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If You Don't, I Will

What happens to a marriage once the early ardor cools? That's the central question in this likable drama starring Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos as…

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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.

Listening to language: Our dumb media

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First off, I agree with Angus T. Jones -- well, about one thing, at least. The child actor of whose existence I hadn't been aware until a few days ago said on digital video that he was employed on a lousy sitcom that was basically "filth." Who's going to argue? Really, is he wrong? Have you ever seen Two and a Half Men? (I admit I've only witnessed bits and pieces, but that was enough to get the tenor of the show. And I knew there was a "half" involved -- the title tells me so -- but I didn't know Jones was it.) So, the young man says this:

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Bill Clinton: A sinner redeemed

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"Clinton" premieres in two parts: Monday, February 20th and Tuesday, February 21st on PBS's "American Experience" (check local listings for showtimes) and will be available thereafter via PBS on demand. Also on DVD and iTunes.

by Jeff Shannon

I should probably state up front that I was, and always will be, a Clinton supporter. Like our 42nd president, I grew up in a home where John F. Kennedy had been revered as a young, dynamic force of change and hope for the future. When you admire a politician's core conviction, it's at least somewhat easier to overlook, if not forgive, their foibles and shortcomings. As a young quadriplegic in 1991, I saw candidate Clinton as an impressive-enough carrier of JFK's torch, a protector of the disadvantaged who had inherited Jack and Bobby Kennedy's concern for those who found the American dream elusive or entirely out of reach.

That concern was clearly demonstrated by the defining moment of Clinton's presidential campaign. It's one of many pivotal moments captured in the two-part, four-hour documentary "Clinton," the 16th episode of PBS's "American Experience" presidents series. At the second presidential debate in Virginia in 1992, a young African-American woman in the audience asked candidates Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, and incumbent president George H.W. Bush a question that was then on the minds of struggling Americans everywhere:

"How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives, and if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them?"

That question could easily be recycled as a present-day jab at Mitt Romney, but let's stick to history: Bush simply didn't understand the question, and Clinton seized the opportunity to ensure his victory. Stepping toward the audience in a characteristic display of the sincerity that had propelled his fast-moving career, Clinton demonstrated a concise, compassionate grasp of the question's meaning, and his answer (a reference to the poverty and middle-class struggle he witnessed while campaigning for Congress and Governor in his native Arkansas) left Bush with a classic expression of election-losing dismay.

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The Republicans exit history

All I know is just what I read in the papers. -- Will Rogers

Me too. Or hear on TV, or see on the net. That's all most of us knows. I'm sure the President and Senators and government officials know more, but we elect them, they don't elect us. And I'm sure the CEOs of powerful corporations know more, although the Murdoch testimony indicates he didn't know as much as he could have read in the papers.

What I read,and hear is that the Republican Party is abandoning its hopes of speaking for a majority of Americans. It will still win elections. It controls the House. Perhaps it will elect the next President. But steadily and fatally it is moving out of history.

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Dead of (Election) Night: Terrifying tales of campaign narratives run amok!

Skeletons in the closet! Bats in the belfry! Wolves in sheep's clothing! Pit bull-barracudas in Neiman Marcus clothing! Flying pigs in lipstick bursting forth from unlicensed plumbing fixtures! Befitting the sinister tone of season (political and scary), David Bordwell has published a brilliant essay he calls "It was a dark and stormy campaign," in which he examines the concept of "narrative," as it has come to be used in film and campaign circles. This is essential reading:

Clearly the presidential candidates have come to believe that what seizes the public aren't just policy views and promises. Now the campaigns want to tell stories in which the candidates are the protagonists. The life of Barack Obama, or Joe Biden, or Sarah Palin is said to be a story (usually "an American story"). According to Robert Draper's influential recent article ["The Making (and Remaking) of McCain"], John McCain's campaign has deliberately set out a series of "narratives": McCain endures suffering in Hanoi as a POW; he enters politics and fights for reform in government. Mark Salter, McCain's staff member and coauthor, has the responsibility of stitching incidents of the Senator's career into what he calls the "metanarrative" of McCain's life--rather as George Lucas presides over the Bible of the "Star Wars" universe.

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The candidates' favorite movies

Everybody is making lists of the questions the candidates should be asked during the debates. My question would be: What's your favorite movie? As my faithful readers all know, the answer to that question says a lot about the person answering. It could be used as a screening device on a blind date. Among other things, it tells you whether the person has actually seen a lot of movies, and I persist in believing that cinematic taste is as important as taste in literature, music, art, or other things requiring taste (including food and politics). I know the answers of the most recent Presidents: "High Noon" (Clinton) and "Field of Dreams" (Bush). What might this year's candidates say? A Google search suggests their answers, (alphabetically):

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TIFF 08: The omnivore's dilemma

How to plan my Toronto schedule when there are a few dozen movies screening every day and I want to keep from knowing much of anything about them before I see them, so that I can (as much as humanly possible) avoid preconceptions, false expectations, artificial festival "buzz," and other distractions that have little or nothing to do with what's on those screens? (See last year's accounting: "What did I know and when did I know it?")

The first thing I look for are the names of directors whose work I'm interested in following (or whose work I think I would like to follow). This year, for example, Danny Boyle, Kevin Smith, Rod Lurie and (as previously mentioned) Guy Ritchie all have films in this year's festival -- which, in my case, leaves more room to accommodate movies by directors I like. Not only for megastar filmmakers like the Dardennes and the Coens, but for Terence Davies ("The Long Day Closes"), Rian Johnson ("Brick"), Ramin Bahrani ("Chop Shop"), Katherine Bigelow ("Blue Steel"), Jerzy Skolimowski ("Deep End"), Kelly Reichardt ("Old Joy"), Michael Winterbottom ("A Cock and Bull Story" -- who makes two or three movies a year, it seems)... Those parenthetical titles, of course, are earlier films by these filmmakers. I don't even remember most of the titles from this year yet, because I haven't seen the movies. I've just been circling times and places on my screening schedule.

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Moral relativism & "A Mighty Heart" & July 4

View image Mariane and Daniel Pearl (Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman) in "A Mighty Heart."

The term "moral relativism" (or "moral equivalence") has always fascinated me because of its slipperiness -- its moral relativism, if you will. The way the term is used in politics these days (by Israelis and Palestinians, conservatives and liberals, Christians and Muslims, and so on), it can mean one thing or its opposite, depending on who's using it and what they're trying to justify.

What it boils down to, in popular rhetorical discourse, is the moral equivalent of a five-year-old's finger-pointing: "But they started it!" and "What they did was worse!" This creates an inescapable and illogical ideological loop, wherein each new assault is justified by a previous one (or fear of a future one) that attempts to even the score but never, ever does, since it is always used to rationalize the next reprisal. It's always a matter of "self-defense" in the minds of the perpetrators.*

This ever-escalating tit-for-tat is, in fact, moral relativism at its most insidious, because it posits that there is no objective right or wrong. Something is considered moral or immoral depending on who does it and when, rather than on the nature of the act itself and its consequences -- whether unintended ones, or the intended kind that pave the road to hell.

Judea Pearl, the father of Daniel Pearl, has an essay at The New Republic website ("Moral relativism and 'A Mighty Heart'") in which he recalls a conversation with a Pakistani friend who said "he loathed people like President Bush who insisted on dividing the world into 'us' and 'them.' My friend, of course, was taking an innocent stand against intolerance, and did not realize that, in so doing, he was in fact dividing the world into 'us' and 'them,' falling straight into the camp of people he loathed."

In other words, if there's one thing I can't tolerate, it's intolerance.

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Attack of the Giant Amphibian!

"Run away! Run away!"

From my review of "The Host" on RogerEbert.com: A horror thriller, a political satire, a dysfunctional family comedy, and a touching melodrama, Bong Joon-ho's "The Host" is also one helluva monster movie. It's the recombinant offspring of all those science-fiction pictures of the 1950s and '60s in which exposure to atomic radiation (often referred to as both "atomic" and "radiation") or hazardous chemicals (sometimes also radioactive) results in something very large and inhospitable: "Them!" (giant ants), "Tarantula" (giant spider), "Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People" (giant fungi), "The Amazing Colossal Man" (giant bald guy), "The Giant Behemoth" (giant behemoth -- both giant and a behemoth, but more precisely a radioactive ocean-dwelling Godzilla clone), "Frankenstein Conquers the World" (giant Frankenstein's monster atomically regenerated from the beating heart of the original monster after the A-bomb is dropped on Hiroshima), and so on.

In "The Host" (a k a "Gwoemul"), the mutagen is a simple aldehyde, HCHO (possibly even a radioactive variety). The movie opens in the year 2000 at the Yongsan U.S. Army base in Seoul, where an American mortician (the always superb Scott Wilson, clearly having fun) orders a Korean subordinate to dump dusty bottles of "dirty formaldehyde" into the sink ... which empties into the Han River. When the underling objects, the American insists, "The Han River is very... broad, Mr. Kim. Let's try to be broad-minded about this." Had Al Gore been present, he would have made a persuasive counter-argument with colorful charts and graphs about the dangers of poisoning our fragile planet, but an order is an order, so down the drain the noxious stuff goes.

(This scene is based on a notorious incident involving Albert McFarland, an American civilian mortician at the Yongsan military base, who in 2000 ordered his staff to pour 120 liters of formaldehyde into the morgue's plumbing. Although the chemicals passed through two treatment plants before reaching the Han, source of Seoul's drinking water, the scandal sparked an anti-American uproar in South Korea.)

At the movie's center is the Park family, a clan no less eccentric than the Hoovers of "Little Miss Sunshine." (Think "Little Miss Sashimi.")...

The creature -- just like (spoiler warning) the Moroccan kids who accidentally shoot the American employer of the Mexican nanny with the rifle formerly belonging to the Japanese businessman with the deaf daughter who is sexually provocative in "Babel" (end of spoiler warning) -- unknowingly precipitates an international incident. And in the ensuing pandemonium, the Parks are forced to fend for themselves....

Continued at RogerEbert.com...

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Ebert's take on the Oscar picks

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Oscar is growing more diverse and international by the year. This year's Academy Award nominations, announced Tuesday, contain a few titles that most moviegoers haven't seen and some they haven't heard of. That's perhaps an indication that the Academy voters, who once went mostly for big names, are doing their homework and seeing the pictures.

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An 'Inconvenient' statement

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Dear Readers,I've received so many messages about my review of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" that, frankly, I don't see how the Answer Man can process them. I could print a dozen or a hundred, but that would lead us into an endless loop.

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Cannes #5: Luster & its lack

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CANNES, France – There are entries that have been liked and even loved, but the 2006 Cannes Film Festival reaches its halfway mark looking like a fairly lackluster year. Only Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver,” a high-spirited memory inspired by his childhood in La Mancha, has been embraced by critics and audiences. “Volver” means “to return,” and resembles in its exuberant nostalgia Fellini’s “Amarcord” (“I Remember”).

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FahrenHYPE 9/11: Morris vs. Moore

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Interviewees: Dick Morris, Ron Silver, Ann Coulter, David Frum, Ed Koch, Frank Gaffney, Steve Emerson, Peter King, Zell Miller, Dave Kopel, David Hardy, Jason Clarke, Bill Sammon.

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Less is Moore in subdued, effective '9/11'

CANNES, France -- Michael Moore the muckraking wiseass has been replaced by a more subdued version in "Fahrenheit 9/11," his new documentary questioning the anti-terrorism credentials of the Bush regime. In the Moore version, President Bush, his father and members of their circle have received $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia over the years, attacked Iraq to draw attention from their Saudi friends, and have lost the hearts and minds of many of the U.S. servicemen in the war.

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Making of a myth

Countless media outlets have reported that actor Gary Oldman, a conservative, bad-mouthed his new movie, "The Contender." He and his manager, Douglas Urbanski, charged that DreamWorks, the studio that released it, forced editing changes to fit with its Democratic leanings. Urbanski said the film was a "piece of propaganda" on par with that produced by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

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Movie Answer Man (12/03/1995)

Q. Concerning "The American President," I agree with your high rating, but take exception to your saying it took courage to portray a president as a liberal. I can not remember any recent movie that shows any high-ranking political figure as both clearly conservative and a "good guy." What would have been courageous would have been for Rob Reiner, a liberal, to make the president a conservative who's cast in a good light. I didn't expect to see that happen, and guess what? I was right. The left wing of Hollywood would never let a conservative political figure be shown as anything other than a greedy, uncaring fiend. (Steve Graham, Jackson, Miss.)

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