Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Months of Meryl: THE RIVER WILD

"Great post and comments. Yes, Streep had to navigate the rough waters of being in her 40's! I do think she smashed through the glass ceiling for women since she persevered and then became an even bigger star in her 50's." - Sister Rona

"One of my favourite movies from my teen years - I'm shocked at how long ago this was released. It was Meryl that sold this movie for me and is the reason I saw it. At the time, and I still feel this way, she is the reason to watch and believe this film." -Filmboymichael

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Entries in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (28)


Nora Ephron (1941-2012)

Goodbye NoraScreenwriter, director and all around wit Nora Ephron passed away yesterday at 71 from a long battle with leukemia. The Ephron movie I hold most personally dear (with the exception of Silkwood which is more of a Nichols/Streep thing for me) is Sleepless in Seattle (1993). When it came out on video I was in college working in a video store / pizza place. We always put movies on and they had to be safe for families so it was all G & PG titles. I'd play old movies and musicals and whatnot in the morning when people wouldn't complain about them but when it would get busier you'd have to have the new titles playing while they stuffed their faces full of hot melted cheese. Sleepless in Seattle was popular in heavy rotation. Loved that movie and always got a little heartsick right along with Meg Ryan, listening to that radio in her car.

My last Nora specific memory was the tickling experience of reading her brief spoof of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in The New Yorker. I remember my smile turning to audible laughter (aka LOL'ing ) a third of the way through and increasing in frequency as its brilliance sank in. There was an after pang - "If she's still this funny, how come we don't get another When Harry Met Sally?"

Alternate title for Nora Movies: "You've Got Relatlonships"

I didn't know at the time that she had already been sick for a few years. And even if her filmography contains its fair share of head-scratchers, on the whole its a good one. Her reputation has only been unfairly diminished by the shortsighted modern disdain for the rom-com genre which she ruled for a time. (While it's true that this genre is currently at its nadir, some of the greatest films ever made belong to it - think screwball.)

This morning my thoughts turned to Ephron's screen muses. While she worked with Tom Hanks, John Travolta, and Steve Martin multiple times I wondered sadly how Meryl Streep and Meg Ryan, her two most prominent interpreters, were feeling today. I have no idea what their personal friendships were actually like -- though Ephron's amazing AFI tribute speech to Streep suggests that theirs might have been filled with nonstop hilarious banter.

Since Ephron wrote so well and often about romantic relationships, I like to frame the collaborations in that way. Let's call her screen romance with Meryl Streep (Silkwood, Heartburn and Julie & Julia) an "amorous friendship" -- one of those mostly chaste things with occassional "what if...?" flarings of passion. The screen romance with Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Hanging Up) on the other hand can only be interpreted as "marriage" --unmistakably public, fruitful and life-changing for both.

Nora ♥Meryl, Nora ♥ Meg

What's your favorite Nora & Meg movie? What will you most miss about Ephron's best work?

Recommended Reading
The New Yorker The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut by Nora Ephron
Lists of Note "What I won't and will miss" by Nora Ephron 
...and my two fav Ephron tributes: NPR's Monkey See and Stale Popcorn.


April Showers: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

In the years doing the April Showers series it's become clear that there are basically four types of shower scenes in movies: sex scenes, sight gags, horror moments when characters are at their most vulnerable and emotional cleansing moments (that the body also gets scrubbed is just a bonus). Dragon Tattoo's shower sequence is clearly the latter type, after Lisbeth's brutal rape. David Fincher famously quipped pre-release that his movie had too much anal rape for Oscar. Oscar didn't mind so much nominating it for several Oscars.

Fincher's discussion of the sequence [after the jump. NSFW] on the commentary track is interesting. 

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The Girls With the Lisbeth Tattoo.

Jose here to talk about a movie and performance that The Film Experience hasn't spent much time with.

A little over eighteen months ago, I - like many of you I'm sure - found myself completely revolted by the fact that Hollywood had decided to remake The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo a few months after the Swedish version had come out in our continent. Some people adamantly took sides with the "original" before the "remake" arrived. And not so surprisingly, almost every review of Fincher's version compares it to the one directed by Niels Arden Oplev.


These comparisons brought the two actresses who played Lisbeth Salander to the center of the discussion, with people debating who was better and why, pitting them against each other. I've even heard some say that AMPAS should be embarrassed for nominating Rooney Mara for the Best Actress Oscar when they denied Noomi Rapace of a nomination a year ago.

The truth is that Rooney and Noomi play very different versions of the same character. You want proof? Continue reading, but be warned, this article contains spoilers.

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Oscar Symposium Day 2: Invisible Art & Self Love

Previously on the Oscar Symposium... we discussed and defined the business of actors elevating their movies, spent time at "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"'s stale office party mingling with the nine Best Picture nominees (only one of which we all seem to love) and agreed that Brad Pitt deserves Best Actor. Eventually Nathaniel's second favorite movie of the year (The Artist) took quite a beating so he sulked off to lick his wounds.

And here we pick up for Day Two of our three day symposium...

MARK HARRIS: While we're waiting for our host... Nick raised a really interesting point yesterday in his persuasive case for Plummer, which is: Just what the hell is a supporting performance anyway? I like his definition (and Plummer would probably get my vote too, for showing amazing restraint in a part that could be played as one Big Moment after another). But I'm also drawn to performances like Jonah Hill's, in a role that exists purely to give Pitt's character a wittily contrasting somebody to bounce off of, and like Melissa McCarthy's (my favorite in that category, I'm not ashamed to admit), even though she's more a standout in an ensemble than a pure supporting actress. Do any of you feel that there are supporting performances this year that are miscategorized? The French clearly do, since when the Cesars nominated Berenice Bejo for The Artist, it was for Best Actress.

NATHANIEL ROGERS: I plead the fifth on category fraud. I've said too much over the years about that whole... nightmare.

KURT OSENLUND: I'm going to flip it on its head and go 'lead to supporting.' By which I mean, I think I'm one of the few who still believes Viola Davis belongs in the supporting category. I'll admit this is a complicated stance. I think it's the film/text that's guilty of cheaply attempting to make Aibileen a lead character, giving her a tacked-on coda of "closure" and trying to reduce the shame of taking a black women's story and still handing it, mainstream-style, to a white redhead. By extension, I think awards bodies are guilty for taking the bait. Ideally, I'd like to see Meryl walk away with Best Actress, Viola walk away with Supporting Actress, and Octavia sit comfortably with a nomination, for a performance that's highly enjoyable, but shrill and stereotypical and nowhere near as soulful as her co-star's.

My short answer to the 'supporting to lead' question would be that, this year, I actually think all of the supporting stars are placed where they belong.

NICK DAVIS: I don't think the ending of The Help feels tacked on. I don't even think it feels like closure: we have no way to predict Aibileen's next move, much less to presume its ease.  And from those opening minutes with all of her backstory and daily routine, and through all of Davis's impeccable playing of heavily weighted scenes, I think she's definitely a lead.  I know her screen time must be small compared to other leads, but at the very least, she falls squarely in that Marge Gunderson/Hannibal Lecter category where her charismatic impress is so profound from the lead/supporting borderline that it pushes her handily over.  It helps that even the blocking and costuming and editing and lighting choices keep conspiring to shift focus from Skeeter to Aibileen whenever they share a scene.  Emma Stone is just giving away those scenes, as markedly as Meryl all but erased herself in the Doubt standoff.  I wouldn't want anyone watching me act opposite Viola Davis, either.

MARK: At last, a fight! I'm going to strongly disagree about Viola Davis, who not only carries the emotional weight of The Help, but has considerably more screen time than past lead-performance winners like Frances McDormand in Fargo. Kathryn Stockett's novel isn't Skeeter's story, even if Skeeter is a storyteller -- it's told from the first-person perspectives of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. (So, if the movie were really true to the book, Octavia Spencer would probably have to be considered a third co-lead.) To me, Skeeter's "...and then I wrote the book" storyline feels as inorganic to what The Help is really about as the closure the movie gives Davis. The movie's emotional strength -- what there is of it -- lives in Aibileen's struggle; she's arguably even the title character. Yes, the movie is technically Skeeter's story, but only in the way that Training Day is technically Ethan Hawke's. So I'm happy Davis is where she is.

After the jump: The Help, Best Screenplay, and Masturbatory Movies

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Curio: Oscar Unsheets, Part I

Alexa here.  Announcement of the Oscar nominations brings about a flurry of poster creations by design geeks around the net, something I love to follow.  Screenwriter John August has called them unsheets (a play on the term onesheet), and the label seems appropriate, especially since so many of these indie designs are now influencing real onesheets (like those Iron Lady campaign posters, for one).  With so many great designs out there, I'm devoting my Curio posts leading up to the Oscars to unsheets made from the nominated films.  This week I'm focusing on designs from films nominated outside of the Best Picture category, say for acting, Best Foreign Language Film, etc.  Enjoy the design candy!

Beginners by Sondy Bojanic.
A Separation by Pendar Yousefi.

click for more, including Albert Nobbs and Marilyn...

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ASC Nominees. Cinematography With the Soldier-Spy Tattoo

The cinematography guild has spoken and, like the Art Directors, Directors, Producers and Writers they're totally packing off for a vacay in the snowy murderous isles of Sweden with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. What the hell is going on over there in Hollywood?* There was once a time, believe it or not, when instant remakes of foreign films were looked on suspiciously (from an artistic standpoint, not a financial one). Even The Departed which won rave reviews and eventually the Best Picture had some early doubters due to its remake nature. And Dragon Tattoo doesn't have those "masterpiece!" reviews. That said Jeff Cronenwerth is an amazing DP and like all of Fincher's films this one is beautifully put together. (We just wish he'd chosen material more worthy of his immense gift is all.)  

The ASC Nominees


  • Jeff Cronenwerth (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)
  • Robert Richardon (Hugo)
  • Guilliaume Schiffman (The Artist)
  • Hoyt van Hoytema (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)


Emmanuel Lubezki, A.S.C., G.E.N.I.U.S.An excellent list all things considered.

I've given up hoping for Emmanuel Lubezki (100% certified genius) to ever win the Oscar and I suspect this year he'll lose again especially because The Tree of Life doesn't seem to have much AMPAS support. I expect the Oscar will go to either Schiffman or Richardson. The whole of the Academy votes on the winners and they often vote on their favorite film as opposed to how it's shot and lit. 

But will these five men carry over to the Oscar nominations? Usually one person is dropped for the Oscar list.

* My three theories
a) Everyone is waking up and going "D'oh!" about The Social Network losing last year. Sorry Fincher!
b) Everyone loves violence against women (sadly this is obvious in pop culture) especially when its got the sheep's clothing of a sort of feminist icon wrapped around it.
c) Hollywood just really likes the movie and its freshest in the memory.