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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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Bears

"Bears" could have used a lot more science; more substantive information in the place of wacky one-liners. Still, the images trump everything.

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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.

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Why showrunners matter on TV much less than you think; BBC's Sherlock by the numbers; Vulture's Summer TV issue; in praise of Don't Trust the B----- in Apartment 23; M. Night Shyamalan wrote what?; DNA can't be patented; robots can fight.

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A little black dress makes the world go round

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With the passing of Andy Williams, I keep imagining his golden tenor singing Henry Mancini's "Moon River." The song talks about crossing life in style. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is all about fashionable cafe society and love; in an adult fairy tale, you can have both even if you are two drifters.

The director Gregory Nava once commented, "Whenever any question of style or taste in dress comes up, I simply ask myself, 'What would Fred Astaire have done?'" Audrey Hepburn is Astaire's female equivalent: sophistication mixed with fizzy fun.

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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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#153 January 30, 2013

Marie writes: Kudos to fellow art buddy Siri Arnet for sharing the following; a truly unique hotel just outside Nairobi, Kenya: welcome to Giraffe Manor.

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#131 August 29, 2012

Marie writes: It's that time of the year again!  The Toronto International Film Festival is set to run September 6 - 16, 2012. Tickets selection began August 23rd. Single tickets on sale Sept 2, 2012. For more info visit TIFF's website.

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#117 May 30, 2012

Marie writes: Recently, a fellow artist and friend sent me the following photos featuring amazing glass mosaics. She didn't know who the artists were however - and which set me off on a journey to find out!  I confess, the stairs currently continue to thwart me and thus remain a mystery, but I did uncover who created the "glass bottle doorway" and was surprised to learn both its location and the inspiration behind it. (click image.)

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Almodovar's limp noodle, Panahi's home movie

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This morning, Pedro Almodovar, Spain's biggest big-cheese filmmaker, handed us a limp noodle with "The Skin I Live In," his entry in the Cannes competition. The film stars Antonio Banderas (who began his career in Almodovar's early films) and Elena Anaya, who looks like a cross between Penelope Cruz and Audrey Hepburn. Even a second-best Almodovar film has its delicious moments, but "The Skin I Live In" is flat compared with his best work, including "Broken Embraces," "Volver," and his Oscar winner "All about My Mother."

Typical of Almodovar, the film is a melodramatic farce. Although it's based on the novel "Mygale" ("Tarantula" in English) by Thierry Jonquet, the story is also strongly reminiscent of the 1960 French horror classic "Eyes without a Face" by Georges Franju. In the Franju film, a surgeon kidnaps women in order to graft their faces onto the head of his disfigured daughter. In "The Skin I Live In," a plastic surgeon is engaged in highly experimental work in order to create synthetic skin as a tribute to his dead wife, who was burned to death in a car crash. He subsequently uses the results of his research in service of a unique punishment for his daughter's rapist.

This story has a lot of twists, and the element of surprise is important. I don't want to give away too much, especially since it's due to open in the U.S. in the fall. I haven't read "Mygale," but I understand that the narrative is fragmented into sections that all come together in the end. In this, Almodovar appears to have followed the structure of the book, perhaps too closely. One of the principle weaknesses of "The Skin I Live In" is that the story is scattered in pieces. Characters and subplots are introduced then dropped. They are loosely but not completely tied together in the end.

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#44 January 5, 2011

Roger and Chaz outside the CBC Studios. They were recently featured on CBS News Sunday Morning to discuss the launch of their new show "Ebert Presents At The Movies".

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Blake Edwards: In Memory

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Blake Edwards, the man who gave us Inspector Clouseau, breakfast at Tiffany's and a Perfect 10, is dead at 88. A much-loved storyteller and the writer of many of his own films, he was a bit of a performer himself. He directed 37 features and much TV, and was married for the past 41years to Julie Andrews, who was at his side when he died.

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Public Edition #4

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This free Newsletter is a sample of what members receive weekly.For Roger's invitation to the Club, go HERE Marie writes: some of you may recall seeing a custom-built "steampunk" microphone stand made for the group Three Days Grace, by sculptor Christopher Conte; there were pictures of it inside the #14 Newsletter.Born in Norway, Christopher Conte was raised and educated in New York, where he currently lives. After earning a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art, he began working in the prosthetics field making artificial limbs for amputees; which he did for 16 years as a Certified Prosthetist. At the same time, he worked in obscurity creating sculptures which reflected his love for biomechanics, anatomy and robotics. In June 2008, he left the field to begin his career as a full-time artist. And you can now view his work portfolio online...

The Sculpture of Christopher Conte

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#35 November 3, 2010

Marie writes: some of you may recall seeing a custom-built "steampunk" microphone stand made for the group Three Days Grace, by sculptor Christopher Conte; there were pictures of it inside the #14 Newsletter.Born in Norway, Christopher Conte was raised and educated in New York, where he currently lives. After earning a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art, he began working in the prosthetics field making artificial limbs for amputees; which he did for 16 years as a Certified Prosthetist. At the same time, he worked in obscurity creating sculptures which reflected his love for biomechanics, anatomy and robotics. In June 2008, he left the field to begin his career as a full-time artist. And you can now view his work portfolio online...

The Sculpture of Christopher Conte

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#30 September 29, 2010

"Beware of artists - they mix with all classes of societyand are therefore most dangerous." ~ Queen Victoriastencil by Banksy, British graffiti artistAnd who inspired a recent film about art...

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#26 September 1, 2010

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)

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The Way Morgan Freeman was

May Contain Spoilers

Legendary movie critic Pauline Kael formally recognized Morgan Freeman's talents in her review: "Morgan Freeman may be the greatest American actor." It's hard to argue with that title now, but it was in 1987 when she wrote her review for "Street Smart."

From the perspective of more than 20 years after its theatrical release in the US, it's rather surprising to think that this small, flawed movie boosted the career of one of the great American actors of our time. It garnered him his first Oscar nomination (he lost to Sean Connery in "The Untouchables") and that was just the start. He has been nominated for an Oscar five times in total and received the Oscar for best supporting actor for "Million Dollar Baby". He is now one of the most formidable actors in Hollywood and is consistently watchable on the screen.

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Almodovar's passionate celebration of cinema: Omar Moore on "Broken Embraces"

May Contain Spoilers

Whether or not you believe that "Broken Embraces" is Pedro Almodόvar's best film, one thing cannot be denied: it's a film that so passionately celebrates cinema and the filmmaker's love for it.

Multiple stories frame a complex narrative in "Broken Embraces." Mr. Almodόvar trains his lens on Penélope Cruz, his muse. She plays Lena, a woman caught between passion and misery in the film, set in Madrid in the early 1990s and 2008. A film director (Lluís Homar) is blighted by the past while also recalling fond memories in the present as he hibernates in the afterglow of a vibrant affair with Lena, whom he directed during the nineties in a comedy. Back then he was Mateo Blanco. Now, in the early 21st century he is Harry Caine - a hurricane of regrets, mysteries and opportunities. There's Lena's husband Ernesto (José Luis Gόmez), a billionaire business magnate who has helped Lena pre-marriage and produces Blanco's film "Girls With Suitcases." Keeping Blanco in line and on schedule with the film is his agent Judit (Blanca Portillo), and that isn't an easy task.

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TIFF #1: Darwin, Herzog, the Coens and the Antichrist

I've just finished combing through the list of films in this year's Toronto Film Festival, and I have it narrowed down to 49. I look at the list and sigh. How can I see six films a day, write a blog, see people and sleep? Nor do I believe the list includes all the films I should see, and it's certainly missing films I will see. How it happens is, you're standing in line and hear buzz about something. Or a trusted friend provides a title you must see. Or you go to a movie you haven't heard much about, just on a hunch, and it turns out to be "Juno."

Nicolas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant"

I can't wait to dive in. Knowing something of my enthusiasms, faithful reader, let me tell you that TIFF 2009's opening night is a film about the life of Charles Darwin. The festival includes the film of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." And new films by the Coen brothers, Todd Solondz, Michael Moore, Atom Egoyan, Pedro Almodovar, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Alain Resnais and Guy Maddin--and not one but two new films by Werner Herzog. Plus separate new films by the three key talents involved in Juno: The actress Ellen Page, the director Jason Reitman, and the writer Diablo Cody.

Okay, I've already seen two of those. They were screened here in Chicago (Page as a teenage Roller Derby in "Whip It," Cody's script for "Jennifer's Body," starring Megan Fox as a high school man-eater, and that's not a metaphor). I already saw more than ten of this year's entries at Cannes, including Lars on Trier's controversial "Antichrist," Jane Campion's "Bright Star," Gasper Noe's "Enter the Void," Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," Bong Joon-Ho's "Mother," Lee Daniels' "Precious," Mia Hansen-Løve's "The Father of My Children," and Resnais's "Wild Grass." A lot of good films there. Not all of them, but a lot.

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The bookie for the Palme d'Or

May 22, 2009--Austrian Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" is shot in black-and-white and set in an Austrian village in the two years leading up to the outbreak of World War I. A series of increasingly disturbing happenings over a period of months disrupts the otherwise uneventful flow of isolated rural life. These include a planned accident that nearly kills the village doctor, the torture of a child by unknown assailants, and the burning of a barn.

At first it could be assumed that this is a mystery and that Haneke's intention is to gradually reveal the perpetrators of the increasingly bizarre and cruel acts. Instead he seems to be moving into Dreyer territory, unfolding the story of repression and escalating evil in beautifully precise but rigid compositions that echo the sternness of the social mores and moral precepts of his characters.

Large families headed by unbending fathers are at the center of this film, and there are many children. The actions of certain children arouse suspicion, but then nearly everyone in the film arouses suspicion, as this is no ordinary mystery. In the end, the disturbing chronicle circles around to the beginning to find a meaning. The film's narrator began the story by saying that the events he was about to unfold may shed some light on later happenings. Haneke leaves it to his audience to decide what is meant by this, but it isn't too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that these are the youngsters who grew up to wear brown shirts and swastikas.

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Car, Table, Counter, or TakHomaSak®

In my third or fourth year of life I ate my first restaurant meal, at the Steak 'n Shake on Green Street near the University of Illinois campus. I dined on a Steakburger, french fries, and a Coke. I felt extremely important. The eyes of the world were on this capable little man, sitting on a stool at the counter, grasping a Steakburger in his hands and opening up to take the first bite. My dad passed me the ketchup bottle and I felt authority flow into my hands as I smacked it on the bottom. "Aim it on your plate next to the fries," he advised. I did. "Good job, boy."

If I were on Death Row, my last meal would be from Steak 'n Shake. If I were to take President Obama and his family to dinner and the choice were up to me, it would be Steak 'n Shake--and they would be delighted. If the Pope were to ask where he could get a good plate of spaghetti in America, I would reply, "Your Holiness, have you tried the Chili Mac or the Chili 3-Ways?"

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Gregory Peck conveyed courage of his convictions as he bravely tackled challenging roles

Gregory Peck died peacefully in his sleep Wednesday night, the week after his famous character Atticus Finch from "To Kill a Mockingbird" was named by the Ameri-can Film Institute as the greatest movie hero of all time. The veteran star, who won an Oscar for that performance and was nominated for four others, was 87. His wife, Veronique, was holding his hand when he died, family spokesman Monroe Friedman told the Associated Press: "He just went to sleep. He had just been getting older and more fragile. He wasn't really ill. He just sort of ran his course and died of old age.

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