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Entries in Oscars (60s) (109)

Monday
Jul252016

Marni Nixon (1930-2016)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Marni Nixon, beloved voice of Hollywood's supersized musicals of the 50s and 60s has died of breast cancer at 86. It was a long and good and musical life, if never celebrated enough by the culture she gave so much to. It had been our long held dream to see her given an Honorary Oscar which must now be a dream unfulfilled. Because I don't have the words today, I thought I'd share a piece I wrote ten years ago on how special Marni Nixon was to me, a baby cinephile growing up with musicals as my favorite form of cinematic bliss.

Marni Nixon is my Kathy Selden
by Nathaniel R 

Toward the end of Singin' in the Rain (1952), which chronicles Hollywood's seismic shift from silent films to sound production, a hilariously dim and screechy movie star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) gets her comeuppance. She has cruelly locked the sweet voiced Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) into a contract to provide her a suitable movie voice. Lamont is after self-preservation: she can't make sound movies with her own unappealing voice, but she also cruelly takes pleasure in preventing Kathy from pursuing stardom. At a live performance Kathy stands behind a curtain, her dreams in tatters, as she sings for Lina. But Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) pulls the curtain on the act in progress, rescuing his new girl from obscurity and dooming his former co-star to a fast fade.

Singin' in the Rain is many things: a true musical masterpiece, a stellar romantic comedy, and the best movie Hollywood ever made about Hollywood (give or take Sunset Blvd). It's a completely absorbing viewing experience but for this: Every time I see it my mind drifts away to Marni Nixon during this particular scene. Kathy's story isn't exactly Marni's. Marni wasn't forced into submission as the silents were dying. But she was the songbird woman behind the curtain for beloved movie musicals and she was born in 1930 as the silents were emitting their death rattle (Hollywood studios had halted silent film production by 1929. Only a few emerged in movie houses of 30s). Marni Nixon was to be a famous voice but not a famous face ...just like the almost-fate of the fictional Kathy Selden.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul182016

Stream This: Two Mia Farrow Greats, Hannibal (S3), Terminator 5, Etc...

In the effort to stay au courant we'll alternate between Netflix and Amazon Prime for streaming news each week. And we'll freeze frame select titles at random places just for fun and see what image comes up. You know how we do. 

LAST CHANCE AMAZON PRIME

Amazon Prime has a far better movie selection than Netflix on a month to month basis but they are officially the worst streaming provider in terms of providing dates of expiration on their movies/tv shows. Sometimes the titles don't expire after they're marked for expiration and sometimes they vanish even if they haven't been marked. Sometimes without warning they suddenly cost money when they were once free. And they don't do press releases to announce expiring titles like the other services. So it's all rumors in a way. But supposedly they're losing these titles (among others) at the end of July and they're all worth checking out...

There's no reason why you shouldn't have complete confidence in your chances to come out of this alive and in one piece." 

Airplane (1980)
This smash comedy mocked the disaster epic genre and started the spoof craze. That spoof genre peaked early - maybe even here. It's kind of unreal how fast and quick the visual and verbal gags come. 

7 more freeze frames after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun242016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 4: "The Exorcism"

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Directed by Mike Nichols | Adapted by Ernest Lehman from the play by Edward Albee
Released by Warner Bros on June 22nd, 1966
Nominated for 13 Oscars, winning 5.

Four-Part 50th Anniversary Celebration
Pt 1 "What. A.Dump!" by Nathaniel R
Pt 2 "Firing Squads & Flop Sweat" by Daniel Crooke
Pt 3 "Get the Guests" by Kyle Stevens (author of "Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and The Reinvention of Psychological Realism"

...and now the finale 

Pt 4 (Finale) by Chris Feil

Clink.Clink.

1:36:43 Sounds like Martha put her own ice in her drink this time, and not chewed it down. She's also dispensed of her tight "Sunday chapel dress" for looser fits. At only 3 outfits, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is surely Elizabeth Taylor's fewest costume changes ever on screen.

1:37:32 Nick’s putting his watch on now that their real round of Hump the Hostess is over. By the looks of these two, it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering to say the least.

Martha starts doling advice to Nick on how to take care of a drunk Honey, not unlike George's begrudging earlier attempts. The kind motherly expression on her face makes you wonder if her son has always been blonde-haired and green eyed before tonight.

1:39:00 Nick's pointing fingers as if he's exempt from the night's cruelty and absurdity. Luckily, Martha calls him out on his hypocrisy.

Relax. Sink into it. You're no better than anybody else.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun232016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 3: "Get the Guests"

For the 50th Anniversary of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) Team Experience is celebrating with a four part miniseries. Begin with Part 1 "What. A.Dump!" or Part 2 "Firing Squads & Flop Sweat" if you missed them.

Pt 3 by Kyle Stevens 
[Kyle's book "Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and The Reinvention of Psychological Realism" is available for purchase.] 

01:04:30 We pick up with Nick and George, left alone. Nick ceases peacocking for a moment since the ladies have gone, and, for George, this is the moment to assert dominance. For Albee, their tête-à-tête is an allegorical showdown between biology and history, nature and nurture: what they are, what people are, and who gets to say. Albee is on George’s side:

To take the trouble to construct a civilization, to build a society based on principles of, uh, principle. You make government and art and realize that they are, must be, both the same. You bring things to the saddest of all points, to the point where there is something to lose. Then all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae. And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? Up yours.” 

Thank you. Thank you!

1:05:52 Honey and Martha return from “the euphemism,” where Honey has been throwing up. Honey, who always seems to be out-of-step with the group, assumes that Nick’s sarcastic applause is for her. Her readiness to see everything as a performance, though, is also spot-on, hinting that she’s perhaps the most insightful one of the bunch...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun222016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 2: Firing Squads and Flop Sweat

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Oscar-winning classic, Team Experience is revisiting the picture, tag team relay style. In Chapter 1, Nathaniel discussed our first look at George and Martha as they "welcomed" Nick and Honey into their home for a late night boozy marital bout. The first true bomb had just gone off when George realized that Martha had broken their "rules"... we rejoin the party now as George strikes back.

 Pt 2 by Daniel Crooke

My first wallop by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was in my early years of high school after developing a formative penchant for emotionally explosive character dramas, iconic Hollywood movie stars, and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Once I learned of this film’s existence, I snatched up the first secondhand DVD I could find. It may have proved a bad role model; I shouted and scowled around the house for days, hunched in doorways with a clinking tumbler full of iced tea. The drama was just too magnificent to leave on the screen and, especially in this section, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton have so much fun spitting poison that their hysterical wickedness becomes infectious.

Through my green teenage lens of inexperience, I thought George and Martha should divorce immediately, move on with their lives, and leave this self-destructive cycle in the rear view. Jesus, can you imagine their Tinder profiles? Now that time and experience have obliterated my preconceptions of the idyllic American relationship, I can plainly see that they need one another to survive. They’ve got an arrangement in their marriage that – however revolting or sadomasochistic it may seem to the outsider – more or less works for them.

32:11 ....As long as they stay within the bounds. [More...]

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Tuesday
Jun212016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt 1: "What a Dump!" 

You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games*

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Directed by Mike Nichols
Adapted by Ernest Lehman from the play by Edward Albee
Released by Warner Bros on June 22nd, 1966
Nominated for 13 Oscars, winning 5.

To celebrate the anniversary of this stone cold classic from 1966, Team Experience is revisiting the picture, tag team relay style, all week long as we did with RebeccaSilence of the Lambs, and Thelma & Louise.

Pt 1 by Nathaniel R
50th Anniversary Four Part Mini Series 

When I was a young teenager, a multiplex opened about a half hour from my house that, like every multiplex, showed whatever movies were in wide release. But here was something novel and unfortunately not copied by every multiplex in the land thereafter: they devoted one of their screens exclusively to charity -- the charity of young cinephilia that is. One of the screens, every showing of the day, only ran an older classic as if it were a new release. For an entire week! Then they'd switch movies. I've never again seen a multiplex do that and if it had been closer to home I would have been the most devoted patron. It was there that I first saw Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I thought it was an outstanding elegaic drama and though I freely admit I was too young to grasp its very adult comic brilliance, I'd rarely seen acting that electrifying. In 1966 when it first arrived the posters said "no one under 18 will be admitted unless accompanied by his parent " Perhaps that was wise as it's wholly meant for adults.

00:01. It's fitting that our first shot is of the moon in the dead of night. George and Martha are not werewolves but beware all who enter George & Martha's lair; this is definitely a horror movie...

Before the score kicks in and the camera descends in longshot to look at a university house, which spills George (Oscar nominated Richard Burton) & Martha (Oscar winning Elizabeth Taylor) from its door and onto the campus sidewalk to stumble home, the orchestra sounds like its warming up. It's a perfect sonic nod to the property's live theater origins. A demented harpist is doing runs before Alex North's Oscar nominated score settles into something gently sorrowful. 

01:45 Already a favorite moment and the movie hasn't truly begin. As soon as the title card appears Elizabeth Taylor starts just cackling as Martha walks across the Virginia to the Woolf. George tells her to shut up because it's 2 AM. 

02:16 How lonely but not alone that shot is! How many times have George and Martha made this exact walk at night from that exact building and how many other couples have they tortured entertained in their home after just such a faculty party. I didn't think about these things the first time I saw it but now they're unavoidable mental associations.

Every time I've seen the movie since that first time, it's been just as electric only now the charge is coming from all corners of cast and crew (how about Haskell Wexler's Oscar winning cinematography!?) and not just the Movie Star Couple at the center. In fact, I felt nearly as aroused as George & Martha whenever they realize they've twisted the knife just right in the other's belly, when I queued up the movie again for this particular revisit. Since Liz begins the movie quoting Bette Davis, we'll do it, too, albeit from a different movie entirely.

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

04:00 Surely one of the great introductory shots in all of cinema, Martha flips on the light. We get our first good look at the central couple, blinking and boozed-up. They've seen better days. Martha takes a look around and starts doing Bette Davis gestural circles with her hand...  

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun082016

The Smackdowns Are Coming! 

You thought we'd forgotten the Smackdowns. We have not! Here's what's coming this season. You know you want to join in the movie merriment! We're giving you a headstart so you can get to watching these 13 movies for the first time (or revisiting them) over your summer vacations. More details to follow as we get closer to the actual Smackdowns. 

Sunday July 31st
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1977

The Oscar went to the legendary but controversial Vanessa Redgrave for Julia and while she might be impossible to beat, the movies are all juicy in this category. Tuesday Weld co-stars in the provocative Looking for Mr Goodbar, Melinda Dillon was part of the fine cast of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Quinn Cumming charmed voters in The Goodbye Girl, and Leslie Browne, a dancer, debuted in Oscar's all time biggest loser The Turning Point (nominated for 11 Oscars but it lost every category!).

 

Sunday August 28th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1984

Dame Peggy Ashcroft won the Oscar for her penultimate feature film role in A Passage to India. But her category was filled with powerhouse actresses: There was Glenn Close winning her third consecutive nomination for The Natural, Lindsay Crouse in the Best Picture nominee Places in the Heart, and Christine Lahti the scene stealer of Jonathan Demme's Swing Shift. The surprise nominee was actor's actor and Oscar darling Geraldine Page, nominated for a tiny role in The Pope of Greenwich Village

 

Thursday September 30th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1963  

Only three films to watch for this one since September is always too busy for words: Margaret Rutherford won the Oscar for The VIPs, a Liz & Dick show, Lilia Skalia was also popular in nun mode for Lilies of the Field but it was the Best Picture winning sex comedy Tom Jones that was the informal star of this category with three of Albert Finney's co-stars nominated (the all time record in this category): Diane Cilento, Joyce Redman, and '60s Oscar fixture Dame Edith Evans (nominated shortly thereafter for both The Chalk Garden and The Whisperers

 

What other titles from 1977, 1984. and 1963 would you like us to revisit for extra flavor and context?