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Smackdown Summer - Revamp Your Queues!

29 May 2015 5:03 AM, PDT

We're just 9 days away from the launch of another Smackdown Summer. Rather than announce piecemeal, we'll give you all five lineups in case you'd like more time to catch up with these films (some of them stone cold classics) over the hot months. Remember to cast your own ballots during each month for the reader-polling (your 1979 votes are due by June 4th). Your votes count toward the final Smackdown win so more of you should join in. 

These Oscar years were chosen after comment reading, dvd searching, handwringing, and desire-to-watch moods.  I wish we had time to squeeze in a dozen Smackdowns each summer! As it is there will be Two Smackdowns in June, a gift to you since this first episode was delayed.

Sunday June 7th

The Best Supporting Actresses of 1979

Meryl Streep won her first of three Oscars while taking her co-star Jane Alexander along for the Oscar ride in Kramer vs. Kramer. »

- NATHANIEL R

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Tim's Toons: Sex in clay

28 May 2015 6:30 PM, PDT

For The Lusty Month of May, we're looking at a few sex scenes. Here's Tim...

Say "animated sex", and two things immediately leap to mind. If you’'e hung up on American cinema, it's the self-consciously edgy and smutty underground animation of the '70s - Fritz the Cat and its heirs. Or, God help you, maybe it's the legendary (and, to be fair, very much exaggerated) cult of anime tentacle porn out of Japan. We are not going to talk about either one of those things.

Though in fairness, the particular animated sex scene I have in mind isn't much less disturbing than mythological Japanese fetish porn. It's the second segment of Jan Švankmajer's 1982 short Dimensions of Dialogue, one of the most important works of Czechoslovakian animation. I promise that Czechoslovakian animation is definitely a thing.

The whole movie is available online, and it’s pretty Nsfw even for totally non-sexual reasons. »

- Tim Brayton

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Women's Pictures - Sofia Coppola's Somewhere

28 May 2015 11:10 AM, PDT

Anne Marie's Sofia Coppola chapter of 'Women's Pictures' has reached its finale. Next month: Agnes Varda!

Sofia Coppola month has been enlightening. I don't know that we've tackled a director as polarizing as Ms. Coppola on Women's Pictures to date, and I've enjoyed reading the varied reactions readers have had to her films. For that reason, and because of the more prominent autobiographical inspirations, the final movie of Sofia Coppola month is Somewhere, the often-overlooked 2010 dramedy.

Somewhere distills the themes Coppola has employed throughout her career, putting them in service of a story that rings clearly from the writer/director's personal experience. After all, before she was Sofia Coppola, Academy Award winning screenwriter and respected director, she was Sofia Coppola, daughter of famed auteur Francis Ford Coppola. She had a firsthand account of how major celebrity can free a person and also trap him, and those contradictions resonate through her entire ouvre. »

- Anne Marie

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Links: Martin, Cheno, Lynch, Diggs, Max, and More

28 May 2015 9:26 AM, PDT

To Purchase Click on Poster

<---Look at this amazing Blue Velvet poster making the web rounds. [Hat tip Mnpp]. I so love painted movie posters and it's only 7 bucks. Click on photo to go to the artist's site.

Links

El Desio Pedro Almodóvar blogging from the set of Silencio (!!) with two photos

Dissolve Today in Ballsiest News: Nate Parker (Beyond the Lights) who we just celebrated as a Born in '79 Hottie is directing and starring in a feature biopic of Nat Turner, a slave who led a bloody massacre against white captors in 1831. But here's the ballsy part: they're naming it Birth of a Nation (!) 

Vanity Fair Don Hertzfeldt (World of Tomorrow) says being an artist should be your full time job. Hear hear! Start donating to creatives you believe in or purchasing their work. Life is not free. 

Mubi "Psychopolitical Realism in Mad Max: Fury Road" - provocative piece

Far Flung »

- NATHANIEL R

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Vintage 1979: Kramer vs. Kramer, Sweeney Todd, Chris Pratt, Rosamund Pike, and More...

27 May 2015 3:14 PM, PDT

1979 is our "Year of the Month" and this post was way way too much fun to research. Before the main course of the Supporting Actress Smackdown (pushed to June 7th), let's marinate a little in the year that was. 

original print ad for Kramer vs. Kramer (available on eBay)

Jackie Earle Haley, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, and Daniel Stern broke out via "Breaking Away"

Best Movies According To...

Oscar: Kramer vs Kramer*, All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, and Norma Rae were the best pictures nominees but they also loved La Cage Aux Folles, The China Syndrome, Manhattan, Being There and The Black Stallion

Golden Globe: (drama) Kramer vs Kramer*, Apocalypse Now, The China Syndrome, Manhattan and Norma Rae (comedy)  Breaking Away*, Being There, Hair, The Rose, and 10

Cannes: Apocalypse Now And All That Jazz (Glenn discussed this odd consecutive Oscar-adjacent business)

Box Office: 1) Kramer vs. Kramer 2) The Amityville Horror »

- NATHANIEL R

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HBO’s Lgbt History: Common Threads (1989)

27 May 2015 11:30 AM, PDT

Manuel is working his way through all the Lgbt-themed films & miniseries produced and distributed by HBO.

Last week we looked at the quietly touching film Tidy Endings (1988), written and starring Harvey Fierstein and a must-see for Stockard Channing completists. We’re not going far this week, since much of HBO’s early Lgbt output tried to grapple with the AIDS epidemic that had dominated the cultural conversation about gay men in the 1980s.

Did you know that films produced by HBO have won over 20 Oscars? This past year alone, HBO dominated both documentary categories with Citizenfour and Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 emerging victorious. It has been a stealth awards run which Sheila Nevins (currently the president of HBO Documentary Films but her involvement stretches back to 1979) has all but nurtured herself. 

Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989)

Written & Directed by: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman (based on the book, The »

- Manuel Betancourt

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Breaking: Cara Seymour to Guest Blog!

27 May 2015 9:00 AM, PDT

Sister Harriett. Hellcat Maggie. Pat Archer. Linda Houston. Mrs. Contie. Amelia Kavan. Marjorie Mellor. And 'Christie'...

One of the screen's best character actresses is taking over The Film Experience on June 9th. You've seen her in Gangs of New York, Hotel Rwanda, Dancer in the Dark, Birth, Adaptation, An Education, and American Psycho, among others. 

She wowed again as the unconventional nun "Sister Harriet" in Steven Soderbergh's Emmy hopeful "The Knick" (which just finished shooting Season 2). Now meet the actress behind the indelible characters.

Have any question for this fine talent?

»

- NATHANIEL R

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Review: Far From The Madding Crowd

27 May 2015 6:45 AM, PDT

In Far From the Madding Crowd, a new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel, every eligible man wants Carey Mulligan’s winsome Bathsheba. But she cannot be tamed! (Funny how commitment phobia reads as strength in a female protagonist and weakness in a male protagonist). Or at least she won’t “settle” for less than what she’s already planned for herself. Nevertheless the wanting continues and the camera, observes her, often at a distance as with a memorable shot of Bathsheba laying back from her saddle, as if enjoying the tactile and visual sensations of the powerful creature beneath her and the vibrant foliage and sky above her.

(This review contains a general trajectory ending spoiler but it is based on a 151 year-old classic novel.)

Three bachelors and Bathsheba's issues after the jump... 

»

- NATHANIEL R

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Beauty Break: "Cinema Without People"

26 May 2015 7:38 PM, PDT

My favorite tumblr of the moment is called Cinema Without People which collects images from movies without the characters in them. Sometimes it's a perfect reminder of the skill of production designers, art directors, and set decorators such as the Goldfinger set.

(One of my favorite awards stats is the different ways that BAFTA and Oscar treat James Bond films and BAFTA rightly nominated this one for Art Direction.)

Other times it reminds you of great storytelling, auteur quirks, or the characters themselves through their very absence. It's nearly always haunting and beautiful. The very shy "about" portion of the tumblr simply declares that it was made with love for introvert film fans. I am not an introvert but I can still feel the love.

After the jump 10 more images that caught my eye that I just loved...

»

- NATHANIEL R

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"Are you a Catholic?" (Actually No, But I *Get* It)

26 May 2015 4:06 PM, PDT

For The Lusty Month of May, we're looking at a few sex scenes. Here's Nathaniel...

They like to say that people come into your lives for a reason. Also true of movies. When I saw Priest (1994) in its American release in 1995, I was just out of the closet but still very much struggling with having been a strict Mormon for then roughly 100% of my life. The movie is about a gay Priest (Linus Roache) who struggles with his vows .... and not just the sexual ones. It hit me in a seismic way. This had never happened to me before or since but I started crying at the end and actually couldn't stop until after the credits had ended. 

Where you are in life can dictate a lot about how you receive a movie. But this series is about sex scenes so let's narrow our focus. Today Priest's sex scene, »

- NATHANIEL R

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Laura Benanti Predicting "Supergirl" in 2013

26 May 2015 1:00 PM, PDT

We're celebrating 1979 this month so let's talk about one of its most underused / overtalented showbiz babies: Laura Benanti.

She's a Tony Winner (Gypsy) with great pipes, Broadway's Queen of Twitter (giving her 71 thousand followers more joy with hilarity than you can fathom if you don't follow her), and this decade she's been making inroads to television stardom with recurring characters on several shows including "Nurse Jackie" and "Nashville" but she's still without a big leading role which she more than obviously deserves!

She'll next be seen as Supergirl's birthmother in the pilot of "Supergirl" (2015) - currently having pirating problems -- so add psychic to her many gifts. See, In 2013 she stripped down into Supergirl costume at a Skivvies* concert! See the video after the jump »

- NATHANIEL R

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Review: Tomorrowland

26 May 2015 10:00 AM, PDT

Michael C here. Last week I was here to announce that one of my anticipated 2015 titles exceeded my expectations. This week I need to come to grips how another of my most anticipated could miss the mark so badly.

Like the theme park from which it takes its inspiration, the future in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland is not a tangible thing, but an idea, a gleaming Jetsons cityscape forever just over the horizon inspiring the better angels of our nature with its promise of utopia. It’s not “the future”. It’s The Future! 

Unfortunately, where Disney World can get away with organizing a collection or attractions around nothing but a spirit of uncomplicated hope, a movie needs to build a structure around those feelings, and it’s there that Bird’s film struggles. It aims to stir the soul but its impact is dulled as it gets lost in its scattershot, »

- Michael C.

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Peggy Link

26 May 2015 8:00 AM, PDT

Theater Mania Juliette Binoche to return to the stage with Sophocles' Antigone

Playbill interviews Laura Benanti 

Variety the charming animated fable Song of the Sea takes Best Picture at the Irish Film Awards. Have you seen it yet? It was very nearly my favorite of last year's animated pictures. 

Guardian interviews Vincent Cassell on his disturbing Australian drama Partisan with a look back at his now-classic breakthrough in La Haine (which might get a sequel)

Variety critics hash out the best and worst of Cannes together with the most fascinating split being on Hou Hsiao Hsien's The Assassin which Debruge finds "impenetrable" and for which Chang expresses rapturous love. (Note: they also seem to admire Carol more than love it - which is why I've always been less bullish than most early Oscar prognosticators in assuming AMPAS's future love for it)

Nick Davis, Tim Brayton, Ivan Albertson and »

- NATHANIEL R

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A Letter to Todd Haynes

26 May 2015 5:01 AM, PDT

Dearest Todd,

Never ever under any circumstances take another 8 year break from the cinema. The reviews for Carol (2015) read at times like an ecstatic mirage, dehydrated desert critics stumbling upon a Haynes-flavored pool. Its weird ½ an actress prize at Cannes, for the unexpected ½ at that, feels somehow fitting given the prismatic way you like to view identity (Velvet Goldmine, I'm Not There, etc).

I can't tell you the joy I felt this morning waking up to the news that you've added a third project (!!!) to your upcoming slate after so much hibernation. Of the two we already knew about a TV series set in a 1970s commune sounds the most promising; it's an underexplored rich topic in terms of time period and political content -- you're counter culture enough to do it justice. The other project, the Untitled Peggy Lee Biopic is a swell idea, too. You're the one filmmaker »

- NATHANIEL R

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Two Women. Two Questions

25 May 2015 4:20 PM, PDT

First a Question For You

Have you ever been baffled or resentful of an Oscar win (any category) only to finally see the picture and go "Oh, okay. I get it" and feel sheepish about your past dismissal (even if it wouldn't quite change your vote)? 

Such was the case with me and Sophia Loren's Two Women (1961) the only 1960s Best Actress win I hadn't seen, largely because I was so angry about it growing up given my intense love of Natalie Wood, who lost her best shot at the statue (Splendor in the Grass) in the peak year of her popularity (West Side Story). But when the Walter Reade screened Vittoria de Sica's Two Women this weekend I decided to fix the gap. Sophia was terrific, particularly in the final act when the movie takes quite a dark turn (in some ways it's a very strange film, a »

- NATHANIEL R

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Holidayland at the Box Office

25 May 2015 12:00 PM, PDT

Memorial Day Weekend 4 day estimates are in and though it was a week weekend overall - Tomorrowland was soft which is quite scary since its budget was decidedly not -- but the three top holdovers are all bonafide hits with moviegoers.

Tomorrowland reached for a giant pot of gold, came up short.

Top Five Wide

May 22-25 Weekend

01 Tomorrowland New $41.7 

02 Pitch Perfect 2 $38.5 (cum. $126) Review

03 Mad Max: Fury Road $32.1 (cum. $95.5) Review & Podcast

04 Avengers: Age of Ultron $27.8 (cum. $410.9) Review & Marathon & Podcast

05 Poltergeist NEWbutOLD $26.5 

If you adjust for inflation Avengers: Age of Ultron might end its run as only the seventh highest grossing superhero flick of all time behind (in this order) The Avengers (2012), The Dark Knight (2008), Spider-Man (2002), Batman (1989), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Superman (1978), though the latter is within reach if it can hold its theaters. Which is not to say that it isn't a massive hit; the sequel shouldn't have any problem »

- NATHANIEL R

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From Dope to Adam Jones: New Posters Roundup

25 May 2015 7:00 AM, PDT

Manuel here to try and help us catch up with the barrage of new film posters (and trailers!) that have dropped these past few days. It’s hard to keep up, what with Cannes, Eurovision, singing along with the Barden Bellas and furiously following Mad Max. Here are six posters you may have missed:

Musically Inclined: A #Tbt double feature

The Sundance hit (review here) gets an appropriately 90s-tinged and sunny poster that features a pretty fun tagline (“It’s hard out there for a geek”) while the film adaptation of the gloriously 80s cartoon gets a Snapchatty poster (telling you everything you need to know about its intended audience) which looks as broody as that underwhelming first trailer.

Tearjerkers: Docs to sob to

Word from Cannes was pretty ecstatic about the former and for those who loved Senna and Amy Winehouse this should come as no surprise; knowing this, »

- Manuel Betancourt

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Review: Chocolate City

24 May 2015 7:00 PM, PDT

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad...

So ballsy: Chocolate City, a black rip-off of Magic Mike, actually name checks Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike (2012) twice -- once in its opening scene even! -- and names it lead character Mike. In one conversation its strippers even dismiss Magic Mike for being 'only a movie' as if they're authentic fantasy workers in a documentary.

Not ballsy enough: Chocolate City has zero actors as brave as Matthew McConaughey what with his g-string ass up to the camera writhing and no actors as nonchalantly nude as Channing Tatum doing that birthday suit bathroom strut. If you're aiming for an even cheaper riff on one of the great low budget success stories of recent cinema (Magic Mike grossed 24 times its meager budget globally; hits are generally lucky to quadruple their budgets) shouldn't you exploit what your mama gave you?

B movies »

- NATHANIEL R

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