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Entries in Liz Taylor (34)


1963 Look Back: Liz Taylor's 10 Best Looks From "Cleopatra"

Abstew kicks off our celebration of 1963 as we countdown to the next Smackdown (date TBA but probably early October)...

There's epic film making and then there's Cleopatra. Certainly in a class all of its own, the film spanned different countries, directors, stars, budgets, an original run time that clocked in at over six hours, and one legendary love affair far more interesting than the one being portrayed in the final film. Thanks to audiences wanting to see if La Liz and Richard Burton's explosive relationship off screen was able to be captured on the 70 mm Todd-AO celluloid, Cleopatra ended up being the #1 box office champion of 1963...and still ended up nearly bankrupting 20th Century Fox. Originally budgeted at $2 million, the final budget ballooned into an unprecedented amount of $44 million (roughly over $300 million when judged for inflation today) including a million dollar contract for star Elizabeth Taylor, making her the highest paid performer at the time. (She ended up walking away with over $7 million due to delays and a percentage of the box office.)

And it feels like at least half of that inflated budget went toward Taylor's costumes alone. Setting a Guinness Book of World Record at the time, Taylor goes through 65 costume changes in the film and earned all 3 (yes, 3) of its Costume Designers the Oscar for their efforts. Renié was responsible for the women's costumes, Vittorio Nino Novarese created the men's, and thanks to Irene Sharaff, who was in charge of all of Elizabeth Taylor's looks, we have a sumptuous treasure trove of couture fit for a queen (or at least Hollywood royalty). Deciding on a more modern look and color palette than what would have actually been found in ancient Egypt at the time of the film's setting, Taylor's looks influenced early '60s fashion with an influx in Egyptian like jewelry and even inspired a Revlon "Syphinx" line of make-up. So in honor of the film's sartorial contributions to cinema, let's take a look at 10 of Elizabeth Taylor's best looks as the legendary Queen of the Nile...

10. Travel Rug Chic

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Visual Index ~ Suddenly Last Summer (1959)

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode is devoted to the film adaptation of Tennessee William's Suddenly Last Summer (1959) in which a brain surgeon (Montgomery Clift) whose hospital is in dire need of cash is enlisted by a filthy rich woman (Katharine Hepburn) to perform a lobotomy on her niece (Elizabeth Taylor) because that niece keeps telling lies about her dead gay son. Got that? That's just the kick-off to the crazy.

This sensationalistic film, which was the third and final onscreen pairing of bosom buddies and immortal stars Taylor and Clift, was nominated for three Oscars: Two Best Actress nominations and Art Direction.


Cinematography by Jack Hildyard
Shots are displayed in their rough chronological order. Click on the shot to read the corresponding article.
11 Shots Selected By 12 Participants

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Elizabeth Taylor in "Suddenly Last Summer". Oh how that star burned.

This is an episode of Hit Me With Your Best Shot

"Suddenly... last summer" is spoken so often in Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Joseph L Mankiewicz & Gore Vidal's adaptation of Tennessee Williams play, that it starts to take on a kind of trancy grandeur. The actresses retreat inward, psychologically, in the thrall of their own theatricality, the overheated jungles of art direction around them, and surely their good fortune to be playing Tennessee Williams characters.

my favorite scene in the film

To a minor degree the repetition of "suddenly...last summer" is not unlike the effect of Rita whispering "Mulholland Drive" like an incantation in Mulholland Dr. The comparison seems apt since both films are batshit crazy sexually charged nightmares in which a beautiful brunette has selective amnesia issues.  But let's not drift away to 2001. We stay in 1959. And two beautiful brunettes is exactly what I want to talk about since Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor loom large in my own movie fantasies, as two of my all time favorite actors. 

Suddenly Last Summer might seem dated in some respects as psychological films often do as science progresses but Elizabeth Taylor's star power hasn't aged a day. She's impossible to look away from and aces the tricky role of Catherine Holly, a woman who is fully sane but goes a little mad sometimes... and not just from the PTSD she's clearly suffering. Taylor is a smart enough actress to go for gray shadings in both Catherine's sexuality and psychology even when the gorgeous lighting by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai) is so high contrast and her monologues go so extremely black (the absence of memory) or white (the blazing white beach where her trauma began).

more after the jump

best shot

The beach was very white. Oh how the sun burned. It was like the eye of God watching us, burning, burning. There was no air that day. The sun had burned up all the air. Outside it was like inside a furnace.

And then they came...

This image seizes me. Elizabeth in the sun; Monty eclipsed. 

Which you might say is true of the movie. Both Actresses were Oscar nominated but Monty is constantly overshadowed. I'd argue that his is this adaptation's most difficult role because there's so much less to work with that it's easy to disappear as the surgeon ricochet's between two madwomen. He's best in this, his first scene with Liz; they loved each other dearly offscreen and their chemistry always blazed. It's a long duet in which he coaxes her towards memory and they flirt and spar not a little. The structure of the scene will be somewhat mirrored in the film's climax, Catherine's memory returned.

By contrast Monty practically disappears in his scenes with Katharine Hepburn, where he goes frustratingly blank even when the role suggests so much more than he's giving, particularly in Violet's insistent refrain that he is like Sebastian, her dead (gay) son, in this way or, undoubtedly, that. 

runner up images after the jump if you're a completist or so inclined to consider more options...

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Beauty Break: Headdresses

I've been holding on to this picture of Sigourney Weaver as "Tuya" from Exodus for a couple of days without any idea what to say about it other than 'thank god Sigourney's signature directors still love her'. Between Ridley Scott (Alien) and James Cameron (Aliens), Lt. Ellen Ripley will always find her way back to decent roles on the big screen.

But I don't understand the casting of that movie at all. Everyone is SO white, like pasty white. Especially Joel Edgerton as Ramses. In The Ten Commandments that role went to Yul Brynner. Though Brynner was also white, a white Russian to be exact though that sounds alcoholic and we're not talking about how drunk looking at Yul makes me, he had that exotic visual flair that had Hollywood casting him in every conceivable ethnicity. Kind of the way Ben Kingsley who is Indian British is used now, only sexier.

Let's stick with the sexy.  The Film Experience loves a good headdress on the big screen. Here are some of the best.  

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Burning Questions: Katniss in Context

The Year in Review continues with Michael Cusumano on Jennifer Lawrence's box office coronation, a more impressive achievement than you think.

At the sound of the closing bell, Iron Man 3 clings to the title of top grossing domestic release of 2013, but Tony Stark should savor the honor while it lasts. He is all but certain to relinquish the crown to Katniss Everdeen in the early weeks of 2014.

If one wants proof that this is all but a done deal, one need only compare the grosses of the first Hunger Games to its sequel. According to Box Office Mojo, Catching Fire’s 398 million is 24 million ahead of its predecessor at the same point in its release (41 days). Since the first Hunger Games’ final gross of 408 million is nearly tied with Iron Man 3’s 409 million, unless the grosses of Catching Fire unexpectedly crater it’s a safe bet that when we close the book on the 2013 the second entry in the Hunger Games series will hold true to its protagonist and emerge from the arena the final victor.

That a film with a strong, capable female protagonist as its sole lead is the year’s number one film is reason to cheer. That I was unable to recall the last film to duplicate this feat emphasizes the rarity of the achievement. It made me curious:

When was the last time a film led solely by a female character topped the domestic box office in its year? [The answer is after the jump]

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How Many Biopics is Liz Going To Get? 

Late last year Lindsay Lohan did her best Elizabeth Taylor for Liz & Dick on Lifetime though by all accounts her best wasn't very good. Now BBC is getting in on the action with the far more respectable Helena Bonham Carter as the movie star of movie stars. This will be Helena's most challenging role in a good long while, don't you think? [More after the jump...]

Helena as Liz & Liz as Liz; she did love her caftans!

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May Flowers: Liz & Dick

May Flowers blooming daily in the afternoons…

Andrew here to start things off. It only makes sense that the melancholic showers of Anna Karenina and The Truman Show would give root to the gloomy blossoms which open May Flowers this year. Connotatively you’d expect flowers to be a symbol of good things – life, hope, colour. But, not so in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In Nichols’ adaptation of Edward Albee’s play it’s just another thing in a long line of objects which sparring couple George and Martha use to play games. Who cares about the danger of confusing truth and illusion when there are so many games to play? 

Here George comes to deliver our bouquet...

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