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Entries in religiosity (54)

Monday
May232016

The Furniture: Black Narcissus's Maddening Matte Paintings

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...

In movies, if perhaps not in life, people can be driven mad by mountains. In films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, they can be driven mad by paintings of mountains.

Black Narcissus is the story of a group of Anglican nuns who trek up to an abandoned cliffside palace in the Himalayas to establish a new convent. Deborah Kerr, cinema’s most consistent nun, is Sister Clodagh, the young mother superior. Her mission is doomed from the beginning, of course, though not necessarily because the locals reject their presence. Rather, it is the landscape that overwhelms their emotions and breaks their faith and their vows.

Powell and Pressburger did not shoot on location in India, however. The set was built at Pinewood Studios. [More...

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Monday
Apr252016

The Furniture: The Lady with the Van Paints a Crime Scene Into a Home

"The Furniture" is our new design series. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Lady in the Van begins with a bloody hit-and-run accident. The title van-driving lady, played by Maggie Smith, collides with a young man and leaves him for dead. On the lam, bound by necessity to a vehicle that may also be a murder weapon, she finds her way to a quiet neighborhood full of artists and bourgeois intellectuals.

Then it turns into a delightful comedy about the social anxieties of Alan Bennett.

It’s a bit abrupt, to be honest. And it may take a fair while to warm up to the neurotic, Adaptation.-style doppelgangers that represent the split personalities of the playwright protagonist. The vans themselves, though, quite effectively capture a much more gradual transition, one that charts Mary/Margaret’s arc with care. What begins as an all-in-one murder weapon and crime scene becomes a home. [More...]

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Saturday
Apr022016

TV @ The Movies: "Damien" Flashes Back

Though I know not why it's so, considering I prefer original material in nearly all mediums to rehashes, I sample nearly every TV series that's based on a movie. Not that the interest tends to last. So it was that I binge watched the first four episodes of A&E's new series Damen.  The Omen (1976) was the first horror film I ever watched that didn't involve vampires (I was really into vampires for some reason as a little boy, even though I was never a horror film aficianado). I snuck watched The Omen one night during one of its television airings in the early 80s.

Though the new series never mentions Damien's birthday, the wee Antichrist's birthdate was June 6th in the original movie (6/6 natch) which is also my birthday. Little me actually ran to the bathroom to make sure there was no mark of the beast on his scalp after the movie. (He had so many nightmares that week, poor little guy.)

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Saturday
Mar262016

A Star is Risen!

For Easter weekend, here's Kyle Stevens author of Mike Nichols: Sex, Language and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism". You can read more about our team members here.


Stars are our larger-than-life figures. We worship them. We tell stories about them and fancy ourselves made in their images. In fact, bona fide movie star celebrity dates all the way back to 1909, when Carl Laemmle (who would later co-found Universal Studios) placed false notices of the tragic death of “the Biograph girl” in a street car accident. When it was revealed that she was alive and well, the nation rejoiced and everyone cesuddenly knew the name of Florence Lawrence. In this way, Hollywood stardom has always had not just a religious flavor but a Christian Messianic one at that.

Over the next century, countless stars have profited from the love of the resurrection narrative. Remember the elation when Barbra Streisand announced to the world that Lauren Bacall wasn’t in the tomb but gorgeous and talented and right there on-screen? And it was just two years ago that Matthew’s McConaissance brought him Oscar glory.  

What are your favorite movie star resurrection stories?

Sunday
Feb142016

Berlin: "Midnight Special" with Michael Shannon & Kirsten Dunst

Amir Soltani is covering the Berlin International Film Festival for The Film Experience this year, our first time at Berlinale!. Tonight Jeff Nichol's follow up to Mud.


With Shotgun StoriesTake Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols has become one of the most intriguing, and divisive, American directors working today. His latest film, the unclassifiable Midnight Special, will no doubt continue the same trajectory. Starring his favourite actor Michael Shannon, along with Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst, this religious fable in the mold of science fiction is a crowd-pleaser that, despite a crucial directorial misstep, delivers a thoroughly riveting experience.

More...

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Thursday
Feb112016

Silence of the Lambs Pt 4: Screaming and Coveting

Team Experience is revisiting 1991's Best Picture winner for its 25th Anniversary...

Previously... We learned about the case and met Clarice as she went on "an errand," Buffalo Bill caught his next victim, and Starling & Lecter played a game of Quid Pro Quo

an FYC ad from the time

Pt. 4 by Jose Solis

When Nathaniel left us, Dr. Lecter was Scheherezade-ing the crap out of Clarice by telling her about Baltimore. Do you ever get a sense that just like the King from Arabian Nights, Agent Starling craves to return for more?

01:08:18 “Everything you need to find him is right there in those pages...” he says about the case files. As Clarice paces left to right, Dr. Lecter decides it’s time for another lesson by quoting Marcus Aurelius. He suggests Clarice decipher what is the nature of the killer. As she lists every reason why serial killers kill in lesser thrillers, the doctor loses his patience and gives her the answer.

01:08:57 “He covets”

01:09:45 Clarice begs him to help her out, as the philosophizing cannibal reminds her it’s her turn to share, after all “this is all the time we’ll ever have”.

01:10:28 Clarice recounts the tale which gives the book/film its name, as she shares a memory that haunts her from her days in the ranch in Montana with her relatives. Something woke her up early one day…

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Thursday
Nov122015

Foreign Quickies: Mustang, El Club, Ixcanul

Three quick takes on foreign film competitors from the long list of eligible titles, all screened at AFI.

Mustang (France) Opens November 20th in select cities. Cohen Media Group.
Given that 2015's loudest topic may well be the need for fresh cinematic female voices, the French/Turkish production Mustang deserves $100 million blockbuster status instead of art house ghettoization with a $300,000 gross which is what they're infinitely more likely to get. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven and screenwriter Alice Winocour, two very talented women, team up to tell the riveting story of five spirited sisters living with their hands-off grandma who keep colliding with the confines, literal and metaphoric, of the patriarchy. An innocent 'schools out for the summer' beach romp prompts the end of their adolescent abandon as their horrified conservative uncle steps in to shape them up, train them to be subservient wives, and marry them off to respectable families. Though the premise is reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's elegiac and dreamy Virgin Suicides, the execution is not. Ergüven and Winocour are more physically grounded and rambunctous in their presentation and there is no distancing conceit of viewing the sisters through the eyes of boys. Mustang has successfully rowdy comedic moments, an earthy non-exploitive sensuality, often clever visual framing, and even a hard-won scrappy optimism to balance out its tough reality checks. In short: it's excellent. Let's hope the Foreign Film Oscar Committee agrees. A- 
(See also: Amir's TIFF Review)

 

Ixcanul (Guatemala) -Kino Lorber will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
At the well attended premiere of this memorable Guatemalan Oscar submission (their first!), the director brought out, not one of the actresses, but an older woman dressed in South American finery who was some kind of public official/icon (the applause was so loud I missed her title/name). The takeaway of the intro was that Guatemala has a tiny but newly excited film industry and they're extremely proud of this little movie. As well they should be. Ixcanul (or Volcano) looks at a poverty-stricken Kaqchikel family, living next to an active volcano and working on a coffee plantation. The volcano, in addition to being a beautiful and alien visual backdrop for a movie is also a monolithic wall, blocking their view of the rest of the world; Mexico and the United States, to the North, are more myth than reality. The family hopes to marry their sexually curious daughter off to their comparatively rich boss and thereby lift all their futures. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. While the actions of nearly all the characters are often enraging, Ixcanul is never mean spirited, condemning the exploitation of their ignorance rather than the ignorance itself. (One heartbreaking emergy trip to a nearby city shows the family utterly at the mercy of an untrustworthy translator since they don't even speak Spanish in the mountains.) Bustamante's well crafted film is authentically steeped in a nearly alien culture but its humanity is entirely familiar. B

 

El Club (Chile) - Music Box Films will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
My first encounter with the acclaimed director Pablo Larrain was the violent Tony Manero, a film about a Chilean sociopath obsessed with winning a Saturday Night Fever lookalike contest. It was altogether unsavory and though the director's command was evident I couldn't wait for it to end. The second was the wondrous No, starring Gael García Bernal as an unlikely hero who helps rid his country of their dictator through an unlikely ad campaign. Though not without its necessarily dark moments -- all the Larrain films I've seen take place during the Pinochet era in Chile -- it was an exuberant, moving, and technically amazing film which I was happy to champion; it went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. The third encounter is, sadly, more reminiscent of the first in its absolute mandate to rub your face, artfully, in brutal shit.

The film begins deceptively as a mellow observational drama about a strange retirement community in a yellow house by the sea. Shortly, though, the curtain of ambiguity is lifted by an uninvited drunk stranger who stands outside the house spewing a hostel tirade of obscenities. The house, you immediately realize, is a shelter/prison for criminal priests that the Catholic Church is hiding away and the man shouting was one of their victims, repeatedly raped as a young boy. The depressing reveal deepens when you realizes that there are houses like this all over the world. 

Fans of disturbing cinema might admire Larraîn's chutzpah but everyone else should steer clear. Though the film has strong performances, particularly Antonia Zegers as a despicable nun and Marcelo Alonso as a remarkably stone-faced priest sent to assess the inhabitants of the house, it's a tough sit through spiritual rationalization, disturbing psychologies, and actual brutality [SPOILER WARNING] Animals are viciously killed in the film -- albeit just barely off camera -- and I never would have seen it if I had known. [/SPOILER]. Even the resolution, which could be read as spiritually uplifting is ambiguous; it played for me more like a sick pitch-black joke about "penance" and "redemption". (I will be wary of seeing another Larraîn film despite my love for No.) No Rating.