Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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"While it doesn't seem groundbreaking, I know I will watch it eventually because of the four legends in the cast." - Rebecca

"Adored both Bergen and Keaton (and Garcia!), liked Fonda and unfortunately, thought Steenburgen kind of drew the short straw here. Overall, had a ball!" - Andrew

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First Clip for Pablo Larraín's "Jackie" Shows A Woman Under Her Own Influence

Any fears that Pablo Larraín would smooth over the poised spikiness of his Chilean features in order to make a more palatable English language debut were put to rest this week with a rapturous Venice reception for his Jackie, with reviews especially singling out Natalie Portman’s performance as the eponymous First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. For those salivating to see Portman in mid-Atlantic action ahead of the film’s as yet undecided release date, the first clip from the film surfaced quickly thereafter. Jackie follows its heroine through the immediate wake of her husband’s assassination and, in this clip, she slyly pulls the rug out from under LBJ liason Jack Valenti (yes, that Jack Valenti of MPAA fame) in regards to her public role in JFK's funeral arrangements.

One of my favorite aspects of Larraín’s filmmaking is the thick coat of unsaid tension he can paint across a dialogue scene through precisely punctuated edits between polite adversaries – think of the moral ignitions within the living room interviews in The Club – and this scene exhibits that skill in spades. His eye for period detail and hazy texture translate beautifully; there’s a plywood stuffiness to the yesteryear political interiors of No’s production design that appear in this White House, as well. And as for Portman? She reminds us that Jackie’s purr didn’t just belong to a docile house cat but a ferocious lion that knows right when to corner and pounce. Make her my ringtone.

What do you make of this first look at Natalie Portman’s Jackie Kennedy? 


The 2nd Annual Team Experience Award Goes To...

Amir here, to bring you the results of the 2nd annual Team Experience Awards, a poll of the year’s best in film by the international group of writers who contribute regularly to this website. In our inaugural edition, Leos Carax’s off-kilter French fantasy, Holy Motors, won the top prize. This year, our 14 voters are more in synch with the American awards season tune. I think it’s fair to say we all like 12 Years a Slave. Like, really, really like 12 Years a Slave. If Steve McQueen’s film were Sally Field, we’d be the Academy circa 1985.

12 Years a Slave
 (Steve McQueen)
Runner-up: Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach) 

Steve McQueen
 (12 Years a Slave)
Runner-up: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) 

However, the consensus and the number of categories topped by Slave don’t quite reflect the intense competition behind the scenes. In fact, only two categories were landslides: Best Picture and Best Visual Effects. Elsewhere, the competition was intense and never really took shape until the last ballot was in. In the best supporting actress category, for example, five women were within an inch of each other, and Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Only God Forgives) missed out on the runner-up spot by a hair. The nitty-gritty of our votes further down but now the winners of the 2nd Team Experience Awards...

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Team Experience Top Tens. The Stories They Tell... 

I, Nathaniel, am still in the process of cramming screeners into my bloodshot eyeballs (I know that's not the best way to do it but that's what happens each year at this exact time). Next weekend, at the very latest, I'll deliver my own top ten list. Until then, I thought it might be fun to see what our magic elves were into this year. A few of the regulars opted out, since they like quite a lot more time to mull things over or they're too busy with their classic hollywood obsessions (you are going to LOVE what Anne Marie has cooking for 2014). But Jose, Amir, Glenn, Tim and Michael and an unexpected guest perservered and their lists are here for your perusal and rental queue consideration. 

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Cinematic History Lessons Courtesy of Half Nelson

Back to School Month - Here's Andrew "Abstew" on Half Nelson

What is History?


These are the first words spoken by Ryan Gosling in his Oscar-nominated performance in the 2006 film, Half Nelson. (Sadly, his only Oscar-nominated performance to date. I was so blown away by his work in this movie that I thought, for sure, he would have received at least another nomination, if not a win, by now) Gosling plays a Brooklyn middle school teacher named Dan Dunne that happens to wrestle (see where that title comes from?!) with a drug problem. Throughout the course of the film, he's even discovered by one of his students (an excellent Shareeka Epps as Drey) in a girls' bathroom stall, smoking crack – moments after a basketball game he just happened to be coaching.

Dan's struggles with addiction, while striving to be a better person, are the focus of the film and give an added depth to the "Teacher as Savior" genre. But I recently rewatched the film, focusing only on the scenes in the classroom. [more...]

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BoxOffice: The Great and Platformful

Somewhere over a different rainbow: Gael García Bernal's NO is a deserved hit in platform releaseObviously the oxygen-hogging story this weekend was the release of a new Oz movie. Pre-sold films are Hollywood's favorite thing for a reason. Familiarity and branding goes a long long long long long long long way toward automatic ticket sales. But Somewhere over another rainbow (logo) NO is a more deserved success story. Let's discuss. 

01 Oz: The Great and Powerful $80.2 Review
02 Jack the Giant Slayer $28 (cum. $43.8) Review
03 Identity Thief $9.7 (cum. $116.5)

01 The Gatekeepers $.2 
(cum. $1 now on 67 screens & holding)
02 No $.1 Review 
(cum. $.5 now on 35 screens & building)
03 Stoker  $.1 Review 
(cum. $.3 now on 17 screens & dwindling)

Word of mouth can be your best friend or your worst enemy in movie theaters. The big corporate movie studios are generally very consistent with their strategies though I'd argue too consistent. The would be blockbusters are released on so many screens that people sometimes buy tickets just because it's "the big movie opening" rather than from genuine I Must See This interest. I mean, imagine the financial bloodbath if Jack the Giant Slayer had opened on 10 screens and tried to build trusting that people would be recommending it to others? At least it made some money last weekend before a terrible 63% drop this week.

Meanwhile smaller titles are nearly always platformed in the same way even if that's a mistake for them. I mean, it makes total sense for a movie like Chile's Oscar nominee No which will have a distinctly limited audience proportionately the exact size of its word of mouth. In these cases platforming is wise since the movie is EXCELLENT (seriously, go see it) and people will tell their friends just that. But riskier polarizing movies like Stoker the studios treat in the exact same way, throwing all their chips on reviews and word of mouth even though that clearly won't work as well. I confess that I don't really understand the strategy. When you have a way to hook bigger audiences without word of mouth (i.e. the serial killer genre, some stars, and violent horror which has the most faithful audience ever) why aren't you using it?

the latest "mystery swag" from Stoker -- a creepy box of sharpened pencils with Mia Wasikowska's face staring back at you when you pull them out of the box.

I mean, I know I didn't exactly give Stoker a positive review but I'm glad I saw it. Stoker is, at the very least, a great curio discussion topic. But here's the catch. When they hide the weirdos they even lose their cachet as curios because nobody has anything to discuss having not seen it.  I guess Stoker will have to wait for DVD to find its audience.

What did you watch this weekend?
I skipped the movies and went to see Sigourney Weaver on Broadway. (More on that tomorrow night)


Michael's Best of 2012

Before Nathaniel's Top Ten drops over the next few days he has invited TFE correspondents to share their own best of 2012 lists. I confess up front that I have not yet managed to catch Tabu, Oslo August 31 or Middle of Nowhere, but then all lists are a work in progress, aren't they?

Honorable Mentions...
Richard Linklater's Bernie featured the enduringly weird paring of Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black in addition to a unceasingly funny peanuts gallery of small town Texans arguing that murder really isn't all that bad. Lauren Greenfield's Queen of Versailles is the perfect film for the moment with subjects that make the cast of Marie Antoinette seem admirably self-aware and thrifty. Walter Salles's On the Road is a bracing jolt of life that is being seriously undersold by critics. Looper does the sci-fi genre proud with its thoroughly imagined script that piles on the surprises well beyond the big hook. And finally, Amour should rightly be near the top of this list based strictly on filmmaking skill, but there was something about its unremmiting bleakness that felt incomplete to me. I can't help asking "Is that all there is?" even as the film itself calmly repeated that "Yes. It is." over and over. 

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ... after the jump

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