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Entries in musicals (340)


Judy by the Numbers: "Take My Hand, Paree"

This week's number is hands down the weirdest entry in Judy's filmography. It doesn't fit neatly into Judy's biography or star image; it really appears to be one of those things that happened because the timing was right. In 1962, Warner Bros released a UPA animated feature called Gay Purr-ee. It's a movie about Parisian cats that feels like An American in Paris meets The Aristocats as played by the Looney Tunes. In a bit of early celebrity stunt casting UPA cast two big voices for its dimunitive feline leads: Judy Garland and Robert Goulet. 

The Movie: Gay Purr-ee (WB, 1962)
The Songwriters: Harold Arlen (music) & E.Y. Yarburg (lyrics)
The Cast: Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold, Paul Frees, Mel Blanc, directed by Abe Levitow.

The Story: Gay Purr-ee really needs to be seen to be believed. Done in the limited-animation style of UPA, the movie sets jittering characters against beautifully drawn backgrounds. As the casting of Mel Blanc may have tipped some readers off, the movie was actually produced and co-written by famous Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones. (Jones was fired from Warner Bros after making this film as he had violated his contract with them.) However, though the movie is occasionally stunning, it lacks the focused insanity of Jones's animated shorts.

Judy is credited with having brought her "Over the Rainbow" songwriters onto the film. Despite this, neither the film nor the soundtrack did well. When the film fizzled, Judy continued her successful touring schedule. However, another new opportunity was about to present itself to her.


Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Get Down"

We cannot catch a break here at TFE Headquarters this week (honesty this summer. Uff) so this one will be brief. If you haven't yet seen Baz Luhrmann's latest, the first half of a first season of a show about the birth of hiphop called "The Get Down" have at it. Due to time constraints we've only watched the first episode but it delivered on the Baz-ness that we have so desperately missed.

Here's my choice for best shot with commentary after the jump...

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Best Shot/Best Costume: "Les Girls"

For this week's episode of our cinematography series Hit Me With Your Best Shot we wanted a slight curveball as a way to celebrate the release of the Costume Design documentary Women He's Undressed. It's now available to rent on iTunes or purchase on other digital platforms. (Jose's interview with the director here). The film is about the legendary Orry-Kelly, who designed a truckload of classic Hollywood features and stars, and won three Oscars in the 1950s for An American in Paris, Les Girls  and Some Like It Hot.  So those playing "Best Shot" this week could choose any of those three. I watched Les Girls since it gets the least attention and they even use its image for the documentary's poster (left).

Les Girls  (George Cukor, 1957) is not well remembered today but curiously it reminds us yet again that mainstream Hollywood in the 50s and 60s paid a lot of attention to foreign auteurs and absorbed (or ripped off - you be the judge) their styles and conceits. The semi-musical (a few dance numbers mainly) concerns a libel lawsuit involving a former showbiz act "Barry Nichols and Les Girls" and in the courtroom we hear three different versions of the group's break up in Paris. In each of the stories Barry Nichols (Gene Kelly) gets mixed up romantically with a different girl (America's Mitzi Gaynor, Britain's Kay Kendall, and Finland's Taina Elg) and their musical act eventually implodes. It's clearly modelled on Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon (1950) which had taken an Honorary Oscar from the Academy earlier that decade.

Taina Elg quits dancing in Les Girls (1957)

So let's choose a best shot and a best costume after the jump. Happily my three favorite shots come from each of the film's three acts...

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1.E11-12)

Congratulations to Rachel Bloom for winning "individual achievement in Comedy" for Crazy Ex Girlfriend at the Television Critics Association Awards today!

As we continue our Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 1 recap, we finally come to the place where we all knew things were headed right from the pilot: Rebecca finally makes such a massive error that Josh realizes that something's not right. And there's no way she can avoid it.

S1. E11: "That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!"

Rebecca mistakenly sends a text meant for Paula to Josh, and rushes out to save herself by deleting the text before Josh sees it, while Paula attempts to rekindle the spark in her marriage...

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Judy by the Numbers: "The Faraway Part of Town"

After the critical and financial disappointment of A Star Is Born (1954), Judy took another hiatus from moviemaking. While she continued an active concert touring schedule, and began popping up on television on occasion, exhaustion, disappointment and illness kept her from another film. It took an old friend to coax her back into movies, in the weirdest cameo of her career.

The Movie: Pepe (Columbia, 1960)
The Songwriters: Dory Previn (lyrics), Andre Previn (music)
The Cast: Cantinflas, Shirley Jones, Dan Dailey, directed by George Sidney

(A cleaner version with proper aspect ratios can be found here.)

The Story: Cantinflas was already a beloved megastar of Mexican cinema by the time he made a splash in Around the World in 80 Days. Hoping to capitalize on a new opportunity, Columbia cast him in Pepe, and added cameos by 35 Hollywood stars just in case the Mexican comedian didn't pan out.

Judy was one of the 35 cameos. Originally coaxed on board by her former director, George Sidney, Judy was just recovering from hepatitus when the movie began shooting. Columbia reduced her cameo to a singing one, either for health reasons or because they were afraid she'd gained too much weight. At any rate, this may have inadvertently saved Judy - the movie bombed, but she ended up with an Academy Award nominated hit. 

Regardless of the rest of the film's legacy or reception, there is something truly trippy in the best way about watching a Mexican comedian dance with the current Hollywood "it" soprano (and future Mrs. Partridge) to a Judy Garland number. It sums up the strange transition period that was early '60s Hollywood better than any other clip I can think of. It worked in Judy's favor, too. The next year, Judy Garland was awarded a Golden Globe for lifetime contribution to American film. However, her contributions weren't over yet. She was about to give one of the most devastating performances of her career.


Pete's Dragon - 1977 and Now

Our year of the month is 1977! Here's Chris looking back on Pete's Dragon...

As Disney has been increasingly revisiting their classics in live action, big budget form, the resulting films have revealed the evolution of family storytelling over the decades. Cinderella showed an increased emphasis on character, while this year's The Jungle Book was an example of the shift towards realism even in fantastical, unrealistic settings. While these rehashings are becoming old hat already, one of the most exciting films still to come this summer is the remake of 1977's Pete's Dragon.

The recent Disney revamps have extrapolated upon or directly lifted from their original source films, but the first glimpses of Pete's Dragon have already revealed a sharp turn in tone. Again, they are trading in a more modestly minded lark for larger spectacle. If nothing else, the creation of the dragon Elliott embodies the shift from traditional animation to digital imagery.

Rewatching the original is almost a shock as an adult - it's far more absurd and loose than you might remember...

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1.E7-8)

Dancin' Dan here taking over for Nathaniel a bit on the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend beat. This time out: crazy guest stars, crazy accents, and crazy mothers!

S1:E7 "I'm So Happy That Josh Is So Happy!"

Feeling depressed about Josh moving in with Valencia, Rebecca screws up a pitch to win the firm a new client. But that new client only has eyes for Paula. Meanwhile, Josh gathers his bros to try to do something nice for Valencia while moving in to their new place. Let's rank the crazy after the jump!

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