Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Link By Any Other Name

CineEuropa Cannes lineup chatter: Wong Kar Wai & other deliciousness
Candy For Breakfast characters so popular they end up titled
Guardian David Thompson writes a very insightful piece on the acting "talent" of Beelzebub. Nick and I were just having this same conversation.
The Evening Class Asian-American filmmaking panel w/ Araki and Moritsugu

and yes... I realize I forgot Warren Beatty's birthday yesterday --of all people for me to forget. Only one of my top 10 fav movie stars ever. The Bening will have my head-- but at least Sunset Gun, MNPP, Movie Maker and TLRHB covered it well in my absence. I should've held a blog-a-thon. Warren doesn't know what a blog-a-thon is but according to Carly he's so vain he'd probably think this blog is about him

Off Cinema
Telegraph Ian McKellen as King Lear tears his clothes off in the storm sequence. Apparently some theatergoers in London are upset to see a naked body. (McKellen is coming to NY's BAM soon with the same production) If you're sitting in the audience of King Lear I would hope that you're a mature adult, so...grow up.
Forgotten Beatitudes "Women always marry their fathers" -funny article about a sick new anti-sex movement. What next?
I Can Has Cheezburger Teenage Mutant Nenja Kitteh (Hee! thx Lulu)

Dance Dance Revolution

Nathaniel's secret to weight loss and toning for summer?
Dance Revolution"

My friend convinced me to buy this video game --the one with the arrows directing where your legs should be flailing to next and the pad to record where your feet actually land. You know the one. I agreed to it largely because I wanted to feel closer to Lindsay Lohan. She played this game (or something like it) in the 'classic' Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. She had a dance-off with her rival who happens to be the schools queen bee bitch (this all sounds so familiar...). My Lindsay won with ease and extra opponent humiliating dance flourishes because she is the star of the movie.

One of the most difficult songs in this games playlist also brings up movie memories. It's "Battle Without Honor and Humanity" from Kill Bill. It is a deadly difficult routine because the beat is slow and weird. It doesn't even help to try to imagine myself in synch with Uma as she slays the Crazy 88 whilst I bust an awkward move.

I look like a complete fool doing it but I'm already in better shape so it's a small price to pay.

tags: dance dance revolution, Lindsay Lohan, weight loss

Friday, March 30, 2007

Studio Preview Part 2

I hope y'all appreciate these rundowns of what's to come from the majors and the minors because they sure as hell are exhausting to type up. Here are the Oscar possibilities from Paramount through Warner Bros (and I've added revisions to Columbia through New Line and posted a current schedule which will change the second it's posted. These things are so volatile) Discuss. If you have any helpful hints for my April Fools Oscar Predictions on Sunday type them away in the comments. It's all so overwhelming open to interpretation at this point.

P.S. for those interested in the animation feature film competition I have put up a template page. Did i forget any toons?

Now Playing 03/30

all links go to official sites with trailers...

Limited Release
After the Wedding. You've all heard me go on and on about the talents of Danish director Susanne Bier (Brothers). She's no longer working with Michelle Pfeiffer on an upcoming film (damn!) but she is crossing the water soon for Things We Lost in the Fire starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. But before that arrives, enjoy last year's foreign film nominee. This orphanage based family drama stars bloody-eyed Bond villian Madds Mikkelsen.
The Hawk is Dying. Paul Giamatti tries to train a wild hawk. Michelle Williams lends support in this festival drama getting a teensy release.
Live Free or Die Tadpole (Aaron Stanford) and Queen of Inescapable Type-Cast Sarcasm (Zooey Deschanel) star in this wacky indie.

There are other movies opening in LA but if movies can't be bothered to open in NYC they're dead to me.

Wide Release
Meet the Robinsons This could obviously turn out to be fun but it's so busy and hyper looking that it makes me flash back to Chicken Little. That is not a good thing.
The Lookout. Scott Frank (the writer of Out of Sight) directs this weeks HDH Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a crime drama that's garnering very strong reviews. Don't they know it's March and the first few months of the year are reserved for completely crappy movies --can't they respect the studio mandated distribution model!?! Speaking of crap cinema...
Blades of Glory. no, I'm kidding. I haven't seen it. I shall not judge sight unseen even though Will Ferrell (annoying) and Jon Heder (even more annoying) headline as a same gendered ice skating pair (...)

"She's A B****" Reborn

When YouSuck destroyed my rather vast video-edit collection last year and deleted my account it was tear-jerking. But cinematic gods be praised, they were not able to destroy my masterpiece. I had thankfully saved it on the hard drive (too bad I didn't save all the others). So here it is again --I still get searches and requests: 'She's a Bitch... at the Movies' [NSFW original version with more Showgirls]

Friends of the Experience ~Finale

April will be action packed: Oscar predix, several reviews requested during this fundraiser, and the return of one popular series & two well received projects that have prompted many of you to say "hey, what happened to...?" But until then --wrapping up March!

The fundraiser is over. The goal achieved!

Today we'll return you to the originally scheduled programming. You opened your pocketbooks and hearts --sweet e-mails, even from those who couldn't contribute. I appreciate the love --and a great sum of $2140 was earned. This helps keep the roof over my head as I continue the journey transitioning out of corporate America and into freelance America. I have to flit back and forth between these worlds like most people pursuing creative careers do. But all the time I feel more like an actual writer which is fulfilling. Thank you for your part in that: the support, being part of a great community of movie lovers, the interesting suggestions, comments, and conversations.

Here is the final installment of the "friends of the experience" for the fundraiser. I'd also like to give one huge round of applause to all of the anonymous donors.

Aaron runs the best-titled live journal on the planet Sarcasm with Light Cream Sauce (hee) and he reads TFE daily but I don't think I've ever mentioned his favorite film
Paddy Chayefsky's Network. I've seen it more times than I can count. I think it's about near perfect. The dialogue sparkles like something out of William Congreve and the performances are incendiary. I know that having this as my favorite is a bit cliché, but I can't help it. Network's complicated blend of social commentary, sarcasm and unspoken pain gets me every single time.
I have seen Network only once and long ago. But someone else requested it for a review with their donation so I'll be going there soon.

Kat from Australia has been reading since she chanced upon the site looking for Moulin Rouge! information. She talked a little Oscar before getting to her favorite movie and brought up this interesting note about the year's movie slate. Focus Features has wayyy too many actresses to push this year. Think on it: Evening, Atonement, Reservation Road, Eastern Promises. How will they decide who to push? Good point Kat. Should be interesting. Anyway, she writes
My favourite film (or one of) is His Girl Friday. Not only does it contain the most hilarious rapid-fire non-stop dialogue I've ever heard on screen, its also really romantic. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell made an incredible team.
I'm not as crazy as the rest of the movie loving universe about that one. I'm really not sure what the disconnect is because I love Roz, love Grant, love screwball comedy (now that the musical is back, it's the genre that I most miss) and love rat-a-tat-tat comic pacing. If I had my way ALL modern comedies would speed up. Perhaps I should give it another go soon?

Joel in Australia is studying film and television at university. His three favorite films are Se7en, Magnolia and Heathers. Light stuff there Joel ;) Like many readers he started reading initially due to Oscar coverage but includes this cute switcheroo note
To be honest, i was actually more excited about your film bitch nominations that the oscar nominations! Aside from my the films I mentioned, I'm a big fan of Chistopher Guest's movies, and love trashy 'so-bad-they're-good' films like Showgirls .

Anyway, look forward to more film experience and 2007s film bitch awards!
As am I. I think I've now sufficiently recovered from last year's Oscars to really dive into 2007 now. Plus, I will be posting some retro thoughts on Se7en soon as well.

Garen is currently at university in Boston. He sometimes reviews operas and writes
Whenever I see a movie I find myself asking, "What would Nathaniel think?" (WWNT?)
My mainstream fave film is Mary Poppins. I loved the film and Julie Andrews as a child. I randomly saw it again in college and now consider MP to be an absurdist masterpiece. I love the little tangents such as Admiral Boom and larger ones such as "Step In Time" that seem to be haphazardly inserted to deviate from the plot. It's so strange, and so complex, and I find something new to overanalyze every time I watch it.

Outside the mainstream, Joseph Losey's Don Giovanni is without contest my favorite film. Most people regard Zeffirelli's La Traviata as the gold standard of opera films, and it is amazing, but Losey's is so underseen and just as fantastic, if not more. Diva lovers of the world are missing out if they haven't seen Kiri Te Kanawa and Edda Moser rip Ruggero Raimondi's Don G. to shreds in this film.
Various smart critical types tell me that Mary Poppins is a terrible film --but I'm probably with Garen on this one. As for opera. The only opera film I've seen is La Traviata which I saw at the Maple Theater in Michigan --the first arthouse I frequented regularly. But this week I went to Madame Butterfly at City Opera --part of my slow efforts to get better versed in cultural canons (I've seen only four operas *hides in shame*) The second act --wow.

David from Connecticut says he's seen too many movies in his lifetime to name a favorite. But he gives it a shot anyway
...a dozen films in no particular order that I might show as a mini-festival at jewel-box movie theater (a place like the Paris in New York). Several of these films deal with romantic relationships and not necessarily happy ones:The Double Life of Veronique, Two for the Road, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Children of Paradise, Two English Girls, Maurice, The Seven Samurai, Local Hero, Sense and Sensibility, The Man Who Would Be King, Petulia, and Vincent, Francois, Paul and the Others (a forgotten gem by Claude Sautet).Bonus Costume Drama Double Bill: Far from the Madding Crowd and Topsy-Turvy
I would be buying tickets to that mini-festival so fast, wouldn't you? Plus anybody who programs a bonus 'costume double' is...well... awesome.

John from Minnesota, who writes about politics on his blog has enthusiastic words 'bout the site and happens to adore three actresses which get a lot of play here: Streep, Kate, and The Bening. He writes
My favorite movie is Casablanca, but that's everybody's favorite. If I had to select one to highlight, it would be the pop culture punching bag The English Patient. Thanks to its ubiquity with Oscar and the Seinfeld episode, people seem to have forgotten that behind its exquisite desert landscapes and haunting score is a love story that's twisty, heartbreaking, and terribly effective. Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, and Kristin Scott Thomas are possibly the most beautiful trio of paramours I've ever seen committed to celluloid, and for me, at least, this is one of those rare times where Oscar was right in jumping on the band wagon (unlike say, 1988, 1994, 2001, well, you know)
I do know. I wasn't part of the Patient bandwagon myself though I'm no hater either. I was pulling for Fargo big time --one of the many futile hopes I've had on Oscar night.

THANKS AGAIN TO EVERYONE! I'm glad the film experience means something to you.

Questions for Comment
What would you program for a mini film festival?
Mary Poppins: Absurdist? Or just absurd?
My His Girl Friday disconnect --ever experienced that? What movie does everyone love that you just can't get attached to?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Studio Preview Part 1

For those who've been impatiently waiting for the annual "year in advance" Oscar predictions, I've started typing out the lists of studio offerings on this page -- my way of sharing notes on films I have in a spreadsheet and trying to convince myself how Oscar might respond as I type.

Feel free to comment here or wait until the whole things completed on Sunday (when the actual predictions will be announced). Page one is done with notes on Sony, Dreamworks, Focus, New Line, Fox, and Lionsgate.

Stingy Hollywood Types

I've been very pleased at the response to the March "save Nathaniel's life" Fundraiser. You've been so kind. Unfortunately Hollywood types haven't. Not one cent from those gated communities. Here's some responses from when I cast the plea for money a little wider...



-gogo yubari

loyal subject,

I know that you are poor and therefore uneducated in appropriate behavior or proper wealth distribution but We, the Hollywood royalty are to be bathed in luxury. You must suffer so as to fully appreciate, purchase tickets for, and bow down before my our awesomeness. I know hear that times are tough. It is in such difficult times that you can build more character. To help you toward that goal I'm raising your fan taxes. You must now type my praises weekly so as to avoid my entitled wrath. (Don't think I've forgotten about the whole weeks you've devoted to those pretty young unaccomplished things who are not married to WARREN. BEATTY. and who have not been nominated for three Oscars)

~The Bening

good luck on the fundraiser. I love my fans!
I can't contribute tho. If I gave ten dollars to everyone who still loved me I'd be short --well, I don't wanna waste forty dollars or something!
xoxo, Kiki

My widely distributed fundraising plea was ignored by most everyone else. But I did hear back from Film Experience Idols Julianne Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer. They both took the time to TYPE letters but I'm not reprinting them because they don't seem to address the fundraiser at all and they have weird phrases like "must take no action to obtain the addresses or locations of protected persons" and other orders and there's stamps and signatures.


Yeah... I don't get it either.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Links, Episode #228

links for one and all
Defamer Mia Farrow has a pair. She proves it by taking Spielberg to task. Which Defamer reminds us you just don't do in Hollywood.
30 Second Bunnies run both Spider-Mans together. So it's more like a 15 second reenactment this time --they're messin' with the formula!
Nick Schager interviews Laura Dern about INLAND EMPIRE and Year of the Dog

good news for Nick

Cinematical reports that Jane Campion is finally returning to filmmaking. The new film is to be about the love affair between the young controversial poet John Keats (who died @ 25) and his neighbor Fanny Brawne whom he loved. The latter role is looking like prime real estate for Abbie Cornish (she of the sudden casting ubiquity). Campion nearly always provides actors with complex roles. If they're up for it, Oscars (hi Holly Hunter) and/or career best work (hi Kate Winslet) can follow. It's been a good long while since the undervalued Piano auteur had something in movie houses. Looking forward to this one am I.

good news for me
Guardian claims that bloggers are dropping off like flies. mwahhuahua. You know what my stamina is like. I'ma keep on keeping on while my competition eats it. Eventually it'll pay off. It has to, right? Hello? Hello...?

Ursula: Fat Free!

I don't know how many of you read ModFab's "stage addiction" column. The latest entry is hilariously titled "Sorry, You're Too Fat To Play an Octopus" --and this theater gossip nugget infuriated me...
Apparently, Emily Skinner (Side Show, The Full Monty) was dumped from the cast of Disney's Broadway-bound Little Mermaid after participating in a number of workshops as the octopus villainess Ursula. Her replacement? Sherie Rene Scott (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). We take nothing away from Sherie, who we love, but why did they make the switch when they already had a stellar talent on board? The answer, sadly, is this: the producers though Skinner too zaftig to play the octopus.
I know that some of you readers don't get a chance to see Broadway or Off Broadway shows and probably hum through (or skip altogether) my theater posts. But this is absolutely maddening. Did Disney producers get Ursula confused with the Ursula ripoff character "Eris" in Sinbad --same coloring, tentacle-like gaseous trail, only svelte --like Michelle Pfeiffer who voiced her? This is a very telling sign that The Little Mermaid could suck as loudly as Tarzan on Broadway. Ursula, is after all one of the great screen villains. And if you get her wrong... you've already lost.

I l-o-v-e Sherie Rene Scott. She was perfection in The Last Five Years , faux sunny and funny in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and a giddy hoot in Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical --I usually freak out if she's in a show. But Emily Skinner is a better fit for this role. She's also really funny. She has a great voice. And she wouldn't be as much of a radical reinterpretation of the role (though she's hardly obese herself). I have nothing against radical reinterpretations --I wish more Broadway transfers would look into shaking their source material up. BUT if that's their goal (which I seriously doubt, this is Disney we're talking about) the most successful element of the source material should probably be the last item to undergo a radical makeover. And everyone knows that Ursula is where it's at when it comes to The Little Mermaid.

What are they thinking?!?

suggested previous reading: The Little Mermaid --She's Gotta Have It

Hump Day Hottie: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

How often does a young sitcom regular make the successful transition to acclaimed dramatic film actor? I can't think of many beyond Leonardo DiCaprio's legendary ascendance post Growing Pains. But Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who first found fame as the youngest embodiment of a space alien team on Third Rock From The Sun has (to date) played his crossover hand well.

Like many young actors he started slowly with moonlighting appearances in a few indie flicks during his television run. In his first truly post-3rd Rock release he played a supporting role as a Mormon missionary in the gay romantic drama Latter Days (brief thoughts on that film). He followed that with a real 180, trading the shirt and tie for jaded hustler attire as the lead object of everyone's attention in the well received Mysterious Skin.

For young non A-listers it's all about raising profile and collective faith in one's own magnetism. There's few things that work quite so well to do that as a one-two punch of successful leads in buzzy films. His minimalist teen-noir star turn in Brick was a superb post-Skin career move, and should set him up well for lots of goodwill casting wise. You can expect he'll get a lot of opportunities to prove himself in the next few years. He recently contributed a memorable bit to Shadowboxer as a philandering careless doctor. 2007 brings him into theaters thrice for The Lookout, Killshot, and as an ensemble member in Kimberly Peirce's (Boy's Don't Cry) Stop Loss.

Other Blogs Talkin' JGL
Do you need more? Check out The Cellar Door names him as one of 2006's best lead actors. As Little As Possible talks about the JGL NY Times article and Jeffrey Wells @ Hollywood Elsewhere airs a dissenting vote on his latest performance. WOW celebrates a homocentric quote from Joseph Gordon Levitt and Savage Cats have something to say about that same soundbite. And finally, IFC interviews the man causing this spring blogging fever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dystopias, Divas, and Drugs

new on DVD

The Must See
Children of Men -The ideal place to see this was on the big screen since it's truly cinematic (t'was frightfully robbed of the cinematography Oscar) but this dystopian vision should still prove potent on your TV. It's strong thematically as well.

Viewing Tip: Turn the sound way up. Keep your cats close by for comfort. And report back if you're just now discovering this fine film (12 FB nominations and 4 gold medals)

Also Worth a Look
Curse of the Golden Flower -Zhang Yimou's follow up to House of the Flying Dagger is a litle less adventurous and operatic --this ones more implosive than explosive --but it's still a visual feast. Zhang Ziyi (an Yimou regular) does not appear. Yimou's original muse Gong Li is back for leading lady duties (praise be). If you like diva performances your heart may go boom.

Drinking game suggestion (for those who want to be very very drunk): A swig every time the Empress gives any of the other characters a dirty look.

Satisfy Your Curiousity
Candy an Australian drama about two drug addicts. For those who've wondered who the hell this Abbie Cornish person is that people keep talking about. And for those who've wondered how Heath Ledger followed up his tour de force as Ennis Del Mar

Relive Your Childhood...
The Brady Bunch: Complete Series ...not that your childhood involved a perfectly gender matched blended family, a cousin named Oliver and a wisecracking maid with a butcher for a beau... but still.

You Could Also Rent:
Happy Feet In case you were wondering if it's as weird as people said. (It is)
Night at the Museum In case you were wondering if all the best laughs were in the trailer.
The Pursuit of Happyness In case you were wondering if Will Smith deserved that Oscar nomination. I think it'd shoulda been James Bond's personally.
Tempest In case you were wondering what Molly Ringwald, Gena Rowlands, Raul Julia, Sam Robards and Susan Sarandon were all up to in 1982.

TTT: Tarantino-Directed Performances

tuesday top ten: a weekly series for the list lover in you and the list maker in me

When Quentin Tarantino is away from the spotlight I forget how annoying he can be as a celebrity and I remember how much I love his work as a filmmaker. Recently he's popping up in TV spots bragging about Grindhouse and how he could keep making these films forever (yeah, right. Like you're prolific QT) so I thought I should honor his 44th birthday before I'm annoyed with him again. Let's celebrate something he does better than most but doesn't get enough credit for: directing actors.

The Ten Best Performances in Tarantino Films

10 I'm saving this one for someone in Grindhouse ... just in case. If there are no true keepers we'll give it to Jackie Brown

09 Bridget Fonda as "Melanie" in Jackie Brown (1997)
I could just as easily have said Pam Grier or Robert Forster but I must admit that it's the QT film that's fuzziest in my memory and my most vivid recall is of Fonda's lazy taunting blonde --so the spot goes to her. This film was the only time outside of Scandal (1988) when I had enormous faith in her potential as an actor. But doesn't it seem like Tarantino often finds what's best in any actor --no matter what rung they occupy on Hollywood's ladder?

08 David Carradine as "Bill" in Kill Bill, Vol 2 (2004)
I know that my beloved Warren Beatty is supposed to be a very intelligent man but turning down this role was sheer stupidity, wasn't it?

07 Tim Roth as "Mr. Orange" and...
06 Harvey Keitel as "Mr. White" in Reservoir Dogs (1992)
QT's debut caused an arthouse stir for it's simple visual punch (those suits), that scene (the ear), and its oft-imitated but never duplicated flair for supercharged popculture riffing dialogue. What's less remembered or commented on is that it was clear from his very first effort that Tarantino was a natural at getting the most out of casting and subsequent performances. These two acclaimed actors flesh out a complex relationship, particularly in the intense final sequences.

05 Daryl Hannah as "Elle Driver" in Kill Bill, Vol 1 & 2 (2003-2004)
Arguably my very favorite thing (among many) about the Kill Bill movies is the notepad that The Bride has written her enemies in. She crosses them out as she kills them. It's such a superb touch that the names are sized according to who she hates most. "Elle" is quite large and the performance will have to be too, if you're to understand the animosity. Hannah never disappoints in a bold strokes turn as this childish irredeemable villain --the Bride's blonde amazon evil twin. It's this routinely undervalued actress's best performance.

04 John Travolta as "Vincent Vega"
03 Samuel L Jackson as "Jules Winnfield" and...
02 Uma Thurman as "Mia Wallace" in Pulp Fiction (1994) With apologies to Bruce Willis who fills out the magic quartet of stars in this breakthrough film...just typing out all three character names made me desperately want to see this again.

01 Uma Thurman as "The Bride" in Kill Bill, Vol 1 & 2 (2003-2004)
If Uma's iconic black bobbed gangster's moll in Pulp Fiction weren't a rich enough contribution to the Tarantino filmography, she cements her place as his premiere onscreen collaborator with this exceptional high wire act: an Oscar worthy creation --better than any of the actual nominees in 2003 and one of the best of the decade (gold medal, fb 2003). Much has been made of the fact that Tarantino fetishizes Uma's large feet in all three --or two, depending on how you view the Kill Bill film(s) -- of their films together. But if you were directing her and she was giving this sure-to-be-legendary star turn, you'd be wise to kiss them, too.

May Tarantino never take another seven year break from moviemaking and may Thurman's little piggies continue to get lots of screen time.

tags: Uma Thurman, Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Very Random Collection O' Links

The Republic of T wonders why author Terry MacMillan can't get her groove back. Terry, if you can't do it for yourself think of Angela Bassett. She could really use another lead role.
Stale Popcorn has a drinking game for Poseidon viewing.
Latino Review serves up an intriguing rumor on a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane inspired future film [src]
Just Jared on Golden Compass footage
Go Fug Yourself has words with Nicole Kidman's hair.
Solace in Cinema loves Sunshine. Will someone remind me again why this film got delayed all the way until December. Does Hollywood just hate me?

On The Mysterious Art of Acting and My New York Debut

This past weekend I did it. I made my nervous NY acting debut at ModFab's reading of "Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide" by Charles Ludlam , the pioneer of the 'theater of the ridiculous' movement. I played a triple role: one of the dancing Fire Woman of Mars, a newsboy, and the galactic demon "War" For the latter part I was supposed to get all shouty and rally my minions --think Mel Gibson in Braveheart or Gerard Butler in 300. So, yeah: total typecasting [snort] I was most convincing as the 'gee whiz' newsboy. This is because I only had two lines and all it required was channeling old movie "extra! extra!" type of vocal cadences. That I can do.

I am not an actor. I've been so certain of this for so long that I haven't even tried it since high school when I stank up the joint in exactly one play, a madcap comedy. I signed up for this reading on account of my friendship with the Modern & Fabulous one and because --once I stopped to really consider who I'd get to work with it -- I thought it might be good for me.

We had two days of rehearsals wherein we ran through the play about five times. My part(s) was very small but I was incredibly nervous. The professional actors and theater people all around me... if they had nerves it didn't show. The theater of the ridiculous allows you plenty of room for interpretation and covers for a lot of amateur hour silliness like mine thank god but my costars didn't need any covering up. I was quite impressed with them and, as a nonactor, fascinated by the diversity of approaches. Some of the actors seemed to be doing nothing for two or three run throughs and then suddenly, the full character emerged like an instant polaroid. Other actors started turned all the way up to 11 and chiseled it down as they went, as if they were sculptors. And some were like painters, you could see the picture they were creating all along but it just got less sketchy and more colorfully defined in each run through.

I write about acting all the time. I read about it. I watch tons of it. I understand a lot more than your average civilian about technique, acting theory, and whatnot. But I haven't really experienced working alongside them before. Now having done so, even if only in a tiny way, I am both alarmed and pleased to report that it is still a total mindblowing thing. This magical artform lost none of its mystery. I am even more in awe of those who can act. What a gift.

Monday Monologue: "Missy Pantone"

Awesome, oh, wow!
Like, totally freak me out!
I mean, right on!

The Toros sure are number one.

I transferred from Los Angeles!
Your school has no gymnastics team!

This is a last resort!

Okay, so I've never cheered before. So what? How about something that actually requires neurons?
I'm pulling rank, and you can fall in line or not. But Eliza Dushku's the poo. So take a big whiff.

Why doesn't she work more? Why didn't "Faith" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 'hard core gymnast' "Missy" in Bring it On! lead to anything more substantial than crap TV like Tru Calling and horror films? Why? Why? Whyyyyyyyyyyy!?!?!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Friends of the Experience #8

The unexpected gift of this fundraiser month (for me at least) has been getting to know the readers. I hope you're also enjoying the favorite movie / actor reveals. There'll be one more "friends of the experience" wrap up post after this so if you want to be featured and you've been meaning to donate --now's the time. This, you see, is like those annoying fundraisers on PBS: it will eventually end ...on Friday to be exact. I'm almost done with my meedy street urchin Oliver moment.

Please sir, I want some more

In April you can expect to see several new reviews that were requested during this drive. Now, let's get to round of thank-yous!

David, a devotee of Kate Winslet (aren't we all?), runs the blog Victim of the Time. He writes
Mulholland Drive is probably my favourite film (although how to choose?) and definitely the film that opened up the doors to my obsession. I just find it all so intoxicating- Naomi Watts' masterful, alarming performance; 'Club Silencio' (which ALWAYS makes me cry); Ann Miller's last appearance... just everything about it is fascinating and haunting. I particularly love the opening- it's so beautifully photographed, yet so creepy, as the limo goes down the road with Badalamenti's music over the top... just effortlessly sets the tone, I think. It's a stunning experience every time.

I'm so excited for INLAND EMPIRE this week that I literally bounced around the room when I found out my cinema was showing it.
Since sending me this e-mail David has seen Lynch's latest and he's still bouncing. Good show.

Scott of the popculture-centric Australian blog Scott 2 B Certain raved to me about two sun-related titles from 2004 (Eternal Sunshine and Before Sunset) both of which are clearly favorites of the readership at large. (And both were Best Picture nominees at my annual Film Bitch Awards) He can't quite choose a new film as the "all time" favorite, though.
In 'all-time' terms, I can't go past Hitchcock, and in particular Psycho. There is so much that is stunning and memorable about this film: its promotion (latecomers forbidden to enter by film ushers); its iconic Hermann score; its fragmented, symbolic opening credits; its early disposal of a lead character; Janet Leigh's detailed, layered performance, with so much hinging on her eyes; and the final, mindblowing reveal. It's as close to perfection, in my opinion, as he ever came.
When people ask me what my favorite Hitchcock is I usually respond with a Rear Window or a Notorious .... but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I think of Psycho most often. So perhaps I've been unintentionally lying all these years. I've written about that masterpiece a few times, if indirectly, but it'll be placing quite high in my personal canon project (which will resume this coming week. Promise)

Chris over the pond in England has been reading The Film Experience for years and he's also devoted to Hitchcock
I have deep feelings of love for Amelie and Lost in Translation, but worship at the alter of Rear Window. The perfect film: flawless cast, amazing script, brilliant cinematography, stunning set, fabulous costumes and great music. Grace Kelly is breathtaking, the perfect Hitchcock blonde. She has my eternal devotion along with Patricia Clarkson, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet (give her an Oscar now you mean Academy members) and of course Meryl Streep.
Clearly Chris has good taste in both auteurs and blonde goddesses, give or take Grace Kelly The Thief of Judy Garland's Oscar!

I kid with Chris. The more readers I hear from the more I am reminded that my feelings for Grace Kelly are not shared by the populace at large...nor even rational. Damn those Oscars! They poison me.

Krista in Missouri is a girl after my own heart. She can't make up her mind! She triples her answer for favorite movie ever...
For drama: The Deerhunter. It is one of those movies that had me captivated from the first moment. De Niro, Streep, and Walken are brilliant. For comedy: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I often wish that a comedy of this caliber could be made today. Each time I watch it, I pick up something new. And last, my sentimental favorite: The Wizard of Oz. Trite, I know, but it is one of those movies just etched in my memory. I played the role of the Mayor of Munchkin City when I was 10, and I know every song, every line, every time Judy Garland's hair changes in length.

There is nothing trite about loving The Wizard of Oz, Krista. It's perfect. Flaws? Begone! They have no power here. I'll readily admit, though, that I don't know every line in that grand entertainment. I'm often jealous of the average movie buffs ability to memorize lines. I am terrible at this for some reason. Maybe I see too many movies? Maybe my head is too clogged with Oscar facts to find room for huge swaths of dialogue, too?

Questions For Comments
What's your favorite Hitchcock?
How good are you at reciting movies line for line? (hint: you're better than me)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Stardust (Talking 'bout That Trailer)

This past Friday Yahoo unveiled the first trailer for the summer fantasy epic Stardust. I've watched it several times now. Not because I loved it but because I've read the book and was trying to place certain scenes in--oh forget it...y'all know why I have it on loop. But more on her in a minute.

"My what green CGI you have!"

This preview does a good job of outlining the basic jumpoff of the story: Tristan (Charlie Cox), a lovestruck spontaneous young man vows to bring his wouldbe girlfriend (Sienna Miller) back a fallen star (Claire Danes). She doesn't take him seriously (no one ever leaves their village for the magic kingdom beyond its borders!) but he is quite serious about the vow. Unfortunately, retrieving the fallen star won't be easy and Tristan isn't the only one looking to possess it. Cue all sorts of shady characters including an evil sorceress (Michelle Pfeiffer) who needs the star to recapture her youth. Guess what will happen to that star should the witch prevail? Let's just say it won't be pretty. Adventure, chases, and battles ensue.

The trailers cutesy narration is actually less offputting than it might seem to those unfamiliar with the source material. The movie is based on Neil Gaiman's richly funny adventure novel of the same name. The book is not really in the somber bloodline of recent literary fantasy adaptations like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. It's closer in spirit to something like The Princess Bride though his novel does have darker undercurrents than that film.

Though the comic tone of the trailer didn't surprise me at all, I worry about the abundant CGI. This is clearly overkill. Take a simple scene in a merchants shop wherein the sorceress shushes a merchant who is bothering her. Her magical silencing is accompanied by a green CGI thingie shooting from her fingertips to his lips. This is rather as pointless as visualizing the force in Star Wars. The wow effect should be in your head. Even George Lucas, whilst pissing all over his original Star Wars trilogy with needless f/x updates, didn't think to put glowy green CGI effects around the use of the force --imagine how silly it would be to see Yoda's levitation of a spaceship at Dagoba accompanied by colored energy or see Obi Wan's mind control illustrated with CGI. "These are not the droids you're looking for"

Pfeiffer pays homage to her Ladyhawke entrance 22 years ago.

When you've cast great actors (Stardust has a fine cast from top to bottom) and you've got a great story, a lot of your work is already done for you. When you cast an actress as exceptional as Michelle Pfeiffer as your villainess you really don't need to "help" her performance by making her face go all monstery to scare people. Had the filmmakers never seen White Oleander ? This bitch will cut you.

Matthew Vaughn sat in the directors chair for this adaptation and though the trailer's abundant special effects give me a haunting The Haunting vibe I am still somewhat optimistic. Vaughn's debut feature Layer Cake was tense, cinematic and clever. He also knew just how to use his terrific leading actor (Daniel Craig). But whether this new film is good, bad, or mediocre ... I hope everyone will read Stardust before seeing it. The very best thing about Neil Gaiman's writing is his prose: it's fanciful, witty and deliciously flavored with competing tones and wonderful turns of phrase. Great prose can't really transfer to the screen but great acting, direction and general visual creativity can achieve similarly dextrous moods, humor, and spirit. CGI on the other hand? That's a less supple filmmaking instrument.

1927 Rocks

Let's begin with a lame apology: I really and truly was looking forward to participating in the 1927 Blog-a-Thon that's going on over at goatdog blog. But I ran out of time. I was racked with indecision, then I made a mistake on my Netflix queue and then the cat ate my homework.

Please do go and read the entries. You'll find great posts on Hollywood's transition to sound, the return of Nick Davis to talk about Chang, 1927 as viewed through the prism of the great classic Singin' in the Rain and a highly enjoyable post about movie stars conceived that year (I know!) and lots more.

I'm missing the silent party, damn. I could've told you about my love for Charles "Buddy" Rogers in Wings (although I already did) I coulda urged you to see any of Janet Gaynor's triple film Oscar win (the first Best Actress winner was actually deserving. Whaddya know? Good job Oscar)

At the last minute I decided I wanted to stage a diva battle between Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson and her evil talkie remake counterpart Joan Crawford in Rain . See, even back in the 20s and 30s Hollywood had remake fever (and of things they'd just made no less). That would've been a great post but ---> back to the lame apology up top. This post loops back in on itself.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Now Playing 03/23

Wide Releases
Shooter Mark Wahlberg pulls his trigger. If this movie were an adaptation of Apollonia's 1984 single "Sex Shooter" I woulda camped out to buy a ticket. As it is I can wait for DVD. Moment of interest in the trailer: OMG, Ennis Del Mar's daughter is shacked up with Marky Mark!
TMNT I think you have to be just a smidgeon younger than I am to have this relaunch mean something to your inner child (same goes for the upcoming Transformers).
Pride There's lots of shirtless men but this is not about parades which take place in June. Sorry. Busy great actor Terrance Howard tries his hand at the inspirational sports drama genre. At least the subject is swimming which is something different than the standard trinity: basketball, football and baseball
Reign Over Me Some critics cry "phony" Some critics say "moving" Other than Punch-Drunk Love I haven't been impressed with Sandler as a dramatic actor so I'll wait to absorb the reviews. I guess I should start going to screenings again (what's wrong with me this spring?) Also: I am notoriously prickly about 9/11 based movies so...
The Last Mimzy and now I have officially run out of oomph and am ready to move on from this post... I'll be more thorough in the future (maybe)

Leo & Kate on the Road

Those titanic lovebirds Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are going to pair up onscreen again in an adaptation of the 1961 novel Revolutionary Road. Leo & Kate have moved on in years since Titanic so this time they're a married couple with children. They're still in period garb though, it being a post WWII drama. They'll be acting under the watchful eye of Mr. Kate Winslet himself Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead).

Give the amount of bank old media made obsessing on "Jack & Rose" expect everyone to go bonkers. Expect every mouth wateringly mundane piece o' info info from its upcoming production to spur tabloid craziness "Jack and Rose caught kissing!" etcetera... They'll try and drum up some extra sales. Filming begins this summer so we're probably looking at a 2008 release. That should give it enough distance from that other road title, Reservation Road which is also about unhappy married couples played by Oscar nominees --although the similarities probably end there. [src]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Collective Best Actress Prediction

If 2 heads are better than 1, than surely 112 heads are more than spectacular. One hundred and twelve crazy people readers voted in the (first annual?) year in advance Oscar Actress Psychic contest. Nine months later they'll find out who made the most beautiful prediction baby. Ballot details can be read here.

But the collectively created Oscar nomination prediction is...

[drumroll please]

  • Cate Blanchett (The Golden Age)
  • Julie Christie (Away From Her)
  • Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)
  • Nicole Kidman (Margot at the Wedding)
  • Natalie Portman (The Other Boleyn Girl)
Cate Blanchett's second take on Queen Elizabeth was the only performance on more than 50% of the submitted ballots. Christie's alzheimer's patient and Kidman's wedding guest both found a home on a third of all ballots, way ahead of the pack. Jolie's war journalism widow & Portman as Queen's Elizabeth's mom just barely made the collective five wide shortlist, pulling ahead of four women, two of whom are already Oscar winners...

Continue reading for more notes of interest about the ballots

(I can't believe I'm talking Oscar already. It shouldn't surprise me. But it always does.)

Sanjaya 4Ever!

I'm just pulling your leg. Or am I? Now ... I really hate to post about American Idol (no, I really do. I'm aware that I'm one of those refuge places from the nonstop AI assault in the blogosphere and on the news --WTF? How is this news? so my apologies to those that enjoy the safe place. I know this is disappointing for you) but I have to get this off my chest:

What is so terrible about Sanjaya Malakar?

I ask in all sincerity. Everyone I hear talk has it out for him, strangers and friends alike. Why? Perhaps I should explain why I am bewildered at the hate. Perhaps I should explain why I remain unhating.

Last time I checked (yesterday) this juggernaut show was a glorified MOR golden oldies karaoke contest. So why get upset about a singer who perfectly meshes with their groove: simplistic, poppy, safe for all ages, cute as a button, and young. The show is famously ageist --a common insult being references to people sounding or looking like anything past say 30 years of age. Sanjaya never comes across as anything but a smiley teenager who lucked out and got onto a massive television popularity contest. And that's exactly what he and this is. Good for him. But people hate that he is doing well. Why? This show was created to showcase people just like him.

Last time I checked the judges kept reminding me that it's a singing competition. It isn't really but let's pretend it is. AI has delivered many worse earsores to us than Mr. Malakar who at least often stays in the right key. This season alone (if you count semi-finals) there've been plenty of singers inferior to him. All but maybe two of them are gone --Haley, the whispery boobshaker & Chris Richarson, the nasally one who shuns "melody" (ewww, melody! yuck) for unspecific derivative "runs"-- it's true, but aside for perhaps Antonella whatsherface nobody hated on any of them the way people hate on Sanjaya. Why?

Last time I checked this show was judged by three people with extremely limited vocabulary who often don't know what they're talking about -- I'll give you one largely undiscussed example. The term "cabaret" is used as an insult on this show. Always used that way. Now, unlike the AI judges, I'm guessing, I've actually attended cabaret shows. And the musical truth, at least from my personal experience here in NYC, is that most professional cabaret singers would eat these kids up vocally and still have plenty of room for entrees and dessert (or at least another vodka stinger). They have stunning control over their voices and a complex understanding of song content and storytelling --both of which are skills that AI as a show pays lipservice to. So why is the genre an insult? Are the judges just dumb? Why do they use words in the wrong context? Why can't they define sharp and flat rather than a vague unhelpful "pitchy" Etcetera...

Point being: There are so many reasons to hate this show why pick on Sanjaya? I could talk about all the hateable things about this show for hours. I'm not sure why I watch it. It always makes me angry.

But back to Sanjaya Malakar to wrap up. Things that define him:
  1. He experiments with his hair.
  2. He looks like a cartoon character.
  3. He doesn't have a terrible voice.
  4. He seems friendly and accessible.
  5. He seems to be loved by little kids.
Now correct me if I'm wrong but don't all five of those attributes describe several extremely famous and successful pop icons of the past? Just about the only area where Sanjaya is a failure is in performance: he's boring on stage. But look around. He got company! So why is he the most hated? I seriously don't get it.

Maybe this is why I write about the movies instead of reality television.

Thus endeth my rant on American Idol. I know you didn't ask. I hope to never speak of it again.

[Final note if you're not sick of hearing about my AI love/hate thing: I usually lose interest in the show at this point each season when I realize I only look forward to seeing two of the performers -- Blake & Melinda this year-- and why sit through 2 hours of filler to see 6 minutes of singing?) The reason I want Blake to win is that I think it's hilarious that he's
AI's idea of "contemporary". He's easily the best performer and all around musician on the show but he's only contemporary in that he is retro 80s. So, is he really contemporary or is he just a fun twist on the shows fossilized sense of popular music? I vote the latter. I hope he wins]

Tags: American Idol, Sanjaya Malakar

Friends of the Experience #7

The fundraiser is almost over --so close to the goal! Trying to build a career out of writing leaves one pummelled & bloody but you make it worthwhile. This appreciative, smart and loyal readership I'm getting to know is like a cool glass of water, a bandaid, a sports massage and a peptalking coach all rolled into one. Thank You! Today's spotlight shines on Sam, Michael, George, and Patrick.

Michael in Philly grew up watching the movies during the wondrous 70s, the lucky dog. That was such a smashing film decade. But his favorite comes in 1980.
But the one that cemented my love for the art of film and semi-obsession with the Oscars was Raging Bull. I was 18 when it was released. And everything about it was captivating. The creamy black-and-white cinematography, DeNiro's transformation, Pesci's white-hot rage, Moriarty's ice-cold contempt, the choreography and brutality of the boxing scenes. Above all, the sheer brio and forcefulness of Scorsese's directing. (Incidentally, like Marty, I was raised in an urban Italian-American Catholic home, so I could certainly identify with his worldview).

Of course, on Oscar night, the white-hot rage was mine.
And it only took the Academy another 26 years to make it up to Michael and all of us. Aren't they sweet?

George is next door to me (OK, across the water) in New Jersey and has been a reader for years. George's first "Oscars" was Tatum O'Neal's historic win for Paper Moon and he tells me that before the days of the internet he had no idea how many other Oscar obsessives there were.
I couldn't pick a favorite movie, there are so many (Terms of Endearment, The Birdcage, Room with a View, The Hours are all up there); but I do have a very favorite actress -- Geraldine Page. If you ever have a minute I'd love to see what you have to say about where you rate either her Oscar winning performance or those she did not win for (love her in Sweet Bird of Youth, but especially Trip to Bountiful).

Again, love your site. Still amazes me to see people from all over the world are reading and loving the same stuff I am.
It amazes me too, the response and the community feeling of movie worship. As for Geraldine... It's probably high time I wrote about her. So I'll cook something up but my quick take is: I'm still deciding. But I'll leave you with a positive two-fer. I think she's brilliant in both Sweet Bird of Youth (recent acclaimed diva performances owe her royalty checks) and Interiors. More on Geraldine later!

Sam hails from Texas and picks a southern film to cherish.
I'm almost embarrassed to say so, but my favorite film really has to be Gone With the Wind. I know, I know, it perpetuates racist myths, and the guilty white liberal in me hesitates to admit it, but I can't help it. I grew up in the deep south (SC) and always wanted to be Scarlett O'Hara. I worship at the alter of Vivien Leigh. Bettie Davis said Leigh's performance was the best screen performance ever, and I think that's still true. Hattie McDaniel took a paper-thin stereotype and wrung every bit of life out of it. Everybody was at the top of their game.
I think that's true about Gone With the Wind --a'top of the game' film for sure. In some ways I think Titanic is a perfect modern counterpoint. You can see why people don't like it. You can even see its flaws clearly but it hardly matters because of the movie-movie perfection of it. It's just too much movie to ignore. I last saw Gone With the Wind about 12 years ago but it was my first time seeing it in a movie theater. The hours flew by. I could scarcely believe it when the lights came up.

Patrick sent a donation from Berlin along with an unusual confession to which I actually relate (*buries head*)
The film that made me fall in love with movies was actually Ghost (I was 12 and it was my first time at the movies without my parents...). It's hard to admit for someone who usually loves the likes of Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Toni Collette or Helen Mirren, but I've had a thing for Demi Moore ever since. Of course I know she's not a very good actress and has made horrible choices, but all the bad press she got in the second half of the 90s made me love her even more. And for everyone who thinks Ghost was the peak of her career acting wise, I recommend Mortal Thoughts by Alan Rudolph - which is especially good since it also stars Glenne Headley.
I shared this with Patrick earlier but I also have a thing for Demi Moore. A small thing...but it still flickers now and again. I fell hard during St. Elmo's Fire (I was young, don't judge) and remained minorly smitten throughout bad performances, bad films, awesome magazine covers, lots of pregnancies, and strange choices: Living in Idaho? A house built just for her dolls. Divorcing Bruce Willis? Why not! I sometimes wish she was a little more visibly bat-shit crazy (like, say, Sharon Stone) to ramp up her celeb appeal but she was pretty good at being famous during her peak.

Questions for Comment
Who do you find it hard to admit that you love?
What say ye on Oscar perennial Geraldine Page or that #1 film of all time (yes, still) GWTW?