glorified substitute (Boo!) for the real thing (a man, natch). What kind of message is that sending?
  2. This is in the comics where there have been several female superheroes given their own books over time. What we need is a female superhero at the movies. That would still be revolutionary which is a pretty pathetic thing to type in 2014. Female characters have been carrying stories in virtually ever medium for as long as any of those mediums existed. And yet the studios are still assuming that female superheroes can't carry movies... don't they realize that two of our top ten grossers this year thus far are essentially female superhero movies (Divergent & Maleficent) but not by name and in entirely different genres.

 

soon every movie will be a bit expensive one episode season of a tv seriesStory 4 FRANCHISES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US ALL
There's some speculation happening in the superhero-crazed internet (when isn't there?) that Sony is rethinking that whole Amazing Spider-Man reboot thing now that the movies are underperforming and just as they were announcing a whole set of spinoff movies around them. Release Emma* & Andrew into the wild again, I BEG YOU!

"Underperforming" is a sad word when these movies should have bombed spectacularly. Shouldn't you at least have to wait for another generation to arrive before you yell "do over!"? All the movie studios want to essentially make movies into multiple TV series that release one big expensive 2 hour long episode each season so there are 22 superhero films on the way in the next 4 years and Universal is now going to try an interconnected Classic Monsters Universe. Um, none of those monsters except for the Invisible Man ever went away? Talk about long running franchises. I guess, in keeping with tradition, we should start complaining now that the Bride of Frankenstein is never going to get her own solo movie so it's another universe that will utterly fail the Bechdel Test.

Tell me something that will give me hope for the future in the comments!

* Story 5: EMMA & WOODY
Since Emma Stone was already name-checked twice in this post ... let's note that she is also filming her second Woody Allen movie in a row (Untitled 2015) before Magic in the Moonlight has even landed so expect media stories about Emma as Woody's new muse in  3...2...1...

Do you think she'll pull a Scarlett and make a third? Her romantic interest isn't Colin Firth this time.

 

 

Friday
Jun132014

Yes No Maybe So: Birdman

How did we end up here? In this dump. You were a movie star, remember?

Surely one of the year's most intriguing features in concept and casting alone, is Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu's Birdman. The director collaborating with the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (fresh off his Oscar win for Gravity) trains the movie camera on the best Batman (I'm with Seth Rogen's in Neighbors on this one) as he plays a has-been movie star famous for playing a character named "Birdman". Now he's on stage years later trying to rejuvenate his career.

Concept and casting alone were enough for a "maybe so" tilting yes. And then came advance word from test screenings that the film really delivers across the board in performance so "yes". And then came the teaser which begins with a 41 second continuous shot like its asking me to marry it. So now I'm at 'Yaaaaas! I will. I will. I do!"

Making the traditional Yes No Maybe So a more lopsided formality than is healthy after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
May232014

Yes No Maybe So: "Magic in the Moonlight"

Another year, another Woody Allen. Same as it ever was. Coming off another professional high Blue Jasmine but a personal low, will people turn out? Woody films are always hard to predict, reception wise both critically and at the box office (I'm still so alarmed at how successful To Rome With Love was despite being so so terrible), from abject failures to Oscar nominees. But let's talk about Magic in the Moonlight ... or at least our futurist perception of it based on its new trailer. 

The Yes No Maybe So™ breakdown is after the jump...

Click to read more ...