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La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

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Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

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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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* 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.

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Scorsese, De Niro reuniting on a new gangster film; Zadie Smith on life, death, Warhol; Spike Lee speaks; our ancestors didn't sleep like us; Van Sant to headline a LGBT film fest in St. Petersburg.

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Black designers show the French a thing or deux

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For those of us who missed our calling as jet setters, socialites or fashion models along comes the edifying, spritely documentary "Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution" to show us how much work it is to be spontaneously fabulous.

Nearly 40 years ago, in late November of 1973, something rather momentous happened at the Opéra Royal on the grounds of the King's old digs outside Paris. In the course of a fashion show that Women's Wear Daily dubbed "The Battle of Versailles," boldly assertive American runway models -- many of whom were what we now call African-American -- wore sporty, comfortable American designer clothes with such, well, panache that the absolute supremacy of French haute couture was dented for good.

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Into the Great Big Boring

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When I was a child I was taught that it was unacceptable to call something -- a movie, a song, an activity -- "boring" because: 1) it doesn't make sense (a thing can't be boring, unless perhaps it is a drill bit; a person feels bored); and 2) it's indefensible, since the quality of "boringness" cannot be isolated or identified as an element of the thing itself; it's a feeling and it is yours).

So, saying something is "boring" is not exactly like saying something in a movie is "funny" or "moving" -- though, again, I'd prefer to place the responsibility for a response on the "feeler" rather than on the object -- because at least you can describe how something is presented or intended to be received as humorous or touching, even if you don't think it is. (Yes, there are exceptions to that, too.) I mean, a joke or a gag or an emotional situation can be objectively analyzed, but there are no agreed-upon cultural standards for evaluating "boring."¹

"Boring," I believe, is more like the word "entertaining" -- too vague to be of much use in a critical vocabulary. So, I might say I found something about a movie "tedious" or "engaging" or some other thesaurus word, but I'll attribute the emotion to myself and my taste, and even then not without a serious attempt to describe what I'm talking about, and to give at least one specific example.²

But now, "boring" is hot, at least in overheated Interwebular film criticism circles, since the publication of Dan Kois' New York Times Magazine piece called "Eating Your Cultural Vegetables," in which he says:

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#55 March 23, 2011

Marie writes:  Having recently seen a stage play, I was reminded again of how much I enjoy them. And the buildings they're often performed in. Which sent me off looking for old ones and hopefully Theatres you never hear about - as then it's like stumbling upon a secret known only to a lucky few. And thus how I found "Minack Theatre Portcurno Cornwall" with a view over-looking the Cornish sea...

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Trash Humpers not banned, hump trash

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Part I (before I saw "Trash Humpers")

Google "Netflix" and "Trash Humpers" and the first result you'll get is this: Netflix - Watch Trash Humpers. The second result (dated October 20, 2010) is an article from Filmmaker Magazine headlined: "'Trash Humpers' too trashy for Netflix?" Note that the head is in the form of a question, because the article/post itself consists almost entirely of a promotional announcement from Drag City, the DVD distributor of "Trash Humpers," claiming that Netflix was refusing to carry the video, which (according to Amazon.com) was officially released September 21, 2010.

The press release was a useful publicity stunt (what do you expect for a Harmony Korine movie called "Trash Humpers"?), but how much truth it contained I haven't been able to determine, and I haven't been able to find any comments from anyone at Netflix. In its widely reprinted (but evidently unquestioned) October manifesto, Drag City said:

... Netflix has deemed the content of Trash Humpers to be too inappropriate for their subscribers to make it available to them. From their perspective, they may be right: they certainly know their subscribers and their tastes, and might have a better awareness of their breaking point (we thought that might have been fuckin' Avatar). So it's hard to fault them. But we do love a challenge! We don't expect Netflix to carry anything they don't want to, for whatever reason, but it reminds us that this is the price paid when we allow one entity to control the lion's-share of content distribution.

Drag City provided a link to "actual factual mom-and-pop DVD sales-and/or-rental stores" that were carrying "Trash Humpers," including Amazon.com, Newbury Comics and Amoeba.

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Thought experiment: Are some movies better if you don't see them?

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It's a question to ponder -- especially when they're Andy Warhol movies (whether or not Andy Warhol actually had anything to do with them besides putting his name on them). Consider this story from Reid Rosefelt at My Life as a Blog:

... I was a huge fan of Warhol's films, despite the fact that I had never seen a single one. Most, if not all of the films had been withdrawn from circulation, or very rarely shown, certainly not in Madison. That didn't stop me. I read everything I could about them, and I was totally fascinated.

Spotting Warhol standing at an appetizer table, plastic cup in one hand and plate in the other, during a late-1970s party in New York, RR worked up the nerve to approach the artist. It went something like this:

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Name That Director!

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Click above to REALLY enlarge...

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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Smash his camera, but not immediately

He is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure. Ron Galella, the best known of all paparazzi, lost a lawsuit to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and five teeth to Marlon Brando, but he also captured many of the iconic photographs of his era. At 77, he is still active, making the drive from his New Jersey home and his pet bunny rabbits through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, the prime grazing land of his prey.

I had an idea, as many of us do, about Gallela and the species of paparazzi. It was a hypocritical idea. I disapproved of him and enjoyed his work. Yes, he comes close to violating the rights of public people, and sometimes crosses the line. He certainly crossed the line with Jackie's children.

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Bye bye Miss American Privacy

"What 'American Pie' betrays is not good taste but any notion that privacy could matter to these kids or to us. Everything in this picture is out front: whatever humiliates the characters most is precisely what everyone in the school learns about them, and the movie views this as proper and humane. For we are all swimming in the same soup of confusion and embarrassment, voyeurism and malice. But without some feeling for privacy as a value, a movie about teen sex and romance can't be made with any grace or style. The idea that everyone should know everything, however productive of comedy, links the movie to the kind of daytime talk show in which neighborhood friends betray one another's secrets and the audience howls at them in mock disapproval and open pleasure. The new hit comedies make us join that audience, whether we want to or not." -- David Denby, The New Yorker (July 12, 1999)

Andy Warhol got it almost right. Everybody is a "Superstar" (in the Warholian sense) already, or at least everybody behaves like one. And in the future -- that is, 10 years after "American Pie" and 22 years after Andy's death -- everybody's also a self-publicist, using sophisticated technology to manage a public image that masquerades as a mutant form of privacy. Blogs, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter -- these and so many other powerful promotional tools can be used by anyone, kids or mega-corporations, to create an illusion of intimacy with (in Facebookspeak) "friends" and "fans."

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