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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Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots

"With only a few scenes at her disposal, Samantha Morton was an amazing, amazing Mary Queen of Scots in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age". Don't expect that portrayal of the lady will ever be topped." -Ken

"Saoirse Ronan is an inspired choice for Mary. But... Who signed off on Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I? What is this madness." - BillyBob

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Burning Questions: Can Horror Keep a Straight Face?

 Michael C. here to talk horror and I left the spoilers back in civilization where they can't be reached. If Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods ends up the cult favorite it is so clearly destined to be, it will not be simply because Whedon’s acolytes turn up automatically or because the film is a hoot that efficiently presses every horror geek button known to man. Cabin has a lock on cult status because it so perfectly captures a moment in time.

Cabin in the Woods can't stop looking at Horror's reflections

If Scream’s purpose in ’96 was to take the piss out of the slasher movie, Goddard's film uses the slasher flick as a jumping off point to take on the whole horror genre, top to bottom. In this era, when even non-horror fans chuckles when the dead teenager clichés make their appearances on cue, Cabin pulls back the curtain on the machinations of the whole show until it resembles a viral supercut of the horror genre’s interchangeable, formulaic parts, and it expects the audience to laugh with recognition at each one. 

So if audiences are as savvy as the Cabin's filmmakers expect them to be one wonders: Have horror movies lost the ability to play it straight? Have they given up trying to surprise a fanbase that is perpetually in on the joke?


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Take Three: John Hurt

Craig here with the third season of Take Three. Today: John Hurt

Take One: Brighton Rock (2010)
Hurt has alternated starring roles with supporting performances since he began acting in films with The Wild and the Willing in 1962. The amount of quality supporting turns he’s delivered over the years is vast: 10 Rillington Place, Midnight Express, The Shout, The Hit, Scandal, The Field, Contact, The Proposition, Melancholia, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are a mere few. His fine turn as accountant Phil Corkery in the Brighton Rock remake (backing up Helen Mirren, Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough and Andy Serkis) is a recent solid addition to the list and deserves due credit. Phil’s a gaunt shambles, but loyal to Mirren’s Ida, his long-time crush. He’s one of the old guard. A proud man accustomed to propping up bars whilst waxing forth about the state of the world. He’s the kind of bloke who changes his bow tie each day but wears out the same coat and pork-pie hat. Hurt blusters when faced with the criminal element, but in his staunch moral belief and touching devotion to Ida he comes through. Hurt’s on the sidelines for much of the time, but it’s to his credit that he’s still willing to, at this later stage in his career, take small parts when he believes in the material. He adds a nod of class to the film. That he gives us a characterful turn in only a handful of scenes – a minor glimmer amid a career of solid gems – owes much to his mastery of screen acting.

Take Two: Dogville (2003) with a nod to Manderlay (2005)
We don’t see Hurt in Dogville. But I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that they recall him being in it – so vivid is his contribution to Lars von Trier’s polemic-play.

He’s the narrator of events at Kidman’s damned mountain hideout, a disembodied stream of words. He's a sage, an all-knowing set of omniscient vocal chords from above (and he is above, isn’t he?). Yet he’s an intrinsic part of the film as its voice, conveying the fabric of the town. From the opening moments he smoothly introduces us to the inhabitants of von Trier's alloegorial enclave yet he does so with just the tiniest creakiest sliver of alarm. Dogville was an inventive stage-bound tale and Hurt the vocal master of ceremonies relaying to us the trials of the belligerent lives treading the chalk-outlined boards. Maybe ol’ Lars saw Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (deftly narrated by, and starring, a sly Hurt) prior to choosing his Dogville storyteller. Or maybe – I prefer to think – he saw 2000’s The Tigger Movie (deftly narrated by a cuddly Hurt). Either way, Hurt’s narrator combines the shrewdness of a learned professor and the wise experience of a well-travelled uncle. It may seem a slight cheat to include Hurt’s throat work in Dogville, but his was the key, albeit invisible, performance. He may not have been in every scene, but he was within them; the thread binding Dogville together.

Take Three: The Elephant Man (1980)
Hurt and David Lynch set a particularly high bar for cinematic portrayals rich in tender empathy with The Elephant Man. It was brought about thanks to Mel Brooks’ love of Eraserhead, given its own surreal signature by Lynch’s astute direction, and completed by Hurt’s compassionate performance as ill-fated circus act John Merrick. His BAFTA winning and Oscar-nominated performance is rightly regarded as one of the best of the ‘80s. The performance's initial impression are made through a distorted middle-class accent, a laboured walk and a cloth bag covering his head which itself is shaped in elephantine fashion. But as the film continues it becomes a fully embodied performance.

Hurt plays beautifully off the facial reactions of his fellow actors: Anthony Hopkins, Hannah Gordon, Anne Bancroft and John Gielgud all convey various concerns that we as an audience are also experiencing. A great deal of Hurt's power in the role comes through his ability to create heart-rending drama through poignant interaction. Hurt's palpable delight at 19th Century niceties as Merrick revels in the elegance of high society is captivating. We’re with him in his discovery of refinement and eventual acceptance, so that when, as his condition dictates, he succumbs to inevitable death our feelings go beyond sadness into near empathic despair.

At the halfway mark Merrick sees a drawing of a child sleeping and forlonly turns to Anthony Hopkins' Treves.

Merrick: I wish I could sleep like normal people. Can you cure me?
Treves: No. We can care for you but we can't cure you.
Merrick: No, I thought not."

This last line comes without fuss or delay but with only a dreadful knowing. Hurt creates in Merrick a refined man of wonder -- it’s the age itself that's ugly. The Elephant Man is a heartbreaking experience every time. Now, ‘scuse me, I appear to have something in my eye...

Three more films for the taking: Alien (1979), Love and Death on Long Island (1997), V for Vendetta (2006). Previously on Take Three: Melissa Leo


Curio: Hollywood's Garage Sale

Alexa here.  The 2012 Hollywood Legends Auction, held recently by Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, made some news because it included the first sale of Whitney Houston's belongings since her passing. I recently perused the catalog and was interested to see many items from Rue McClanahan's estate (Golden Girls caftans!) and artifacts from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's life together (including some patio furniture). There were hundreds of interesting film curios, including costumes, original artwork and odd, lifelike mannequins. Also fascinating was how much many of the items went for.  Why did Debbie Reynolds' Singin' in the Rain Costume fetch $10,000 more than Natalie Wood's Gypsy ensemble? Who knows.  Here is a small selection of the hundreds. You can flip through the catalog here.

Orson Welles self portrait, sold for $8,960.

Eyes Wide Shut mannequins, sold for $1,408.


Cabaret, Cleopatra, Gypsy and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...


April Showers: "Home For the Holidays"

waterworks each weeknight at 11. This particular installment of April Showers was first published in 2009.

One of the greatest disconnects I've ever had between consensus response to a movie and my own reaction was in 1995 when Jodie Foster's second film Home for the Holiday debuted. It was mostly ignored by the public and the critics were out for blood. Maybe Jodie Foster had just been too successful and too lauded and it was time for the pendulum to swing back? Perhaps the undercurrent was along the lines of 'Does she have to be good at making movies in addition to acting in them?'

Even Robert Downey Jr playing Tommy got bad reviews for his performance as teh gay brother to Holly Hunter's Claudia. Though his performance is pretty out there with his needling rapid fire joking -- he's consistently pushing things too far -- it's also exactly in line with the movie's own sense of humor. And Bonus points: the sibling chemistry between Claudia and Tommy is pretty damn credible. If you're not familiar with the movie I urge you to rent it. You protest: But it's one of thousands of quirky dysfunctional family holiday comedies! I counter: it arrived before that ultra specific genre was wildly over saturated and it's actually very funny.

Holly's shower scene is fairly typical of the movies fast, funny and familial nature. Anne Bancroft, playing Adele the mother, is talking at Claudia but not really with her. Claudia is talking at Adele but not listening. They're on different pages and both of them never shut up. The older woman exits the scene leaving her daughter showering in an open bathroom...

Mom, close the door behind you okay?
okay, no problem, I usually shower in public.
I have no pride.
I have no rights.
I'm only four years old.

I don't need to tell you that Holly Hunter is one of the funniest people in the movies and she was still in her incredible prime at the time (roughly 1987-1998). She makes every pause and emphasis count in a line reading. So many laughs to be had in four sentences. After Claudia is done complaining about the unplanned exhibitionism, she gets down to business. She's vigorously shampooing, suds flying, until she freezes in place with a gasp. Her mischievous brother is lumbering towards the shower curtain like some comic monster.

I swear to god, Tommy, I'm naked in here and I am too old...


Holly's blind recoil from the polaroid flash is the split second punchline and Foster immediately cuts to the next scene, no time to waste... more rapid fire joking to follow.


Coming Soon to "Hit Me..."

Have you been following along with season three of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"? This series thrives on your comments and/or visual participation and dies without them. So don't leave us in solitary confinement staring at the movies obsessively. In season three we've already covered Snow White (30s Disney), Easter Parade (40s musical), Bonnie & Clyde (60s landmark) and Ladyhawke (80s fantasy). Because we aim for a true variety of genre and time periods in this series, here's the next six weeks of the movie schedule.

Please consider joining the fun.

Apr 18th Serenity (2007) and/or Firefly (2005)
Joss Whedon is having a huge film year (Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, Much Ado About Nothing) so we're looking back at his directorial (feature) debut. Or if you have never seen the TV series on which Serenity is based for this episode only of the cinematic series you can do "best shot" with a television pilot. Both are available on Netflix Instant Watch.

Apr 25th Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
This Oscar nominee and arthouse hit helped make international sensations out of the legendary director/muse pair Zhang Yimou & Gong Li. We love them both so let's dive into this sad gorgeous concubine's den in 1920s China.

May 2nd  Pariah (2011)
We've never done a brand new movie just as it hits DVD so I chose this one about a closeted lesbian teenager because it's a) very good b) underseen and c) not principally acclaimed for its visuals and those films can be interesting challenges in this series which tends to focus on more visually ambitious pictures.

May 9th  The Exorcist (1973) 
It was just voted the best horror movie of all time, it's a massive touchstone film, and if I don't force myself to watch it (I know I know) I never will. Will our heads spin until we're vomiting trying to choose the single greatest shot? Currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.

May 15th Edward Scissorhands (1990)
With Dark Shadows in theaters, we'll look at the Burton/Depp collaboration that started it all.

May 23rd Possessed (1947) 
I've been itching for some Joan Crawford lately and this acclaimed noir brought her her second Oscar nomination (shortly after the win for Mildred Pierce). I've never seen it so join me as Joan obsesses so hard over a man that she ends up in a psychiatric ward.

You'll be possessed by the love-madness of POSSESSED

Will you be joining us for any of these? Truly it's the more the merrier with this series. I can't be the only best shot participant that loves loves loves seeing the wide range of opinions when a lot of people look at the very same piece of art.

Sound off on this series in the comments. What do you think of it?


Katniss on the Catwalk.

Jose here. You know you've made it when your movie not only is the number one movie in the planet, but you also start influencing fashion. If you disagree, I have no trouble doing Meryl's "Cerulean monologue"...or quoting anything Effie Trinket says in The Hunger Games.

Effie's movie isn't only on its way to becoming one of the top grossing movies of all time, it's also becoming an influence for fashion designers. Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa has just designed a lovely dress inspired by Katniss Everdeen (the heroine played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie).


The peach colored, silk-crepe dress perfectly embodies Katniss' simplicity with the rich fabrics one would imagine they wear at the Capitol but with its hefty price tag of $5,000, isn't the dress a bit of an oxymoron? It would be like having a bread brand named after Marie Antoinette.

Any way, what are some of your favorite movie-inspired, real life style trends?