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Love Affair (1994) - as "A Year With Kate" nears its conclusion

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Entries in Oscars (80s) (96)

Monday
Sep022013

Year of the Month: 1980?

1980. The year which brought you Sissy Spacek's Oscar winning roleThe Film Experience likes to keep one foot in the past and one in the now at all times... so as to be well-rounded like. People who never watch anything beyond the now or their own personal nostalgia hits, even if they profess to love movies or the Oscars, they're not really movie lovers just pop culture consumers. (Not that there's anything wrong with that! It's just not what we do here at TFE.)

For September I thought we'd do things a tiny bit differently and because I am easily distracted and scattered we'll probably have three running themes this month to augment the contemporary cinema coverage. We'll infrequently be checking out old Robert Redford classics as All is Lost approaches (we've already started with Butch Cassidy and The Natural), we'll be looking at high school / college movies in this Back to School Month and, finally, since y'all enjoyed the return of the smackdown, we'll be revisiting some key films from the 1980s as lead up to the Supporting Actress Smackdown "1980" Edition on September 30th. 

But imma let you choose which films (choose 3!) we revisit or see for the first time via this poll! 

 

I know I know. I overplan. But humor me by pretending that we'll have time for at least 3 of these!

Wednesday
Aug212013

Burning Questions: Does Last Temptation Still Have the Power to Outrage?

Michael C here to reflect on a cinematic milestone. This month marks twenty-five years since the release of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Growing up Catholic I was taught that Jesus was both human and divine, yet the depictions of Jesus I was presented with invariably paid minimal lip service to his human side while emphasizing the holy. Flicks like King of Kings and The Greatest Story Ever Told presented a Christ with all the humanity of a figure on a stained glass window. The Jesus in these movies is forever staring off into the distance, beatific smile on his face, arms outstretched, making proclamations in the gentle tones of an easy listening DJ. Even his words seem to be walking on water.

It wasn’t until college when I saw Scorsese’s version that I finally grasped what it meant for Jesus to have the same frailties as the rest of us, rather than have a Jesus who appears human but who has none of the weaknesses of humanity. The troubled, doubting savior portrayed by Willem Dafoe in Last Temptaion bears little resemblance to the star of those comforting but shallow Biblical pageants. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug212013

Robert Redford is "The Natural"

To celebrate Robert Redford's imminent return to cinema in "All is Lost" Team Experience will be surveying some of his classics and key films. Here's Anne Marie on The Natural.

Robert Redford is as American as apple pie and baseball. Actually, it might be equally accurate to say that apple pie and baseball are as American as Robert Redford. Like Jimmy Stewart before him, Redford personifies the American Man ideal. But unlike Stewart's earnest Everyman, Redford, with his golden boy good looks and sweet-but-sardonic smile, is the Mythic American Man model. Redford is not the star you relate to; he's the star you admire from afar. Robert Redford has spent most of his career playing variations on this character, but nowhere is his inherent legendaryness used to greater effect than in the 1984 film The Natural. The Natural is a movie about the American Myth through the lens of the American Pastime.

It would be easy to mistake The Natural for "just another sports movie." The plot certainly reads as another sentiment-drenched schlock-fest.  Roy Hobbs, a nobody who's past his prime, changes baseball and wins a championship with his talent, his courage, and a baseball bat struck by lightning. (I rolled my eyes even as I typed that.) However, to take this movie too literally is to miss its point. 

The Natural plays on a grander scale. Roy Hobbs is the Arthurian Hero wielding a legendary weapon. It's no coincidence that he leads a baseball team called the Knights. Barbara Hershey, in a small but striking role as the woman who ends his career before it begins, is Temptation. Glenn Close makes a rare appearance as the Good Woman, representing the wholesome life Hobbs missed before but could win back. Kim Basinger makes a not-so-rare appearance as the Sinful Woman, a blonde version of Temptation that Hobbs will have to overcome again. These are Characters with a capital "C," more important for what they symbolize than for who they are. If you don't believe me, watch how often characters are backlit. Strong backlighting is cinematography shorthand for Significant And Symbolic Character.

Glenn Close as "Good Woman" a few years before evil was her forte

I have to confess: I usually hate sports movies. I, like Margo Channing, detest cheap sentiment, which is the currency most sports films trade in. The underdog story is overdone. There are only so many sacrifices a man can make for a game before I question his priorities; and really, Rudy made one sack in one play, so why are we cheering mediocrity?

By that measure, I should hate The Natural too. But I can't. Maybe it's Robert Redford's rugged handsomeness (there is no such thing as "middle-aged" Redford; like wine, cheese, and good art, he just gets better with time). Maybe I just really love watching Barbara Hershey vamp. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for movies about the American Dream, where one person can change the world thorugh earnest hard work. Whatever the reason, The Natural remains a personal favorite, as well as a classic.

Thursday
Aug152013

Revisiting "The Color Purple" With Oscar-Tinted Glasses

When I selected The Color Purple (1985) for the Best Shot series I was motivated not only by recent conversations about Oprah Winfrey's big screen return and dim memories of her debut as Sofia but by my own remembered shrug towards the movie. For such a widely beloved movie it's not one I ever warmed to -- though I remember loving the "Miss Celie's Blues" scene -- which turned to be the magnet for our Best Shot club. I knew it was time to revisit since how can you ever warm to something you're never in contact with? I hadn't watched the film since I was sitting in the movie theater in 1985 as a newborn Oscar fanatic (!) if you can believe it.

my favorite of the movie's self-consciously beautiful moments

1985 was a crucial year in my Oscar fanaticism. It was the first year in which I consciously remember reading about movies through a golden statue lens and wondering about what might get nominated months in advance. This hardly seems worth noting except that this was unusual at the time. That's something that people do much more loudly now -- like 10,000 times more loudly -- than they ever did publicly before, say, the early mid 90s when the sea change began (brought on by both the rise of campaign-crazy Miramax and the Internet). By the late 90s Oscar had fully become the long seasonal circus we recognize today as opposed to a One Night Only event that people talked about for one month of the year. It seems like such an innocent time actually -- the only articles about Oscar were in monthly or weekly entertainment magazines until basically the week of the ceremony when things got loud. At least that's the way I remember it. 

I bring up the Oscars primarily as a window to personal history and how my opinion has both changed and stayed the same. [more]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug142013

Visual Index ~ The Color Purple's Best Shot(s)

For this week's edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot I challenged participating blogs (you should join us next week for The Bad and the Beautiful!) to rewatch Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's THE COLOR PURPLE (1985) and make their choice for "best shot". The cinematography by Allen Daviau was Oscar-nominated, as were its central trio of actresses Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey (who returns to the screen in The Butler this weekend). The Color Purple famously lost all of its nominations but remains a touchstone film for many moviegoers and a divisive one for others.

All of which makes it an ideal candidate for this series. Here's what the various blogs chose so click on any of the pictures for the corresponding article. They're mostly in chronological order though I've had some strange html issues that have altered the look of the post which I can't quite figure out so I apologize for the wonkiness. I always marvel when different sets of eyeballs coalesce around the same images and scenes in films as visually showy as this one. 8 of the 13 participants chose the same scene and its aftermath.

The Film Experience

Nick's Flick Picks

More best shot choices after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul112013

Best Shot: Dead Ringers, Conjoined in Shadow

Hit Me With Your Best Shot happens each Wednesday night and usually spills on over into Thursday morning. Next week (July 17th) we're all looking at the practically perfect "Mary Poppins." This week: David Cronenberg's masterpiece...

Dead Ringers (1988)

For the uninitiated Dead Ringers (1988) is the 'Saga' of 'The Fabulous Mantle Brothers,' twin gynecologists Beverly (Jeremy Irons) and Elliott (Jeremy Irons again) and the 'destructive force' Claire (Genevieve Bujold) that separates them. I've put the air quotes in the synopsis since that's how Elliott, the more theatrical and dominant twin, and the elder by a few minutes, describes the movies from its insides. I don't want to spoil the movie if you haven't yet seen it but if you haven't (*cough* 25 years later) get on that! If you ask me Jeremy Irons deserved the Oscar he wasn't nominated for for this career topping performance(s). 

My earliest favorite movie was The Parent Trap (1961) which I watched on television countless times as a child. Though I realize it's hardly a unique fascination, twins have always done it for me. There's so much to explore and even more to never understand about the possible psychologies of two distinct people who are, genetically, the same person. Though I've seen David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers about four times now I confess that I usually have trouble differentiating Beverly and Elliott. But not this time. Visually, the clarity of their separateness, even though they're loathe to experience it as such, was riveting. Even the old trick of dividing the same actor on two sides of a clearly divided frame doesn't even feel like a sad necessity but the point.

Cronenberg's direction is so assured that you can pick a corker of a shot in virtually every scene as the Best Shot participants have done. Any number of shots will reveal top notch production design (also robbed of Oscar attention) by turning half the spaces into something out of a medical illustration, with intricate lines, weirdly sterile immobility and sleek curves and flat color. But this time through the shot that resonated most was simpler. And I don't even feel like it's cheating that I've chosen twin shots, one of Elliott and one of Beverly, which I've displayed in reverse chronological order. 

These shots are close in proximity in the narrative and each features one of the Mantle Twins reacting to Claire talking to him about the other Mantle Twin. Elliott (up top) is angry that Claire has entered the picture and attempts to intimidate her and seduce her but she won't be cowed. Nevertheless he's too cool and too controlled to lose his composure. The shadow only augments his sinister handsomeness, like a flattering accomplice in seduction and plotting. But Beverly, more emotional and more fluid, who so yearns for separation that he hides Elliot from Claire until this very scene, is also terrified by it. In this simple but brilliant shot he has been found out. Claire has uttered Elliott's name. This shadow neither conceals nor flatters; it merely wipes out his identity. Who is he without Elliott anyway?

For 12 other takes on this movie, please check out the rich array of articles provided by this week's Best Shot club in the visual index

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