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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 | letterboxd


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what did you see this weekend?

"Well, I saw MOMMY on Saturday, and it kind of spoiled my Sunday movie-going, it was so good. " - Bill

"THE SKELETON TWINS. Darker than advertised." -Charlie G

"MAPS TO THE STARS at the cinema. It's certainly very "Cronenberg", satyrical and darkly funny...and Julianne Moore is absolute dynamite. It must have been so much fun for her! - Carlos

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Entries in My Fair Lady (7)


Podcast Pt 1: A Smackdown Conversation w/ Melanie Lynskey

Presenting... for the first time ever a Smackdown Companion Podcast

A couple of months ago Joe suggested that we add a podcast segment or more conversation somehow to the Smackdown which by necessity has brief capsules from each panelist. And why not? There is always so much more to discuss after you've watched five Oscar-favored films from any given year.

So for this special tryout episode of the podcast (let us know if we should do it again for 1973) Nathaniel welcomes back the actress Melanie Lynskey, the original creator of the Smackdowns Brian Herrera (aka StinkyLulu), and regular podcast voices Joe Reid and Nick Davis. Our conversation ran long so it's in two segments.

Smackdown 1964 - A Companion Conversation Pt. 1
00:01 Introductions
01:00 Melanie on talking acting with other actors and one director's "witchcraft"
05:00 Zorba the Greek and undiagnosed cognitive disorders
11:45 Nick and Nathaniel share personal memories of My Fair Lady
16:20 Demystifying the mystifying Gladys Cooper nomination
19:00 The Chalk Garden. Melanie on connecting with the other actor in a scene.
24:00 Divisive Deborah Kerr (who starred in two of the features we watched)
30:00 To Be Continued...  

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

Smackdown 64 Companion. Part One


Smackdown 1964: Agnes, Lila, Gladys, Grayson and Dame Edith

Behold the Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1964: two wealthy matriarchs with strained relations to their children, one desperate widow who would very much like relations of any kind, an irritable church group leader watching your every move and one sweaty possessive housekeeper lurking around the corner.


Moorehead, Evans, Kedrova, Cooper, Hall 

1964's shortlist is one of the most senior in any acting category ever with an average age of 61. This 50 year old Oscar contest also acted as a finale for three enduring character actresses who Hollywood adored (Cooper, Evans, and Moorehead) but never quite enough at the right time to hand them the gold man. (In truth Dame Edith Evans, who did not attend the ceremony, was nominated one last time and quite deservedly for The Whisperers but that nomination is sadly almost as forgotten as the confused woman she masterfully played.) 


The actress Melanie Lynskey (Happy Christmas, Heavenly Creatures) joins returning panelists Joe Reid, Nick Davis, Nathaniel R, Stinkylulu and You! We also tabulate reader votes and quotes from those ballots appear.

Without further ado, the main event...


Click to read more ...


Introducing... The Supporting Actress Nominees of 1964

You've met the panelists and this Monday (June 30th) the Smackdown arrives. So, let's meet the characters we'll be discussing.

As is our Smackdown tradition we begin by showing you how the performances begin. Do their introductions scream "shower me with gold statues!"? Do the filmmakers prepare us for what's ahead? Here's how the five nominees we'll be discussing are introduced (in the order of how quickly they arrive in their movies). Do any of these introductions make you want to see the movie?


-Dr. Shannon
-Miss Fellowes 

7 minutes in. Meet "Judith Fellowes" (Grayson Hall in The Night of the Iguana)
After a prologue where Dr Shannon (Richard Burton) appears to have some sort of loss of faith mental breakdown in a church where he preaches, we see that he's now giving tours of Mexico. Enter Judith Fellowes with a gaggle of old women, immediately questioning his fees. Her gaze is direct (he doesn't return it) and they enter the bus where she leads her women in a sing-along. Dr Shannon doesn't appear to like her. At all. More friction is surely ahead on their travels.

Click to read more ...


Buy a Flower Off a Poor Girl

Another edition of May Flowers is blooming...

abstew here with a look at a film that's so enamored with flowers that beautiful blossoms show up on screen even before the title of the film:

But, the flowers aren't merely decorative... although they are loverly. They line the streets of Covent Garden where the rich come to take in the refined, artistic pleasures of the Opera. And the poor, including our film's heroine, Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn), try to make a decent day's wages by selling the flowers to the visiting elite. The whole series of events that changes Eliza's fate all happens because she tries to sell her violets to one Colonel Pickering (Stanley Holloway). Little does she know that her conversation with the gentleman is being phonetically transcribed by a linguist professor named Henry Higgins (or as Eliza would say, 'Enry 'Iggins and played by Rex Harrison in his Oscar winning performance). Higgins, wondering "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?", makes the case that it is Eliza's Cockney accent that keeps her in the gutter selling flowers. If he taught her how to speak properly he could pass her off as a Duchess at a ball. The next day she takes him up on the offer, wanting to get a job in a flower shop if he can teach her to speak more "genteel".

And thus begins the transformation of this Eliza:

To this Eliza: 

Instead of selling rain-soaked, trodden bunches of violets, she is now bedecked in rosettes made of pink chiffon and surrounded by lilies in a hot house. What a difference some voice lessons can make!

Unfortunately, Audrey's own voice (singing voice, that is) was more flower seller than Duchess. Though she was cast thinking she would do Eliza's singing herself, producer Jack Warner was secretly having Marni Nixon record Eliza's songs. (Nixon was, of course, the singing voice to the stars. She also did Deborah Kerr's in The King and I and Natalie Wood's in West Side Story. Too bad they didn't ask her to step in for Helena Bonham Carter...). The film went on to receive 12 Oscar nominations (and 8 wins, including Best Picture), but no nomination for Audrey.

Who did win Best Actress that year? Oh, just a British actress making her film debut. She just happened to be the original Eliza Doolittle from Broadway. She took the part in Mary Poppins after Jack Warner determined she wasn't a big enough star for his film. For Julie Andrews, I'm sure success never smelled so sweet.


5 Days Until The Supercalifragilistic Big Night

Has this film year overstayed its welcome? Let's take a flashback then, way back to April 1965 when Sidney Poitier read out Julie Andrews as the winner of Best Actress. Julie was her typically gracious self repeating her ambiguously directed gratitude (she only really thanked Walt Disney) so much in her short speech she had to stop herself. "...but then I've already said that!"

Sidney Poitier escorts Best Actress Julie Andrews off the stage

I don't think we've ever talked about this particular win (strange that) at The Film Experience but it's quite atypical. "Mary Poppins" isn't a particularly baity role, however iconic. She's also "practically perfect in every way" which leaves virtually no room for a character arc.  Can you think of a Best Actress win that's correlative?

Julie's speech was much cheekier at the Globes. Do you know who she thanked in her speech? The answer is after the jump.

Click to read more ...


"Move Your Bloomin' Arse!" To Debbie Reynold's Auction

I didn't intend for this weekend to become such a costume freakout session but sometimes the universe shouts that something must be and you say "okay. okay. stop shouting." You see, Debbie Reynold's movie memorabilia is going on auction today. How much do you wanna bet THIS dress fetches?

I guess when you're "America's Sweetheart" with hundreds of other famous friends from multiple decades of stardom, you wind up with a few collectibles. But Audrey Hepburn's Ascot dress from My Fair Lady in pristine condition?

"move your bloomin' arse!"♫ What a gripping, absolutely ripping
Moment at the Ascot op'ning day.
Pulses rushing! Faces flushing!
Heartbeats speed up! I have never been so keyed up ♪

Reynolds also has a number of Barbra Streisand costumes from Hello Dolly as well as this "Roller Skate Rag" outfit from one of Funny Girl's best bits.

You can see other stunning pieces of the collection over at Tom and Lorenzo, who correctly note...

If you're any kind of film buff you'll gasp at some point.

My gasps were nearly all actressexual until Stephen Boyd's Ben-Hur scabbard whacked me in the face. I can't tell you how hard I ed "Messala" as a young boy. Like Charlton Heston, I was hilariously unaware of the homo suggestiveness but even when you haven't yet learned to decode...

Debbie Reynolds CatalogueThe Auction is happening today at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills starting at 12 PM PST.

I'm not much of a memorabilia collector -- I prefer staring at it in uncluttered museum / travelling exhibit environs -- but if I were and had gazillions of dollars I'd be snatching up Marilyn's red Gentlemen Prefer Blondes number, Liz Taylor's iconic Cleopatra's headdress, and anything Judy Garland or The Sound of Music. And maybe Rudolph Valentino's matador look from Blood and Sand.

Have you ever collected memorabilia for anything?
Which pieces are you gagging over?


Distant Relatives: My Fair Lady and The King's Speech

Robert here, with my series Distant Relatives, where we look at two films, (one classic, one modern) related through a common theme and ask what their similarities and differences can tell us about the evolution of cinema.

Why can't the English learn to speak?

Yes, yes, learning to enunciate properly and overcoming a stutter aren't exactly the same thing. In fact, these two films don't have to both be about issues of speech and speech therapy. One of them could be about learning to play darts or cribbage. It's just to our benefit that they do tread such similar ground that it throws light on the more important similarities between them. As for the less important, but still interesting, similarities: both take place in England, both feature alliteratively named speech therapists, both are Best Picture Oscar winners. So what is the important similarity? Both are about class. Both feature an individual of one class, tasked with helping an individual of another class, and by doing so the great divide between the classes shrinks just a bit.

In the unusual case that anyone doesn't know the details of these films’ plots, despite one having achieved cultural significance and the other bloggospherific over-analysis here they are: In My Fair Lady, the lady or lady-to-be is Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a poor cockney flower girl who is taken in by snobbish Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison)  as party of a wager with the promise of being taught to speak and made in to a proper Englishwoman. In The King's Speech, Prince Albert or Bertie later to be King George (Colin Firth), needing to overcome a debilitating stammer and become a proper monarch, enlists the help of unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). While I stand by my assertion that the skill requiring improvement could be anything, one reason why speech makes for such a compelling story (as opposed to cribbage) is that it is unavoidably tied into our self image and identity. We are, to the outside world, a combination of sight and sound. While the control we have over our physical beauty is to an extent limited, the control we have over our speech and the impression that it makes is endless. If the impression is poor, we personally bear the blame. Both My Fair Lady and The King's Speech are essentially stories about makeovers (the former being more obvious thanks to the pretty dresses), or at least stories about makeovers as macguffins.

You've got a friend in me

Really they’re stories about love and friendship, and they revolve around characters who we find exceedingly easy to empathize with. Eliza with her brazen boisterousness not at all befitting her humble situation and her unwillingness to be bullied by Higgins gives her a populist punch. Bertie, poor Bertie who lacks confidence and trembles in fear and embarrassment gets our sympathy quite easily too. As Albert Brooks pines in Broadcast News “Wouldn’t this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive?” But to audiences, they do make a character attractive. We can see in them the parts of us we fail to share with each other. So Eliza and Bertie win us over and quickly, as does Lionel Logue, the man who seems to have his life in order but occasionally has to deal with his own failings and mediocrities too. Henry Higgins takes some time to cozy up to. I’d say in this internet age, his frustration at all less cultured than he is pretty recognizable, though I’m not sure that the original intent was for it to invoke our sympathies.

So it is that insecure, desperate Bertie and Eliza, with their closest familial relations swept up by somewhat less genuine and more manipulative love and friendship must find their confidence by venturing out of their class. Here it is that the films start to become flipped mirrors. Eliza is that of the lower class venturing up. Bertie is of the upper (very upper) class venturing downward. In this latter case our path is easy. If Lionel can help Bertie it will be a triumph of the sincerity of the humble man helping a king cut through the shelter of royal aristocratic fog and become a great leader. Yes, it is feel good and it is timely in that it reflects a reality we so long for. For Eliza it has to be a little more difficult. Pompous Professor Higgins helping little Liza do good is no desirable message to take home. Not unless she changes him too by injecting a bit of plain charm into his stuffy world.


And they all lived...

There are other backward reflections among the films as well. In My Fair Lady it is an act of friendship (a friendly bet) that sets in motion the seeds of love. In The King’s Speech it is an act of love (the determination of a dedicated spouse) that sets in motion the seeds of great friendship. Both films play off the idea that the classes are closer than we believe, that our decency can transcend them, the lower may need the upper for the opportunity to excel but the upper needs the lower more to be renewed of their humanity. It may be a fantasy, but the one thing The King’s Speech has that My Fair Lady does not is that label “based on a true story” If anything has changed in the forty-five years between the films it may be our need to see that label to believe it.

One last thing that hasn’t changed in forty-five years, and a post-script I’m only too delighted to delve into is cursing. Yes cursing, the great common equalizer, which plays an important role in both films. The first time we hear Bertie curse it’s a delight. It brings him down to our level. It’s funny. It’s charming. And when Eliza Doolittle curses at the races, we (not to mention some of the aristocracy) fall for her too, because we sense she’s real and she will always be what she is. Those melodic tones are a declaration of the working class winning out, pushing the stilted aristocracy forward, or aside if need be. “Move your bloomin’ arse!”