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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 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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Entries in Oscars (18)

Monday
Nov102014

Stockholm Film Festival: Turkey's Oscar Entry Soars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he is to discuss Turkey’s 2014 Oscar submission, Winter Sleep.


There’s a moment over an hour into Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep where two of the main characters finally strip away the societal niceties that their relatively comfortable existences requires of them and they reveal their true feelings about one another. Some might suggest that the scene, fraught with simmering tension and explosive drama, comes too late in the picture – it effectively kicks off the second act – and that Ceylan’s film could have easily had 20 or 30 minutes shaved from its runtime. I wouldn’t argue that these people are wrong; at 196 minutes, Winter Sleep is the one percent of film lengths of 2014 (only Lav Diaz’s Norte is a longer new release if I am remembering correctly). Still, I found the majority of Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner to be thoroughly engaging and surprisingly scintillating given its subject matter.

The plot of Winter Sleep sounds like a parody. Perhaps a sketch from Saturday Night Light making fun of Upper West Side noddies who’ll go and watch three hours of subtitles. Or maybe it’s a Woody Allen gag. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Winter Sleep is about a man, a former actor and now the writer of a rather pompous newspaper column and owner of a sleepy hotel in the Anatolian hills, and several of his acquaintances discussing ethics and morals. There is his younger wife who has grown increasingly attached to a local group raising funds for the community, his sister with an alcoholic ex, a best friend, a tenant who’s late on his rent check, and various constituents that he has decided he lords over due to his wealth and status. ...more after the jump

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Friday
Nov072014

The Honoraries: Harry Belafonte and the Music of 'Beat Street'

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients (O'Hara, Miyazaki, Carriere) and the Jean Hersholt winner (Belafonte). Here's Glenn on a Belafonte hip-hop musical gem…

Harry Belafonte brought hip-hop culture to the world with Beat Street. This rather unassuming musical from 1984, made in the shadow of Style Wars and Wild Style, might not strike you as an important film, but it very much is for the way it influenced a lifestyle and popularized it around the globe. Belafonte was a producer on the film as well as the soundtrack (the first film to ever release two soundtracks – I have part one on vinyl!) and his influence shows. His time-tested ability to spin niche into cultural touchstones is yet again on display with this, the first mainstream film to focus on hip-hop, graffiti art and breakdancing into a hit. Giving the under-heard voice of the youth an audience.

I also just happen to think it is a wildly entertaining film, and the kind of which we rarely get.

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Monday
Nov032014

The Academy Honors 'Spider Baby' (or The Maddest Story Ever Told)

Do you think we can win an Academy Award for this?
-Carol Ohmart.

Glenn here trusting you had an enjoyably spooky Halloween weekend? On Saturday I went to a 12-hour horror marathon here in New York City, but on the night of All Hallows' Eve I attended a screening of Jack Hill’s lost laugh-out-loud horror classic Spider Baby at The Academy. Yes, the Academy. AMPAS have restored the 1967 black and white cannibal movie (with the assistance of Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino!) after being considered “abandoned property” due to rights issues. After years of being consigned to bad VHS-dub quality bootlegs, a print was discovered set for destruction (all too often, especially with public domain titles such as this) and now it has been restored in all of its beautiful, carnal, absurd glory in stunning 35mm. How was your Halloween?

The real treat was the Q&A afterwards. Moderated by William Lustig - himself a genre legend of grimy classics like Maniac and the unrelated Maniac Cop to his credit - Spider Baby director Jack Hill was a wonderfully entertaining subject. At 81 years of age he was spry and energetic, and despite admitting the inspiration for the film – subtitled “The Maddest Story Ever Told” for a reason – was marijuana, he had remarkably good memories of the film as well as his entire early career. A career that includes launching Pam Grier with Foxy Brown and Coffy, all but inventing the cheerleader flick, and turning Corman-produced flicks like The Big Doll House into huge hits.

William Lustig on the left, Jack Hill on the right. Photo Credit: Peter Dressel/The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

He described how the film was made on a budget of $50,000 over 12 days in a sticky August, with Lon Chaney needing to be shammied in between takes. It was particularly great to hear him talk vividly of the contributions of arguably the film’s two greatest assets: Actress Jill Banner, and production designer Ray Storey. The discovery of the dilapidated house used for exteriors (which is now heritage listed) and the disused car factory used for the interiors (that dumbwaiter!) When discussing Banner – who, it must be said, gives one of the all-time great performances, horror or otherwise, yes? – it was said that Marlon Brando, whom she was dating at the time of her death in a car accident in 1982, had said she was the love of his life. Old Hollywood converging with drive-in exploitation!

He ended the lengthy chat with the above quote by co-star Carol Ohmart, who was so impressed by the film she believed Oscars may have been in their future. It does riff on Hitchcock's Psycho after all. Still, I love that The Academy have chosen Hill’s film to restore. Whenever people boo and hiss about how the Oscars are just about money, it’s wise to remind them that they’re raising money for much needed cinema preservation. If enduring the Oscars (which we obsessives obviously don’t mind) so films like Spider-Baby and all the rest of their “orphan films” line-up can survive then I have no qualms supporting them.

And if you’re wanting to know, the Academy’s New York screening room is a modest affair. The walls adorned with posters – including, side by side, Wings and 12 Years a Slave – and photographs of this year’s winners, and a large statue of Oscar standing guard over the silver screen. Not sure Oscar of old would have appreciated a film like Spider Baby getting the spotlight shone upon it, but a film this great and entertaining deserves it.

Wednesday
Oct152014

A Year with Kate: Rooster Cogburn (1975)

Episode 42 of 52In which Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne star in The African Queen 2: This Time it's a Western!

Growing old in Hollywood sucks. To borrow a line from Goldie Hawn, “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood: babe, district attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.” And while Hollywood’s ageism is well-documented and well-criticized, for some aging actors, an equally tricky problem can arise: the trouble with becoming a Legend in your own time. What happens when the legend eclipses the actor?

In 1975, Hepburn was arguably more popular than she’d ever been. This was due in no small part to her friend Garson Kanin’s unauthorized, best-selling 1972 “tell all” entitled Tracy And Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir. Though shocked by the invasion of her privacy, Kate used the public interest that the book generated to fuel her career, appearing on talk shows and even the 1974 Academy Awards (in pants, of course). As a result, in the 1970s, while Bette Davis was taking guest roles, Joan Crawford had retired, and Barbara Stanwyck "slummed" it in TV, Katharine Hepburn was as prolific as she’d ever been, starring in seven movies total. However, her popularity came at cost. Kate became in effect the curator of her own legacy, more valuable as a symbol of the past than as a well-respected thespian in the present.

Certainly, it was Katharine Hepburn the Legend that director Stuart Millar and producer Hal B. Wallis had in mind when they paired her with John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn. Five years after Wayne won his Academy Award for True Grit, Wallis’s wife Martha Hyer penned a sequel designed to play to its two stars’ greatest strengths: take the American Odyssey outline for True Grit, fill it with details from The African Queen (including more white water rapids), add a few pounds of nitroglycerin and some extra genre cliches about the death of the American West, and voila! Rooster Cogburn is born.

Westerns, Oscars, and a comparison Meryl Streep after the jump.

I have the strangest sense of deja vu.

 

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Wednesday
Aug272014

A Year with Kate: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)

Episode 35 of 52In which Katharine Hepburn wins her second Oscar and loses Spencer Tracy.

Today is the first of many goodbyes we’ll have to say on this series. After the success of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, with critics declaring her one of the greatest screen actresses of her generation, Kate disappeared for five years to take care of her partner of three decades, Spencer Tracy. It was the longest break she’d taken since she started making movies in 1932, not even her infamous “Box Office Poison” drought had lasted longer than 3 years. But the news was bleak: Spencer Tracy was dying.

Spencer Tracy’s health started declining rapidly in 1961. By 1967, he was in such poor health that the studios considered him uninsurable. Everyone working on Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner knew that this would be his last film. As a result, when Spencer Tracy died 17 days after shooting wrapped, Stanley Kramer’s sweet dinner comedy gained new gravitas as the summation of the two decade-long partnership between Tracy and Hepburn.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was supposed more about miscegenation and racism than it was about reuniting screen legends. Released between Loving v. Virginia and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner told the topical story of a liberal San Francisco couple (Kate and Spence) whose daughter (Katharine Houghton, Hepburn’s pretty but dull niece) announces that she’s going to marry an African American doctor (Sidney Poitier, underused). There are a host of issues--the lovebirds have only known each other two weeks and he’s over 10 years her senior--but because this is 1967, race is the main problem the Draytons are forced to chew on. Because of its topicality, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was a smash success, earning a spot in the Box Office Top 10 and two Oscar wins.

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Monday
Aug252014

The Best Film of 1989 That Wasn't

Glenn here to discuss a lil something from 1989, but first a divergence to the modern day.

Last night’s MTV Video Music Awards were like stepping into a pop culture gulag. It’s easy to get misty-eyed thinking about VMA ceremonies of years past, when the network actually showed music videos and the form felt truly like art. Despite being aware of last night’s winner, “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus the icky Terry Richardson, I don’t claim to have near enough knowledge of modern music videos to truly complain. It does seem harder to imagine Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, or Pearl Jam winning these days though, doesn’t it? Are there brilliant works that just aren’t being recognized?

It’s been some time since videos were genuine pop culture moments and the internet certainly doesn’t help. Beyoncé appears to be the only one who’s been able to recreate the buzz of sitting around to watch the premiere of a new Michael Jackson or Madonna video. Most importantly, however, formative years are no longer spent watching music videos hoping to find our new favorite song and reveling in visual genius, rather we leave that to YouTube, iTunes and Spotify while we binge-watch sitcoms on Netflix instead.

Which brings me to 1989. If it weren’t for 1989 we wouldn’t have David Fincher. The future Oscar-nominated director had successes before ’89, but his two collaborations with Madonna that year – “Oh Father” and “Express Yourself” – as well as “Vogue” a year later feel like true moments of breakthrough genius. Whenever I tell fans of David Fincher that they should thank Madonna they balk, but isn’t it kind of true?

“Express Yourself” lost the video of the year award to Neil Young’s “This Note’s For You”, but much like a lot of Madonna’s music career, time has proven that she wasn’t just a momentary flash in the pan spurred on by a public wanting what’s new and shiny. Fincher’s video took liberal inspiration from Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent sci-fi classic Metropolis and gave it a slick and sexualized make-over (before blue filters were over-used). For mine, it remains the best thing David Fincher has ever directed – although, ever the contrarian, I don’t quite know if his maturing directorial instincts are for the better. Rather I find myself getting less excited for each new Fincher film and the very insular heterosexual male worlds they appear to inhabit. Will Gone Girl will change that?

Madonna has always been obsessed with cinema, old and new. She and Fincher would prove that again most famously one year later with “Vogue” with its recreations of the Golden Age of Hollywood as well as Isaac Julien's Looking for Langston. Every cent of Express Yourself's then record-breaking $5mil budget is on screen and it’s heightened, boldly stylized aesthetic is the exact kind that Baz Luhrmann was recreating with Moulin Rouge! over a decade later. From the rain-soaked underclass below to the sensual art-deco with modern twist of Madge’s world up top, “Express Yourself” surpasses even some of the work nominated for art direction and cinematography Oscars that year. Who remembers the sets of Driving Miss Daisy, you know? In a neat twist, Tim Burton’s Batman won the former category, itself also inspired by Metropolis. And remember when they went via satellite to present awards in England? Yikes!

The overt homoeroticism. The power of the pussy. The rally cry of the woman. It’s certainly a video that informed my early years a lot, and would go on to inspire my predilection for excessively stylish cinema as well as bold interpretations of eras. The “Express Yourself” video holds up better than most films of 1989, but perhaps works best of all as a beacon not only for Fincher’s career, but as an encapsulation of where cinema could and eventually would go in the following decades from Quentin Tarantino to endless remakes and reboots. By repurposing Metropolis, everything old was new again. Something we still see the effects of today.