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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 | letterboxd

 

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Entries in Team Experience (54)

Friday
Jan242014

We Can't Wait #14: Veronica Mars

[Editor's Note: We Can't Wait is a Team Experience series, in which we highlight our top 14 most anticipated films of 2014. Here's Dancin' Dan on Veronica Mars.]

Veronica Mars
Kristen Bell reprises her role as the title character in this neo-noir murder mystery that picks up nine year after where Season 3 of the eponymous TV series left off.

Talent
Rob Thomas, creator of the original series is in the director's chair. Kristen Bell is joined in front of the camera by other series regulars including Jason Dohring.

Why We Can't Wait

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan232014

We Can't Wait! (Preview)

Amir here to kick off We Can’t Wait!, a week-long series by Team Experience on our most anticipated films of 2014. The title is pretty much self-explanatory. We voted as a group and, starting tomorrow, each of us will cover one of the films that ended up on our top ten 14 list. Before that, however, let’s take a quick look at some of the films that were placed highly on our individual ballots but failed to make the final list. You may remember that I posted my own personal list of most anticipated films in this space previously. Let’s hear from the rest of the Team…

Untitled Public School Project (dir. Baumbach)
Noah Baumbach’s upcoming Untitled Public School Project, starring and co-written with his diligent muse and recurring collaborator Greta Gerwig, sounded to me like Greta-and-Noah’s Up the Down Staircase, a little-remembered 1968 drama in which Sandy Dennis stars as a fresh-faced, first-time teacher pushed out of her element and into the full and frenzied halls of a NYC public high school. This got me thinking that Greta Gerwig could very well be the Second Coming of Sandy Dennis, what with both actresses’ enchanting onscreen blending of quirky neuroticism, inspired mannerisms, and modest, effortless, and intelligent charm, subsequently causing crazy, giddy daydreams of Greta-as-Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I think I need to lie down...

Details are somewhat scant on this one, but the intriguingly untitled Frances Ha follow-up doesn’t sound much like what I’d envisioned. Instead, and in a vein seemingly similar to Frances, the film centers on the relationship between another of Greta’s determined New York hopefuls and her worshipful Barnard buddy, played by Lola Kirke, sister of Girls star Jemima. In this New Yorker article from April of last year, Baumbach likens the movie to both The Great Gatsby and Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, which sounds both mind-boggling and marvellous. Then again, after Frances, I’d probably follow Noah and Greta into an Armageddon remake if it came down to it.
-Matthew Eng 

Godzilla (dir. Edwards)
The last time Hollywood tried to make a CGI epic out of Toho’s radioactive lizard, the results were deeply vile. But Gareth Edwards is no Roland Emmerich. And any doubts to the contrary evaporated when the teaser trailer bowed at the end of 2014; its grave tone, gorgeous pop-nihilistic visuals, and suggestive hints of creature design prove that the filmmakers at least know what film they should be making. Whether they’ve actually made it is something we’ll find out in May, but from this distance, it looks to me like the obvious frontrunner for King of the Summer Popcorn Movies.
-Tim Brayton 

Tammy (dir. Falcone)
The words were "Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon road trip comedy". I was sold instantly. McCarthy's comic talents are supreme when the co-star chemistry works - Sandra Bullock yes, Jason Bateman no, which suggests the laws of cosmic comedy are a mystery. And it's been so long since Sarandon was a movie star that she needs to take this chance to cut loose as a profane, hard-drinking grandmother. McCarthy co-wrote the script with her husband Ben Falcone, who has first time directing duty here. So all in all, a volatile mix of untested and unpredictable - but that can often make for cinematic magic.
-David Upton 

Magic in the Moonlight (dir. Allen)
At the beginning of every new year I know little about what the 12 months will hold for me, but I know one thing for sure: I'll be first in line on opening night for the new Woody Allen movie. As usual, no one knows exactly what this one is about (and bless him for cherishing secrecy in this time and day when we know way too much about every single film before a trailer's out) other than "A-listers get together in new locale to make Allen film". All I can hope for is that the Woodsman will give us the next brilliant Emma Stone performance promised in Easy A and that it will be at least half as good as Blue Jasmine was last year.
-Jose Solis 

Interstellar (dir. Nolan)
Whenever Christopher Nolan makes a film, it is a must-see event. They're met with equal levels of anticipation by both fanboys and highbrow cinephiles alike, eager to devour and dissect the worlds he creates. Even if you find yourself admiring the craftsmanship rather than the finished product, he's one of the few directors making adult-oriented, thought-provoking blockbusters. With an Oscar-approved cast (Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burystn, and Michael Caine, to name a few) playing scientists and explorers that delve into a newly discovered wormhole that allows time travel and journeys to new dimensions, it seems that Nolan is, once again, looking to push cinematic boundaries. And I'll be one of the first in line at the IMAX ready to have both my eyes and mind stimulated.
-Andrew Stewart 

A Man Most Wanted (dir. Corbijn)
John Le Carré novels have made some pretty good films in the past, from the steamy Tailor of Panama to the icy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This one, from the master of the spy novel's recent tome based on the true-life story of Murat Kurnaz, a Chechen Muslim and legal resident of Germany who gets caught up in the war on terror, boasts a stellar cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Daniel Bruhl, Robin Wright, and Willem Dafoe) and an inspired choice in the director's chair: Anton Corbijn, who directed The American, the most interesting spy film of the new millennium. And hey, if that doesn't interest you, IMDB says that you might like it if you liked ANY of the revitalized Ms. McAdams's 2013 efforts (Passion, To the Wonder, and About Time)! BONUS: Early word from Sundance is good, which only makes me more excited!
-Daniel Bayer 

Far From the Madding Crowd (dir. Vinterberg)
Matthias Schoenaerts stars as a young shepherd and Carey Mulligan as the young woman who becomes the object of his affection for some years in Far from the Madding Crowd. I’m excited but nervous about this adaptation of this Thomas Hardy novel. Literary adaptations too often end up as arid affairs despite any inherent zest and life of their source material. Nailing the weird but charming mix of comedy and tragedy from the text already seems like a difficult task and I can’t help but wish Tony Richardson were still alive to attach his irreverent adaptive skills to it. But the film is excellently cast from Juno Temple as servant Fanny to Michael Sheen as bumbling Boldwood. David Nicholl’s last script (Great Expectations) though occasionally surface-y was a fine condensation of a lengthy novel. And, sure, this 19th century country-romp seems a far cry from Thomas Vinterberg’s recent The Hunt but a director with a strong hand is always the best thing for a literary adaptation so I remain hopeful. Now, let us pray that in translation to the screen Mulligan’s Bathsheba retains her agency and feminist edge.
-Andrew Kendall 

Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (dir.Lawrence)
Sue me for becoming captivated by a tween movie trend. When a Burning Question asked, "Book or movie first?" I answered book, but Michael C. concluded movie. The first Hunger Games movie was my experiment. I read the book after (and decided Michael C. was wrong). I got hooked on the trilogy, and now I can't get enough of the films. They're imperfect, to be sure. They should dive more deeply into the social commentary, or at least choose between a message and appealing to an audience. But they're juicy fun, and it's easy to anticipate a film when I already know I love the content.
-Deborah Lipp

How To Catch a Monster (dir. Gosling)
Have we lost faith in Ryan Gosling or does his desire to quit acting for the time being after Gangster SquadOnly God Forgives and The Place Beyond the Pines -- back-to-back-to-back performances which weren't greeted as warmly as he's accustomed to -- speak well of his own keen instincts about how to manage his career. Will getting behind the camera rejuvenate him? Not all actors can direct but I'm intrigued by his choice of genre (urban fantasy) and especially his casting. Christina Hendricks stars as "Billy" a single mother who gets swept into a dark underworld. Since Hollywood proper seemed dumbfounded as to what to do when she broke on Mad Men, weirdly assuming that January Jones was the only Mad Woman worth pursuing as a movie star, it's a relief that a film star like Gosling gets it. The cast also includes Matt Smith as "Bully", Saorsie Ronan as "Rat" and Eva Mendes as "Cat" and if all those famous names playing weirdly matching character names for a movie star trying to become a writer/director don't make you curious, what could?
-Nathaniel 

Are you excited about these nine titles? If so, why?

Tuesday
Jan142014

The 2nd Annual Team Experience Award Goes To...

Amir here, to bring you the results of the 2nd annual Team Experience Awards, a poll of the year’s best in film by the international group of writers who contribute regularly to this website. In our inaugural edition, Leos Carax’s off-kilter French fantasy, Holy Motors, won the top prize. This year, our 14 voters are more in synch with the American awards season tune. I think it’s fair to say we all like 12 Years a Slave. Like, really, really like 12 Years a Slave. If Steve McQueen’s film were Sally Field, we’d be the Academy circa 1985.

BEST PICTURE
12 Years a Slave
 (Steve McQueen)
Runner-up: Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach) 

BEST DIRECTOR
Steve McQueen
 (12 Years a Slave)
Runner-up: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) 

However, the consensus and the number of categories topped by Slave don’t quite reflect the intense competition behind the scenes. In fact, only two categories were landslides: Best Picture and Best Visual Effects. Elsewhere, the competition was intense and never really took shape until the last ballot was in. In the best supporting actress category, for example, five women were within an inch of each other, and Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Only God Forgives) missed out on the runner-up spot by a hair. The nitty-gritty of our votes further down but now the winners of the 2nd Team Experience Awards...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec172013

FYCs, Ours and Yours

I intended to write a couple of entries of my own "FYCs" this year for our team project but realized that's essentially what my annual FiLM BiTCH Awards double as. I'm almost ready to go ahead with those, which range from the traditional awards categories through to dozens of fun "extras". I'm fully aware that the last two years of TFE's own prizes have been a bit shaky in terms of speed and completion,  but this year I shan't drag my feet since my circumstances here have changed. I need your help, though, with the "extra categories"  and the music categories (I am always lost with Best Score) so don't let me forget any perfect gems. What should I consider in the fields of: Best Cameo, Line Reading, Action Sequence, Kiss, Sex Scene, Credit Sequence, Opening Scene, Ending, Musical Moment? 

SUBMIT YOUR FYCs IN THE COMMENTS

In the meantime, in case you missed any our "Fringe" FYCs for traditional categories, which aimed to widen the conversation and give awards voters a bit more options to think through than the 15 films they keep hearing about, please click around: Cinematography Her | Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus |  Make-up Evil Dead (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration) | Costume Design Blue Jasmine Score Ain't Them Bodies Saints Sound Editing The Conjuring | Actor Tye Sheridan | Film Editing Stories We Tell | Screenplay In a World... | Supporting Actor Keith Stanfield | Song The Great Gatsby | Score Nebraska (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration) | Costume Design Lawrence Anyways | Foreign Film Neighboring Sounds | Supporting Actress Cameron Diaz | Picture The Spectacular Now | Make-Up Warm Bodies (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration) | Sound Mixing World War Z | Director Edgar Wright | Production Design The Conjuring 

And three earlier suggestions before we formally began... Best Young Performer (for BFCA voters... though they didn't listen) |  Supporting Actor Ulysses the Cat (probably technically not eligible for Oscar consideration) | Make-Up Warm Bodies (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration).

Tuesday
Dec172013

Team FYC: Her for Best Cinematography

Team FYC lets Film Experience contributors highlight their favourite fringe contenders for awards season. Here's Amir Soltani on Spike Jonze's Her.

In recent years, the Academy's cinematography award has been handed out in tandem with the best visual effects one. It has become an inevitability: if there is a best picture nominee that can be described as a "visual spectacle" is present, it will win both awards. This year will be no exception with Gravity, and if I were to put money on it, I'd a hazard a guess that Christopher Nolan's Interstellar will be the beneficiary of AMPAS's infatuation with big, effects driven cinema in this category next year. But Dutch cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema shouldn't need to wait another year for his first Oscar nomination.

With Spike Jonze's Her, van Hoytema adds yet another impressive entry to a decade-long resume that already boasts an astonishing range of styles. The soft, colorless hues of Let the Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy are more easily recognizable as the works of the same DP, but the scrappy, hand-held look of The Fighter is almost a 180 degree turn. Her has shades of van Hoytema's collaborations with Tomas Alfredsson, but is infinitely more vibrant. Perhaps more than any other film this year, the cinematography here needs to be recognized as a collective achievement with the works of the production and costume design teams as it brings their colors and sleek, intimate designs to life, but contains them under extremely soft lighting. It is richly realized but also suitably representative of the cyberspace; think of it as beautifulhandwrittenletters.com incarnate.

In a way, Her's aesthetic is one of contrasts. It is bursting with reds and pinks but it feels melancholy. It is sensitive but equally icy. It seems perfectly appropriate for a film about "artificial" intelligence, creating a landscape that looks ethereally digital, but also oddly palpable. It's apt, because Her is as much about our future as it is about our modern condition and van Hoytema’s work captures that contrast beautifully. Will Academy voters recognize his genius? Does the strong critical response to the film tell us anything about its Oscar hopes? It is certainly possible. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time a Spike Jonze finds favor with critics and no luck with AMPAS. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday
Dec092013

Team FYC: 'Spring Breakers' for Best Sound Mixing

This FYC series brings together all Film Experience contributors to highlight our favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Glenn Dunks on the sound mixing of Spring Breakers.

The neon-infused opening credits to Spring Breakers are accompanied by the peaceful echoes of a beachside before the hordes of teenagers arrive for Spring Break. Director Harmony Korine barely gives audiences a minute to relax before he throws the kitchen sink at the screen and turns the Skrillex up to 11. The images of drunken, sexually open teenagers cavorting about the ocean could hardly come with a better, more abrasively confronting soundtrack. If you were lucky to see this violently satirical black comedy on the big screen then you’ll know the propulsive impact this soundtrack choice had blasting out of the speakers to a crowd of (mostly) unsuspecting victims. Korine wasn’t mincing words: so long to any chance for a nice time at the movies. His movie was to be in your face. And boy, was it ever. And in your ears, too.

It’s not just Korine’s soundtrack choices that made me choose Spring Breakers for sound design but rather the inventive, puzzle-like work he does throughout. There’s the repetitious dialogue that Korine layers over the top of unrelated sequences to discombobulate the viewer (or beat them into submission, who can tell?). There’s the bold way he builds and deconstructs entire soundscapes throughout a single scene. There’s the way he blends in the original score of Cliff Martinez and the aforementioned Skrillex, perfectly harmonised with Benoît Debie’s cinematography to juxtapose moods.

Independent cinema is frequently where one finds some of the most creative sound work. I could have easily chosen the dense layering of cultural beats in Lucy Mulloy’s Una Noche, the piercing cacophony of Blackfish, or the pin-point precision of Park Chan-wook’s Stoker. I find these works infinitely more interesting uses of sound than most of what will likely make up the Oscar nominees. The work on Spring Breakers is truly definitive. It’s impossible to imagine the film without it. In keeping with Korine's chaotic tone, the sound work is constantly interesting and ever-changing. It morphs just as often as the film from abrasive dubstep to a tender Britney Spears ballad. Just like the action movies with their voluminous walls of sound that so often find Oscar success, the ebb and flow of the sound mixing here is as meticulous and carefully constructed as you can get. It’s the ace in the film’s hole (pardon the salacious pun).

previous FYCs
Sound Editing The Conjuring | Actor Tye Sheridan | Editing Stories We Tell | Screenplay In a World... | Supporting Actor Keith Stanfield | Song The Great Gatsby | Score Nebraska | Costume Design Lawrence Anyways | Foreign Film Neighboring Sounds | Supporting Actress Cameron Diaz | Picture The Spectacular Now | Make-Up Warm Bodies | Sound Mixing World War Z | Director Edgar Wright | Production Design The Conjuring | Supporting Actor Ulysses the Cat

Saturday
Dec072013

Team FYC: "The Great Gatsby" for Original Song

This FYC series brings together all Film Experience contributors to highlight our favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Andrew Kendall on a tune from Gatsby, a movie which just won two Grammy  nominations

Too often when we consider original song contenders we tend to focus on the lyrics at the expense of the music but my favourite number of Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby soundtrack manages to excel on both levels. Considering “Over the Love” lyrically, it would win in the battle in find which song has the most fidelity to its source novel. It features references to the “yellow dresses”, “green light” and that “ocean in the way”. But, it’s the musical arrangement of the song which takes it from lovely song into a true contender. I like Luhrman’s Gatsby, even though it falters in an example of reach exceeding grasp. What “Over the Love” manages to do is retain the steady rise from sanguine charm to a heady feverish climax with aplomb, which seems to be what Luhrman is going for but doesn't quite succeed at.

The song begins with the piano as its sole accompaniment and the faintest howling of winds in the background – ominous. The song continues as you expect, verse + chorus + verse + chorus with the piano and a steady percussive sound marking time as well as suggesting a subtle sense of time running out. Then, with a minute and a half left it's launched into the bridge with the evocative line.

“Cause you’re a hard soul to save, with an ocean in the way. But I’ll get around it.”

It's an unsubtle lyric, recalling Gatsby’s own vow to return to Daisy. The lovers are divided by water in the present day where the chasm of  the space between East Egg and Long Island Sound in West Egg separates. But, it's also the Atlantic Ocean, more water, which separates them when Gatsby heads off to war. The double meaning is a nice touch, but it's oddly chilling in the way its rendered ominously, as much a promise as a threat when sung by Florence. And instead of a bridge + chorus + ending like most ballads, Florence’s “cry” leads us into the freneticism of the song’s last bars. Everything builds as “I can see the green light. I can see it in your eyes” is repeated building to an agitated climax until the song ends. It does not fade out to an end, like some songs, but ends decisively, abruptly on an utterance of the choral “I can see it in your eyes”. It is as if musically the song has reached this feverish pitch only to abruptly expire.  Like Gatsby’s life, it feels suspended. A song good in its own right, but haunting in the way it ends just at that climax.

On its own, without context to the film's story, “Over the Love” would still be a beautiful song. But the way its wailing tones not just lyrically but musically enhances the film, and is in turn enhanced by knowlege of the film is what makes priceless. It’s impactful in a way songs written for films don’t always manage to be.