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Entries in James Dean (8)

Saturday
Jul202013

The Rebellious Evolution of Natalie Wood

It's Natalie Wood Week as we celebrate what would have been her 75th birthday (today!). Here's Abstew from 'The Film's The Thing'...

I love the tag line: "...And they both came from good families!" Oh, no! Where did we go wrong?!?The legend of James Dean looms large over the seminal 1955 teen-angst film, Rebel Without a Cause. With his red windbreaker that would soon become his trademark, furrowed brow and pensive gaze, his hobby of drag racing goons that would dare to call him chicken, and dealing with square parents that just don't understand, Dean cuts an impressive figure. The film is so closely linked to the star's iconic status that you'll forgive me that sometimes I forget the other talented stars that also occupy the film. (But, then again, I'm a huge James Dean fan. I've even been to his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana where there's not one, but three different museums dedicated to him. You can compete in the annual James Dean look-alike competition! It's also where he's buried. You can still go to his family farm and see his tombstone.) But, of the three films that Dean starred in, Rebel is the only one he didn't receive an Oscar nomination for.

The film was, however, nominated for a trio of awards including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Sal Mineo as his pal, Plato, and a Best Screenplay nomination for the Director, Nicholas Ray. Has any film captured the superb agony of being a teenager so precisely?

I don't know what to do anymore. Except maybe die."

It's final nomination was for Best Supporting Actress, giving Natalie Wood her first bit of Oscar recognition. Hers is not, maybe, the first name that spring to mind when you think of Rebel, but her career owes as much to it as Dean's does...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May152012

'you are an odd one, aren't you?'

Leslie: You are an odd one, aren't you Jett? But I like you.
Jett: I like you too. 

I guess you're about the best looking gal we've seen round here in a long time -- I think the prettiest in I think I've seen... down here. 

Leslie: Why thank you, Jett. That's a very nice compliment.

...And I'm going to tell my husband I met with your approval.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov132011

Naked Gold Man: Roles For Which Meryl Streep Was Not Nominated

For this week's gold man column, we're skipping the general overview and getting really specific. Who doesn't enjoy a good zoom in on Meryl Streep? The Iron Lady, her Margaret Thatcher biopic performances, begins screening very soon -- they moved the release date back but not the screenings. So we need to discuss this before it does and the focus shifts from groundless speculation to case evidence.

Every time I've floated the notion that Meryl Streep cannot be an Iron Lock for a Best Actress nomination since her film has not been seen, people object. "But Meryl is ALWAYS nominated," sayeth everyone. Not so, not so. While it's true that The World's Greatest Actress™ seems as much a can't miss prospect in Best Actress as she did in the 80s what with nominations for Prada, Doubt and Julia fresh in our minds, she has missed the shortlist. Yes, even THE MOST NOMINATED is not always nominated. Some of those roles even looked good on paper and in some of them she was marvelous onscreen. If there'd been Oscar blogs back in in the 80s and 90s, for example, pundits would've leaned on her whilst predicting each and every year with as much lazy force as voters do when balloting. There is no such thing as someone who is Oscar-nominated for everything they've ever done -- unless they only made one film or their name is Stephen Daldry (three-for-three thus far in Best Director). Even James Dean, who famously received two post-humous Oscar nominations, was only nominated for 66% of his three iconic film roles...

...yeah, yeah. true, true. okay, okay...

You can't be nominated in the same acting category twice in one year so theoretically Dean could have been nominated for Rebel Without a Cause if it hadn't been for East of Eden. This is an important point which we will discuss in the following "snub" list. 

25 Streep Roles That Weren't Oscar Nominated

Meryl's entrance into the cinema she would soon reign. Julia (1977)

1977 Julia
"Anne Marie" is really just a cameo (two scenes) but it's magically fitting that this then unknown actress's first screen role was opposite two acting legends: Jane Fonda & Vanessa Redgrave (a probable Best Supporting Actress this year as she is quite sensational in Coriolanus). For most people the only way is down from there but for Meryl she's all, like, 'hey shove over. I'm here!' If she felt intimidated it doesn't remotely show in her haughty, funny, scene-stealing bit. But only important actors get nominated for cameos, even cameos this juicy, and Meryl was not yet a star. [More on Meryl's debut]

1978 The Deer Hunter -1st nomination

1979 The Seduction of Joe Tynan and Manhattan
This was the year of Kramer vs Kramer (her first win, following her first nom for The Deer Hunter in '78) so Academy voters couldn't have nominated her politico's mistress "Karen Traynor" or her angry lesbian ex-wife "Jill" in Woody Allen's other 70s masterpiece. Though these roles undoubtedly helped her win (note that the critics awards she won that year include all three) they wouldn't have won her nominations in a theoretical Kramer absence given the Oscar reception of Tynan (zero noms) and her internal competition in Manhattan. [More on this her year of actressy ascendance]

1979 Kramer vs. Kramer -2nd nom/1st win
1981 The French Lieutenant's Woman - 3rd nom

1982 Still of the Night  
This noirish femme fatale role arrived two weeks before the Sophie's Choice juggernaut (her second Oscar win) so technically she couldn't have been nominated for it unless they demoted her to "supporting" which they didn't. (The actress who got the 'demotion so we can double dip' you was Jessica Lange for Tootsie, who went on to win supporting while losing lead to Meryl.)  Though this noir may have added to surface cries of "Meryl can do anything!" Meryl herself didn't think so; according to some reports she wasn't particularly thrilled with her own work in it.

1982 Sophie's Choice -4th nom/2nd win
1983 Silkwood -5th nom

1984 Falling in Love
Meryl's work as "Molly Gilmore" a married woman who falls for a fellow commuter (her Deer Hunter co-star DeNiro) is actually rather touching. But it arrived fast on the heels of five shape-shifting legend-making iconic roles. This normal contemporary woman probably felt underwhelming to voters. Something "Magic Meryl" could probably do in her sleep and why not take a wee break from the exhaustingly perfect new legend? Trivia Note: We can't prove it but we believe any American actress not playing a farm wife that year was disqualified in a special one-year-only AMPAS ruling.  That's the only feasible explanation for the psychotic snubbing of Katheen Turner in Romancing the Stone.

1985-2009 including the 3 most interesting case studies in When Meryl is Not Nominated AFTER THE JUMP.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep242011

Linknesses

Just Jared The Rum Diary gets a Johnny Depp-centric poster, opens in October... "absolutely nothing in moderation" tagline. What'cha think?
IndieWire Millenium buys Rampart and aims for an Oscar push for Woody Harrelson this year. My my my Best Actor is getting crowded, right?
Fandor's blog Keyframe just hosted a Guy Maddin blog-a-thon. Check it out.
Movie|Line talks to Sigourney Weaver about supporting Taylor Lautner through the action genre minefields with Abduction. (What a world, right?)
Wow Report Mia Farrow makes a LOL. Best tweet ever?

Cinema Blend Katey interviews Andrew Haigh the writer/director of Weekend. I really enjoyed talking to him too (my interview if you haven't seen it) but I love the bit about his dialogue writing that she gets him to discuss 9/10 minutes in. Very interesting process he has! I should've asked him about that. The bane of interviews is always thinking of things later that you really wish you'd asked.
MNPP James Dean's brotherly love screentest for East of Eden
Ultra Culture makes a funny with the Meryl Streep poster for The Iron Lady 

OffCinema
Sociological Images Elizabeth Warren is my new hero. Finally, a Democrat who can convey message in a clear, confident, convincing way.
Drawn If you're an artist reading, this lengthy video on celebrity caricature is super interesting in terms of technique and how to capture likenesses that are always so manipulated. This bit on Conan O'Brien's hair is choice.

I will draw his hair how we expect it to look, as if it had its own anatomical structure."
-John Kascht 

75th Anniversary! 
Have you played with this current Google Doodle honoring Jim Henson's birthday yesterday? (Shame I forgot about this one for blog purposes. Grrrr).

It's fun to play with though it's a bit difficult to replicate the two best surprises. 

Wednesday
Jul202011

Hit Me: Natalie Wood and "Rebel Without a Cause"

It's time to wrap up the Hit Me With Your Best Shot season with a 1955 classic. Why this one? Well, today would've been Natalie Wood's 73rd birthday and we love ourselves some Natalie Wood. She was, in fact, Nathaniel's first actress obsession, an obsession formed in the late 70s while watching TV airings of various 50s & 60s movies (with an emphasis on West Side Story which has its 50th anniversary this fall!).

Natalie suddenly died in 1981, drowning as you know, after falling from a yacht during a break from filming her last picture Brainstorm (which was later released in 1983). Wee Nathaniel was heartbroken. Enough with the third person but I needed the distance; this one hits so close to home. Let it suffice to say that it was the first time I'd ever lost anyone I loved, virtual or otherwise. I hadn't even lost a pet at that point in life! The heartache maybe felt as formative as Natalie's in Splendor in the Grass; a first love never to be forgotten if you will.

Today we're talking about Rebel Without a Cause (1955) because it gave Natalie her first of three Oscar nominations and because we've been thinking about "first love" and high school lately. (See, we've recently started rewatching Angela Chase falling for Jordan Catalano on Netflix.)

The Nicholas Ray movie -- part of that unassailable James Dean Trinity -- is a spectacularly enduring piece of teen angst. It's as mesmerizing and febrile with feeling today as we assume it was in 1955 even though it's now most decidedly a period piece. But this happens to all contemporary entertainments... the period part I mean. (The enduring part only happens to the lucky or the brilliant. Have you seen My So Called Life lately? It's just as great 17 years later only now it's as much a period piece as Rebel -- it's soooo '90s.) Time marches on.

Best Shot

This beautifully sustained shot (it lasts for over a minute) captures two era-defining icons of youth in what can accurately be described as langurous mutual auto-eroticism. Judy (Wood) and Jim (Dean) barely ever look at each other in this sequence, letting their bodies and their voices do all the communicating. But aren't they still in their own little worlds, only dreaming of colliding?

Directors rarely hold the camera on two faces simultaneously anymore and that's nothing but one of the greatest losses for the cinema. All great movie stars are auto-erotic, their principal love affair being with the camera rather than co-stars, but when they share a frame the power can feel infinite. (For a comic counterpoint example of this same face-pressing double whammy magic, see The Lady Eve with that sensationally funny scene where Barbara Stanwyck babbles incessantly while rubbing her face against an overheated Henry Fonda.) In this case the dual star magnetism doubles as youthful dreaming, disconnected from reality, though Judy and Jim are, in fact, speaking about connection. Judy is philosophizing about friendship, character, and love. She's about to launch into her famous "I love somebody" speech, the "somebody" is telling as she's caressing a man who is still more of an abstraction than a reality to her. Jimmy interjects.

We're not going to be lonely anymore. Ever ever. Not you or me.

The scene is heartbreaking for any number of reasons both for what precedes it and for what follows (poor Plato!), but mostly because you recognize it as a false prophecy, born of the loneliness it's trying to banish. Judy & Jim have long long lives ahead of them even if Dean and Wood didn't. Loneliness never stays away for good.

Rebels of the 'Best Shot' Cause

  • Film Actually sees Rebel for the first time and contemplates that issue-heavy love triangle.
  • Movies Kick Ass "Let's not ask the moon" is there a world larger than teenage problems?
  • Clearly Up To No Good --- this is really cool. It's four themed photo folders. I love "Plato's Closet" and "Living on the Edge". Lovely
  • Awww the Movies the looks.
  • Stale Popcorn a dynamic shift in "family"
Wednesday
Mar022011

James & Anne & Mickey & Judy

Editor's note: This is my final Oscar column for Tribeca Film to wrap up awards season. Thanks for your patience. I'd intended to do a lot more right here but I'm in day 3 of flu and about to pass out again. If you're not done talking Oscar night, let me know by commenting. But here it is.

Early on Oscar night, the legendary actor Kirk Douglas took to the stage to present Best Supporting Actress. (Oscar producers wisely throw one of the big awards near the beginning each year lest the least committed viewers click away.) "Spartacus" himself, still an entertainer at 94, didn't make you wait for the envelope reveal for a show—he was hamming it up from his cane-walking entrance to his purposefully distracted, drawn-out announcement of the winner. Before he even got to the nominees, he stopped to joke with the youngest hosts Oscar has ever had, 32-year-old James Franco and 28-year-old Anne Hathaway. To the giggling, girlish Hathaway, he said, "Where were you when I was making movies?"

The irony, if you stop to think about, is that she was around back then. Not “Anne Hathaway,” exactly, mind you, but earlier incarnations of her...

Read the rest at Tribeca Film

Now that the 83rd Oscar dust has settled, how are you feeling about them?

Wednesday
Feb162011

My First (Three) Dean(s)

JA from MNPP here with my follow-up to last week's query regarding the fact that I'd never seen a James Dean film and how you all should tell me which one to watch first, by poll. And tell me you did - with 44% of the vote Rebel Without a Cause, his second film with his most iconic performance, came out on top, besting East of Eden (at 37%) and Giant (at 18%). I wasn't exactly surprised by these results.

Most likely when you think Dean, you think this:

That red jacket / white tee / jeans ensemble is Marilyn's white dress flying up on the subway grate; it's Elvis' bedazzled jumpsuit and Audrey Hepburn's little black dress eating a danish in front of Tiffanys. If you're gonna start somewhere with James Dean this seems like the likeliest place to start. Which... well knowing I'd thrown myself at having to write about something so iconic it's sold more stamps than my college education cost, probably squared, was a little intimidating. What is there left to say?

Thankfully the film, while dated, does remain a fascinating, loose, alive thing. Fifty-six years of rebellious teenagers later the movie that crafted the mold somehow manages to remain just enchantingly weird. There is an otherworldly sort of spell it casts over you - there's something very apt about the planetarium setting that the film uses repeatedly. It gives you this epic space - literally all of outer space - with the beginning and the ending of the world exploding around you. But it's a manufactured apocalypse at the same time - you're not under the night sky at all. You're enclosed in a tomb of sound and fury - an echo chamber of gee whizz bang. That sounds a lot like what most of my teenage dramas all turned out to be.

Not that these kids don't have real problems. But the melodramas they play out, coupled with the actors very serious performances, takes the film into a very odd space. It's as heightened as a Douglas Sirk film, only you swap out the acting style of Rock Hudson for James Dean, which... well that's a swap. Having only seen clips of Dean's films before but never a full from-start-to-finish performance from him until now, I've got to say it really and truly was a revelation. I'm sure he was astonishing to watch on stage as well but the man was made to be placed in front of a movie camera. His face is so alive! From every angle - shoot him from the back and you can feel what he is feeling, as if he's shooting pulses of emotion from his scalp.

It seems vulgar to just straight-up gush, but as some of you said would happen in the comments I was so enamored with Dean that as soon as Rebel was finished I put in East of Eden and as soon as East of Eden was finished I put in Giant. And I've now seen them all! (That's why it took me a couple extra days to get this to you - it took me two nights to finish Giant. That is a very long movie.) And now that I've seen them all Dean's legend makes complete sense to me.

I made a joke before having seen the films about the similarity of his characters names - Jim Stark, Cal Trask, and Jet Rink - what seems amazing now, having seen the films is how completely separate these three fellows are to me. It struck me about half-an-hour into East of Eden (what a marvelous film East of Eden is, and how ashamed I feel for having only just seen it) that the Dean I was watching didn't at all seem to be the icon of teenager rebellion that I'd just been confronted with in Rebel and I'd been expecting out of all of Dean's performances. And then you get to Giant and you're watching something completely different still, and yet no less hypnotic, pour out of him.

 

Oh sure there are the loose similarities that connect the three - young men who seem incapable of fitting in with their surroundings, battling against the forces they see closing in on them, the slights real and imagined, all while maintaining a glorious head of hair - but the details that Dean carves out with body language and with his voice, with Jet's easygoing horse-rider's strut or Jim's tendency to jump around like an extra in West Side Story or the seemingly unwitting cruelty that coils Cal up, it was a surreal and exhilarating experience, watching all in one fell swoop.

So whaddya know? Dean was no fluke, no false advertisement. And when his scenes in Giant came to an end I felt the shadow of sadness that audiences since 1956 must sense, knowing that's all there will ever be. Still, even though the thought of all that could've been is maddening, it feels as if there's so much I'll be able to wring from just these three in repeat viewings. It'll be a pleasure.