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Entries in Year in Review (203)


Film Bitch Awards - Best Scenes of Multiple Kinds

We're nearly finished* with 2015 Film Bitch Awards, our own annual year in review yearbook/party and of imaginary Oscar ballot (well, half of it is that). Today the remainder of our Best Scene categories with six final scene categories. This group hands more nominations to films from the top ten list of course but for highlights to point out here on the blog before you click over, we're using films outside the top ten list. 

Obviously this page (and post) of awards contains mild spoilers so if you haven't seen the films and wish to stay pure, these are not the awards categories you're looking for. Here is one nominee I felt the need to gab about (maybe you will too?) from each category...

While Creed was mostly ignored by the Academy, chances are its big box office (which significantly outgrossed Stallone's last two attempts are reigniting the franchise) will insure a big career for Michael B Jordan. Can Tessa Thompson hope for the same (it's always trickier for actresses of color)? They're wonderful together. Especially endearing is the scene in her apartment where Adonis makes up a godawful wrap and they end up collapsed on the floor, caught up in the moment. It's an upside down shot from above and they're something beautifully innocent and pure but also sexy about this kiss. (Later they'll bring the heat in a proper sex scene at Rocky's house. "but what about your Uncle?" / "He old!" Ha!)

Angelina Jolie's third directorial effort By the Sea was mercilessly trashed upon arrival but this was always going to be its fate. The Jolie-Pitts are extremely mainstream-famous. And household name blockbuster stars that the public has longed to see paired again onscreen aren't supposed to reunite for an indulgent overly serious tribute to Euro art cinema of the 1970s. That's for the other kind of movie star, like the Julianne Moores and the Ryan Goslings of the world, whose filmographies are built on eclectic sensibilities and crisscrossing between the ittybitty and the giant. But By the Sea isn't without its moments. The best scene, repeated in different forms like a musical riff, is when the couple sits on the floor in their hotel room and shyly watches another younger couple (Melanie Laurent & Melvil Poupaud) make love in the next room through a peephole. It's beautifully sympathetic and tragicomic, an estranged couple tiptoeing back to intimacy through surrogates.

David O. Russell's Joy is an easy movie to quibble with. It often feels like five different movies that haven't reconciled themselves. This problem (?) is embedded right in its prologue which jumps from inside a stylized soap opera, to Diane Ladd's wonderfully expressive fable-like narration, and back to the soap opera but this time "outside" of it through a TV set, and into little Joy's bedroom where she makes a castle and theorizes about her possible superpower (maybe she doesn't need a Prince?). Ladd's Grandma guides us through this collision of styles and ideas with an expertly dropped line about Joy's creativity that doubles as a guide to how to watch and make ambitious movies.

The patience to figure it out."

Will Joy grow on us with time? Perhaps it might. Perhaps we quibbled too much. Perhaps Russell didn't have the patience to truly figure this one out but there's a lot to figure therein.

Spotlight may have the most mellow finale we've ever nominated in this category but there's something about its sober work ethic and the core ensemble wide shot, with Walter "Robby" Robinson centered, that really lands emotionally and elevates the film. His phone rings and they all just return to work. Where they've always been.


I've been disappointed these last few years that it's more and more common for films to have virtually no credits at the beginning and double up at the ending. So shout out to Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation which has great opening and closing credits. The opening credits would be spoiler-alert central if they didn't come at you so aggressively with machine-gun montage speed. The ending credits are even more stylish --both an homage to the TV show and film appropriate -- with action frames from the film outlined by the wicks of time bombs; this movie is a blast.

[Read more about these two sequences at The Art of the Title.] 

When writing about the Film Bitch Awards I often revisit a whole bunch of movies in clip forms, particularly the earlier releases that are blurry int he memory. Here we are at the end of the prize-giving and here comes Diary of a Teenage Girl and it suddenly looks just as good as everyone claimed it to be (I was previously in the admired but only admired camp). It was easy to turn certain movies off after checking the scene in question but I kept getting sucked into this film, as if it were the first time. One of the best moments is an animated interlude "The Making of Harlot" where a 'Beautiful Junior,' getting it on with Minnie, remarks upon her aggressive sexuality with something like judgment in his voice (though he's benefitting). Giant Minnie, holding him in her King Kong paw, turns away, with a single teardrop and casts him aside. True movie magic.


* Only three categories left to announce (Limited Roles x2 & Line Readings). Can you believe we're actually going to finish this year before the Oscars**?! Wheeee. We'll announce those three categories plus all the Gold Silver and Bronze medals at some point in the next 24, ya dig?

** Okay technically I won't have finished, damnit. I never named the Animated Feature nominees (we only go 3-wide here) because I was trying to see Boy and The World before voting. So we'll be finished with everything but that category.


Voting is a Wrap! Recent Highlights ICYMI

AND JUST LIKE THAT... Academy Award voting has wrapped. So there's nothing left but the big show, the gowns, the accceptance speeches, and the post-mortem frenzy. Which also means February is basically a wrap since the next week is like Brigadoon... only its magic is annual instead of once every 100 years. 

15 highlights from Jan/Feb ICYMI

Original Song Ranking all 80 winners of Best Original Song
Brooklyn TV Bound Why do I keep seeing a Period Facts of Life here with Julie Walters as Mrs Garrett?
Best Actor It's the Year of the Ham. But how do you like your meat?
Q&A the popular series returned with a Leonaro DiCaprio episode
You Can Count on Me the most popular entry in our Sundance retrospective
Silence of the Lambs a five part baton-pass revisit. Did you enjoy?
Costume Design Beauty Break the Oscar nominees + 2 Nathaniel favorites
Podcast Nathaniel & Nick on the best work from this year's Best Directors and Best Actresses before this current nomination
Pansexual my Ass on Deadpool's bark / no bite
Nathaniel's Top Ten List for 2015
The Witch is the first must-see of 2016
Best Screenplay which nominee is the most quotable?
Production Design analysis of the nominees
Forgotten Valentine How good is The Painted Veil (2006)? Very good
Agent Carter the sure-to-be-cancelled show went Hollywood and got even better

And between Nathaniel and Jose we conducted over 50 interviews this past film year!  Hope you enjoyed. Please do like us on Facebook and sign up for a forthcoming weekly newsletter (we really are going to do one this year -- starting very soon) so you don't miss anything.

COMING THURSDAY: Final Oscar Predictions
COMING FRIDAY: Film Bitch Awards Finale
COMING SATURDAY: Indie Spirit Awards
COMING SUNDAY: You know what. Duh 

COMING IN MARCH: Oscar Post-Mortem, the return of Hit Me With Your Best Shot each Tuesday (kicking off with Ghostbusters on March 8th) Zootopia, Sally Field, Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman, and a look back at Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge for her Centennial 




Best Acting, Male Division: Personal Ballots & Oscar Charts

In the war of scene-stealing antagonists this year, Oscar Isaac's Nathan (Ex Machina) > Tom Hardy's Fitzgerald (The Revenant). We love both actors here at TFE and loved them before the rest of the web did (brag brag) but when it comes down to awards season you have to make tough choices.

That's just a handy way of saying Oscar and I go our separate ways more often than not in the acting categories but now both lists are available for your (hopeful) entertainment... 

On the subject of category placement antagonists are often tricky. They definitely move the plot -- neither The Revenant or Ex Machina can function without these devious men, but often you can see either argument for lead or supporting. While Ex Machina arguably has three leads being such a chamber drama I occasionally relax the soapbox for performances that straddle the divide. A recent rewatch of Ex Machina confirmed that Oscar Isaac would make whichever shortlist we put him in (and I'd switched him back and forth during the year in drafts). It's such an inventive approach to a thoroughly imagined character so I tossed the dice and supporting he went. Now watch him tear up this fucking dance floor...

Only one of Oscar's men makes my own personal ballot (just posted) with apologies to Mark Rylance who I thought would place but he fell in the dread sixth spot! It happens. I've completed the Oscar chart as well and included trivia for this golden sausage party. Speaking of sausage parties... I think this is the first male Oscar lineup ever in which ALL the men have gone full frontal in other movies. Weird, right? It's an exhibitionist group this year. This only occurred to me to check because I was a big fan of Intimacy (2001) back in the day which starred Mark Rylance and everyone knows that Sly starred in a porno before Rocky (1976)

The charts also include our "How'd they get nominated" fun. So here's a sample -- the Tom Hardy in The Revenant edition: 

25% Leo's bro power pulls his main men in w/ him
21% Spicy Bait: Villains prioritized in this category 
20% Timing. 'The Revenant' was the shiniest new toy
15% Everyone wishes they could have punched Iñárritu in the face
10% Performance - they like 'em BIG to shake up slow epics (see also: The Zeéeeee in 'Cold Mountain')
9% 'Mad Max Fury Rd'

P.S. I should not that though Hardy didn't make my top 12 in supporting I appreciate his go for broke attempts to save The Revenant from its own grandiose self-importance with a little cured ham.

Matt Damon a nominee at both the Oscars & the Film Bitch AwardsBEST LEADING ACTOR 
Given the weirdly unanimous "meh" factor that Oscar's shortlist has produced in audiences, at least on the web, it's hard to imagine it coming to be at all. But then you remember the media complicity in producing these sorts of safe groupings of all-stars whether or not people were actually hugely impressed with their work. Oscar produced a list of five major players who unfortunately could have been nominated based on the roles themselves before anyone saw the work (always a problem!). You've got your reigning Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), your mega stars (Leonardo DiCaprio & Matt Damon), and your highly-revered thespians (Bryan Cranston & Michael Fassbender) with all but one of them (Damon) playing real life people. That's the baitiest of bait to awards types -- not just Oscar! --  though after 15 years of covering movies and awards seasons I still can't fathom why playing someone who really exists/existed is so much more likely to be lauded than creating a character from scratch with only the screenplay, director and your imagination to guide you. 

But anyway that's Oscar's list. Only two of them survive to make my personal ballot and I had to correct some category campaign problems too to put Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) where they belonged. Since DiCaprio's fans can be quite touchy I should note that he's solid, as ever, in The Revenant. He's locked up to win the Oscar finally but sadly the film just isn't asking very much of him, emotionally, beyond grief and anguish which he's been playing with minor variations for at a dozen years now. Sorry Oscar campaign narrative but tough physical working conditions and weird diets ≠ acting triumph. 


Best of 2015: Nathaniel's Top Fifteen

When you devote your life to the movies, you come to cherish the movies that give back as if they're devoted, in return, to you. Yes, you, specifically. Our consumption of movies may be communal but in some ineffable way, especially when it comes to list-making, they're deeply personal; movies in conversation with your soul. At least if you're doing it right. It's painful enough to "rank" a top 15 for 2015. So I included a second tier of favorites. The 30 best of the year, according to your host, took place all over the world as we know it (Germany keeps popping up as does seemingly every place with an arid climate in an odd but starkly beautiful coincidence) to weirdly recognizable places beyond it (Why, Jakku, you look so much like Tattoine!). The unifying thread might be that however alien their perspectives and locales (inside a young girl's brain, locked in a 10 x 10 shed, or chained to the back of rusted death machines in hallucinatory sandstorms), they resonated as if deeply familiar.

Nathaniel's top 30 films of

If you're looking for __ you won't find it:
I liked Magic Mike XXL -- you may recall that Magic Mike (2012) won the Film Bitch Bronze medal here in 2012 as third best of its entire year -- but can't join the unexpected bandwagon of critics who decided they loved the sequel well after it left theaters. I did enjoy it a lot, though. Also just missing the list, not from an absence of affection exactly but "best?" attributes, is Ridley Scott's disco-lite outer-space romp The Martian. I'm far less keen on recent Oscar nominees like The Big Short, Straight Outta Compton, The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa, Trumbo, Son of Saul, and The Revenant but they need not cry from my qualms, indifference, or distaste (depending on the picture) since they have stadiums full of cheering sections elsewhere

And this list is about positive, nay giddy, love. So on to the best of the best. 

15 (Very) Honorable Mentions in Alpha Order
Please seek out: The Troubles via Yann Demange's electric debut '71; Desiree Arkhavan's hilarious bisexual Iranian-American hipster romcom (a genre we didn't even know we needed but love) Appropriate Behavior; Spielberg & Hanks's absorbing Bridge of Spies; Disney's girlie lush live-action Cinderella spin; Olivier Assayas's actressy-angst at those Clouds of Sils Maria; Celine Sciamma's infectiously observed but profoundly sad GirlhoodLily Tomlin & Paul Weitz's Grandma focused road trip; the waking nightmare game of sexual tag in It FollowsIceland's formally compelling beast and man oddity Of Horses and Men; Brazil's smart socioeconomic collisions in The Second Mother; Paul Feig & Melissa McCarthy's Spy romp; Disney's easy money $4 billion bet The Force Awakens; Tom McCarthy's soulful journalism procedural SpotlightAaron Sorkin's presentational Steve Jobs triptych; Xavier Dolan's queasy, queer, razor blade dangerous Tom at the Farm; and the director, crew, and cast who pulled off that continuous shot jaw-dropper stunt that was Victoria... and pulled it off with feeling. 

Without further ado and with deep appreciation...

🎶 they're speaking my language baby 🎶 


(Brett Haley)
Bleecker Street Media. May 15th
92 minutes 

A movie as unassuming as Blythe Danner's still waters star turn, and as gently surprised by its twilight romanticism as the wonderful theme song. It's easy to imagine this film becoming a staple, a comfortable blanket to wrap yourself up in on lonely nights; an old dear friend that understands the value of finding new ones.

You're a good drinking buddy!"


(Spike Lee)
Roadside Attractions. December 4th
119 minutes 

By no small margin the most uneven and sometimes downright sloppy movie on this 15 wide "Best" list --  stop reading the teleprompter Samuel L Jackson, learn your damn verse! But, a permanent truth: perfection isn't everything. Vitality of voice, with something actually worth saying, counts for quite a lot with so many polished but empty-headed and safe pictures clogging up each year's awards pipeline. Spike Lee won an Honorary Oscar shortly before anyone saw his reworking of Lysistrata, transported to contemporary Chicago (nicknamed Chi-Raq for its crime rate troubles). Nobody knew that his best movie in 15 years was about to hit to make that statue feel retroactively less of a tribute to past highs (Do The Right Thing, 25th Hour, etcetera) and more of an "it's about damn time!" honor for a still relevant artist. Chi-Raq is... Crazy. Funny. Sexy. Anguished. Silly. Mad. Experimental. Sickening. Sober. Even Optimistic. In short, "It's 'EVERYTHING!' as the queens say. Now if only everyone would go see this bold bawdy and beautiful everything. And, did someone say "Queen," I can hear Miss Helen (Angela Bassett, who also Got Her Groove Back of late) shaking her head at the meager box office receipts.

Y'all make my tired ass tired!" 


(Denis Villeneuve)
Lionsgate. October 2nd
121 minutes 

If Denis Villenueve's movies get any more tense they're going to explode by the second reel.

Click to read more ...


15 Best LGBT Characters of '15

We promised a grand total of 15 "Best of "2015" Lists (apart from the awards -- yeah, we're overplanning crazy) so here's the second to last. Diversity is the hot topic of the week and regardless of any one particularity (like an Oscar nominee list) thing are getting better on television (obviously) and at the movies, too, though you have to look a little bit harder. Still, if you go to a lot of movies and attempt to draw up lists like this you'll find you're spoilt for choice. There are so many more films these days directed by women, for gay audiences, for people of the color and the like. You just have to look beyond Big Hollywood and keep your eyes open for intriguing surprises if you do regularly hit the all wide releases multiplex.

Since 15 is a finite number (damn you math) not every film with an LGBT character can make the list. Some I didn't see only because you can't see everything (Legend, Duke of Burgundy, Cut SnakeEastern Boys) and some just didn't make this particular list (Tom at the FarmSaint Laurent, Gerontophilia, Ricki and the FlashMr Holmes, The New Girlfriend, BoulevardStonewall, Match, and The Danish Girl) though that shouldn't reflect on the film itself because that group has everything from terrible to great movies within it. The most high profile miss is Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmaybe) but that's mostly because The Danish Girl needed to be queerer and because there are several women that were far more fetching on this list.

Without further ado...

15 Best LGBT Characters of The Movies of '15
from Nasty Baby through Star Wars (???) and on up to Carol

15 Freddy (Sebastián Silva) in Nasty Baby
Silva, one of Chile's best known filmmakers, doesn't usually star in his own movies, but this time out he gifts himself the lead role. Freddy, an artist working haphazardly on a new project involving adults pretending to be babies, desperately wants to be a dad and is continually trying to make it happen between his boyfriend (Tunde Adebimpe from Rachel Getting Married) and his best friend (Kristen Wiig). Silva's a fluid filmmaker when it comes to gender, ethnicity, and genre and Nasty Baby is a fluid movie, freely hopping from genre to genre without much warning:  drama, comedy, character study, art world satire, and even thriller. (Bonus points for the cat-loving.)

more after the jump

Click to read more ...


Team Experience Awards ... with love to Carol, Ex Machina, Girlhood, and more

Amir here, to welcome you to the 4th annual Team Experience Awards, bestowed on the year’s best in film by the Film Experience community (you can read about us here) – sans Nathaniel, our host; you can follow his personal awards here. In the past three installments, we honoured Leos Carax’s Holy Motors (France/Germany), Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (USA/UK) and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (UK/USA/Switzerland) as our Best Pictures.

Perhaps it won’t surprise you that the awards below, particularly in the craft categories, are more or less dominated by a couple of films that we have all been championing throughout the year, but the usual caveats of all our team posts apply to this one as well. Though the final results might be not be shocking, there were bloodbaths in most categories with many strong contenders for each prize. The best actress category’s contenders, for example, were separated by a hair, rather fittingly, given the winner and and the runner-up.

Some of these behind the scenes details are listed in the trivia section, but without further ado, here are the winners of 2015’s Team Experience Awards:

Carol Runner-up: Brooklyn

The Lobster Runner-up: Chevalier

foreign film, acting prizes, and craft achievements after the jump...

Click to read more ...



Time is a real bitch. Between interviews and standard blogging and technical difficulties and Globes and Film Bitch Awards and a cold, your host has had a difficult couple of weeks that he definitely didn't plan well enough for. But this rought start to 2016 shall not deter him. Please stick with us and cheerlead in the comments and we'll make 2016 the best year yet at The Film Experience even though these past 10 days or so have not gone half as planned. (Note to self for 2016: You can't cover everything... the link list is your friend. Also please win the lottery so you can hire a full time staff of 5? 10?) 

Here's some reading elsewhere while we continue to update Oscar charts, try to collect ourselves (still trying to decide how to approach the #OscarsSoWhite issue which is getting such shoddy or agenda-filled or misleading coverage elsewhere). And maybe eating lunch or sleeping would be nice at some point! 

Good LOL
The Toast "Signs You're About to be in a Sinister Homoerotic Subplot in a Midcentury Drama" 

Extra Extra Read All About It
Boy Culture 50 stars turning 50 this year. Which should we celebrate here at TFE?
Film School Rejects talks Ryan Coogler's strong beginnings and bright future and the matter of his Black Panther gig
Gizmodo Inside Out might get a sequel? Blargh.
Variety Dan Hagerty (best known as "Grizzly Adams" from TV died this morning at 74
New Now Next Nico Tortorella gives you tips on how to maximize your Instagram account (of course if you look like Nico Tortorella you probably won't need any tips to get popular on Instagram
Playbill the David Bowie scored musical Lazarus set to close this next week off broadway might get a second life
The Guardian Mike Lee talks about what he's up to, his past film, his politics and his next project Peterloo (date TBA) about a Manchester massacre in 1819.
Vanity Fair Jacob Tremblay, Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett, Bryan Cranston and more doing their best Scarlett & Rhett Gone With the Wind finale impressions
Just Jared The great Emma Thompson remembers her co-star the late Alan Rickman (RIP)
Slate looks at the treatment of the romantic rival in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and wonders why it isn't as subversive/progressive as other parts of the show. Are any of you watching this? There are true fans among TFE's team (including me)
MNPP whenever you need a Michael Fassbender fix, Jason will provide. 
The Guardian wonders if the Star Wars universe will replace the Marvelverse with the public within the next few years 

Year in Review Stuff
Reverse Shot gets grumpy with "offenses" to take down awards biggies like Son of Saul and Sicario. Though I'll admit reading the take on The Overnight makes me glad I skipped it.
Coco Hits New York who recently joined the team here at TFE has shared his list of the best of 2015. It's a good long read with interesting choices so enjoy. I love what he writes about Alicia Vikander's work in Ex Machina

For playing man as she plays machine, and for not disappointing a movie that builds its mysteries around her.