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Alice Through the Looking Glass

There is no magic, no wonder, just junk rehashed from a movie that was itself a rehash of Lewis Carroll, tricked out with physically unpersuasive…

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Holy Hell

The story of a cult as told by a filmmaker assigned to glorify it; intriguing but superficial.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#246 February 18, 2015

Sheila writes: The Oscars are only days away. Will you all be watching? What are your favorites to win? Any film/actor/director you feel like should have been nominated and wasn't? Regardless, the Oscars are always good for vigorous film conversation, and the contributors at Rogerebert.com voted in a poll, picking what we all thought should win in the various main categories. The results are being posted all this week in our ongoing feature: If We Picked the Winners. You can check out the Table of Contents here. Keep checking, as more will be added as the week goes on.

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The Wolf of Broadway; Kevin Costner's potential comeback; A reporter who spent a year observing college fraternities; An examination of Kurosawa's High and Low; Dana Stevens on Miyazaki's last film.

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Dark Horse and the Samurai Tradition

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Sometimes a Dark Horse is a good bet. Dark Horse has done well over the last few decades since Mike Richardson founded the comic book company in 1986 in Oregon, six years after he opened his first comic book store, Pegasus Books in Bend, Oregon. While Dark Horse has been the home for canceled TV series to continue such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," feature films have been made from Dark Horse Comics series such as the 1994 "The Mask," "Timecop," the 2004 "Hellboy" or the 2005 "Sin City," the recently released "R.I.P.D." and the upcoming 2014 "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." Dark Horse also has a samurai tradition.Richardson is very interested in Japanese culture. At SDCC, Dark Horse and Richardson brought the creator of "Lone Wolf and Cub," the 77-year-old Kazuo Koike and announced a new eleven-volume series "New Lone Wolf and Cub." "Lone Wolf and Cub" is Dark Horse's best-selling series of all time.The original "Lone Wolf and Cub" (子連れ狼) was a 28-volume manga series from the 1970s with ukiyo-e stylized illustrations. The series first came to the U.S. in 1987, published in English translation by First Comics. After First Comics closed down in 1991, Dark Horse Comics picked up the manga and completed the series in English.The story follows the widowed Ōgami Ittō and his three-year-old son, Daigorō. The Yagyū clan has made false accusations, discrediting Ōgami (which literally means wolf and thus the title). Ittō and his son seek revenge. The manga series became a Japanese movie series in the 1970s.Speaking through an interpreter, Koike said that if the movie series had been remade, he would have wanted the late Akira Kurosawa to direct. Since Kurosawa is unavailable, he'd love to get the chance to direct the story himself. For Ittō, his choice of actors would be either Keanu Reeves or Johnny Depp, but he has no recommendations for the chief villain.It should come as no surprise then that when asked Koike listed the 2005 horror Keanu Reeves horror movie "Constantine" and the 1999 French-Spanish-American Johnny Depp thriller "The Ninth Gate" as two of his five favorite movies. Also on that list were the TV series "Criminal Minds," "24" and "Castle." Too bad Nathan Fillion wasn't around Dark Horse although his presence was felt in so many other places and ways at SDCC.As for Koike's favorite samurai flicks, he lists the "Lone Wolf and Cub" series and pointedly commented he doesn't like American samurai movies. That might be a blow to Tom Cruise and his "The Last Samurai."In a later interview, Dark Horse creator Michael Richardson and Stan Sakai laughed at the notion of Keanu Reeves in the upcoming "47 Ronin" which is set for a Christmas Day release. When Richardson got wind of an American movie remake of this famous story about 47 masterless samurai who carefully plot to avenge their master who was forced to commit ritual suicide after a confrontation with the villainous Lord Kira, he decided the time was right for Dark Horse to have their own version of the "47 Ronin."Richardson remembers meeting Roger Ebert in Cannes, when a desperate Ebert ran up to him and said he had to see this movie, "The Mask." Richardson gave up his seat and got a good review. He expressed sadness at Ebert's recent death.A self-proclaimed "fan of Japanese culture," Richardson had first learned about the 47 ronin more than two decades ago. Many movies have been made on this famous true story. Richardson noted that "Every time I saw one of the movies, there was something different" and from all of these he worked with source material and photographs of the actual sites and choose Stan Sakai to collaborate on a manga series. The series is five issues of varying length and the story is told from the perspective of the 48th ronin."That's never been done before," said Sakai. Being a third-generation Japanese American, artist Sakai knew about the story since the fourth grade. "I really wanted to get it right," he commented. Sakai had also been to the temple where the 48 are buried and used his own photos as reference for the beginning of the manga series.Sakai, who created "Usagi Yojimbo," feels that while Americans have become more familiar with samurai the perception has changed markedly over time. "I think now people just think of samurai as straight warriors. They forget the sense of honor and the cultural aspects. The samurai practiced the tea ceremony, ikebana and poetry."As the writer, Richardson felt it was important that this series have a sense of authenticity and consulted with Kazuo Koike. Richardson sees the samurai as the mythical character of Japan, "Each culture comes up with a mythical character, like for America, it's the Western and the gunfighter and the code of the West." Both the samurai and the gunfighter are outsiders who are known by the weapon they control. Richardson pointed out that Kurosawa's movies inspired a few Westerns including the 1964 spaghetti Western "A Fistful of Dollars" (from the 1961 "Yojimbo").Richardson had problems narrowing down to five favorite movies, listing the 1941 "Citizen Kane," the 1962 "Lawrence of Arabia," the 1940 "The Grapes of Wrath," the 1974 "Chinatown" and "The Godfather" (Parts I and II) as his favorites. For samurai movies, his choices were "Seven Samurai," "Yojimbo," "Sanjuro," and Hiroshi Inagaki's "Samurai Trilogy" starring Toshiro Mifune as Musashi Miyamoto ("Musashi Miyamoto" in 1954, "Duel at Ichijoji Temple" in 1955 and "Duel at Ganryu Island" in 1956). The first movie of the trilogy won a 1955 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The trilogy is referenced in Quentin Tarantino's 2003-2004 two-film series "Kill Bill."Sakai also listed "The Godfather" and the "Seven Samurai," in his favorite movies, but also included the original 1933 movie "King Kong," the 1931 Boris Karloff "Frankenstein," Humphrey Bogart's 1941 "The Maltese Falcon" and the 1961 "West Side Story."For samurai movies, Sakai listed "Satomi Hakken-den" (里見八犬伝) which is based on a Japanese epic novel about dog warriors, the original 1962 "Zatoichi" because Sakai is not a fan of Beat Takeshi's 2003 version which included clog-dancing, "Sanjuro" over "Yojimbo," "Seven Samurai" and the 1965 "Samurai Assassin." Both Sakai and Richardson enjoyed Takeshi Miike's "13 Assassins."With a long list of movies that are based on series from Dark Horse Comics and a smaller list of movies that inspired Dark Horse Comic series such "Star Wars" "Predator" and "RoboCop," Richardson requires his interns watch a list of movies that began at 100 and continues to grow.Kazuo Koike was Dark Horse Comics' guest of honor. "Lone Wolf and Cub" is Dark Horse's best-selling series of all time and continues with an eleven-volume series "New Lone Wolf and Cub" with Koike teaming up with Hideki Mori (the original artist for the series, Goseki Kojima passed away). The new series will be published in 2014. The fifth and final volume of "47 Ronin" was published July 3 and is currently available.

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A few calm words about The List

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The king is dead. Long live the king. Welles' "Citizen Kane" has been dethroned from the Sight & Sound list of the greatest films of all time, and replaced by Hitchcock's "Vertigo." It's not as if nobody saw this coming. The list first appeared in 1952, and "Vertigo" (1958) made the list for the first time only in 1982. Climbing slowly, it placed five votes behind "Kane" in 2002. Although many moviegoers would probably rank "Psycho" or maybe "North by Northwest" as Hitch's best, for S&S types his film to beat was "Notorious" (1946). That's the one I voted for until I went through "Vertigo" a shot at a time at the University of Virginia, became persuaded of its greatness, and put it on my 2002 list.

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The best damned film list of them all

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Long-suffering readers will have read many times about my dislike of lists, especially lists of the best or worst movies in this or that category. For years they had value only in the minds of feature editors fretting that their movie critics had too much free time. ("For Thursday's food section, can you list the 10 funniest movies about pumpkin pie?") Now their value has shot way up with the use of slide shows, a diabolical time-waster designed to boost a web site's page visits.

In a field with much competition, Number One on my list of Most Shameless Lists has got to be Time mag's recent list of the "Best 140 Tweeters." How did the magazine present this? That's right, on 140 pages of a slideshow. Considering that the list had no meaning at all except as some hapless intern's grindwork, I'd say that was a bold masterstroke. I say so even though I was on it. Do you think I would click through 140 pages just looking for my name? You bet I did. And then stopped clicking.

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Top secret leakage from my 2010 Muriels ballot!

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It's a wrap for the 2010 Muriel Awards, but although the winners have been announced, there's still plenty of great stuff to read about the many winners and runners-up. ('Cause, as we all know, there's so much more to life than "winning.") I was pleased to be asked to write the mini-essay about "The Social Network" because, no, I'm not done with it. (Coming soon: a piece about the Winkelvii at the Henley Gregatta section -- which came in 11th among Muriel voters for the year's Best Cinematic Moment.)

You might recall that last summer I compared the editorial, directorial and storytelling challenges of a modest character-based comedy ("The Kids Are All Right") to a large-scale science-fiction spectacular based on the concept of shifting between various levels of reality/unreality -- whether in actual time and space or in consciousness and imagination. (The latter came in at No. 13 in the Muriels balloting; the former in a tie for No. 22.) My point was that, as far as narrative filmmaking is concerned, there isn't much difference. To illustrate a similar comparison this time, I've used a one-minute segment out of "The Social Network" (Multiple levels of storytelling in The Social Network). You might like one picture better than the other for any number of reasons, but I find their similarities more illuminating than their differences:

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"The Messenger" discussed by Omar Moore of London and San Francisco

May Contain Spoilers

Hello, I'm Omar Moore. I was born and raised in London, where I grew up before moving to New York City with my parents. After branching out in the Big Apple on my own for a number of years, I moved west to San Francisco. I love America and its promise. We all need to do our small part to make this great country even better for all. Where a film is concerned, it is never "only a movie." Images mean something. They have unyielding power and influence, whether in "Birth of A Nation", "Un Chien Andalou", "Night Of The Hunter", "Killer Of Sheep", "Persona", "Psycho", "A Clockwork Orange", "Blazing Saddles", "Straw Dogs", "Soul Man", "Chameleon Street", "Do The Right Thing", "Bamboozled" or "Irreversible". A filmmaker generally doesn't put images in a film if they are meaningless.

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You better you better you best: The better of the best lists

If all the year-end and decade-end lists (even though we realize the decade isn't actually over until 2011) have left you dizzied and depleted, take heart! Perhaps you've missed out on some of the more invigorating, far-sighted list-based ventures. Over at Some Came Running, for example, Glenn Kenny conducted an ingenious and fascinating project, going back and taking a look at the late Manny Farber's Best Films of 1951. Meanwhile, at The Crop Duster, Robert Horton is engaged in surveying the year's best -- in non-chronological order -- from, oh, about 1919 or so, to the present, posting a new list every Sunday. What fantastic delights are to be found in these itemized accounts...

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Name That Director!

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UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...

Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.

In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)

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The Twelve Gifts of Christmas

The problem with gifts is that you almost always give something you want for yourself. There are obvious exceptions, such as a woman giving a man a tie, but even then he is almost certain to receive the tie she thinks he should be wearing. Most of the time the rule applies, as I'm reminded every time I use Chaz's iPod, iPhone and MacBook Pro.

People give me books they want to read, music they enjoy listening to, and subscriptions to publications they value, such as the Weekly Standard, Organic Gardening, and Nutrition Action--an excellent publication, but less interesting to me, you understand, now that I don't eat or drink. Asked by editors year after year to recommend a holiday gift

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Bordwell & Thompson: Crix of the '00s!

Matt Zoller Seitz (aka InsomniacDad) pays due tribute to to the "Critics of the '00s": David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, at IFC Blog.

Why? Well, because they've written some of the most influential and illuminating film books (and textbooks) of our age, educating a generation of up-and-coming moviemakers and moviegoers? Because their work, in print and on their essential blog ("Observations on film art") is simultaneously rigorous and readable, scholarly and accessible? Because their enthusiasm for cinema is unparalleled? Because they look at film as film, examining the images themselves and not just treating the medium as pop-culture detritus or literature with pictures?

Well, yes, all of the above and more. MZS puts it most eloquently in his introduction:

Film criticism as we know it tends to fall into a handful of time-worn categories: an expression of one's personality, politics and taste, with traces of social critique and memoir (Pauline Kael, James Agee); or a kind of performance art on the page, using individual films, actors or filmmakers as springboards for sustained riffs on art and life (Manny Farber); or a scholarly attempt to draw connections between films and film movements, rank filmmakers by aesthetic significance and put works in historical context (Andrew Sarris).

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Elected: 100 Must-See Foreign Films

Kenji Mizoguchi's "Sansho Dayu" (aka "Sansho the Bailiff").

The ballots came in from all over the web. Edward Copeland tabulated them (and found nice stills for all the winners), under the supervision of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jimmy Carter. OK, I don't know about that last part, but Edward did some great good work here.

He's calling it "The Satyajit Ray Memorial Anything-But-Definitive List of Non-English Language Films." Copeland writes: "The name comes, of course, from the great Indian director who failed to land any of his acclaimed works on the final list of 122 nominees."

In all 174 people chose their top 25-or-so non-English-language talkies made before 2002 (nominees had to be at least five years old). The Top 100 is here -- accompanied by comments from people who chose them. (Comments and vote totals for the other 22 nominees are here.)

My top choice was Kenji Mizoguchi's "Sansho Dayu" (which came in at #46 and is available on a Criterion DVD), about which I wrote: If I had to choose just one movie –- one movie –- above all others on this list, Mizoguchi's would be it. I've long felt that if there were a god, the closest expression we're likely to find on this earth is in this movie. It's not the only film on my list that gives me goosebumps whenever the title is mentioned, but I don't believe there's ever been a greater motion picture in any language. This one sees life and memory as a creek flowing into a lake out into a river and to the sea.That seems a little florid to me now (it was the night before I left for Toronto, and I was trying to tie together the imagery in the first and last shots of a masterpiece), but the emotions, and the awe, are genuine.

Here's the Top 25:

1. "The Rules of the Game" (Jean Renoir) 2. "Seven Samurai" (Akira Kurosawa) 3. "M" (Fritz Lang) 4. "8 1/2" (Federico Fellini) 5. "Bicycle Thieves" (Vittorio De Sica) 6. "Persona" (Ingmar Bergman) 7. "Grand Illusion" (Jean Renoir) 8. "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (Werner Herzog) 9. "The Battle of Algiers" (Gillo Pontecorvo) 10. "The 400 Blows" (Francois Truffaut) 11. "Fanny and Alexander" (Ingmar Bergman) 12. "Tokyo Story" (Yasujiro Ozu) 13. "Rashomon" (Akira Kurosawa) 14. "Ikiru" (Akira Kurosawa) 15. "The Seventh Seal" (Ingmar Bergman) 16. "Ran" (Akira Kurosawa) 17. "Jules and Jim" (Francois Truffaut) 18. "The Conformist" (Bernardo Bertolucci) 19. "La Dolce Vita" (Federico Fellini) 20. "Contempt" (Jean-Luc Godard) 21. "Breathless" (Jean-Luc Godard) 22. "Ugetsu Monogatari" (Kenji Mizoguchi) 23. "Playtime" (Jacques Tati) 24. "Au Hasard, Balthazar" (Robert Bresson) 25. "Andrei Rublev" (Andrei Tarkovsky)

(continued...)

Bad news: "Amelie" made the list (though only at #92). Good news: "Life is Beautiful" (which isn't) wasn't even nominated!

Stop wasting your life. Get watching.

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