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Penguins of Madagascar

The pacing is so zany, the jokes are so rapid-fire and the sight gags are so inspired that it’s impossible not to get caught up…

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Horrible Bosses 2

The law of diminishing returns, which has afflicted so many comedy sequels over the years, strikes again in “Horrible Bosses 2,” further proving that just…

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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.

Does anyone want to be "well-read?"

"Death disports with writers more cruelly than with the rest of humankind," Cynthia Ozick wrote in a recent issue of The New Republic.

"The grave can hardly make more mute those who were voiceless when alive--dust to dust, muteness to muteness. But the silence that dogs the established writer's noisy obituary, with its boisterous shock and busy regret, is more profound than any other.

"Oblivion comes more cuttingly to the writer whose presence has been felt, argued over, championed, disparaged--the writer who is seen to be what Lionel Trilling calls a Figure. Lionel Trilling?

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"It's not like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Cher said.

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By Roger Ebert / May 7, 1967

To begin with, there was a little girl out in the hallway with long black hair and white bell-bottom trousers. She was sitting on a bench by the elevator, looking across the hallway into a mirror which showed her sitting on a bench by the elevator. So when you came up in the elevator and the doors opened, here was this image of a little girl with long black hair and bell-bottom trousers, looking into the elevator door at you.

At first your mind didn't understand, and you thought maybe this was Cher herself, waiting by the elevator for you, and so you stepped off the elevator, smiling stupidly because you were caught off guard, and suddenly the little girl was behind you, and there you were smiling at her in the mirror, and she was scowling because she thought maybe you were trying to pick her up or something.

It was one of those totally unsettling, absolutely miserable situations. If you were James Cagney you would turn on her and snarl, "Dammit, you're only 12," and mash a grapefruit in her face.

But instead you knocked on the door of Room 640, and Sonny himself opened it, dressed in white bell-bottom trousers and a silk brocade shirt the color of rainbows. Then you heard this wail being sent up from behind you: "Sonnnneeeeeyyy!"

The scream propelled you into the room as Sonny hastily slammed the door. In the room there were two girls with long black hair and white bell-bottom trousers. They looked up at you and you wanted to explain that you weren't the one who had been screaming just now, but it didn't seem that they had heard anything.

"Hi, I'm Sonny," said Sonny. Studying the two girls in the room he singled out one and said, "This is Cher."

"Gratified," Cher said. You saw that she wore a ring that said "Sonny." You edged around to see Sonny's hand, and, sure enough, he wore a ring that said "Cher." All's well.

The girl who wasn't Cher said she would call Room Service.

"Well," you said.

"Now that we've covered that," Cher said.

"How about a drink?" said Sonny.

"I'll just have a Coke," said Cher. "No, Diet Pepsi."

"It must be hazardous to be the idols of teeny-boppers everywhere," you said. "Do you ever wish you could just, uh, walk down the street?"

"Oh, everybody knows us in Los Angeles," Sonny said. "They're used to seeing us. We don't believe in being aloof and above everybody and all that. We try to be natural."

Cher smiled. "The clothes may not look too natural, but out on the coast they don't stand out too much. Here, I guess they look a little eight and a halfish."

"Eight and a halfish," we said.

"She means Juliet of the Spiritish," Sonny said.

A silence fell.

"The only time you really have to worry about your fans is in a concert situation," Sonny said. "Mass hysteria gets started, and adoration turns to hostility. The best thing to do in a situation like that is, don't panic, but assert authority."

"There was only one case where we got physically torn apart," Cher said.

A waiter from Room Service came into the room and passed out menus. Sonny ordered a hamburger and a tossed salad.

"Dressing?" said the waiter.

"I'll have the Roquefort," Sonny said. "A wise decision," the waiter said. "Soup or appetizer?"

"No thanks," Sonny said.

"I'll have English muffins," Cher said. "No, make that just one English muffin."

"One English muffin," the waiter said "Soup or appetizer?"

"Whoddya think this is?" said Cher.

After luncheon was served, Sonny talked about the events of three and a half years, which have catapulted the couple to stardom.

"I had tried to be a singer on my own, but without success," he said. "When I met Cher, I was a promotion man for a record company. I was fascinated. I thought she was beautiful. I knew at once she'd be great."

"I was going to school at the time," Cher said. "I was attending Montclair, an acting school. I didn't really want to be an actress, but I had no interest in regular school and my parents thought this would occupy my time."

Sonny said he hesitated before asking her to marry him.

"I knew she'd be a star. I didn't want to be the husband in the background while she was famous," he said. "I wrote her a poem, saying goodbye. But then we got married. I knew I had to be as powerful as she was if our marriage was to work. Without Cher, I was nothing as a singer. Together we were everything."

Sonny said they now face their greatest hurdle.

"We have to change from singers to entertainers," he said. "We have to develop an appeal for adults as well as the kids. People don't buy a sound, they buy a personality. Look at Sinatra, Bogart, John Wayne."

He said their current image, based on long hair and mod clothes, is simply an outward appearance.

"I don't see why anybody can object to contemporary clothes if they're neat and clean," he said.

"It's not like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Cher said.

"You can dress this way, yet be ambitious, clean, and have good moral values," Sonny said.

"That's what we were trying to say in our movie," Cher said. "If there's a message in 'Good Times,' it's don't sell out."

"We don't make that unhealthy scene on the coast," Sonny said. "A lot of kids are being mislead by Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey. The whole LSD crowd is nothing but a lot of bald-headed teeny-boppers. They're really weirdos."

"That sort of thing wouldn't happen if parents knew where their children were at all times," Cher said.

"That's right," said Sonny. "It's up to the parents. The family has to unite again. There are altogether too many divorces." He said his marriage with Cher symbolizes the possibility that people can be married.

"Not like a lot of these groups," Cher said, "where there's no telling what goes on."

"Let's face it," Sonny said. "We're pros. I'd wear a suit if I had to because I want the business."

From the hallway carne a plaintive cry: "Soonnneeee!"

"I would go bald," Sonny was saying. "I would cut off all my hair to play a role."

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Street scene: Movie theater, snow, rain, promise

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This photo was sent to me by a reader, Chris Aiello. At first I processed it as an atmospheric street scene with a movie theater. Then I read the marquee. That placed it in the early 1960s, and I remembered that Jonas Mekas' "Guns of the Trees" (1961) was a film I reviewed in the early days of the ill-fated Town Underground theater in Chicago (now the Park West).

Aiello told me, "That was the St. Charles movie theater NYC. Circa 1962." And reader Irving Benig added, "East 12th in the Village ."

The "Ginsberg Hoover and Nixon" refers to Allen Ginsberg, who read his poetry on the sound track.

My first thought was that the scene in the photograph looked cold and lonely. Then I read the marquee and thought, no, that's simply how it would have looked on a winter's day. Inside it would have been warm, and the beam from the projector would have made a cone in the cigarette smoke.

When I left the theater it would have been dark and I would have looked around for a place to get a bowl of chili. I could read while eating it. I had the paperback of Norman Mailer's Advertisements for Myself in the pocket of my corduroy sports coat, under my thin khaki raincoat.

The Internet Movie Database lists only one review of the film, this one.

I went looking for a clip or a trailer of "Guns of the Trees," and there wasn't one. Adding the search term "Jonas Mekas," I found the short film below. You never know what you might find.

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#22 August 4, 2010

Michigan postcard from the Grand Poobah: Entrenched here in the Michigan woods, I forge ahead on my memoirs. Occasionally I lift my eyes to watch raindrops falling on leaves. Every evening I put on a DVD. Tonight's showing: Antonioni's "Eclipse."

(click to enlarge)

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#20 July 21, 2010

"Twists of fate, love and humour, perseverance and, finally, a philosophical outlook- his story has it all." - Sarah Hampson.(click photo to enlarge) From the Globe and Mail article "You couldn't write this script" published July 19, 2010.From the Grand Poobah: "A young lady with excellent taste". (click to enlarge) "Ever since I was a child messing around with a terrible paint set from K-mart, I have been obsessed with controlling pigment suspended in water. Now I paint with divine, hand-made watercolors from Holland along with brushes ranging from high-end to dirt cheap, but the obsession remains..." - from Kelly Eddington's artist statement. To read more and see her truly wonderful watercolors, visit Kelly Eddington's Website and Gallery.

Ah, watercolors.... so easy to master; only takes decades....

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Sundance and five Sundance-style movies

Scroll down for my earlier entries.

The first five Sundance entries I've seen are the kinds of film the festival exists to showcase. It is possible that many of them won't ever open in most of the places you readers live, but you've impressed me with your resourcefulness in finding them anyway (and no, I don't mean piracy). You guys demonstrate that if you want to find a movie badly enough, you often can.

One of them, "Homewrecker," is for rent right now via YouTube, in keeping with the festival's Reinvention/Rebirth/Renewal and its embrace of new distribution channels such as the net and regional art cinemas.

That one and "Armless" are playing in the new Sundance section named NEXT, which specializes in movies with "low to no budgets." The guidelines specify budgets below $500,000, and both of these look closer to half a million than to "no."

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Interview with Nick Nolte

LOS ANGELES - "We could have started our own franchise," Frank Yablans is quietly observing to himself. Out on the rainy playing field, illuminated by the big movie lights, 55 professional football players are slogging through the mud, running down to the goal posts and back, so they'll sound short of breath in the next shot. They are not yet too short of breath to use words that will not make it into Yablans' movie.

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Interview with Sonny and Cher

To begin with there was a little girl out in the hallway with long black hair and white bell-bottom trousers. She was sitting on a bench by the elevator, looking across the hallway into a mirror, which showed her sitting on a bench by the elevator.

Continue reading →