4 Shots From 4 Texas Films: Dazed and Confused, Primer, Tree of Life, A Ghost Story


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today is Texas Independence Day!

In honor of my home state, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Texas Films

Dazed and Confused (1993, dir by Richard Linklater)

Primer (2004, dir by Shane Carruth)

Tree of Life (2011, dir by Terrence Malick)

A Ghost Story (2017, dir by David Lowery)

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 2010s


Concluding our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 2010s.

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010, dir by Banksy)

This wonderfully subversive documentary was my second-favorite film of 2010, right behind Black Swan.  Was it real or was it all a hoax?  In then end, does it matter?  This brilliant film definitely deserved to be the first documentary to be nominated for best picture.  Instead, sadly enough, it was only nominated for Best Documentary Feature and it lost to the rather boring Inside Job.

Upstream Color (2013, dir by Shane Carruth)

Shane Carruth’s haunting and enigmatic Upstream Color was a film unlike any others.  This brilliant film was my favorite of 2013 but, sadly, it was totally snubbed by the Academy.

A Field In England (2014, dir by Ben Wheatley)

Speaking of haunting and enigmatic, A Field In England may not be for everyone but it’s still one of the most memorable films released over the past 6 years.  Was it a horror story?  Was it a historical heist film?  Was it all a hallucination, inspired by eating mushrooms found in the field mentioned in the title?  Your guess is as good as mine but you’ll never forget about it, even if the Academy saw fit to snub it.

Calvary (2014, dir by John Michael McDonagh)

This Irish meditation on sin and salvation featured one of Brendan Gleeson’s best performances, a brilliant script, and an unforgettable ending.  Sadly, not only was Gleeson snubbed but the Academy ignored the rest of the film as well.  Still, it’s one of the best films ever made about being Catholic and Irish in the 21st Century.

Carol (2015, dir by Todd Haynes)

How this film was not nominated for best picture, I’ll never understand.  Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara have never been better.  This is a moving and poignant film about two women who, in the end, refuse to allow society to dictate who they are and who they love.

American Honey (2016, dir Andrea Arnold)

In American Honey, Andrea Arnold creates an unforgettable portrait of life on the fringes and she gets a star-making performance from Sasha Lane, as well.  Even Shia LaBeouf is tolerable in this film!  American Honey was perhaps too long and, narratively, too loose for the Academy’s a taste.  That’s a shame because American Honey is a film that future historians will look at when they want to know what America was like in 2016.

And that concludes our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture!  Enjoy the Oscars, everyone!

 

 

Review: The Girlfriend Experience


The Girlfriend Experience

In 2009, Steven Soderbergh released a little independent film called The Girlfriend Experience starring, who at that time, was one of the adult industry’s biggest stars in Sasha Grey. The film explored and dealt with the life of a high-class escort by the name of Chelsea as she navigated the world of powerful men and the effect of money in monetizing something as intimate and personal as being someone’s girlfriend. It wasn’t a film that had many supporters. Most saw the inexperience of Sasha Grey as a dramatic actress hamstringing what was an interesting look at the dual themes of sex and capitalism.

It’s now 2016 and the premium cable channel Starz has released a new dramatic series inspired by the very same Soderbergh film mentioned above, but not beholden to it’s characters and storyline. Where Sasha Grey’s character of Chelsea seemed more like an on-screen cipher the audience was suppose to imprint whatever their expectations onto, this series has a more traditional narrative of a young woman whose attempt to balance in her life a burgeoning career in law (she’s just earned an internship at a prestigious Chicago law firm) with her discovery of her inherent sexuality while dipping her toes into the high-end sex-workers trade of the so-called “girlfriend experience.”

Riley Keough (last seen as the Citadel wife Capable who both romanced and mothers Nicholas Hoult’s War Boy Nux) plays Christine Reade as a struggling law firm intern who has worked hard to get where she’s at and continues to do so both as an intern and as a continuing law student. Yet, she also has the same problems many young people the past couple decades have had when it comes to earning their degrees. Debt has become a major issue and finding ways to make ends meet while still holding onto their dream profession becomes more and more difficult. Christine, at the encouragement of a close friend (played by Kate Lyn Sheil), tries her hand at becoming a high-price escort.

Girlfriend Experience 01

Just like the film it’s loosely based on, the series tries in the beginning to paint the high-priced escort profession that Christine gets herself into as very glamorous. Christine’s clients are white men who are older, rich and powerful. Men whose own interpersonal relationships with those close to them have been left behind in their quest for power. They see in Christine a sort of commodity to help fill in a need missing in their life even if false and just a transactional role-play experience.

Showrunners Amy Seimetz (who plays Christine’s sister Annabel) and Lodge Kerrigan (independent filmmakers and writers of renown) have created a show that explores not just the dual nature of how sex has become just another commodity in a world that’s becoming more and more capitalistic, but also a show that explores the nature of a professional woman in a world where they’re told that in order to fit in with the “men” they must suppress their sexual side. It’s a series that doesn’t hold back it’s punches in showing how the patriarchal nature of the professional world (it could be law, business, Hollywood, etc.) makes it difficult for women like Christine to try and be a successful professional and still retain their sexual nature. It’s a world up-ended and shown it’s cruel and ugly nature by Christine with every new client she meets and entertains.

The show and it’s writers (both of whom took turns directing each of the 13-episodes of the first season) don’t pass any sort of judgement on Christine’s choice of working as a high-paid escort. This series doesn’t look at these sex-workers as beneath what normal society expects of it’s women, both young and old. They instead want to explore the why’s of their decision to enter into such a career even if it means hampering their initial chosen profession. They’ve come up with some intriguing ideas of this world of escorts and powerful men walking through their lives always pretending to be one thing then another. A world where half-lies and made up personas have say much about the true natures of each individual as it does of the world around them.

Girlfriend Experience 02

Christine enters this world of becoming a “girlfriend experience” as a rebellious, adventurous lark, but finds out that her keen, observant and adaptable mind which has served her well in her rise as a law student and intern also serves her well in her new side-career. While her friend Avery who first introduces her to the world sees it all as a rush and exhilarating experience to be done here and there, Christine finds herself drawn deeper into the world as she goes from being represented to finally going off on her own as a freelancer. She’s her own boss and she controls what goes on with this new life.

Yet, The Girlfriend Experience is not all about the glass and steel, cold and calculating glamour of Christine’s new world. Just as she’s reached the heights of her new found power over the very system which tells her what she can and cannot be, outside forces that she thought was in her control brings her back to the reality of her choices throughout the first half of the series. For all the money, power and control she has achieved her old world as a law student and intern begins to fall apart as it intersects with her new one. It’s to the writers credit that they don’t give Christine any easy outs, but do allow her character to decide for herself how to get through both her professional and personal crisis.

While both showrunners Seimetz and Kerrigan have much to do with the brilliance of The Girlfriend Experience it all still hinges on the performance of it’s lead in Riley Keough. She’s practically in every scene and she grows as a performer right before out eyes. From the moment we see her we’re instantly drawn to her character. Hair up in an innocent ponytail and dressed very conservatively as she starts her internship, we still sense more to her character and we’re rewarded with each new episode as Keough’s performance with not just her acting both verbal and silent. Whether it’s the subtle changes in her expression as she transitions from an attentive “girlfriend”, supportive “confidant” and then to a calculating and all-business “escort” and all in a span of a brief scene.

Girlfriend Experience 03

Even the scenes where some audience may find titillating (even for premium cable like Starz, the sex in The Girlfriend Experience are quite eye-opening without being exploitative.), Keough manages to convey her true feelings with her eyes, while her body language convinces her latest client that it’s all real. She’s able to slip into whatever fantasy her client pays for and, in the end, whatever fantasy she wants to insert herself into in order to escape the terrible reality which has hardened and prepared her for the “real world” that all young people in college aspire to join.

The Girlfriend Experience might have been born out of an cinematic experiment by the icon of independent filmmaking, but it more than stands on it’s own take on ideas and themes (while adding and introducing some of their own) that Soderbergh tried to explore. With Sasha Grey’s performance as Chelsea proving to be a divisive reason whether Soderbergh’s film was a success or a failure, with Seimetz and Kerrigan they found in Riley Keough’s performance as Christine Reade a protagonist that engenders not just sympathy but at times frustration. Her Christine Reade doesn’t conform to what society thinks women should be when out and about in public and, for some men, when in private, as well.

The same could be said about this series as it doesn’t fit into any particular narrative and thematic box that we as a viewer have become trained to. It’s both a series exploring the existential idea of sexual identity and the commodifying power that capitalism has had on things intimate and personal. It’s also a series about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery that doesn’t just highlight the high’s but also shows how precipitous the fall can and will be when the traditionalists object. The show also performs well as a thriller due to the exceptional score composed by another brilliant indie-filmmaker. You may know him under the name of Shane Carruth.

The Girlfriend Experience doesn’t have the pulp sensibilities of such shows as The Walking Dead or the rabid following of Game of Thrones, but as of 2016 it’s probably the best new show of the year and here’s to hoping that more people discover it’s brilliance before it goes away.

What If Lisa Marie Picked The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

You can check out my picks for 2010 by clicking here.

My picks for 2011 can be found here.

And, finally, here are my picks for 2012.

Best Picture

Best Picture

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Before Midnight

Blue Is The Warmest Color

Frances Ha

Fruitvale Station

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Spring Breakers

Upstream Color

Shane+Carruth+Upstream+Color+Portraits+2013+DRHrpQS3Qacx

Best Director

Noah Baumbach for Frances Ha

Shane Carruth for Upstream Color

Spike Jonze for Her

Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers

David O. Russell for American Hustle

new-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-leonardo-dicaprio-is-the-wealthiest-stockbroker-in-the-world

Best Actor

Bruce Dern in Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Dennis Quaid in At Any Price

This-one-is-good

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is The Warmest Color

Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha

Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color

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Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Kyle Chandler in The Spectacular Now

Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

James Franco in Spring Breakers

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

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Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond The Pines

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave

Léa Seydoux in Blue Is The Warmest Color

Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station

Her

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Upstream Color

Before-Midnight

Best Adapted Screenplay

12 Years A Slave

Before Midnight

Blue Is The Warmest Color

The Spectacular Now

The Wolf of Wall Street

November 1st, 2013 @ 20:49:52

Best Animated Feature

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest and Celestine

Frozen

Monsters University

STORIES-WE-TELL---SP-with-Super8cam-flatsc.JPG

Best Documentary Feature

20 Feet From Stardom

The Armstrong Lie

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Stories We Tell

Tim’s Vermeer

Blue-is-the-Warmest-Color

Best Foreign Language Film

(Please note that I do things differently for this category than the Academy.   For this award, I am nominating the best foreign language films to be released in the United States in 2013.)

Beyond the Hills

Blue Is The Warmest Color

No

Renoir

White Elephant

The Great Gatsby1

Best Production Design

12 Years A Slave

Gravity

The Great Gatsby

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Spring Breakers

Best Cinematography

Frances Ha

Inside Llewyn Davis

Nebraska

Spring Breakers

Upstream Color

American Hustle

Best Costume Design

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

The Copperhead

The Great Gatsby

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Upstream Color

Best Film Editing

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Gravity

Her

Upstream Color

American Hustle 2

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Dallas Buyers Club

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Warm Bodies

Maniac

Best Original Score

Gravity

Her

Maniac

Trance

Upstream Color

The Great Gatsby2

Best Original Song

“Let it Go” from Frozen

“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” from The Great Gatsby

“Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby

“The Moon Song” from Her

“I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“Atlas” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Please Mr. Kennedy” from Inside Llewyn Davis

“So You Know What It’s Like” from Short Term 12

“Becomes The Color” from Stoker

“Here It Comes” from Trance

Iron Man 3

Best Sound Editing

All Is Lost

Iron Man 3

Pacific Rim

Rush

Upstream Color

Pacific Rim

Best Sound Mixing

All Is Lost

Iron Man 3

Pacific Rim

Rush

Upstream Color

Gravity

Best Visual Effects

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Iron Man 3

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Pacific Rim

List of Films By Number of Nominations:

9 Nominations — Upstream Color

8 Nominations — American Hustle

7 Nominations — 12 Years A Slave, Her

5 Nominations — Blue Is The Warmest Color

4 Nominations — Frances Ha, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Spring Breakers

3 Nominations — Before Midnight, Dallas Buyers Club, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim

2 Nominations — All Is Lost, Blue Jasmine, Frozen, Fruitvale Station, Nebraska, Oz The Great and Powerful, Rush, The Spectacular Now, Trance, The Wolf of Wall Street

1 Nominations — 20 Feet From Stardom, The Armstrong Lie, At Any Price, Beyond The Hills, Captain Phillips, The Copperhead, The Counselor, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Maniac, Monsters University, No, The Place Beyond The Pines, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Renoir, Short Term 12, Stoker, Stories We Tell, Tim’s Vermeer, Warm Bodies, White Elephant

List of Films By Number of Oscars Won

3 Oscars — American Hustle, Upstream Color

2 Oscars — The Great Gatsby

1 Oscar — Before Midnight, Blue is The Warmest Color, Frances Ha, Frozen, Gravity, Her, Iron Man 3, Maniac, Pacific Rim, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, Stories We Tell, The Wolf of Wall Street

10 Of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Songs of 2013


Continuing my series on the best of 2013, here are ten of my favorite songs from 2013. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these were the best songs of 2013. Some of them aren’t. But these are ten songs that, in the future, will define 2013 for me personally. Again, these are my picks and my picks only. So, if you think my taste in music sucks (and, admittedly, quite a few people do), direct your scorn at me and not at anyone else who writes for the Shattered Lens.

I’ve occasionally been asked what my criteria for a good song us. Honestly, the main things I look for in a song is 1) can I dance to it, 2) can I write to it, and 3) can I get all into singing it while I’m stuck in traffic or in the shower?

Anyway, at the risk of revealing just how much of a dork I truly am, here are ten of my favorite songs of 2013.

10) A Low and Swelling Sound Gradually Swelling (composed by Shane Carruth)

This atmospheric instrumental piece comes from the soundtrack of the best film of 2013, Upstream Color.  This is great writing music.

9) Giorgio By Moroder (performed by Daft Punk and Giorgio Moroder)

From Random Access Memories.

8) Saturday (performed by Rebecca Black and Dave Days)

I make no apologies.  Much like Friday, this is a fun song to sing when you’re driving to and from work.  Plus, I think the video’s clever.

7) Brave (performed by Sara Bareilles)

I have to admit that I loved this song more before it started showing up in Nokia Lumia commercials.

6) Feel This Moment (performed by Pitbull, feat. Christina Aguilera)

5) Haunted (performed by ROB)

This is from the Maniac soundtrack.  Much like the Carruth song, this is great writing music.

4) Work Bitch (performed by Britney Spears)

Not a day goes by that I don’t find an excuse to say, “You gotta work, bitch.”

3) A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) (performed by Fergie, feat. Q-Tip and Goon Rock)

From The Great Gatsby soundtrack.

2) Just Give Me A Reason (performed by Pink and Nate Ruess)

1) Lose Yourself to Dance (performed by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams)

What else needs to be said?

Finally, here are two honorable mentions.  These are two songs that helped define 2013 for me but, for various reasons, could not be included in my top ten.

First off, Alison Gold’s Chinese Food is technically a terrible song but it’s so terrible that it becomes oddly fascinating.  Thanks to the presence of Patrice Wilson, the video is probably one of the most unintentionally creepy music videos ever made.

(I should admit that I happen to love Chinese food myself and therefore, this song is one that I’ve sung a lot over the past few years.)

The second honorable mention is a far better song than Chinese Food: Icona Pop’s I Love It.  I Love It was released in 2012 but it’s the song that I listened to nonstop last year..  So, even if it was released a year earlier, I Love It is still my favorite song of 2013.

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with 10 good things that I saw on television last year.

Other Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2013:

  1. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2013
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013
  3. Things That Dork Geekus Dug In 2013
  4. Lisa Marie’s Best of 2o13 SyFy

The Los Angeles Film Critics Honor James Franco!


Earlier today, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced the picks for the best of 2013.  There are a few things worth noting:

1) Her is coming on surprisingly strong.

2) James Franco won best supporting actor for Spring Breakers!  Well, technically, Franco tied with Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club.  But still, it’s good to see Franco’s audacious performance getting some recognition.

3) My favorite film of 2013 — Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color — came in second for best editing.

Here are the winners:

BEST PICTURE (tie)
“Gravity,” “Her”

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, “Her”

BEST ACTOR
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Runner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

BEST ACTRESS (tie)
Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”); Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie)
James Franco, “Spring Breakers”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyongo, “12 Years a Slave”
Runner-up: June Squibb, “Nebraska”

BEST SCREENPLAY
“Before Midnight,” Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater
Runner-up: “Her,” Spike Jonze

BEST EDITING
“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger
Runner-up: “Upstream Color,” Shane Carruth & David Lowery

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki
Runner-up: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“Her,” K.K. Barrett
Runner-up: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Jess Gonchor

BEST MUSIC/SCORE
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” T Bone Burnett
Runner-up: “Her,” Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
Runner-up: “The Great Beauty”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Ernest and Celestine”
Runner-up: “The Wind Rises”

BEST DOCUMENTARY/NONFICTION FILM
“Stories We Tell”
Runner-up: “The Act of Killing”

12 Random Things That I Am Thankful For In 2013


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Happy Thanksgiving!

Traditionally here in the States, Thanksgiving is the forgotten holiday that sits between Halloween and Christmas.  This is the time of year that those of us in the States are supposed to think about what we are thankful for.  According to the people in Washington, this year we’re also supposed to talk to all of the members of our family about politics.  They’ve even made talking points available, just in case you have a relative who isn’t crazy about your personal ideology.  To me, though, that seems kind of foolish.  Why would you ruin a perfectly good Thanksgiving with politics when you could spend your time thinking, talking, and arguing about movies and television?

After all, Presidents are only around for, at the most, eight years.  Movies are forever.

With that in mind, here are twelve random things that I am thankful for in 2013.

1) I’m thankful that there are still visionaries like Shane Carruth who can make films like Upstream Color.

2) I’m thankful for actors, like Robert Downey, Jr., who are capable of making mainstream films, like Iron Man 3, memorable.

3) I’m thankful that a show like Breaking Bad got a chance to remind us of just how good television can be.

4) I’m thankful for Blue Is The Warmest Color.

5) I’m thankful that at least some people understand that The Counselor is one of the best films of 2013.

6) I’m thankful that this October was this site’s most succesful horror month yet!

7) I’m thankful that, in 2013, we can still watch movies like The Passion of Joan of Arc.

8) I’m thankful that I actually saw Tyler Perry’s Temptation because, otherwise, I would not believe that such an inept and deeply offensive film could have been made.

9) I am thankful for Icona Pop’s I Love It, which is currently my favorite song to play while I’m dancing around the house in my underwear.

10) I am thankful that the series finale of The Office was everything that it should have been.

11) I am thankful that Dexter finally ended because, seriously, the show was getting so bad that it was running the risk of overshadowing how good the first few seasons actually were.

12) Finally, and most importantly, I am thankful for our readers and for our subscribers.  Y’all are the ones who make all of this worthwhile.  Thank you!