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Entries in Oscars (50s) (89)

Sunday
Aug212016

Ben-Who? Weekend Box Office

The name "Ben-Hur" wasn't enough of a brand on its own to lure moviegoers to theaters this weekend for the remake. My guess: Those who know of Ben-Hur love the 1959 version too much to care about a 2016 version. I have zero desire to see it so if you dared the movie theater this weekend to do so, tell me this: did any of the 1925 sensuality or the 1959 homoeroticism survive in the 2016 version. Or is this just all antiseptic generic blockbuster action mode? 

Ben Hur in 1959, 2016, and 1925If you didn't see Ben-Hur, what did you see? Did you like it? More after the jump including the fate of Kubo and the Two Strings and the best thing I saw this weekend...

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Wednesday
Aug102016

Best Shot/Best Costume: "Les Girls"

For this week's episode of our cinematography series Hit Me With Your Best Shot we wanted a slight curveball as a way to celebrate the release of the Costume Design documentary Women He's Undressed. It's now available to rent on iTunes or purchase on other digital platforms. (Jose's interview with the director here). The film is about the legendary Orry-Kelly, who designed a truckload of classic Hollywood features and stars, and won three Oscars in the 1950s for An American in Paris, Les Girls  and Some Like It Hot.  So those playing "Best Shot" this week could choose any of those three. I watched Les Girls since it gets the least attention and they even use its image for the documentary's poster (left).

Les Girls  (George Cukor, 1957) is not well remembered today but curiously it reminds us yet again that mainstream Hollywood in the 50s and 60s paid a lot of attention to foreign auteurs and absorbed (or ripped off - you be the judge) their styles and conceits. The semi-musical (a few dance numbers mainly) concerns a libel lawsuit involving a former showbiz act "Barry Nichols and Les Girls" and in the courtroom we hear three different versions of the group's break up in Paris. In each of the stories Barry Nichols (Gene Kelly) gets mixed up romantically with a different girl (America's Mitzi Gaynor, Britain's Kay Kendall, and Finland's Taina Elg) and their musical act eventually implodes. It's clearly modelled on Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon (1950) which had taken an Honorary Oscar from the Academy earlier that decade.

Taina Elg quits dancing in Les Girls (1957)

So let's choose a best shot and a best costume after the jump. Happily my three favorite shots come from each of the film's three acts...

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Tuesday
Jul122016

Best Shot(s): Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Commence squealing. For what could be more delightful than an evening with two perfect musical comedy performances? It's time to talk Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. The film, currently streaming on Netflix, was the runner up in our Readers Choice polling for Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES
20th Century Fox. Released on July 15th, 1953 in New York
Director: Howard Hawks; Cinematographer: Harry J Wild 
Starring: Jane Russell as 'Dorothy', Marilyn Monroe as 'Lorelei', Charles Coburn as 'Piggy', Elliott Reid as 'Malone', Tommy Noonan as 'Esmond Jr'

Howard Hawk's classic was not the first iteration of the story. It was based on the stage musical which itself was based on a book which had already spawned two non-musicals. The 1949 stage musical, a huge hit on Broadway, had introduced Carol Channing to the world. New star Marilyn Monroe got Channing's  star-making "Lorelei" role for the screen. (The same thing would happen to Channing sixteen years later with her other signature role Hello Dolly) But sometimes a movie turns out so spectacularly well that it's impossible to imagine it existing in any other shape than the one it's in, all other versions prior or subsequent feel like faint cultural echoes. 

Best Shots after the jump...

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Monday
Jun062016

The Furniture: Decorating Madness in A Streetcar Named Desire

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

The 70th Tony Awards are in just a few days. I certainly can't be trusted with predictions, but I’ll make one guess. The award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play probably won’t be split three ways. That sort of near-impossible result has only occurred once, all the way back in 1948. The 2nd Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play was shared by Judith Anderson, Katharine Cornell, and Jessica Tandy. Tandy won for the original broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Of course, she didn’t get to be in the movie and so we will leave her behind. Elia Kazan’s film of Tennessee Williams’s masterpiece premiered less than two years after its Broadway run ended. Its success was that instant. It won four Oscars, though all but one was for acting. That fourth prize, of course, was for production design. [More...]

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Sunday
May292016

Swing, Tarzan, Swing! Ch.3: Lex Barker... and Queen Dorothy Dandridge?

As we approach the release of The Legend of Tarzan (2016) we're ogling past screen incarnations of the Lord of the Apes...

After Buster Crabbe filled a loincloth beautifully and Johnny Weissmuller & Maureen O'Sullivan gave us the deservedly definitive Golden Age Tarzan and Jane, the franchise had to recast or close shop. O'Sullivan left first and by the late 40s Weissmuller was feeling too old for the role and also called it quits. The producer Sol Lesser wasn't about to let the profitable franchise go, though, and led a search for a replacement. The winner was Lex Barker, a then little known blue blood actor from New York who had been disowned by his family for choosing an acting career (!) and he took up the loincloth in 1949 for Tarzan's Magic Fountain.

I opted to watch Barker's third go at the character in Tarzan's Peril (sometimes called Tarzan and the Jungle Queen) because it was the first Tarzan film to actually shoot some scenes in Africa (Kenya to be exact) and six actors down the call list was the curio factor of a young Dorothy Dandridge as "Melmedi, Queen of The Ashuba".

Dorothy & Lex after the jump...

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Tuesday
Apr052016

Best Shot Peck Centennial: Roman Holiday & To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck was an instant sensation at the cinema. He was nominated for Best Actor in his very first year of the movies for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and the hits just kept on coming: The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Twelve O'Clock High (1949). The Academy became less interested in nominating him after that the 1940s but for his Oscar winning and most iconic role (To Kill a Mockingbird) but audiences never stopped loving him. He had key hit films for over 30 years in his big screen career.

Though he was a very politically active liberal he was never interested in running for office himself but he  proved to be an influential politician within the industry itself as a key AMPAS president. 

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, in honor of Peck's Centennial, we gave participants the choice between what are arguably his two greatest films, Roman Holiday (1953) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

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Wednesday
Mar232016

Bye Instant Watch: Sinatra, Flashdancers, and Spielberg's Worst

It's your last chance to watch the following multiple Oscar nominated titles for free on Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are more films leaving than these but you know The Film Experience isn't good copying and pasting press releases and calling it a day. It would make our lives SO much easier but it's just not how we do. This is for you Oscar completists -- you know who you are. As is our habit, we've freeze framed the titles at random and just shared whichever image came up.

Got any feelings about these pictures? Or will you by midnight on March 31st? Do you think they deserved their wins and/or nominations?

10 OSCAR TITLES LEAVING NETFLIX AT THE END OF THE MONTH
* indicates Oscar win in the category 

African violet. I can't tell you how difficult that was to come by.

Amistad (1997)
Oscar Nods: Supporting (Anthony Hopkins), Cinematography, Costumes, Score.
Shameful Confession: I've never seen this. I think it's my most significant gap in 1990s Oscar viewing. 

9 more after the jump...

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