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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 | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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Entries in Oscars (00s) (103)


Tim's Toons: Animated also-rans

Tim here. In his official Oscar predictions today, Nathaniel left out Best Animated Feature, but no matter. By this point, you'd have to hunt a while to find anybody predicting a winner other than How to Train Your Dragon 2, with a few Big Hero 6 holdouts just trying to pretend that things will be interesting. (Me, I'm thinking that we're about to see an unexpected explosion of write-in votes to make sure that Mr. Peabody & Sherman can finally get its due).

That level of predictability almost always ends up settling into this particular race (last year was an exception), which can make it hard, sometimes, to recall that the category has had a purpose beyond annually recognizing that yep, Pixar sure does make some pretty fine movies. So instead of prepping for Oscar weekend by celebrating winners, I want to pay tribute to some losers. The beautiful likes of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea are (probably) about the join the 36 films to have so far been nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar and lost out, and that's some fine company to be in. Here are some of my personal favorites.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003; lost to Finding Nemo)
Even after 11 years, the jazzy "Bellville Rendez-vous" remains one of the most memorable original songs in 21st Century filmmaking (it also lost a competitive Oscar). It's a brilliant component of a movie that I'm generally inclined to regard with fetishistic adoration, and will start recommending to people on even the slightest pretext. Like this one, for example. It's one of the most essential animated features of the last 15 years, easily, combining warped slapstick humor with an elegiac sense of melancholy, expressed in a scratchy graphic style that turns everyone into a grotesque caricature while given all of them full, vibrant personalities. Not bad for a film with less than a dozen spoken words in its entire running time.

Persepolis (2007; lost to Ratatouille)
Marjane Satrapi's adaptation of her own graphic novel memoir is a little redundant, perhaps. But taken on its own terms, this story of life during the Iranian Revolution, told in soft lines and crisp black-and-white, is terrific animated cinema both aesthetically and politically. Overtly feminist stories and animation for an appreciative adult audience are both rare, combining them is rarer, and using it all in the service of putting a human face to life in Iran that doesn't pander or beg for special pleading makes this one as bold as any animated film I can ever name. And yet it's so sardonic and brisk that it never feels capital-I Important in a boring way. A total success that deserves infinitely more attention than it's ever received in the U.S.

Kung Fu Panda (2008; lost to WALL·E)
When the first How to Train Your Dragon came out in 2010, it was greeted with critical hosannas as the movie that finally proved that DreamWorks Animation could make a movie that as every bit as good as its best competition. But then, the studio had already proven that with this brightly-colored, poppy tribute to Asian landscape paintings and schlocky '70s kung-fu movies. It's silly as hell, and the jokes have all the smirking anachronism of DreamWorks at its worst. But it's also funny and disarmingly sweet, and the company's fixation on all-celebrity voice casting never worked out as well as it did here, with Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, and Ian McShane among the many familiar faces we don't see.

The Princess and the Frog (2009; lost to Up)
The financial success of the following year's Tangled immediately swallowed up the small splash made by Disney's first-ever animated feature centered on an African-American protagonist. And then the behemoth of 2013's Frozen left it almost totally forgotten as the first attempt in a generation to make a classic Disney Princess musical. Neither of which is at all a fair fate for an earnest attempt at correcting the company's long history of representational yuckiness with a warm suite of Randy Newman songs, top-notch voice acting, and beautifully old-school 2-D animation. It's a sop to the studio's fans, sure, but as a fan, I am greatly pleased to have it in my life even now, far more than either of its bigger successors.

What are your favorite nominees to have missed on on the Best Animated Feature Oscar?


Posterized: Reese Witherspoon

Pink is also her signature colorWe haven't done a Reese episode of Posterized yet?


America's one time sweetheart (we go through them rapidly) is currently courting hearts again, albeit in much thornier and more adult settings. She's uptight and deskbound, if not quite straight-laced, as Deputy D.A. Penny Kimball in Inherent Vice and wandering and raggedy as the grieving Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild. The latter is expected to bring her Nomination #2 for Best Actress (more on that category tomorrow) and the former reunites her with Joaquin Phoenix, who helped her to Oscar win #1 in Walk the Line.

Since her Oscar win, Reese has been doing her own sort of wandering... away from the A list. Not really -- you can't really rub that off you when you're as charismatic as she! But a wandering away from something. The films weren't grabbing people and Reese didn't seem as dazzingly invested. Apparently she'll be discussing her career's most quiet period tomorrow night on 60 Minutes claiming that post-Phillipe-divorce (2008)...

I spent a few years just trying to feel better ... you can't really be creative when you feel like your brain is scrambled eggs, 

Hence this year's "Reeseurgence" which had a wee preamble with the indies  Mud and The Devil's Knot last year. Wild went wide this weekend adding over 900 screens (I love it and hope you'll go see it) and it seems like a great time to glance back as Reese makes such a memory-filled trek onscreen...

Reese's filmography in chronological poster form after the jump 

Click to read more ...


Posterized: Best Documentary Winners of the Past 30 Years

THE TIME OF HARVEY MILK (1984), a true classic. Have you seen it?
If there's anything that makes me feel unsophisticated when it comes to the cinema it's my general relationship to documentaries. Like your average movie consumer (non cinephile division) I only see them if the subject matter interests me. If there were a narrative equation wouldn't that be "i'll only see this or that genre"? And ewww, that's not the way to be. Variety is always best when consuming art. Man cannot live by multi-quandrant blockbusters OR art films alone. 

Over the years as The Film Experience has expanded we've given more space to documentaries largely because Glenn & Amir are obsessed with them. So for today's Posterized, a special edition surveying the last 30 years of the Best Documentary Feature category. I went back that far because The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) is basically one of my favorite things that I've ever seen in my life and I wanted to know if YOU have seen it. I enjoyed Milk (2008) a lot when it came out but it was very deja vu since so much of it was in this great film.

Anyway, I'm taking an informal survey to gauge your interest in this type of movie (and it's adjacent Oscar category) in the comments so do tell. How many of these Oscar winners have you seen?  There's actually 31 of them in the past 30 years since there was one tie. I have only seen 10 which I am embarrassed to admit as an Oscar pundit but there it is. I am not a total completist each year. Most of these films are available on DVD still though sadly not many are streaming.


Click to read more ...


Posterized: Famous Singer Biopics of the Past 50 Years

Oscar loves a lot of movie-things with predictable regularity though it should be noted that those things go in and out of style (when was the last time you saw a hooker with a heart of gold?). But one thing that never seems to go out of style with filmmakers: Biopics of musicians. Whether or not Amy Adams ever gets around to her Janis Joplin picture, or Hathaway goes through with the Judy Garland picture (I'd so prefer her to do Liza Minnelli who hasn't been done!) or Jane Krakowski ever gets the greenlight for Jackie Jormp-Jormp, there's plenty to choose from in the library already. And awards bodies, not just Oscar, often choose them. It's as good a way as any to be noticed.

How do you think Get On Up, from the director of The Help will fair with AMPAS? Reviews may be mixed but they don't seem to be for Chadwick Boseman's playful performance in the energetic title role. Hollywood is always searching for "the next Denzel Washington" and he's one of the candidates even though 'the next...' is always so problematic since true stars are always their own unrepeatable thing. Remember that uncomfortably weird forcing of so many actresses into 'the next Julia Roberts' tag? Even Julianne Moore (lol) was once in that lineup in a major magazine.

Let's look back at the past 50 years within this particular subgenre and see how many films we've gotten and how many of them won awards traction. I came up with about 27 pictures (excluding biopics of musicians who weren't singers or snapshots of the industry more than individual singers because you have to narrow it down somehow) though it's possible I missed a few.

How many have you seen?

Click to read more ...


Throwback Thursday FYC: Felicity Huffman in Transamerica (2005)

Imagine if this came out today.


A lot changes in a decade's time... and I'm not talking about IFC Films no longer ever being in the Oscar conversation (they probably wouldn't even launch a campaign  today).

You can still win Oscars playing transgender characters (see Jared Leto) but now it comes with a chorus of disapproval that a trans actor wasn't selected. And speaking of... love love love Orange is the New Black but when are they going to give Laverne Cox something else to do besides sassy oneliners as she plays with someone's hair? She had like only two scenes of any note this season.


Podcast: 2004 Anniversary Party w/ Top Ten Lists

For this hour long special edition of the podcast, we took Joe Reid's suggestion and are having ourselves a theme party. The theme is 2004, and on its tenth anniversary Nathaniel, Nick and Joe marvel at what a rich cinematic year it was and how well the highlights have endured. 

We begin with movies we think we should revisit or have shifted in our memory and then compare top ten lists. Movies discussed include but are not limited to: Dogville, Bad Education, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Tarnation, Before Sunset, Blissfully Yours, Shaun of the Dead, Sideways, House of Flying Daggers, Primer, Vera Drake, and Maria Full of Grace among others. 

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation with your own 2004 memories and revisits in the comments.


2004 Top Ten Party


Oscar Quandaries: Original OR Adapted?

The Screenplay categories were not always as fluid as they are now and once adhered to very strict rules about a script's prior existence. Now, they let you get away with a little fudging which started in force a dozen years ago when Gangs of New York and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which had spent all of their pre-release hype talking about being adapted from [insert fabulous thing here] were suddenly "originals" through complicated explanations once awards season was in sway and it became clear that the original category was infinitely less competitive. Since then much has changed and now previously established characters is a thing everyone does to fight for adapted (when it suits them) and the lines are really blurry.


So here are four plus movies that seem like they're balancing on a wire between original and adapted. Which way will they fall? 

Bruce Wagner's Maps to the Stars screenplay was a screenplay first, then it became a novel ("Dead Stars") when the movie plans fell through. It's now a screenplay again for a David Cronenberg movie. So if the movie picks up steam once it's released and not just as a curio given Julianne Moore's Cannes win, who knows? In ye olden times this would clearly be Adapted because the old hard line was once 'Previously Published or Produced Material'... but now I'm not sure.

Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel is "inspired by" the writings of Stefan Zweig ... which might mean adapted but "inspired by" is also the excuse Gangs of New York used to change its campaign from adapted to original. So I'm guessing this is up in the air until Fox Searchlight really starts campaigning (and they should).

Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert is based on the life story of Gertrud Bell but so far there are no books credited on IMDb or in articles about the film. Several books have been written about her. Is this a Milk situation where it will claim "original" despite vast reams of information to draw from written by others? And if so, is there anything wrong with that? Perhaps we need a third screenplay category for true stories that are adapted from a wide variety of sources. Other True Story This Might Apply To: Pawn Sacrifice another film about chess prodigy Bobby Fischer)

Damien Chazelle's music drama Whiplash, which has been very well received in the festival circuit, seems like the type of indie that could make waves in Original Screenplay. Only problem is it's technically adapted. It's based on Chazelle's own short film of the same name. This same situation occurred last year with Short Term 12. To date I'm not aware of anyone who tried to argue that adapting yourself is not a thing -- even Nia Vardalos, when Greek Wedding changed course argued that she'd written her comedy hit as a screenplay first before adapting it into a play so therefore it was an original (Bruce Wagner could argue the same this year for Maps to the Stars if he wants).

Under the old clear rules of "previously published or produced" you couldn't get around this even if you absolutely wrote the thing as a screenplay first but for the past 12 years these categories are more fluid and I wouldn't put it past some savvy strategist to claim original and basically negate the hypothetical 'can you adapt your own movie into a new movie?' question when it comes to these categories.