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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


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

 

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Thursday
Nov202014

Mike Nichols (1931-2014)

Elaine May & Mike Nichols in the 50s"The Great Work begins..." that's a line from Angels in America but someone should've said it in the 1950s when one of the greatest figures in modern showbusiness began his career on Chicago stages as a university student. Mike Nichols, who died yesterday at 83, first gained fame as half of a celebrated comic duo "Nichols & May" with actress/director Elaine May but comedy sketches were only the beginning. He'd eventually conquer all realms of showbusiness winning a Grammy with May for a comedy album in 1961, the first of several Tony Awards for directing Barefoot in the Park on Broadway (1964), an Oscar for directing The Graduate (1967) which was only his second film, and in the last decade of his career, two Emmys for television triumphs with Wit and the aforementioned Angels.

Because I came of age in the 1980s, the Nichols collaboration that defined the director for me was with Meryl Streep who he directed four times for the camera. They were both Oscar winners before their first duet Silkwood (1983) which is, not coincidentally, my favorite Streep performance. Streep was worshipped and mythologized very early in her career but he brought her down to earth while still helping her ascend. Under his his guidance she was instantly more earthy and relatable, less the iconic mannered star than a goddamn amazing (and relaxed) genius of the craft. They made two more feature films together within a decade's span (Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge).

Gene Hackman as a director and Meryl Streep as an actress in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

In fact, whenever I watch Postcardsand marvel at that beautiful scene between director and actress that marks its emotional pivot point, it's easy to imagine Gene Hackman's patient benevolent director as the Nichols stand-in with Meryl representing for all actors struggling with inner demons, doubting their gift, or struggling with a particular performance. It's easy to imagine because Nichols was particularly great with actors directing several of them -- not just Streep -- to their all time best work.

As if aware that he directed three of Streep's least glamorous acting triumphs, his last gift to her was Angels in America (2003) in which they left the ground and transcended into the ghostly, the spiritual... the ecstatic.

Ectastic. That's a good work for his great work. Nichols left us with 22 films, three of which are largely undisputed masterpieces (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Angels in America), many of which are exemplary and perhaps still undervalued classics of their particular genres (Gilda Live, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge) or just, you know, extremely popular entertainments (Working Girl, The Birdcage). Through it all, though this is not often true of mainstream-embraced prestigious entertainers, he rarely forgot the zeitgeist-capturing envelope-pushing us his handful of first films from Woolf through Carnal Knowledge and was still pushing movie stars into transcendence with newly revealing, riskier emotional terrain almost until the very end (Wit, Angels in America, Closer).

He will be missed but his work has more than earned its immortality.

 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Linktime Stories

Cinematically Insane #DontTouchTCM when it comes to Turner Broadcasting layoffs 
Richard Kelly, of Donnie Darko directing fame, lurves Gone Girl and write a whole epic essay about it while also touching on Eyes Wide Shut and Fincher's music videos
In Contention interviews cinematographer Robert Elswit (Inherent Vice, Nightcrawler)
MNPP gives Quote of the Day to Michael B Jordan on his costumes for Fantastic Four. "snug"
Deadline Scarlett Johansson about to do an Edith Wharton miniseries that was originally supposed to be a Michelle Pfeiffer feature film in the 90s. *sniffle*

Empire first images of Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Lange and Brie Larson in The Gambler remake
Vulture the exact moment Jennifer Garner fell in love with Ben Affleck 
Antagony & Ecstacy on The Boxtrolls. Glad Tim loved it
Boston Globe Mark Wahlberg's compound is finished. Holy third nipple, is he planning to house everyone who has ever appeared in any of his movies?
IndieWire 11 things learned about PT Anderson / Inherent Vice at the recent press conference
The Dissolve interesting video about shooting sex scenes from Joe Carnahan. Starring Patrick Wilson! Who...speaking of...
The Playlist interviews Jason Reitman who talks about the initial indifference to Young Adult, his Labor Day "misfire" and the critical savaging of Men Women and Children. I haven't seen the latter film yet so I don't know if it's gotten a fair shake or not but Reitman does have a point about film criticism today:

When I talk to directors and actors, "Young Adult" is their clear favorite of my films. I don't think ten years from now people will go, "Oh wow, I didn’t realize "Labor Day" was a such a masterpiece." But what it has taught me is that I can't really gauge what a movie is in the moment. To bring it round back to ["Men, Women & Children"]: film criticism has become a tweet. The moment the movie plays, people are writing about it and there's no digestive period.  

We were right about Young Adult all along, bitches.

 

I love this bookOff Cinema
Arts.Mic on the good news on GLAAD's annual gays on TV report. But...
Slate chimes in with a a more dismissive response: why count?
Pajiba ranking Kyle Maclachlan's TV roles since Twin Peaks

<-- Encyclopedia Madonnica I backed this 20th anniversary edition of the book at Kickstarter. There's a couple more days left to back it and insure your own copy. The book meant so much to me back in the day before you could look up everything instantaneously and when there weren't elaborate comprehensive fansites to celebrities yet. Plus it was just damn fun with lots of trivia and silliness. When I first met Matthew Rettenmund (Boy Culture) here in NYC several years ago I was a wee bit starstruck because of it. And speaking of the big M...
Billboard looks back at the Bedtime Stories album for its 20th anniversary 

Finally...
Esteemed stage veteran Marian Seldes has died at 86. Her regal mischievious face appeared semi-regularly in movies and on TV but usually in tiny roles. It was the stage where she experienced her enduring glorious reign.

I unfortunately only saw her perform live once. It was Edward Albee's "The Play About the Baby" (which also starred David Burtka, pre NPH) a sort of abstract minimalist reinterpretation of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and she was a-maz-ing in it. One of my favorite stories about her comes from 1978's "Deathtrap" in which she co-starred with Victor Garber. The hit comic mystery became a controversial movie in 1982 (a gay kiss - GASP!) with Dyan Cannon and Christopher Reeve taking Seldes and Garber's roles for the big screen. But when the movie premiered, Marian was actually still doing it on stage. She was with the play for its whole four year run and NEVER missed a performance. Amazing.

Here are good obituaries at The New York Times and Playbill

Tuesday
Sep232014

"Beauty, Brains, Breeding, and Bounty"

I'm such a square and Cry Baby don't like squares! I missed the entire John Waters festival here in New York (Blame Canada!) and also this past weekend the news that Polly Bergen had died. Goodbye to a lovely lady that had it all: beauty, brains, breeding, and bounty (of talent). 

Friday
Sep052014

R.I.P. Joan Rivers

By now, I imagine most of you have heard that Joan Rivers passed away today, at 81 years old, following complications from throat surgery. The loss is doubly shocking - not just because it came about so abruptly, without any history of health problems, but because Rivers was still such a prickly, alert life force: in her reliable appearances at red carpet events and her E! television presence, she had the same quick, tart wit that made her a pop culture mainstay for a solid half-century.

Rivers' presence in cinema was limited compared to her TV and stand-up: several cameos as herself, both in live-action and animation, and a part in Mel Brooks' sci-fi parody Spaceballs as a sarcastic robot make up virtually all of her movie roles of note. She did, however, appear as the subject of the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, a remarkably intimate and comprehensive look at her career from the earliest days. It's available for viewing on Netflix, and if you haven't seen it yet, I'd highly recommend it: its presentation of the aging Joan as unapologetically confident and aware of her own mind is bracing and hilarious, and the volumes of vintage footage of a much younger Rivers in the early days of her standup showcases a biting, shockingly fresh voice that those of us who only ever knew the comedian thanks to her latter-day profession as living punchline could hardly imagine.

The world is not full enough of women who get a chance to speak truthfully, angrily, and boldly about their minds, and can be absolutely hilarious while doing it, and a true icon has been lost today. The Film Experience expresses our condolences to Joan's family, and we keep them in our thoughts.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Curio: Memorabilia Memorials

Alexa here, with my late entry eulogizing last week's departed greats.  I always find it interesting when we lose two idols at the same time, and they become linked in our mourning.  There couldn't be two more different performers than Williams and Bacall, could there?  Bacall, with her sultry, almost somnolent cool, and Williams, with his live-wire kinetics. Here are some curios, vintage and handmade, to celebrate their careers in film.

Portrait print by Psychosthetics.

Here are some curios, vintage and handmade, to celebrate their careers in film.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug132014

Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

Lauren Bacall receiving her Honorary OscarShe arrived on the scene fully formed, the most womanly, not girlish, teenager you ever did see. In truth Lauren Bacall was newly 20 when To Have and Have Not premiered but it's tough to imagine that she made it at 19. The enormous age gap with co-star Humphrey Bogart (a full quarter century) who she'd marry offscreen almost instantly was mitigated by her steely maturity. There'd be faint echoes of Lauren later, arguably, in the great Kathleen Turner's throaty sensuality and Scarlett Johansson's uncommonly early self-possession, but like all true stars Lauren Bacall was an original and remained her own inimitable thing.

2014 has been unusually cruel in the taking of key giants from Hollywood's golden age but we'll always have their films to remember them by. And in Bacall's case the filmography stretches and stretches and stretches across the eras of cinema. Bacall died yesterday at 89 in Manhattan, bringing her unusually enduring career to an end. She might not have been the most gifted or versatile actress from her peer group, but she had real onscreen fire. Perhaps it was her agelessness - she always seemed 40ish to me, whether she was a teenager or an old woman -- that helped her age so naturally onscreen. She worked consistently right until the end, finding key roles in every decade. That's something to celebrate in and of itself, in an industry so obsessed with youth.

After the jump, 10 essentials covering every decade of her career:

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug122014

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Robin Williams winning the Oscar for Good Will Hunting (1997)Robin Williams, Mork himself and Mrs Doubtfire... the clown, the blue genie, the Oscar winner, the charitable celebrity died Monday at 63. The actor, who had severe depression, apparently took his own life*. You never know how deep people's personal battles run but it's hard not to think of the unhappy cliche that many comics aren't laughing inside; the tears of a clown. To his credit the actor harnessed that duality in a few of his best roles.

But immediately our thoughts must go out to his friends, loved ones, co-stars, children and his wife who released the following statement.

This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.

Losing loved ones is traumatic enough when it's private. It surely can't be any easier when there are cameras and media and press releases. And there will have to be more of this since the actor had been quite busy recently, with a sitcom, three recent films and upcoming films, too. His new indie drama Boulevard about a closeted man played at Tribeca earlier this year (reviewed here) but it was only one of a handful of new projects. He recently completed work on three more films.


For my part I would just like to thank him for his best work over the years but especially that beautifully damaged and whimsical soul in The Fisher King (1991). As long as I live I'll cherish that gorgeous double date sequence with the big hearted humorous ensemble acting and conversation giving way to the hushed almost reverential moment when he sang "lydia the tattooed lady" to his new eccentric lady love. I'll just never forget it. 

The brilliant Terry Gilliam, his Fisher King director, shared this tribute to him...

Robin Williams, the most astonishingly funny, brilliant, profound and silly miracle of mind and spirit, has left the planet.  He was a giant heart, a fireball friend, a wondrous gift from the gods. Now the selfish bastards have taken him back. Fuck 'em!

 

What's your most cherished memory or role of his career?

* I know this is a horrible thing to mention but it's very upsetting that two Oscar winners have committed suicide in the same summer. Please if you are having such thoughts yourself seek help. Depression is a real illness and it shouldn't cause anyone shame and it doesn't discriminate. Successful people aren't any more immune to it than others.