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Entries in Phoenix (7)

Thursday
Jan282016

Personal Ballots Cont'd: Best Cinematography & Production Design

We're almost done with the Oscar Correlative categories in the Film Bitch Awards. Then it's on to the silly & fun but still seriously chosen "extra" categories. Here are my choices for the best men behind the camera (always men. sigh) and the men and women designing and decorating those sets and the film's overall visual palette for your eye-candy pleasure. 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The big Oscar question this year is "Can Emmanuel Lubezki" win a third consecutive Oscar for The Revenant. He's dominated the category the past two years with Gravity (2013) and Birdman (2014). It won't be the longest consecutive winning streak ever -- that belongs to Walt Disney who won consistently in short film categories for seemingly ever in the early days of Oscar -- but it will be the single longest streak in modern history if he pulls it off. But the category already has something for the record books: With his 13th nomination Roger Deakins Sicario moves into a tie for 5th place for All Time Most Celebrated Cinematographer. He's now sharing the honor with George J. Folsey (Meet Me in St. Louis) who also never won an Oscar. Everyone higher on the list won the Oscar once or multiple times, all four of them; It's rarified air they're breathing. 

Deakins makes my own personal ballot this year but Lubezki just barely misses (I was more impressed with his work on The New World which also went all natural light on the frontier) because I had to make room for the emotionally expressive and flexible light of Phoenix (courtesy of Hans Fromm) and the jaw-dropping 'how'd they do that?' camerawork on Germany's Victoria. On the latter film the director was so impressed he gave DP Sturla Brandth Grølven billing above his own! 

Oscar Charts (now with trivia & predictions) & Nathaniel's Ballot  


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
We've already discussed the stupendous achievements in this category by Ethan Tobman on Room and Judy Becker on Carol so no need to rehash other than 'what is with Oscar sometimes. How could they ignore them?' Oscar voters have an anything goes choice in this category, though. If they don't just check off Mad Max Fury Road in most of the craft categories it's easy to imagine any of the films as winners, don'cha think?

Finally I wanted to give a shout out briefly to Thomas E Sanders work on Crimson Peak which the Academy also passed on. The movie has a lot of problems -- Guillermo del Toro can't seem to stay out of his own way with so much gilding of every gothic lily -- but Allerdale Hall is wonderfully decayed and oppressively decorative and all around drafty and decadent. And those vats in the basement! 

Oscar Charts (now with trivia & predictions) & Nathaniel's Ballot  

Monday
Jan252016

Best of 2015: Nathaniel's Top Fifteen

When you devote your life to the movies, you come to cherish the movies that give back as if they're devoted, in return, to you. Yes, you, specifically. Our consumption of movies may be communal but in some ineffable way, especially when it comes to list-making, they're deeply personal; movies in conversation with your soul. At least if you're doing it right. It's painful enough to "rank" a top 15 for 2015. So I included a second tier of favorites. The 30 best of the year, according to your host, took place all over the world as we know it (Germany keeps popping up as does seemingly every place with an arid climate in an odd but starkly beautiful coincidence) to weirdly recognizable places beyond it (Why, Jakku, you look so much like Tattoine!). The unifying thread might be that however alien their perspectives and locales (inside a young girl's brain, locked in a 10 x 10 shed, or chained to the back of rusted death machines in hallucinatory sandstorms), they resonated as if deeply familiar.

Nathaniel's top 30 films of

If you're looking for __ you won't find it:
I liked Magic Mike XXL -- you may recall that Magic Mike (2012) won the Film Bitch Bronze medal here in 2012 as third best of its entire year -- but can't join the unexpected bandwagon of critics who decided they loved the sequel well after it left theaters. I did enjoy it a lot, though. Also just missing the list, not from an absence of affection exactly but "best?" attributes, is Ridley Scott's disco-lite outer-space romp The Martian. I'm far less keen on recent Oscar nominees like The Big Short, Straight Outta Compton, The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa, Trumbo, Son of Saul, and The Revenant but they need not cry from my qualms, indifference, or distaste (depending on the picture) since they have stadiums full of cheering sections elsewhere

And this list is about positive, nay giddy, love. So on to the best of the best. 

15 (Very) Honorable Mentions in Alpha Order
Please seek out: The Troubles via Yann Demange's electric debut '71; Desiree Arkhavan's hilarious bisexual Iranian-American hipster romcom (a genre we didn't even know we needed but love) Appropriate Behavior; Spielberg & Hanks's absorbing Bridge of Spies; Disney's girlie lush live-action Cinderella spin; Olivier Assayas's actressy-angst at those Clouds of Sils Maria; Celine Sciamma's infectiously observed but profoundly sad GirlhoodLily Tomlin & Paul Weitz's Grandma focused road trip; the waking nightmare game of sexual tag in It FollowsIceland's formally compelling beast and man oddity Of Horses and Men; Brazil's smart socioeconomic collisions in The Second Mother; Paul Feig & Melissa McCarthy's Spy romp; Disney's easy money $4 billion bet The Force Awakens; Tom McCarthy's soulful journalism procedural SpotlightAaron Sorkin's presentational Steve Jobs triptych; Xavier Dolan's queasy, queer, razor blade dangerous Tom at the Farm; and the director, crew, and cast who pulled off that continuous shot jaw-dropper stunt that was Victoria... and pulled it off with feeling. 

Without further ado and with deep appreciation...

NATHANIEL'S TOP 15 OF '15
🎶 they're speaking my language baby 🎶 

 

I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
(Brett Haley)
Bleecker Street Media. May 15th
92 minutes 

A movie as unassuming as Blythe Danner's still waters star turn, and as gently surprised by its twilight romanticism as the wonderful theme song. It's easy to imagine this film becoming a staple, a comfortable blanket to wrap yourself up in on lonely nights; an old dear friend that understands the value of finding new ones.

You're a good drinking buddy!"

 

CHI-RAQ
(Spike Lee)
Roadside Attractions. December 4th
119 minutes 

By no small margin the most uneven and sometimes downright sloppy movie on this 15 wide "Best" list --  stop reading the teleprompter Samuel L Jackson, learn your damn verse! But, a permanent truth: perfection isn't everything. Vitality of voice, with something actually worth saying, counts for quite a lot with so many polished but empty-headed and safe pictures clogging up each year's awards pipeline. Spike Lee won an Honorary Oscar shortly before anyone saw his reworking of Lysistrata, transported to contemporary Chicago (nicknamed Chi-Raq for its crime rate troubles). Nobody knew that his best movie in 15 years was about to hit to make that statue feel retroactively less of a tribute to past highs (Do The Right Thing, 25th Hour, etcetera) and more of an "it's about damn time!" honor for a still relevant artist. Chi-Raq is... Crazy. Funny. Sexy. Anguished. Silly. Mad. Experimental. Sickening. Sober. Even Optimistic. In short, "It's 'EVERYTHING!' as the queens say. Now if only everyone would go see this bold bawdy and beautiful everything. And, did someone say "Queen," I can hear Miss Helen (Angela Bassett, who also Got Her Groove Back of late) shaking her head at the meager box office receipts.

Y'all make my tired ass tired!" 

 

SICARIO
(Denis Villeneuve)
Lionsgate. October 2nd
121 minutes 

If Denis Villenueve's movies get any more tense they're going to explode by the second reel.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan192016

Newish: A Walk with the Teenage Martian Outta Compton

It's time for the irregular 'newish for home viewing' list. If you've been trying to catch up on 2015 hits & misses (no judgments -- we're all for movie consumption of multiple kinds and whenever people can get to them) it's worth noting that a lot of things hit DVD, Blu-Ray, and Streaming over the past three weeks. Here are some highlights. (Links go to related articles here).

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan092016

Podcast: Anomalisa & Great Films to Stream Right Now

Previously on Pt 1: The Hateful Eight and Comedy Performances of 2015

Pt 2 is here now. Joe, Katey and Nick --soldiering on awesomely without Nathaniel at this week's recording session -- are talking Anomalisa, and streaming recommendations to complete your film year. I hope you enjoy their conversation as much as I did! 

36 minutes 
00:01 Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa has attracted obsessed fans. Do Katey, Joe and Nick number among them? Find out. 
14:40 Reader Question: Great performances in not so great films? When actors do all the work themselves. 
20:10 Catching up with 2015 films we missed. Streaming recommendations!
34:30 Goodbyes & Plugs & Happy New Year

Films discussed include but are not limited to: Phoenix, The Man From UNCLE, Blackhat, and Goodnight Mommy  

Further Reading
Joe's Decider column on future cult classics
Nick's new giant Actress project 

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes

Anomalisa, Phoenix, and More...

Tuesday
Dec152015

Mission: Impossible - trying to catch up with all the new movies

We've opted to do the home viewing news bi-weekly so as not to clog the feed up with lists of product. Some weeks are awfully spare. But here's what's new or newish on DVD/BluRay and streaming if your TV is big.

New DVD or BluRay
Ant-Man -In which Paul Rudd steals a magic suit and Becomes a Better Man. (Tim's review)
Downhill Racer -The 1969 Robert Redford / Gene Hackman skiing drama gets the Criterion treatement
Fantastic Four -If only it were streaming because everyone deserves the opportunity to see how terrible this is ...without paying for it. My only "F" of the year and that is not a cute play on the title. (Tim's slightly more generous review)
He Named Me Malala -Currently seeking a Best Documentary Oscar nomination.
Maze Runner The Scorch Trials -Please don't tell me that there are a ton of books and they're going to split the last one into two movies
Minions -Despicable Me sure created a monster. Well, millions of tiny yellow pop culture devouring monsters. (Tim on the phenomenon)
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation -one of the year's most enjoyable surprises. Although we shouldn't have been surprised since Ghost Protocol was also topnotch. (Tim's Review)
Speedy - Harold Lloyd's last silent comedy gets the Criterion treatment
Ted 2 -Mark Wahlberg makes a sequel to his magic teddy bear blockbuster and curiously, despite slobbering all over the first one, no one cared

TV Seasons
Hannibal (S3 Final) in which Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen draw bloody hearts around each other's names in their notebooks
Extant (S2 Final) Can someone please stop the casting of Halle Berry in genre fare. Genre acting is not remotely within her acting skill set. Ladies and gentlemen, I present as evidence: X-Men franchise, Catwoman, and S1 of Extant. I rest my case.
Transparent (S2 on Amazon Prime Streaming) In which we return to the emotional chaos of the Pfefferman children and their trans father Maura (birth name Mort) played by Emmy-winning Jeffrey Tambor. Have you watched S2 yet? I'm trying to slowly savor it after loving every second of Season 1.

The endearing emotionally slippery family of Transparent

New Streaming on Netflix
Phoenix - One of the biggest German hits in recent years. Weird that they didn't submit it for Oscars last year instead of Beloved Sisters. Read Jose's Nina Hoss interview
The Ridiculous Six -- the first film in Netflix's mega multi-picture deal with Adam Sandler
Tangerine - the best comedy of 2015, regardless of what the Globes or Critics Choice claim. Watch it with friends and donuts over Christmas. You'll be so on trend. (Nathaniel's Review)
Xenia - Greece's LGBT Oscar submission about two brothers searching for their birth father

Sunday
Dec132015

Toronto ♥ Tom Hardy, "Carol" and "Phoenix"

The Film Experience loves Toronto. Not only is it home to the best festival, TIFF, but it's also full of Canadians and our own Amir Soltani. On top of those two pluses, the Toronto Film Critics Association includes great critics like Calum Marsh, Bill Chambers and Angelo Murrada (the latter two have guested on "Smackdowns" right here!). The TFCA was established in 1997 and gave their first Best Film prize to Atom Egoyan's brilliant movie The Sweet Hereafter. This year double prizes for Carol, Ex Machina, and Phoenix and a prize for Tom Hardy for playing double as the twin Krays in Legend.

Best Film Carol
Best Director
Todd Haynes, Carol
Best Actress
Nina Hoss, Phoenix
Best Actor
Tom Hardy, Legend

This is the second year in a row that Tom Hardy has won TFCA's Best Actor prize. He took it last year for his solo act Locke. He really should attend their awards dinner as double-thanks. Or pop in on next year's live vote debate to put in his two cents about his successor.

Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Best Supporting Actor
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Best Screenplay
The Big Short, adapted by Charles Randolph & Adam McKay from the non-fiction book
Best First Film
Ex Machina d. Alex Garland

Best Animated Film Shaun the Sheep Movie (Aardman) d. Mark Burton & Richard Starzak
Best Documentary Look of Silence d. Joshua Oppenheimer
Best Foreign Language Film Phoenix (Germany) d. Christian Petzold

Phoenix, one of the year's biggest foreign hits, took two prizes

The TFCA also hands out a Best Canadian Film prize but that one comes with nominations and is announced at their awards dinner. Here's hoping Closet Monster gets a nomination.