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Entries in Holidays (104)

Tuesday
Nov042014

The Honoraries: Maureen O'Hara in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients including Maureen O'Hara. Here's Andrew on a holiday favorite...  

A common criticism meted out against Maureen O’Hara is that she’s often in good films but hardly ever the reason the films are great. In this vein, it’s almost wicked that I chose to write on her work in Miracle on 34th Street, in our celebration. Maureen O’Hara is probably not the first image that comes to mind when you think of this immortal Christmas classic. Your mind probably went instantly to holiday charm, Macy’s consumerism, Natalie Wood's lovely child star turn or Edmund Gwenn’s Oscar-winning Kris Kringle performance.

Still, I find Maureen's place in the movie significant.

A little background: before shooting Miracle on 34th Street, O’Hara had recently moved to Ireland and was essentially forced into taking the role of Doris Walker, the mother who encourages her daughter not to believe in Santa Clause. The film was called The Big Heart at the time and she was not enthusiastic about returning to North America to shoot it. However, once she read the script her sentiments changed and she was immediately keen to co-star.  Just what it was about the role that made Maureen so immediately enthusiastic to be a part of the project? [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct312014

Happy Halloween from The Film Experience! 

We didn't make October a big horror month at the blog like we've done in past years (gotta switch it up from time to time) but we'll be creepier and crawlier next year since we had a break in 2014... if the blog survives another Oscar season, that is. [cue: ominous music]

But for now, an OPEN THREAD. 

Which horror films have you seen the most in your lifetime? Do you always watch on on Halloween?

The only two horrors I've personally seen a ridiculous bunch of times (since I'm not a big rewatcher and it's hardly my favorite genre) are Psycho (1960) and Carrie (1976). I never tire of either. My third favorite is Rosemary's Baby (1968) though I've only see it thrice. Though several others are gold (Herzog's Nosferatu, Kubrick's The Shining, etcetera) those three just tower over all others casting creepy and unimproveable shadows. My teammates have a broader range of favorites as evidenced by our Top Ten Pre-Exorcist Horror Films and the Top Ten Post-Exorcist Horror films.

Happy Halloween !  

Be safe tonight. We only pretend that ghoulish fates await us on All Hallows' Eve.

Tuesday
Oct282014

Top Ten: 2014 Movie Characters For Halloween Costumes

Halloween hits on Friday. Are you prepared to see Elsa & Annas & Olafs everywhere you look for our first post-Frozen dress-up holiday? That billion dollar 2013 smash will surely dominate. As for 2014 movies it goes without saying that you'll see a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy  and sometimes full teams. Team costumes on Halloween are the best but the key to their worth will be in how they handle adorable memorable Groot. Groot costumes will range everywhere from the godawful to the 'how'd they do it' spectacular, depending on creativity and budget.

Here are the characters / movies that would be the neatest tricks to pull off that would make the biggest treats for The Film Experience if fully sewn or creatively cobbled together by overachievers.

(Say no to store bought costumes!)

TEN 2014 COSTUMES WE HOPE TO SEE ON HALLOWEEN

10 "Full Metal Bitch" 
The great takeaway of Edge of Tomorrow or Live. Die. Repeat. or All You Need is Kill or whatever they're calling it today is that Emily Blunt is a badass. Rita, the feared warrior within, practically begs for a life outside of that movie since she is so iconized within it. Good luck pulling off all the metal armor and weaponized accessorizies. And how to look exactly like Emily Blunt while doing it and not "Random Robot Girl"... that's your challenge.
How to win Halloween in this costume: Get a male sidekick in a similar outfit who is shorter than you. Or drag along weird alien carcasses behind you.

"The Shailene Woodley and eight more costumed curveballs after the jump

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jul062014

Box Office: The Studios Fail America on the 4th of July

Amir here with the weekend’s box office report. ‘twas quite a sad one at the multiplex; Positive adjectives were hard to come by. Tran4mers topped the charts again, but even that franchise has tired its audience so much that it now lags significantly behind the previous installments. Tammy came in second, but this one is also way behind last year’s Melissa McCarthy vehicles like The Heat. Maybe people are finally realising that having a superstar who doesn't fit Hollywood's notions of traditional beauty is completely different from having a superstar who doesn't fit Hollywood's notions of traditional beauty solely to make fat jokes about her.

 

Deliver Us From Evil was a big flop, this one falling behind director Scott Derrickson’s previous films, despite finding some major champions among critics. And if those are not enough underachievers for one week, there was also Earth to Echo, not just beating Deliver Us... as the weekend’s most awkwardly titled offering, but also beating it on the disappointment scale. This was the only new family option of the weekend, but it finished behind the leftover How to Train Your Dragon 2, which is another massive disappointment in its own right.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
01 TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION $36.4 (cum. $174.7)
02 TAMMY $21.1 NEW (cum. $32.9) Review
03 DELIVER US FROM EVIL $9.5 (cum. $15)
04 22 JUMP STREET $9.4 (cum. $158.8) Podcast
05 HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 $8.7 (cum. $140) best movie dragons
06 EARTH TO ECHO $8.2 NEW (cum. $13.5) 
07 MALEFICENT $6.1 (cum. $213.8) Podcast
08 JERSEY BOYS $5.1 (cum. $36.7) Review
09 THINK LIKE A MAN TOO $4.9 (cum. $57.1)
10 EDGE OF TOMORROW $3.6 (cum. $90.8) Capsule / Top Ten Thus Far

Perhaps Begin Again and Snowpiercer could have emitted some positive vibes with their relatively strong expansions, but no, hang on a minute! Dinesh D’Souza’s America – a sequel to Obama’s America? Oh, who cares anyway? It’s not like that first film made any damn sense – beat both of them to finish just outside the top ten. Yes, Dinesh D’Souza! Enough has been written about the hypocrisy and sheer stupidity of this man to make one think that a multimillion dollar opening and an A-Fucking-Plus Cinemascore is out of reach for his films, but no. It’s still possible. America has disappointed us all. The silver lining is that he, too, is lagging far behind his previous film.

What did you watch this weekend? Please give us some positive vibes to counteract Hollywood's failure to schedule anything worthwhile on such a big moviegoing weekend.

See Also: Nathaniel's Top Ten at the Halfway Mark

Friday
Jul042014

Baby You're a Firework

 Happy Fourth of July !!!

Watch an unexpected but quite American movie, enjoy the fireworks and your long weekend, and we'll see you here again Sunday night.

(On Monday morning we continue our Halfway Mark celebration surveying cinematic achievements of 2014 thus far)

Thursday
Jul032014

Tim's Toons: Celebrating Independence Day with Disney

Tim here. It’s Independence Day weekend here in the States, which means that most of you undoubtedly have something better to do than read about old cartoons. But if I promise to keep things short, hopefully you’ll indulge me in chatting up an odd little animated short perfectly timed to the holiday.

I have in mind Ben and Me, one of the oddest one-offs in the history of Walt Disney Productions. Released in November, 1953, it was the studio’s first two-reel animated short, and one of the initial releases under Disney’s own Buena Vista Distribution label, part of a package deal with the nature documentary The Living Desert. But more to the point, for our present purposes, it’s about how a mouse helps Benjamin Franklin write the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. We can wait a minute if you want to process all the ways in which that’s a perversion of history.

Okay, sure, there’s more to it than that.

Based on a 1939 children’s book by Robert Lawson, Ben and Me follows the life of Amos, a mouse voiced by Disney mainstay Sterling Holloway, who set off from his impoverished home in wall of a Philadelphia church in 1745 to make his fortune, ending up in the home of the absent-minded inventor and writer Ben Franklin (Charles Ruggles). Over the course of one night, the two are able to invent bifocals, indoor heating stoves, and the American news media.

Ben’s penchant for playing tricks on the mouse, sending him up on kites during thunderstorms and such, puts a wedge between them. Eventually, in 1776, they finally mend fences just about the time that Ben’s young colleague Thomas Jefferson (Hans Conreid) is having an impossible time finding the right opening for his otherwise-complete Declaration. More through accident than anything else, Amos ends up providing the legendary “When in the Course of human events…” The perversity having not let up, I will let you take another minute to process (it’s the 31-year-old mouse that bothers me the most).

Daft fantasy nonsense, for sure, but Ben and Me is actually pretty charming. Holloway and Ruggles are delightful in their roles, playing a kind of gentle riff on the traditional odd couple dynamic (Conreid, who voiced Captain Hook in the same year’s Peter Pan, is unfortunately distracting for that reason, but he’s not in it very much). It wasn’t an A-list project, and it lacks anything resembling the visual lushness of Disney’s contemporaneous features, like Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella – the latter of which obviously inspired Ben’s design; he looks exactly like the talking mice helpers from that film, though thankfully without their annoying pidgin English – but the simple style based on 18th Century painting brings the setting to life in a very specific, effective way. It’s not a colorful film, as such, but it has a clarity and warmth that fit the “historical bedtime story” mood.

Given Disney’s corporate proclivity for all-American nostalgia, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the story ends up being so disinterested in any kind of soaring patriotism or overwrought long-view about Great Moments in History. It’s actually quite an ordinary platonic romantic comedy between a mouse and a man. Most of its energies are dedicated to building solid but hardly revolutionary cartoon sight gags out of 18th Century material (a lengthy printing press scene is by far the most ambitious part of the movie), but that ends up being enough.

At 21 minutes, it’s short enough that having genial humor built on a playfully impossible history lesson hasn’t run out of steam, while long enough to build character relationships with a depth that isn’t possible in a 7-minute animated short that only has enough time to plow through its gags. It’s not one of the timeless masterpieces of Disney animation, or anything equally silly, but it’s one of their best ‘50s shorts and a fun 4th of July pastiche that’s not really like anything else.

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