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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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Entries in parties and events (39)


Campaign Cocktails: Youth & Spotlight

oh it's just me and Jane. just an average Thursday night.More adventures from Oscar's holiday festive campaign trail. This time the Oscar frontrunner (Spotlight) and an Oscar possibility too many people are sleeping on (Youth)...

Should Jane Fonda ever tell you you have good tastes in movies, it'll get you drunker than whatever cocktail is in your hand. My personal guarantee to you! If, hypothetically speaking, you're a self-proclaimed actressexual cinephile Oscar pundit (ahem) and two of your favorite movies of all time happen to be They Shoot Horses Don't They (1969) and  Klute (1971), and Jane Fonda says this aloud to you, you might feel a little like you've peaked.  Is this real life...?

The 77 year-old American icon, along with her Youth co-stars Paul Dano and Michael Caine were the glitziest guests of Fox Searchlight's holiday party in New York City last week. (If the star's of the company's buzziest contender Brooklyn were at the sprawling extravaganty catered party at the Park Hyatt  -- truffle shavings? why not! --  I unfortunately didn't spot them).

True legends aren't often as accessible as Jane Fonda was at this particular party, gladly taking selfies with multiple fans and chatting about her movies and Youth, too. Many people have referred to Fonda's work in Youth as a "cameo" including probably myself at one point or another and while that might be factually true it's not spiritually true. You'll hear everything from 4 minutes to 9 minutes about her screentime depending on who you're talking to but screentime is rarely an accurate barometer of impact. Youth spends so much time obsessing on her character, the Fonda-like "Brenda Morel" (not coincidentally also a multiple Oscar winning bonafide legend who has recently made a new home in television) that when she arrives it's with the power of a rumbling fault line, tectonically shifting the movie's entire landscape. Youth as a film experience is basically pre-Fonda and post-Fonda in the telling. I fully expect her to be nominated and have for months now.

Paul Dano is the only actor in Youth that is not working some strange voodoo of their own persona fused with character work. He's playing a full fledged movie star best known for a franchise he despises... and though I expected Keitel to be winning the traction as Supporting Actor, it appears that some people are in Dano's corner. He was in good spirits at the party, and possibly filled with spirits from the open bar (sorry, that was me - I'm projecting)  Dano keeps being paired with estimable superstars or genuine acting powerhouses: Day-Lewis, Jackman, De Niro, Caine, Fonda (though he doesn't share scenes with the latter). I asked him if this trend was disconcerting or intimidating for him on set? 'Are you kidding me?' he answered, excited. 'I love it. I hope it'll make me better.' I won't spoil one of Youth's most disturbing surprises which involves Dano's actor character preparing for a new role but I asked him about that soon to be infamous scene. As it turns out he filmed it on his 30th birthday which is now, he admits,  'the weirdest birthday of my life.' 

Thomas McCarthy and Michael Keaton... (photo from the internet, not this particular event)

Less celebrity hobnobbing occurred at the last party I attended in Los Angeles which happened to be for  Spotlight (you know how sometimes you're shy and sometimes you're extroverted? Same) but the "light supper" event was well-attended and the town's love for the movie was palpable. Writer-director Thomas McCarthy was surrounded by well wishers, a nice mix of Academy members (former 80s Best Actress nominee spotted!) and journos the whole night. I did say a brief hello to Michael Keaton who I had met a couple of times during his Birdman run last season. "Welcome to Round Two!" I said stupidly. Was he ready for all this again, so soon? He assured me it felt much different this time -- the pressure was off since it wasn't so focused on him. It's too soon to say if the  "all supporting" Oscar campaign for Spotlight will pay off with the acting branch, but I personally think it was the right call. It's the very definition of an Ensemble Picture. Can anyone beat that team for SAG's upcoming top prize? 



AFI Fest: "By the Sea" Premieres

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles. I've been offline so I have to thank the team for keeping us up to date in the news. In the interest of not getting too far behind, let's talk about Thursday's opening event.

A rental car misshap nearly prevented me from attending the glitzy premiere of Mr & Mrs Pitt aka By the Sea but I made it in the nick of time. Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt manage the uncommon feat of looking as beautiful as the seaside scenery onscreen and just as beautiful offscreen. They were both glammed up like it was Oscar night in full tux & perfectly groomed hair (Brad) and shimmering form fitting white gown (Angie). Their new film is a marital vacation drama that feels like an uncomfortable fusion of three film types. The first is the enigmatic 60s Italian pictures -- think Antonioni letting Monica Vitti languidly sex up the camera and drive everyone mad while everyone forgets about the plot because "plot? --  how banal!" The second is a kind of meta-interest "vanity project" like a Burton & Taylor joint and I use the term vanity project in the most flattering way possible; no one earns vanity like the great movie stars and both Brad and Angie qualify for that designation. The third is hostile vaguely unreal marital drama erotica. In all three cases the film doesn't go nearly far enough: it needs to be more enigmatic / indifferent to the audience like L'Avventura OR more terrible and superstar campy like, say, Boom!, OR more sexually charged and surreal like maybe Eyes Wide Shut.

It's tough to imagine who the film might satisfy as its mostly inert and repetitious (not a total problem if you like art films), approaches sexually charged material rather timidly (a bigger problem), and is oddly backloaded story-wise which suddenly makes the film feel ill at ease with its languid despair at the last moment "oh, there needs to be A Story" 

But for what's it's worth it's an interesting curiousity. Along with a few truly great moments, it's fun to hear Brad Pitt speaking French and he acts drunk well.

It's interesting that Jolie  keeps challenging herself with different types of films even though she doesn't seem like a "natural" at directing, truth be told. I refuse to call her "Angelina Jolie Pitt" -- women need to stop defining themselves as belonging to a man and it's even worse when celebrities do it. Nearly all instances of famous people changing their public name for marriage end in tears and it looks sloppy on filmographies. Joanne Woodward didn't change her professional name to Joanne Newman when she married Paul and look how happy they were and remained for his whole life!

Gena Rowlands at the opening night partyAt the after party, I wasn't able to get close to Angelina or Brad and didn't spot the beautiful French stars Melanie Laurent & Melvil Poupaud (though they were at the premiere as the other couple in the film) but the most famous married movie stars in the world were real troupers hanging at the party for a good long while and speaking to well wishers in their über glamorous duds. The after party did provide one moment of pure movie bliss though: I was able to congratulate Gena Rowlands on her impending Honorary Oscar. It was brief but heavenly. She was gracious and beaming. Sasha Stone snapped the picture of this blessed moment. Thanks Sasha!

More from the AFI fest soon!


Attending the Mad Men "Black and Red Ball"

Margaret reporting from Los Angeles. On Wednesday night, television phenomenon Mad Men screened its final premiere, and I had the pleasure of attending to represent The Film Experience. This premiere leads off the second half of Mad Men's seventh and final season. While introducing the episode, AMC President Charlie Collier spoke to the legacy of the show, claiming that:

in the history of television, there will be a permanent line of demarcation: Before Mad Men, and After Mad Men.''

It's a strong claim, but it's true. 


Compare the television landscape of today to the television landscape of a decade ago, and the influence of Mad Men's success is evident. Certainly without that show AMC would not have taken off and there would be no Breaking Bad, nor The Walking Dead. The Americans, Downton Abbey, and Netflix's entire original programming arm also owe Mad Men a sizable debt.

The Event
In celebration of their achievement, the cast and crew gathered in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles which housed the Oscars for many year. The Pavilion isn't new to Mad Men either, the foyer having played the lobby of a Rome hotel in season three. 

Margaret and Jordan attending for The Film Experience


Nearly the entire cast was present except for Elisabeth Moss (currently on Broadway) and Jessica Pare. When Robert Morse was called on stage he practically held court, and all but did a soft-shoe. Jon Hamm was, understandably, like the class president, high-fiving everyone and adorably rough-housing with little Bobby Draper when he seemed to get restless. And finally, Kiernan Shipka who we watched grow up on the show, is now unnervingly tall and very poised. 

The mutual respect and love among the team was evident, and the program reserved special (and richly deserved) praise for the visual artists who gave Mad Men so much of its richness: cinematographer Chris Manley, production designer Dan Bishop, art director Christopher Brown, set decorator Claudette Didul, props master Ellen Freund, and the genius costume designer Janie Bryant whose work on the show is so long overdue for an Emmy. Christina Hendricks clearly adores them giving enormous hugs to everyone.

Coming up on seven full seasons, Mad Men has pulled down four Emmys for Best Drama Series, traced the decade of shifting cultural history between 1960 and 1970, and has inspired more spiraling fan theories than its cast has smoked cigarettes.


Keirnan Shipka, Jon Hamm, and January Jones at the event on Wednesday

So how does it end? The first of the final episodes, true to the series spirit, plays it close to the vest. It riffs on the show's established intertwining themes (sex, business, identity) but it's a little looser, a little more relaxed. (As if they knew that the TFE readership would be on the look out for a "Mad Men at the Movies" reference, they toss off an aces Mildred Pierce joke midway through.) The pace is unhurried, as ever, and where the slow burn will flame out is still anyone's guess. TV has changed so much since Mad Men arrived. How will it change once it's gone?

Mad Men returns to AMC for its final episodes on Sunday April 5th, 10/9c


Christopher Plummer Honored

Anne Marie providing your concrete connection to TCM Classic Film Fest.

Besides the Oscars, there may be no symbol more Hollywood than the handprints outside the TCL Chinese Theater. As legend goes, Norma Talmadge walked through wet cement while theater entrepreneur Sid Grauman was finishing construction on the Chinese Theater, and the accident gave the showman a rock-solid idea. Whatever the tradition's origin, ever since the Chinese Theater opened in 1927, thousands of starstruck tourists and Hollywood hopefuls have made their way to the theater's courtyard, where they can marvel at the timeworn hand-and-footprints of everyone from Bette Davis to Tom Hanks to the cast of Harry Potter.

Yesterday morning, Christopher Plummer joined the ranks of cemented cinema stars. [more]

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Beauty Break: Random Oscar Night Gowns You Might Not Have Seen

Because they weren't on the stage but at after parties. Many beauties after the jump...

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Curio: Oscar Snacks 2015

Alexa here. I knew early on that my annual Oscar pig-out this year would feature the pastry at the center of Wes Anderson's latest. Not only because it was probably my favorite film this year, but because Wes kindly supplied detailed instructions for making the Courtesan au Chocolat.  A literal invitation to create my own Wes Anderson diorama!  I had to try.  



It was all fun and games until the assembly, when the mini towers toppled like dominoes. Damn you, Wes! 

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Interview: Tomm Moore on "Song of the Sea" and the Oscar Race

Tomm Moore, 38, is enjoying his second Oscar nomination for Animated FeatureOne of the semi-unexpected joys of the birth of the Animated Feature Oscar category in 2001 has been the steady stream of international cartoons that the Oscars have spotlighted. The first truly big surprise was a nomination for a film few had heard of at the time called The Secret of Kells (2009) -- that "what's that?" nomination has become something of a tradition in the category since then. The Oscar nomination for that hypnotic and singularly gorgeous tribute to Irish folklore did a lot to put Cartoon Saloon, an Irish animation studio, on the map.

Cartoon Saloon's co-founder and Kells co-director Tomm Moore has crafted another magical Irish winner in Song of the Sea, an adventure about a boy who discovers his little sister is a "selkie" and holds the key to saving all the faerie folk who are slowly turning to stone (long story!). 

I had the pleasure of speaking to Moore by phone where he was in San Francisco on his Song of the Sea tour and about to meet with Pete Docter (Up). He peppers his conversation with plentiful references to other animation giants (also sharing a story about hanging out with the Big Hero 6 team). It all paints a wonderful picture of a very tight mutual-appreciation niche within Hollywood's larger ecosystem.

We talked Oscars, storytelling, and Cartoon Saloon's next project...

NATHANIEL:  This is your second time nominated for the big show. Does it feel different this time?

TOMM MOORE:  For sure yeah. It’s more fun because we know a little bit more what to expect and am able to enjoy it a bit more rather than just be like “what?”

NATHANIEL: It’s been five years since your last movie.

TOMM: In the meantime I’ve joined the Academy myself and I understand a little bit better how it all works. 

Moore's favorite film of 2014 and the responsibility of kids movies after the jump...

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