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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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Entries in Maggie Smith (25)


AFI Fest: Lady in the Van

Anne Marie here reporting from Hollywood & Highland.

Let's be honest: there's probably only one reason you (or anyone) is interested in The Lady in the Van. If you own a copy of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if you kept watching Downton Abbey even after Julian Fellowes killed two main characters and the series lost focus, then I have good news for you: you will love The Lady in the Van. Dame Maggie Smith is in top form, and the movie is devoted to giving her a variety of small acting moments that pop up in awards show montages and internet gifsets. Even if the rest of Nicholas Hytner's movie is unrelentingly average, Dame Maggie Smith is a delight.

First, let's talk about Maggie. In the last 20 years, the Dame has made a career of playing colorful, curmudgeonly women, effectively destroying - along with her Dames in Arms Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, and Angela Lansbury - the idea that older actresses aren't interesting. (There's a question to be asked about why all of these successful, terribly interesting older actresses are British, but that's a tangent for another day.) As the titular homeless woman who parks in the driveway of a put-upon playwright (Alex Jennings) for 15 years, Maggie Smith continues this fine tradition. Alternately infuriating and empathetic, crazy and charismatic, disgusting and distinguished, Smith creates a character so bizarrely contradictory that you understand why the writer allowed himself to be inconvenienced for almost two decades beginning in the 1970s. Sitting next to Nathaniel and eurocheese, I don't know that I've seen a festival audience react as gleefully to a moment so small as when Dame Maggie Smith, clad in a nightdress and a smelly rain coat, cracked a small private smile while riding a duck on a merry go round.

The rest of the movie is about what you'd expect from a BBC drama - familiar character actors, comedy stemming from British polite timidity - with one exception. The playwright Alan Bennett (who adapted his own play for the screen) splits himself into two characters: the man living the events, and the writer observing them. At first, the conceit is fun, since it gives the observing ego a chance to make the snide remarks that polite British gentlemen just won't say. However, as with many movies that rely on narration, eventually the writer gets didactic, and begins informing the audience how to think and feel about his story. But what he refuses to comment on is more interesting. While he was busy belaboring the connection between his guilt over his ailing mother and the homeless woman he allows to sleep in his yard, I was more curious about his closeted sexuality in Margaret Thatcher's England. 

Ultimately, as a showpiece for Dame Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van delivers. As a BBC drama, it's a little more interesting than usual. Jim Broadbent, Dominic Cooper, and James Corden all make appearances, but are criminally underused. There's one reason to see The Lady in the Van. But it's a good reason in itself.

Grade: Maggie Smith A / Rest of the movie C+ Total = B

Oscar Chances: In a less competitive year, Dame Maggie Smith would be a shoe-in for a Best Actress nomination. As it is, she probably won't make the cut.


Magic Carpet Link

NY Times talks to David O. Russell about Joy... which still is not screening. The mystery of it all
Playbill Aladdin flew through the streets of NYC on his magic carpet recently. How's that for marketing?
Gold Standard Character actors get their own award "The Carneys"... we wouldn't need this if the Academy remembered why they invited the Supporting Acting categories. The first recipients:  Bob BalabanMichael EalyBruce McGillDavid Paymer and CCH Pounder
THR wishes Toni Collette a happy birthday with fun facts

/Film Jennifer Aniston hasn't made a good film in 10 years. Can What Alice Forgot change her course?
Guardian suggests that appointment franchise cinema will end with Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 2. "IF ONLY!" says all of us who year for movies to be movies rather than expensive television series
Variety talks to Karl Glusman about his first day on the set of Gaspar Noé's Love -- they started with the ejaculation scene. Yikes
Variety interesting. The very talented Pablo Larraín (No) is making a movie about Jackie Kennedy and Natalie Portman stars with Peter Sarsgaard, and Greta Gerwig in support
Graham Norton talks to Maggie Smith who isn't sad to say goodbye to Downton Abbey 
Variety selects under the rader performances that "deserve" Oscar buzz. While it's nice to see more props for Kristen Stewart's great work in Clouds of Sils Maria, it's tough to take this seriously: Helen Mirren in Woman in Gold? Good god did she ever phone that one in! Ruffalo "reinventing" himself for Spotlight? Try repeating himself! 

Halloween Hangover
Crave Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) chooses the most stylish horror films from Repulsion to The Haunting
HitFix they polled several writers/directors/critics to list their fav horror films. Not enough actresses on the list but I LOL'ed that Elvira gave herself the #1 position
Gothamist photos from the Village Halloween parade
TFE Facebook / TFE Twitter  in case you missed it I was goofing with counting down my 15 favorite horror films last night from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? to Silence of the Lambs -- "it puts the fuckin' movie on the list. It does this whenever it's told."

Also if you aren't liking / following / sharing The Film Experience on social media... why you wanna hurt us like dat?

Did you hear there's a fully poseable Michaelangelo's David action-figure? Want! Also why is there not a movie about the creation of this work of art?  


Would you watch a movie about the making of Michelangelo's David?
Yes. I'm all about the Italian Renaissance
Entirely depend on the casting of David.
No. I'll just look at the nude gifs on the internet.
Poll Maker



Link Catch-Up, Oscar Warm-Up

Some of these links are a smidge old since I've been away for two weeks in Toronto, others brand new.

Get Peanutized the Peanuts Movie is advertising like Straight Outta Somewhere... by going for an internet meme. You can make yourself into a character. The options are a bit limited so this the best i could do at approximating me. I really wanted to be holding a coffee cup or a laptop
Boy Culture Novelist Jackie Collins, sister of Joan, dies at 77. My favorite memory of her will always be Sandra Bernhard reading a passage from "Rock Star" on David Letterman and then tossing the book aside after "wanna pick a flower you lucky man?"
Dark Horizons Brie Larson to play tennis legend Billie Jean King. Good luck Brie because tennis movies never get good reviews!
The Daily Beast interviews Tom Hardy about Legend, The Revenant, dogs, and that sexuality question that keeps popping up
The Telegraph their excellent film critics rank all Woody Allen movies ranked. Good read/insights even if you quibble with order
NYT "Hooray for Hollywood... No Really" a must-read conversation between the smarty New York Times film critics 
i09 Johnny Depp's six most inexplicable career decisions
MNPP Quote of the Day Paul Bettany vs. Jason Statham. Meowwww

MNPP Do Dump or Marry: The X-Twinks - Ben Hardy, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Tye Sheridan
NYT Jack Larson, aka Jimmy Olsen from TV's original Superman, dies at 87 
Towleroad are these the top ten coming out scenes from TV history?
Empire Amanda Seyfried joining the cast of Twin Peaks Season 3 in a new role
/Film Pulp Fiction original cast wish list? This is so weird to consider 
Film Stage Charlie Kaufman discusses Anomalisa 

You Know Awards Season's Coming When...
The arguments get more heated. THR published a negative piece on Truth and Awards Daily thinks it's a hit job from the Right (with more to come from The Left). And Vulture's already declaring the winner which puts a big target on its back. My goodness. We're starting early this year, huh?! ICYMI I also pitted Truth and Spotlight against each other (for fun... I don't actually think they're after the same thing at all). And finally these two pieces framing this year's Oscar Best Actress race as "Under 30 Contest" and "Women of All Ages" just goes to show you how much framing by the media can count when it comes to narrative / awards shows. 

Yes yes. I'm going to start updating the Oscar charts to reflect Festival Madness. Probably tomorrow.

Today's Watch

Downton Wars Episode 1 Bates & Thomas draw lightsabers on each other... for a good cause. Rob James-Collier, tv's most delicious evil gay butler, filmed this for charity, in the downtime on set. Mashing up Star Wars and Downton is not quite as wonderful as it sounds but both episodes have a few good chuckles.
Downton Wars Episode 2 This one is better if way too slow. The asides to the Downton actors sending up their own characters are wonderful - particularly Daisy, Mrs Patmore, and Lady Mary. Bonus Points: Dowager Countess Jedi... Dame Maggie Smith 4evah ! 


Lady in the Van: Maggie in 4 Gifs

Manuel here to welcome another Best Actress hopeful to the fold. Yes, it was unclear whether two-time Academy Award winner Maggie Smith’s vehicle, The Lady in the Van, would indeed get a US release this fall in time to qualify for awards consideration but with a Toronto Film Festival special presentation, a December release plan, a new poster and a new trailer, we have to welcome Smith to the race. More...

Click to read more ...


Can we talk about that Second Best Exotic ending?

Manuel here talking about that mouthful of a sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is out on DVD today.


I only just got to watching it the weekend before last at the swanky Crosby Hotel which hosts its very own Film Club every Sunday. (I even spied Spider Man v.1.0 Mr Tobey Maguire in the lobby!). Just as with its first, I have to hand it to John Madden, Judi Dench, Lillete Dubey & co. for making a thoroughly predictable film aping Bollywood tropes and focused on India’s exoticized ability to help old white people learn about aging, not only enjoyable but surprisingly melancholy.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the film’s handling of Muriel Donnelly, Dame Maggie Smith’s character, and especially her ending (obviously, SPOILERS ahead). At this point in her career, Smith has arguably become a parody of her own self. And yet, that's harder to say if you actually watch her work. Sure, she’s got the grouchy old bitter hag thing spouting prickly witticisms down pat, but there’s always something else lurking in the quiet moments in her performances. There’s a weariness married to a nimble sense of emoting that goes on behind those weathered if sprightly eyes. That's put to best effect in the final moments of Madden's film which gives us the happy ending we always knew we'd get but spiked with an ambivalent sense of loss:

It makes sense that the heavy lifting (read: the dramatic and non-comedy-of-errors part of the film) would fall on Smith's sturdy shoulders; she can turn even the slightest of complaints about tea into resonant character bits, commentary on US/British relations and even a meditation on her own sense of mortality. 

As soon as we left the 90-seat theater at the Crosby (I did say it was swanky, yes? what with its free popcorn and all) my friend asked “So, does she die?” which seemed to be both the type of obvious question I usually hate (“did the top stop spinning?!”) but which seemed precisely the right one to ask, especially if one follows it with “will she kill herself?” a melodramatic, though not for this film, inappropriate question.

We feel the weight of Mrs Donnelly’s life and it somehow strikes me that the film’s ambivalence about her demise, even amidst an ending that ties everything else in a pretty bow is rather transgressive and pretty much all wrapped up in Smith's final close-up which ends the film.

Did this sequel leave you wanting a Third Best Exotic Hotel and mentally casting which other British acting royalty could join Dev Patel in a trilogy closer? (My vote is for Vanessa Redgrave, obviously)

Q&A Pt. 1: The Queens (by which we mean RuPaul, Helen Mirren, Best Actresses)

Ask Nathaniel column time. You ask. I answer. Herewith seven recent reader questions. Since last night was the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race, we'll end with two similar questions about that show but first, more typical actor questions. You're always asking them. Not a complaint. Just a fact.

PAUL OUTLAW: Which directors would you most like to see work ASAP with these performers (it can be someone new or a former collaborator): Tilda Swinton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Fassbender & Tom Hardy?

Tilda: Anyone. I'd even watch her in a Michael Bay movie though I'd prefer her in an Olivier Assayas. Oh wait, that's my answer.

Gugu: Anyone. She's new enough that we don't know what we have yet other than GREAT POTENTIAL.

Fassbender: We know he can do intense heightened drama and various masculine genres with the best of them, but I'm wondering if he has something more low-key naturalistic in him or how he'd fare in more typically feminine genres. One of my favorite performances of his is Inglourious Basterds which I know is neither of those things but I like how arch and cerebral he seemed as opposed to physical. It was a different mode for him. So a little more of that. I'd be curious to see him in an Alexander Payne style dramedy or Joe Wright in swoony romance mode.

Tom Hardy: It's time for something really erotic. Filmmakers keep covering up his beautiful face and this must stop. We know from Bronson that he's completey unafraid of gratuitous nudity so I wanna say Jane Campion and/or another A lister who is ready to dabble in an erotic drama, their own Ang Lee Lust, Caution type detour if you will.

TYLER: There are four women who are winners of the Cannes Best Actress prize twice over: Barbara Hershey (USA), Isabelle Huppert (France), Helen Mirren (UK), and Vanessa Redgrave (UK). What do you think of this group? Your favorite performance from each?

To  help readers catch up if they didn't know this statistic, those women won for the following films

Vanessa Redgrave - Morgan! in 1966 and Isadora in 1969
Isabelle Huppert - Violette Noziere in 1978 and The Piano Teacher in 2001
Helen Mirren - Cal in 1984 and The Madness of King George in 1995
Barbara Hershey - Shy People in 1987 and A World Apart (shared with co-stars) in 1988

More Questions after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Yes No Maybe So: "My Old Lady" 

Here's Andrew Kendall on a trailer I didn't get to! I've thrown my back out and I thank the team for this weekend's content for your amusement. I should be back in regular form soon - Nathaniel R


That it took an entire week for Yes No Maybe So to appear for upcoming British dramedy My Old Lady shouldn’t be seen as a sign of disinterest, or indicative of the trailer's merit. Although, on suggesting it for this series I pointed out to Nathaniel that Israel Horovitz's quiet European dramedy might not be one many are immediately passionate about. In the glut of trailers released in the past week, the modest My Old Lady seems to have been lost in the midst. Although I generally I tend to avoid trailers, I was curious to see how Horovitz would adapt his drawing-room play, which I'm fond of, to the screen.

Here's the trailer. The Yes No Maybe So breakdown featuring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas is after the jump...

Click to read more ...