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Entries in The Graduate (9)

Thursday
Mar142019

SLO Film Fest: Katharine Ross and Hollywood Dynasties

by Nathaniel R

The opening night event about to begin

Film Festivals are a joy so we rarely pass up the opportunity to discover a new one. We're here in sunny but brisk San Luis Obispo (it's March in California) for the 25th annual edition of their film festival. San Luis Obispo was once named "the Happiest Place in America," by Oprah Winfrey, and at least four locals (kid you not!) tell us this within hours of our arrival! Does it live up to the title? It's hard to say but we did meet a gorgeous super nice 30something couple (hi Connie & Michael) who invited us to sit at their table at the opening night party and they seemed pretty happy to be there. Everyone else did, too. The fairly universal thing about film festival gathering is that everyone seems happy to be right there. Films were meant to be seen in groups, something we hope we don't lose with  'watch it on your phone / at home' ease of streaming.  It's the primal sitting 'round the fire' to listen to stories instinct. 

Speaking of old forms of storytelling, the opening night festivities went way back, pairing spoken word with music...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec202016

Showbiz History: Irene Dunne's Near-Record, Brittany Murphy's Untimely Death, Scream's Release

Today in showbiz history if you need something to celebrate with the world ending* and all...
*too dramatic? That's what it feels like lately, is all... 

1812 "Grimm's Fairy Tales" is published. They never stop influencing popular culture thereafter. 
1880 Broadway gets the nickname "The Great White Way" when it's first lit up by electricity
1892 Phileas Fog completes his trip 'round the globe in the novel Around the World in Eighty Days (later adapted to the screen)
1898 Irene Dunne, one of the greatest actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age was born on this day in Kentucky. She went on to five leading actress nominations (my favorite is The Awful Truth, 1937) without ever winning.

WHY THAT'S A BIG DEAL IN OSCAR HISTORY IS REVEALED AFTER THE JUMP...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug152016

Beauty vs Beast: Who's Those Girls

Jason from MNPP here, letting you know for this week's "Beauty vs Beast" that sometimes, at night times, I close and lock the door so no one else can see and... I dance! I dance all by myself! And tomorrow we will all dance (for inspiration) because tomorrow Madonna, the one and only, is turning 58. So now is not the time to haggle over her acting skills - let's just accept the fact that the world would be a less fun place if the she-lady of white lace gloves had never stomped into it, and look at what is probably her best (fictional) turn on-screen, in 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan.

I had never seen this movie until earlier this year when our estimable host Nathaniel dragged me to it at a screening at the Metrograph here in NYC, can you believe that? Speaking of, Metrograph is doing an entire retrospective of the Material Girl's movies later this month, including showing Susan once again, and I highly recommend catching it on a big screen - it's like being dropped into the fanciful 80s East Village of magicians and thrift shops of your dreams. The entire cast is stuffed with about-to-be-somebodies like Aidan Quinn (humina humina) and Laurie Metcalf, and the leading goofball two-some of Rosanna Arquette & Madonna are a true pop delight.

PREVIOUSLY Even though it was his birthday, and even though he's a certifiable acting legend, poor Dustin Hoffman didn't stand a chance -- we'd all long ago been seduced away by Anne Bancroft's smoky eyes and smokier delivery as the iconic older woman in The Graduate; Mrs. Robinson took just under 80% of your vote. Said Tom:

"As soon as Mrs Robinson wondered into his bedroom "mistakenly" looking for the bathroom, I knew this was a performance for the ages."

Monday
Aug082016

Beauty vs Beast: Koo Koo Ka Choose

Howdy and Happy Monday it's Jason from MNPP here on this, the day that the great Dustin Hoffman is turning 79 years old. How do you think he now views the concerns of his most famous character Benjamin Braddock of The Graduate, from the opposite vantage point of age? Of course he's much older now than Anne Bancroft was as Mrs. Robinson (now that I think about it I'm actually right around Mrs. Robinson's age myself! Weird!) so he probably looks back at Ben with tired eyes at this point. Heck I do myself, although I don't know if I entirely sympathize with Mrs. Robinson's self-destructive behavior either. But where do you stand? That's right it's time for this week's "Beauty vs Beast" ...

PREVIOUSLY We are smearing our sad clown make-up off this morning and waving an over-sized glove goodbye to International Clown Week - last week's competition of clown couples in Short Cuts fell on the "Julianne Moore & Matthew Modine" side, probably because of the film's still infamous full-frontal fight scene - said Mark, speaking truth to privates:

"The genius of Moore is you watch her face in this instead of her special lady place."

Tuesday
Mar292016

Doc Corner: Nora Ephron and Mike Nichols Get Posthumous Tributes on HBO

Glenn here. Each Tuesday we bring you reviews and features on documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we’re looking at two biographical HBO documentaries about cinema legends.

Despite a resume that reads as limited, Nora Ephron's reputation over film and pop culture general looms large. Directed by her son, journalist Jacob Bernstein, there is likely little this new biographic documentary Everything is Copy that won’t be familiar to fans of the witty essayist/author/screenwriter/director’s work – not least of all when featuring old clips of Ephron narrating her own books directly the camera. But thankfully Bernstein’s film isn’t simply a rehash of his mother’s life, rather he occasionally finds minor nooks and crannies of her life that she herself hadn’t written about at length. Helped by words from her sisters and friends, an image of Ephron is formed that while no doubt glowing allows for us to learn even more about her than her famously candid words previously allowed.

Beyond all of that, first and foremost, Everything is Copy is an entertainment. A breezy and bright glimpse of a woman whose wit was matched by her scathing honesty and who left behind many works of cultural significance that are worth parsing over. 

New York movies, Nora's death, and a conversation with Mike Nichols after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov022015

Dirty Grandpa Poster

Manuel here getting your week started with a poster that is hard to come to terms with.

Everything we know about this upcoming comedy comes courtesy of all the on-set shots of Efron which were deliciously skintastic. (JA has been dutifully (un)covering them at his blog.) There's also a trailer below, but the poster is more fascinating. How well-known is that Hoffman/Graduate shot among the young ones the film's tone is obviously courting. 

 

Or, perhaps it's an attempt at finding a middle ground between the Zefron fans and the De Niro fans? Are you at all excited about this very random pairing of inter-generational leading men?

Friday
Nov212014

Ten Great Performances from Mike Nichols' Films

Amir here. Mike Nichols was a true giant of show business, with a career that lasted more than six decades and sprawled across many different media and genres. Nathaniel's heartfelt eulogy already highlighted the dreamy number of classics he directed and the collaborations with Meryl Streep that resulted in some of her most memorable roles; but Meryl wasn't the only performer whom Nichols guided to career-best work.

Team Experience decided to make a list of ten great performances from Mike Nichols' films; we were truly spoilt for choice. If you want a testament to the man's sheer brilliance and chemistry with his actors, look no further than the missing names from our list. An equally long, equally illustrious alternative list can be made of the likes of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War, Jude Law and Natalie Portman in Closer, and many others. 

Here is our team's unranked, personal picks:

Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
Let’s talk about making difficult parts work. On the page, Mrs. Robinson is as slippery, duplicitous, and out-and-out a villainess as they come. But in the hands of the glorious Anne Bancroft, working with but also brilliantly against Nichols’ effervescent direction, Mrs. Robinson becomes someone different and deeper but no less mercurial or indelibly iconic. Fleetingly sensitive, impossibly stylish, and smarter than everyone else around her, Mrs. Robinson still makes life difficult for Benjamin Braddock, but complicates our sympathies and keeps a cryptic, critical, and spellbinding distance while doing so. That’s not just making a difficult part work; it’s making a difficult part soar. - Matthew Eng

Shirley MacLaine, Postcards from the Edge
When Suzanne Vale's mother comes to visit her in rehab we're not told that the woman we're about to meet is a movie star, but as soon as Shirley MacLaine swans in, we know. Adept at creating an audience wherever she goes, MacLaine's Doris Mann is a delicious caricature of the aging star: the Norma Desmond of the musical-comedy era. (Her "I'm Still Here" will floor you.) Her immense ego and her sincere motherly love coexist contentiously, with poignant results. Instead of hammering at monster-mother camp, MacLaine keeps her humanity close, never losing it to the absurd. -Margaret de Larios

Mike Nichols, Nichols and May
Before he was the wunderkind of Broadway or the well-respected Hollywood director, Mike Nichols was half of the smash comedy duo Nichols and May. Later in his career, Nichols would tell actors, “You made it funny. Now make it true.” This was his gift as a comedian: the ability to ground increasingly absurd situations - a phone call between a rocket scientist and his mother, a man losing his dime in a phone booth - in funny, true reactions. Nichols was the master of the exasperated double-take and the monotone quip, two skills he would later pass to actors. -Anne Marie Kelly

Mary Louise Parker, Angels in America
Upon winning the 2003 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, Mary Louise Parker thanked her "mighty" director Mike Nichols by explaining "you could get a great performance out of a quiche". She was right. In "Angels in America" he turned her character, Harper Pitt, from a thankless supporting wife into a sublime exploration of self-discovery. As someone trapped in a marriage with a closeted gay man, Parker beautifully opened up to Harper's fears, disillusionment and horniness. Nichols had her acting opposite CGI penguins and still she remained perhaps the most recognizably human figure in the film. -Jose Solis

Julia Roberts, Closer
Patrick Marber's crude barbs are spat from her mouth but Nichols' work in drawing Roberts into twisted versions of her romantic comedy smashes is equally instrumental in making this, I'd wager, her best ever performance. Roberts unleashes venom and allows her infamously angular features to manifest much of her character's ugliness, in a way that speaks volumes of her trust in the man directing her. She is at the same lithely sexual in a way she'd never been before; Nichols found the panther beneath the kittenish America's Sweetheart, an even deeper level of revelation than her Oscar winning turn four years prior, and the closest she's ever felt to reality. -David Upton

Kurt Russell, Silkwood
I'm going to relish this sentence, because saying it feels like such a rarity, but Mike Nichols’ artistry was so often and so brilliantly focused around women that it can be easy to forget the sensitivity and intelligence he granted men. Kurt Russell is not an actor known for subtlety, but in Silkwood, Russell finds something in himself that defies the rough and tumble box Hollywood liked to put him in. He's just as masculine, just as strong as he ever was as Snake Plissken, but there's a self-assured playfulness to his acting in Silkwood. He's looser here – sexier! – than anywhere else. Masculine posturing was irrelevant in Mike Nichols world, and for that and much more I thank him. - Teo Bugbee

James Spader, Wolf
By 1994, Spader could play the venal yuppie with feathered hair and a predatory smile in his sleep. But it was under Nichols, in this savage parable of the New York publishing world, that his stock character reached its height. Playing the human villain in a story about werewolves and still feeling like the most dangerous person in the cast is no mean feat, but Spader did it with smarmy ease, while being the only member of the cast to successfully navigate the film’s wobbly shift into explicit horror, largely because his backstabbing striver was already a fairy tale monster. -Tim Brayton

Emma Thompson, Wit
Vivian Bearing would be the second of three roles under Nichols’ direction for Emma, and the most significant. University professor Vivian may be dying of cancer but she retains her Thompson-esque traits – that slightly sardonic piquancy, the quiet dignity, the wit. But even as the affectations are all Emma, the performance is suffused with Mike, his warmth, his quiet effectiveness. The film, invariably, depends on their duet. Mike’s direction trusts Emma, giving her room and allowing her to devastate as Vivian. In a career of superlative work it’s hard to call Vivian Bearing Emma’s best but it’s a type of performance I’m grateful to Nichols for getting out of her, in touch with her usual sensibilities as an actor but pushed just further to become one of the most superior displays of suffering on screen. -Andrew Kendall

Robin Williams, The Birdcage
Williams was at his best when he harnessed his boisterous madcap energy into a fully delineated character whose quieter moments shaded his brassy zingers. His Armand, which could have so easily turned into a caricature with his loud shirts, his bushy mustache and his campy sense of humor comes alive with Williams' warmth: "Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I'm a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am." -Manuel Betancourt

Patrick Wilson, Angels in America
In a cast full of established masters (Streep, Pacino) and future stars (Jeffrey Wright, Mary Louise Parker), it would take a truly great performance to stand out, and that’s exactly what Wilson gave in the miniseries that put him on the map. It’s one of the script’s showier roles, to be fair – a Mormon denying his sexual identity – but Wilson plays it with note-perfect sensitivity, confusion, self-doubt, and yearning. The actor’s subsequent decade of fine, but hardly complicated performances in limiting projects only serves to make his achievement here that much more impressive. -Tim Brayton