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Entries in Year in Review (140)

Tuesday
Jan202015

Bradley, Benedict, Eddie, Michael and Steve. OR...

The Best Actor chart is revised for your perusal with our usual game of 'how'd they get nominated' -- especially relevant in this stacked category (sniffle goodbye Timothy Jake Fiennes-Oyelowo) -- and the readers poll of who you think is actually best.

So check that out and vote, would you?

Though I've already expressed my disappointment in the Acdemy's shortlist given the wide variety of strong performances they didn't love enough, one thing that is satisfying about it is how many first timers we have. Indeed, had they not nominated Bradley Cooper and chosen, say, Oyelowo or Spall we could have had an all virgin Best Actor lineup.

Trivia Break: there's been a lot of talk about Cooper's 3 consecutive nominations (2012-2014 for Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper). If you're curious, no, it's not an acting record. The all time consecutive record holders for men are Marlon Brando (51-54) and Al Pacino (72-75) each with four. Neverthless Bradley is the first to accomplish it since Russell Crowe (99-01) and if he is nominated again for this new year of film we're entering he'll be tied for #1 in the male division. Greer Garson (41-45) and Bette Davis (38-42) are the all time record holders with five consecutive acting nominations each. You can wish Cooper good luck if you're a fan but four consecutive is extremely rare; the last person to do it male or female was Al Pacino in the 1970s and even Meryl Streep hasn't managed it.

Enough trivia. I hope you haven't forgotten my own kudos. Here is my ballot for Best Actor as we continue the Film Bitch Awards (nominations have now been announced for Picture, Director, Screenplays, Animated Feature, and Actor)

For what it's worth I made my selections before Oscar votes and didn't expect the final list to be so contrary to mine so this is not to be misunderstood as a pointed corrective but actual opinion. The further we get away from the heat of nomination day the more sad I am that the wondrous "Gustave H", one of the best character conjurings in years, was not selected. In fact, I think it's Ralph Fiennes most Oscar-worthy work since Schindler's List

Saturday
Jan102015

2014's Interview Index

Nathaniel leaves for Los Angeles for the Critics Choice awards mid week and Michael we'll join him at Sundance the following week. It's high season! Can you handle all of these things happening at once every day? If you've missed any of our chats, they're listed below. It's one of the only perks of a life of movie blogging to be able to meet talented people and grill them about their gifts and work (albeit in a usually rushed way!). Hope you enjoy reading them!

The Actors
Joan Chen & Zhu Zhu (Marco Polo)
Carrie Coon (Gone Girl)
Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up)
Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes / Terminator: Genysis)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year)
Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods / The Last 5 Years)
Jenny Slate (Obvious Child)
Timothy Spall (Mr Turner)
Marisa Tomei (Love is Strange / The Realistic Joneses)
Finn Wittrock (Unbroken / Freakshow

Auteur Theory
John Carney (Begin Again)
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Stephan Haupt (The Circle)
Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)
Hong Khaou (Lilting)
Chris Mason Johnson (Test)
James Marsh (Theory of Everything)
Tomm Moore (Song of the Sea)
Matthew Warchus (Pride)
Daniel Ribeiro (The Way He Looks)
Toa Fraser (Dead Lands
Liv Ullmann (Miss Julie)

Behind the Scenes
Cinematographer Yves Belanger (Wild)
Composer Antonio Sanchez (Birdman
Composer Patti Smith (Noah
Composer Hans Zimmer (Interstellar)
Costume Designer Michael Wilkinson (Noah)
Production Designer James Chinlund (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
Stuntman Bobby Holland Hanton (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Producer Guillermo del Toro (The Book of Life)
Producer Joanna Natasegara (Virunga)
Screenwriter Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy

Oscar Parties / Cocktails / Banter
Allen Leech, Alex Lawther, Matthew Beard (Imitation Game Party)
Ava DuVernay, Common & John Legend (Selma Luncheon)
Ava Duvernay, Niecy Nash, and Lorraine Toussaint (Selma Premiere)
Jessica Chastain, J.C. Chandor, and Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year Premiere)
John Boorman (Hope & Glory Memory and Current Ballot) 

Celebrity Guests For Our Devout Actressexual Readership
Dana Delany (Amazon's Hand of God) shared A+ stories in our '73 Smackdown. Such a movie buff! 
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl) one of Hollywood's best scene stealers, guest-blogged with hilarious Oscar memoir
Melanie Lynskey (Happy Christmas, HBO's Together) participated in our '64 Smackdown and cursed herself for picking a bum year 

and...

Quick Impressions - in this unique experiment we celebrated the non-famous working actor, day players and/or possible future stars. Thousands of showbiz dreams are embedded in every frame of your favorite movies from the principles on down to the one-liners. In this three episode tryout we talked to actors who worked on Gone Girl, The Boxtrolls, and American Horror Story: Freakshow. Should we resume for 2015?

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2013's Index - Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Paulson, Sally Hawkins, etc
2012's Index - Nicole Kidman, Eddie Redmayne, Kerry Washington, etc.
2011's Index  -Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Corey Stoll, etc.
2010's Index - Julianne Moore, Kirsten Dunst, Juliette Lewis, etc.

 

Monday
Jan052015

Best of the Year: Nathaniel's Top Ten

Previously we looked at ten runners-up -- practically an alternate top ten if you will the year was so good. Now on to the list you've been waiting for as our own awardage begins. 

The years best films marched in the streets in London and Alabama, cruised Scotland with nefarious intent, uncovered skeletons in Poland, and jogged around DC. They performed on the stages of Manhattan while also house hunting there; neither activity is for the faint of heart. Only two of them sprang from books though another cast its biggest spell while holding one. Two taught us about history in ways that felt absolutely relevant and useful to how we live now and one let us watch 12 years of it unfold. The thing that unites all ten is the imagination, fine judgement (when to employ a light touch and when to hit hard) and technical prowess of the filmmakers and actors, lifting their scenes, themes and stories however mundane, silly, deep or fanciful to greater heights that we could have reasonably expected.

With deep appreciation...

NATHANIEL'S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER
(Anthony Russo & Joe Russo)
Disney. April 4th
138 minutes 

The public has been more than generous with Marvel Studios over the years as they stumbled into surprising glory given that they were playing with a half deck having sold so many key characters. Ten films in: perfection! Captain America: Winter Soldier artfully dodges nearly every typical superhero movie problem (as well as general sequel problems) with a stunning grasp of mood, total commitment to a "square" character, a smart choice of villain, and thrilling action scenes that feel authentically dangerous (a complete rarity in blockbusters) rather than like stop-and-gawk "setpieces" with no actual stakes. Add in Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson both embracing their supersized charisma and physical perfection (while deepening their rapport and characterizations) and you have the year's best popcorn entertainment.

 

THE BABADOOK
(Jennifer Kent)
IFC Films. November 28th 
93 minutes 

You can't intellectualize away its terror, though reviews and many a future masters theses will try. This alarming horror film, a brilliant debut for Australian director Jennifer Kent, is as hard to shake as its title character whether you take it as a straightforward monster film, a mental illness or grief allegory, or get hung up on its minefield of taboos (mothers who don't much like their children / over-medication of children / weapons in schools). It's as rich and imaginative a study of depression in its own creepy-crawly way as Lars Von Trier's Melancholia so it's wonderfully apt that Jennifer Kent once apprenticed with the Danish provocateur

Eight with more than enough Great after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan032015

Best of the Year Pt. 1: Double the Swedes & Triple the Tilda

With love for last year's cinema.

2015 has a lot to live up to. This past year delivered amazing films from fresh-voiced directors, a good number of them female for a change, and it also came through, unexpectedly, with a surprising spread of high quality empathetic and diverse LGBT cinema. But even if you're stuck in multiplex-only towns, the mainstream also delivered with sneaky overachieving surprises in genres as oft-lazy as superheroes, horror, animation, giant monsters, and crime thrillers. When it came time to draw up my lists I had 30 pictures I really wanted to celebrate. Thirty! 

So let's briefly sum up (alphabetically) the films that just missed the top 20


The Boxtrolls - Laika's boldly grotesque superbly-voiced Victorian fable. 
Godzilla - Smartly reimagined not as reboot but myth returned. The paratroopers. Gah!
Edge of Tomorrow - Emily Blunt's 'full metal bitch' isn't easy to forget. Neither is the film's gleeful rapid fire anarchy in treating Tom Cruise as South Park might. "You killed Tom Cruise!" Repeat ∞
Happy Christmas - No budget? No problem. Just write a warm funny script, film it in your home and hire famous actor friends. Joe Swanberg is living the Cassavettes dream only seems much happier about it.
The LEGO Movie - Excessively clever and fun. But in truth I'd rather it win a Clio than an Oscar.
A Most Violent Year - a slow simmer but Jessica Chastain is at full boil
Nightcrawler - Jake & Rene's bring out each other's best but their character's worst in this amoral nightmare. Great dialogue but man do those laughs curdle.
Two Days One Night - Belgium's Oscar submission is simple in narrative if not in complexity of feeling but Marion Cotillard is impossibly good / real / Oscar worthy
The Way He Looks - In a simply fantastic year for queer cinema (thank god - it's been a while) this was the sweetest offering, a coming of age pic about a blind teenager and his two best friends
Wild Tales - A raucously entertaining Argentinian anthology produced by Pedro Almodóvar and directed with skill and wicked invention by Damian Szifron. If you can, see it with a group of friends (comedies are always best that way). I'm already sad I didn't include it in the top 20!

So here we are. Twenty may feel like an indulgent number to settle on for this 2014 countdown party but it comes down to this. No matter how many times I adjusted my "tippity top" movies list I couldn't live without these twenty. They were the ones that refused to budge, that defined the year for me, that demanded top ten placement, refuting the laws of math. To sum up: This cinephile had a great year in the dark. If you were positive I loved it and you don't see it in the top 20, it's tied for 21st! 

The film year is not drawing to a close just yet -- we keep celebrating through Oscar night. But the calendar year is a wrap so here is part one of my favorites roundup starting with a Tilda Swinton double feature...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan022015

The Funniest Films & Performances of the Year

 Two year in review lists per day for a few more days... Here's Michael to look back at the year in laughs

That was a tough year for good comedies that weren’t animated or special effects blockbusters. By my count only 7 of the box office top 50 were live action comedies (depending on whether or not you count Gone Girl) and of those all but Neighbors were immediately disposable. So if you want to find good comedy without animated toys or talking raccoons you had to look to the margins. In fact, the film that sits on the top of my list of list of 2014’s funniest is currently ranked 157th for the box office year.

Also interesting is how few of 2014's funniest came billed as pure comedies. Aside from the animated and sci-fi extravaganzas the laughs arrived smuggled in such genres as horror/thriller (The Guest) mystery (Gone Girl) and drama-fantasy hybrid whatchamatcallits  (Birdman).

So here are 2014's funniest movies, keeping in mind that this isn’t based on overall quality, but is ranked solely by which films most tipped the needle on the Laugh-O-Meter:

2014’s Ten Funniest Films 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec312014

Happy New Year! 

 Skål *takes drink* 

Party safely tonight, drink lots of water to avoid hangovers, and choose a designated driver. Always.

It was a challenging year at TFE and I'd like to thank my small team and all of you for sticking with us. At the movie theater 2014 was an especially good year... compiling the 'Best of ___' lists that are on the way has been a joy. Here's a list of various year-in-review goodies published thus far ICYMI. (We're not quite done of course. Oscar Night is when the film year really ends.) 

Year in Review Goodies
Screen Cats from Felix to Hairy Baby
Tilda Swinton vs Tilda Swinton Madame D. or Minister Mason?
Try Harder Next Time 'Worst of the Year'
Scarlett Johansson x 4 This year's MVP
Stocking Suffers gift ideas, real and otherwise 
Fashion red carpet divas of 2014
Alternate "Entertainers" - who wowed no matter the medium?

...more "Best Lists" to come including the top ten of the year when the FiLM BiTCH AWARDS start on Friday January 2nd

Other Recent Highlights
Anna Kendrick, Interviewed on her movie musical frenzy
Timothy Spall, Interviewed Mr. Turner talks fathers & sons
Missi Pyle Celebrity Guest Blog Extroardinaire!
Reviews Selma, Into the Woods and more
A Year With Kate the finale!

If you love The Film Experience...
Sign up to our new mailing list (we won't inundate you - no more than one e-mail per week if that) and consider a small donation (see right hand sidebar) as a 'Thanks for [whatever you loved most this year]' gift!

 

Friday
Dec262014

Entertainers of the Year, An Alternate Take

Year in Review. Two yummy lists each day. Here's Matthew Eng on "Entertainers of the Year"

Let’s face it: Jimmy Fallon is an okay if utterly predictable choice for Entertainment Weekly’s annual “Entertainer of the Year” title, which can occasionally become more of an honor for being widely-known and well-liked than, you know, being consistently entertaining. (Have they made a truly interesting choice since that three-year, Oscar-certified run of Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and Denzel Washington from 2000-02?)

Rather than continue to pat the backs of those like Ben Affleck, Taylor Swift, Robert Downey, Jr., and J.K. Rowling – i.e. prominent pop culture presences and former “Entertainers of the Year” whose dominance over their respective industries is already deep and durable – let’s take a moment to honor some of our favorite hard-working actors and actresses who zig-zagged across mediums this year, making crucial contributions to the entertainment landscape, but who likely won’t be collecting any golden statues for their unique and indispensable achievements in 2014.

 

Alan Cumming, who lent his impish, adventurous energy to two wildly disparate roles this year, reprising his bawdily iconic take as the Emcee in Roundabout’s Cabaretrevival, while continuing to play his most unusual role as the sardonic and perpetually stressed-out campaign manager Eli Gold on The Good Wife, which is still the best thing on television. It’s a testament to Cumming’s versatility that he seems equally at home warbling in an evening gown and defiling chorus boys, as he does striding around an office and barking into a cellphone. In between suiting-up on screen and dressing down on stage, Cumming also penned a moving and well-reviewed memoir about his troubled childhood in Scotland entitled Not My Father’s Son.


Viola Davis, who continues to be better than any of the material she’s given, but still acts the hell out of everything she appears in, all the same. I’ve already written about how gorgeously she improves the standard mother-son arc of Get On Up, but let’s also give Davis her due for surpassing such esteemed company as Jessica Chastain and Isabelle Huppert to present the only credible human being in that weirdly noncommittal triptych The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, in which she plays Chastain’s professor and newfound confidante to weary, seen-it-all perfection. And finally, I still have my fingers crossed that How to Get Away with Murder will work some Scandal-like magic and pick up as it goes, but Davis is unqualifiedly great and effortlessly magnetic even amid mediocrity. We can never stop beating the drum for this gloriously gifted woman.

Lindsay Duncan, who, yes, played an indelible cobra as Birdman’s venomous voice of theatrical critique, but who also single-handedly dispels the lazy claims that 2014 was a weak year for lead actressing. I wish enough “pundits” would take it upon themselves to journey past their Wilds and Gone Girls and take a well-deserved look at Roger Michell’s marital dramedy Le Week-end, in which Duncan and a never-better Jim Broadbent work through the poignantly personal travails of ripened couplehood while celebrating their anniversary in Paris. Proudly reckless, boldly tetchy, and gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Week-end’s Meg is a marvel of deliciously detailed characterization and one of the acting achievements of the year, thanks to Duncan’s slyly sublime sorcery. (I mean, that voice alone!) Duncan’s also currently on the boards as Glenn Close’s acerbic, alcoholic sister in the revival of Albee’s A Delicate Balance and she’s still a staple on British television, having made appearances this year on SherlockBlack Mirror’s jaw-dropper of a first episode “The National Anthem” (only recently made available on Netflix), and The Honorable Woman, providing the latter with a quietly memorable take on the exasperated ex-wife, which leads us to…


Maggie Gyllenhaal, who never really reached the summits of critic-stamped screen stardom that surely seemed attainable during the Secretary and Sherrybaby days, but who has nonetheless continued to offer terrific and thoughtful work across a variety of mediums. New Yorkers have a little more than a week to catch her in the current revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (closing January 4th), in which Gyllenhaal pairs her usual flair for emphatic (if often unstable) eroticism with an intriguingly assured intelligence as an impassioned actress who throws herself heart-first into a relationship with a married playwright. She’s hilariously and cuttingly unhinged as the only reason worth watching Frank, playing the bitter, Bening-ish bandmate/protector of Michael Fassbender’s bobble-headed lead singer. Gyllenhaal’s great in both projects, but she’s downright fantastic in The Honorable Woman, the BBC miniseries that is equal parts timely political thriller and trenchant character study, and which has given Gyllenhaal her juiciest role in years as an unraveling Anglo-Israeli arms heiress urgently trying to bring peace to the Middle East. Gyllenhaal’s elegant and emotionally daring performance is just another compelling reason to keep this weirdly underappreciated actress in play.

Gaby Hoffmann, who is a national treasure. Besides providing such selfless, straight-shooting support to Obvious Child, ensuring that the film remain a warm and witty sketch of a circle of intimates rather than a lopsided vanity project, and giving Girls’ third season a welcome dose of droll derangement as Adam Driver’s loopy sister, Hoffmann is fully deserving of the praise and prizes that Jeffrey Tambor has received for Jill Soloway’s miraculous series Transparent. The entire familial ensemble (to include Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, and Judith Light) clicks like crazy, with each performer projecting a whole host of complex and authentically-layered affinities, histories, and antipathies around one another, but it’s Hoffmann’s work as impetuous, indecisive baby sister Ali that has somehow lingered the most in my mind. It’s one thing to take the role of the caustic, cash-strapped family fuck-up and make her funny, charming, and inappropriate. It’s another thing entirely to invest so much extra ruefulness, wistfulness, selfishness, self-righteousness, sexiness, continually shifting sensibleness, and totally committed weirdness into a single character that she becomes someone we not only know, but someone we are unable to remember not knowing.

John Lithgow, who has had quite an enviable hot streak this year, the crowning achievement of which is his beautifully loose and lived-in performance as one half of 2014’s most believable onscreen couple, gay or otherwise, in Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange. In addition to his affecting and attentive leading man work, Lithgow also made his mark in two other noteworthy releases, imbuing bit parts in both The Homesman and Interstellar with muted, offhanded conviction. And that’s just on screen! Lithgow also gave good Lear in the Public’s August Shakespeare in the Park production, nailing the punchy imperiousness while adding an ungainliness to the declining King that in its plaintive way was just as tragic as any of the Bard’s plot turns. He’s also currently co-starring with Duncan in that same production of A Delicate Balance, closing out a banner year with yet another reminder that our most abiding and admired talents have endless shades to show us.

Elisabeth Moss, who, on the basis of her sterling work on the Sundance circuit, proves once again that she will be just fine when Don Draper lights up for the last time. She earned raves this year as Jason Schwartzman’s straying, sympathetic girlfriend in Listen Up Philip and rejuvenated some run-of-the-mill themes about marital devotion inThe One I Love with such a persuasive mix of pep and precision that I hardly noticed their familiarity. I’m excited by the prospect of Moss becoming a full-time film presence, but I hope she gets handed at least half as dynamic a role as Peggy Olson, whose professional rise and personal stalling-out Moss continued to chart with instinctive emotionality and endless empathy on the first half of Mad Men’s final season, which began with Peggy collapsing in tears on her apartment floor and ended with her officially taking the reigns from her former boss-turned-humbled colleague. Even if Emmy, SAG, and Golden Globe voters failed to appreciate the magnificence of Moss’ work this year, those of us still watching can take pride in seeing this superbly skillful actress finish off her work as one of TV’s most beloved heroines before heading off into the promising future that awaits her.