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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


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Entries in musicals (204)

Tuesday
Feb182014

12 Days Til Oscar: Best Picture Nominations by the Dozen

Tim here, with your daily dose of Oscar numerology. We’re now in the third year of the Academy’s undoubtedly well-intentioned "some random number that always turns out to be nine" approach to selecting Best Picture nominees, and for some of us, this is irritatingly arbitrary. But it could be so much worse. Think of how awful it must have been to been a rabid Oscar fanatic in the first decade of the award’s existence: depending on the year, there were anywhere from three to twelve Best Picture nominees, until it was finally nailed down at a nice, round ten at the 9th Academy Awards, for the year 1936.

The magic number of the day being 12, I'd like you to join me, for a closer look at 1934, the first of two years with 12 nominated films (for space reasons, I am alas compelled to leave 1935 to fend for itself) - the first year, as well, that the awards corresponded to a single calendar year. What can we learn about the Academy’s tastes and habits down the decades from each of these?

BEST PICTURE It Happened One Night (released by Columbia)
What It Is: One of the greatest of all screwball comedies, in which the sexily odd-looking pair of Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable cross country and banter.
The Slot It Fills:
The long-abandoned "comedies are a valid form of artistic expression like anything else" spot. But, of course, the period in which the film came out was unusually good at producing top-notch comedies starring the best movie stars of the day.

Only 11 more slots to fill after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb112014

Shirley Temple Black, 1928-2014

Here's the last kind of news you want to hear, first thing in the morning. Shirley Temple Black, the quintessential child star, has passed away at 85 years old.

Temple's career exploded at the sage old age of 5, when she appeared in a string of massively successful hits for 20th Century Fox in 1934, including Little Miss Marker, Baby Take a Bow, and Bright Eyes. So fast and so complete was her success, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created a brand new award that year just so that she could receive it, the non-competitive Special Oscar for best juvenile performance. She appeared in a shocking number of films throughout the 1930s, dominating the box office and generally making everybody much less depressed that there was a Depression on. Her career continued strongly until 1949, with the actress still appearing in classics like The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and John Ford's Fort Apache even as an adult. In later years, she was the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, in addition to sitting on the boards of a number of corporations.

To most of us, though, her name was and will remain fixed to a very particular idea of childish exuberance, the round cheeks and curly hair of pre-adolescent innocence at its most bubbly and aggressively charming. Temple, in the 1930s, was one of the all-time iconic movie stars, an instantly-familiar face with an immediately-recognizable personality even to people who'd never think to watch one of her movies.

 


It's easy to assume that her stardom was based on being abnormally cute and able to carry a tune, but even in her earliest starring roles, she had a gift for comic timing and a distinctly clever streak that keeps her roles from getting too sacharine. She was, by any standards that have ever fairly applied to a pre-teen, a genuinely good actress and commanding screen presence, on top of being a darling moppet.

We've lost a lot of terrific actors in the last couple of months, but with Temple we've lost more than that. This morning marks the passing of one of the few genuine Hollywood legends left to us, and everyone who loves movies is a bit poorer for it.

Friday
Feb072014

Open Thread

We haven't done one of these in so long. Here's an open thread so tell us: What's on your cinematic mind?Any movie topic is welcome. I'm cooking up some things for you to take us through the Oscars and into March -- I think you're going to love March and April if you stick around so please do.

I myself keep fantasizing about this version of Frozen they were thinking of with a Bette Midler style Elsa. Just try to imagine it... Suddenly "Let it Go..." is a comic diva number of some sort and "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" gets turned into a bitchy retort duet.

Wednesday
Jan292014

We Can't Wait #6: Into the Woods

[Editor's Note: We Can't Wait is a Team Experience series, in which we highlight our top 14 most anticipated films of 2014. Here's abstew on" Into the Woods"]

Into the Woods
Director Rob Marshall tries his (jazz) hand at another movie musical based on the popular Broadway show. The film centers around a Baker and his Wife who have been cursed by a Witch to remain childless. To break the spell, the couple must go "into the woods" to bring back certain objects. Along the way, they encounter classic characters from fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack (he of the famed Beanstalk).

Cast & Crew
The sprawling cast is a mix of movie stars (Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife, Meryl Streep as the Witch, Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, and Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf), Broadway performers (Tony winner James Corden as the Baker, Lilla Crawford, from Broadway's latest revival of Annie, as Little Red, Tony nominee Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince), and talented individuals at home in any medium (Christine Baranski as Cinderella's Stepmother, Tracy Ullman as Jack's Mother, and 2014's "It" movie musical star, Oscar and Tony nominee, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella). [more...]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan252014

We Can't Wait #11: The Last 5 Years

[Editor's Note: We Can't Wait is a Team Experience series, in which we highlight our top 14 most anticipated films of 2014. Here's Jose Solis on The Last 5 Years.]

The Last 5 Years
A musical based on Jason Robert Brown's Off Broadway sensation about a crumbling young marriage which is told forward and backward in time simultaneously

Talent
Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick and stage star Jeremy Jordan (Newsies and Bonnie and Clyde on Broadway, Smash on TV)

Why We Can't Wait
When Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years debuted in 2001, the composer probably never expected his intimate musical (based on his relationship with ex-wife Theresa O'Neill) to become the theater sensation it would turn out to be. Although it was never Cats or Phantom-like in its success (the show has never actually been done on Broadway) the Chicago production and its subsequent Off-Broadway staging turned stars Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott into the doomed-lovers-of-choice of myriad theater geeks who still show up audition after audition carrying the music and lyrics to "Goodbye Until Tomorrow".

Brown's musical, with its complex structure and twists, always had a cinematic feel to it and dreams for a film version were only marred by the knowledge that Hollywood would screw an adaptation by hiring movie stars with no voices. Then suddenly it seemed as if the theater gods aligned all the stars when news came that musical veterans Kendrick and Jordan would play the leads.

Even though new musicals are rarely written for the screen any more, The Last 5 Years has the advantage of being unfamiliar enough to broader audiences that it will feel like it's completely fresh. After her success in dramedies (did you love her as much as I did in Drinking Buddies?), Billboard and the web, Oscar nominee Kendrick might finally have the year we've all been hoping she'd have with this and her role in Into the Woods, while Jordan has a face and a voice that were just made to have people fall in love with him the moment they see/hear him.

But the one thing making me some fans doubtful is the show's director Richard LaGravenese who, apologies to his fans, hasn't directed anything decent since Living Out Loud sixteen years ago. His latest adaptations (Water for Elephants and Beautiful Creatures) have left much to be desired and most of his movies aimed at romance lovers have resulted in corny snoozefests that range from the preposterous (P.S. I Love You) to the utter and completely dull (The Horse Whisperer) but then you think of Holly Hunter in Loud, that advance screening in mid-December and especially about the magic of Brown's music (I'm already sobbing thinking about it) and you realize that yeah, this one might do just fine.

Previously: #12 Gone Girl | #13 Can a Song Save Your Life |  #14 Veronica Mars | Introduction

Friday
Jan242014

Sundance: Putting the T in LGBT Cinema

From the Sundance Film Festival here is Glenn on three great new editions to LGBT cinema.

One of my goals for my first trip to Sundance was to see as much LGBT cinema as possible. This year has proven to be particularly strong in this arena with films like Ira Sachs’ recently acquired Love is Strange and Desiree Akhavan’s ought-to-be acquired Appropriate Behaviour covering the “l”, the "g" and the “b” of that acronym and are soon to be reviewed by Nathaniel. I, however, found myself catching three very strong titles that deal with transgender men and women, which took me especially by surprise. Like Gun Hill Road, Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, Orange is the New Black and, yes, even Dallas Buyers Club, cinema visibility of trans issues are becoming more and more common and, in the case all three films below, feature actual transgender or gender neutral personalities. This, dear readers, is what we call a winner.

Please note that people who identify as gender variant or without gender go by the pronoun “they”.

A Canadian docu-musical, an Australian coming-of-age drama, and a Robert Reford production after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan222014

Sundance Stills: The Voices, War Story, Song One

One can never be fully caught up at festivals but one does what one can. So today, three quick takes on movies I saw yesterday during a five-film day. Let's use their festival guide images as a framing device just because I always find it interesting which images movies use to promote themselves, don't you?

THE VOICES
This still from Marjane Satrapi's (Persepolis) horror comedy looks nondescript enough until you pair the title with a man looking at his cat. Yes, they're "talking". The cat is the Scottish brogued "Mr Whiskers" and like 99% of cats in films he is unrepentantly evil. (Can we form a Anti-Cat Defamation Cinematic League or something?) And then you notice the woman's head (Gemma Arterton's to be precise) to the left. Gross! One thing you don't get at all from this still is the film's hard working production design, which is relentlessly candy colored (bright pink is favored) and stylized. The whole film mirrors the strainuous commitment of the design elements but it's hard to know what possessed anyone to be involved let alone give it their all (I've never seen Ryan Reynold work this hard to put a performance over. Why use all that energy now on this?). It's cutesy and gruesome simultaneously which is an unwise and at time repulsive thing to attempt to pull off... but I should admit that the production design really works in the moments when it slides mercilessly off the cliff between from one moment to the other (Jerry's warped fantasies and the actual situation) as in a scene after his first kill when he starts taking his medication and we're back in reality. But still, this "comedy" about a man-boy who works at a hot pink toilet factory, eats at a Chinese restaurant with live Elvis shows, and lives above an abandoned bowling alley where he chops up women is largely unfunny. That last sentence should give you a clue as to what the movie feels like. It's like being stabbed to death by tweeness. The Voices is not even comfortable with being scary. This marks the first time I ever walked out of movie during a happy end credits musical dance sequence... starring Anna Kendrick (and other cast members) no less! In my defense this brightly lit comic number also featured an actor playing Jesus. Grade: D? F?... or maybe it's an "A" cult movie and I just didn't get it?  Distribution: Not that I'm aware of but I'm sure it'll get something. Maybe a VOD future?

SONG ONE
This image features Franny (Anne Hathaway) falling for her brother's favorite musician James Forester (Johnny Flynn) while her brother lies in a coma. Very specific plot set up that.  I had to brighten it in photoshop so you could actually see the image which just gives a sense at how dangerously low key this film is for a festival bow. I saw it in the middle of a five film day and fought off sleep (others succumbed to the sandman without shame) but I actually think it's good if extremely modest. But relatively calm romantic dramas about women and dreamy alt-folk musicians are probably asking for it with exhausted legions of film critics who -- I'm stereotyping but I see it all the time --  prefer harrowing and heavily masculine films to anything gentle and feminine. The big selling point is the return of Anne Hathaway (what a perfect movie face she has - all anime sized eyes and expressive memorable mouth) and the films song score by Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice (mostly performed by Johnny Flynn). If the movie gets a release I hope it campaigns hard for Best Original Song nominations next year. Weirdly, Anne Hathaway only sings twice and only in off-hand character beat ways, though the movie has a lot of performance scenes. In fact the film it most reminded me of was Michael Winterbottom's Nine Songs only instead of pornography inbetween each musical number there was low key family grief and a tentative 'help me through this' love story.
Grade: B/B- Distribution: Not at the moment. It's appeal is surely very limited but with no brainer marketing hooks like Hathaway and all the great music, why not a small distributor? 

 

 

WAR STORY 
Finally let's wrap up with Catherine Keener in a Mark Jackson movie about a war photographer named Lee who is shown abrasively walking and talking and wandering about in Italy. (Does Keener ever do anything non-abrasively any more?) Lee has clearly lost her mojo, is hugely depressed (a companion was recently killed, execution style, in front of her) and is searching for new purpose while avoiding loved ones on the telephone. The image above features her listening to a conversation in the street. Or maybe thinking one of her many dark thoughts. That lack of information is representative of the movie but the image isn't since Keener's massive helmet of hair is not covering her facial expressions. I found the movie maddeningly withholding in nearly all ways: narratively, visually and emotionally. Sometimes the focus on Keener in profile (essentially just a side shot of brown hair with occasional glimpse of her nose) was so tight that I couldn't even tell what she was doing in the frame. In one disposable lengthy shot, for example, I thought she might be staring at a vending machine indecisively and then she did something with her hands (offscreen) but the image was too hard to understand and the next cut didn't clear up what had just transpired. I couldn't find any way into the movie so it was inert for me as a drama, despite possibly intriguing dramatic elements like Keener's fascinating with a Libyan refugee seeking an abortion or a late film visit to a former friend (Ben Kingsley). One minor caveat, i was a bit late to the movie (I am very rarely late to a movie) so perhaps the opening scene explained everything but given the filmmaking elsewhere I highly doubt it. Grade: D; Distribution: Unlikely unless Keener and Kingsley is enough

Which of these are you most interested in and what was your last triple feature?

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