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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 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 TIFF (82)

Wednesday
Sep172014

TIFF Jury of One: Nathaniel

Channing & Chastain hit TIFFAnd now, a superfluous but fun-to-write "awards" wrap of the 25 films I saw at TIFF to close out the coverage. I did a little wrap post for Towleroad as well, focused on the LGBT content and the celebs, but if you're a TFE regular I know what you like: awards and lists!

I had intended to see 40 films but with only 8 days of actual screening time (travelling the other 2 days) that proved ridiculous to even try for, impossible really. Especially since I was planning to AND DID write up everything I saw before the festival actually ended. I've never written this quickly so excuse the typos (yeesh).

If you were reading along the whole time this might feel redundant but who doesn't love to box their experiences up in list format? In a festival with hundreds of films everyone has a different experience so this was mine... with nominations only. Don't even ask me to pick winners because I like things to marinate. It's good to get a little distance before bold decrees of "THE BEST!"

BEST PICTURE
links go to the reviews 

Xavier Dolan and Anne Dorval on the set of "Mommy"

  • Force Majeure (Sweden) -Magnolia Pictures. Opens October 24th
  • Mommy (Canada) - Roadside Attractions will release. When though? Unfortunately they aren't exactly a swift distributor. (A headscratcher addendum: Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm, which debuted last year at TIFF is still without a US distributor. US audiences just can't jump on the Dolan train without hitting festivals. Maybe that will change with all three of his first features currently winning new fans on Netflix Instant now)
  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden) - Currently without US distributor
  • Wild (USA) - Fox Searchlight. Opens December 5th
  • Wild Tales (Argentina) - Sony Pictures Classics will release. When though?

My favorites at the fest turned out to be this eclectic mix of two Swedish comedies, one hyperstylized the other realistic and intellectually provocative, one Canadian melodrama about a bad seed and his wild mommy, one Oscar bound US solo hiking trip, and an exciting Argentian anthology mixing revenge, thrills and comedy.

Favorite Scenes and Performances After the Jump

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep172014

The Link Graze

okay, more like The Link Gorge because there's so much of it. But how long has it been since we did a link roundup? whoopsie daisy. Chew away on these blog cuds today

good reads
New York Times amazing thinkpiece on the death of adulthood in American culture with notes on Mad Men, YA fiction, seminal premium cable series like Sopranos and Sex & The City and more... 
In Contention five things we learned from Anna Kendrick about The Last Five Years and Into the Woods
NPR has a story on the making of Gone With the Wind. Expect a lot more of that film in the next few months all over the web given its 75th anniversary 
Gawker "The Skeleton Twins and the Crafting of Modern Gay Character"
Mike's Movie Projector remembers the Oscar-winning Separate Tables (1958) and other versions of that play. I have such issues with that movie. I think it's Deborah Kerr's worst performance for one. 

TIFF roundups
You may be exhausted by our TIFF coverage (i have final notes tomorrow and then maybe a podcast so get interested again!) but here are some pieces elsewhere to give you a little more variety...
Girish Shambu names his best and worst 
The Wire Joe Reid picks 15 best performances from Al Pacino (?!?) through Julianne Moore
The Film Stage really fine review of Wild. I liked it more than Sky here, but this is a very smart review 
The Dissolve critics pick their best and worst with Duke of Burgundy up top and Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler with Adam Sandler down below. I'm sad that the gifted Thomas McCarthy has his first critically reviled movie but maybe that's what you get by working with Adam Sandler.
Mind of a Suspicious Kind Jordan Ruimy's recap. I gave him a hard time for his comment on Eddie Redmayne...

 

 

...but it was super nice to meet him at the fest finally after chatting online
HitFix loved Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler (I skipped that one but only because it was opening in October) and Julianne Moore 
Little White Lies does a TIFF top ten from to Force Majeure to A Pigeon Sat on a Branch
The LA Times proves that not everyone loved TIFF as much as I did complaining about the final week 
RogerEbert.com interviews Liv Ullman finally back behind the camera with Miss Julie
The Matinee wraps up quickly with superfast notes on Top Five, The Duke of Burgundy, and Jena Malone 

amusements
Cigarettes and Vines apparently Paul Thomas Anderson and Bennett Miller both hate digital filmmaking and text each other about it 
Cracked 8 actors who look the same on every movie poster. Did you know that Denzel Washington always avoids eye contact, Tom Cruise always goes profile, and Eddie Murphy can't help cocking an eyebrow? 
CHUD celebrates the really ballsy cameramen on Mad Max: Fury Road. Dangerous filming there 

Oh ohhhh! 

This obviously happened during TIFF so I was unaware but not blissfully! Channing Tatum and Jillian Bell (his hilarious 22 Jump Street co-star) doing The Dick Graze and the Booby Meeting. Juvenile? Sure. Hilarious? Yes. 

news in brief -icym these stories
Electronic Urban Report have you heard about the 'black Magic Mike'? They're recasting the lead in Chocolate City but some filming has already begun
Gothamist Batman and Spider-Man were arrested for fighting in Times Square
Us Magazine Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling have now officially spawned. No word on the baby girl's name yet. Will Ryan Gosling make good on his promise to quit making movies when he starts making babies? I hope not. That terrible life decision has already destroyed too many actresses!  
In Contention George Clooney getting the Cecil B DeMille prize at the Golden Globes this year
EW big gallery of American Horror Story: Freak Show images. So Jessica Lange does have arms afterall. I maintain that her character has no arms on that painted poster. I have stared and stared at it. They aren't there! But this is a good thing because at least 50% of Jessica Lange performances are hand gestures so she needs them!
AV Club Nurse Jackie's seventh season will be its last. I always think shows should end at five seasons. The fifth season finale of Nurse Jackie was just incredible and a perfect note to end on. I can't imagine what they'll do now though I still watch the show
Gawker such a horrible story. Django Unchained actresses harassed by police for prostitution after kissing her white husband 

P.S. via W Magazine...

Gugu photographed by Caitlin-Cronenberg

Gugu Mbatha-Raw* is really pretty. The end.

*I keep almost typing her name wrong via Star Wars Batmanny influences "Gugu Bantha-Ra"! or simple dyslexia Gugu Mbaw-Ratha is my other preferred misspelling. But one of these days I will get it right without having to double check.

Tuesday
Sep162014

Amir Sat on a Branch Reflecting on TIFF

Amir here, looking back at the Toronto Film Festival that recently wrapped up.

"Girlhood," superior to Boyhood and one of the best of TIFF 14

You may have noticed that after a few years of covering the festival to various degrees for The Film Experience, I was completely absent from this space for the past ten days, mostly because of a personal decision to enjoy the films without sweating over writing. TIFF is a big festival, maybe the most frantic and hectic in the world, with more choices than one can physically experience over ten days. Nathaniel and I shared so few films from the program’s sprawling lineup, we could have each written about every single thing we saw and you’d never know we attended the same festival. It’s this overwhelming scale that made me want to take a break from reporting, and yet, I feel unsure about how that affected my festival experience.

Writing about films for me is a passion born out of the necessity to articulate my thoughts on the things I watch. Maybe that process of writing makes the films more memorable? Isn’t it so that writing, even about bad films, makes us appreciate good cinema all the more? Without recording my memories, details about this year’s films have fled my mind quicker than ever. My feelings about some of them have been diluted a bit, too. There is something missing, even though I had the best festival experience of my life, meeting more people than ever and watching some terrific films. Maybe this pessimism is just a withdrawal symptom. Let’s stay positive!

As has become something of an unplanned tradition for me – with precedents including Oslo, August 31st and Closed Curtain – my favorite film of the festival came my way on the last day.

MORE...

"The Look of Silence" will be in theaters next summer

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Sunday
Sep142014

TIFF: "Still Alice," or Adjust Your Best Actress Charts

The final TIFF feature review. Whew, 25 films screened and written up. And all by closing night! Please give me a round of applause in the comments. I've never been this successful at managing a festival and comments are the only way I know you're appreciating it.

When we first meet Dr Alice Howland in this fine film adapated from the bestseller by Lisa Genova, she is celebrating her 50th birthday. She's happily married to Dr. John Howland (Alec Baldwin) with three grown children whom she adores though she isn't exactly a perfect mother or wife, at least as defined by your typical movie woman, in which case she'd be inordinately obsessed with her husband and children's particulars. In fact, she almost entirely defines herself by her own career and skills (imagine that!) as a respected linguistics professor.  She values articulate communication and higher education and maybe she isn't super imaginative about other forms of expression. In fact, she's downright dismissive about her youngest daughter Lydia's (Kristen Stewart) interest in acting. She gives her a continual hard time about her education and career and is frustratingly absent from all of Lydia's minor triumphs. 

More...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep142014

TIFF Awards Brunch, Or 'But I Saw So Many Movies!'

Little known factoid: I actually don't like hearing about festival awards IF I attended said festival. Unless I'm on a jury of course. Invariably it makes you feel like a lightweight no matter how many movies you sat through because it's impossible to have seen everything when 100s of films are on offer. I saw 25 films over 8 days of screening or basically 3 a day (since I had to make time for writing / parties / eating / sleeping) and it looks like I saw only one of the films that won a prize at TIFF.

Here are the awards...

the pray-cry mittens come out again! "I would like to thank the Academy for --er, I mean the people of Toronto!"

PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD  -This is the biggie and the only one that people use as any kind of Oscar barometer. It went to the Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game. That's the only award winner that I saw and I liked it, particularly the WW II story at the center. I didn't see it at a public screening though so I couldn't gauge the reaction. Of the public screenings I attended its chief Oscar rival at the fest The Theory of Everything definitely had the biggest freak-out reaction from the crowd. Learning to Drive (with Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley) and St. Vincent (with Bill Murray) were the runners up for this most coveted prize.

TRIVIA MADNESS: The previous 36 winners of this prize have gone on to a collective 122 Oscar nominations and 47 wins... so if The Imitation Game is an average English language performer as far as the winners go it can expect a handful of Oscar nominations.  Of those 36 previous winners, 11 went on to Best Picture nominations with 5 of them winning. 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep142014

TIFF: Miss Julie or, Acting: The Movie! 

The 2014 edition of TIFF ends tonight and so will Nathaniel's review coverage with Still Alice. Wrap-ups and Oscar updates coming shortly thereafter. Now Liv Ullman's Miss Julie... 

"Kiss my shoe!" Colin Farrell reenacts critical reaction to Chastain's debut film year

This review contains 126 year-old spoilers if you’re not familiar with August Strindbergh’s one act play, which has been adapted to film frequently. The play is about the bored, lonely, and loveless daughter of a Baron, Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) who enjoys toying with the servants, especially with John her father's valet (Colin Farrell). She flirts shamelessly even in front of his fiancé the cook (Samantha Morton) ordering him to perform sometimes demeaning and not very valet-like duties, like kissing her shoe or bringing her flowers. The story takes place in a single night in which the valet and the lady of the house will consummate their extremely uncomfortable and scandalous attraction with incredibly disastrous results... especially for Miss Julie. If 19th century Swedish country estates had been unionized John surely would have told her what wasn't in his job description. 'Not that. Not that. Definitely not that. You're playing with fire, Miss Julie!'

We understand Miss Julie's maddening hypocrisies straightaway as, when the story begins, she's already ordered the cook to feed her dog "Diana" an abortive dinner since the naughty girl has had sex with the gate keeper's mongrel dog. Foreshadowing 101 anyone? Diana is played by an adorable pug so we'll ignore, for Jess's dignity, that the play indicates that the dog ought to resemble Miss Julie! The pug laps down the meal hungrily and then proceeds to whimper through the entire first scene. This too proves foreshadowing, as yours truly began to do the same. If only Samantha Morton could have scooped me up, as she mercifully does with the confused pup, to carry me out of the screening room! 

more...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep132014

TIFF: The New Girlfriend

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF continued

 François Ozon remains one of France's most prolific directors. Like most prolific auteurs this means an uneven filmography. Even the very good films can feel ever-so-slightly underrealized. Is it the rush or just the nature of the artistry of the prolific, all first draft energies, favorite or borrowed styles structures and themes, and just warming-up ideas with the occasional lightning-strike perfections?

Like many fans I'm still waiting for another of those lightning strike perfections like certain moments in Under the Sand or 8 Women in full but his not-quite-there efforts can still be highly appealing: Potiche anyone?

The New Girlfriend turns out to be all of the above with grand moments, messy ones, energetic diversions, familiar tropes and half formed ideas... which as it turns out is just fine for a movie about embryonic searches for new identities. It begins with a funereal yet beautiful opening sequence that recalls an Almodóvarian trance, and quickly moves into an Up-like backstory prelude detailing the very intimate friendship of Laura and Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) from childhood to Laura's early death. When we begin our actual story Claire and her husband Gilles (Raphael Personnaez, who also starred in The Gate at this festival) along with Laura's widowed husband David (Romain Duris) and his infant daughter Lucie are all still reeling from Laura's demise. One day on a guilty whim, Laura jogs to David's house to check in on Lucie only to make a startling discovery when no one answers the door and she lets herself in: there's David, in full drag, tenderly feeding Lucie with a bottle like a good mother. Claire can't believe what she's seeing and to cover her tracks for where she was that day with her husband she says she was with "Virginia... a girlfriend, someone you don't know." And thus begins our subject matter with the title taking on multiple meanings. Is David more Virginia than David? Which of them is Claire befriending? How desperate are both of them to recreate Laura in her vacuum? And what kind of a girlfriend can Virginia even be since she has a visible penis? 

The rest of the film is largely devoted to both farcical and dramatic consequences of this new secret in Claire's life with delightfully surprising beats amply peppered across the character arcs. Demoustier proves rather masterful in delineating Claire's internal confusions and hypocrisies, especially and most amusingly her illicit hypocritial thrills in having a new girlfriend at all (the prelude makes amply obvious that Laura and Claire were so devoted and happy together that they didn't cultivate other friendships). But full warning: the film is way too comically provocative and politically incorrect to please the easily offended which many in the LGBT community seem to be of late. Claire for example thinks 'gays are fine, trannys are not!' in one joke that goes over well in context but will surely offend out of it and calls David "sick" while still encouraging him to do it. David isn't as certain of what his gender fluidity means to be a role model for any political agenda. And Gilles ignores ambiguities and is convinced that David is just gay, always has been.

Though Romain Duris has long since proved his worth as a leading man, his screen attraction is entirely masculine, so I'll admit that it was easy to wonder what the film would have been like had the more beautiful Personnaez considered his inner woman instead. Would it have dulled the surprise or the comedy or made Claire's confusing situation between the two men in her life and this new girlfriend more believable?  Who can say? The time jumped epilogue leaves things both tied neatly up and slightly ambiguous as to what went down between the climax and the credits roll but by that time we know the characters well enough to draw our own conclusions. B

previously at TIFF


Saturday
Sep132014

TIFF: A Little Chaos

TIFF 14 doesn't actually wrap until tomorrow night but my adventure in Toronto has come to an end. There are still a few writeups to come but here, for you, is my take on the Closing Night Film as I zip up the suitcase and head to the airport.

How to describe that thing where you thoroughly enjoy watching something that is neither objectively good, nor enjoyably bad? I imagine anyone who has an inordinate fondness for an entire genre or subgenre, quality be damned, will understand. Sci-fi and horror fans will line up nodding, I'm sure. But for me that genre is the costume dramedy.

Those with allergies to "light" costume period pieces should give this trifle from actor/director Alan Rickman a wide wide berth. For me, prone to enjoy both famous thespians playing dress-up and royalty porn as long as it neither are weighed down by the self-seriousness of Oscar-seeking biopics, this obscure fanciful tale flew by. Alan Rickman plays the King of France who wants a brand new something-he's-never-seen-before as new attraction for the gardens of Versailles. He's about to move the entire court there and the unveiling must be magnificent. A fountain it will be then and his royal gardener Andrè Le Norte (Matthias Schoenaerts in walking romance novel cover form with long luscious locks but broad shouldered manliness) hires the widow landscape designer Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) to create it because he recognizes that she's actually a visionary immediately though he can't quite admit to it as he weighs her proposal.

Complicating matters is that the King doesn't handle failure well and Le Norte's future hangs in the balance and he wants things quicker than they seem possible. Also: Le Notre and De Barra are, SURPRISE! (just kidding), falling for each other.

There's a bit of proto-feminism wishfulfillment happening and a bit of romantic melodrama but the movie never totally commits to any one thread. Its paper thin, really, with nothing much in the way of thematic interest that's actually explored or depth of characterization. All hangups aside it was just great to see Kate Winslet on the big screen again but she could've done this in her sleep while blinded by silly hats and short of breath from a corse---oh, wait. But better light and unchallenging than embarrassing which is how things go in the movie's most obvious bid at self-seriousness with a "twist" flashback about Madame Barra's tragic past that the movie teases ad nauseum from early on.

The movie suffers from what looks like underfunding since it skimps on anything that might back up the central subject matter which is meant to convey and continually references about how lush, overgrown, and imaginative De Barra's work is. But again, an easy sit, especially if you're costume inclined. Winslet and Schoenearts work fine together though their romance feels more talent-based than physical. Since their work is dramatic they sometimes feel like they're in their own film. It's not unlike those classic Disney fairy tales, really, where the leads are drawn as "beautiful" realistic-ish humans while the side characters are from another species, with oversized heads or comic limbs. Among the ensemble, most of the actors are delightful even if no one is remotely challenged (oh look Stanley Tucci doing his fun gay sidekick schtick again!). Jennifer Ehle (far on the periphery) and Helen McCrory (near the center of the action as Schoenaerts shady wife) both manage to play into the movies preference for types and caricature while also slyly suggesting actual individual character. As a result their scenes feel like whole new films sprouting up like weeds inside the one we got but that's okay since this garden is wilted. C+

 

Also at TIFF: WildThe Gate, Cub, The Farewell Party, BehaviorThe Theory of Everything, Imitation GameFoxcatcher, Song of the Sea, 1001 Grams, Labyrinth of Lies, Sand DollarsThe Last Five YearsWild Tales, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceForce Majeure, Life in a Fishbowl, Out of Nature, The Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessCharlie's Country, and Mommy