HOT TOPICS

NOW PLAYING

IN THEATERS & OUT ON DVD

all reviews

 

Welcome

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

 

Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

COMMENT DU JOUR
What did you see this weekend?

"I watched Clouds of Sils Maria. I wanted even more Kristen Stewart, which is a testament to how great she was in it.- JEFF

"9 to 5 was on tv so I watched it to see all the best shots. My favourite part was the opening with all the ladies heading off to work set to the song. Stuff like that always makes me want to pack it up and become an independent lady in New York City."-SVG

Keep TFE Strong

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

Subscribe
What'cha Looking For?

Entries in silent films (37)

Monday
Apr202015

Beauty vs Beast: Full Metal Maria

Tis I, Jason from MNPP, here, with another week's new edition of our "Beauty vs Beast" series. So over the next several days The Film Experience is going to be diving into the cinematic realm of Artificial Intelligence (known as "A.I." to people in a hurry and Haley Joel Osment fans), and to get the ball rolling I figured we'd make ourselves like science-fiction and hop in the way-back machine to the year 1927, when a little chap who went by the name Friedrich Christian Anton Lang, known to his friends as Fritz, made a little movie called Metropolis. In case you don't know the story, it goes like this: Boy meets Girl, Girl Gets Clones Into Evil Robot, Dystopian Nightmare Explodes, and a Kiss, The End. Somewhere in there dancing happens, and it is crazy awesome.

But thanks to a ferocious performance from actress Brigitte Helm you really couldn't get more of a clean split between the two Marias to choose from - Original Maria is all Goodness and Light, while her robot counterpart is Sex and Chaos. But what Sex and Chaos! Where does your heart belong?

Whose team are you on?
Team Maria0%
Team Robot-Maria0%

You have one week to vote!

PREVIOUSLY While I was out of town last week Nathaniel took the chance to sneak a musical (a genre I'm somewhat allergic to) in - can I just tell you that even though I've lusted for The Ten Commandments era Yul Brynner a'plenty I've never seen The King and I? So I'll be damned if I know the right choice for this round, but y'all went with Anna (Deborah Kerr) by only a slight margin (54%). Said Jija:

"I'm maybe biased because I'm Thai but I find Yul's performance ... irritating. I don't expect accurate history or anything. It's a very lovely musical but I can't get past his overacting, silly gestures and ..that accent. He's very cartoonish. Deborah Kerr, on the other hand, is everything."

Sunday
Apr192015

The Lumière Brothers' First Public Screening

Sebastian here, stealing sharing a great find by Slate's Dana Stevens, who tweeted out a video of the ten short films by the Lumière Brothers that were first shown to the paying public of Paris on December 28, 1895.

On their website, the Institut Llumière offers a look at the screening's program, handed out to the patrons of Le Salon Indien, a room in the basement of the Grand Café on Boulevard des Capucines.

Unfortunately the Institut's image is tiny and barely legible. So presented here, brought to you with the help of all the latest text-formatting technology, a reproduction, updated to include links to watch the films on YouTube:

 

LE CINÉMATOGRAPHE
SALON INDIEN
GRAND CAFÉ

14, Boulevard des Capucines, 14
PARIS


Cel appareil, inventé par MM. Auguste et Louis Lumière, permet de recueillir, par des séries d'épreuves instantantées, tous les mouvements qui, pendant un temps donné, se sont succédé devant l'objectif, et de reproduire ensuite ces mouvements en projetant, grandeur naturelle, devant une salle entière, leurs images sur un écran.



SUJETS ACTUELS


Monday
Mar162015

Q&A: TV Queens, Musical Divas, and Bad Work by Great Actors

Time for more Reader Questions. Thanks for asking them. Only six this time and they're nearly all actressy (next week something differentd) but the answers are lengthy.

TROY: A performance by an actress in television -- either episodic, movie, or miniseries -- that could stand alongside the best of the best work of Oscar-winning divas.

NATHANIEL: This is an unfair question since the reason people have such affection for television performances from the miraculously good ones to the just competents ones is that the actor in question has had literally hours and hours of time to develop that character and the viewer has had hours, months and sometimes even years in which to fall in love with the role itself (and sometimes the actor, too). Different mediums, agendas, ways of becoming iconic. Apples / Oranges. But of TV-centric actresses that repeatedly deliver A grade awards-quality work no matter the show or character they're working with (an important distinction) my vote for the best television actresses ever are Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Edie Falco... Claire Danes for the bronze should she add a third performance as impressive as Angela Chase and Carrie Mathison to her series-ography (wait what do you call a television resume?).


Three final notes on this TV actress question. Movies no longer really have an equivalent to the kind of broad near slapstick comedy that TV often specializes in but literally no one makes me laugh harder than Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal / 30 Rock / Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and I have a rage stroke every time I remember that she's Emmy-less. Three recent singular TV performances I think of all the time for hitting every possible pleasure spot in terms of delivering both great actressing and nuanced TV characterizations without ever starting to feel stale (the danger of long term work) are Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights, and Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks from Mad Men.

Finally, though I know it's not a popular opinion critically speaking (even though the show is historically very popular) I absolutely proclaim Sarah Jessica Parker a true genius for her work on Sex & the City. Gee-nee-us. Like Meg Ryan / Julia Roberts / Sandra Bullock / Goldie Hawn at their peaks rom-com perfection but for the small screen.  'Your girl is lovely, Hubble Sarah.' 

BENJI: What is your favorite silent movie/star+performance?

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)

NATHANIEL: Maria Falconetti is unforgettable in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) which I'd also call the best of the silents. But... Best is different than Favorite. And that masterpiece has a kind of fetishized suffering, like a Von Trier without the childish pranking, that you really have to be in the right mood for. So the truer answer to your question is Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box (1929). That's my favorite silent ever (which is saying a lot because I love so many of the ones I've seen) and I also think she's great in Diary of a Lost Girl... though that movie isn't quite at her level the way her best known film is. I love all the usual stars (Gish, Garbo, Valentino) but it's Brooks that does it for me the most.

Laika: Hollywood is calling. They NEED YOUR ADVICE. They are making an Avengers -style superhero-teamup film about the divas of musical theatre, but they are having difficulty casting key roles: Liza Minnelli. Carol Channing. Elaine Stritch. Ethel Merman. BARBRA. Some people are pushing to cast Blake Lively as Bernadette Peters! Who could they cast as these inimitable women?!

KENDRICK. MCDONALD. STREISAND. KRAKOWSKI. MACLAINE. CHENOWETH. MINNELLI. FOSTER. PETERS

Only the originals will do. So think Expendables instead but with the budget and the quality of a Marvel Studios film like The Avengers. I've mocked up a dream cast list but perhaps you have different ideas?

Half of the budget is for the lawyers because trying to decide who gets top billing would be A NIGHTMARE. Maybe you can try to decide who gets top billing in the comments, but I fear the wrath of all of them if I place them in order.

TD: Least favorite performances by favorite actors?

NATHANIEL: This topic probably deserves a whole big post but then we'd have to dwell in disappointment and who needs that? So let's just throw a quick list out there. Let's start with a few actors that are actressy according to Nathaniel (i.e. great / obsession worthy). I don't really get what Fassbender in Dangerous Method or Jude in Contagion were going for or I do but I don't like it. Jeff Bridges has been phoning it in since the Oscar win which is a shame. Okay enough men. The women.

Hathaway is bad in Eyesore in Wonderland (but, then, who isn't? I mean, besides HBC). Streep is terrible in The Manchurian Candidate, overplaying everything. Chastain in Miss Julie, same thing. Too much too much. Modulate girl, you're so good at that in other films. I didn't understand what the hell was going on with La Pfeiffer in Up Close and Personal, did you? In regards to my idol, I praised her at the time as an obsessed fan, but I must accept in retrospect that her double 1999 star turn in The Deep End of the Ocean and The Story of Us (which I always think of together) are, like Streep's in Doubt, a strange mix of irritatingly off key and really great. Whenever that happens I wonder if the star is distracted by something we'll never know about on set or at home or in their heads... or if it's director or production problems that have worked their way into the editing bay.

Julianne Moore? Hmmm. Well, actually take a look at this image.

I meant to share this chart a few months ago when I first looked at it. This is a table of the biggest box office hits of Julianne Moore's career. Looking at it I suddenly realized why non-fans have sometimes had bizarre notions about the level of her talent. If all someone had seen was a handful of these and that handful didn't include both The Hours & Boogie Nights the casual moviegoer may have regarded either as flukes and been reasonably been misled into thinking that she wasn't that special and not understood the fuss. Not that she's bad in these movies but Julianne is a Kidman in the way that her best work is almost always in the most complicated and weirdest movies. i.e. the ones people have to be convinced to see either by nominations for awards or critics never shutting up about them. I've only thought Julianne was actively bad a few times. Let us never speak of Freedomland or Evolution or that scene in Laws of Attraction where she eats junk food again. Don't Speak! 

BRIAN: How do you feel about the word pretentious when used by film critics?

NATHANIEL: I hate it. Charitably it only means 'I don't like this person's ambitions,' whatever they may be. Uncharitably it can mean "I didn't understand this movie." It's as useless as the word "unforgettable" in film reviews. Real talk, film critics: We know you JUST walked out of that movie and are writing this for publication deadline tonight or tomorrow. Half the movies in existence are unforgettable for at least a good half hour after watching them. Save that word for a few months later at least so that it means something.

DANIEL: Did the work of Hilary Swank in The Homesman make you appreciate her more as an actress, or is she still hand in hand with Renée Zelwegger in your nemesis path? In terms of career which do you prefer ? Love from Brazil...

NATHANIEL: Big love right back at Brazil. The site has always had a big following in Brazil -- not sure why that is apart from Brazilians being awesome.

I made kind of a big deal about these two as my nemeses (I know some people think it's childish but it's like an internal barometer corrector since I'm The Man Who Loved Actresses Too Much.) but I don't deny their gifts. There are actresses I think are far less talented than either Hilary or Renee that are famous but they don't annoy me as much, largely I think because they don't appear in the type of films I am otherwise drawn to. I was actually a huge fan of Renée's from Jerry Maguire (1996) through Bridget Jones (2001) but irreconciliable differences; we had a brutal divorce soon thereafter.

I've never been a "fan" of Swank but I think she's just great in Boys Don't Cry (I have eyes) and she really is very good in The Homesman (2014), which I'd easily call her second best. Even in scenes that don't directly address it, unlike that touching faux-piano scene which does, she just comes across as ineffably sad but determined to march on. I think she could have made a real run for a nomination if the reviews had been better and if it had been a more straightforward film about her character rather than the shapeshifter movie that it was. 

Please chime in on my responses or with your own in the comments. 

Tuesday
Mar102015

Curio: Handmade Movies

Alexa here with your weekly arts and crafts. In a sort of continuation of last week's episode, here's an odd little obsession I've had brewing lately: making your own paper movie machines. I've always been into early cinema (TCM Silent Sundays were a must until my cable bundle dropped TCM) and reading up on the Lumiere brothers and all the strange optical toys that preceded the advent of photographic moving pictures. (Yes, Hugo was a thrill in this regard.) I went as far as to buy this book on etsy, which has very interesting instructions for making your own thaumatropes, kinematoscopes, rolloscopes and lots of other tropes and scopes I had no idea existed.

At one point I had a ridiculously analog notion to make strips from screencaps of my favorite films so I could watch them with my daughter through a zoetrope, until I realized this would totally make me a Portlandia punchline. I promise, I have no other steampunk leanings.

Various optical toys that replicate the wonder of the earliest moving pictures are being made by many, and antique machines are a collectors item. Flipbooks, praxinascopes and thaumatropes are after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec182014

National Film Registry Adds 25. How Many Have You Seen?

Ah the National Film Registry inductees! One of the most important December cinematic traditions that I always forget about. I wish it were in March each year -- since it's not any kind of "year in..." since film works aren't eligible for induction until they're ten years old. Placed it March it would also serve as a nice salve to the sometimes wounding notion that the Oscars are the only barometer for American movies that are deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" I wish too that this annual honor were more practical (restoration, anyone?) and less symbolic in nature. 

THE TWENTY-FIVE 2014 INDUCTEES
Which have you seen and which will you be seeking out?(presented in chronological order)

Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day(1913)
The oldest surviving film featuring African-American actors. But no title cards, credits, or script has survived. 

Shoes (1916)
Directed by Lois Weber, a female film pioneer. This one is about a desperate girl trying to support her parents and brothers who sells her body for a pair of shoes!

Unmasked (1917)
Another female silent director Grace Cunard who also acted in the short with co-director Francis Ford

The Dragon Painter (1919)
A US/France coproduction 

More films after the jump filled with Satan-worshipping neighbors, chocolate rivers, and rugs that tie the whole room together...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jun142014

Two "Dracula" Actresses

The Los Angeles Times reports that one of the last remaining silent era actors has passed away. The actress in question, Carla Laemmle, had an easy in to the movies: her uncle Carl Laemmle founded Universal Studios and invited her family to live in a bungalow on the lot.  Carla only had a small part in the horror classic Dracula (1931) but a key one: she uttered the first line of dialogue. She didn't appear in many pictures in her long life, dying at 104 years of age, but she apparently just recently filmed a role in a new horror film Mansion of Blood (2014) starring Gary Busey.

In happier news - this is not a double RIP -  Lupita Tovar, a Mexican beauty who starred in the Spanish language version of Dracula that same year (in those early days of sound they made simultaneous alternative versions for other markets with the same sets and costumes) is still with us at 103 years of age. Lupita also comes from a movie family or, rather, began one. She is the mother of Oscar nominee Susan Kohner (Imitation of Life) and grandmother to the directors Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz (of About a Boy fame)

Related: Oldest Living Screen Stars of Note