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Entries in film debuts (10)

Monday
Apr172017

Thoughts I Had... Gaga & Cooper's "A Star is Born"

Chris here. Filming has officially begun on the long-developed remake of A Star is Born, which is both the cinematic debut of Lady Gaga and star Bradley Cooper's first time in the director's chair. Gaga may have some big shoes to fill after Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, but this one promises its own unique point of view: a fully country-western soundtrack. Intriguingly, Cooper will be filming live at music festival Coachella over the next few days, so you can bet we'll get a look at some of Gaga's original songs - but the studio has also given us our first look at the duo. Some first thoughts...

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Wednesday
Mar292017

ND/NF: "Menashe" and "The Future Perfect"

MOMa and Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual New Directors / New Films festival wrapped up this past weekend. Their goal each year is to celebrate "a group of filmmakers who represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema: daring artists whose work pushes the envelope and is never what you’d expect"  The big tickets this year were two buzzy Sundance titles: the gay drama Beach Rats (a subway misshap prevented me from making the screening - argh!) and the rap comedy Patti Cake$ which will be out in July. The latter prompted a bidding war with Fox Searchlight offering $10+ million. Beach Rats was picked up by a new distribution company called Neon so who knows when it will arrive. Colossal, that Anne Hathaway as a kaiju oddity, will be Neon's first proper release on April 7th. 

At ND/NF we previously reviewed Sexy Durga, Happiness Academyand Strong Island. Here are the two final films yours truly caught, one being maybe my favorite of 2017 thus far...

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Saturday
Mar112017

New Directors / New Films: Sexy Durga

New Directors / New Films which runs March 15th through the 26th is a festival of emerging international filmmakers here in NYC each year. We'll cover a few titles staring with a nightmare journey in India... 

Sexy Durga
Do you ever feel like you're missing something no matter how closely you pay attention? Not being well versed in Hinduism, it's difficult to make many inferences from the use of the goddess Durga in this film's title though calling her "Sexy" was quite a controversial move. I'm not sure why given that a quick bit of research reveals that she's a supreme goddess which sounds damn sexy to me...

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Saturday
Jan282017

Pfandom: In 1980, Pfeiffer Hit the Big Screen

P F A N D O M  
Michelle Pfeiffer Retrospective. Episode 4 
by Nathaniel R 

obsessed with Pfeiffer's eyeshadow in HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS (1980) 

She didn't quit the supermarket. That's something we need to understand immediately about Michelle Pfeiffer's methodic rise. After losing the beauty contest and landing an agent in 1978, winning TV gigs and moving to Hollywood, she merely transferred to a different supermarket. She was very practical and very focused, according to those who knew her when, taking acting classes and going to cattle calls but always showing up at work. Many stars bios are littered with colorful anecdotes about brief early jobs but in Pfeiffer's case, supermarket checkout girl, was an actual job that she stuck with until the acting, well, stuck.

One of her teachers, who had described her as a tardy, disinterested but smart student in high school recalls meeting her just before her career took off in the grocery store...

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Wednesday
Aug032016

Frances McDormand: from Blood Simple (1984) to Olive Kitteridge (2014)

1984 is our year of the month for August. Here's Matthew Eng to talk about a treasured actor that made her on camera debut back then...

For the better half of her nearly four-decade film career, Meryl Streep has managed to compel generations of moviegoers to accept a self-styled character actress as not only an acting heroine for the ages but also a bona fide movie star with mass-market appeal and unimpeachable box office credentials. Like no other actress since Bette Davis, Streep has perfected a once-unfeasible practice of playing the sort of idiosyncratic women she has always drifted towards, but within the safe confines of midrange, studio-supported moviemaking that seems to satisfy audience expectations as well as her own.

Sometimes Streep’s projects—and, it must be said, Streep herself—can disappoint. For every quietly graceful gem (like her underrated Hope Springs performance) or skillfully uninhibited turn (as in the best passages of It’s Complicated), there are another two or three within Streep’s latter-day canon that could stand some sharper finesse or at least more dexterous directorial guidance. Whenever I’m let down to by Streep, I can’t help but wonder what one of her less-viable peers might do with the opportunities that are scarce for any actress born before the Kennedy administration and which Streep barely has to put up a fight for.

The Beginning: Blood Simple (1984); The Most Recent Triumph: Olive Kitteridge (2014)

For as long as I can remember, Frances McDormand has served as the purest and most intimidating embodiment of what a character actor should be. “That woman has no vanity,” my mom remarked with clear admiration after watching her in Lisa Cholodenko’s Olive Kitteridge, where McDormand delivers one of the decade’s most masterful star turns, a perfectly prickly meeting of actor and role that might have been a surefire Oscar winner had the project aimed for a bigger screen...

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Saturday
Mar192016

Krisha Deliriously Dares You Not To Spill The Turkey

Nothing just moves in Trey Edward Shults’ disorienting debut Krisha; it sloshes, slips, tackles, and caws. A dizzying symphony of brain-clattering sound, feverishly unhinged camerawork, and a tightknit, ink-blotter ensemble led by the ferocious Krisha Fairchild, Shults’ get the family together for Thanksgiving drama shoots you right off your seat and holds you hostage over the darkest edge of the human id. Red onions notoriously make you weep but under Shults’ rack-focus eye, they make you want to hurl too. Such portent may lead one to expect a draining, inhumane slog through the mud.

But that alone would be far too easy. This is an exhilarating hostage situation, not just by witnessing a filmmaker’s virtuosic warp over cinematic language but also by the hot cohesion of its richly observed and highly specific setting, and the barbed black comedy that comes along with it. It feels like home, which is to say, Krisha is the waking nightmare of reckoning yourself against the eyes and ears that know you best, a big hug from your aunt that just may choke you from the inside out.

More...

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Sunday
Nov302014

Interview: Jennifer Kent on Her "Babadook" Breakthrough and What She Learned From "Dogville"

It's been a banner year for female directors. Two female directors have continually been in the Best Director Oscar discussion, they continue to make inroads in indie cinema (see the Spirit Award first feature and first screenplay citations!) and in many countries outside of the US. And that's not all. The year's most impressive debut stint behind the camera arguably belongs to Jennifer Kent (pictured left) whose controlled, creepy, beautifully designed and acted Australian horror film The Babadook has been winning raves. After a stint on Direct TV it's just hit US theaters, albeit only three of them. May it expand swiftly to unsettle every city.

When I spoke with Ms. Kent over the phone we were experiencing and ungainly time-lag and accidentally talking over one another. A time-lag also happened when I watched her movie the first time; its unique slow build had me more frightened after the movie finished than while I was watching it. It sticks. The tag line is true

You can't get rid of the Babadook.

I mention that I'm pre-ordering the Babadook book as I'm telling this story about how the movie continues to haunt me. "Then you'd better not," she says laughing as we begin our conversation about debut filmmaking, snobber towards horror films, what she learned from Lars von Trier, and the miracles of Essie Davis' lead performance.

 

NATHANIEL: Have you had a lot of weird reactions to the film?

JENNIFER KENT: Yeah, I have. I’ve had the gamut of reactions from people seeking a roller coaster ride with jolts and scares. They've been like  'Ripped off. This isn’t a horror film!' to people like yourself. What’s most surprising to me is -- more than a  couple of people have said ‘I really didn’t like but I saw it again.' Why would you see it again?  And then changing their minds about it. [More...]

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Friday
Sep052014

Robert Wise Centenary: The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

It's Tim. September marks the centennial of famed director Robert Wise, winner of Oscars for the musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music among several other classic films, and the members of Team Experience are going to spend the next several days revisiting work from the entire range of his career. And what better place to start than at the very beginning: 1944's The Curse of the Cat People, which was Wise's directorial debut, taking over from Gunther V. Fritsch, when the project fell behind schedule. It's part of the legendary run of movies produced by Val Lewton's horror-oriented B-unit at RKO, a studio where Wise had already logged time as an editor (cutting both Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, no less). But it's not, itself, a horror movie, despite being the sequel to Cat People, one of the canonically great horror films in history. And despite Wise having a terrific hand for horror, as he'd first prove with his third feature, the Lewton-produced The Body Snatcher.

The Curse of the Cat People is, rather, a sort of psychologically realist fairy tale, taking its title (which RKO forced upon Lewton, though giving him the freedom to make any plot he wanted to under that name) to the most symbolic, abstract extreme possible. It involves Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) and his wife Alice (Jane Randolph), the heroes of the earlier film, moved to the New York suburbs with their six-year-old daughter Amy (Ann Carter), who's having a problem separating fantasy from reality lately. And the audience is forced into having much the same problem, when Amy wishes for a friend and gets one in the form of Irena (Simone Simon), whom devotees of Cat People might recall was Oliver's first wife. The one who transformed into a panther when she got sexually aroused, and is dead now.

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