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Yes No Maybe So - Big Eyes

"The trailer won me over with two phrases:
1) "Lady art doesn't sell".
2) "I've been lying to my daughter".
- Adri

"A Tim Burton movie with the title Big Eyes that features neither Ricci, Ryder, Keaton nor Bonham Carter just doesn't seem right..." -Paul



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Entries in MPAA (13)


Throwback Thursday FYC: Uma in Henry & June (1990)

The Film Experience time travels so consistently between the now, the future, the distant past and the recent past that Throwback Thursday, that grand internet tradition, hasn't meant much. But then a lightbulb - "Throwback Thursday... Oscar Campaigns"

Remember Henry & June (1990)? Oscar and Uma anecdotes after the jump...

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Twins: Eva Green and... 

each day at 2:22 a twin post dedicated to all you Geminis reading - one of us... one of us...!

Eva Green keeps winning the spotlight in 2014. In March she took every MVP notice for 300: Rise of an Empire (though I must ask 'was their competition for that title, really?). In May she headlined the premiere of the new Showtime series Penny Dreadful (which we briefly discussed here). Right on the heels of that her hotness made the MPAA all sweaty again (they freaked out over her film debut as well) and they vowed that her character poster for Sin City: A Dame To Kill For woudl never see the inside of theaters. They've since changed the poster to get it approved. (They are so reliably weird.)

Eva's fanbase is ever growing but she's still mysterious onscreen and off. Did you know she has a twin?

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M Battles the MPAA 

Look, we're all well aware of Harvey Weinstein's history with Oscar campaigning. It's known, it's out there, they've even written books about it. So let's not pretend we're all delicate petals who are shocked by the man's efforts at drumming up heat for his annual roster of year-end awards contenders. Every studio does, most just don't do it on quite the same scale. And let's face it, sometimes his schemes are for the greater good to allow films to be discovered by more audiences. Having said that, however, I think we can all agree that he has well and truly outdone himself this time.

The story is still developing - we'll be sure to share the entire video when it surfaces on Funny or Die - but Harvey Weinstein appeared on CBS This Morning  yesterday to launch a campaign against Philomena's R rating from the MPAA due its use of "two f words". He uses words like "gentle", "humour" and "joy" to describe  Philomena  whilst comparing it to The King's Speech, which also went through a very public ratings controversy. None of this is news. Who he recruited to do battle with the Motion Picture Association of America, on the other hand, is news. Oh boy, is it news. Strange news. Odd news. Just watch for yourself.

That's right, M! Back from the grave of Skyfall's manor, Judi Dench in character as James Bond's boss has come out swinging. To quote Harvey himself on the TV, there's a "Kafka-esque absurdity" to it, don't you think? The MPAA may be able to resist Harvey, but can they resist Dench? Goodness gracious. Oscar season just entered a whole new level. We're through the looking glass, people. This is almost as good as the time David Lynch took to the streets of LA with a cow to campaign for Laura Dern and Inland Empire! As mentioned before, there's more to come, but this is the teaser that Harvey premiered yesterday. I think we can all agree that we're looking forward to seeing how this story develops.

And because I know y'all love you some Julie Andrews...



Did You Gag on "Killer Joe"?

My screenings these past two weeks -- cram session! -- to complete year end business, have been like one wild tonal shift after another swinging as they have from meta rib-nudging (Seven Psycopaths) to the hormonally twee (Take This Waltz), severely depressed (Oslo August 31st) and on through the defiantly stiff and self-medicated (The Deep Blue Sea)... I can't possibly write about them all. But I did feel the night to blurt out (choke out?) a few sentences on William Friedkin's Killer Joe based on the play of the same name by Tracy Letts.

Friedkin and Letts aren't quite joined at the hip as collaborators go despite the Oscar winning filmmaker taking the cinematic reigns on both Bug and Joe. Letts most acclaimed play August: Osage County went to another filmmaker though it's fascinating to think what Friedkin might have done with the material. He is, after all, at least as willing as Letts to attack his material with edgy flair, wicked humor and artistic abandon... for better and worse.

[NC17 madness and two SPOILER images after the jump]

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The Seven Link Itch

LA Times Michael Clarke Duncan (Oscar nominated for The Green Mile) dies at 54.
Badass Digest Devin charts the evolution of the MPAA system and offers up an idea for a revamp
Gawker Russell Crowe in a spot of trouble kayaking is rescued by the Coast Guard. I feel like we need a Noah joke here but I can't think of one. 
First Showing plot details (read at your own risk) for the new Spike Jonze film Her. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with a computer voice.

Salon interviews the hilarious Retta on her Parks & Recreation scene stealing "Treat Yo Self" and her popular TV crazy twitter feed 
Movie|Line George Clooney's 1986 Tiger Beat profile!
Movie|Line interviews For a Good Time, Call... director Jamie Travis. Had I known it was Jamie Travis I woulda been first in line to see that film! Love love love his short films. (You may remember I embarrassed myself geeking out on him at the Nashville Film Festival.) Did any of you see that comedy this weekend? Next Friday is quite the girlie risque weekend with this film expanding and Bachelorette and Hello, I Must Be Going all opening. I officially declare September 7th "Girls Gone Wild" day.

...however should we celebrate?

Finally... with Telluride wrapping up and Venice and Toronto hitting the ground, reactions are flying fast and furious when it comes to fall Oscar hopefuls. More on that once I've collected my thoughts and recorded tonight's podcast (you heard me)...


Another "Prometheus" Mystery: Will There Be Oscar Play?

Ridley Scott's Alien franchise prequel Prometheus should probably be a film I take great objection to. The first reason I ever loved the series (beyond Lt. Ellen Ripley, queen of all action heroines) was how it doubled as an ever evolving adventurous launch pad for young auteurs. It's got the same premise virtually every time so you sit back and immediately see the director's vision in sharp relief against each previous or subsequent film. Even the lesser entries in the series have this to recommend them and in the 90s, even after Alien Ressurection I wanted them to keep making Alien films so we could see it through the different set of rising auteur eyes each time. I didn't really want Ridley Scott to go back for this reason. I especially didn't want him to go back back. Backstory and prequels -- conceptually, they are like safety nets for the imagination. Don't be afraid of wondering... we'll catch you!

Where is the mystery? Or rather, why don't people want more of it. Why do you they want so many answers?

Thankfully, Prometheus doesn't rob the Alien franchise of all of its mystery and magic. It's not midi-chlorian level obnoxious. And given the screenplay and execution, for better and worse, the new film creates its own mysteries. Some or these are intentional and some surely not, some internal some external. What did David⁸ say to The Engineer in the penultimate sceneIs the MPAA's request that Ridley Scott remove the entire abortion sequence -- not so coincidentally the strongest sequence in the film -- the dumbest thing they've done since Blue Valentine's NC17? Or is it just the thousandth priceless example of how aesthetically stupid they remain and or the millionth piece of case evidence that they should never be allowed anywhere near art!

This week since I know I desperately need to update the Oscar predictions I've been thinking of another Prometheus-specific mystery. Will it have an awards future? [Aliens & Oscars after the jump]

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Someday My Link Will Come...

The Playlist P.T. Anderson's The Master is coming on October 12th. Five long years for a new PT.
Gawker Rich Juzwiak on the reign of PG-13 "safe, sanitized, and worth shitloads of money"
Cinema Blend "the envy of lady bookworms everywhere"... Mia Wasikowska moves from Jane Eyre to Madame Bovary.
Empire has an hour long interview w/  General Zod himself Terence Stamp.
La Daily Musto "Newsies is the new Annie" love that headline for this review of the film turned stage musical.

Movie|Line apparently Leonardo DiCaprio was just too busy to attend the Titanic 3D premiere. James, Kate and Billy made the time.
WOW Dakota Fanning in Wonderland magazine. She's looking a bit Carol Kane, yes?
Thought Killer an imagined conversation between four girl icons: Buffy, Bella, Hermione and Katniss from Hunger Games
The Capitol Interesting piece on Jennifer Lawrence and the career she might have if she plays her hand well.

Her presence is palpably earthy and unfussy, reminiscent of Ingrid Bergman, another natural beauty who seemed uninterested in playing up her looks.


Flavorwire on the music used in Hunger Games (strangely much of the score is not on the soundtrack album 
Zephyr A must for horror fans: what horror icons from the past might look like today. 
Old Hollywood awesome storyboards from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

NPR Snow White is having a moment. Why now?

... and I suppose this as as good a time as any to announced that I'm taking Jorge's suggestion. We'll do Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for the April 11th Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  If you join in your prince will come. Someday. Promise.


"Shame" on the Ratings System?

Anyone familiar with the basic history of the MPAA ratings board could have predicted it before seeing the movie. Anyone familiar with the concept and players of Shame, Steve McQueen's NYC-based drama about a sex addict (Michael Fassbender) and his self-destructive sister (Carey Mulligan) could have predicted its eventual NC-17 rating without seeing it. It's official now. I predicted this was coming the moment I first heard they were making the movie -- McQueen's previous picture Hunger didn't pull any punches so why would he, uh, pull any thrusting? -- but this shot of Michael Fassbender, naked, haunted and corpselike in his own bed -- I believe it is the film's first shot though perhaps my memory is tricking me? - confirmed it for me.

You see, it's always about the power of the images and what they suggest. Sexually, I mean. Show the ratings board any brutality and they won't flinch... or at least they haven't much at all since Natural Born Killers (1994) which initally received an NC-17 for its violent content. (If I recall correctly, Oliver Stone only had to edit out a comic point-of-view shot through a gaping gun shot wound to get the R)

The MPAA, those watchdogs of American consumerism will always allow you the freedom to be a bad parent and take your kids to see nightmarish violence. How many beheadings have we seen in recent R rated films? Every week on The Walking Dead (basic cable, no parental supervision required) you can see multiple face stabbings, beheadings, shootings, and limbs torn asunder. How many torture porn movies have bad parents been allowed to haul their young'uns too? But show the ratings board any "strong" sexuality and America's ancient puritanic DNA will start their blood boiling.

Which is not to say that I don't approve of Shame's official NC-17 rating. I think it's an appropriate rating. There's no reason why someone under 17, unless they were unusually mature for their age or suffering from their own addiction (the Oscar kind. We've all been there: "i must see all films with Oscar buzz!") would have an intense desire to see it or would get much out of it.  The problem lies not in the NC-17 rating itself; it's perfectly acceptable, even worthwhile, to have an "adult's only" rating. The problem is in the MPAA's puritanism about the rating, the way they wield it, and in American puritanism surrounding sexuality in general.

Here, from the MPAA's own site are the official descriptions of what constitutes R and NC-17 ratings.

Note that the NC-17...

does not mean "obscene or pornographic".... and should not be construed as a negative judgment."

and that it says that the rating...

can be based on violence, sex, abberational behavior or drug abuse"

When was the last time a movie was ever given an NC-17 rating for anything other than sex?

Abberational behavior, as the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated made clear, is a catch-all phrase that basically also means "sex" but particularly of the homosexual persuasion or of that other grotesque affront to patriarchal cultural values: a woman's pleasure. That must see documentary made a very compelling case that for a film to win an R rating, a woman must NOT be seen enjoying herself too much. Closeups of a woman's face in an orgasmic state (no nudity possible in those shots unless she's got really strange anatomy) have often led to NC-17 ratings. This is especially true if the man is in a subservient position (note the frequency of NC-17 decisions where cunninlingus is involved  -- hi Blue Valentine!. Edit out a woman's face -- or, better yet, chop off her head in the first place-- and you'll never have to worry about an NC-17. 

Enter Shame. It's an interesting case because even if Steve McQueen were willing to edit down to an "R" there is no pleasure that could be edited out. The film is about sexual addiction and most movies about addiction skimp on the pleasure principle. I suppose you'd have to remove the "aberrational" behavior from Shame for an R. And given how loosely the MPAA defines that, it would become a short film... or at the very least a much shorter film since you'd have to edit out the entire darkly operatic sexual abandonment finale and probably all shots of Michael Fassbender's ginormous wang.

When NC-17s were first given filmmakers complained that it meant that there film wouldn't be seen. Many newspapers refused to run ads (punitive) and many theater chains refused to exhibit them (punitive) which is a shame considering the rating...

should not be construed as a negative judgment."

But again... the problem is not the rating, which is a perfectly valid one in this movies case. It's that that other ratings mean so little and this rating means only sex.

Each week I'm alarmed to see on TV what you could only see in R rated movies in the 80s. The Walking Dead and just about every procedural would have (easily) been rated R for violence just 30 years ago. Now we ingest violence like oxygen. If the R means nothing... why does the NC-17 still have such stigma? Why is American culture still so mortified by things it sees in the mirror every day and enjoys using regularly (I've never seen you naked but I'm guessing you have either a penis or a vagina, and that you've occasionally used / enjoyed it) and still so wildly accepting of something that most of us would never ever want anyone we love to encounter in real life (beheadings, massacres, shootings)? Even more troubling, why are we so flippant about bombarding young children with violence and so terrified that they might catch a glimpse of the sexuality that awaits them when they themselves become adults? 

You can ask these questions until you turn blue and there are never any suitable answers... or at least no forthcoming solutions. Perhaps we're just self-destructive as a species, in love with things that only harm us and afraid of things that can actually bring us joy.

I think we owe it to Steve McQueen and future filmmakers to pay for Shame in the theaters. And I hope the Academy voters realize they owe it to future filmmakers to give NC-17 a real fighting chance. Artists need to have the option of creating art for other adults and adults need art that is specifically for them. Man cannot live on Disney alone. And contrary to the handwringing doomsday scenarios of all articles on the NC-17 rating, it isn't actually the kiss of death financially. Several films released with NC-17 or as "unrated" have done fairly well for themselves given the narrow arthouse margins they were already going to be working within.

Some stats to send you on your violence-loving, sex-hating way. (sorry to confuse you with the MPAA and John Q Public.)

Top Grossing NC-17 Films in US Release
1. Showgirls (1995) $20 million
2. Henry & June (1990) $11 million 
3. The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover (1990) $7.7
4. Bad Education (2004) $5.2 million  
5. Lust Caution (2007) $4.6  

Oscar Nominations For NC-17 Films
Henry & June (1990) best cinematography

and yes... I believe that's it. Just one nomination for all NC-17 films. Does Oscar disrespect the rating even more than the MPAA? Can Shame be the game changer the industry and the Oscars need when it comes to filmmaking for adults?