The Farewell Party
High drama and lowbrow, morbid humor get stitched together in this successful tragicomedy about terminal patients and assisted suicide. Works better than expected.
* 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.
An appreciation of John McTiernan's "The Hunt for Red October" on its 25th anniversary.
R.I.P. David Carr; Kanye West: the biggest loser; Popcorn porn: "Fifty Shades" and "Kingsman"; Tilda Swinton's speech at Rothko Chapel; The film that Goebbels feared.
Passes for Ebertfest 2015 will go on sale Saturday, November 1st.
An appreciation of James Shigeta, best known for playing Joseph "Joe" Takagi in the original "Die Hard."
Weird Al hits Number 1; The banality of the celebrity profile; A guy walks into a bar; "Galaxy Quest": The Oral History; Wallace Shawn on Ibsen.
Lee Daniels, the director of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," discusses his personal stakes in the story and working with Forest Whitaker on the way the character grows and changes.
Marie writes: Much beloved and a never ending source of amusement, Simon's Cat is a popular animated cartoon series by the British animator Simon Tofield featuring a hungry house cat who uses increasingly heavy-handed tactics to get its owner to feed it. Hand-drawn using an A4-size Wacom Intuos 3 pen and tablet, Simon has revealed that his four cats - called Teddy, Hugh, Jess and Maisie - provide inspiration for the series, with Hugh being the primary inspiration. And there's now a new short titled "Suitcase". To view the complete collection to date, visit Simon's Cat at YouTube.
It is a jungle out there in Hollywood, and "Get Shorty" presents the various kinds of animals residing at the lower strata of that jungle through a pungent but cheerful satire about one nutty pre-production process.
"Die Hard", which was released 25 years ago today, might be the most widely-imitated action film of all time. Who would have thought that a glorified deal memo would turn out to be a classic?
Marie writes: There was a time when Animation was done by slaves with a brush in one hand and a beer in the other. Gary Larson's "Tales From the Far Side" (1994) was such a project. I should know; I worked on it. Produced by Marv Newland at his Vancouver studio "International Rocketship", it first aired as a CBS Halloween special (Larson threw a party for the crew at the Pan Pacific Hotel where we watched the film on a big screen) and was later entered into the 1995 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It spawned a sequel "Tales From the Far Side II" (1997) - I worked on that too. Here it is, below.
Marie writes: Behold a living jewel; a dragonfly covered in dew as seen through the macro-lens of French photographer David Chambon. And who has shot a stunning series of photos featuring insects covered in tiny water droplets. To view others in addition to these, visit here.
(click images to enlarge)
Marie writes: It's no secret that most Corporations are evil - or at the very least, suck big time. And while I have no actual proof, I'm fairly certain there is a special level of Dante's Hell reserved just for them. (Map of Dante's Hell.)That being the case, when my younger brother Paul wrote me about a cool project sponsored by Volkswagen, I was understandably wary and ready to denounce it sight-unseen as self-serving Corporate shyte. As luck would have it however, I was blessed at birth with curiosity and which got the better of me and why I took a look. For what I found was nothing less than extraordinary....
Marie writes: remember "The Heretics Gate" by artist Doug Foster? Well he's been at it again, this time as part of an exhibit held by The Lazarides Gallery - which returned to the subterranean depths of The Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo Station in London, to present a spectacular group show called The Minotaur. It ran October 11th - 25th, 2011 and depending upon your choice (price of admission) dining was included from top Michelin-star chefs.Each artist provided their own interpretation of the classical myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and as with The Heretics Gate before it, Cimera, Doug Foster's new and equally as memorizing piece made it possible to project whatever comes to mind onto it, as images of body forms and beast-like faces take shape and rise from the bowels of earth. (click image to enlarge.) Photo by S.Butterfly.
Marie writes: Gone fishing...aka: in the past 48 hrs, Movable Type was down so I couldn't work, my friend Siri came over with belated birthday presents, and I built a custom mesh screen for my kitchen window in advance of expected hot weather. So this week's Newsletter is a bit lighter than usual.
Marie writes: Doug Foster is a filmmaker and artist who produces large scale digital film installations that often play with ideas of symmetry and optical illusion. His piece The Heretics' Gate is currently on view at "Daydreaming with... St. Michael's" - an exhibition taking place at St. Michael's church in Camden, London. Note: Foster's piece first appeared at the Hell's Half Acre exhibition at the Old Vic Tunnels in London in 2010."The Heretics' Gate" draws inspiration from Dante's Inferno, the first part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. A twenty foot high, arched screen and a thirty foot long reflecting pool, are cleverly combined to deliver a mesmerizing and strangely ethereal vision of hell at the central focus point of the church's imposing gothic architecture. To learn more, visit: Liquid Hell: A Q&A With Doug Foster.NOTE: The exhibition is the latest installment in renowned British music producer James Lavelle's curatorial and collaborative art venture, "DAYDREAMING WITH..." - a unique and visceral new exhibition experience, inspired by the desire to marry music and visual art. The goal is to bring together some of the most acclaimed creative names working in music, art, film, fashion and design.
This free Newsletter is a sample of what members receive weekly.For Roger's invitation to the Club, go HERE Marie writes: some of you may recall seeing a custom-built "steampunk" microphone stand made for the group Three Days Grace, by sculptor Christopher Conte; there were pictures of it inside the #14 Newsletter.Born in Norway, Christopher Conte was raised and educated in New York, where he currently lives. After earning a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art, he began working in the prosthetics field making artificial limbs for amputees; which he did for 16 years as a Certified Prosthetist. At the same time, he worked in obscurity creating sculptures which reflected his love for biomechanics, anatomy and robotics. In June 2008, he left the field to begin his career as a full-time artist. And you can now view his work portfolio online...
The Sculpture of Christopher Conte
Marie writes: The local Circle Craft Co-operative features the work of hundreds of craftspeople from across British Columbia and each year, a Christmas Market is held downtown at the Vancouver Convention Centre to help sell and promote the work they produce. My friend and I recently attended the 37th Christmas Market and where I spotted these utterly delightful handmade fabric monsters by Diane Perry of "Monster Lab" - one of the artist studios located on Salt Spring Island near Washington State...it's the eyes... they follow you. :-)
(click to enlarge)
"Beware of artists - they mix with all classes of societyand are therefore most dangerous." ~ Queen Victoriastencil by Banksy, British graffiti artistAnd who inspired a recent film about art...
View image Attend the pale and Teeny Todd. He doesn't exactly cut an imposing figure. Jack Skellington with a thicker head of hair.
"Tim Burton has made a miniaturist 'Sweeney Todd.' Wispy, anemic, paper-thin, sanitized. Petit Guignol. Teeny Todd..."
Those were among the first notes to myself that I typed after returning from a December screening of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." Before that, it had seemed to me that Tim Burton (the Tim Burton of "Batman" and "Batman Returns," not "Mars Attacks!" or "Nightmare Before Christmas") might be, hypothetically, an ideal choice to make a film of Stephen Sondheim's musical-thriller masterpiece about a vengeful barber who conspires with a randy pie-shop proprietress to bake his victims into meat pies. Surely Burton would make it his own, a movie that wouldn't have to compete with the stage version because it would be a Tim Burton Film, existing in parallel to, but apart from, Sondheim and Harold Prince's achievement.¹
Not quite. It's one thing to Devoid of passion, grandeur, ghastly humor and operatic lunacy, Burton's "Sweeney Todd" is a plastic wind-up toy, a fast-food tie-in trinket. It belongs on a little gingerbread tchotchke shelf, next to your collectible "Macbeth" action-figurines. The best that can be said for it is that nobody's yet adapted the title property for film, so maybe that's something we can still look forward to.²
Sondheim himself has done a fine job of explaining why the filmmakers made the choices they did in bringing this "Sweeney" to the screen (New York Times: "Sondheim Dismembers 'Sweeney' .") And they're all perfectly good reasons. I understand the difficult choices that had to be made. How do you squeeze the show into less two hours? Slash some numbers, condense others, speed up the tempos. Do the performances (and the voices) have to be as strong and idiosyncratic for film as they do on stage? Not necessarily....
Director and longtime Ebert favorite Werner Herzog ("Stroszek") visits with Roger before the noon Sunday screening of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
An experience like Ebertfest 2007 is beyond my capacity to convey in words -- and I'm not just talking about the movies. At one point I asked Roger if he was having as much fun as I was. He wrote on his pad: "The time of my life!" Sitting in his recliner in the back row of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL, (his customary spot -- but this time with cushier accommodations and more legroom) he sure looked like he was having a blast. The rest of us had a fine time, too, as I hope you will see from these photos I took...
View image Roger Ebert listens to Chaz's introduction at the opening night reception.
View image Chaz Ebert introduces her husband to the opening night crowd from the stage of the Virginia Theatre.
View image Roger with "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" star Marcia McBroom-Small (Petronella, aka "Pet").
View image The crowd is in the house and all is quiet outside, just before "La Dolce Vita" hit the screen Friday night.
View image Werner und Ich. (photo by Eric Byler -- with my camera)
Roger and Chaz Ebert on opening night. Roger gets his own La-Z-Boy recliner in the back of the Virginia for the duration of the fest! (Thompson-McLellan photo)
Three cheers for Roger Ebert, for the 9th Overlooked Film Festival (aka Ebertfest, now in progress) and for technology! I wrote and filed the following story for Thursday's Sun-Times, sitting on the stairs to the balcony in the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL, Wednesday night -- between 7:30 and 8:30. Had my PowerBook G4, which I typed on. Then transferred the story (via synch) to my Treo 680, and wirelessly e-mailed it to the paper in Chicago. More about Ebertfest soon -- I'm kind of in the middle of things, and I'm waiting to borrow a cable or card reader to retrieve my own photos; for some reason mine can't read the XD card....
"It's my happening and it freaks me out!" said Chaz Ebert on behalf of her husband, Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, on stage at opening night of the ninth Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign-Urbana. The line (memorably quoted by Mike Myers in the first "Austin Powers" movie) is from the Ebert-penned screenplay for Russ Meyer's 1970 cult classic "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," which is among the titles in this year's festival.
It was Ebert's first public appearance since he suffered complications from surgery last June, and it brought down the full house at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. As he announced in a message featured in the Sun-Times and on his web site (rogerebert.com) Tuesday, Ebert is not able to speak now, pending further surgery, so Chaz had to do the talking for him. As Ebert wrote on a pad before the screening, "After we go onstage, Chaz will read one line from me that will say it ALL."
View image Jim Emerson, Boy Reporter, at Roger's first public appearance -- a reception at the house of U of Illinois President Joseph White (and his wife Mary and dog Webster) Wednesday night. Roger's head is in the lower left; Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribute is also comfortably seated on the floor at the right. (Thompson-McLellan photo)
Chaz recounted how the festival was nearly cancelled late last year, when Ebert was in the hospital and the pace of his recovery was uncertain. But Festival Director Nate Kohn visited Ebert in his Chicago hospital room with a message from Mary Susan Britt, the festival's Associate Director: "The festival passes sold out in a little over a week in November. You have to get out of that hospital bed and come down to Champaign-Urbana."
"At that moment," Chaz said, "Roger made a commitment. If it was at all possible, he would be here tonight.... This is where he wanted to be, this is where he is, this is where he's staying," she said, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Through his wife, Ebert reminded the audience of the personal importance of Champaign's Virginia Theatre, the restored movie palace in which the Ebertfest films are screened. "I saw 'Gone With the Wind' here, and my father saw the Marx Brothers on this very stage."
Scanners blog coverage
In the few sentences that I've posted about Tom Tykwer's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" (just blurbs on my Best of 2006 and Double-Bills lists), I mentioned that the movie was a striking feat of "cine-sthesia," as it were, and that the murders themselves reminded me of Hannibal Lecter's analysis of Jame Gumb in "Silence of the Lambs": The killing is incidental. What does he seek? (In this sense it reminded me of Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom," too -- voyeurism as a form of possession through the senses -- sight or smell.) And, of course, Grenouille (the scentless apprentice) kills because he covets. Jame Gumb wants to possess a woman's skin; Grenouille wants her scent -- and, by extension, all women's scents.
I wonder if one reason I was so enthralled by Tykwer's film (it's gotten mixed reviews: a 54 on RottenTomatoes) is that I'm told I have mild synesthesia, where senses bleed together a bit so that, for example (from the American Heritage Dictionary definition of the word), "the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color." That's very much like what the movie does, with color, shape, texture and sound orchestrated to express odors. But doesn't everybody experience this to some degree? My sensations have mostly to do with color, shape, texture and brightness. Sounds, particularly music (and to a lesser extent tastes, smells, even tactile feelings), are always accompanied by colors and shapes. Doesn't everybody know that trumpets are round and red? That violins are long and yellow? That pianos are (generally speaking) ovoid and green? Snare drums are light grey, short and thin and flat, like em-dashes, while cymbals are silvery, shimmery and round-ish but with no distinct edges, like a spray. Those are some of the things I always see in my head when I listen to music. Also: The number two is green, just as surely as the number five is red and seven is blue. (And the funny thing is, that's true for Roman numerals as well as Arabic ones, though the colors aren't all as strong.) I don't know where these associations come from -- if I've always had them or if I made them when I was a kid.
Do you have these experiences? Care to describe them?
Getting back to my first paragraph, I wanted to refer you to a splendid (and splendidly titled) piece by Stephen Romer in the Times Literary Supplement called "Distilled, bottled, and bewildered" that is a combined discussion of Tykwer's film, Patrick Süskind’s original 1985 novel, and a book of historical research and analysis of the "olfactory arts" by Richard Stamelman called "Perfume: Joy, Obsession, Scandal, Sin." An excerpt that I thought was exceptionally perceptive (beware of spoilers):
CANNES, France -- Kevin Smith's "Dogma" had its first public screening here Friday night, and the world did not end. Not even in the film. The apocalyptic comedy, which has stirred charges of blasphemy in some Catholic circles, played at midnight Friday in the festival, after press screenings earlier in the day. There was much laughter and no visible outrage.