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Entries in Visual FX (106)

Sunday
Jun122016

Irwin Allen "Master of Disaster" Centennial

Tim here. Today we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the birth of producer-director-writer Irwin Allen, one of the great junk-food purveyors in Hollywood cinema. It's by no means true that Allen invented the disaster movie (a genre stretching back into the 1930s), nor even the uniquely '70s-style incarnation of the form, with an impressively well-stocked larder of overtalented, underpaid stars filling out the clichéd melodramas of addiction and marital strife that tend to form the plots of these movie (Airport got there first). But it was under Allen's hand that disaster movies became the greatest, gaudiest spectacles of the decade.

Allen was not always a high-end schlockmeister. In fact, he began his career as an Oscar-winner, taking home a Best Documentary Feature award for 1953's The Sea Around Us, based on a Rachel L. Carson book. Curiously his first taste of the effects-driven spectacle that would typify his later films came in as a way of fleshing out his documentaries. One sequence of his 1956 film The Animal World, on dinosaurs, featured effects by the great Ray Harryhausen, and his very next film was his first all-star extravaganza, the cameo-packed The Story of Mankind.

More...

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Saturday
May212016

Swing, Tarzan, Swing! Ch.2: Maureen O'Sullivan & Johnny Weismuller

one of many erotic moments in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)New Miniseries! As we approach the release of The Legend of Tarzan (2016) we'll be ogling past screen incarnations of the Lord of the Apes each weekend like we're going to an old timey matinee.

We began by staring hard at Buster Crabbe's loincloth so as to avoid the acting and plotting. For chapter 2 we're moving to the main event: Johnny Weissmuller. He's the actor most often associated with the the Lord of the Apes since he played it 12 times and because he played it so well. There's a genuine guileness and in the moment feeling to his work that lets the ape man read more simple and pure than stupid, despite all the broken English. A few seasons ago on a weakly attended episode of 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' we marvelled at how erotic the pre-code Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) was . Rather than rehash that film (though it is definitely worth your time), we jump ahead to its sequel Tarzan and His Mate (1934) which some argue is the best of the dozens of Tarzan films made during the studio era. Not I, as I think it's a notch below the 1932 original but in truth that's splitting hairs. The two films cling to each other as tightly as Jane holds on to her swinging man. More than most Tarzan films it's a direct sequel, constantly referencing events, locales, and characters from the original film.

When we left the jungle couple in 1932, Tarzan was already getting (ahem) good with his tongue. When audiences returned to see the next adventure in the Spring of 1934, Hollywood's "Pre-Code" era was ending. The code began to be rigidly enforced that year which meant there was one last burst of racy sexy times in the cinema that year for films that had already been shot. [More...]

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Monday
May162016

The Furniture: Deadpool's Junk

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber on Deadpool, now available on DVD and Bluray

We tend to think of superhero movies as showcases for visual effects. Marvel, for example, has always been stuck in that one particular category at the Oscars. It can be hard to untangle CGI from physical sets, particularly when they're strung together by a deft editor. And if identifying individual elements can be difficult, assigning credit often seems even harder. As such, production design isn’t usually at the forefront of our constant national conversation around the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Yet sometimes, even in the murky waters of big budget spectacle, the physical set outshines its digital embellishment. That’s certainly the case in Deadpool, a superhero action movie that was perhaps forced into more terrestrial creativity by its low budget of $58 million. For context, Captain America: Civil War cost about $250 million. Inevitably some of the film looks a bit cheap, particularly when it comes to the CG. Despite the low budget, the studio still clearly felt some pressure to put on the same bombastic show of digital force that comes at the end of every one of these movies. It's a bummer, frankly, because the physical set could easily have stood on its own.

This final clash between Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Francis (Ed Skrein) takes place at a vast junkyard. [more...]

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Monday
Apr112016

The Furniture: The Forest and "The Force Awakens"

"The Furniture" is our new design series. Here's Daniel...

Once upon a time, Hollywood movie magic looked a bit different. In this age of CGI, with some blockbusters relying so heavily on digital effects that they border on fully animated features, it’s easy to forget how science fiction and fantasy once looked. This is why the throwback technical elements in Star Wars: The Force Awakens are so exciting to behold.

One could go on for quite some time about all these details, many of which come up in the extensive special features included on the Blu-ray. One production design revelation in particular that's worth celebrating is that the final fight scene between Kylo Ren and Rey, set in a dark and snowy forest, was shot on a set.

Initially, a location shoot was considered. Such a choice worked wonders for the forest sequence in House of Flying Daggers (2004) , certainly. Yet, due to the fact that the nighttime setting would severely restrict the schedule, the production design team led by Rick Carter and Darren Gilford began workshopping a solution [More...]

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Saturday
Mar192016

Oscar Whisperer: Have we seen any nominees yet?

Though we all know that the bulk of Oscar nominations come from the last quarter of each and every year, have we seen any awards players yet? Here's a tricky thing about punditry -- if you start too early people say you're part of the problem in "narrowing" the field but if you don't start early how are you going to be of service in keeping the entire year in play and offering perspective on which film should be watched so that it's not all about "cramming" at the end of the year which leads to all that last quarter focus. So we start early.  Here are first quarter possibilities if the Academy has longer memories than usual this year and if they surprisingly generate excitement later in the year by way of top ten lists or second wave releases (Bluray, streamin, etc...)

January
Kung Fu Panda 3 (Animated Feature)
Both of the previous films about the round warrior "Po" (Jack Black) were nominated for Best Animated Feature. Will Dreamworks go 3 for 3 with this series? The reviews are right in line with those of the previous films but franchises often outstay their welcome when it comes to "Best of Year" accolades.

The costumes in Hail Caesar (courtesy of Mary Zophres) are great fun

February
Deadpool (Visual FX, Makeup and Hairstyling)
Hail Caesar!
(Original Song "No Dames" and Any Category, really) 
The WWitch (Sound, Supporting, and Any Category, really) 

Deadpool will surely surface for the Saturn Awards but good luck with the standard awards bodies considering that superhero films don't fare well even in VFX nominations... and Deadpool is a bit bargain bin aesthetically, however popular it may be with audiences.  An extreme longshot but it will surely attempt Oscar recognition in both VFX and Makeup bakeoffs.

As for Hail, Caesar! and The VVitch, they're the most prestigious of the year's mainstream releases thus far by way of being from beloved filmmakers or inspiring critical fervor, respectively. But will any voters remember them or take them seriously enough given traditional resistance to comedy and horror? The first step in taking any film seriously is to actually watch it; conscientous voters should watch these two films. 

March
April and the Extraordinary World (Animated Feature)
Batman v Superman (Visual FX)
Krisha (Best Actress)
Zootopia (Animated Feature) 
Hello My Name is Doris (Best Actress) 

Zootopia is by far your best bet for early bird Oscar glory given the outstanding reviews and audience love and Disney being a power player in the animated feature category. Can Sally Field's Doris generate good Golden Globe will? Will Krisha develop a following (it won the Cassavettes at the Spirit Awards for 2015 but the Spirit Awards have different eligibility rules -- festival showings sometimes count for them).

Of the two attempts at reviving the Superman franchise (Superman Returns in 2006 and Man of Steel in 2013) only Returns won Oscar favor (Visual FX nomination). Will Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice be ignored or embraced for its effects? It all depends on its future competition but it's worth noting that, for whatever reason, Batman is the favorite superhero of groups that traditionally resist superheroes. Batman films have won 3 Oscars from 15 nominations. 

What will you hope for or count on from the first quarter?

Tuesday
Mar082016

Visual Index: Best Shots from Ghostbusters (1984)

With the new riff on the ol' Ghostbusters property nearly upon us, what better time to look back at the original comedy smash? While the film's comic tone and dialogue are well remembered its visuals are less often discussed. The film was shot by the Hungarian cinematographer László Kovács. He logged a lot of quality time in the romantic comedy genre (What's Up Doc?, My Best Friend's Wedding, Say Anything...) but made his name in the 70s on scrappy, famous and/or ambitious pictures like Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo, New York New York, and Paper Moon.

Without further ado, let's see what the Hit Me With Your Best Shot club thought of the look of this picture and what slimy memories this revisit stirred up...

GHOSTBUSTERS
Directed by Ivan Reitman. Cinematography by László Kovács. 
Starring: (in order of billing) Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver,
Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton & Ernie Hudson.
Click on the 12 images to read the 15 corresponding articles

Bill Murray. What does make him tick?
-54 Disney Reviews 

The look on their faces tho... 
-Daniel Laferriere *first time participant*

Grown white men have their fun while the rest of the world cleans up their mess...
- Bennett Prosser *first time participant*

A good old fashioned 80s Improvement Montage, complete with a song that is either brilliantly awful or secretly genius...
-Scopophiliac at the Cinema *first time participant*

It arguably has endured as a beloved classic precisely because the people in it are so full-heartedly human.
-Nebel Without a Cause

 I'm well aware that this is nobody's idea of a scary movie...
- Antagony & Ecstasy

it’s fun to see things pop in and out of frames, especially when the frames are static. It’s almost like seeing a painting being disturbed...
-Coco Hits NY


 It’s useless to try to deny my love for her and it’s inescapable that my best shot features her...
-Magnificent Obsession 

Bill Murray's chemistry with everyone... and I mean everyone in the movie.
-Movie Motorbreath

The images of Sigourney keep getting richer and sexier as the insanity mounts
-The Film Experience

We Need to Talk About Dana Barrett’s Apartment.
-FilmMixTape

Recreating the Exorcist as a screwball comedy date...
-Bohemian Cinema Salon *first time participant*

The movie doesn't really get interesting, narratively and visually, until midway when Weaver's character gets possessed by the spirit of Zuul.
-Sorta That Guy


Most of my favorite shots are when the movie embraces its crazy and over the top nature.
-Wick's Picks *first time Best Shot participant!*

Ghostbusters is a perfect '80s blockbuster version of the classic 50s monster B-movies...
-Dancin Dan on Film

 

NEXT WEEK: Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement (2007) with James McAvoy, Keira Knightley & little Oscar nominated Saoirse Ronan. [Keira Knightley Voice] "Come back to me it."

Tuesday
Mar082016

Stay-Puft, Sigourney, and the "Ghostbusters"

This is Nathaniel's entry into this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot topic, Ghostbusters (1984). Tonight, we'll see what others chose!

This may shock readers of a certain (young) age but would be blockbusters used to open directly against each other rather than giving each other wide berths to accumulate loot. No really, they did! Ghostbusters and Gremlins, courting the same demographic, opened simultaneously on my birthday weekend in 1984. I chose Gremlins (which little me loved) and caught Ghostbusters a few days later with school friends. Ghostbusters emerged as the clear champ with the public but little me thought Gremlins ran circles around the supernatural comedy: scarier, funnier, cuter monsters, better-paced... only faililng in its lack of SigWeavieness. They were both big hits, of course, but Ghostbusters was HUGE -- Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man walking amongst skyscrapers huge. And it stayed ahead in pop culture, too, netting Oscar nominations (Original Song & Visual FX) and endless sequel or revival talk thereafter.

Cut to 2016: With the gender reversed reboot on the way, it was a topical choice for Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Plus I figured I'd finally see what charms eluded me way back then...

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