Maps to the Stars
David Cronenberg's film of Bruce Wagner's Hollywood satire-nightmare turns ludicrous situations into operatic tragedy.
* 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.
Lists from our critics and contributors on the best of 2014.
Marie writes: Now this is really neat. It made TIME's top 25 best blogs for 2012 and with good reason. Behold artist and photographer Gustaf Mantel's Tumblr blog "If we don't, remember me" - a collection of animated GIFs based on classic films. Only part of the image moves and in a single loop; they're sometimes called cinemagraphs. The results can be surprisingly moving. They also can't be embedded so you have to watch them on his blog. I already picked my favorite. :-)
After duds "Jimmy P." and "Grand Central," the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" saves the day for Barbara Scharres.
A horror or science-fiction movie without subtext is like Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory without electricity. The inner metaphor is what gives it life and resonance. Otherwise, it's just a story about stitched-together people parts. Or take David Cronenberg's "The Fly," a riveting, poignant horror/science-fiction/romance about an ambitious scientist who accidentally gets his DNA mixed up with that of a housefly. Everything about the movie is first-rate, from the direction to the performances to the effects. But what really grabs hold of you is the universal theme: We are all Brundlefly, sentient, self-aware beings whose bodies are going to decay and die. In 1986, a lot of people assumed the subtext was AIDS; Cronenberg later said he was thinking in more general terms about the process of aging. It doesn't matter. The movie works on those levels.
Cronenberg is particularly ingenious at making the word flesh, and the ways he develops his ideas are often even scarier than the explicit horrors: "The Brood" is a masterpiece about the psychosomatic effects of rage turned inward, and about the legacy of emotional abuse passed down from one generation to the next; "Videodrome" is about technology as an extension of the body and the brain; "Dead Ringers" is about mutant forms of psychological and sexual intimacy; "Naked Lunch" is about a writer who has to internalize his own sexuality before he can create art.... Cronenberg is an organic, visionary thinker, storyteller, filmmaker. His movies have meat on their bones. Other filmmakers whose work strikes me as insubstantial lack this ability to flesh-out their pictures with compelling, animating ideas. Their plots are meticulously plotted, but they're skin-deep and there's nothing to sink your imaginative teeth into.
Which brings me to this summer's hits, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," neither of which I have much interest in seeing. Instead I'm intrigued by a few things I've read about them -- specifically about their subtext, or lack thereof. In a piece about the racial themes of "The Help" ("Why Can't Critics Just Get Along?"), David Poland writes:
Ever since David Thomson's "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" was published in 1975, browsers have said that they love to hate Thomson's contrarian arguments -- against John Ford or Frank Capra, Coppola or Kubrick, for example.¹ Fans and critics can cite favorite passages of resonant beauty, mystifyingly vague and dismissive summary judgements, and entire entries in which the man appears to have gone off his rocker. And that's the fun of it.
To be fair, Thomson broke faith with (or has been suffering a crisis of faith in) American movies at least far back as "Overexposures: The Crisis in American Filmmaking" (1981), and he's been writing about his crisis ever since. To put it in a sentence that could serve as the ending of one of his entries: I am willing to believe that he loves (or once loved) movies even if he doesn't like them very much. (Wait -- how does he conclude the Katharine Hepburn piece? "She loved movies, while disapproving of them.")
When I encountered the first edition of this book, the year I entered college, I immediately fell in love with it because it was not a standard reference. It was personal, cranky, eloquent, pretentious, pithy, petty, ambitious... It was, as I think Thomson himself suggested in the foreword to the first or second edition (this is the fifth), more accurately titled "An Autobiographical Dictionary of Film." Many times over the years I have implored my employers or partners to license digital rights to Thomson's book so that it could augment and be integrated with other movie databases and references (at Cinemania, FilmPix, Reel.com, RogerEbert.com)... but we've never done it. What, they would ask, is the "value-add"? (Really. Some people used to talk that way.) As a reference, its coverage is too spotty (Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia is much more comprehensive but also has loads of incomplete filmographies), as criticism it's wildly idiosyncratic (nothing wrong with that) and as biography it's whimsically selective and uneven, leaving as many holes as it fills.
The volcano gods were in a snit on Monday, and I arrived in Cannes on Tuesday six hours later than planned, following some frustrating encounters with ticket agents in Frankfurt Airport. Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips was on my flight from Chicago, having had his entire original reservation canceled due to drifting volcano ash. I heard delay stories everywhere, and figured I got off easy.
After fast dash to the Palais des Festivals five minutes before the office that issues accreditation badges closed, I picked up my press badge and film market badge. The Cannes skies were dark and threatening, with fog hanging over the distant mountains. I hoped that this wasn't a sign of weather gloom to come.
Roger Ebert writes of seeing "Inglourious Basterds" for the first time at Cannes: "I knew Tarantino had made a considerable film, but I wanted it to settle, and to see it again. I'm glad I did. Like a lot of real movies, you relish it more the next time." Keith Uhlich says he's "loving [it] more and more as I reflect on it." Glenn Kenny has already seen it twice and has offered "a structural breakdown" of the film's five chapters.
And Karina Longworth -- well, she has a whole new take on "Inglorious Basterds" since she saw it in that French place last spring:
When I first saw "Inglourious Basterds" at Cannes, I walked out of the theater and felt like something was ... off. I rushed to my computer and wrote a dismissive review. "Quentin Tarantino," I wrote, "has never seemed to strain so hard to just make A Quentin Tarantino Film." I complained about the film's pacing, the quality of its dialogue, the excessive exposition. "'Basterds' plays almost like an assembly edit, defiantly presented as-is," I concluded.
... continued from here...
5. "Wendy and Lucy" (Kelly Reichardt, heartbreaker). A couple bad breaks and a stubborn act of unkindness push a girl and her dog over the edge, from a marginal migratory existence into near-invisibility. Wendy (Michelle Williams) is driving to Alaska with her dog Lucy to find work in the fishing industry, probably in a cannery. (Note to Eastern critics who found this notion strange or fanciful: It's not even unusual. Many people, especially young people, in the Pacific Northwest head to Alaska for good-paying seasonal work.) Only a few acts of kindness manage to keep her from falling off the map entirely. This (almost) opening shot (again, I present only a chunk from the middle) is scored to the humming in her head, and represents a perfect miniature of the movie as a whole: Wendy and Lucy walking in the woods, playing fetch, moving in and out of the frame, passing through light and shadow, occasionally disappearing behind trunks and thickets, then emerging on the other side. (Christopher Long has a beautiful appreciation of the shot and the film at DVDTown.)
"Waltz with Bashir," Ari Folman's animated film about an Israeli soldier's flashbacks, has been named best film of 2008 by the National Society of Film Critics, the most prestigious of the critic'a groups giving year-end awards.
This just in:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS *1. Hanna Schygulla (The Edge of Heaven) - 29 (Strand Releasing) 2. Viola Davis (Doubt) - 29 (on fewer ballots) 3. Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) - 24
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR *1. Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky) 41 (Miramax) 2. Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) - 35 3. Josh Brolin (Milk) - 29
Mike Myers' "The Love Guru" was chosen worst picture of the year in the Second Annual Ninth Annual Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll, in which I was but one of 81 balloteers. I may have been fortunate in that I didn't see it. Nor was I exposed to runner-up Alan Ball's "Towelhead," which was followed by a multiple tie for third-lousiest between "Burn After Reading," "Changeling," "Doubt," "Gran Torino," "Rachel Getting Married," "Step Brothers," and "Synecdoche, New York." The reason I mention this first is that most of these films (OK, not "Love Guru") were also chosen by some as among the best movies of the year, and they were directed by a few critical darlings: Joel and Ethan Coen, Clint Eastwood (twice), Jonathan Demme, Charlie Kaufman...
This year's poll favorites:
10) "Synechdoche, New York" (Charlie Kaufman, USA)
9) "Let the Right One In" (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
8) "Wendy and Lucy" (Kelly Reichardt, USA)
7) "Milk" (Gus Van Sant, USA)
6) "Waltz With Bashir" (Ari Folman, Israel)
Roger Ebert's best movie lists from 1967-present
I regret that I haven't seen Guillermo Del Toro's "Hellboy" (2004) or "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008), though De. Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" was my top movie of 2006. Andrew Tracy at Reverse Shot evidently isn't impressed with the Hellboys, and I say "evidently" because I'm putting off reading the whole of his review of the new one until I've seen it.
But that hasn't stopped me from relishing the first two paragraphs! Because Tracy is articulating thoughts I've often entertained but too rarely raised in public. He begins: Talking faux-seriously about juvenilia has become a marvelous way to avoid talking seriously about the serious. The slew of hyperbolic, overheated critical rhetoric that follows in the wake -- hell, in advance of -- the latest high concept blockbuster is enough to make one gag. In these cases, critical investigation has by and large become a matter of repeating verbatim the films' stridently announced surface-level themes with some linguistic curlicues and intellectual tumbling tossed in.