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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


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Entries in Team Experience (63)

Wednesday
Dec032014

Team FYC: Carrie Coon for Best Supporting Actress

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, SAG, Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Margaret on Gone Girl. 

David Fincher's Gone Girl has been praised, and deservedly so, for excellence in casting its leads. Certainly Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are immensely successful in their chilling game of spousal one-upmanship, both turning in career-best performances. But looking a little further down the call sheet, some of the best work is being done by arguably the least known in the cast. Carrie Coon, Chicago-based stage actress and recent Tony nominee (for playing Honey in the revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), made her film debut in Gone Girl, but blends in so seamlessly you'd never guess.

Carrie Coon plays Margo Dunne, twin sister of Ben Affleck's Nick. Frank, wry, and loyal to a fault, she quickly becomes the heart of the movie as the central couple reveal themselves to be less and less reliable. Margo functions effectively as an audience stand-in, but she's much more than that. Coon's lived-in, effortless rapport with Affleck creates a believable and affectionate sibling relationship that emphasizes the ambiguity, and keeps Nick from being too easy a villain. Her pointed observations and bluntness are a steady source of humor, welcome in Fincher's grim universe, and essential in keeping the movie from tipping too far into the unpleasant. Not even the source novel's pickiest devotees could find anything wanting in her performance. She's perfect. 

Carrie Coon's Margo Dunne has neither the narrative heft of near co-leads like Rene Russo in Nightcrawler or Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year, nor the scene-grabbing outre of Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer, but her contributions to Gone Girl are no less potent. She makes everyone with whom she shares a scene better, and she makes the movie as a whole better; it's a true supporting performance.

Previously in Team FYC
Visual FX, Under the Skin
Cinematography, The Homesman

Tuesday
Dec022014

Team FYC: Under the Skin for Visual Effects

Editor's Note: For the next ten days, we'll be featuring individual Team Experience FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or category so we hope you enjoy the variety. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, SAG, Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Amir on Under the Skin.

Generally speaking, if you drop the adjective Best and replace it with Most, you come to a better understanding of what the Academy Awards are often about.”

That statement is taken from Nick Davis’ review of The Lives of Others written several years ago, but it’s a sentiment I have not only shared, but have come to recognize as the defining element of my relationship with the Oscars, responsible for the bulk of my disagreements with their choices. Nick called the application of his theory to the visual effects category “self-explanatory” and it’s hard to disagree with him. How often do we find nominees in this category that subtly work their visual effects into the narrative? Filmmakers who employ effects as a storytelling device rather than a show-stopping juggernaut of colors and flying objects? This isn’t to say that some worthy work hasn’t been rewarded in the process. No one can argue with the impressive quality of what is on display in Gravity, but the emphasis is on “on display.” Visual effects in Cuaron’s films are equivalent to an oiled up body in a tight thong, flexing muscles in your face, and that type of “most” visual effects is what the Academy has come to reward repeatedly, even when the results aren’t quite as impressive or innovative, which brings me to this year.

None of the films that are bound to be nominated in this category will have imagery that is as iconic or memorable as the understated work in Under the Skin.  Yet, Jonathan Glazer’s masterpiece – his third from three tries – faces two very big hurdles on its road to nomination. First, the film isn’t in the Academy’s wheelhouse or likely to get any other nominations. Second, that the visual effects aren’t showy. In the words of its VFX supervisor, Dominic Parker, the techniques “are supporting the film, not the main event.”  

Technically, Under the Skin isn’t doing anything that Kubrick didn’t do fifty years ago; one particular sequence – the disintegration of one of Alien’s preys, which is the only colourful segment in the film – unmistakably mirrors the colored vortex sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the application, completely at the service of the story and actively designed to go unnoticed, is what makes the experience memorable.

The plain black void in which the alien’s victims, lit in blue hues, float endlessly until their moment of implosion is the year’s most terrifying, unshakable imagery. The sense of inescapable horror that these sequences create is precisely due to their sleek emptiness. Similarly, the emotional gravity of the final moment, a literal stripping to bare the soul, or lack thereof, is conveyed with such weight because of the simplicity of the non-obstructive effects. Still, one need not look further than the film’s opening "creation" scene to see the genius of the effects. Glazer and his team trimmed down the concept of this scene from the formation of a full human body to just the eye and ended up with sheer minimalist brilliance. The gradual, shocking revelation of what it is we’re witnessing is the most wondrous sensation in the film, a moment of genuinely awe-inspiring quality. Here’s hoping Academy voters take note.



Previously on Team FYC
The Homesman for Cinematography

Tuesday
Dec022014

Team FYC: The Homesman for Cinematography

Editor's Note: For the next ten days or so as awards season heats up, we'll be featuring individual Team Experience FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, SAG, Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Manuel to kick things off. 


Rodrigo Prieto is one of the best cinematographers around. From the gritty urban landscapes of Amores Perros and the color-coded visual triptych that is Babel to the painterly tableaus of Frida and the kinetic Iranian vistas of Argo, Prieto has been slowly amassing quite the filmography, working with the likes of Alejandro González Iñarritú, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodóvar, Oliver Stone, and Ang Lee. It was the first collaboration with that two-time Academy Award winning director that netted Prieto his first Oscar nomination for capturing the breathtaking mountains that shepherded the tragic Western romance of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain.

He’s back in contention this year for another twist on the Western with Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman. The film focuses on Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) and George Briggs (Jones) as they make their way from Nebraska to Iowa in hopes of delivering three unstable women to the care of Altha Carter (Meryl Streep) whose husband runs a church that cares for the mentally ill.

A patient and meditative film, The Homesman showcases Prieto’s great gift for making (in this case mid-) Western landscapes look sublime in the Kantian sense of the word. The barren lands Cuddy and Briggs traverse are grand, vast and majestic; “nature considered in an aesthetic judgment as might that has no dominion over us" as Kant would say. Much of The Homesman depends on the awe-inspiring and terrifying notion of that ever-receding horizon, at once limitless and infinite; promising evermore possibility while denying ever attaining it. In The Homesman, nature is both desolate and beautiful, something Prieto’s endless painterly frames evoke throughout Jones’s film. But while it’d be easy to attribute Prieto’s accomplishments to capturing the natural beauty of the Nebraskan wilderness, what struck me about Prieto’s lensing is the way his static frames both boxed these characters with a relentless indifference that indexed the harsh wilderness around them while also lighting them with a warmth that honed in on where the film’s empathy for the five travellers lies.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the way Prieto recycles seemingly clichéd images of a silhouetted lonely horse-riding figure lit by a brazen, fiery light: man framed against a godforsaken world. They’re two small moments that show Briggs and Cuddy succeeding over man and nature alike; both beautifully-lit and framed by Prieto, making use of an ever-receding natural light in one and of a blazing fire in the other. They’re striking, yes, but they also beautifully illuminate these characters’ resilience even as they’re being swallowed whole by the wilderness around them.

Can Nebraska make it two in a row in the cinematography category, after Phedon Papamichael’s nomination last year? The big push for Jones’s film seems to be in the Best Actress category, but I’m hoping that as voters queue this up for Swank’s wonderfully realized performance, they’ll also give props to Prieto, who’s overdue for a return trip to the Dolby.

Thursday
Sep112014

Team Top Ten: All Time Greatest Voice Performances

Amir here, with this month’s edition of team top ten. As the art of acting and our interpretation of it evolve, definitions of what we consider a good performance change. It’s become an annual tradition to discuss whether a motion capture performance or some “alternative” form of acting deserves to be in the awards race. Last year’s topic of conversation was Scarlatt Johansson’s voice work in Her and that's the topic we’ve turned our attention to. (Thanks to Michael Cusumano for his suggestion!)

Voice acting has existed since cinema found sound and it has contributed to the medium in more memorable ways than a list of ten entries can represent. We were not limited in our option to animated films or any genre. So long as the voice performance was not accompanied by visual aids from the same performer (e.g. Andy Serkis’s work in LOTR was not eligible), it was fair game. Naturally, our list is animation-heavy, but there were others firmly in the race like Alec Baldwin's exquisite narration of The Royal Tenenbaums or especialy Marni Nixon – of whom The Film Experience is a big fan – who received several votes but just not enough.

Without further ado, here the collective top ten created from the rankings of each contributor's individual ballot

Top Ten Voice Performances of All Time

10. Peter O’Toole (Ratatouille)
Peter O’Toole’s Anton Ego doesn’t have much screen time in Ratatouille but his contribution to Pixar’s best film outside of the Toy Story trilogy is immeasurable. The final monologue by Ego – what an apt name for the food critic, or any critic, really – has become a reference point for film writers. The text is definitive, reminding us that “in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” Yet, the bitter truth in the text wouldn’t strike the right chords had it not been for O’Toole’s sombre, elegiac tone. Remarkably balancing his authority with a palpable sense of resignation, O’Toole’s final words elevate the scene beyond criticism.
-Amir Soltani

9. Eleanor Audley (Sleeping Beauty)
Angelina Jo-who? While the voluptuous star brought sexiness and unnecessary warmth to the part of Maleficent in this summer's blockbuster adaptation, she still doesn't hold a candle to the incomparable work of Eleanor Audley in the 1959 animated version. The actress bookended the 1950s for Disney through two of their most iconic creations, having also voiced Cinderella's stepmother in the 1950 version. For Beauty however, she was firing on all Machiavellian cylinders as she brought a sense of immeasurable dread to what was considered to be a children's film. Her Maleficent is barely in the film, but she makes every line count. We don't need to hear her entire (or any) backstory to know that she was truly evil in ways we could only begin to imagine. In a time before villains were cool, she's the most interesting character and when she says "listen well, all of you", you couldn't pay us to ignore her command.
- Jose Solis
(more on this performance

8 more great vocal performances after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jul192014

Team Top Ten: Best TV to Film Adaptations of All Time

Amir here, to welcome you to another edition of Team Top Ten, a poll of all of the website’s contributors. The topic du jour given that it's Emmy season is Best Films Adaptated from TV Series.

For as long as film and TV have coexisted, their fates, stars, successes, failures and histories have been entangled. Their ever-shifting dynamic has had an immense impact on both industries. The complexity of their relationship made devising a list like this one quite difficult, beginning with the question of what really constitutes an adaptation. For example, The Holy Grail and Life of Brian are not adapted from Monty Python's The Flying Circus; they are inspired by it, but one is more inspired than the other, so we rendered the former film eligible and the latter ineligible. On the other hand, series like Mission Impossible and Naked Gun present a different type of challenge because the sequels are continuations of the original film, rather than the TV series, but we considered them eligible nonetheless. We faced another difficulty with franchises like The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values, based on a series that is itself based on comics. The extent to which the films were inspired by either source was taken into account and we considered only the former film eligible in this case though the latter has far more ardent fans among the team here.

And so on and so forth. The point is to take this list with a grain of salt and add your personal favourites in the comments below. Without further ado…

TEAM TOP TEN
BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME INSPIRED BY TV SERIES

10. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Unlike these days, David Lynch needed to make a film in order to portray all of the incest, rape, pedophilia, murder and drugs that his and Mark Frost’s television series mostly only alluded to. While Twin Peaks, which ran for two seasons in the early 1990s, was a woozy blend of murder mystery, soap opera, dark comedy and surrealist imagery, the film was an altogether different beast. A dark and often brutally ugly ‘horror melodrama’, it angered many fans and even filmmakers (Quentin Tarantino was not a fan). For people willing to take the plunge, however, into the dark recesses of Lynch’s mind, it is a compelling and tragic affair that remains one of the definitive directorial statements of the ‘90s. Plus, David Bowie as an FBI agent who may be a ghost. Or an alien. Or a shape-shifter. Who can tell? –Glenn Dunks

9. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Ghost Protocol
seemed like a squeaker eligibility-wise, with the show a distant, tenuously related memory and three other movies interceding between them. But the film is one of the great pop entertainments U.S. studios have produced in recent years, dynamically edited and gorgeously shot by Robert Elswit without the self-conscious handsomeness of There Will Be Blood or Good Night, and Good Luck. With set-pieces as stunning as the Kremlin infiltration, the sandstorm chase, and everything else that happens in, on, or around the Burj Khalifa, this is top-notch, exuberant, and imaginative action filmmaking.  I liked De Palma’s gimcrackery and Abrams’ more traditional and character-driven suspenser, but Ghost Protocol is the franchise’s happiest marriage of scene construction, silliness, and star charisma (not just from Cruise, but from everybody).  Its division into discrete, flavorful sequences gives it the roaming energy of a television serial. You want to binge four more movies afterward. –Nick Davis

8 more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May102014

Team Top Ten: The Best Cannes Winners of All Time

Amir here, to bring you this month’s edition of Team Top Ten, a monthly poll by all of our contributing team at The Film Experience. Cinephiles all around the world turn their attention to the south of France in May as the most prestigious film festival in the world gets underway in Cannes.

The festival’s history is a rich one, full of interesting cinematic and political narratives. It’s an event that has celebrated the best in cinema and operated as a launching pad for emerging artists as much as it has played games of politics and festival world favouritism. Still, when all is said and done, the list of Palme d’Or winners can rival any list of the best films ever made.

With this year’s edition of the festival just about to begin, we thought it would be a good time to revisit the past and choose our Top Ten Favourite Cannes Winners of All Time. For this poll, we’ve excluded the first two editions of the festival (1939, retroactively awarded to Union Pacific, and 1946, when the top prize was shared between 11 films.)

There is really no easy way to select the cream of the crop here, because these films are already... well, the cream of the crop. Consider the eight films that finished behind our top dozen: Pulp Fiction; Dancer in the Dark; Viridiana; 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; Farewell My Concubine; Secrets & Lies; The Tree of Life; The Pianist. Not to mention masterpieces like Black Orpheus, Wages of Fear and Rosetta that placed outside the top 20. The point is that this is the highest echelon of films awards so the standards are high and margins are slim. Some of you will surely disagree with our ranking, but we welcome that. Let us know what you think in the comments.

THE BEST CANNES WINNERS OF ALL TIME
a non-definitive poll which begins with a three-way tie for tenth

10= La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960)

Click to read more ...