Sunday, October 31, 2010

October. It's A Wrap.

Oh, 2010. We're just getting to know you and you're already approaching history's grave. Stay a little while longer please? Two months... give us two months. Here are a dozen Film Experience highlights from October in case you missed 'em.

Claremont & Hammerstein's "The Sound of Mutants"

Jake Gyllenhaal Speaks a revealing evening with the star. Quotes on his three key movies.
BPFTOI The popular series returned for a drive with Miss Daisy and the war heroes of The Best Years of Our Lives. This is one of my personal favorite eppys of the whole series.
Modern Maestros Robert closes off his provocative year-long series with an intense rundown of auteurs he didn't cover.
To "Snikt" or Not to "Snikt" on Darren Aronofsky and Wolverine 2
Hit Me With Your Best Shot concludes its first season with Mean Girls and Night of the Hunter.
A History of... Julie Andrews from magically gifted infant to Queen of Genovia

Oscar Scheduling I proposed an easy audience-friendly fix to boost ceremony ratings and make the public more excited about the Academy again. Alas, the powers that be don't listen and the big media dogs don't want things to change (too much revenue from the elongated season I suspect).
Foreign Film Beauty Pageant because we like pretty things
"Get Away From Ripley, You Bitches" JA ponders Sigourney Weaver and the Aliens franchise
The Dark Knight Rises Review Starter Kit Too snarky?
FYC Hell Alice in Uglyand and the Art of Self-Editing
Best Actor Babies is Jesse Eisenberg to young for Oscar's favor??

Tilda illustration by Sandro Kopp
Coming in November...

Elizabeth Taylor is "the slut of all time!", Clark Gable has a 'stache, Nathaniel goes to Iceland and Dustin Hoffman is "definitely not wearing any underpants".

We'll also have a few ginger moments with Julianne Moore and Tilda Swinton among others. What else is coming we're not sure. Things are complicated right now. We're transitioning. No, no, not like that... although November also includes the International Transgender Day of Remembrance so something on that, too.

75th: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Other the years I've been writing for The Film Experience I've realized I'm quite obsessed with chronologies and time. Stars that have been part of our rear view mirror of film history our whole lives were once fresh faces. It's a simple concept but intermittently hard to absorb. I mean, Olivia de Havilland and Mickey Rooney, two of the oldest living film stars, were once newbies! In fact, seventy-five years ago on this very weekend in 1935 the Shakespearean adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream opened, introducing the world to Olivia, than billed as de Haviland for some reason. She picked up an extra "l" shortly thereafter.

Mickey Rooney playing "Puck" at 14 years of age.

Have any of you seen it? It still looks beautiful in 2010, all black and white and shimmering; the fairy motif helps with the sparkliness.

Rooney, who'd been acting since he was 6, was already famous and his "Andy Hardy" franchise was just around the corner. I know this will read like an exceptionally odd non-sequitor, but if you get a chance to watch this movie soon, I swear that you'll have to wonder whether Leonardo DiCaprio watched this performance directly before playing What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993). I'm not saying that Puck is mentally disabled in this picture, only that there's a shocking similarity of early teenage exuberance and tree branch bounciness, paired with uninhibited squealing and odd vocalizations. (It struck me as entirely uncanny, but perhaps it's only that I watched Gilbert Grape just recently.)

When we first spot the lovely Olivia de Havilland as Hermia, she spots her love Lysander (Dick Powell). This is our endearing introduction to her.


The Greatest Halloween Moment in the History of the Movies


"RAAAAACHELLL FLAAXXXX!!!"



Cher, Christina Ricci, Mermaids (1990)

If you dare to disagree, you'd better list an inspired trick or a whopper of a treat in the comments!

Oh and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
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The Final Linkdown

My beloved bloglines -- where I subscribe to hundreds of blogs and websites in case something interesting pops up -- goes the way of the dodo tomorrow. This is the final link roundup as you've come to know (and love / be indifferent to). I'm taking this opportunity to rethink my web reading and start from scratch in terms of what I "follow" since I spend too much time surfing, skimming, reading, wandering. Not that I won't keep sharing things that amuse me. Question: Would you like the Film Experience to have more frequent tiny-ass posts to cover a broad range of news and topics or do you enjoy the major compilations where everything gets smooshed together like so?


The Film Pie has an interesting "inside movie journalism" story about being the 'first' review posted on Rotten Tomatoes (re: Paranormal Activity 2).
Pink is the New Blog Jude Law on Sesame Street. Awwww. I don't get enough Jude Law these days. Or felt puppets. Both at once? Yes, please.
Low Resolution Halloween words of wisdom from Beetlejuice. Speaking of...
The Exploding Kinetoscope has some birthday wishes for Winona Ryder. Could her career be back on the upswing?
popbytes 'Hottie with a Rubik's Cube'. How 80s and now simultaneously.
Everything I Know... is not among the fans of Julianne Moore's Off Broadway musical Freckleface Strawberry.
Blog Stage considers the changes made for Rabbit Hole as it shifts from stage to screen.
Dear Old Hollywood For California readers: The Arclight is hosting a Steve McQueen tribute event on November 11th.

A Toy Story Moment
I thought this was cute. It's a moment of closure for director Lee Unkrich who has been working on the Toy Story franchise forever. If you've ever said goodbye to a long term project that you actually completed, you'll understand.



But this moment would be way cooler if we knew that there'd be no more Toy Story movies after Toy Story 3 which really did close the franchise beautifully. Sadly, Pixar, which once was THE studio for originality, is rapidly becoming like all the other studios when it comes to sequels and franchises and they're going to be beating all their horses way past the time that they're dead (to mangle a metaphor).

Finally, over at Pussy Goes Grrr Andreas made me lol with his love for Cat People. Have you ever seen that movie? There's almost nothing in the world I love more than clever people obsessing over movies. To this day I lol (literally) every time I think of the time Nick, hearing I had just watched Nashville, said "I want to rub that movie all over me." LOL. See, I did it again? It's too bad blogs don't have sound so you could hear. I speak the truth.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Top Ten: I ♥ Zombies; or, Up with Dead People

Craig here. It's Halloween and the new horror tv series The Walking Dead is nearly upon us. This is what I've been thinking about day-to-day for the last few weeks. So here's a Tuesday Top Ten Special (i.e. it's on the weekend instead... and it's Halloween themed) to get you thinking about all things zombified. Perfect for a day made for the dead. Alive or recently embalmed, all enter here. But shuffle in s-l-o-w-l-y now...

A Top Ten Undernourished and Underloved Zombie Characters (in no order) are all getting some love this Halloween. Who's first out of the grave...?

1. Colin in Colin (2008)

Colin: the most exotically-named zombie character ever

Poor old Colin. He should rank alongside Day of the Dead’s Bub as one of the most sympathetic cinematic zombies ever. Apparently it only cost director Marc Price £45 to bring Colin to the screen; not a penny was wasted on achieving pleasingly affecting acting from the man himself, Alastair Kirton. If, like me, you wonder just what went on in the pre-zombified lives of the unnamed undead – folk like, say, Second Zombie on the Left or Gunshot-Wound to the Head Zombie or Uncle Zombie Who Can Recall His Past Lives, those who dwell at the foot of the end credits – then watching Colin may come as a refreshing treat. It's about one of those very bit players. And very bit he was. The film takes a superfluous character and gives him a movie of his own to walk amok. Although Colin's the shy and retiring type, just looking to escape mad, apocalyptic London and reconnect with his girlfriend. He's a zombie with heart. The heart may have been in his hands, but he had love to give all the same. The guy deserved a break: even he ran from the undead hordes. So, Colin, mate, here’s to you: First Zombie on This List.

2. Dr Freudstein in The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Dr Freudstein waving for the camera. Bless him.

With a name like that I'll bet you had an insurmountable array of problems in your life as you did in your afterlife, eh, Dr. Freudstein (Giovanni De Nava)? Kept in the basement by the cemetery by director by the cemetery Lucio Fulci for the entirety of The House by the Cemetery, you didn't half moan about your lot. But then, you did look like a brown paper bag glued to an over-sized peanut. But piss and moan you did. Not before getting your hand lopped off and being outfoxed on a ladder by a girlish-sounding 10-year-old misery moppet by the name of... Bob. Still, you had Mrs. Freudstein to keep you company all those decades spent beyond one of Fulci's Seven Gates of Hell. (Why not click here for more Fulci-on-Zombie action.)

3. Tarman in The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

What is it with directors keeping their zombie charges trapped in basements. Subterranean dude Tarman (Allan Trautman), birthed from, yup, some kind of dubiously nuclear tar-like goo, dwells "below" just like Dr. Freudstein. Well, at least it's below a medical supply warehouse right next to a handy morgue-slash-cemetery. This brain botherer spends the film awaiting the split skulls of a band of '80s hooligan punks to sink his rotten teeth into. Looking more like some kind of lavatory skeleton, Tarman's a bona fide zombie in name, rank and number – all of which were printed on the septic tank he arrived in. Lovely.

Gay zombies, musical zombies, and celebrity zombies after the jump...


Streep Nom #15 & #16: Sister Aloysius Beauvier & Julia Child

In an off blog e-mail correspondence earlier this week, one of my fellow movie bloggers said to me "The best thing about this year's Best Actress race is that Streep isn't in it." That's funny. It's true that her ubiquity can be exhausting. It must especially feel like a relief for other Tinseltown goddesses in those rare years when she isn't in play. More room for them. But since Streep at 60, a web series we started over a year ago, needs to wrap up, let's discuss her final (to date) nominations.

"Streep @ 60" Previous Nominations Discussed
78, 79, 81, 82, 83,
85, 87, 88, 90, 95, 98, 99, 02 and 06

In the past two years Streep put yet more distance between herself and her nearest competitors. Her two closest Oscar rivals, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, are long gone from planet earth. Streep's similarly aged / Oscar friendly peers (Lange, Close, Weaver, Sarandon, Spacek & Field) have faded from the movie spotlight, comparatively speaking, robbing them of Meryl's abundant Oscar-tallying opportunities.

We suspect Streep's "most nominated" record will stand forever unless, and it's a longshot, Kate Winslet's career (she's only 35) has similar curves, reinventions and renewals: When Streep was 35 (circa Falling in Love) she had collected 5 nominations and 2 wins; Winslet has collected 6 Oscar nominations and 1 win.

2008.
  • Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married *Nathaniel's vote*
  • Angelina Jolie, Changeling
  • Melissa Leo, Frozen River *Nathaniel's second choice*
  • Meryl Streep, Doubt
  • Kate Winslet, The Reader
Other women for context
Probably Came Close: Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) and Kristin Scott Thomas (I've Loved You So Long); Traction Trouble: Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey) and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)... I suspect they just needed a break with the latter since they loved the film; Low Impact: Nicole Kidman (Australia -just discussed), Keira Knightley (The Duchess); Box Office Queens: Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia!), Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex & the City) and Reese Witherspoon (Four Christmases)

2009.
  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education *Nathaniel's second choice*
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire *Nathaniel's vote*
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Other women for context
Probably Came Close: Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria) and Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones); Traction Troubles: Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and Tilda Swinton (Julia); Low Impact: Julia Roberts (Duplicity), Hilary Swank (Amelia); Box Office Queens: Sandra Bullock (The Proposal) and Meryl Streep (It's Complicated) a rare case of the main Oscar rivals also being big bank in separate films within the same year.

So...

IMPORTANT NOTE: These last two years of the Best Actress category have been very polarizing battles with the winners beloved & loathed in seemingly equal measure. Let's NOT discuss those divisive wins again but the fields in general. Stay Positive. It'll allow new discussions to unfold.

Answer me these questions, four
  1. Which performance has grown on you?
  2. Who do you think landed in the dread six-spot in both years?
  3. Concerning the newbies (Mulligan, Sidibe, Hathaway, Leo, Bullock)... which do you think will return to the race and how soon/often? [Keep in mind that most don't. Approximately 67% of acting nominees are never recognized with a second nomination.]
    and...
  4. Meryl Streep's Julia Child offers to cook you dinner. But only if you eat it at the table with Sister Aloysius icily judging you with every bite, chew and shallow. Do you accept the offer?

Friday, October 29, 2010

What if "Australia" Had Ended Here?

On this very day in 1939, Australia's Northern Standard incorrectly assumed that The Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and her Drover (Hugh Jackman) had both perished in the Kuraman Desert!


Newspapers. They've always had it rough; The second you publish something it's ancient history.

Just as soon as this news was making the rounds the lady and her cattle driving man, rode into town in a cloud of triumphant dust and defeated their main rival. They won! Celebratoryparties, long delayed lovemaking and a return to the now thriving Faraway Downs followed.  After a short orgiastic montage of Australia's natural beauty (the country's and the movie's), the epic movie ends with a speech by the young narrator Nullah (Brandon Walters)
Just like Drover say 'that rain make everything come alive.' The land it grow green and fat and we all go back to Faraway Downs. Mrs Boss happy. Drover Happy. 


I hear for the first time that thing called Christmas. Then the rain, it stops. And then Drover, he go droving. The Mrs Boss, she always misses Drover. But I know, he's going to come back.



How perfect are these golden shots as closing romantic images?

Only there's no closing. The epic movie didn't end there, not on October 29th (and the cattle drive was already quite a movie) or with Nullah's first Christmas. Or even after the Drover went a-drovin' again, an amusingly brief montage which consists only of this leaving and returning, beautifully illustrating a family falling into its future pattern.

But there's a lot more adventure, World War II adventure, coming. There's roughly sixty more minutes of it. I've often thought that had Australia wrapped up with that three shot shown above and this clear romantic narrative about the formation of a family (after one hour and forty-three minutes of a rousing western adventure), the critics and audiences might have been kinder. Wasn't Australia's main sin only that it was desperately overstuffed, that it didn't trust that one adventure, one tone, or one lead character arc was enough and it had to pack in at least a few of everything? Sometimes less is more, even for gorgeous sun-kissed epic that aspire to the mythic.

Australia came out two years ago and though two years isn't a long time, you rarely hear people discuss this one anymore. Have any of you watched it recently? If you haven't seen it since its premiere, what is your most vivid memory of it?
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FYC Hell: Alice in Uglyland and the Art of Self Editing.

With screeners arriving and campaign parties starting, awards season is raring to go. The Oscar FYC ad pictured below, the first of the season, arrived today in my mailbox from the delightful Guy Lodge with the completely sensible command "Stop. This. Now." As many of you know, I loathe Tim Burton's Mia in Uglyland but I'm not dumb enough to think that it doesn't have a shot at a handful of Oscar nominations. Money, and hundreds of millions of bags worth of it -- each much larger than the Red Queen's oversized noggin -- goes a long way towards warming industry hearts.

The ad starts with the Claudia Puig USA Today quote "The movie should come with a note marked 'Watch me' for its extravagance of whimsy and wonder." and proceeds to list the names of 28 awards hopefuls (some of whom are very talented indeed... but... 'stop. this. now.' indeed)



There are so many things to be concerned with on this page, not least of which is how many optometrist appointments Ms. Puig seems to have cancelled recently.

[more bitching after jump]

Kiss The Girl, Win an Oscar?

random Oscar thought of the day 




If the Best Actress race really narrows down to The Bening (The Kids Are All Right) vs. Natalie Portman (Black Swan) than we have a seriously sapphic situation going on this year.

"♪ I Kissed a Girl just to try it, I know Oscar won't mind it. ♫ "

Hey, it worked last year for the ladies in this category.



P.S. Does this mean that The Oscars are basically like frat parties with a stricter dress code? Maybe they will love The Social Network as much as critics do.
Annette Bening Meryl Streep Sandra Bullock

Linktivia

An endless series of links. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm seriously going to go cold turkey. But let's start with "Boba Fett's Invoice" designed by Brock Davis because it's just making me giggle. [Discovered via]



Self Styled Siren great piece on being drawn to older movies and why it's incorrect to reductively label that "nostalgia."
Guardian Snarky (but funny) "Can Nicole Kidman pull an Oscar out of a Rabbit Hole?"
Serious Film writes up five overlooked horror film scenes worth remembering. Zoinks I love that moment in The Host.
OMG Blog absolutely destroys the new D&G / Matthew McConaughey advertisement. Ha.
TOH the European Film Academy nominates three documentaries for its Prix Arte prize. One of those is the Finnish Oscar submission "Steam of Life"
In Contention Guy Lodge thinks Sofia Coppola's Somewhere is a familial beauty, more than a Hollywood retread.
CHUD "Hollywood Needs a Handjob" Aubrey Plaza (who is hilarious) and an unproduced screenplay causing some buzz


/Film Noomi Rapace top choice for Alien prequel. I think this is SUCH a terrible idea (I don't think you cast a tough older-reading brunette to compete with memories of the tough older-reading brunette. I think, if you're smart, you try to carve out a new identity for the franchise to breathe new life into it. Sigourney Weaver cannot be replaced.
All Things Fangirl has an AMAZING idea for a Halloween costume although I wouldn't call it a "last minute costume" as she does. Seems like the prep work would be intense but it's still a great idea.
The Big Picture doesn't like the idea of James Cameron 'reducing himself' to a sequel maker (via Avatar). Uhhhh... Terminator 2 and Aliens suggest that if anyone in Hollywood should waste their time with sequels, it's Jimmy C.
24 Frames Avatar 2 arriving in less than three years. Yeah, right. I'll believe that when I see it. Why does everyone believe these things just because filmmakers say them? I'm guessing 2016... or ...never.
Scanners fine piece on Mad Men in case you've been missing it "The Ladies and the Boxes"
Flick Filosopher has a new series called "The Female Gaze" and her latest subject to ogle is Rupert Graves. Having once worked worked on a not published article about him, I can assure you that she is correct that there aren't many great photos of him online. This dearth of images happened to a lot of 80s and 90s beauties. I blame it on their chronological positioning between "classic thus nostalgic i.e. 70s and earlier" and "became hot after the internet was hi-res image friendly i.e. late 90s and the Aughts"

Finally, if you don't mind a little corporate ranting, I must complain about Dannon's "Cups of Hope." I start each morning with a cup of Activia yogurt. I had no choice. "The power of Curtis compels you!"  Yes, celebrity endorsements do work on we, the feeble minded. I was having a cup each morning for awhile before I realized that I actually had to enter codes on line to donate to the breast cancer charity I saw on the package. See, I had seen the advertisement on the package and I'm all, 'I'm a good person. I'm maintaining Jamie Lee Curtis's lifetstyle AND I'm donating money to women's health." Only to find out I wasn't! Many dimes I spent were not forked over to this charity. Now, I don't object to going online to enter codes per se if it's something for myself like a sweepstakes; if we want to be greedy, we should have to do a little work. But in this case, I highly doubt anyone is doing it even though they would be happy to see some of the proceeds go to charity. Consider that you have to remember to lick off the yogurt from the seal once you open each cannister (that'd be gross except you are meant to eat the yogurt so whatever). But then you have to hold up the messy seal  to read the code and then type it in online in order for this 10¢ to be donated. If you're not already logged into the computer while spooning out your yogurt are you really going to do this? And what if your fingers touch the yogurt on the seal while you're typing? And worse yet: if you have an overdeveloped sense of guilt, like uh, my friend, you're going to have to find a way to save up the gooey lids until you remember to enter all the codes once a week or something. YUCK. Just give 10¢ for every yogurt sold to charity, Dannon. Don't be misleading and cheap!

LFF 2010: Zero Hours Remain

David from Victim of the Time with one last report from the 54th BFI London Film Festival.

Craig gave you a packed wrap-up earlier today, but I couldn't let you go without getting in another word myself. I caught near to 50 films during the past month (give or take a couple I, er, nodded off during), and I'm happy to say there were an abundance of highs and a general lack of lows - maybe I just chose well, or maybe the programmers did. My standout film remains Kelly Reichardt's menacing Meek's Cutoff (review), while the festival practically brimmed over with stunning female performances, from Michelle Williams' two-hander in Meek's and Blue Valentine (capsule), to Jeong-hee Lee's damaged optimism in Poetry (Nat's review), to Lesley Manville's jittering sorrow in Another Year (capsule). Huge thanks to Nathaniel for hosting Craig and I, huge thanks to the festival for putting on such a great show, and huge thanks to you for reading.

For my final post, let's stick with the positivity, since the year's closing film proved a surprising package from a director I usually dislike...

127 Hours may give you a headache, but Aron Rolston had to hack his arm off, so maybe you I should stop complaining. Danny Boyle rather pre-empts the inevitable intensity of witnessing someone detach their arm with a blunt penknife by assaulting your senses from the very first moment; it’s all split screens, fast edits, impossible pans from inside kitchen units, close ups of taps dripping, and so forth. This is all rather disorientating and it barely lets up, but the film is enclosed in some vague, meaningless allusion to the speed of modern life with shots of commuters that resemble Koyaanisqatsi, and so the headrush of Boyle’s direction is a very straightforward interpretation of living in Rolston’s world. Once he gets trapped in the crevice, these stylisations barrage instead into his mind, continually taking us on flights of delirious imagination and memory.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unsung Heroes: The Production Design of The Descent

Michael C. here from Serious Film for another episode of Unsung Heroes. With Halloween fast approaching I thought now would be a great time to shine the spotlight on my pick for the best horror movie of the last decade.


I was researching Neil Marshall's The Descent for a post I was writing about horror movies when I was surprised to stumble upon this trivia item:
No real caves appear anywhere in the film.
Goes to show that it's easy to be guilty of the same behavior we so often criticize awards groups for displaying, namely, having a narrow idea of what greatness in a particular field looks like. Despite being a huge fan of the movie, until that moment the brilliance of Simon Bowles' production design for The Descent had not occurred to me.

Of course, if you think about it for two seconds you realize they're sets. Real caves wouldn't be safe, would be impossible to light, would not match the needs of the plot, and would most likely look boring on camera. But Bowles' work is so convincing you don't pause to think about it. All you can focus on is the horrible trouble these women have gotten themselves into.

Horror films live or die on atmosphere. Studios can produce successful comedies that are indifferently filmed, but not horror movies. If The Descent ever gave the impression, even subliminally, that the actresses were actually filming safely on a soundstage somewhere, the suspense would vanish instantly. As it stands the feel of the film is so strong that it's easy to forget it's a horror movie at all. The cave-diving sequences are already nerve-wracking enough. When the horror elements do kick in it is so well grounded in reality that the terror increases exponentially. It's like 127 Hours if James Franco were attacked by monsters halfway through.

Like Buffalo Bill's basement in The Silence of the Lambs or the Overlook Hotel in The ShiningThe Descent's caves are destined to be one of those touchstones of the horror genre. One wouldn't think something as dull as caves could be made so interesting, but I can vividly recall the various twists and forms the tunnels took as the women descended deeper and deeper into the Earth. From the putrid nest of the creatures to the chasm the women attempt to cross via the cave ceiling; from the huge, yawing entrance to the claustrophobia-inducing tunnel where poor Alex Reid gets stuck, every stage of the journey has its own distinct personality. Not bad considering roughly half the screen is pitch black most of the time.


The theme of this series is shaping up to be the showy versus the subtle. It's already come up with costume design and special effects. The design of this movie is another example of work that does the job without calling attention to itself and has therefore gone overlooked. So here's to the production design of Simon Bowles along with the art direction of Jason Knox-Johnson. Considering how much junk horror clogs the multiplexes, their contributions to one of the few truly effective horror films of the last decade should not go unrecognized.

Lunk. Subgenius. Monster.




awwww, poor Frankenstein Monster. Always so pathetically lonely. Hit refresh ya big lug! I'm sure someone will cozy up. If you're lucky she'll have a huge skunk inspired beehive. [Note: This illustration is brought to you from the wonderful imagination of Mr Hipp.... click over and see other illustrated wonders.]

Captain America's Mighty Shield Pecs

Behold: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers (aka Captain America), post-serum obviously.

Captain America: The First Avenger

In all seriousness now, I have to ask: How they gonna make him look scrawny and unfit before he drinks the drink that transforms him into a super soldier?  If you would like to reread this post for several minutes  (no one will blame you) here's a little musical accompaniment.




 Read my weekly column @ Towleroad...
for a little more Chris Evans, some Cary Elwes, Ryan Kwanten, and the wonderful Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields fame.
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Captain America: The First Avenger

LFF 2010: five final festival films to wrap up with...

Craig here from Dark Eye Socket with my LFF wrap-up.

As of tonight the BFI London Film Festival is done for another year. It's been a stellar year all told, if the surplus of reports are to be believed. And I'd willingly add a further approving nod to the list. I didn't manage to see everything I wanted (juggling festival times and dates with travel arrangements is an art – one that's open to fateful intervention...and multiple tube delays), but what I saw was on the whole a bumper crop. Roll on next year, I say. Here are five previous reviews, selected from the films I saw:  Uncle Boonmee, A Screaming Man, Winter Vacation, Rare Exports and What I Love the Most. And below are five final mini reviews of a few festival highlights.

Thomas Vinterberg introduced his new film, Submarino, in a cheeky fashion: “if all goes well, you’ll be depressed at the end of the film. Enjoy yourselves!” It was no happy time sure, but it was an enthralling film, despite its determinedly grim subject matter. It follows two brothers’ hard, poverty-stricken lives in contemporary Copenhagen; a family tragedy as kids has left them scarred and emotionally unable to cope with adult existence. Hope is hard to grasp, but not too far away; redemption comes at a cost but may just stop dead the cycle of despair plaguing one or both of the brothers. The characters' direness isn’t forced or over baked and sympathy is well-earned. Lead actors Jakob Cedergren and Peter Plaugborg are excellent as, respectively, the older and younger siblings. Vinterberg’s humanistic approach is thoroughly rewarding and the tautness of the script ensures we become embroiled in the brothers’ plights. It’s strangely an easy film to like, but not always pleasant to watch. B-

 Submarino

Abel, the second directorial effort by actor Diego Luna, was a complete contrast to Submarino (I saw them consecutively). The story of a boy, the titular Abel, who returns home from a stay at a psychiatric hospital to resume living with his mother and siblings – only to assume the role of patriarch of the house, brought on by his father’s disappearance years earlier. The family go along with the ruse in the hope that it aids the boy’s recovery. It’s an amusing, sweet-natured look at how families are truly peculiar to themselves more so than to others. It also questions the role of the father in modern Mexican life and makes more than a few choice and aptly conveyed criticisms of male-dominated hierarchies.


Animal Kingdom To Rack Up Awards (...In Australia)

Remember that one year (2001) when the list-happy AFI (American Film Institute) decided to compete with the Globes and the Oscars in year end prizes? No, that didn't last long. But there's another AFI, The Australian Film Institute, that has been around for a long time and is in no such danger of being a one-off. This year, they're all about the amazing family crime drama Animal Kingdom which they awarded with a record breaking 18 nominations. Sure, the film is in danger of being way overhyped for people who are coming to it late (which is just about everyone given the sorry state of international distribution for dramas of virtually any kind) but for those who can slough off the "omg" raves, I guarantee you'll think it at least an insinuating and well executed crime drama.

AFI Favorites with multiple nominations

Its main competition for the coveted prizes, if you go by nomination counts, is Bright Star (different eligibility calendar over there in Australia). I haven't really covered the Australian Awards before -- we lean on Glenn for that -- but since i've seen three of their Best Picture nominees this time around (the two leaders plus the aborigine musical Bran Nue Dae), why not?

Complete nomination list -- with more Oscar adjacent & actor related comments -- after the jump.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Night of the Hunter" (1955)

"We've reached the Season 1 Finale of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" I've had a lot of fun doing this shot-based series, wherein we choose our favorite images from films though sometimes, like tonight, when we're covering the great noir THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) things haven't gone remotely as planned.

<--- This is the disc as I received it in the mail this morning for this post.

Obviously a disc cracked in half won't due for a rewatch and a screen capture. But, alas, I can't postpone the series every time "something comes up" which is roughly every week (and various other duties approach) so we have to wrap this up.

The Night of the Hunter (1955) tells the story of a criminal (Robert Mitchum) who is seeking the final resting place of money stolen by another criminal. Only his dead cellmate's children know the location so he's after them. The freaky shadowy movie was directed by the actor Charles Laughton, who was a three-time best actor nominee (see our "Best Pictures From the Outside In" episode on the undervalued Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935). It was his only feature film as director and as with most actors who maneuver themselves behind the camera after their leading man heyday, he wrangled fine work from his leads: Robert Mitchum, the hunter, and Lillian Gish, the guardian, are both completely fantastic in the movie. (The less said about the child performances --as I recall -- the better, but directing child actors is an entirely different skill.)

If the disc hadn't been cracked I would have had a chance to rescreen it but that will have to wait. Yet there is one image, I suspected would compete for the prize before ordering the disc. It's forever branded on my brain.



This is Lillian Gish as "Rachel Cooper" who will not sleep but keeps a vigil, certain that evil incarnate (Robert Mitchum) will visit her home. The image is so indelible and gorgeously lit by cinematographer Stanley Cortez  (look at the sharp divisions of light complicated by the slow curves of Gish's profile silhouette... it's just stunning.) One thing that fascinates me about the image, out of context, since I haven't rewatched it in, is that it reminds us of how trustingly subservient the best actors are to confident directorial visions. You can't even see Gish's face here, but damned if her work isn't absolutely crucial to the movie's success, giving it exactly the grand maternal spiritual fortitude that it needs.

Gish had to make do with an honorary Oscar in April 1971 but if there was ever a time for Oscar to thank her for her place in film history with a competitive statue, it was arguably right here. The film received zero Oscar nominations. I can't fathom why other than that it's a harsh movie that in no way coddles its audience. Perhaps it felt entirely too mercenary for the times. "Love" we can handle tattooed on a shifty man's hand. But "Hate" on his other?
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Had Laughton no mercy?

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I hope you've enjoyed this series. Maybe more of you will join as participants if there's a second season? Contrary to imagined belief this blog is not powered by Nathaniel's imagination alone. That's part of it, and the imaginations of the Film Experience columnists too, but a lot of times, posts are inspired by your comments or egged on by your e-mails or generally prepared with you in mind. Be an active participant in your own Film Experience!

We'll take suggestions in the comments for Season 2 and thoughts on the series as well as, naturally, discussion of this amazing noir. If you haven't seen it, you won't be disappointed.

"Best Shot" Friends
  • Amiresque, who joins the best shot party for the first time, chose amazing silhouettes of hunter and hunted. So many great shots featured in his posts. 
  • Brown Okinawa Assault Incident, a frequent Best Shot club member -- thank you! -- wonders about the dimensions of Laughton's studio. How did he get so much depth?  (Though his friend incorrectly attacks the great mother of screen stardom Lillian Gish for the racism of Birth of a Nation.) 
  • Antagony & Ecstasy celebrates this "grim bedtime story" for adults.
  • Serious Film compares picking a favorite shot in this picture is like trying to pick a favorite note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."
  • Movies Kick Ass "Grimm like (and outstandingly grim)"
  • Nick's Flick Picks can't choose just one which works out in our favor -- more of his inimitable cinematic observations for our reading pleasure.
  • Pussy Goes Grrr  "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" Mitchum is part of the landscape, an omnipresent boogeyman  
  • My New Plaid Pants reminds that he already covered this amazement in 8 shots. Hey, it's hard to narrow down.
Previously on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

The Dark Knight Rises: A Review Starter Kit.

Christopher Nolan has revealed the title of his third Batman film (Batman 8 if you're counting*) to Hero Complex and it's The Dark Knight Rises. We also know that the villain will not be The Riddler so stop that photoshopping of Tom Hardy in green tights even though his musculature is undoubtedly fun to move one's cursor around. What? Okay, you may leave the question mark upon his chest because we still don't know who he is. We just know he's not The Joker, Mr Freeze, Two Face or The Riddler.

Now that we have this much info the reviews can practically write themselves. Blurb Whores all over the internet nation may now commence structuring their reviews...
Little intro --  The Dark Knight is the best -- It's been 4 years since The Dark Knight blah blah blah but in that time, Nolan has proven himself the greatest director who ever lived, even without the pointy cowl etcetera etcetera  Inception is a masterpiece ...more here. And other stuff yadda yadda but it must have been daunting as The Dark Knight is untoppable!


[Provocative question here] 'OR IS IT?' [insert "after the jump" here. Increase page views!!!]


Oscar's Collection: The Youngest Best Actress Nominees

Another Oscar Trivia Explosion. This time it's the Actresses. 

Jennifer Lawrence made quite a film-carrying impression in Winter's Bone this past summer. It was one of the leggiest arthouse hits in some time, playing for months, and wracking up $6+ million without a huge advertising budget or bankable stars and with grim subject matter. Well done. At Christmas Hailee Steinfeld will lead us on a revenge journey in True Grit. While we suspect she's the lead actress as well, people her age are almost always demoted to "Supporting" if they're sharing the screen with a big star as co-lead and she is. Hi, Jeff Bridges! But we're pretending she's an Oscar lead today so as to have double the excuse to make this list. Humour us, won'cha?

 Imaginary Movie: STEINFELD. LAWRENCE.  WINTER'S TRUE BONE.

36 Youngest Best Actress Nominees
And where Jennifer or Hailee would fit in, were they to be nominated. (Winning performances are in red.) Disclaimer/Bragging: You won't find info this extensive elsewhere! The Official Oscar site / Wikipedia only offer top tens. However the following info is approximate. Though the Academy's top ten is down to the day of the actual nominations, they don't provide official nomination dates only ceremony dates. Inside Oscar and Wikipedia also only list the ceremony dates so we're just using February 1st, ∞ as a general calculation date for when nominations happened for given years.





Youngest "Best Actress" Wins: Matlin & Gaynor
  1. Keisha Castle Hughes, Whale Rider (2003) was 13.
    Wow, well would you look at this? Either Jennifer Lawrence or Hailee would become #2 if nominated for Best Actress.
  2. Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H (1975) was 20. [more]
  3. Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice (2005) was 20 going on 21. [more]
  4. Ellen Page, Juno (2007) was about to turn 21. [more]
  5. Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God (1986) was 21
    She's the youngest winner of all time in this category.

"Every Ending... Has a Beginning."

The Birds (1963) gets the prequel we definitely needed...


The Birds (The Prequel) from NYSUfilms on Vimeo.

... because everyone hates movies without exposition / backstory. [/sarcasm] I love the gentle spoofing of our modern need for all mystery to be explained to us "We had no answer... until now". Ha!

Apparently this prequel trailer for Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds is a year old. But I'm just seeing it now thanks to @mattriviera and @mattzollerseitz so it's new to @me... and a delightful start to my morning it was, too. Good morning!
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Link Goes to 11

Live Feed Glee inspired political attack ad. Who knew an attack ad could be cute?
Kenneth in the (212) my friend Kenneth will be seen briefly in the new Mindy Cohn gay flick Violet Tendencies. When was the last time you heard "new Mindy Cohn flick"... let alone a gay one?
Pop Justice "Bad Romance" is one year old today. Kinda. Still love it.

This Leonardo TotallyLooksLike double got
saved on my computer months ago. Every time I
notice it I start giggling. So I must finally share.

Vulture worries that Thor's Frost Giants will battle for the home tree in Avatar. Please. Thor should be so lucky to be (favorably) compared to Avatar. I'm guessing. I am just sensing a terrible terrible movie coming our way.
IndieWire assures us that the Spirit Awards are returning to their Saturday afternoon by the beach tradition.
ArtsBeat Broadway cools down its celebrity lust... for the current moment at least.
Popbytes Speaking of... can you believe that The King's Speech is already planning its Broadway bow? It hasn't even opened in movie theaters yet!
MTV Ang Lee's Life of Pi gets one step closer to production by casting its lead actor 17 year-old Suraj Sharma
Just Jared Tom Hardy for Snow White and the Hunstman? I'm in. Just please let some of these new fairy tale movies NOT view Tim Burton's hideous Alice as something to emulate.


...and some artwork for you
Y'all don't comment on the art related posts but you're going to keep getting them because Nathaniel likes to draw and he loves the artists out there making the internet a more beautiful / whimsical / imaginative place. Deal!
Becky Cloonan "Sluts of Dracula" omg love these sketches. And the title is to undie for.
Austin Translation "Bitter Moments with Count Chocula" a wee Twilight dig.

Which movie...

...most reminds you of a happy night in your life? (It doesn't even have to be a happy movie to do so.)

A Midwestern 80s Moment: Kathleen, Meryl, Terri, Lesley

I'm sure it was because I lived in Michigan in the 1980s and that's when John Hughes movies were always in theaters but it seemed (to young me) that the Midwest was Hollywood-Hot back then. So this one goes out to all the Midwestern readers and to four fine actresses who are often associated with the 1980s though one of them has clearly transcended our puny mortal concepts of time.

So we'll start with her...


Indiana
If you're a Meryl Streep fan -- and who isn't? -- and you live anywhere near Indiana University you should know that there's a free "evening with Meryl" at the college next month. (Why Indiana? Her husband Don Gummer studied there in the 60s). Free tickets for the public are available on November 3rd in the morning (for the Nov 12th event). I'm sure the lines will be long to snag one but Meryl will be discussing her career with IU alumnus Jane Pauley and there's even a Q&A afterwards.

Missouri
Cinema St. Louis just honored Kathleen Turner with a lifetime achievement award on Sunday and We Are Movie Geeks was there to tell you about it. Can any Missouri-located readers answer me this: Does the Cinema St. Louis always have such good taste? Kathleen is in Missouri with her new play "High" which co-stars Broadway great Michael Berresse (Tony nominee, Kiss Me Kate). Kathleen was born in Missouri sowhile she's in town, why not throw an event in her honor?

Inset: in St. Louis for her lifetime achievement prize, Oct 2010.
Main: at the AFI Michael Douglas night (with CZJ) in June 2009.

I love Kathleen nearly as much as Roger loved Jessica Rabbit so I mean this with the utmost fondness, but she just so doesn't care about things that celebrities are supposed to care about. Note that she wore the EXACT SAME OUTFIT to this event that she wore to the AFI Michael Douglas event. Oh, Kathleen. You're just not even trying to be "showbiz". It's all about the art of the theater for Kathleen now which I'm not knocking. Her "Martha" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was one of the greatest performances my eyes have ever witnessed and my ears have ever heard.

Michigan & Illinois
Teri just wanted to say "Hey."



Upon discovering that she didn't have her own label at TFE she let out a torrential stream of the brown word that we haven't heard since her multiple "sh**" freakouts in Tootsie ! No one speaks of Teri Garr anymore but I've always respected her as one of the only Hollywood types to publicly bitch about Category Fraud at the Oscars. You'd bitch about it too (at least in private) if you thought you could have won if the co-lead of your movie weren't competing in your category.

The dearly departed blog StinkyLulu once did a smackdown about the 1982 Best Supporting Actress race. Oscar went with Jessica Lange but Teri was hilarious in that movie and the Smackdown made it a tie. Still, my imaginary retrospective Oscar vote will always belong to Lesley Ann Warren in Victor/Victoria.

(Chicago) Illinois
Pookieeee. hhmwwhhmmiiiII'mhorneeeeeeeeeeey"



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Okay, now back to 2010.

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"NOW a warning?"

According to The Movie Timeline, which I like to visit on occasion,  Helen (Goldie Hawn) drank that potent boob &butt lifting potion in Death Becomes Her (1992) on this very day, October 26th, back in 1985! That scene isn't included onscreen but we do get to see Madeline (Meryl Streep) follow in her footsteps years later. And, anyway, I'm always up for an excuse to celebrate a 25th anniversary!

"Bottoms up!"

Say it with me now...


"NOW a warning?!?"

Related Post: "She's Mad at Hel and She's Not Going to Streep it Anymore!"