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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Monday
Jan102011

Best of 2010: Honorable Mentions

Before we begin, new readers take note: This is but the beginning of The Film Experience year-in-review kudos. It goes on for some time because we're giddy and OCD like that when it comes to recognizing great work. The "Film Bitch Awards" title is misleading and an old joke from college. We don't look down at the movies through our noses, but look up at the silver screen in reverie.

Here's a quick overview of well-loved films outside of the top ten (make that a top thirteen, coming tomorrow). Don't we all ♥ more than ten films a year?

Best Documentaries
I don't include documentaries in my top ten -- a personal quirk since they're a different artform with wildly different goals -- but if I did include them, please note that the Kimberly Reed's trans identity essay Prodigal Sons [Netflix Instant Watch] and the Chinese migration family drama Last Train Home, both released theatrically in 2010, would be in the mix. They might be the two best docs I've seen since Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man which you'll understand is the highest compliment I can pay them. I was also intrigued by Catfish, but then I saw it long before it was possible to have it "spoiled."  It's arguably exploitative take on online relationship and virtual identity works whether it's staged or real. And the scene that gives the film its name? Wow.

Exit Through Joan's Gift Shop

Quite by accident I saw more documentaries this year than I ever have. The two other true keepers among the batch were laugh-out-loud goodies: Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work which both stare straight at the lunacy of celebrity and artistic success, one with twinkling eyes and amused disbelief, the other with trembling lip and defiant survival.

Movie I Feel Bad About Missing
I shan't bore you with the details but please know that I did try to see Dogtooth -- most people I trust have urged me to see it -- but was thwarted in my attempts. One for the future. For what it's worth I also missed: For Colored Girls,  Robin Hood, and the French romantic comedy Heartbreaker which was an international hit, finishing in the top 100 globally. How did I miss that one? Grrrr.

The Movies I Can't Count
There is an argument out there that in this new millenium, theatrical release is more or less meaningless and shouldn't be a factor in year-end honors. But, without some sort of structure, how can there be community in movie discussions?

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan102011

Director's Guild Big 5. Plus Trivia!

If you click on over to the Best Director page that we've had up for awhile, you'll see this Oscar prediction awaiting you.

 

It's the exact DGA nominee list for Best Director (just announced). This isn't The Film Experience blowing its own horn so much as the obvious: This is the shortlist. In order for anyone else to pull an Oscar nomination on January 25th for Achievement in Direction, they'll have to either: K.O. David O. Russell as he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee; cut those thespian marionette strings that Tom Hooper is gracefully pulling; sue David Fincher for capturing zeitgeist in a bottle before they could; break the legs of Darren Aronofsky's ballerinas; or invade Chris Nolan's Oscar dream. Before it even happens!

 

Any one of those things will be very difficult to do.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan102011

I Link You Phillip Morris

Link Almighty?
How the Link Stole Christmas?
Ace Ventura: Link Detective?

  • Towleroad Jim Carrey Black Swans himself for Saturday Night Live
  • In Contention is Jim Carrey on the rise again? It's a good question.
  • My Life as a Blog interesting piece on great acting and how we (generally) define it. Plus more praise for Jeon Do-yeon in Secret Sunshine (2007) and that's always worth rubber-stamping.
  • Cinema Blend Trent Reznor to score The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The Fincher collaboration continues.
  • EW the Coen Bros pick their favorite westerns on such criteria as "good hat brims"
  • Scanners best shots, opening and ending of the year
  • /Film Wicked film in the works. But not the one we were waiting for, damnit.
  • Brown Okinawa Assault Incident has a list of indelible fashion moments in 2010 films from The Runaways to I Am Love to Never Let Me Go. Fun/interesting.
  • Roger Ebert a little more detail on the NSFC awards as well as an official statement about the MPAA and the Blue Valentine controversy and such.
  • In Contention BAFTA's rising star list. Go Tom Hardy (though I wonder why he wasn't nominated last year? That's when we honored him.

 

Finally, you should check out StinkyLulu's 5th annual Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon if you haven't yet. Each year, Stinky's enthusiams for "actressing at the edges" provides an interesting eclectic look at a broad swath of performances from their passionate fans. The blog-a-thon often feels quite personal so I respond to it that way in turn. Thus, it was most interesting to read about roles and performances that I... 

a) didn't personally care for (Patricia Clarkson in Shutter Island) 
b) didn't see but am now curious about (Anne Hathaway in Valentine's Day)
c) hadn't thought twice about until the interesting write-up (Tammy Blanchard in Rabbit Hole) or
d) obsess over on account of the film.

Regarding the latter, you know I'm talking about Black Swan which as you can imagine hogs quite a bit of the blog-a-thon being an actressy effort. Mila Kunis gets more writeups than I've ever seen anyone get in these parties and Julian at Movies and Other Things made me giggle with this bit on Barbara Hershey.

She refrains from extremes, ...never dipping into Mommie Dearest-like histrionics. I don’t think she cares if Nina uses wire hangers for her clothes...

Hee. True enough, Julian. But she sure does care if Nina eats cake. "WELL, IT'S GARBAGE NOW!"

Sunday
Jan092011

Supporting Actress Blog-a-Thon: Donna Murphy in "Tangled"

Tangled begins as so many Disney fairy tales do, with literal storytelling. But rather than opening a book --are they too antiquated for the kiddies *sniffle* ? -- it's simple narration as Flynn Rider begins to tell us the tale of Rapunzel. The first character he introduces us to is Mother Gothel, obsessing over the healing power of a golden flower. 

Oh, you see that old woman over there? You might want to remember her. She's kind of important.

No joke. That's true of character and actress. Gothel's voice belongs to Donna Murphy, one of Broadway's most formidable stars. She seizes the richest opportunity of her sparse screen career as forcefully as Mother Gothel grabs at her chance at immortality.

"blah blah blah blah blah"

In the first seconds of this introduction when we see the hunched crone-like woman with darting eyes, the animators are doing the heavy lifting. But soon enough Donna Murphy's spectacular voice creeps into the picture and we have one of the all-time best villains in Disney's already estimable rogues gallery.

"Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine," she sings with ancient cracked weariness. As her magic flower does its healing work, Murphy's more familiar superstar pipes emerge, newly coated in honey "Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine, what once was mine." No wonder she can't let go of this power once it's in the human form or Rapunzel. Who'd want that voice to whither, never mind the beauty. 

Murphy's enormous gift for musical comedy is a huge assett in crafting Disney's most disturbing parent/child relationship without alienating its intended audience. Tangled isn't a horror film after all. We have to understand that Mother Gothel is dangerous for her adopted daughter, but we also have to enjoy the emotional games which are played at Rapunzel's expense. Little "Flower", as Gothel calls Rapunzel, doesn't even understand the rules.

Murphy's quickfire comic delivery is filled with florid theatricality (perfect for both the stage and the animated film) but the actress can ground it just as quickly with softer tones. So when she teases Rapunzel in the mirror. "I see a confident beautiful young woman. [beat] Oh look you're here too!" and then laughs at her own mean joke, you're both giggling and apalled. Then you want to forgive her when she hugs her daughter because she's funny and vibrant and she sounds like she means it whenever she drops the teasing. She cushions those blows with kisses and endearments "I love you most" and though not all of them sound 100% genuine, moments of emotional authenticity pop up to catch you unawares. What kind of woman is this? Murphy flips Gothel's switch constantly: loving mother, flamboyant diva, charming confidante, dangerous villain, exhausted single parent, selfish bitch; who can keep up? Certainly not Rapunzel!  

a dramatic pose in "Mother Knows Best"

Even better, whether she's working the book scenes or singing, you can hear in Murphy's delivery both the anticipatory manipulations (when she doesn't want to deal with her daughter's neediness) and the lags in response time (when Rapunzel surprises her). 

Though it's not the least bit surprising if you've ever seen her on stage, Murphy absolutely nails Mother Gothel's big number "Mother Knows Best" which is a character song, an illustration of emotional backstory (you know she's sung this song before and you can imagine how it's shaped her "daughter"), a comic interlude and dramatic showstopper. At least it is with Murphy playing it. The most hilariously self-aware moment is in the climax. She sings 

Skip the drama
Stay with Mama
Moooooooooother Knows Best. 

"Skip the drama," sings the drama queen with total flamboyance. That's rich. Mother Gothel is laughing at her own killing joke even while sliding into the next witty lyric.

Murphy records Gothel's voiceLater while bargaining with her daughter about a trip, she drops the comedy for more earthbound familiar parent/child friction but Murphy's still working it like it's her big showstopping song and the spotlight is on. "Enough with the lights," she yells with scary force at her persistent daughter (Dangerous Villain) having reached her breaking point.  "Great now I'm the bad guy" she sighs, collapsing with self-deluding comedy (Selfish Bitch). Rapunzel switches gears herself in response and wants a different gift. "And what is that?" Murphy says with genuine inquisitiveness peaking through her annoyance (Exhaustive Single Parent). Murphy doesn't oversell this last line at all, though she might have. The actress is softening with the character so your attention can flow back to Rapunzel, who is trying her hand at the manipulation game from her mother who knows it best.

Murphy's spoken dialogue is as musically fluid and emotionally incisive as her singing is dramatically and comedically assured.  This is why you cast already great musical stars in musicals, Hollywood! They sing beautifully even when they're just acting and they act dramatically even when their voices are carrying a melody.

Murphy Done Best.   

.

For more supporting actress write-ups see StinkyLulu's 5th annual Supporting Actress blog-a-thon

 

Sunday
Jan092011

Like, WHOA. The Queeniest of Queens

WHOA! a.k.a. Weekly History of Oscar / Awardage
New series? Maybe. Why do I need gimmicky acronyms? I know not.

Jan 9th the first flight of the Avro Lancaster (no relation to Burt) took place in World War II in 1941. This famous plane, the most successful of British bombers, later had a starring role in The Dam Busters (1955) with Richard Todd in the cockpit. The film was Oscar nominated for Best Visual Effects and supposedly inspired the Death Star climax of Star Wars (see video comparison below). Peter Jackson was prepping a remake in 2009 but obvs The Hobbit (2012) has taken over his life.


Jan 10th Youth sensation Sal Mineo, the youngest two-time Oscar nominated male actor (honored for Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Exodus (1960) by the time he was 22), was born on this day in in 1939. You can see his Rebel screen test with James Dean and Natalie Wood above (such amazing trio chemistry). Love that movie.

After the jump, the first Oscars, Cate Blanchett and Pixar...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan082011

Podcast: "You Haven't Seen The Last of Us" Pt. 2

You listened to Part One already, right?

PART TWO (23 min)
Topics Include:

  • Why is 127 Hours still falling like a rock?
  • Will there be a surprise nominee Best Pic nominee? If so, what?
  • Deep thoughts about the rise of James Franco
  • Art Direction & Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland, Inception
  • Nick predicts an Oscar night Black Swan gag from Anne Hathaway
  • Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, Hans Zimmer, Trent Reznor, Daft Punk?
  • Debra Granik and Best Director
  • "Hip Young Directors" Chris Nolan, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky
  • Burlesque

Podcast: You Havent Seen Pt 2

Saturday
Jan082011

Podcast: "You Haven't Seen The Last of Us" Pt. 1

Consider this a reboot. A retooled second (third?) season, if you will. With a brand new website, awesome technical support (aside from blog import issues -- still working on it -- Squarespace has been a dream thus far), and the countdown to Oscar, it's time for the lost podcast to return home.

Katey, Joe and Nick have returned to help me kick off this year's audio Oscar-madness. Having been quiet for too long, our conversation spilleth over. Second part coming up shortly.

PART ONE (40 min)
Topics include:

  • the rebirth, the return, general silliness
  • Katey's Top Ten List and the drama and trauma of sculpting them
  • Rabbit Hole the actors, the screenplay, the direction
  • Helena Bonham-Carter escapes from Tim Burton (in the movies)
  • Hailee Steinfeld's stacked deck in True Grit (which category?)
  • Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
  • Golden Globe zaniness and the Precursor Police
  • Matt Damon over and underappreciated.

Podcast "You Haven't Seen" Pt 1