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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. "Like it" on facebook!

 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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FOXCATCHER & GONE GIRL teasers...

Foxcatcher: Carrell's fake schnoz and affected speaking voice could be VERY problematic over the course of a feature film, but this is a terrific teaser and Tatum in a singlet assuages many other concerns. This is a big yes too.❞ - Roark

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Entries in Introducing (9)

Tuesday
Apr152014

Seasons of Bette: The Letter (1940)

Multi-tasking again. Herewith a new episode of three recurring series: Seasons of Bette, "Introducing..." and Hit Me With Your Best Shot in which I, Nathaniel, refuse to show you Bette Davis's face. For here's a perverse truth: none of my three favorite shots of The Letter (1940) include it.

honorable mention: Leslie recounts her crime

Pt. 1 "Introducing..."
Meet Leslie Crosbee, murderess. We're only one minute into the movie when she unloads six shots purposefully nto the back of one Geoff Hammond who is attempting to escape her house. He doesn't make it beyond the foot of her steps. Her face is a frozen severe mask as she drops the gun. It's Bette Davis's most potent entrance into a movie yet.

Where the hell do you go after your protagonist makes an entrance like that? To her confession, as it turns out. William Wyler, here adapting a play by W. Somerset Maugham, is appreciated today mostly as a great actor's director, but he's so much more than that. He's not content to rest on the power of his actors alone, despite the three Oscars and multiple nominations they'd already received at this point. In one of his boldest moves, he even lets the entire cast turn their backs on us -- this movie is cold -- while Mrs Crosbee calmly recounts an attempted rape and the resultant murder in great detail. The camera (cinematography by Oscar favorite Tony Gaudio) becomes a kind of detached slave, following Bette's vocal cue and showing us now vacant rooms, steps and floorboards, as if it exists only as an empty stage for her drama. Given how rapturously and literally shady our leading lady is (oh the sinister cast shadows of film noir!) it's not much of a spoiler to tell you that she's a liar.

best shot: the equally shady widow

Pt. 2 Best Shot
The title character in this noir, is an incriminating letter written by Leslie which is in the possession of Mr Hammond's mysterious Asian wife (Gale Sondegaard in "yellow face"). The movie is casually racist, a product of its time, or at least suggestive of the casual racism of its time. Leslie's lawyer remark that Hammond's marriage to this woman, immediately makes the colonist of questionable character and thus presumed guilty of the rape Leslie has accused him of. And Leslie herself is the most verbally racist of the film's characters, grotesquely repulsed by Mrs. Hammond

Then i heard about that -- that native woman Oh, I  couldn't believe it. i wouldn't believe it. I saw her walking in the village with those hideous spangles, that chalky painted face, those eyes like a cobra's eyes. 

But fortunately for the film, this fetishistic attention to Mrs Hammond's "exoticism" in any scene in which she appears actually serves to level the playing field. That's especially true of this scene which is tricked up in every way possible with "Asian" signifiers in the scoring, decor, and "dragon lady" costuming (it's worth noting that Mrs Hammond is the only Asian in the film costumed and presented this way as if she's barely real at all but a projection of Leslie's own jealous and racist obsession with her). And in this case, doesn't one have to excuse or even applaud all the exoticism? If you're going to engage in an epic staredown with Bette Davis in which she must suddenly be cowered by you, you'd better bring it by any means necessary. Sondegaard and the cinematography do.

In a curious way, though, The Letter's most fascinating character is the man with six bullets in his back. What kind of a man could own the vengeful hearts of two such lethal women? In his own stiff way he's the perfect embodiment of film noir's powerfully confusing phobic relationship to the female gender. It loves them like no other genre while also living in perpetual fear of their power and agency.

runner up shot: Guadio & Wyler find several great uses for Bette's hands in this film. I love her fingerprints grazing her victim here.

To be Continued...
Tonight at 10 PM we'll post the visual index of all Best Shot entries for this famous noir. 
Thursday Seasons of Bette continues, back-tracking one year for Dark Victory since we fell behind.

Sunday
Mar022014

Best of the Year: Introducing... Nathaniel's Top Thirteen

I've waited so long to share my top ten list that it's become a crushing psychic weight, a symbol of my failure to keep up in this strange Oscar season I've had.  I realized today that if I didn't share it on this very day, it wouldn't happen at all which is unthinkable. TRADITION. TRADITION...... TRADITION  

We're all eager to move on to 2014 but I personally can't make the calendar leap without the Film Bitch Awards (and the Oscars, duh). They're my own internal clock and how I clock the film years. If I could rewind said clock I'd watch all the movies again. They're all dusty now, like cherished objects I shoved into closets or drawers for reasons of clutter when people were coming over. Now I can't remember where I've left them or why it was I thought they were worth hoarding in the first place. 

You still with me? Oh god stay with me. This is my moment of neurotic need! 

If this were a top twenty I'd be writing about these films too, in random order: two animated charmers Frozen and Ernest & Celestine, Joe Swanberg & Jane Adams little seen but extremely worthwhile collaboration All the Light in the Sky, 2012's Spanish Oscar submission Blancanieves (released in the states this year), Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring... "I wanna rob", two gargantuan blockbusters I seemed to have liked more than most sentient life forms Iron Man 3 and World War Z and the dark, gripping and literally labyrinthine Prisoners. Does that make twenty-one pictures? I'm bad at maths.

ONE MINUTE FROM EACH FILM
Now, the hard part. Hierarchies of wonderment. To break free of the mental shackles that have been holding me back from writing and sharing this list, a self-imposed directive: I am putting each one of these in my DVD player (the joy of screeners) and shuffling to a random scene. Wherever it lands I watch one minute to jog my memory and write whatever comes to mind. Get it? Let's go.  

HER
(Spike Jonze)
Warner Bros. December 18th.
126 minutes

... and Action [98:24] we enter mid montage during a Scarlett Johansson rendition of "Moon Song"...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov302013

Introducing... Five Nominees 2003

For the buildup to this  year's Oscar race we thought it would be fun to revive StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown and so far it's gone just beautifully. This month we're hitting the 2003 lineup for its 10th anniversary. Unfortunately I have to announce a small delay: The Smackdown will now air on Thursday, December 5th at Noon EST instead of, well, right now.

But in its place our new Smackdown tradition which we keep meaning to turn into a regular non-Smackdown series. "Introducing..." in which we remember our first glimpse of key movie characters. You've met this month's panel but these events now include an extra panelist: You (the collective you) so feel free to send in your ballots (by tomorrow at the latest) if you'd like your vote to be counted. Here's how you do that.

Without further ado...

INTRODUCING... (in the order of how soon they appear in their films)

[no dialogue]

Shohreh Aghdashloo as "Nadi" in House of Sand and Fog
Arrival: 1½ minutes into the 126 minute running time, preceded only by Fog (and Jennifer Connelly) and Sand: She's reflected in the water in the opening credits and then glimpsed frolicking with her children on the beach, before a terrible visual omen strikes: trees felled nearby. Subtle!

I'm ready.

Holly Hunter as "Melanie Freeland" in Thirteen
Arrival: 3 minutes into the 100 minute running time. She stamps out a cigarette. Note the smart girly girl styling -- kudos to the makeup and costume team on this movie -- you don't even know she's not a teenager until the camera pans up. 

[no dialogue]

Patricia Clarkson as "Joy Burns" in Pieces of April
Arrival: 4 minutes into the 80 minute running time. While her family frantically searches for her, she's found waiting in the care for their Thanksgiving road trip. 

Where have you been? It's 3 AM."

Marcia Gay Harden as "Celeste Boyle" in Mystic River
Arrival: 16 minutes into the 138 minute running time. She's looking in on her sleeping child when her husband returns home with (gasp) what is that? Blood! on his hands!!! With Marcia's arrival the plot arrives to mingle with the foreshadowing prologue and completed character survey. 

Those cows want milkin'. If that letter ain't urgent then cows is, is what I'm sayin'. 

Renée Zellweger as "Ruby" in Cold Mountain
Arrival: 50 minutes into the 154 minute running time. And boy is the director (and the Zeéeeee) marking it. She steps into the frame like it's a proscenium, her face hidden by a huge hat as she turns from side to side. Cows even moo to introduce her and she sighs loudly before barking out her first line at Ada (Nicole Kidman) who is lost in her papers on the porch.

*

Did you know you were in for something special when these actors came into frame?

Saturday
Oct262013

Introducing... Five Nominees 1968

I've hinted at it before but we're going to try "Introducing..." as a series, since we love contemplating how actors and filmmakers introduce us to key characters in the movies. There's a real specific art to it if you want the character to stick. So herewith, as prelude to Wednesday's Smackdown, is how the five Supporting Actress nominees of 1968 are introduced in their films. In future non-Smackdown episodes we'll just concentrate on one entrance. But for our purposes here, quintuplets!

I've listed the nominees by how soon they show up in their respective films.

8 minutes in... Estelle Parsons as "Calla" in Rachel Rachel
This entrance is smartly staged by first-time director Paul Newman. It has the clarity of a theatrical entrance albeit without any heightening or glamour. As Rachel (Joanne Woodard) leads her schoolchildren downstage right with some silly arm wavings, an atypically 'light' gesture from this uptight teacher, Calla descends stage left from a higher floor into view, with her own flock, as if conjured by that sudden shift in tone. You immediately sense that they're very different women but as Calla gets closer to the camera, her shift from screechy schoolmarm to close co-worker chum is complete; the women lean in together co-conspiratorially.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep252013

Introducing... Five Nominees From 1980

I've always been interested in the way characters / stars are introduced within their films. Sometimes you can feel the filmmaking underlining the moment: look here, you will love this character! Other times intros are nonchalant and the character sneaks up on you.

The Supporting Actress Nominees of 1980 ~ The Introductions

Last month I ranked the 1952 nominees by the quality of their entrances in preparation for their month-end "Smackdown". This month for the 1980 theme, to mix it up, let's just view them in order of when they show up in their movies. When moviegoers were first seeing these movies back in 1980, what did these characters promise them when they walked into the plot, already in progress?

Cathy Moriarty as "Vicki" in Raging Bull
[17 minutes until 'who's that girl'?]

Jake: Who's that girl you were just talking to.
Joey: The friend of mine I was just talking to? The blonde? Vicki.
Jake: Where's she from?
Joey: She's from the neighborhood. She's a neighbor.
Jake: What's her last name?
Joey: Vicki that's all I know. 

 We see a series of fetching closeup glimpses of Cathy Moriarty from Jake's point of view but she gets no dialogue of her own in this debut scene within her film debut. She's just an object of desire for now. She looks pleased with herself in the series of closeups Scorsese lavishes on her face and body by the pool as the dialogue from two sets of men is all about her or taking out the other men who want her. She's only 15 (Moriarty was 20) but Jake asks what her last name is, a fitting detail since he'll soon her give his own and since he's already married.

The promise here is trouble and Raging Bull has plenty of that.

Mary Steenburgen as "Lynda Dummar" in Melvin & Howard
[20 minutes in...]

Our first images of Linda are blocked by her husband Melvin who is arriving to bed late (or early since it's morning) after the film's lengthy prologue in which he meets Howard Hughes (Jason Robards in an Oscar nominated cameo) but soon he's asleep and she's waking up (on the opposite side of the bed... some nookie offscreen obviously). Noises outside have woken her and serve as another reminder of their poverty.

Oh no. Repossessed again."

She packs her bags in a rush to leave her bad luck husband. This character intro promises a sensual woman with an unlikely combination of flighty and sensible impulses and that's just the kind of memorable character we get. Of course she doesn't stay away too long since she is the film's Supporting Actress Nominee. 

Eileen Brennan as "Capt. Doreen Lewis " in Private Benjamin
[23 minutes... on the dot] 

Private Benjamin knows what it's got in Eileen Brennan's deliciously bitchy and funny Army captain and makes sure you know it too, introducing her in military style. Her entrance is shouted, saluted, and she's even blocked from view theatrically until the introducing officer steps aside to reveal her, the frown on her face mysteriously reading as a self satisfied smirk before she's even started mocking her new recruits. Which she does the first chance she gets two beats later when she sees one of them crying. 

What's the madduhr? Are yoo a widdle cwybaby?"

This entrance promises combative comedy to come and Brennan delivers. 

Eva Le Gallienne as "Grandma Pearl" in Resurrection
[23 ½ minutes]

Let me have a look at you, child!"

The legendary stage actress first appears in longshot racing out of her home to greet her granddaughter Edna (Best Actress nominee Ellen Burstyn), now disabled, who is returning to the family home to heal... in more ways than one. This first scene is as modest as the home, and tells you little about "Grams" other than that she's glad to see Edna. They then look at an old scrapbook together. Eva's voice is a marvel though, instantly betraying her stage origins, full of warmth, feeling and memory. (That's all I know for now. I'm still in the process of watching this which I have to say has been painful. Not, I hasten to add, because the movie is bad but because it's so very hard to find a good copy of it. The versions on YouTube are blurry and blown out and no other downloads seem to function well. Such a pity how Hollywood ignores its own history and lets it go unrestored, even when it's in the history books as an Oscar nominated film.)

Diana Scarwid as "Louise" in Inside Moves
[38 minutes late to the party]

Where are my four beers?"

Diana's waitress "Louise" is introduced so casually, in medium shot and profile before quickly whisking by the camera and vanishing again, that if you didn't know who Diana Scarwid is, you'd think nothing of it. The film's lasting claim to fame just wandered into frame and the movie didn't notice. Inside Moves, a strangely executed film about disabled men who form tight bonds at a local bar until one of them leaves to become a professional athlete (don't ask), doesn't even bother to introduce us. We only infer she's the new waitress from the casual concern in the bosses voice "you doin' ok?" Slowly she becomes more prominent in the narrative and eventually begins to slip out of longshots and into her own closeups. It mirrors the way that loved ones start out as strangers, sure, but it's also kind of anti-dramatic and it's a long wait to get to the Scarwid Goods.

Have you seen any of these films? There is still time to vote. We include reader votes in the Smackdown totals so send in your ballot, rating only the performances you've seen, with or without commentary, on a scale of 1 to 5 (best) hearts.  The Smackdown will take place on Monday, September 30th