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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 Shakespeare (27)


Review: Macbeth

Andrew here to talk about a Shakespeare adaptation

There’s a moment in the recent adaptation of Macbeth that’s legitimately surprising for audience, even those who have read the play. Towards the end of the film Marion Cotillard appears on screen for Lady Macbeth’s moment of reckoning – that iconic “Out damned spot!” speech. The scene unfolds, naturally, in a different fashion than it does in the play. The monologue, though, becomes especially striking when the camera draws back to reveal “who” she is speaking to. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but a few of the persons in the row behind me gasped at the cutaway. It’s meant to be a jolting moment in the film, and it is, although it’s also a baffling one. The moment has stuck with me since I’ve seen the film as I’ve tried to make sense of it within the film’s framework. And, the more I think on it, the more it emerges as emblematic of this adaptation.

Let it not be said that Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is not without ambition and energy. This Macbeth is transposed to the cinema in language that’s distinctly visual. This is a Macbeth about movement and space and contact, and then the ensuing loss of that same contact. The language of the film is restlessness and mournful agitation from its first shot and the entire fair is slick and confident, but I go back and forth on how effective it is.

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Judi Dench as Paulina in "The Winter's Tale"

Manuel here to talk theater. Well, theater that will be soon coming to a screen near you at least. Did you know Judi Dench, who has been a staple of the London stage for over 50 years (oh to have been in the audience for her Sally Bowles in 1968!) is starring in Kenneth Branagh's mounting of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale this fall?

Now you do! And now we also have the first look at Dench as Paulina. 

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Podcast: More 1948 Smackdowning. Which Films Have Aged Well? 

You've read the new Supporting Actress Smackdown. Now here is it's companion podcast. This month there wasn't an obvious theme as in 1979's gender politics, but we had fun discussing the films and genres presented from noir to Shakespeare to soggy memoirs.

Host: Nathaniel R
Special Guests: Abdi Nazemianset, Catherine Stebbins, Joe Reid, and Tim Robey


  • 00:01 Introductions and how 1948 is new to us
  • 04:20 I Remember Mama is a George Stevens film? And how about those accents in Mama and Johnny Belinda
  • 18:00 Why did Key Largo only get one nomination -was it the noir thing?
  • 21:00 Stage & Cinema - they're all play adaptations but Key Largo and Hamlet both have an Ophelia! Shakespeare archetypes and Orson Welles
  • 33:00 Claire Trevor in Raw Deal (1948)
  • 36:00 Alternate nominees plus other 1948 films we like: Easter Parade, Cry of the City and Red River.
  • 40:00 Goodbyes and remake/recasting pitches from 1948

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes.  Please continue the conversation in the comments. Who would you have nominated in 1948 for the big categories -- particularly in supporting? Which of the four main films we discussed is your favorite? 

And how about that Ann Miller in Easter Parade

 P.S. Further reading. During our 1948 month we looked at five additional films ICYMI: The Red ShoesLetter From an Unknown Woman,the animated shorts of the yearTreasure of the Sierra Madre and Sorry Wrong Number

P.P.S. The next smackdown at the end of July is 1995 so make sure to watch Sense & Sensibility, Mighty Aphrodite, Georgia, Apollo 13, and Nixon this month for a refresher. 

1948 Smackdown Companion


Introducing... The Supporting Actresses of 1948

It's your last day to vote on the Smackdown! Send in those ballots

Since your collective interest in pre '70s film years is often less robust, consider this an attempt to pump up your excitement levels with a teaser for this weekend's Smackdown. How are our contestants introduced in their movies, how soon, and is it clear from scene one that they'll be Oscar-nominated?

We'll take them in the order in which they appear in their movies, starting with "The End." Wait, what? Oh never fear it's just an ol' hoary framing device for our first contender, who's just finished writing the stories we're about to see unfold onscreen at the very beginning of her movie. 


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Corset Kate: Winslet's Best Period Piece Performances

With "A Little Chaos" opening tomorrow, abstew looks back at Kate in corsets. - Editor  

Oscar winner Kate Winslet returns to the screen tomorrow in A Little Chaos (in select theaters and available on VOD). It's a fictionalized story of how the elaborately lush gardens at the Palace of Versailles were constructed for King Louis XIV. The film is a reunion for Winslet and Alan Rickman (who stars as Louis and also directed the film), who haven't worked together in 20 years. But more importantly, the film reunites Winslet with the corset, getting laced-up again for the first time since 2004's Finding Neverland. For the first few years of her career, Winslet only appeared in period pieces (it wasn't until 1999's Holy Smoke! that she finally starred in a film set in modern-day) so it's time to look back on three of her best performances in those waist-cinching garments! (For purposes of this list, I decided to not include her 1950s set films - a girdle just isn't the same...)


Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Proving that the period piece was a good fit from the start, Winslet's first Oscar nomination came for her wildly romantic turn as Marianne Dashwood in the Best Picture nominated adaptation of Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. But director Ang Lee had to be convinced that Winlset was the right actress for the role as he hadn't cared for her film debut in 1994's Heavenly Creatures. And even after casting her in the role, on the first day of filming, he was unimpressed with her work, telling her that she'll have to be better. The criticism must have lit a fire under her because Winslet completely throws herself into the role with determination and gusto. Her Marianne is all bleeding heart that she pins tellingly on her sleeve for the world to see. Incapable of hiding her turbulent emotions, she allows herself to be ruled by love. And Winslet plays her without judgement of her impulsive nature, embracing Marianne's romanticism and temperament. But even the strongest wildfire can't blaze brightly forever. In the most heartbreaking scene of the film, Marianne's passionate ideals are extinguished as she walks across the moors to gaze upon the home of the man that has abandoned her. Influenced by her devotion to poems and romance novels (as preparation, Winslet read and studied works of the period to achieve Marianne's mindset), she is willing to die for her dreams of love. But instead of death, Marianne experiences a rebirth, allowing herself some of her sister's practical reasoning. Able to look at things with a little more understanding. Marianne's transformation could very easily feel like the character has become defeated, but what Winslet does beautifully is bring Marianne a newfound maturity without losing the spark that makes her still believe in the possibility of love. 

Jude (1996)

In this little-seen, but devastating film, Winslet gives one her most complex performances as Sue Bridehead, an independent and headstrong woman in late 1800's England. As the tragic events unfold in Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's controversial novel Jude the Obscure, Winslet's magnetic star-turn saves it from becoming a dreary slog. Her early scenes with Christopher Eccelston's Jude, as they begin to get acquainted, have an easy playfulness, especially in a flirty pub scene in which Sue smokes and drinks beer with the bar patrons. It's reminiscent of Winslet's below-deck escapades in Titanic but the scene here plays earthier and sexier, as Winslet seems more relaxed and natural than she ever does as Rose. And the two actors have wonderful chemistry together, willing us to want their characters to eventually get together despite the fact that they are cousins and already married to other people. Unfortunately Sue's constant need to defy convention, her refusal to comform to the standards of Victorian society, becomes their ultimate undoing. No spoilers here, but the tragic incident hits you like a gut-punch. For most of the harrowing scene, Winslet is silent and still, completely numb to pain. It's in the scene directly after that we get our catharsis as she lies facedown on the ground, twisting her body as she lets out animalistic howls of despair. We are no longer watching an actress give a performance, but viscerally feeling the character's bottomless grief. 

Hamlet (1996)

In a part that has been played on film by Jean Simmons, Marianne Faithful, and Helena Bonham Carter, the definitive screen version of Shakespeare's ill-fated heroine Ophelia, has to be Kate Winslet. In Kenneth Branagh's unabridged, 4-hour version featuring such esteemed thespians as Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, and John Gielgud, it is Winslet that emerges as the film's most memorable player. And it's all the more impressive because, unlike most British actors, Winslet never trained in the classics. Later she even turned down an offer to appear in Sam Mendes' The Bridge Project, performing in Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, because she didn't feel like she could tackle them properly. It's surprising because on film, Winslet is an actress never afraid of a challenge and her Ophelia works precisely because of that fearlessness. This is an Ophelia not afraid of her sexuality, a young woman discovering the harsh realities of men's actions and what it means to give yourself to someone. Winslet endows her with womanly understanding while still maintaining the fragility that leads to her downfall. Ophelia is definitely a showy part with its descent into madness, but instead of being overly theatrical or studied, Winslet plays those scenes manic and unhinged, surprising us with bold execution and raw modernity. Which is not to say she's incapable of delivering Shakespeare's language the way it is intended. It's just that she's not slavishly devoted to it, more concerned with capturing Ophelia's state of mind and allowing the text itself to feed her emotions. In a 400-year-old play, the most often produced of all of Shakespeare's work, Winslet interpretation helps you feel like you're witnessing it for the first time.


Do you agree with these three choices as Kate's best work in a corset? If not, what's your preference?


Mothers & Imagination

The Film Experience is proud to turn the site over to Ann Dowd for the day. Enjoy...

- by Ann Dowd

As I’ve said I did not grow up in an environment where acting was a viable career choice. I remember once when I was a teenager seeing Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet and having to go to bed afterwards … from grief! Can you imagine? I had not read it and when I saw the tragedy happening I said  “NO NO NO” I just knew that there was no way Romeo would not get the message that she wasn’t dead, that she was just sleeping. But when it went in that direction — I just was “THIS CANNOT BE TRUE”. I had to go to bed. My mother said “That’s it — No more movies! That’s the end of it.” 

Later when I became an actor she was less than thrilled. I think deep down she saw it coming, mothers are smart that way, but I know she hoped the desire would fade and I'd stick with medicine. She felt that it was such an unstable life.  But she’s wildly supportive now. She’s on board now. I love her to bits.

Of course it will be different for my children if they are interested since they grew up in the environment. My husband is also an actor and he's the chair of the acting department at CAP 21. It’s a musical theater school, a great school. I'm not teaching at the moment because I'm not able to commit to a schedule but one of my favorite things was to teach Chekhov and Tennessee Williams. I hope to do it again because it’s a lovely thing when you’ve been at acting for awhile and you can understand enough of what the students are going through and be of use to them.  

My oldest boy doesn’t have an interest in acting. My girl, who is 17, does. My littlest one came into the world singing and dancing. Living in New York our children are exposed to a lot: Music, plays, books. We remind them that there are other ways to negotiate the world besides technology. Keeping your imagination alive and well is a big thing in our house. 

Previously: Playing Patti on The Leftovers and Falling in Love with Acting 
Next: A Few Key Roles



Superheroes, Shakespeares, Stonewalls, and Series Endings

Lukewarm off the presses: Here's a collection of things we didn't get around to talking and/or linking to for your enjoyment or conversation prompting. We always hope for both. And I'm always hoping to empty out my "things to write about immediately" desktop folder... which is never emptied out.

• Terrence Malick's new movie (the one right after Knight of Cups) will be called Weightless (no cracks about how skinny Portman, Blanchett, Fassbender, and Rooney Mara, who star, are) but it's about music and its set in Austin. Apparently there's Madonna, Bob Dylan and Arcade Fire songs or something? Who knows. In truth I don't know why I'm sharing this info. Fact: Malick movies are only interesting in the watching of them, not in the hearing about their development since that's always totally vague.

• Glenn Kenny wrote a lovely piece about his mother's love of Alfred Hitchcock movies (she recently died) and he brings up an interesting point about how older audiences of either gender remember and loved his work. Do you know what your parents favorite Hitchcock's were?

• Look! It's Jeremy Irvine in action director Roland Emmerich's first gay drama Stonewall (2015) -- that and plenty of other things are after the jump...

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