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Entries in Oscars (70s) (73)

Wednesday
Jul302014

Bergman's Ghosts

This is TFE's late entry into the Hit Me With Your Best Shot gallery of Cries and Whisper's finest moments

Ingmar Bergman will never die. We need not be literal about this. Yes, the great Swedish auteur passed on in 2007 but his rich inimitable* filmography is not of the corporeal so much as its of the spirit (however despairing) or at least the deep recesses of the psyche, if you'd care to differentiate. In collaboration with fellow geniuses cinematographer Sven Nykvist and actress Liv Ullman he captured many of the greatest close-ups in the whole of cinematic history. In a Bergman/Nykvist/Ullman close-up it's not the eyes that are the window to the soul so much as the face as the soul, fully visible even when its bathed in shadow. 

Yet even revealed it's still unknowable. 

best shot

When I first saw Cries and Whispers in college while pursuing my own self-guided lessons in film history, I was astonished by the film's signature move. Each of the  three "living" characters, if you can call them that, the sisters Maria (Liv Ullman) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and the family's housekeeper Anna (Kari Sylwan) are given bookend close-ups. These closeups house memories or dreams or scenes from their point of view. The closeups fade to red and are accompanied by indecipherable whispering. The impression isn't as simple as a haunting; Agnes (Harriest Anderson), who isn't afforded this expressive close-up luxury is still alive when this first starts happening. This unfathomably perfect artistic motif has already removed the film from the literal by the time Agnes dies at which point the film becomes even more incredible, disturbing and profound. What is haunting these women? Any answer feels correct whether you've imagined regrets, the abyss of death, life itself, or the living nightmare of toxic relationships.

See everyone else's choices for "Best Shot" here...

For completists of if you're curious I've included the two runner up shots I considered as "Best" after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul292014

Visual Index ~ "Cries and Whisper" Best Shot(s)

Tuesday night means Best Shot. This week we're looking at Ingmar Bergman's biggest success stateside both at the box office and with Oscar voters. If Cries and Whispers is not quite his most famous classic today, it remains one of the true essentials within his celebrated filmography. This mysterious and utterly gorgeous film won Bergman's longtime DP Sven Nykvist the first of his two Oscars for best cinematography. It concerns three sisters, one of whom is dying, and the family's maid. Naturally it's very depressing. But great art always transcends.

If you're running late with your choice for Best Shot, take heart and finish watching. My own entry in this "best shot" party will be up tomorrow so yours can be too. I have a good excuse. Today I finalized all the prep work for both the '73 Smackdown festivities (running from Thursday to Saturday here) and all the bookings for this year's Toronto International Film Festival so that you can be assured coverage of that festival this year. This year I'll be staying for the entire festival so there will be more coverage than even last year. I'm so happy about that I practically broke into a hearty round of "O Canada".

But Canada can wait. Tonight we head to Sweden for an unmissable classic... 

CRIES AND WHISPERS - BEST SHOTS
9 participants. Click on the photos for the corresponding articles 
this post will be updated again tomorrow night with any late entries received 

a reprieve from the bold crimson but one which nevertheless shows the emotional damage...
-Lam Chop Chop

 

the single best film in Bergman's canon, merciless but profound, bleak but beautiful...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

Anna, the housekeeper, seems to be the only one capable of true human connection...
-Coco Hits NY

my best shot for purely aesthetic reasons... 
-Film Actually

 

Maria's flashback, though, finds yet another use for the color red...
-The Entertainment Junkie 

Bergman even stated that in the screenplay red represented the interior of the soul... 
-The Film's The Thing 

She tried to make her pain aware to the movie itself, but it did not hear her... 
-Pop Culture Crazy 

 

Tinted in crimson (the color of the soul, according to Bergman)... 
- Best Shot in the Dark

It's not the eyes that are the window to the soul so much as the face as the soul...
- The Film Experience 

... at least one more article to come but please do enjoy these a.s.a.p.

ICYMI last week's episode was very well intended as we looked at this year's most experimental arthouse hit, Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson. Here's what's coming next. Only four more episodes left this season so join us. I promise it's both challenging and rewarding to participate.

Monday
Jul282014

1973 Look Back: Biblical Musicals

Our celebration of 1973 continues with Andrew on Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar

In 1970 John-Michael Tebelak was completing work on his master’s thesis project about Jesus Christ at Carnegie Mellon University. Before long he would pair up with musician and lyricist Stephen Schwartz and in May of 1971 the musical Godspell would officially begin playing. Around the same time, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were finalising work on a rock album, a concept musical of sorts, on the last ten days of Jesus' life. The album would be released in the fall of 1970, and one year later Jesus Christ Superstar, the musical developed from the soundtrack, would open on Broadway. By some weird happenstance the fates of the two Jesus musicals would be tied*. Two years later, the two musicals (both moderate hits on stage by that time) saw screen adaptations released in 1973.

One religious stage-musical adapted to the big screen is a curiosity; two religious film musicals – both of them from recent stage hits -  in a single year is fascinating. Two religious film musicals in the same year from recent stage hits which both cover, generally, the same subject? Too intriguing to ignore.

Two Jesus musicals, two very different Jesuses. More...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul282014

Introducing Pt 2... Blair and Candy

Previously on "Introducing"Tatum, Sylvia & Madeline

It's just 3 days until the Supporting Actress Smackdown of 1973. Bless StinkyLulu for dreaming up this event years ago because it's still so fun. But first some unfinished introductions: how do Candy Clark and Linda Blair enter their movies. If you hadn't yet seen the movie would you be expecting an Oscar nomination from these first scenes? What do the scenes telegraph for first time viewing? 

Sure do love you.

Hi, Mom!

11½ minutes in. Meet "Regan" (Linda Blair in The Exorcist)
How fitting that she first appears in bed, since she'll spend the bulk of the movie in one albeit it under far more horrific circumstances than a good night's sleep. As the scene begins her mother Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) has heard noises in her Georgetown rental and checks on her daughter first. Sound asleep. But there's a telling pan left to the open window, curtains blowing, and despite the maternal warmth and blissful lack of scoring or over-done sound design at this moment (it does sound plausibly like a rat or racoon in the attic) the scene is subtly chilling. The Exorcist understands the slow build and modulation and starts pianisssimo.  Chris kisses her daughter and pulls the covers up. When we see Regan again five minutes later she's just a typical bouncy teenager who talks pretty horses and steals cookies. If you'd never heard of The Exorcist before you first saw it (fat chance) you could safely assume that both the mom and the daughter might soon be in peril, but nothing else. The Exorcist establishes home life normalcy first before demonic insanity betrays its fragility.

Babe. What a bitchin' babe!

30¾ minutes in. Meet "Debbie" (Candy Clark in American Graffiti)
American Graffiti is about four friends after high school graduation but by the half hour mark they've all split up and the film becomes four parallel films as they cruise around the strip in different cars or on foot. We meet so many characters, first spotted from car windows, including one previous blonde fantasy girl that Debbie's entrance doesn't seem major... at first. Initially Debbie is presented in completely objectified fashion as Terry (Charles Martin Smith) calls her a Babe (to himself) and hears other men cat call her. He follows her in the car and she's getting nervous in this neighborhood and walks faster. But after a minute of fruitless one-sided conversation from his car he tells her she looks like Connie Stevens. Her temperature changes and she beelines straight for him, suddenly a different person. It's a special entrance just from Clark's offkilter switch. She's the one suddenly objectifying... only its the car she's lustfully eyeing and possibly more compliments, too.

She'd get the ultimate compliment with an Oscar nomination.

Be here on Thursday afternoon when our awesome panel discusses these five nominated performances in the monthly Smackdown event. This is your last day to vote on the 1973 supporting actress shortlist by sending me heart ratings -- for only the ones you've seen -- on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being unimproveable feats of acting. (Reminder: Next month is 1989)

Sunday
Jul272014

1973 Look Back: The End of the New Wave, the Beginning of My Cinephilia

The team is looking back at 1973 as we approach the Smackdown. Here's Amir with a personal history...

the first known photo of this famous cineaste pair. Before they were filmmakers. [src]Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut were the poster boys of the French New Wave, its most recognizable faces. Their friendship that had begun in the 1940s had carried them through all their years at Cahiers and into their directing careers, was evidenced by Godard’s adoration of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and the latter’s providing the story for his friend’s first film, Breathless. Their early writings manifest the division they had from the beginning about their outlook on the mechanics and politics of cinema. Nonetheless, their friendship continued even through the fraught days of political disagreement in 1968; but no further than 1973. Truffaut’s Day for Night (La Nuit Americaine) was an unforgivable crime in Godard’s eyes, and the latter’s disapproval of the film was a massive act of hypocrisy in Truffaut’s.  They were to never see each other again, and only after Truffaut’s death did Godard find nice words to say about his old friend.

It’s easy to see why Day for Night made Godard’s blood boil. It’s as conventionally constructed a film as one can expect from a nouevelle vague filmmaker, an unashamed love letter to Hollywood and cinema itself – and with an Oscar in its cap, no less. By this time in his career, Truffaut had already been branded a sellout by some and would continue to be called as such. He had, in the opinion of some of the New Wave’s proponent’s, become the very cinema he criticized in his youth. There was no political edge to Day for Night; no radical revision of how the medium operates. It was “a lie,” thought Godard. Some of those accusations might be true, but there is another truth that isn’t mentioned as often: this is an incredible film.

When I first watched Day for Night, I was 19. It was in the days when Toronto’s Bloor Cinema wasn’t yet devoted to screening documentaries. It was a cheap, dingy but friendly gathering place for the neighborhood’s elderly and University of Toronto’s students. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul242014

That's What I Call Movies: The Hits of '73

To give the impending Smackdown some context we're looking at the year 1973. Here's Glenn on tickets sold...

1973 was like the end of a box-office era. While year-end charts weren’t suffocated with superheroes, CGI natural disasters, and dystopian visions of futuristic societies for a little while yet, but 1973 was as far as I can tell the last year to not have a single now-traditional effects-driven film in the top ten hits of the year. Just one year later in 1974 the end-of-year charts would include the one-two punch The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (plus Airport '75), and 1975 essentially ushered in the modern era of the blockbuster with Jaws and since then it's been a steady increase.

Here is what the top ten films of 1973 looked like.

01 THE STING $156m 
02 THE EXORCIST $128m
03 AMERICAN GRAFFITI $96.3m
04 PAPILLON $53.3
05 THE WAY WE WERE $45m
06 MAGNUM FORCE $39.7
07 LAST TANGO IN PARIS $36.1
08 LIVE AND LET DIE $35.3m
09 ROBIN HOOD $32m
10 PAPER MOON $30.9m

Just look at those films and let them sink in for a moment.

The runaway hit film of 1973 was a period-set heist movie. Then there was a religious horror film (always popular with audiences, but rarely to this extent), a nostalgic indie featuring mostly unknowns, a romance about class and marxism, a European X-rated erotic drama, a Disney kids cartoon and a black-and-white comedy set during the Great Depression. Only one franchise film (the weird Blaxploitation-themed James Bond entry Live and Let Die) is on the list, and not a single spaceship or flowing cape amongst them. 

It’s cliché and frankly rather boring to decry the so-called death of movies for adults in favour of Hollywood’s constant churn of male-centric fanboy action films. I think it misses the point in many ways, not least of which that it is predominantly adults that are making Man of Steel, Fast & Furious 6 and Star Trek Into Darkness the colossal hits that they are rather than just the teenage boys that they once may have been.

Still, it’s fascinating to look at this list and compare to it today’s. It seems crazy to realise the likes of Battle of the Planet of the Apes (the fourth and worst sequel), Soylent Green and Westworld were all beaten at the box office rather handily by Paper Moon, but let’s not pretend that the kids and their comic book and Young Adult adaptations are the ones to blame for the disparity of 1973’s Oscar best picture being no. 1 of the year and 2013’s (12 Years a Slave) ranking at no. 62 beneath adult-targeted films like Last Vegas, A Good Day to Die Hard and Now You See Me.

 For what it’s worth, the top film at the box office 41 years ago was Enter the Dragon  which was released not even a whole week after the death of its now iconic star Bruce Lee. It held the number one spot for four weekends.

Thursday
Jul172014

Introducing Pt 1... Supporting Actresses of 1973

You've met our awesome panelists (Dana Delany, Karina Longworth, Mark Harris, Bill Chambers, Kyle Turner, and myself, Nathaniel) and on July 31st when the Smackdown arrives you'll hear from us again. Let's meet the characters we'll be discussing.

As is our new Smackdown tradition we begin by showing you how the performances themselves begin. There's usually some point in every nominated performance when it clicks in... here's the scene that did it. That can come as early as the introduction for some characters. At the very least the intro is the springboard for every thing you'll see about the character from then on. Do these introductions scream "shower me with gold statues!"? Do the filmmakers prepare us for what's ahead? Here's how 3 of the 5 nominees are introduced in the order of how quickly they arrive in their movies.

[No Dialogue]

Immediately. Meet "Addie Loggins" (Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon)
This is the first shot of Paper Moon and the camera will rarely leave little Addie (Tatum O'Neal) again in the greatest case of Category Fraud ever perpetrated at the Oscars. She is staring tearless into her mother's freshly dug grave, flanked by unaffectionate adults who immediately pawn her off post-funeral to a stranger who bears a striking resemblance (Ryan O'Neal). He's meant to drive her to only kin, an Aunt she doesn't know. Tatum's/Addie's resistance to charming you or her co-stars actually proves better than charming, drawing you completely in to that poker face. Three minutes later she finally speaks and seems less child-like; she's all business, suspiciously scoping out her new situation and this "friend" of her mother's. 

Rita: Who is this?
Mrs Pritchett: Who do you think it is?
Rita: Why do you sound so strange?
Mrs Pritchett: I'm at Saks. 

5 minutes in. Meet "Mrs Pritchett" (Sylvia Sidney in Summer Wishes Winter Dreams)
We've spent enough time with Rita (Joanne Woodward), our protagonist, to know that she's neurotic and unhappy; the first scene is an actual nightmare. A phone call wakes her up. Disoriented from sleeping she doesn't recognize her own mother's voice. (That's Sylvia Sidney who today's moviegoers probably remember best from Beetlejuice.) Forget the dialogue as being at Saks is hardly a strange occurence judging from her expensive clothing and multiple shopping bags. The picture of their relationship is instantly clear: they bicker, they're terse with each other, they meet every week for lunch which is why the mother is calling and what they're about to do. One assumes then that the picture will be an acidic mother/daughter drama. But is that what's coming?

Now don't you drop nuthin' Imogene. You take care of those breakables, y'understand?

40 minutes in. Meet "Trixie Delight" (Madeline Kahn in Paper Moon)
This is one of those highlighted intros that a movie prepares you for, shouting 'New Chapter'.  It draws its comic energy from the "cut to". We're sitting in a hotel room with Addie and her exasperated shouting Daddy who explains that there'll be two new women in the car, a "lady" and her maid...

A REAL LADY AND SHE COMES FROM A GOOD FAMILY!"

Cut to: Madeline Kahn strutting out of the carnival's nudie tent "HAREM SLAVE - WORLD FAMOUS GIRLS", boobs bouncing. A real lady from a good family, eh? Kahn wins her first big laugh with literally her first second of screen time. There will be more. 

Do the introductions make you want to see more?
(In part 2 we'll look at the other nominees)

[If you'd like to participate in the Smackdown make sure to vote on the nominated performances (only the ones you've seen please, underseen performances are not penalized as votes are averaged out) by rating the nominees on a scale of 1 (inadequate) to 5 (beyond excellent) hearts.]