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Entries in Oscars (70s) (73)

Thursday
Jul312014

Smackdown 1973: Candy, Madeline, Linda, Sylvia, and Tatum O'Neal

Behold the five Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1973: a "bitchin' babe" (Candy Clark), a pint-sized con-artist (Tatum O'Neal), a possessed teenager (Linda Blair), a selfish carnival dancer (Madeline Kahn), and a vinegary New York institution (Sylvia Sidney). 

THE NOMINEES

 

Last month's featured year, 1964, gave us an extremely senior acting shortlist of Oscar regulars but the corresponding shortlist of 1973, apart from Sylvia Sidney who had been a respected working actress for nearly a half-century, skewed very new and very young and not just because it gave us the youngest Oscar winner of all time in Tatum O'Neal; she was 10 years and 148 days old. The four actresses nominated with Sidney were in their first flush of stardom and only acting in their first (O'Neal) second (Kahn & Clark) or third films (Blair). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences obviously approved of their career choice.

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

from left to right: Chambers, Delany, Harris, Longworth, Rogers, Turner

You've already heard 'what 1973 means to them' and now here to talk about these five performances are authors Mark Harris ("Five Came Back") and Karina Longworth ("Anatomy of  an Actor: Meryl Streep"), film critics Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central) and Kyle Turner (Movie Scene), your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) and our special guest: two-time Emmy winning actress Dana Delany ("China Beach", "Body of Proof", and the forthcoming "Hand of God").

And, as ever, we must thank StinkyLulu for the original Smackdown inspiration in which we revisit Oscar shortlists of the past without all the campaigning and heat-of-the-moment politics that infect each awards race. Without further ado, part one of the main event.... (here's part two which is a podcast conversation)

1973
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

LINDA BLAIR as "Regan" in The Exorcist
Synopsis: The daughter of a famous actress begins acting strangely. Can two priests save her from the demon inside?
Stats: 15 yrs old. First and only nomination. 41 minutes of screen time (or 34% of running time). 

Dana Delany: William Friedkin clearly created a set where Blair felt free to perform. She is naturally real as a pre-teen and then fully committed  in the physicality when she is possessed. I know it's McCambridge's voice, but Blair deserved this nomination just for what they put her through; the crucifix in the crotch, alone! ♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: This isn't one performance but three--four if you count the makeup unto itself. Blair provides the base coat, of course, and the guilessness she brings to her early scenes is perhaps easy to underrate; she's not just natural, she's impossibly ordinary. (Her squirms and grunts in the hospital scenes are also viscerally authentic.) But Regan is a puppet in both concept and execution, manifesting fewer reactions than she provokes. In the end, this isn't unlike nominating Yoda or something. ♥♥

Karina Longworth: In a movie full of terrible performances, at least Blair's gives you something to think about, in that it takes some work to separate out what she's actually doing on her own, and what is being accomplished via makeup, effects, and voice dubbing. The things that are wrong (dated, laughable) with the movie are not Blair's fault, exactly, but she also doesn't exactly give a sense of the agency or invention that she brings to the role that another actress wouldn't.  ♥♥

Kyle Turner: Though part of what’s memorable about Blair’s performance has to do with Mercedes McCambridge’s voice work, she adds an absolutely crucial element of that innocence and naiveté suddenly taken over by evil. The film is not only horrifying on a visceral level, but on a human level because we sympathise for Regan. She’s going through Hell. Literally. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Revisiting this, I found myself surprised by how little Blair is in the movie—unlike the adults, she’s not a character but an object, and William Friedkin uses her shrewdly but sparingly, in short, carefully chosen takes, sort of the way Spielberg deployed the shark in Jaws. It’s far from great acting, but her ordinariness works well for the part, and even though it’s a largely lip-synced performance (all hail Mercedes “Pazuzu” McCambridge!), she’s impressively game in every scene. ♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: Those doctors and priests are such fools. Little Regan definitely has an unholy spirit inside her and its name is "McCambridge". Though the sound design, dubbing, and makeup are doing major heavy-lifting, Blair does just fine with her half portions, believably slipping towards catatonic trouble. Plus: watch her demon scenes with the sound off (I tried it!) and there’s still solid physical acting. In short I believed this young actress scratched “Help Me” into her own stomach from the inside. ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Even with all the help this performance gets (makeup, sound, voice actors, etc) I still think Blair was ahead of her age and completely believable. Even after all the spoofs and rip offs I still find her creepy and during the "normal" scenes she's very natural." - Mauro. (Reader average: ♥½)

Actress earns 19½ ❤s 

4 more actresses after the jump


Click to read more ...

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

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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...]

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