Oscar History

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

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The Gotham Nominations

Get Out (4 nods each), Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, Florida Project (3 nods each)

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Arrested Memory

Michael Cera on the set of the new "Arrested Development"Matt here! The genius of Arrested Development is dependent on itself. Many viewers have commented on how the show becomes more and more impressive as it progresses – they’re right. Like many of the great television shows of the last decade (Mad Men and Breaking Bad, to name only two), Arrested Development uses memory to invoke thematic/narrative cohesion. Blue handprints on the wall aren’t funny by themselves. But through slow-cooked patience, little notes on the refridgerator and blue handprints on the wall become radically inventive comic nuggets. Instead of using self-reference to prove its own intelligence, the show twists audience awareness into a series of increasingly complex gags. I’m willing to submit that it’s the best example of 21st Century television comedy along with Louie.

Arrested Development uses the intelligence and memory of its audience as an advantage. Aside from the prescient political commentary, the show builds jokes through both intra- and intertextuality. But they’re not just jokes. They point towards the show’s favorite theme – incest. The Bluth family’s constant swapping of precious bodily fluids is emphasized by the jokes that tend to procreate with themselves. MORE

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Two Tolands

Matt here. Earlier, I wrote about Gregg Toland as Teresa Wright’s accomplice in manufacturing the luminance of William Wyler’s 1946 film, Best Years of Our Lives. If anyone is unfamiliar with Toland’s name, you’ve certainly seen his work. He’s the cinematographer responsible for Citizen Kane, The Best Years of Our Lives, Wuthering Heights, and The Grapes of Wrath. He could be considered as much of an auteur as many of the great directors, leaving a fairly recognizable stamp on anything bearing his name. Orson Welles cemented his legacy when he decided to share his title card with Toland at the end of Kane.

Anyway, Toland came to mind earlier and it made me think about how, among his innumerable virtues, his most important skill was his ability to adapt. It’s fascinating to see how his trademarks (deep focus, risky lighting, etc.) shifted to suit whatever director he worked with.

Deep focus existed before Toland, but he taught the world to see it as an extension of the cinematic language. As the best filmmakers do, he used the camera to define the emotional implications of the script. In Citizen Kane, Toland’s methods suggested the deep tragedy of the film and helped the audience to understand Charles Foster Kane merely by looking at him. You could probably watch Kane on mute and still comprehend the characterization.

At his best, Toland told the story with his camera. Deep focus is used to isolate characters in Kane – detailing their proportion to the world around them. Characters occupy different parts of the screen depending their emotional status. But in Best Years of Our Lives, deep focus is used to bring characters together.

By the time The Best Years of Our Lives rolled around, Toland was secure in his technique. His impeccable style and clarity adjusted to combine brilliantly with William Wyler's organizational fixation. When Al returns home and so timidly walks into his own home (after ringing the doorbell, no less), he embraces his wife about 20 feet away from the camera, down a long hallway. They are nicely in focus and so are their children, standing 5 feet away.

By comparing Toland's use of deep focus in Best Years of Our Lives with something like Kane, we begin to notice how his gift wasn't only in choosing lenses – it was in his wisdom of when and how to use them. With Wyler, Toland used the device to synchronize with his organizational instinct and his obsession with neatness. Welles, on the other hand, encouraged deep focus to occupy a component of Kane's megalomania, to follow him down the barrel of the gun. Same method. Two wildly different results.


VIDEO ESSAY: There Will Be Blood and Symmetry

Hey everybody! It’s Matt.

Five years have passed since we last heard from Paul Thomas Anderson, but he returns on September 14th with The Master, a movie that has been the object of considerable anticipation related to a few surprise screenings and its subject matter. Anderson’s phalanx of adoring fans has already started to speculate on The Master’s Oscar potential. While it is meaningless to start daydreaming about Anderson’s acceptance speech before we've seen the movie, there are several reasons to get excited about The Master.

Above all, it is crucial to recognize that Anderson has managed to improve with every project. He has progressed from the boisterous creative ecstasy of Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, and Magnolia to the tight formal elegance of Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. There Will Be Blood, one of the many great films released in 2007, is especially notable for its visual and thematic maturity. Anderson used a careful system of symmetries and visual rhymes to hold together the sprawling, epic subject.

In this video essay, I demonstrate how Paul Thomas Anderson communicates his ideas. The video is graciously hosted by IndieWire’s Press Play. Be sure to head over and check out a brief introduction. Special thanks to Matt Zoller Seitz, someone I really look up to, for his assistance.


And "Guest Starring"...

I'm heading to the airport tomorrow for some much needed time with my mom, but don't fret. In fact, you may have quite an adventure coming up this next week at The Film Experience. The usual members of Team Experience that you know and love like Beau and Jose will be around and we'll also welcome Matt Zurcher of The Family Berzurcher to the blog. Like the rest of us he lives and breathes movies but he's also a musician and plays several instruments so that's, like, going above and beyond.

Plus two very special guests stars direct from the silver screen...

Writer/Director Leslye Headland. Actress Melanie Lynskey.

Leslye Headland the writer/director of Bachelorette (currently on iTunes and opening in theaters on September 7th) and the lovely actress Melanie Lynskey star of Hello, I Must Be Going (also opening Sept 7th) and a frequent face in movies you know and love like Heavenly Creatures, The Informant, Away We Go and Win Win will be here. They will each be taking over the blog for one day !!!

update: Lesley's posts & Melanie's posts

So give these ladies your full attention and pour yourself into the comments once they arrive. It's like we've gone full Mia in The Purple Rose of Cairo and the movies are walking right off the screen and into this blog. Hell, ask them some questions right now in the comments and maybe you'll inspire a sentence or three in their posts.

I'll see you in the comments and I'll be back midweek to snatch back the reigns from these movie muses.


Movie Love

Hello, readers of The Film Experience – Matt Zurcher, here. Aside from joining in on a few recent editions of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, it’s my first time writing at The Film Experience. I want to publicly thank Nathaniel for inviting me to cover for him today. In order to introduce myself, I wanted to make a little list focused on a trademark of this site – the adoration of actresses.

Is it possible to fall in love at the movies? I’m not talking about the fleeting arousal that Hollywood manufactures so well – I’m talking about that strange, lingering fantasy. Pauline Kael’s book titles – “I Lost It at the Movies,” “Going Steady,” “Reeling,” “When the Lights Go Down,” and “Movie Love” – all render moviegoing as a sexual experience. I can’t disagree with Pauline. There is something deeply intimate going on between the viewer and the screen. Fiction isn’t so far from Fact. When we’re properly pulled in, we don’t separate our feelings for the person sitting next to us from the person whose face is 20 feet tall.

These are five performances that continue to enchant me. Who have you fallen for in the dark?

5. Teresa Wright, The Best Years of Our Lives [Wyler, 1946]

I want to give the biggest high-five to the casting director of Best Years of Our Lives. Teresa Wright was not the most beautiful or charming choice to play the romantic lead and daughter of Frederic March’s WWII veteran. But her presence in Best Years is warmer than a Snuggie. She is the ultimate girl to take home to your parents. She isn’t sexualized and creates a portrait of calm concern for her family and relationships. She plays a young woman who believes in the value of emotional intimacy. Gregg Toland’s photography can’t be left out of this discussion. It’s a perfect example of Hollywood manufacturing the impossible ideal that pushes film so close to us.

four more lovely ladies after the jump

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It's Happening... Again.

Hello Lovely Readers!

Beau here, and holy God, it’s happening. 


Yeah, yeah, I knew Carrie was in production, but it’s one of those films you know is being made but you don’t truly believe it until you see a still in front of you.  And lucky for us, we have two.

Initial Thoughts:

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