Oscar History

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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Handmaid's Tale ep 1 & 2

"Margaret Atwood's novel is superb. If this is half as good, it will be great!" - Marcelo

"My one concern is how much of the novel is covered so quickly. Even in the first episode, they pulled a lot of events from the middle of the novel right in there to establish the universe. The pacing works onscreen, but what are they going to have left to cover by episode 9 and 10?." - Robert


Betty Buckley (Split)
Michael O'Shea (The Transfiguration)
Filmmakers (Cézanne and I)
Melissa Leo (Most Hated Woman in America)
Ritesh Batra (Sense of an Ending)

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Baby, I Was Linked This Way

Pop Sugar gets a first look at Leonardo DiCaprio, Judi Dench and Armie Hammer suited up for Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar (pictured left). I'd embed it here but it's one of those annoying videos that starts itself and that won't do. Computers must be silent until they are asked to speak. Don't you agree?

Nicole's Magic explains the reason Nicole Kidman isn't in Just Go With It's marketing campaign (spoilery).
Gallery of the Absurd
"commemorates" Lindsay Lohan's latest criminal activity.
The New York Times' dance critic reviews Black Swan. I'm so burnt out on Black Swan right now but this is a good read. Like this

It goes out of its way to contradict the old escapist idea that “everything’s beautiful at the ballet.” Instead it takes energy from the aspects of ballet that are cruel and unfair. Let’s not pretend, however, that those aspects don’t exist.

The Browser Speaking of... Here's a different type of article, Darren Aronofsky talking about his 5 favorite filmmaking books.
Movie|Line regarding that time Anne Heche turned down Speed. WHAAAA? Sorry I l-o-v-e Anne Heche and she does not have the career I long for her to have despite being a unique screen presence and fine actress. Damn you Hollywood, damn you!

Black Voices shares a recent controversial statement about black women and Oscars and extrapolates on that. I find this type of discussion fascinating but whenever people use Oscar nominations and wins to paint broad strokes I always want to school them a little on Oscar history in general. I know I paint with broad strokes sometimes, too, so I sympathize. But take this note for example.

Sure, Halle Berry and Monique won their awards because they played roles that Hollywood is incredibly comfortable with: black women yelling, screaming and suffering without makeup. But, it's not just white Hollywood. We're all incredibly comfortable with miserable black women. I call it pain porn.

I 100% agree that Oscar rewards things they are comfortable with.

But one could make an argument that it's not that Oscar loves seeing black women in pain, it's that Oscar loves seeing women in pain. Dramatic suffering has always been the easiest way to an Oscar. Look at your entire Best Actress lineup this year. They're all white, sure. They're also all suffering. The least tearful woman in the lineup (Jennifer Lawrence) is a tough one, but she also gets beat up and shunned by her own kin. And when she's not in pain porn, she's in poverty porn. (Poverty porn, like pain porn, is not about race with Oscar.) Was Annette Bening nominated this year because she ably conveyed boredom and confusion about her marriage and hilarious cluelessness about what emotions her children were logging? No. I bet you anything she was nominated because when tears welled up in her eyes and she asked her lying wife "did you take a nap, too?" you could feel the sting of betrayal and the disorienting fresh magnitude of her pain. Ever notice how many Oscar clips are people screaming, yelling and suffering? The bulk of them! The same is true for the men (albeit to a lesser degree)

Is that my daughter in theerrrrrrrrrrre?!!!???

But mostly I wanted to say something about this because to disparage Mo'Nique's win is to shun one of the best performances of the modern era. The last time I saw someone dig that deep and find that much humanity inside someone doing monstrous things was... um... I'm not sure that I have. I bow down to Mo'Nique's actressing. If someone doesn't give her another meaty movie role soon, we are all the poorer for it.

Off Cinema Break
Do you like Lady Gaga's new song "Born This Way?"

I'm not sure that I do. I have no doubt it'll work for the dancefloor but as a stand-alone pop melody? Sorry for my gay heresy. You can have the toaster back.


Curio: Just Go With This 

Alexa here.  With Adam Sandler making the rounds promoting another bit of schlock for Valentine's Day (dragging poor Jen Aniston and our Nicole into the mess), I have to celebrate another Sandler performance: Punch Drunk Love.  PT Anderson's giddy, violent screwball romance inspired me to make this valentine.  And every time I see a clip of Jen and Adam mugging for the camera in Hawaii I'll think instead of Lena and Barry's odd Hawaiian love scene.  

My Punch Drunk valentine.

Barry: I'm lookin' at your face and I just wanna smash it. I just wanna fuckin' smash it with a sledgehammer and squeeze it. You're so pretty. 

Lena: I want to chew your face, and I want to scoop out your eyes and I want to eat them and chew them and suck on them.

Barry: Okay. This is funny. This is nice.


RCL: London Film Critics Circle

I know you. I know what you woke up thinking. "Yeah, yeah, The Social Network won another Best Picture prize at the latest awards ceremony but WHAT WAS RUTH SHEEN WEARING?!?" As the resident eccentric (crazy cat lady?) of awards blogs, we shall provide the answer. 

We will also talk about the winners, but first the Actresses . (Photos repurposed from Zimbio for our Red Carpet Lineup pleasure.)

Thomas, Williams, Pike, Manville, Sheen

Kristin Scott Thomas wore what looks like leopard print and she does get a little animalistic in her sex scenes (have any of you seen Leaving?). Despite her primal force and sexiness onscreen in her 50s, this dress is a smidge dowdy (looks better with the jacket off). In brighter news, they claim her career tribute acceptance speech was quite amusing.

Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike wore form fitting black and white respectively. Onscreen Olivia always seems dangerous and Pike like a heavenly angel (Made in Dagenham) even when she's a devilishly decadent (An Education) so it seems right.

Another Year's Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen also showed in black gowns (I love Sheen's shimmery wrap). I have a bone to pick with Sony Pictures Classics. I don't understand what they did with Another Year at all. It's like they weren't even trying and sometimes they try very hard with worthy adult-friendly movies. But barely releasing it and waiting until everyone was all obsessed with noisy Christmas blockbusters? Bizarre non-strategy if they were hoping to get people interested. Wouldn't September have been a nice spot for a melancholy four seasons Mike Leigh film?

Oh the winners?
Yes yes...

Film The Social Network
British Film The King's Speech
Foreign Film Of Gods and Men
Director  David Fincher, The Social Network
British Director Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Breakthrough British Filmmaker Gareth Edwards, Monsters
Screenplay Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Actress Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
British Actress Lesley Manville, Another Year
Actor Colin Firth, The King's Speech
British Actor Christian Bale, The Fighter (
British Supporting Actor Andrew Garfield, The Social Network 
British Supporting Actress Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer 
Young British Performer Conor McCarron, NEDs

Wouldn't it be HILARIOUS if American film prizes started divvying up their prizes like "Best American Film" and "Best Picture" wouldn't the nominees all be the same since America loves itself so much?

About the winners: The only title/person I'm unfamiliar with is NEDs. Any British readers want to let us know if McCarron was worthy of the honor? Annette Bening wasn't present. Busy season. You can't be everywhere. Aaron Sorkin picked up all four of The Social Network's trophies. Was Andrew Garfield too busy web-swinging or something?

BAFTAs are Sunday. They are broadcast tape-delayed here in America. 8 PM EST on BBC America so by the time they air, we'll already know the winners. But I so prefer to find out while watching! I haven't yet decided how to cover it due to this time lapse. Any suggestions?


Anne & James Lifting Oscars... And Spirits? 

Should baby kittens, cupcakes and dimples be getting nervous, phoning their publicists? James Franco & Anne Hathaway continue to make bold claims to a future shake up of the Cute Hierarchy! In their latest Oscar promo they go right on suggesting that on Oscar night they'll be dazzling us with fizzy bff chemistry and (if we're lucky) contemporary screwball energy.

James: We took some photos.
...with statues!
We held some Oscars.
Anne: We held Oscars. It's heavy.
James: It's really heavy. It's really heavy.
Anne: It's really heavy. It feels important though.

Hathaway plans to break a toenail. Here's the latest promo.


Distant Relatives: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Kids Are All Right

Robert here, with my series Distant Relatives, where we look at two films, (one classic, one modern) related through a common theme and ask what their similarities and differences can tell us about the evolution of cinema.

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command

The relationship between art and social change is one open to debate, with some people believing that art is essential to such change and others believing that its influence is non-existant or minimal at best. Still, as society continues its constant march forward, we can disagree about whether great art can effect it, while perhaps agreeing that the best art often reflects it, becoming a statement of what it meant to be in a certain time and place while touching upon deeper human truths that elevate it to the realm of timeless. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Kids Are All Right are two films from two different times in American history that deal with the changing definition of marriage. Both are domestic dramas. Both find their conflict by indroducing an unfamiliar outsider into a comfortable family atmosphere. But each handles the social issue at their center differently, the prior attempting to effect it, the latter to reflect it.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is the tale of a stalwart, liberal, San Francisco couple (Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn) whose stalwart liberalism is challanged when their daughter brings home her new fiance, a brilliant, black man (perfect in that he is Sidney Poitier, imperfect for that same reason). Director Stanley Kramer, a great craftsman who never met a social issue he couldn't direct the hell out of, fills the next two hours with a series of soul searching debates, safe revelations, long speeches, and a delightful scene where Tracy gets into a fender bender with a black driver while trying to procure himeself some comfort ice cream. "Thirty or forty bucks, that's how much" says the other driver when asked the approximate cost of fixing his car. And so it is, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a film of its time.
The Kids Are All Right tells of a long standing lesbian couple, Nic (Annette Benign) and Jules (Julianne Moore) whose family is thrown into chaos when their kids bring their own guest to dinner. In this case, it's the man whose sperm is responsible for both youngsters. Played by Mark Ruffalo as a free spirited man of the earth, Paul's intrusion is dangerous as a disruption of a family unit already fragile from nothing more than the emotional comings and goings of every day life. In a series of events that involve less pontificating than the older film, Paul comes to represent an individual escape for each family member, something new, exciting, refreshing, as they come to mean the same for him.


Tell me who are you?

While both films purport to begin from a place of viewer sympathy, traditional (whatever that means) married couples will find more in common with Nic and Jules than Dinner's Matt and Christina Dreyton. Matt is a newspaper publisher. Christina runs an art gallery. Their daughter Joey is studying in Hawaii when she meets Poitier's John Prentice. They are clearly the creme de la creme of society. Their lives, until the introduction of John are pretty perfect. Contrastly Nic and Jules are at a point in their marriage where their love for each other, while clearly evident, is starting to be overshadowed by the little annoyances, work stresses, and two teenage kids who are, as teenagers tend to do, struggling to find their places in the world. The fact that Nic and Jules are lesbians, while essential to the story, is also almost beside the point. Their family is your family.  

Guess who's Coming to Dinner casts the viewer in the role of the All-American white family who must deal with change when it shows up at their doorstep. The Kids Are All Right casts the viewer as the unconventional family with two matriarchs who must deal when the All-American man (what is Paul but a modern cowboy with a motorcycle instead of a horse?) shows up at their door. According to both films, if you’re of the family’s young generation, you’re likely to embrace or even introduce the change. If you’re parental but romantic, you’ll come around quickly, but if you’re stoic and cynical, you’ll take far more convincing.

We got this solid love

This casting speaks loudly to each films’ motives. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a persuasive piece. It wants to change your mind and suffers from it. The film creates a number of devices to funnel every conflict into the interracial message issue. Included in this are the aformentioned beatification of Poitier’s character, his refusal to marry without the Dreytons’ consent, the short amount of time he and Joey have known each other (1 week -- drama!), Joey’s willingness to define herself only in terms of his wife (“and when we’re married, I’m going to be important too,” she says), and their impending departure to marry (that evening). Now, over forty years later when the interracial marriage element is a non issue, all of these, combined with the fact that Poitier is closer in age to his fiancee’s parents than hers, linger as genuine issues that you wish the characters would be reasonable to address. The film still stands as a slice of time and place but has cornered itself out of any larger universal context.
The Kids Are All Right is different. There’s no attempt here to manufacture drama. If the film does anything to make a persuasive argument for gay marriage it's by presenting Nic and Jules and their family as likable, flawed, realistic, capable of surviving great challanges but not without great effort. But generally the film seems disinterested in dignifying the debate by becoming piece of propaganda. The final statement seems to be one in favor of the strong bond of family. Only those who put in the hard work can be a part. So there is another common theme between the films, they are both strongly and progressively pro-family.

The final similarity between these two films (and by means of feeling I've been a little too hard on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) is a great cast, a collection of fantastic performances, filmmakers who, whatever their motives, have a clear and great empathy and understanding of their characters, and a general sense that life is measured in dinnertimes, when everyone gathers around in anticipation of joy, drama, food and family.


Yes, No, Maybe So: "X-Men: First Class"

The trailer has arrived.

Travel back in time with me to the late 70s. Yes, I know the movie we're about to discuss takes place in the early 60s. But I wasn't alive yet and neither were many of you. Wee Nathaniel was alive in the 1970s (shut up!). Jump forward to Christmas 1979. In Nathaniel's Christmas stocking, the greatest gift he'd known until that time: The Uncanny X-Men #129. He tore through the pages, died right on the spot from joy and went to heaven. The End.

The point is this: no matter how many bad superhero movies may come, no matter how glutted the superhero genre becomes at the movies, no matter how many bad X-Movies arrive (Hi, X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. You suck!) Nathaniel will always be susceptible to Charles Xavier and the School For Gifted Youngsters. He will always hope that the movies will ever capture the magic of those first comic books. He will always be glad that Bryan Singer's X-2 (the second or third best superhero movie ever made) nearly managed it in a few scenes.

To this point the X-Men movie series has ignored The Hellfire Club, who were all introduced in this very (personally sacred) issue that changed my young life. I was a junkie thereafter for mutants, comic books, and spectacularly-bodied superheroines like Storm & Phoenix and spectacularly-bodied ice queens like Emma Frost, The White Queen. Kitty Pryde was also introduced in this movie but she was only 13. (Even then I preferred the older ladies. Storm and Phoenix were probably only 20 or something but to me that was ADULT. anyway.... reign it in. geezus!

This time the movies are going there, Emma Frost (January Jones) and all.

X-Men: First Class trailer and further anxiety after the jump! Wheeeee

Click to read more ...


Open Thread, Oscar Topics?

With just slightly over two weeks until Oscar night, I'm wondering what golden statuesque topics y'all would like to see covered here on the blog and/or discussed on the podcast? More than most years, many of the big topics felt played out by nomination time and The Social Network vs. The King's Speech even feels worth shoving aside. That's one reason that the Melissa Leo story blew up: it didn't have a lot of competition for conversation.

What's on your mind? Don't be shy.

P.S. Over the next couple of weeks we'll also bring back the regular movie series (Hit Me With Your Best Shot, etcetera...) and move on from 2010. Nearly dunzo!