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Entries in Smackdown (24)

Tuesday
Jul212015

Smackdown 1995. Meet the Panelists

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Next Supporting Actress Smackdown has been pushed back one week to Sunday August 2nd. That leaves us just under two weeks for any 1995 madness we want to get off our chest. That's leaves you just under two weeks to finish revisiting the Supporting Actresses at home and get your votes in by Thursday July 30th. Please only vote on the performances you've seen...

Just outside the shortlist that year? Who knows but maybe it was Globe nominees Kyra Sedgwick (Something to Talk About) and Anjelica Huston (The Crossing Guard), or SAG nominee Stockard Channing (Smoke) or future nominee Rachel Griffiths (Muriel's Wedding). Or maybe it was Magda Szubanski (Babe) on account of the Best Pictureness of it all. In our fantasies it was definitely Gina Gershon (Showgirls).

MEET THE PANELISTS
Here's a little bit about our panel to prep you for our conversation as they finish up their screenings...

First Time Smackdowners

KEVIN O'KEEFE
Kevin O'Keeffe occasionally stops talking about "Smash" long enough to think about film. He even writes about it sometimes at Mic, where he's the arts staff writer in residence, but he's also written for The AtlanticThe AdvocateLA Weekly and more. Let him be your star by following him on Twitter.

What does 1995 mean to you?

I'm ashamed to admit I was a child in that year, so my big motion picture experience was Babe. (I'm surprised Babe didn't get a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, to be frank.) I hadn't seen many of these movies – the early 90s are a bit of a void for me, since I'm usually revisiting older movies or keeping up with newer ones. That's what drew me to the year for the Smackdown: It was the year I was alive, and yet I knew the least about it of any.

 

LYNN LEE
Lynn is a government lawyer who spends most of her time outside work obsessing over arts and pop culture.  Her current fascination is with "The Americans" on FX. Her first love, though, will always be movies, thanks to parents who raised her on an eclectic diet of Ingmar Bergman, talky French films, 1960s musicals, Star Wars, and Spielberg blockbusters.  You can find her occasional musings on movies and TV on her blog and as a new contributor to TFE.

What does 1995 mean to you?

My life as a movie lover can be divided into two periods: Before 1995 and After 1995.  Before 1995, I watched movies with my parents and friends, but didn't really seek out movies that I wanted to see for myself alone.  All that changed starting the summer of '95, when I graduated from high school and for once had nothing to do but watch movies, and that fall, when I headed off to college in an actual CITY and discovered a whole moviegoing universe I'd only been dimly aware of before.  I discovered there was such a thing as theaters reserved exclusively for "arthouse" and "independent" films.  (First movie seen in such a theater: "The Brothers McMullen," or maybe it was "Chasing Amy.")  I discovered Kate Winslet in "Sense & Sensibility."  I discovered that movies could become the college equivalent of water cooler conversation ("The Usual Suspects").  Above all else, I discovered that movies were something you could discuss with communities of fellow movie lovers - and I've never looked back since then.".

 

CONRADO FALCO
Conrado "Coco" Falco can be described as a student currently earning his undergraduate degree at Hunter College, as an aspiring theater director currently working on a play about the life and death of Taylor Swift, or as a film blogger currently writing for his personal blog Coco Hits New York. First and foremost, however, he is a film lover. [Follow Coco on Twitter.] 

What does 1995 mean to you?

One of my earliest (and most traumatic) memories comes from Christmas Eve 1995. I was three at the time. My grandma told me she had wrapped my gift in the "Snoopy" wrapping paper, so I went straight to it before anyone read the tag. To my surprise, the gift was a Pocahontas Barbie doll. I was mocked by all my cousins in what was one of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood. I don't have many specific '95 memories otherwise, except for the fact that  "Babe" and "Toy Story" were big staples of my childhood. I'm currently revisiting '95 movies in my personal blog, and discovering that it might be one of the most underrated years in American cinema. 

Returning Panelists

Nick gets a big photo because he worked 1995 into his bio photo. Look at all those movies!

NICK DAVIS
Nick Davis writes the reviews and features at the website Nick's Flick Picks.  The site's unpredictable cycles of frenzied activity and long dormancy have to do with his also being an Associate Professor of English and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern, where his research and teaching mostly concern narrative film in different eras, genres, and countries. [Follow Nick on Twitter]

What does 1995 mean to you?

I started college in 1995 and also started going to movies by myself in, at last, a big city with broad offerings. You work out which development was more exciting. I bought the Entertainment Weekly Summer Preview and concluded that five movies were unmissable: "The Bridges of Madison County" (because even the terrible book made me cry), "Little Odessa" (Redgrave, I guess?), "Mad Love" (crush on Chris O'Donnell), "Nine Months" (crush on Hugh Grant), and "Species" (crush on Natasha Henstridge, plus aliens, plus ambivalence about procreating). I saw "Apollo 13" with my dad before I left for school and "Sense and Sensibility" with my mom when I came home, and "Nixon" with my dad over that same Christmas, so basically you're asking me to pick between my parents. I saw "Babe" at least four times and forced skeptics to come with me. I deduced instantly who Keyser Söze was and didn't give a flying coffee cup. I deterred silent, unwanted advances from a friend while we watched "Se7en" and wondered how this movie could possibly be arousing her. I was the only man at near-empty opening-day matinees of "Home for the Holidays" and "How to Make an American Quilt". I walked into a genuine surprise birthday party my friends in the freshman dorm had thrown for me, but I left after two minutes because, I'm sorry, I'd already bought a ticket to "To Die For". I liberally quoted Angela Bassett from "Strange Days" like I was deep. I saw "Leaving Las Vegas" with the same friend I took to "Se7en". She didn't start stroking my neck this time, and we rode home in 20 minutes of unbroken silence, because by that time, a month later, I really was deep. I didn't get "Shorty". I was the face of love. I skipped "Braveheart" till the desperate studio re-released it in February, because these are our crosses to bear, sometimes literally. I skipped "Toy Story" like a damn fool. I saw it plenty of times later. I never saw "Mad Love," so what has it all been for?

 

GUY LODGE
Born in Johannesburg but based in London, Guy is the chief UK film critic for Variety, and a home entertainment columnist for The Observer. His writing also appears at Time Out, Empire, The Guardian and any outlet willing to pay for long-form thinkpieces about knitwear in the movies. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyLodge.

What does 1995 mean to you?

In 1995, I was twelve years old and in my last year of primary school — on the knife-edge, then, between feeling confidently grown and authoritative, and being tossed out of my depth into adolescence. My cultural diet was in a similarly transitional state. After a hovering period, 1995 was the year I said goodbye to the children's section of the library and devoured “Jane Eyre” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”; at the movies, my parents merged my growing interests with theirs and took me to see “Three Colours: Red.” (It was both the first subtitled film I saw in the cinema, as well as the first with a no-under-16s certificate. I appreciated their trust.) Out in the larger world, my fellow South Africans were celebrating our rugby team's against-all-odds World Cup victory, joyously consolidating the national repairwork started by the previous year's election. It wouldn't last, and Clint Eastwood would later make that moment in time seem that much drabber. But the memory of temporary invincibility remains..

 

And your host...

NATHANIEL R
Nathaniel is the founder of The Film Experience, a reknowned Oscar pundit, and the web's actressexual ringleader. He fell in love with the movies for always at The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) but mostly blames Oscar night (in general) and the 80s filmographies of Kathleen Turner & Michelle Pfeiffer (specifically). Though he holds a BFA in Illustration, he found his true calling when he started writing about the movies. He blames Boogie Nights for the career change. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1995 mean to you?

'I'm getting a bit old for that whorey look.'

 

1995 is when I graduated from college so it was a big year but it seems to have entirely evaporated in my memory but for the birth of the late 20th century's New Trash Masterpiece "Showgirls".

If I dig a little-bit harder into the memory banks I remember heavy rotation among roommates and friends for Alanis Morrisette's "Jagged Little Pill," Björk's "Post" and the "Pocahontas" soundtrack (showtunes 4ever! Don't judge). Cinematically, I was in deep deep throes of love for broken-winged Brad Pitt in "Se7en," Elisabeth Shue's booze-drenched boobs in "Leaving Las Vegas," and Angela Bassett's fierce elocution and even fiercer hair in "Strange Days." My least favorite movie-going memory was seeing "Braveheart" in the theater and hearing audiences cheering its ridiculous homophobia. My best movie-going memory from '95 is taking my three little nephews to see "Babe" which they loved and kept quoting in their adorable squeaky little kid voices which they would try to make yet squeakier to approximate the mice. One of them just announced his engagement  - Eeek! How was 1995 twenty whole years ago!?!?!


What does 1995 mean to you dear readers?

Do tell in the comments.

Sunday
Jun282015

Smackdown 1948: Jean, Barbara, Claire, Ellen, and Agnes Moorehead

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '48. A young writer, a drunken chanteuse, two spinster aunties, and a girl who never gets to the nunnery.

THE NOMINEES

1948 is so basic. A typical Best Supporting Actress shortlist looks almost exactly like this: an actress whose paid her dues finally getting a plum opportunity (hello usually uncredited Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama finally stepping into the limelight), a rapidly rising star (Jean Simmons in Hamlet, not her first attention grabbing role in the late 40s), a fresh ingenue in a popular picture (Meet Barbara Bel Geddes in I Remember Mama), and if you're lucky in a good year a couple of revered character actresses to class up the shortlist joint (Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda and Claire Trevor in Key Largo). And within that mix you'll usually have a protagonist demoted to "supporting" and Best Picture heat helping at least a few of them find a seat at the table. All of that is true for 1948. What isn't so typical is a supporting actress winning on a picture's sole nomination and that happened here. Key Largo has aged well but Oscar didn't have any time for it back then outside of Trevor's drunk despair. The other three pictures had 24 nominations between them!

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are screenwriter/author Abdi Nazemian ("The Walk in Closet"), film blogger Catherine Stebbins (Cinema Enthusiast), freelance journalist Joe Reid, film critic Tim Robey (The Telegraph), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). In addition to this write up we recorded a companion podcast  where we flesh out some of these thoughts and expound on the movies themselves.

Without further ado...

1948
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

BARBARA BEL GEDDES as "Katrin" in I Remember Mama
Synopsis: A teenager who dreams of being a writer finds source material in her immigrant mother
Stats: Then 26 yrs old, 2nd film, first and only nomination. 72 minutes of screen time (or 54% of running time). 

Abdi Nazemian: She carries much of the emotional life of the film, but I found the film unbearably sentimental (this from a man who loves Andy Hardy movies and Little Women). She lacks the unique quirks that young actors like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney brought to the same kinds of roles, and gives us a bland portrayal of adolescence. Of all the nominated actresses, she was given the most screen time, and did the least with it. 

Catherine Stebbins: One of these days I’ll figure out why I’m always so drawn to Bel Geddes. She has a lot of screen time as Katrin, given the unenviable task of holding up the film’s relentless episodic nostalgia. She is narrator, observer, worshiper, and an adult playing an adolescent. Katrin constantly looks at her mother, whether in the background or foreground, with reverent awe. Bel Geddes plays this with a partial cognizance that Katrin is in the gently reenacted memories of her past. ♥♥♥

Joe Reid: I can see how, if you were swept up in the homey charms of George Stevens' film, you'd want to throw accolades at Bel Geddes, who plays such an observant window onto the life of her saintly mother. Her hushed voice-over gets to the gauzy-memoir nature of the story effectively, but I'm not sure the performance ever gets much farther than doe-eyed wonderment.  ♥♥

Tim Robey: Saddled with just about the hoariest framing narration in film history, and doing little to lift it out of sanctified goo, Barbara has a near-impossible task here – making the terminally precious Katrin and her “gifted” (read: soporific) memoirs interesting. She can’t win, but we still need something more than a voice like tree sap to get us through this. In overegged close-ups she’s weirdly divorced from real-time engagement with her scenes, and every co-star seems faintly embarrassed about what to do with her. 

Nathaniel R: In the movie's crowded frames, you can often see just her hair or the back of her head; unfortunately her full closeups aren't that much more expressive, generally landing a single emotion. The narration is even stiffer like she's reading to a very small child from an immobile body cast. (The direction and screenplay all but force this stiff repetitiveness though, so it's not all on her) She aces warm awestruck looks at goddess Irene Dunne, but... I mean... who doesn't?  

Reader Write-Ins: "She is telling THEIR story, which she happens to be in. Therefore she is bland, quiet, blending to the background so others can showcase themselves." - Tom (Reader average: ♥♥¼)

Actress earns 10¼ ❤s 

four more actresses after the jump


Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun072015

Podcast: Smackdown Companion 1979

You've read the new Supporting Actress Smackdown. Now hear its companion podcast. Our panel widens its view from the supporting nominees to talk about the unique cinematic landscape of the late 1970s, the women's lib movement and concurrent movie gender wars, and which movies give the best period punch and which we've misremembered completely.

Host: Nathaniel R
Special Guests:  KM Soehnlein,  Kristen SalesBill Chambers, and StinkyLulu.

Contents

  • 00:01 Introductions and memory vs. reality w/ Breaking Away
  • 03:20 Gender Wars of 1979. Misogynistic or merely non-coddling and complicated? 
  • 09:00 Cynicism and Optimism in Starting Over and Manhattan, which is particularly self-critical and discomforting
  • 15:50 Contextualizing the movies. 1979 versus what was to come with shifting tastes. Do people still make movies about "how we live now?"
  • 21:00 Meryl Streep's command of subtext and Kramer vs. Kramer as a film 
  • 28:00 The oddity of Starting Over's comedy - we recommend
  • 31:30 Movies we wish we had had to watch for the Smackdown: Alien & All That Jazz and non-nominated supporting actresses
  • 36:45 Final random observations: valium, money in 1979, and new actors who weren't yet famous
  • 39:00 Meryl Streep then vs Meryl Streep now. Of course we spend the last five minutes on Meryl Streep.

And because we joke about it - Here is Candice Bergen's off-key hit single "Better Than Ever" from Starting Over.

Please to enjoy and continue the conversation in the comments. You can listen at the bottom of this post or download from iTunes tomorrow. THE NEXT SMACKDOWN IS AT THE END OF JUNE. WE'LL BE LOOKING AT 1948 SO ADJUST YOUR QUEUES ACCORDINGLY.

Smackdown Companion 1979

Sunday
Jun072015

Smackdown 1979: Barbara, Candice, Jane, Mariel ...and Meryl Streep!

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '79. Three divorcées trying to find themselves or build new lives (a white hot character type / movie theme in the late 70s) battled for the statue with a simple suburban mom and a precocious student at the 52nd Annual Academy Awards.

THE NOMINEES

 

Candice Bergen and Mariel Hemingway were first-time Oscar players in 1979, but they shared the interesting distinction of being previous Globe nominees in the long since cancelled category of "Promising Newcomer/Acting Debut" in 1966 (The Sand Pebbles) and 1976 (Lipstick) respectively. Barbara Barrie , the eldest nominee, was no stranger to good reviews having previously won Cannes Best Actress (for the little seen interracial romance One Potato Two Potato in 1964) but was largely considered a TV actress. She returned to the small screen immediately after her most beloved film role  -- in a TV series based on that film no less making her the rare performer (the only one?) to have received both an Emmy nomination and Oscar nomination for the same exact role! But the Kramer vs Kramer ladies were the marquee draws in 1979 and not just because the public response to their divorce drama was so seismic: Jane Alexander and Meryl Streep had been nominated before and would be again. Especially La Streep. No one could have then predicted that she'd continually obliterate Oscar records over the next thirty plus years but everyone knew she was the Next Big Thing. 1979 was the year of her true ascendance, a third consecutive year co-starring in a Best Picture contender (Julia, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs Kramer) and the small matter of two other much-raved about performances in the same year (Manhattan and The Seduction of Joe Tynan). 

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are author KM Soehnlein ("The World of Normal Boys") and film bloggers Kristen Sales (Sales on Film), Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central), Brian Herrera (StinkyLulu), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). There's also a must-listen Podcast companion conversation to the Smackdown where we flesh out some of these thoughts and expound on the movies themselves.

Without further ado, the Smackdown...

1979
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 
An in-depth discussion after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Friday
May292015

Smackdown Summer - Revamp Your Queues!

We're just 9 days away from the launch of another Smackdown Summer. Rather than announce piecemeal, we'll give you all five lineups in case you'd like more time to catch up with these films (some of them stone cold classics) over the hot months. Remember to cast your own ballots during each month for the reader-polling (your 1979 votes are due by June 4th). Your votes count toward the final Smackdown win so more of you should join in. 

These Oscar years were chosen after comment reading, dvd searching, handwringing, and desire-to-watch moods.  I wish we had time to squeeze in a dozen Smackdowns each summer! As it is there will be TWO Smackdowns in June, a gift to you since this first episode was delayed.

Sunday June 7th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1979

Meryl Streep won her first of three Oscars while taking her co-star Jane Alexander along for the Oscar ride in Kramer vs. Kramer. The delightful character actress Barbara Barrie was nominated for her mom role in Breaking Away, Mariel Hemingway as Woody Allen's preternaturally wise teenage lover in Manhattan, and Candice Bergen played a singing divorcee in Starting Over - a role that supposedly helped win her Murphy Brown a decade later.

PANELISTS: Nathaniel R (TFE), Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central), Kristen Sales (Sales on Film), Brian Herrera (StinkyLulu) and novelist K. M. Soehnlein ("The World of Normal Boys," "Robin and Rudy")

 

Sunday June 28th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1948

1948's roster has a genuine movie star and one of the most iconic character actresses of all time in Jean Simmons who didn't get to the nunnery in Hamlet and Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda respectively. Also nominated were two women from the immigrant family drama I Remember Mama, Barbara Bel Geddes and Ellen Corby. But taking home the gold was Claire Trevor in the Bogart & Bacall noir Key Largo. Will the panel agree with Oscar's decision? 

PANELISTS: TBA

 

Sunday July 26th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1995

The Oscar went to one-hit wonder Mira Sorvino (okay, two hit wonder: hi Romy & Michelle!) for her hooker with a heart of gold in Mighty Aphrodite but then no one knew what her future had in store. No one knew that for any of the contenders since they were all first timers. Sorvino was up against two familiar ensemble players Kathleen Quinlan in the popular hit Apollo 13, and critical darling Mare Winningham from Georgia, and two "new" faces who'd continue on to future Oscar glories and Great Actress reputations in Kate Winslet (Sense & Sensibility) and Joan Allen (Nixon).

PANELISTS TBA

Sunday August 30th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1954 

Eva Marie Saint dropped a glove and won an Oscar for On the Waterfront opposite Marlon Brando by any margin the most famous of 1954's Oscar nominated films. But what will the panel make of her competition? There's also the formidable Nina Foch in the all-star corporate drama Executive Suite, Katy Jurado, the first Mexican actress ever nominated, for the western Broken Lance and rounding out the category were two women from John Wayne's airline thriller The High and the Mighty, Jan Sterling and Oscar regular Claire Trevor.

PANELISTS TBA

 

Sunday September 27th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1963 (Season Finale!)  

Since the 2015 film year really heats up in September with the Toronto Film Festival (10th-20th) and Prestige Season Kick-Off, we're taking it easy for the finale with the one of only two years when only three films were nominated in the Supporting Actress category. Margaret Rutherford won the Oscar for The VIPs, a Liz & Dick show, Lilia Skalia was also popular in nun mode for Lilies of the Field but it was the Best Picture winning sex comedy Tom Jones that was the informal star of this category with three of Albert Finney's co-stars nominated (the all time record in this category): Diane Cilento, Joyce Redman, and '60s Oscar fixture Dame Edith Evans (nominated shortly thereafter for both The Chalk Garden and The Whisperers

PANELISTS TBA

 

Queue up those DVDs, readers, and play along at home! Unless you're a semi-famous star or accomplished character actor, oft-employed industry professional, best selling novelists, popular film critic, or AMPAS member in which case, tell me which panel you want to be on! (Shameless Plug). You know you want to join in the movie merriment !!!

Wednesday
May062015

Smackdown May 31st - Pass It On !

UPDATE / MAKE NOTE: Date Changed to Sunday June 7th. 

It's decided. After listening to your comments and perusing the lists again we've narrowed down which years we'll be doing this summer. The next Supporting Actress Smackdown will be 1979... So get to watching out there for maximum enjoyment when it arrives. And your enjoyment comes before that if you do because, BONUS, this is a good batch of films even beyond these talented ladies. 

  • Jane Alexander - Kramer Vs. Kramer
  • Barbara Barrie - Breaking Away
  • Candice Bergen - Starting Over
  • Mariel Hemingway - Manhattan
  • Meryl Streep - Kramer Vs. Kramer

PANELISTS TBA

P.S. This also means that 1979 will be our unofficial 'year of the month' so we'll have other '79 related bits and bobs for you at the end of May. Please to enjoy. Any requests?