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Entries in Midnight in Paris (19)

Tuesday
Feb212012

Curio: Oscar Unsheets, a Final Roundup

Alexa here.  Even though my excitement over the Oscar nominees this year is a bit thin, the films are enlivened for me when I see them through the eyes of other artists. (Another reason the Academy should follow the lead of the BAFTAs and hire some illustrators already). In last week's Curio I posted some of the more interesting unsheets (a creative term for fan poster art) popping up on the web for Best Picture nominees The Help, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Moneyball, and The Descendants.  Without further ado, here are the best unsheets I've spied for the remaining nominees Hugo, War Horse, The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, and The Artist. Happy Oscar all!

The Artist by Gideon Slife.


The Artist by Hunter Langston.

The Artist by Ramin Kohanteb.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb022012

Oscar Symposium Day 2: Invisible Art & Self Love

Previously on the Oscar Symposium... we discussed and defined the business of actors elevating their movies, spent time at "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"'s stale office party mingling with the nine Best Picture nominees (only one of which we all seem to love) and agreed that Brad Pitt deserves Best Actor. Eventually Nathaniel's second favorite movie of the year (The Artist) took quite a beating so he sulked off to lick his wounds.

And here we pick up for Day Two of our three day symposium...

MARK HARRIS: While we're waiting for our host... Nick raised a really interesting point yesterday in his persuasive case for Plummer, which is: Just what the hell is a supporting performance anyway? I like his definition (and Plummer would probably get my vote too, for showing amazing restraint in a part that could be played as one Big Moment after another). But I'm also drawn to performances like Jonah Hill's, in a role that exists purely to give Pitt's character a wittily contrasting somebody to bounce off of, and like Melissa McCarthy's (my favorite in that category, I'm not ashamed to admit), even though she's more a standout in an ensemble than a pure supporting actress. Do any of you feel that there are supporting performances this year that are miscategorized? The French clearly do, since when the Cesars nominated Berenice Bejo for The Artist, it was for Best Actress.

NATHANIEL ROGERS: I plead the fifth on category fraud. I've said too much over the years about that whole... nightmare.

KURT OSENLUND: I'm going to flip it on its head and go 'lead to supporting.' By which I mean, I think I'm one of the few who still believes Viola Davis belongs in the supporting category. I'll admit this is a complicated stance. I think it's the film/text that's guilty of cheaply attempting to make Aibileen a lead character, giving her a tacked-on coda of "closure" and trying to reduce the shame of taking a black women's story and still handing it, mainstream-style, to a white redhead. By extension, I think awards bodies are guilty for taking the bait. Ideally, I'd like to see Meryl walk away with Best Actress, Viola walk away with Supporting Actress, and Octavia sit comfortably with a nomination, for a performance that's highly enjoyable, but shrill and stereotypical and nowhere near as soulful as her co-star's.

My short answer to the 'supporting to lead' question would be that, this year, I actually think all of the supporting stars are placed where they belong.

NICK DAVIS: I don't think the ending of The Help feels tacked on. I don't even think it feels like closure: we have no way to predict Aibileen's next move, much less to presume its ease.  And from those opening minutes with all of her backstory and daily routine, and through all of Davis's impeccable playing of heavily weighted scenes, I think she's definitely a lead.  I know her screen time must be small compared to other leads, but at the very least, she falls squarely in that Marge Gunderson/Hannibal Lecter category where her charismatic impress is so profound from the lead/supporting borderline that it pushes her handily over.  It helps that even the blocking and costuming and editing and lighting choices keep conspiring to shift focus from Skeeter to Aibileen whenever they share a scene.  Emma Stone is just giving away those scenes, as markedly as Meryl all but erased herself in the Doubt standoff.  I wouldn't want anyone watching me act opposite Viola Davis, either.

MARK: At last, a fight! I'm going to strongly disagree about Viola Davis, who not only carries the emotional weight of The Help, but has considerably more screen time than past lead-performance winners like Frances McDormand in Fargo. Kathryn Stockett's novel isn't Skeeter's story, even if Skeeter is a storyteller -- it's told from the first-person perspectives of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. (So, if the movie were really true to the book, Octavia Spencer would probably have to be considered a third co-lead.) To me, Skeeter's "...and then I wrote the book" storyline feels as inorganic to what The Help is really about as the closure the movie gives Davis. The movie's emotional strength -- what there is of it -- lives in Aibileen's struggle; she's arguably even the title character. Yes, the movie is technically Skeeter's story, but only in the way that Training Day is technically Ethan Hawke's. So I'm happy Davis is where she is.

After the jump: The Help, Best Screenplay, and Masturbatory Movies

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan202012

Scene Work: Corey Stoll On Ernest Hemingway and Woody Allen

With the SAG Awards fast approaching, Oscar nominations hitting on Tuesday and "Original Screenplay" wins and Best Director nominations piling up for Woody Allen how about a little trip back to Midnight In Paris? Specifically to that magical hour when all of the movie's best moments take place. On the first of Gil's (Owen Wilson) midnight adventures he meets the Fitzgeralds who then introduce him to Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). This introduction -- Stoll pisses off the Fitzgeralds (on purpose) and then badgers and ingratiates himself with Gil, who is reeling from meeting his hero. It's one of the movie's most memorable scenes and Corey Stoll immediately establishes himself as the film's MVP despite a plethora of famous actors in showy cameos.

If you're a writer, declare yourself the best writer! But you're not as long as I'm around unless you want to put the gloves on and settle it."
-Stoll as Hemingway. 

This introduction was also, not so surprisingly, the rising actor's most satisfying scene to shoot. When I spoke to him in December about that bizarre SAG rule which prevented him from technically being part of the movie's Best Ensemble nomination, we discussed this introduction in particular and his working relationship with comeback kid Woody Allen.

"That's the scene I was most nervous about," the actor recalls about his memorable introduction. He loved how 'commanding and unapologetically self-centered' this fictionalized Heminway was. "It's actually the scene where Woody let me do a number of takes. I think often he just lets actors find it themselves. They either find it immediately or not and he still moves on."

He recounts the speed at which Woody works. He doesn't want the actors to obsess too much on the work and wants to keep things more spontaneous. "With this I lucked out. At a certain point after my final take of the closeup he said 'that's 100% what I was looking for'."

I can't help but register surprise that Allen spoke to him at all. You hear stories. His funny response:

That was the only praise that I heard the entire time! He's not big on ass-kissing."
-Stoll on Woody Allen 

Amusingly enough, Allen's purposeful steering of the actors away from actual biography towards communal fantasies presented a slight obstacle for Stoll after the fact. "I've sort of been asked a lot of questions about Hemingway." When he did a public reading of Hemingway's letters he worried that he'd be "a bit of a fraud" in front of scholars. "I knew the basics of his life," the actor says about the famous author, but that isn't what he used, creatively, for the performance.  "What was most important in this context was having his rhythm and cadence and his use of language be the driving force of the performance. As a reader that's what you get.  That's where I put my energy and attention."

The work paid off and the actors career is on the upswing. "All this attention and praise is really nice," he confesses. "But the role itself is so much more satisfying. Whatever happens, I played Ernest Hemingway in a Woody Allen movie!"

Two Stoll Roles: North Country with Charlize Theron. Intimate Apparel with Viola Davis

Currently Stoll is enjoying running into old co-stars on the awards circuit including Charlize Theron (North Country). His "Intimate Apparel" stage partner Viola Davis is also on the campaign trail this year. Would he like to reprise that for a film? "Any day. Any time. Wonderful experience." He's up for Best Supporting Actor next month at the Spirit Awards and one can't help but pray that he'll be a shock surprise on Oscar Nomination morning this year in the same category.

Before we wrap up, I had to ask him about his role in the upcoming summer blockbuster Bourne Legacy opposite Jeremy Renner, also a former co-star

"Please don't tell me you're playing a villain, " I say sharing with him one of my major movie pet peeves. "They always make bald men villains!"

"I can't tell you anything," Stoll says laughing. "I'm contractually obligated! They weren't specific about how they were going to ruin me but there's nothing to be gained."

Interview Index | Nathaniel's Supporting Actor Ballot

 

Wednesday
Jan112012

20:11 The Tree of Midnight Bridesmaids

Year in Review Fun!. Herewith the 20th minute and 11th second of the movies of 2011 in chronological order of US release dateIt's like flipping channels for snapshots of the film year! For those who like a challenge, I've written the film titles in invisible ink (you can highlight to see them) below the screencap. What kind of memories does this bring back? Do these tiny glimpses make you want to stop flipping channels and watch?

Jan | Feb | March | April

Part 5: May

You're nothing but a boy trying to prove himself a man!"

THOR

Mmmm. Now that... that feels good. That's a good one. That's a good one."

JUMPING THE BROOM... I still haven't made my mind up about Paula Patton. Have you?

Salvation is right here in my very hands. Authenticated by the clergy themselves. Purchase this holy water and keep your loved ones safe..."

PRIEST 

wedding rehearsals, scary fountains, yummy noodles and more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan022012

Best of Year Pt 2: Sweet 16 from Primordial Ooze to YA Novels

Part One: I Am Thirty Two Flavors 
Other pictures from 2011 that The Film Experience's year wouldn't have been complete without.

Part Two: Honorable Mentions
The year's best movies stretched all the way from the creation to the apocalypse and everywhen in between; time hardly seemed linear in 2011 but immeasurably flexible instead. The year's best films also twisted and shape-shifted in scale and meaning, wrapping big themes around human-sized packages.

THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
Fox Searchlight. May 27th. 
I really didn't know that our Burning Questions columnist Michael C felt so similarly about Terrence Malick's latest so two somewhat agnostic appreciations back-to-back were not intended here at The Film Experience. I greatly admire The Tree of Life's grandiose reach (the creation segment being my favorite chunk) and breathtaking physical beauty but often I felt like I was visiting an impenetrably random museum installation. Still... it's hard to shake the imagery and in a few key sequences -- children playing in poison clouds, brothers crying in tall grass, and especially in the different ways that Mrs O Brien (an ethereal Jessica Chastain) and Mr O'Brien (Brad Pitt's second great performance of the year... can we please give him an Oscar now, people?) touched and taught and looked at their children, the movie was fiercely moving.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Woody Allen)
Sony Pictures Classics. June 10th.
Let's not call it a comeback. Woody Allen has never gone away and his filmography runs the gamut between masterful and mediocre -- sometimes within the very same movie! What sets Midnight in Paris apart from the pack is a conceit so clever and insightful that it works both within the famed auteur's current limitations and as charming cover for them. It's okay that the present feels so tired and one note when hack screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) feels exactly this way about the life he's leading. It's definitely okay that the nostalgic past feels shallow and cartoony since nostalgia is fantasy, a very specific escapist (rear) projection. Quibbling is easy -- it's no Purple Rose of Cairo (an Allen masterwork treading somewhat similar ground) -- but why quibble when Corey Stoll is so funny as Hemingway, Adrien Brody is so amusing as Dali "Rhi-no-ce-ros" and Marion Cotillard's muse complicates the movie so beautifully by rejecting its message entirely and exiting the picture with so little fuss.

THE HOUSEMAID (Im Sang-soo)
IFC. January 21st. 
This erotic melodrama, a remake of a Korean classic (which I have yet to see), is either the year's most elegantly trashy soap opera or its most biting political metaphor for the carnivorous and consequence-free behavior of the super wealthy and the impotent dramatics of the working poor. Maybe both. Either way it's uncomfortably steamy, beautifully filmed, and superly acted (South Korea is where it's at for actresses these days. Period.) It's also unusually entertaining once the bad behavior and catfights begin. I watched it twice in one week when I first saw it and if my schedule weren't so tight, I'd do so again right now.

PARIAH (Dee Rees)
Focus Features. December 28th. 
Two important new voices emerged in queer cinema this year, writer/directors Dee Rees and Andrew Haigh (his Weekend up later in the countdown). Both filmmakers previously directed one documentary-style feature so they weren't in the discussions of "best debuts" but what debuts these narrative features were! Coming out stories are a staple of gay cinema but few of them have carved out as much emotional nuance from raw feeling. Pariah has so much feeling for its characters that it occassional gets distracted with tangential subplots but better too much genuine feeling than not enough of it or the poorly manufactured variety. This story of a shy closeted lesbian high school student (Adepere Oduye, just wonderful) in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood just aches with emotion and, best of all, future possibility. You find yourself wondering about Alike's journey after the movie ends. The best characters, gay or otherwise, live beyond the end credits [Best LGBT characters of 2011]

SHAME (Steve McQueen)
Fox Searchlight. December 2nd. 
Brandon only has room for one thing in his life. His apartment and office are as barren as his emotional life. Michael Fassbender enters the picture on a naked loop as he travels from bed to phone to bathroom, one day being any day and every day empty but for bodily functions and the pursuit of the next fix. It's the first of many smart decisions that Steve McQueen, one of the most exciting new cinematic voices to emerge in the past decade (see also: Hunger), makes in this visually spare but daringly operatic take on addiction. Shame isn't perfect -- for every "New York New York" segment -- a telepathic conversation? a sung monologue? --  there's another moment that's too on the nose. The best thing about Shame is McQueen's voyeuristic addiction to the contact high of great actors. His camera stalks them ceaselessly but wisely never gets in their way, freezing in place to watch them work their inimitable magic.

YOUNG ADULT (Jason Reitman)
Paramount. December 9th
The first painful chortle of recognition I experienced watching Young Adult was the ease at which YA writer Mavis Gary (a brilliant Charlize Theron) became distracted from her work. A sentence or two, tops, was all she could manage before she was on to more pressing things like e-mail, Diet Coke, pet care (of sorts), and other absent-minded rituals. Sigh. I know the feeling on all counts. It was the first chortle of many. Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who previously made Juno together, make another compelling case for continued partnership here in this diamond sharp perfectly condensed comedy about prolongued adolescence, untreated mental illness, and terrible cultural values (note how Mavis isn't the only one who worships her skin-deep beauty or encourages her self delusions). 

P.S. It took me half an hour to write that paragraph and it's not even a good one! Thankfully I did not hatch any plan as spectacularly ill conceived as "return to hometown. steal ex-boyfriend away from wife and infant daughter" during the fitful pauses. 

and now... the top ten.