Friday, July 31, 2009

July. It's a Wrap

Just popping in to do the monthly wrap-up. Thanks again to my guest bloggers for filling in this week. I'll be back on Sunday night / Monday morning. But here were 10 highlights of July if you want to relive or peruse for anything you may have missed.

August Osage County the tour (have you bought your tickets?) and the movie. This casting thread is one of the most commented upon ever here at the Experience
Schindler's List & Mrs. Miniver Two hit WW II dramas compared and discussed
Signatures: Lisa Kudrow Adam's sharp take on her bitter comedy
Best of the Year (Thus Far) like it says
Best Actress 1987 & 1988 two extraordinary years for actressing

Broken Sword / Arm an ode to Tony Leung
(500) Days of Summer vodcast Katey thinks Summer isn't fleshed out enough. Nathaniel thinks her blank slate is appropriate for the film. Reader response varies...
Beauty Break: Catsuit rooowwr
Moore and The Bening Are All Right the most exciting movie news I'd heard in a long time. Now I'm hearing it might be a TV project (?)
Nerdy Potter Nathaniel makes the news. Not in the way he had hoped to.

Coming in August: The final few "Streep at 60" pieces, Adventureland, Inglourious Basterds, District 9, Julie & Julia, Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven, Casablanca and Going My Way and hopefully some sort of relaunch of the proper "seasons" of TFE's most popular series just in time for Fall.

Two Ladies.

Hello, Jose from "Movies Kick Ass" here. On July 31st, 1919 the Weimar Constitution was approved in the German Empire giving path to one of the most complicated eras in European history.

Weimar was a limbo of sorts between both World Wars, time during which Germany sunk in political and economical problems, but flourished culturally; Brecht, UFA, Expressionism and Bauhaus were a few of the things that came out from this period.
But thinking of a perfect way to sum up the entire history of Weimar only two people come to mind: Sally Bowles and Lola Lola.

They are the "heroines" from their respective films. Sally in "Cabaret" and Lola Lola in "The Blue Angel".
They are linked by their profession (cabaret performers/aspiring actresses), their exuberant sex appeal and their love of divine decadence.

But beyond the obvious comparisons (it's obvious that Lola and UFA films inspired Christopher Isherwood who wrote the book "Cabaret" is based upon...) there is something fascinating about how both these women embody Weimar history.
Sally and Lola take special pleasure in luxurious goods. One fur coat in "Cabaret" goes through all the phases of hyperinflation; first it becomes an almost guilt-inducing device of desire and consequentially turns into a life saving object covering her medical expenses.

Then there's the whole issue of how cabarets blossomed amidst the upcoming political chaos brewing with the Nazi party.
Isherwood, who wrote about homosexual experiences from autobiographical facts, came to Berlin because being gay was still illegal in his home country.
Sally in "Cabaret" is involved in a love triangle with two other men who also have feelings for each others.

Sex got so out of control in Weimar that a law was passed forbidding pornography. This whole issue in fact triggers the plot in "The Blue Angel" as a bitter professor (Emil Jannings) visits a cabaret to prevent his students from visiting it.

Sally and Lola became iconic characters for the actresses who portrayed them, but more than that they should be seen as fascinating representations of history through different eyes. Lola was a portrait of her times, Sally is a postmodernist vision.

Interestingly enough the very nature of their professions announces their eventual cinematic relevance; the word "cabaret" comes from the Latin "camera" (which means "small room") which later gave name to the photographic device.
If their whole history is contained in something as elemental as a word, then a line from "The Blue Angel" sums up the way in which the characters' incite public reaction.
"You've got a false conception of your profession" says someone to Lola. He might as well have been talking about the way the modern world has come to perceive Weimar.

Fancying Hugh Dancy

It's Nathaniel (not quite back yet) just popping in to point you to this week's Towleroad column in which I swoon for Hugh Dancy despite having insufficient interest in his new picture, Adam.

Have you seen the shameless TV spot for the movie? It opens by declaring him an Oscar contender for Best Actor and then cuts immediately to Adam explaining that he has Asperger's Syndrome. Way to sell stereotypes, marketing team. "Watch this movie! Mental disorders = Oscar Gold!"

In real life Hugh Dancy is still hooked up with Claire Danes. In the movie he's fallen for Rose Byrne (sans Glenn Close). But in my dreamworld he's still macking on Patrick Wilson -- the most exciting moment in Evening (2007) by an incalculably large margin -- or having threesomes with Julianne Moore or...

What? Shut up.


JA from MNPP here, hitting up Nat's recurring series again:

First and Last ~ the first image after the opening credits
and the last image before the end titles:

Can you name the movie?

Highlight for the answer if you can't guess: GREMLINS (1984)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Denis, Rivette, and Moore!: Venice Lineup Announced

Robert here, noticing that the Venice Film Festival announced the lineup for it's 66th installment on Thursday. Here's the in-competition list, with a few bits I managed to find about each film.

Baaria (Opening Film) dir. Giuseppe Tornatore
The director of Cinema Paradiso gives us a three-generation spanning epic about his Italian hometown.

Soul Kitchen dir. Fatih Akin (pictured)
Akin directed the terrific Head-On and The Edge of Heaven (if you haven't seen either or both, do now). He re teams with Birol Unel from Head-On for a comedy about culture and gender clash.

La Doppia Ora dir. Giuseppe Capotondi
It's been tough finding information on this as Venice's website (nor IMDb) has much at the moment. I can tell tell you is that it's a freshman effort, it's Italian, and it's fun to say... La Doppio Ora!

Yi ngoi (Accident) dir. Cheang Pou-Soi
A Hong Kong crime film about a policeman getting in too deep as he attempts to take down an Assassins gang.

Persecution dir. Patrice Chereau
The newest film from the director of Queen Margot and Intimacy is a tumultuous love story. No word on whether there will be explicit scenes but it stars Charlotte Gainsbourg so a man can dream can't he?

Lo Spazio Bianco (White Space) dir. Francesca Comencini
This Italian film deals with the tenuous empty time (ala white space) a mother spends between the premature birth of her baby and its removal from an incubator.

White Material dir. Claire Denis
While us Denis fans in the states are still anticipating her last movie 35 Rhums, she's moved onto her next. This one stars Isabelle Huppert and Isaak de Bankole and involves a French coffee grower in Africa during a time of great conflict. Those unfamiliar with Denis probably shouldn't expect any action sequences.

Mr. Nobody dir. Jaco van Dormael (pictured)
Here's a film about a 120 year old man who is the last mortal living in a world of immortals. I'm already sold. Jared Leto and Sarah Polley star.

A Single Man dir. Tom Ford
Ford's first film stars Colin Firth as a gay college professor dealing with the death of his lover. Julianne Moore also stars. I smell lots and lots of potential.

Lourdes dir. Jessica Hausner
Hasuner's films have been staples on the festival circuits (though still relatively unknown among wider audiences). Lourdes (which will also play Toronto) is about a wheelchair-bound woman who, wouldn't you know it, travels to Lourdes in the hope of a miracle.

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of New Orleans dir. Werner Herzog
Nicolas Cage stars as a wild flailing police lieutenant who totters on the edge of sanity... as directed by Werner Herzog. This will either be a horrible disaster or a fantastic disaster, or a total masterpiece. It'll certainly be something.

The Road dir. John Hillcoat
Remember back when Esquire called this the most important film of the year? We'll soon see.

Ahasin Wetei (Between Two Worlds) dir. Vimukhti Jayasundara
I look forward to finding out more about this film from award-winning short director Jayasundara. Meanwhile, here's a picture of him at some event with Miranda July. Cool.

El Mosafer (The Traveller) dir. Ahmed Maher
Word is, Maher's been trying to make this project his entire career. It's described as: "Set in three different time periods, “El Mosafer” traces the life of one man over three days in three different years: 1948 in Suez, 1973 in Alexandria and 2001 in Cairo."[src] I figured no paraphrasing of mine could do better.

Levanon (Lebanon) dir. Samuel Maoz
A semi-autobiographical picture about four soldiers at the start of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Capitalism: A Love Story dir. Michael Moore (pictured)
Unfortunately there's not much on the internet about either this film or director. Apparently he's a documentarian of some sort who people don't feel strongly about one way or the other. Seriously though if Moore's latest is like the rest of his films it stands to be controversial, sad, and true (mostly).

Zanan-e-bedun-e mardan (Women Without Men) dir. Shirin Neshat
Neshat is an acclaimed photographer whose been delving into film recently. Her latest is about a group of women who band together to form their own personal rural utopia.

Il Grande Sogno (The Big Dream) dir. Michele Placido
This film is set in 1968. I wish I could have found more than that. It's Italian and despite what Quentin Tarantino might have you believe, that country has been turning out some really good cinema lately.

36 Vues Du Pic Saint Loup dir. Jacques Rivette
Rivette's latest is a biopic about author Raymond Roussel. And considering it's Rivette behind the wheel, I'm guessing it's not your standard biopic.

Life During Wartime dir. Todd Solondz
Solondz's new movie has been described as a "dark comedy of sexual obsession" [src] and a companion piece to Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse. Solondz fans should be excited... hooray for sexual obsession!

Tetsuo The Bullet Man dir. Shinya Tsukamoto (pictured)
This is the third film in Tsukamoto's underground cyberpunk Tetsuo film series. I can't personally claim to have seen any of them but know that the first, Tetsuo The Iron Man is about a man who finds himself transforming into metal. I'm told it's weird... in a good way.

Lei wangzi (Prince of Tears) dir. Yonfan
Chinese director Yonfan gives us an exploration of friendship between four individuals in socially unresty 1960's Taiwan.

Hopefully that spread some interest around, and my apologies for the more sketchy summaries.

Tree Paint.

Hello! Jose from "Movies Kick Ass" here. History has always been kinder to those who excel at "firsts" and the Disney studio has an impeccable record in such achievements (even when they come in the shape of fact manipulation and corporate machinations).

Today, we commemorate another of Disney's "firsts", on July 30th, 1932, the short animated film "Flowers and Trees" debuted at Sid Graummann's Chinese Theater, opening for "Strange Interlude" starring Clark Gable. The Disney short however had the distinction of being the first animated film to be shot in the three-strip Technicolor process.

As with everything pertaining to the Disney studio at the time, this project once again almost left the studio completely broke. The film was being made in black and white, but Disney had it cancelled and they began working on the color version from scratch. Three strip Technicolor was an expensive endeavor and very few people at the time would've tried it on something like animation.

But Walt Disney was a visionary and a great businessman and not only secured the Technicolor procedure for his studio's "Silly Symphonies" (which prevented rivals from delivering the richness of color he could) he also won an Academy Award for the movie and his influence in history also managed for us to usually think of this as the first time color was used in an animated film.

That honor in fact belongs to "The Debut of Thomas Cat" made in the 1920s by Earl Hurd, who used the Brewster color process. Sadly the film is almost impossible to find and "Flowers and Trees", while remaining a wonderful piece of history, now is usually showered with undeserving landmarks.

All of which makes me wonder...has anyone actually seen that Clark Gable movie?

Ingmar and Mike

Two years ago today death came for Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. Robert here, thinking back on the day when my two favorite living directors both died. Two men who had a huge impression on me. It was as a young budding movie lover that Bergman and Antonioni taught me how film could be more than popcorn entertainment... it could be art.

Of course one has to admit that Bergman and Antonioni are eternally entwined with the bad name that "art film" sometimes has... and for pretty good reason. After all, Ingmar Bergman directed an entire trilogy on God's silence. Antonioni directed an entire trilogy about the impossibility of love. What do you mean people think art films are needlessly depressing?

And so the reputation of the art film goes: If you want a good time... watch something else.

Still Bergman and Antonioni never really deserved that reputation. The Seventh Seal has always been more fun than people give it credit for (Andrew O'Hehir posted a nice article about it a little while back). And while Antonioni might fill your head with existential longing, he'll throw in a groundbreaking threesome scene to fill your eyes with too.

The films of Bergman and Antonioni aren't bowls full of laughs but these masters had such a good hold on the medium that I dare any cinema lover to watch them and not feel moments of pure joy. How can you not gasp in amazement when silent actress Liv Ullmann is tricked into stepping on a shard of glass and finally makes a sound in Persona? How can you not be seduced by Monica Vitti slowly putting on a stocking in Red Desert? Are there many shots in cinema as entrancing as the final shot in The Passenger? Are there many moments as joyous as the rescue scene in Fanny and Alexander?

These two men already sit among the giants of cinema history. They don't need me to defend them. But too often they're relegated to just that: history. As with many who directed the "classics" they live inside university and library walls and not beyond. Mark Twain said a classic book is one which everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read. Replace "read" with "watch" and the same rule applies to the movies.

So today, three years later, do yourself a favor... watch some Bergman. Watch some Antonioni. Go ahead. You might even find yourself having a good time.


JA from MNPP here, taking yet another stab at Nat's recurring series:

First and Last ~ the first image after the opening credits
and the last image before the end titles:

Can you name the movie?

Highlight for the answer if you're stumped: It's Brian de Palma's Sisters (1973)
for all f&l puzzles, hit the label below

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hump Day Hotties: The Cast of Nine

Hello, all. Kieran here (aka the Know nothing Know it All) filling in for Nathaniel with another edition of Hump Day Hotties. I have a problem with Nine. I'm a little obsessed, but I'm trying to be guarded about my excitement. We've heard the famous “The Musical is Back!” tune many times (and to no avail) over the aughts, that one has must be guarded. For every Chicago and Moulin Rouge!, there are several Rents, Producers, Dreamgirls, Hairsprays and Sweeney Todds (in ascending order of achievement), failing to land that elusive best picture nod. A plus: Nine is helmed by the man who last took a musical all the way to the win, and is sometimes credited for bringing the musical back (even though he didn't). Regardless of how the film fares, you can't deny that the talent has talent...and hotness in spades.

Marion Cotillard

That Oscar still burns a big question mark in my brain. I'm more forgiving than some of her turn in La Vie en Rose. The movie is undeniably (and often unbelievably) awful, but I haven't decided how much of that is her fault. Still...cute as a button!

Penelope Cruz

She's on a career roll, recently capped off with a very well-deserved Oscar win. Even the trailer seems aware of how sexy she is, showing mere glimpses of her lingerie clad legs, building up to her full awesomeness, as if knowing we can't handle her all at once.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Fun fact: Didyou know that all four of Day-Lewis's Oscar nominated performances came with accompanying best picture nominations? And...he's obviously no slouch either.

Dame Judi Dench

I don't discriminate based on age. Poise, grace and style are sexy, damn it, and Dame Judi has it all. She's always delightful, even when phoning it in. I would love to see anyone try to tell Judi that she isn't sexy, and get met with a fierce “You're not young! I say this to help you.”

Nicole Kidman

I ALWAYS rush to Kidman's defense. Her celebrity often overshadows the talent. People miss what a daring risk-taker she is in her acting choices, fixating on financial flops, rather than taking notice of how bewitching she was in her non-Oscar-nominated performances such as (wait for it) Birth, Dogville, Margot at the Wedding, The Others, To Die For, The Portrait of a Lady, Eyes Wide Shut, Fur, etc. etc. etc. And I can't wait to hear her sing again

Sophia Loren

One of the few international symbols of sexiness. She is legendary and has herself said that “Sex appeal is 50% what you've got and 50% what people think you've got.” Amen, sister.

And thus concludes my rundown of the cast members of Nine who happen to be sexy. Happy Hump Day!

Happy Birthday Clara

Robert here, thinking about the original "it" girl who'd be 103 today. What can I say... I've got a little thing for those silent cinema sirens. Styles have changed over the years but she's still a knockout!


JA from MNPP here, taking another stab at Nat's recurring series:

First and Last ~ the first image after the opening credits
and the last image before the end titles:

Can you name the movie?

Highlight for the answer if you're stuck: This is Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT (1963) for all puzzles, click the label below

Which movie... you recommend to cure insomnia?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Goomba Approved

Robert here with a quick news bit courtesy of the A.V. Club. Turns out the old-school video game Castlevania will be getting the feature film treatment. James Wan (who directed Saw) is almost on-board. And Steven Paul, who produced Baby Geniuses and Bratz is in charge of production.

It appears that the video-game-adaptation streak of "0" for howevermany will stand. Hooray! But enough depressing news. Let's pretend that it's actually possible to make a good video game adaptation. Which game do you fantasize about seeing on the big screen as a quality movie? Do you want to see Keira Knightley as Zelda? Are you dying to see Kate Beckinsale play Samus? Have you been holding out hope for Danny DeVito as Pac-Man? What details have you imagined? You know you have.

Then when you're done posting your suggestions, check out this bit that Rotten Tomatoes did a little while back, suggesting the perfect directors for hypothetical video game movies.


JA from MNPP here, taking a stab at Nat's recurring series:

First and Last ~ the first image after the opening credits
and the last image before the end titles.

Can you name the movie?

Highlight for the answer: Roman Polanski's REPULSION (1965) for more click the label below

Monday, July 27, 2009

Underrating Rita.

Hello, Jose from "Movies Kick Ass" here with something that's been bugging me since I watched "Separate Tables" last week. The film features an altogether impressive cast with the likes of David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Gladys Cooper, Burt Lancaster and Wendy Hiller among others. But the one who made the greatest impression on me was the incredible Rita Hayworth. She plays Ann Shankland, an American social climber/seductress who comes to the hotel where the film takes place, looking for her ex-husband John (Lancaster).

In a few scenes, most of which feature long silences, Hayworth creates a character with a fascinating backstory. One that's more interesting because it's only suggested (her backstory might vary from viewer to viewer). Most of the time Hayworth slips quietly in the back, partly because her character's "questionable morals" force her to and partly because she's overshadowed by bigger "actors" who shout, acquire funny accents and succumb to deglam (Kerr particularly who is in full "Ugly Betty" mode).

I was not surprised to discover that out of the three performers that got nominated for Oscars for this movie (Kerr and eventual winners Niven and Hiller) Hayworth was nowhere to be found, what did upset me was realizing that in her entire career Hayworth didn't receive a single nomination! Yes, not for "The Lady from Shanghai", neither for "Blood and Sand" and most shockingly not for "Gilda" where she creates one of the most iconic performances in film history (and performs in what I think is the sexiest scene of all time).

After wondering what prevented her from being recognized for her acting, the most obvious conclusion was that she was ignored because her acting never required her to stop being beautiful. Several other actresses have endured that same "curse" (Marilyn Monroe comes instantly to mind) where their beauty overshadows (or overlights?) their talent and they are forced to submit themselves to Academy regulations of what acting should be about.
Some succumb (Grace Kelly and almost everyone who's won Best Actress this decade are obvious examples) but people like Hayworth only continued to grow more beautiful, and better, with every single performance.

This weird AMPAS standard is best summarized in a line from "Separate Tables" where John tells Ann "The very sight of you is perhaps the one thing about you I don't hate." If only the same were true for their appraisal of talent.

Comic Pros and Comic-Cons

Robert here. If you're like me and regularly scour the web for movie news you've no doubt noticed that it's Comic-Con time of year. What's Comic-Con? It's a convention celebrating comics, fantasy, sci-fi, and other facets of geekdom. It's also an opportunity for elusive comic-loving women to wear skimpy outfits that seem far less gender reductive than the misogyny-laden ogle fest that Halloween-time has turned into. But I digress.

Comic-Con has already turned itself into a huge machine. And yet each year as it gets bigger I find myself caring less. I assume this is because of my tree hugging, corporate hating, hippie tendencies. But perhaps something else. After all, pretty much every Comic-Con feature this past week, including Avatar footage, Alice In Wonderland features and an Iron Man 2 panel seems like the sort of thing I'd be up for. So why don't I care? Comic-Con has gotten very little coverage here at The Film Experience so I assume some of you are with me.

Perhaps what's really being signaled by the growth of Comic-Con is that strange often unholy marriage between popular culture and geek culture. It's a marriage of convenience to be sure. Hollywood gets great publicity and the geeks get a whole convention (okay, one of many) dedicated to their salivations. Big studios want to appeal to this rabid fan base but also reach a larger audience. And yet, when it comes to blockbusters the rabid fan base is the larger audience no? Aren't the over-aggressive bullies who make fun of those buried in Batman comics in middle-school the same people who turned The Dark Knight into a box office phenomenon and now over-aggressively defend themselves when I suggest it's not the greatest movie ever (oh god, let's not open up that wound again.)

Four of the top five grossing films this year are sci-fi or fantasy. Last year it was all five. The year before that it was all five. The year before that... you understand. It's not surprising that Comic-Con has become big commercial (thought I suppose what is any convention if not a commercial?) I still wonder, who is the target audience? Considering we're talking about the most financially successful genre of the past 20 years, it's everyone. Comic fans, movie fans, movie and comic fans. Great! Then why do so few of us care?

Or am I wrong?  Do you care?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

(500) Days of Summer Vodcast Review

Day (2) of my vacation and I'm still working. I totally forgot to upload the latest vodcast with Katey. I was in Jersey this weekendand she was in San Diego for Comic-Con. But by the magic of my forgetfulness and technology and non-linear chronologies here we are together talking up (500) Days for you. So here it is...

If you've seen the movie at this point, we'd love to hear your opinions. Do you share Katey's mild reservations or did you fall for it (mostly) wholesale like me?

Tour de Gyllenhaal? Tour de Stiller? Tour de Damon?

This is RC from StrangeCultureBlog with some scoops from the Tour de France.

Okay, so I'm not at the Tour, and am scoopless.

Today, the Tour de France ended with Lance Armstrong's return to the race after retiring with seven consecutive wins in 2005. In his return, he came in 3rd behind Astana teammate Alberto Contador.

Since at least 2006 there were Jake Gyllenhaal stalkers and rumors flying about Jake playing the part of Lance Armstrong in a biopic. In 2006 I did a post on my own blog including pictures of Gyllenhaal biking.

The rumors have continued that there would be this Lance Armstrong biopic and that Gyllenhaal is being considered for the part.

Although, since then new names have been added to the list, primarily Matt Damon and Ben Stiller.

Other names I've heard include Chris Pine and Robert Pattinson, but I can't see either of those sticking.

Although three years older, part of me would like to see Daniel Craig "go-American" and play this role, as I think he could have the looks and the right vibe, although if the biopic tells a story of a younger Lance, then maybe it's just out of Craig's range.

Who do you think could nail this role? Gyllenhaal? Stiller? Damon? Someone else?

And what'll this story be about, sports victory, marital difficulties, or thriving in the midst of cancer treatment?

Maybe they were waiting to see if he'd win today his return to Tour and tell an underdog story. I suppose that won't work out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Business as Unusual

As mentioned last week, I've reentered the corporate world for the time being, leaving the writing / movie watching time even scarcer than usual. Next week is crazy for me there in that world and in the free hours I need some time to regroup, recharge my creative battery, look for more freelance writing work like my Towleroad gig, plan ahead for the fall film season and get through a few articles that are stumping me (yikes... even when I'm on "vacation" I'm not really on "vacation"). So starting tomorrow I'll be one of you, reading along and commenting. Adam, Robert and JA who you already know will be here and Jose, Kieran and RC will also be stopping by.

Hearty hugs, grateful applause and beautiful cross dissolves to the guest bloggers. Please enjoy their posts and keep being your frequently commenting movie-loving selves. I'll be back in a week.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Signatures: Uma Thurman

Adam of Club Silencio here with another look at my favorite actresses and their distinguishing claims to fame.

[Note: Adam and I arrived at our Uma fixation independently this week so I saved his post a couple of days. That was probably unnecessary because is there such a thing as too much UMA? -Nathaniel]

Revenge might be a dish best served cold, but Uma Thurman manages to give it plenty of warmth -- even as she spends her comas and college years cleverly biding her time. Often she plays women whose traumatic experiences have forced her to inflict some trauma, but there's always a vulnerability to her vigilante justice. Even a Black Mamba can suffer hysterical blindness.

Her dynamite showcase in Kill Bill trails her from badass Bride to Beatrix Kiddo, and none of that hard-fought bloodshed would be worth it without Uma's sentimental side. It both softens and strengthens the blow -- like a kick to the throat while you're choking on emotion. It's no wonder Quentin Tarantino designed this epic specifically for Uma from head to (wiggle your) big toe. Uma's strength isn't just in her physicality but in the aches she exudes elsewhere. It's one thing to cheer on her carnage-laden comeuppance, but Uma's ass kickings pick up where so many exploitation films leave off. Her vengeance is gained by the loss she demonstrates so clearly and feels so believably. An avenging mother, a confidant betrayed; the film compares her fittingly to a lioness and her cub. Tender yet savage. Uma roars and rampages, and we get bloody satisfaction.

Uma's a powerhouse even without a sword and a list of names. Take her turn as Amy in the underseen Tape, in which an alleged rape in her high school past is verified on tape and brings about her powerplay and chance for resolve ten years later. Mind games and verbal manipulation are as potent as poison. It's the perfect means for revenge... and less messy. As Amy states in the film, "...If you're truly repentant, you should be willing to pay the price." It could just as easily be a quote from Kill Bill, and similarly so, Amy reasserts herself as a force to be reckoned with.

Her softer-sided characters are just as well rounded, but they too contain some hard edges. In fact they're just about square...

Mia Wallace (Pulp Fiction) and Debby Miller (Hysterical Blindness) are two of her most charismatic, sultry and endearing performances. Both characters desperately need a shot of adrenaline -- one more literally than the other. Heroin and hairspray are the drugs of choice to stave off the tedium involved in being a rich housewife or single girl in New Jersey. In their own way they are the outlaws of their respective worlds and just as vulnerable. Mia gets to play while the (psychotic) hubby's away, and Debby is used to going it alone in the down and dirty world of dating in the eighties. Even without a vengeance, these characters showcase Uma's ability to pull all the pain from a bad situation with plenty of external strength. Hunting for a dream man or a five dollar milkshake; neither seems worth the effort without Uma on hand to tap into all the misery and eventual sweetness.

Uma's gift is like the "Five Pointed Palm Exploding Heart Technique." Use subtlety, just the right amount of force, and head straight to the heart.

"Best Pictures From the Outside In" Returns

Many of you have been asking (publicly and privately) about the trifurcated Best Picture Oscar series that united Nick's Flick Picks, Goatdog's Blog and The Film Experience. Mike, Nick and I created the series together but the ball dropping was all me. I take full responsible for the unfortunate hiatus. Thanks for your patience.

Mrs. Miniver & Mr Schindler. World War II will change them both.

the series works like so: We started in early 2008 grabbing the earliest best picture winner (Wings) and comparing it to the most recent (at the time) No Country For Old Men. Then we started working inwards from both directions of Oscar's timeline. Eventually the series will conclude in the late 60s, the halfway point of Oscar's chronology. Here's a complete index of all 15 episodes (thus far) which cover the years 1928-1942 and 1993-2007. Nick is also maintaining a tournament poll of your favorites and ours so, vote.

If you want to really dive into the discussion with us and enrich your knowledge of Hollywood's grand back catalogue, consider renting the match-ups that are on the way. In a couple of weeks we'll be pairing two of Hollywood's most iconic men, Bogie & Clint for a discussion of Casablanca (1943) and Unforgiven (1992). Then it's on to Going My Way (1944) and Silence of the Lambs (1991).

But right now...

NICK: Having watched my conspirators in pleasure show such effort and ingenuity in our last two installments to put our disparate films in dialogue with each other, I get to enjoy a ready-made Oscar juxtaposition of World War II dramas: Mrs. Miniver, the first entrant from this AMPAS-beloved genre to swipe the top prize, and Schindler's List, frequently hailed as a highpoint in the Best Picture heritage. Neither film is a battlefield picture; instead, they each focalize the magnitude of the war through the expanding consciousness of the titular character, and the subversion of her or his habits of thought and action. Both were the first movies by their pedigreed, Oscar-friendly auteurs to cop the Best Picture and Best Director trophies after multiple winless nods.

Of course there are also clear markers of dissimilarity between these films and the stories they tell. Mrs. Miniver confronts the war as a crucible of combat, thrift, and social disruption at a time of siege; Schindler's List reconstructs and scrutinizes the supremacist and genocidal ethics and terrible, sometimes enforced complicities that both inspired and drew force from the Nazi war machine. Kay Miniver is a radiant paragon of noble citizenship and domestic steadfastness; Oskar Schindler is a rake and a profiteer whose unlikely emergence as an objector and protector arrives with all kinds of vagaries and caveats attached. Mrs. Miniver was not in every respect a picture that Wyler cherished; Schindler's List was self-consciously conceived, produced, and received as the technical, cultural, and moral apotheosis of Spielberg's career...


Thursday, July 23, 2009


Old Hollywood I had no idea that blooper reels existed of old black and white films. It's so weird to see Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis and Bogie flubbing their lines. It ain't right!
Victim of the Time "a half-child of Disney"
I Need My Fix alerts us to another Worth1000 contest. Check out 'Viggo by Carravaggio' among many others

Fin de Cinema France's young actor Yasmine Belmadi (Criminal Lovers, Who Killed Bambi?) dies.
Topless Robot a 12 year old girl made feature length zombie film? My god I'm so unaccomplished (sniffle)
MTV I was sick to death of hearing about Comic-Con before it even began last night but I am a sucker for James Cameron and I won't be able to resist the Avatar news. This is a 14' tall powersuit from the film.
Broadway World I'm assuming you've heard that Johnny Depp dropped the desire to portray the legendary Carol Channing into an interview recently. Channing responds
It is not a new concept to me. Not at all. Men have been imitating me for as long as I can remember. In fact, most of the impersonations I have seen have had a five o'clock shadow. I imagine, when or if Johnny should portray me, he will succeed.
While you've been reading this post, I've been sitting in a screening room watching Meryl Streep do Julia Child. More soon...

Off Cinema
Loyal K*N*G this is fun. "Fast Food Mafia" artwork
FourFour sums up Lindsay Lohan TV movie Labor Pains for you.

The Men Who Read The News

Robert here, catching up with the news that the great Walter Cronkite passed away. Sad news indeed, but it got me thinking about how that fabled job of T.V. newsman has been portrayed in cinema through the years.

Award Season of 2005 was all about Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash and the Best Actor races pitted Heath Ledger against Philip Seymour Hoffman. Lost in the fray was epically dependable character actor David Strathairn. In fact, one might say despite being the star of the film he was overshadowed by his director. When does that happen? Well, when the director is George Clooney I suppose.

Go ahead and say that Ferrell's schtick has gotten old. I won't argue. But Anchorman saw him at the height of his powers. Even my most snob-tastic friends can't help but throw down a quote or reference every once in a while. People may disagree on Ferrell but we can all agree that local news was a subject ripe for lampooning.

William Hurt as Tom Grunick and Albert Brooks as Aaron Altman in Broadcast News
What makes James L. Brooks' smart comedy about two men's ambitions for the news and the same woman so smart are the performances by Hurt and Brooks which avoid an easy good/evil dichotomy and show us the contrast between ethical ambiguity and well-meaning, sweaty genuineness.

Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace in The Insider
No one at 60 Minutes could have been happy when a movie was made about their biggest bungle, but word is, Mike Wallace was particularly infuriated that Christopher Plummer played him as a tough though somewhat self involved reporter who, when the chips are down, ultimately makes the wrong choice. But Plummer actually gives the man genuine dimensions which are hard to notice on the first viewing. Despite massive critical acclaim, he failed to land an Oscar nomination... talk about big bungles.

Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network
Everyone talks about how Network has predicted the current state of television news. But Howard Beale would be out of place among the multitude of modern talking heads, all hopelessly attempting to express the common rage since the sincerity that Finch brings to the role far surpasses the current state of TV news outrage. When he's mad as hell we believe him. We are too. This mad prophet of the airwaves is the real deal, and Finch won a well-deserved Oscar for his legendary performance.