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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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Emmy Aftermath - how to fix the Emmys?

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Entries in short films (74)

Wednesday
Aug062014

HMWYBS: The Saddest Children in the World Trilogy

For this week's Best Shot episode, the last 'detour' before the final three classics for the season, I wanted to introduce all of you to the short films of Jamie Travis. The Canadian filmmaker has only made one feature, the phone sex comedy For a Good Time, Call... (2012) and he's been making a living with commercials and the MTV series Faking It of late.  His true claim to fame and the reason we should all root for bigger feature film things to come are his two short film trilogies.

Jamie Travis and the trilogy that hooked me

I first became obsessed with his work when I was on a festival jury and saw the first film in the Patterns trilogy, a trilogy which might be semi-accurately described as a fusion of Lynchian nightmare, oddball musical, and romantic dramedy. A few years ago I geeked out and embarrassed myself when I met him at a retrospective of his work at the Nashville Film Festival. It's not every short filmmaker who wins shamelessly adoring fans and festival retrospectives of their work!

For Best Shot, we're looking at his first trilogy 'the Saddest Children'. The films are only related by subject matter but they're worth watching in order because they get better and better and give you the opportunity to watch an artist perfect his original voice. What follows is my short write up on each film, followed by the Best Shot choices on other fine blogs. Click on those photos to be transported to the adjacent articles and make sure to watch the films themselves. As per usual reading other pieces makes me think "why didn't I see, respond to, or  get that in that way?!" which is half the reason I love doing this series.

WHY THE ANDERSON CHILDREN DIDN'T COME TO DINNER (2003)
In which three morose seven year-olds long to escape the mother who keeps overfeeding them...

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Thursday
Jul032014

Tim's Toons: Celebrating Independence Day with Disney

Tim here. It’s Independence Day weekend here in the States, which means that most of you undoubtedly have something better to do than read about old cartoons. But if I promise to keep things short, hopefully you’ll indulge me in chatting up an odd little animated short perfectly timed to the holiday.

I have in mind Ben and Me, one of the oddest one-offs in the history of Walt Disney Productions. Released in November, 1953, it was the studio’s first two-reel animated short, and one of the initial releases under Disney’s own Buena Vista Distribution label, part of a package deal with the nature documentary The Living Desert. But more to the point, for our present purposes, it’s about how a mouse helps Benjamin Franklin write the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. We can wait a minute if you want to process all the ways in which that’s a perversion of history.

Okay, sure, there’s more to it than that.

Based on a 1939 children’s book by Robert Lawson, Ben and Me follows the life of Amos, a mouse voiced by Disney mainstay Sterling Holloway, who set off from his impoverished home in wall of a Philadelphia church in 1745 to make his fortune, ending up in the home of the absent-minded inventor and writer Ben Franklin (Charles Ruggles). Over the course of one night, the two are able to invent bifocals, indoor heating stoves, and the American news media.

Ben’s penchant for playing tricks on the mouse, sending him up on kites during thunderstorms and such, puts a wedge between them. Eventually, in 1776, they finally mend fences just about the time that Ben’s young colleague Thomas Jefferson (Hans Conreid) is having an impossible time finding the right opening for his otherwise-complete Declaration. More through accident than anything else, Amos ends up providing the legendary “When in the Course of human events…” The perversity having not let up, I will let you take another minute to process (it’s the 31-year-old mouse that bothers me the most).

Daft fantasy nonsense, for sure, but Ben and Me is actually pretty charming. Holloway and Ruggles are delightful in their roles, playing a kind of gentle riff on the traditional odd couple dynamic (Conreid, who voiced Captain Hook in the same year’s Peter Pan, is unfortunately distracting for that reason, but he’s not in it very much). It wasn’t an A-list project, and it lacks anything resembling the visual lushness of Disney’s contemporaneous features, like Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella – the latter of which obviously inspired Ben’s design; he looks exactly like the talking mice helpers from that film, though thankfully without their annoying pidgin English – but the simple style based on 18th Century painting brings the setting to life in a very specific, effective way. It’s not a colorful film, as such, but it has a clarity and warmth that fit the “historical bedtime story” mood.

Given Disney’s corporate proclivity for all-American nostalgia, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the story ends up being so disinterested in any kind of soaring patriotism or overwrought long-view about Great Moments in History. It’s actually quite an ordinary platonic romantic comedy between a mouse and a man. Most of its energies are dedicated to building solid but hardly revolutionary cartoon sight gags out of 18th Century material (a lengthy printing press scene is by far the most ambitious part of the movie), but that ends up being enough.

At 21 minutes, it’s short enough that having genial humor built on a playfully impossible history lesson hasn’t run out of steam, while long enough to build character relationships with a depth that isn’t possible in a 7-minute animated short that only has enough time to plow through its gags. It’s not one of the timeless masterpieces of Disney animation, or anything equally silly, but it’s one of their best ‘50s shorts and a fun 4th of July pastiche that’s not really like anything else.

Wednesday
Jun042014

How To Link Your Flagon

I'm going to need a stiff drink tonight. (Should I blame the unpleasant Zorba the Greek?). Why is this week so hard? It's my birthday week

In Contention loves How To Train Your Dragon 2 and ranks all of Dreamworks Animation. God there's some dross in there but Prince of Egypt is way way too low
Variety on Jonah Hill's blooming career and recent homophobic slur 
AV Club looks back at Montgomery Clift in Red River (1948). My favorite Western
Gawker The Chicago Sun Times apologizes for a recent bit of transphobic nonsense regarding Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) that they MUST have known was unwise. People will publish anything to get clicks these days.

Playbill Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man on stage this fall
Scene Magazine interviews Jonathan Groff on his Looking / Frozen gay ascendance (great photos)
Metro a woman wants a divorce from her husband because he didn't like Frozen
MNPP ooh, a Tilda Swinton image (very conservative look for her) from Trainwreck

The Bizness
Variety interviews the Academy Chairman of The Emmys on changes and controversies including 10 episodes vs. 22 and half hour versus hour shows
Empire Inception reunion: Tom Hardy in talks to join Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (previously discussed)
Coming Soon Roland Emmerich's Stonewall finalizes its cast adding Jonathan Rhys Meyers and more
CHUD catches you up on who is directing what for Marvel including horror director Scott Derrickson taking on Dr. Strange
Awards Daily Jupiter Ascending pushed to February 2015

Today's Watch
"Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness"

This animated short, part of PBS's "Blank on Blank" series uses an interview conducted with the late actor from 2012. 

Monday
May122014

Stage Door: An Iliad and (gulp) Troy's 10th Anniversary 

If you'll allow me a personal and quite biased recommendation, I'd love to send any Floridians reading to the Orlando Fringe Festival (May 14th-25th) to check out Allen Sermonia or Jenn Remke in An Iliad. Jenn and Allen are friends of mine and I had the privilege of attending a full rehearsal last week in which Jenn performed the entire show (they're doing it in repertory so Allen gets alternating nights) and apparently she's the first female actor to ever perform it!

I've seen Jenn in a few previous plays so I knew she was talented but holding an entire stage by yourself is a true challenge and I'm happy to report she was riveting. By the time the play sunk its hooks in, I forgot I was watching my friend and was just watching "the poet" working her way through numerous character sketches and a retelling of the specifics of the Trojan War and, by troubling extension, the not-so-specific universality of war.

Even those who don't get a decent education in the classics (in this case Homer's "The Iliad") know the story thanks to the way all hugely influential classics seep into the collective subconscious. I've read the Iliad but I'm embarrassed to report that instead of the poem my brain was doing a major Troy (2004) sidebar afterwards comparing the play's potent intimacy with the movie's B grade epicness.

It's not that I wanted to think about Troy...

BrothersCousins, eh?

It's just that I am me and Eric Bana and Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger (all looking beautiful enough to launch thousands of ships to possess) are a kind of draw, no matter how bad the surrounding movie is and however embarrassing that is to admit.

In a stupid coincidence Troy is celebrating its 10th anniversary just as this performance kicks off. And I am helpless in the face of such calendar markers. I haven't had a desire to revisit the movie but aside from the beauty of its players I remember being  convinced that Orlando Bloom, despite the terrible reviews he won, was actually perfect as Paris. It's just that the character is detestable and not in the type of way that often provokes rabid anti-hero worship. Bana also did fine and hugely charismatic work (I expected him to become a much bigger star but it was sadly not to be) but Garrett Hedlund and Brad Pitt were weirdly weak links despite being well cast. Maybe they didn't have enough to play with as actors? Mostly I did not appreciate the weirdly deflating rewrite of the Achilles/Patroclus relationship: 'They're just cousins, broseph; No Homo!'

If you've only ever seen Troy and no other dramatic interpretations of this story, I must suggest this BAFTA Nominated short film Achilles (1995), narrated by Derek Jacobi, from the Oscar nominated filmmaker Barry Purves which restores the gayness in gorgeous NSFW stop-motion:

 

Back to the play
Because my attention to the theater world is intermittent at best I had missed the explosion of interest in "An Iliad" over the last couple of years. Denis O'Hare, the ubiquitous character actor of stage, film and recently television (American Horror Story/True Blood) co-wrote it and performed it in repetory with Stephen Spinella (the Tony winning original star of Angels in America) in 2012 and it has since become a fixture in regional theater partially because it's cheap and easy to produce (no set / one actor), sure, but also because it's just a damn good play: moving, provocative, and angry.

Even if you're not in Florida, see it as soon as some regional theater tackles it near you.

Thursday
Mar202014

50 Years in the Pink

Tim here, extending our unexpected and unplanned tribute to 50-year-old Peter Sellers movies by one day, following Diana’s lovely tribute to The World of Henry Orient. For today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. release of The Pink Panther, the arch-‘60s caper film that begat Sellers’ iconic Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the pratfall-prone Frenchman who remains the actor’s most famous character this side of a certain wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi (and Dr. Strangelove ALSO opened in 1964, which was just an all-around great year for Sellers).

The film itself is a fascinating relic, a by-turns hilarious and lumpy encapsulation of what European high society looked like as filtered through the comic sensibilities of Blake Edwards of Tulsa, OK. Scenes of breathless physical comedy rub elbows with elegant caper film machinery and deadening longeurs as Claudia Cardinale rolls around on a tiger skin while suffering from a wobbly case of dubbing. [more...]

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