Heaven Is for Real
Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.
* 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.
Simon Abrams ranks the films he saw at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, from best to worst.
"Maverick" starts with the protagonist in the middle of nowhere. He helplessly sits on a horse; his neck is at the end of a noose tied to a tree branch. The men who put him in this vulnerable situation surround him. They drop a bag containing a snake and ride away. If the horse bolts, Bret Maverick dies. It is one of the most attention-grabbing opening scenes in film.
"With great power, comes great responsibility." How many times have we superhero fans heard this line, let alone understand its implications? Do we really take to heart how much sacrifice such heroism involves, or comprehend what would be at stake? Superhero films tend to glorify ability over altruism. That is after all the main reason why we flock to the genre, to see amazing sights never seen before. But one film is special in how it focuses on the gravity of selflessness in spite of such might. And it does so not by showcasing its hero's greatness, but his ordinariness. It's Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2."
● "Ironclad" (2011) ● "Black Death" (2010)
"Ironclad " is now available on DirecTV and other on-demand providers (check your service listings) and from Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) starting on July 26th. "Black Death" is available on Netflix (streaming, DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video.
When I was a kid growing up in the Seattle suburb of Edmonds, WA (aka "The Gem of Puget Sound"), my parents did everything that good, sensible parents should do to shield their kids from violence, both real and reel. I remember being innocently intrigued by the furor over "Bonnie & Clyde" in 1967, but they would never have taken me to see it with them (to their credit, since I was only six). The same held true for "The Wild Bunch" in 1969, by which time the debate over movie violence had reached a fever pitch in our national conversation. Over the ensuing decades, that conversation has become a moot point as movie violence proceeded apace, from Sonny Corleone's death in a hail of Tommy-gun fire in "The Godfather" (1972), to the slasher cycle of the late '70s and '80s (when makeup artists Tom Savini and Rick Baker reigned supreme as a master of gory effects) and into the present, when virtually anything - from total evisceration to realistic decapitation -- is possible through the use of CGI and state-of-the-art makeup effects. That's where movies like "Ironclad" and "Black Death" come in, but more on those later.
If you're looking for a rant against milestone achievements in the depiction of graphic violence, you've come to the wrong place. To me, it's a natural progression. Movies and violence have always been inextricably linked, and once opened, that Pandora's Box could never be closed. A more relevant discussion now is how the new, seemingly unlimited gore FX should be used and justified. Horror films will always be the testing ground for the art of gore, and it would be a crime against cinema to cut the "chest-burster" from "Alien" (or, for that matter, Samuel L. Jackson's spectacular death in "Deep Blue Sea"). But it's the depiction of authentic, real-life violence -- in everything from the "CSI" TV franchise to prestige projects like HBO's "Band of Brothers" and "The Pacific" -- that pushes previously unrated levels of gore into the mainstream.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not praising this progression so much as acknowledging its inevitability. If you really love movies -- and especially if you've been lucky enough to make a career out of watching them -- you have undoubtedly seen a violent film that was unquestionably vile, unjustified and miles beyond the boundaries of all human decency. I've seen violent movies that earned my disgust because (1) the context of the violence was as abhorrent as the violence itself and (2) the intentions of the filmmakers were clearly indefensible. (Context and intention: More on that later.) Tolerances and sensibilities may vary, but every critic has seen a film that appeared to have been written and directed by sociopaths. Check out Roger Ebert's review of "I Spit on Your Grave" (the 1978 version) and you'll see what I mean.
Marie writes: Ever since he was a boy, photographer John Hallmén has been fascinated by insects. And he's become well-known for photographing the creatures he finds in the Nackareservatet nature reserve not far from his home in Stockholm, Sweden. Hallmén uses various methods to capture his subjects and the results are remarkable. Bugs can be creepy, to be sure, but they can also be astonishingly beautiful...
Blue Damsel Fly [click to enlarge photos]
From the Grand Poobah and Mrs. Poobah:Seasons Greetings Everyone! (click to enlarge)
Edited by Marie Haws, Club SecretaryFrom Roger Ebert: Club members receive the complete weekly Newsletter. These are abridged and made public on the site three weeks later. To receive the new editions when they're published, annual dues are $5. Join here.From The Grand Poobah: Reader Steinbolt1 writes in: "Mark Mayerson has been putting together mosaics of all the scenes from specific Disney animated films, and is currently working through Dumbo. Each scene has the specific animator(s) who worked on the film listed above it. This is my favorite post on Dumbo, so far: Mayerson on Animation: Dumbo Part 5 "The only humans we've seen previously are in sequence 3. They are all white and wearing uniforms that clearly mark them as circus employees. When we get to this sequence, the only humans we see are black. As they are disembarking from a railroad car, we know that they are also employees, but they don't get uniforms. The roustabouts are the ones who do the heavy lifting, regardless of the weather. Why aren't the rest of the employees helping? I guess the work is beneath them. Let's not forget that the circus wintered in Florida, at the time a Jim Crow state." - Mark Mayerson; animator, writer, producer, director, Canadian.
• Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert
The 46th Chicago International Film Festival will play this year at one central location, on the many screens of the AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois. A festivalgoers and filmmakers' lounge will be open during festival hours at the Lucky Strike on the second level. Tickets can be ordered online at CIFF's website, which also organizes the films by title, director and country. Tickets also at AMC; sold out films have Rush Lines. More capsules will be added here.
Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh at a Charity party in 1957 with Frank Sinatra and his then-wife, Ava Gardner. (click to enlarge) Marie writes: the best celebrity photos are invariably candid shots. :-)
From the Grand Poobah: Here in Michigan Oink's ice cream parlor exerts a magnetic pull on helpless citizens for miles around. I can no longer sample their countless flavors, but not log ago I took Kim Severson there. She is a New York Times writer doing a piece on The Pot. Oink's is run by my friend Roger Vink, who says, "May the Oink be with you."
(click photos to enlarge)
From The Grand Poobah: Reader Steinbolt1 writes in: "Mark Mayerson has been putting together mosaics of all the scenes from specific Disney animated films, and is currently working through Dumbo. Each scene has the specific animator(s) who worked on the film listed above it. This is my favorite post on Dumbo, so far:
Mayserson on Animation: Dumbo Part 5"The only humans we've seen previously are in sequence 3. They are all white and wearing uniforms that clearly mark them as circus employees. When we get to this sequence, the only humans we see are black. As they are disembarking from a railroad car, we know that they are also employees, but they don't get uniforms. The roustabouts are the ones who do the heavy lifting, regardless of the weather. Why aren't the rest of the employees helping? I guess the work is beneath them. Let's not forget that the circus wintered in Florida, at the time a Jim Crow state." - Mark Mayerson; an animator, writer, producer, director and Canadian. :-)
The Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early on Tuesday, and in some categories they’ll be almost a formality. Four of the inevitable nominees in the acting categories seem to be shoo-ins for Oscars.
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Tina Mabry's "Mississippi Damned," an independent American production, won the Gold Hugo as the best film in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival, and added Gold Plaques for best supporting actress (Jossie Thacker) and best screenplay (Mabry). It tells the harrowing story of three black children growing up in rural Mississippi in circumstances of violence and addiction. The film's trailer and an interview with Mabry are linked at the bottom.
Kylee Russell in "Mississippi Damned"
The winner of the Audience Award, announced Friday, was "Precious" (see below). The wins came over a crowed field of competitors from all over the world, many of them with much larger budgets. The other big winner at the Pump Room of the Ambassador East awards ceremony Saturday evening was by veteran master Marco Bellocchio of Italy, who won the Silver Hugo as best director for "Vincere," the story of Mussolini's younger brother. Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi won Silver Hugos as best actress and actor, and Daniele Cipri won a Gold Plaque for best cinematography.
"Wal-Mart? I'd like to order another copy of 'The Da Vinci Code.'" Alfred Molina plays Cardinal Fang a bishop with a cell.
The protests against "The Da Vinci Code" are expected to reach their peak this opening weekend. And in reading some of the reactions to the movie and the book (see here), I noticed that much of the heat seems to center around whether people will mistake the book's and movie's fictions for historical realities. You'd think the general public would be smart enough to understand what a novel is, and that such books are different from scholarly works of nonfiction, even when they incorporate actual facts or events.
For example, one of my all-time favorite novels is Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" and it is about a bomber squadron based on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during World War II, but to my knowledge the titular rule has never been part of U.S. Air Force regulations, nor did Clevinger actually pilot a plane into a cloud and not come out the other side. In part, that is because Clevinger, like Robert Langdon (the hero of "The Da Vinci Code" and Dan Brown's previous novel, "Angels and Demons"), is a fictional character. World War II and the U.S. Air Force and Pianosa, however, are real. And so is the Mediterranean.
Anyway, I was surprised to find that Wal-Mart is (still) selling "The Da Vinci Code" on its web site with this false and misleading description:
CANNES, France - On second thought, maybe it was not such a great idea to hold the world premiere of "The Da Vinci Code" at the Cannes Film Festival. The critical reception here was negative, but what would you expect? As someone who enjoyed the film (good, not great, better than the book) I am possibly typical of many of the people who will pay to see it. But when you open at Cannes, those are not the people in your audience.
Q. Your ‘School of Rock’ review needs a fix.
TORONTO--It can be exciting to watch young actors trying as hard as they can to be good. But there's something sort of inspiring about an older actor who has made so many movies over so many years that he knows how to do it without thinking.
If a society does not allow its women to speak to men other than their husbands, or own property, or vote, or drive cars, or appear in public unless covered in traditional dress from head to toe, or take trips without written permission, or have any rights to their children, and if that society nods approvingly when a husband beats his wife when she disobeys these rules--is that society sexist? Or are we racist to think so?