Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
* 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.
Writer Simon Abrams responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
The new science fiction action film from Bong Joon-ho ("The Host," "Mother") defies the odds by turning yet another dystopian future into something thrilling and distinctive.
On Trayvon and Questlove and feminism and racism; why the American right hates Detroit; Elliott Gould tells tales out of school; why somebody should adapt Stephen King's 'The Long Walk.'
"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?
What happens when actors play themselves? Something funny, and often magical, as this Leigh Singer supercut proves. Text by Matt Zoller Seitz.
Marie writes: Remember Brian Dettmer and his amazing book sculptures? Behold a similar approach courtesy of my pal Siri who told me about Alexander Korzer-Robinson and his sculptural collages made from Antiquarian Books. Artist's statement:"By using pre-existing media as a starting point, certain boundaries are set by the material, which I aim to transform through my process. Thus, an encyclopedia can become a window into an alternate world, much like lived reality becomes its alternate in remembered experience. These books, having been stripped of their utilitarian value by the passage of time, regain new purpose. They are no longer tools to learn about the world, but rather a means to gain insight about oneself."
"Dear Mr. Spider;I am profoundly sorry to have taken you from your home in the woods, when I was picking Himalayan Blackberries on Monday afternoon. I didn't see you fall into my bucket and which was entirely my fault; I must have bumped into your web while reaching for a berry. Needless to say, I was surprised upon returning home with my bucket full, to suddenly see you there standing on a blackberry and looking up at me." - Marie
(photo recreation of incident)
The first two "Terminator" movies were to me what "Star Wars" was to previous generations. Every kid wanted to be Eddie Furlong. The prospect of having a badass mother who didn't freak out when you grabbed a gun was overwhelming. On top of that young John Connor had his very own Terminator to command!! When I first watched those movies it was the violence of the first film, the special effects of the second and the time travel paradox of both that kept me up most nights in awe. I must've watched them a hundred times and I still give them credit for kicking off my interest to science fiction and the many mind boggling philosophical ideas that come hand in hand with the genre.
A few years ago, while sitting in the mosque during a Friday sermon, I noticed a man in the center of the second row. This is an octagonal mosque with bare white walls. On the outside, its bluish brick and yellow dome consciously invoke the Dome of the Rock, which itself, incidentally is not a mosque. This man was sitting on the blue carpet with the rest of us, about six feet away from the preaching Imam, yet interestingly, he was not looking at him. The Imam was dressed in a white thobe, white skull cap, and that contrasted his thick jet-black beard. Instead, the man of salt-and-pepper beard was staring at the giant projection of this Imam on a screen above. I don't remember what the Imam was speaking about that day, which might explain why I was probably staring curiously at this man as he stared at the live video projection of the preacher standing right in front of him. But, for reasons I will explain below, that moment comes to mind when I think of Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" (2012).
Published with Press Play on Indiewire
With the unparalleled box office success of The Avengers, superheroes are back in the spotlight. Most comic book aficionados are delighted with the recognition. But believe it or not, there are those such as myself who are dismayed at how superhero films, though more popular than ever, seem to be losing their luster.
This is a free edited sample of the Christmas Newsletter.
For Roger's invitation to the Club, go here.
From the Grand Poobah and Mrs. Poobah:
Seasons Greetings Everyone!
From the Poobah: Chaz and Roger Ebert wish you Peace in the New Year!
A few days ago, I was one of many critics who panned the film SUCKER PUNCH. Though I hadn't written my own, I advocated several reviews that I felt reflected my sentiments.
Though I agreed in their disapproval, two words kept on reappearing with each negative review I read: "video game." To say that the film draws greatly upon video game aspects is accurate. But with each citation, my fellow critics continue to beat the dead horse of an argument that video games are a meaningless form of mindless entertainment.
I grew up on movies and on video games, and love and respect what they bring to the table. Though I enjoy them on different levels, they both have given me moments of wonder and serious reflection. As an avid gamer and film lover, I find it a shame to see how one medium has gained artistic acceptance while the other continues to be derided by the mainstream. There are many reasons why they are looked down upon, but if you give them a shot, you just might conclude that video games should be considered art.
"In that case I'll get in touch with Chic Sale." -- Groucho Marx, "Animal Crackers" (1930)
"Adam 1-3's incipient negritude will come as a pleasant surprise to his honorary Aquarium parents, Ralph Bunche and Ida Lupino." -- Firesign Theatre, "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" (1970)
The awesomely prolific Matt Zoller Seitz (no, he's still got just the two kids, but he's been writing a lot of good stuff lately -- mostly in his capacity as the new TV columnist for Salon.com) recently asked the musical question: "When a comedy builds a lot of its identity around pop culture references, is it hastening its own irrelevance?" -- or, "Will future generations understand 'The Simpsons'?" (I think the term "ask the musical question" is a pop culture reference, but I'll be darned if I can find out where it originated.)
Matt writes of watching one of the great "Simpsons" episodes ("Krusty Gets Kancelled") with his kids and laughing at references that pre-dated their pop-cultural awareness (like, back before Arnold Schwarzenegger was a governor):
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:
After I lost my speaking voice, everybody thought they had this brilliant idea. "Hey! Why don't you just take your voice from your old shows and put it on a computer?" Sounded good to me.
Computers can do just about everything these days, from running airplanes to carrying out labyrinthine mathematical calculations. It would seem to be such a simple thing I am asking. I would like a computer to provide me with my own voice. Many people have suggested this: "Why don't you get someone to take tapes of your speaking voice and create a voice you can use with your computer?" They make it sound so simple. They look like they've had a brilliant idea. But it is not so simple.
Two years ago, I was told by helpful computer wizards at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana that such a thing was possible. There is even a company in Urbana that creates computer voices. But it appears it might cost me a small fortune to have one custom-created for me. Wouldn't you think the same technology could be applied to create many voices? Apparently that's not so easy.
Soon after my second surgery, when it became apparent I wouldn't be able to speak, I of course started writing notes. This got the message across, but was too time-consuming for communications of any length. And notes were unbearably frustrating for a facile speaker like me, accustomed to dancing with the flow of the conversation. There is a point when a zinger is perfectly timed, and a point when it is pointless.
If those screwball lovers Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner ever hooked up and had sex, they'd do it the way Brüno and his "pygmy" paramour do in "Brüno": with ACME slingshots, projectiles, champagne bottles and a customized Rube Goldberg device that appears to have been built with materials from Home Depot by George Clooney's character in "Burn After Reading." The matinee audience with whom I saw "Brüno," Sacha Baron Cohen's partially improvised Üniversal Pictures remake of RW Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (with a happy ending!), howled at the grossness, the perversity, the preposterousness of it -- the same way audiences laughed and groaned at the explicitly cartoony perv-sex in John Waters movies of the 1970s. "Brüno" is rather tame compared to "Pink Flamingoes" or "Female Trouble" -- in part because it's 2009 and not 1974, and the experience of "shock value" has changed considerably. Truth is, it's hard to be too terribly shocked by anything in the bland, artificial cocoon of the mall-tiplex, no matter what's playing.
Inevitably, in all comedy, the joke comes down to: What is the joke? I've had a grand old time reading bewildered critics -- amused, disgusted, even shocked -- try to puzzle out what Borat and Brüno (the characters and the movies) are really saying. The most entertaining explanations are by writers who don't necessarily know they're bewildered, or how much they're revealing about their own prejudices when they claim the movie is revealing the prejudices of the "real folks" on screen. (Hint: Even more so than in "Borat," the butt of the joke is the title character, not the "real people" with whom he interacts. Tricking people is not exactly the same as making fun of them -- and most of those who get punk'd react about the way you'd expect them to.)
"You should learn to keep your opinions OUT of your reviews!" Every critic I know has received at least one letter like that from an indignant reader. Of course, it's an absurd proposition; critics are paid to express their opinions, and the good ones (who exercise what is known across all disciplines as "critical thinking") are also able to cite examples and employ sound reasoning to build an argument, showing you how and why they reached their verdict.
A sampling of movies from the Toronto International Film Festival from the editor of RogerEbert.com, who was celebrating his fifth TIFF.
HONOLULU--Consider the eyes in the photo that accompanies this article. They are from a movie. Is it live action, or animated?
Q. I just read your review of "The Contender" with Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen. My wife and I had to laugh when we saw the trailer, because we just KNEW Gary Oldman's character was going to be an evil, mean and nasty Republican. As it turns out, we were right! "Random Hearts" is the only film I can recall where a Republican politician was treated as a sympathetic character in a Hollywood film. Can you think of any others? (Marc Giller, Tampa, FL)
Q. In your review of "Sleepy Hollow," you refused to reveal the actor who plays the Hessian Horseman, but the billboards for the film boldly display the unmistakable (name deleted) alongside Johnny Depp. Do you think knowing too much about a movie ruins the film for the audience? I recently saw "Being John Malkovich" having read the script on the internet, and I was pleasantly surprised that the ending was different in the film. I am going to try harder to allow a film to work its magic on me without me being tainted by too much information. (Raul Borja, Los Angeles CA)
Q. My wife showed me your review of "The Truman Show," and I was crushed with chagrin to learn the movie is constructed to reveal its secret slowly to the viewer. I've already seen the "Truman Show" commercials revealing the secret. I feel betrayed. This is the third time when the advance info has ruined a surprise. The first was "Terminator 2." On talk shows, Arnold Schwarzenegger beamed, "This time I'm a good terminator! The bad guy is a T-1000, made of liquid metal, which can look like anyone." In the theater, the details are calculatedly ambiguous right until the two terminators confront each other and Schwarzenegger suddenly turns and protects the kid. At that moment, I thought--I shouldn't have known the details beforehand! The same thing happened with "The Empire Strikes Back." Magazines had cover photos: "Here's Yoda! He's an old, eccentric, funny-looking creature who's really a Jedi master!" In viewing the film I realized the audience wasn't supposed to know Yoda's identity until he started conversing with the disembodied voice of Obi-Wan. Now here's "The Truman Show," with a marketing campaign spilling all the beans. My wife contends there is no other possible way for the studio to successfully advertise the movie, but I have to believe there's SOME way to do it. (Chris Rowland, Plainsboro, N.J.)
Q. In the end credits for "Batman & Robin" they listed: "Dr. Fries Hairstylist." Since Arnold's character is bald for 99% of the movie was this an "in-joke" or was it a legitimate credit? (Gary Currie, Montreal)