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The Congress

"The Congress" is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when…

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As Above, So Below

It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…

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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.

The Oscars: Captain Kirk was right

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(AP photo)

Listen -- a billion people are throwing up. That's a rough estimate of course, but every year somebody at the Oscars says a billion people on the planet are watching the program; however many watched this year's Oscar show, they may well have felt sickened by it. It was a stomach-churning, jaw-dropping debacle, incompetently hosted and witlessly produced.

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Paul Williams Still Alive; movie not so much

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"Paul Williams Still Alive" (87 minutes) will be available on VOD October 16th via (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House, among other cable providers), iTunes, VUDU, YouTube, Amazon, Sony (Playstation), Microsoft (Zune, Xbox), Blockbuster, AT&T, DirecTV, DISH.

by Donald Liebenson

In begrudgingly recommending "Paul Williams Still Alive" to his legion of fans, I am reminded of a Rolling Stone magazine review of Janis Joplin's first solo album, "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!" Janis never sounded better, the reviewer said, but to enjoy her, you had to be able to tune out her backup band. A similar caveat is necessary here. Enjoyment of "Still Alive" will depend on your tolerance of writer-director Stephen Kessler, who takes Williams' joke at one point that the documentary could become the "Paulie and Steve Show" as a carte blanche invitation to intrude on the proceedings.

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#137 October 10, 2012

Marie writes: I may have been born in Canada, but I grew-up watching Sesame Street and Big Bird, too. Together, they encouraged me to learn new things; and why now I can partly explain string theory.That being the case, I was extremely displeased to hear that were it up Romney, as President he wouldn't continue to support PBS. And because I'm not American and can't vote in their elections, I did the only thing I could: I immediately reached for Photoshop....

(Click image to enlarge.)

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#136 October 3, 2012

Marie writes: It's that time of year again!  Behold the shortlisted nominees for The Turner Prize: 2012.  Below, Turner Prize nominee Spartacus Chetwynd performs 'Odd Man Out 2011' at Tate Britain on October 1, 2012 in London, England.

(click image to enlarge.)

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Larry Sanders: Changing television and changing lives

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August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the third and final part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here and Part 2 (The show behind the show) is here.

A related article about Bob Odenkirk and his characters, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman (on "Breaking Bad"), is here.

by Edward Copeland

"It was an amazing experience," said Jeffrey Tambor. "I come from the theater and it was very, very much approached like theater. It was rehearsed and Garry took a long, long time in casting and putting that particular unit together." In a phone interview, Tambor talked about how Garry Shandling and his behind-the-scenes team selected the performers to play the characters, regulars and guest stars, on "The Larry Sanders Show" when it debuted 20 years ago. Shandling chose well throughout the series' run and -- from the veteran to the novice, the theater-trained acting teacher and character actor to the comedy troupe star in his most subtle role -- they all tend to feel the way Tambor does: "It changed my career. It changed my life."

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#99 January 25, 2012

Marie writes: many simply know her as the girl with the black helmet. Mary Louise Brooks (1906 - 1985), aka Louise Brooks, an American dancer, model, showgirl and silent film actress famous for her bobbed haircut and sex appeal. To cinefiles, she's best remembered for her three starring roles in Pandora's Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) directed by G. W. Pabst, and Prix de Beauté (1930) by Augusto Genina. She starred in 17 silent films (many lost) and later authored a memoir, Lulu in Hollywood."She regards us from the screen as if the screen were not there; she casts away the artifice of film and invites us to play with her." - Roger, from his review of the silent classic Pandor's Box.

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#90 November 23, 2011

Marie writes: club member Sandy Kahn has submitted the following and I salute her web skills for having found it. Namely, an upcoming auction of film memorabilia the likes of which you rarely if ever see...

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Was SATC2, uh, a joke, maybe?

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Q. I'm so glad you reviewed "Robin Hood" as a "loss of innocence." I couldn't agree with you more. I would much rather see people laugh, love, and be absurd in movies, rather than hate, fight, and disembowel. I'm so glad you felt this way, because most of what Russell Crowe does falls into the latter. Modern guys feel they have to have a certain level of intensity about them or else they are wimps I guess. I for one am glad I retain something of the dreamer, the wanderer, and the lazy laugh of my childhood. I rarely go to the movies anymore because i don't want images of violence or gore impressed upon my subconscious, regardless of whether they are "real" or not. (Stephen Sian, North Vancouver, BC)

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On actors who are too gay to be in the Musicals

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Some people are proposing a boycott of Newsweek because of a silly article that criticizes gay actors -- specifically on TV's "Glee" and in the Broadway revival of the Bacharach-David Musical "Promises, Promises" -- for acting too gay in straight roles. This strikes me as fundamentally hilarious for several reasons, the most obvious of which are:

1) I didn't know anyone needed additional incentive to not read Newsweek, since circulation figures indicate that lots and lots of people have been not reading it without making any concerted effort not to do so.

2) "Glee" and "Promises, Promises" are both Musicals, for god's sake. Where would the Musical be without the participation of gay actors? The movie version of "Paint Your Wagon" -- that's where. You Musical fans want to spend the rest of your lives watching and listening to Clint Eastwood singing "I Talk to the Trees"? Then go ahead and complain that gay performers are too gay to star in Musicals.

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Compatibility and taste: Bad sneakers and a piña colada, my friend

Somebody named Michael Jones -- essentially the same Mr. Jones Bob Dylan wrote about years ago -- appeared on HuffPo recently with a piece called "That Steely Dan Moment" -- you know, about a discovery of musical taste that makes you wonder if you could ever love the person who possesses it. The twist is that he's the one who falls short and doesn't know it. Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening, Mr. Jones.

Anyway, I wouldn't have paid attention except that his story (who knows where or when it originally appeared if it was on HuffPo) reminded me of an article my friend Julia Sweeney did for the February, 1993, issue of SPIN magazine that was written and edited by the staff of "Saturday Night Live." It probably wasn't an entirely original idea then, either, but it was called "Men, Music & Me," and in it she discussed her assessments of collegiate and post-collegiate boyfriends -- using their cinematic and musical tastes as a guide. (Please also see my entry on Carl Wilson's book, "Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste.")

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Babs, Henry and Long Duk Dong:Cleaning up after the Oscars

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I said just about everything I had to say about the Oscars in a dozen or so tweets I filed the evening of the broadcast, in between juggling manual updates for a couple of stories on RogerEbert.com (including Roger's live-tweets of the show) and approving Oscar comments on Roger's blog. I think I got out of my chair two or three times between 3:30pm and 9:30pm PST.

So, yeah, I made a few observations -- like this:

Instead of playing "I Am Woman" after Kathryn Bigelow's win, why didn't they play "Papa Can You Hear Me?" for Babs? #oscars

And this:

Elinor Burkett's Oscar performance marks the official arrival of the word "Kanye" (or "Kanyed") as a verb. http://j.mp/9XIwqy #oscars

And this:

Has "Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" become the new "Electric Boogaloo"?

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No pain for "Hurt Locker," Bigelow

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HOLLYWOOD — "The Hurt Locker," a film that was made with little cash but limitless willpower, defeated the highest-grossing film in history and won the best picture Oscar here Sunday night. The director of the spine-chilling war drama, Kathryn Bigelow, became the first woman to ever win the best director Oscar. James Cameron, director of "Avatar" — and her former husband — cried all the way to the bank.

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I met a character from Dickens

Oh, no. No. No. This cannot be. They're tearing down 22 Jermyn Street in London. The whole block is going. Bates' Hat Shop, Trumper's the Barber, Getti the Italian restaurant, the Jermyn Street Theater, Sergio's Cafe, the lot. Jermyn Street was my street in London. My neighborhood.

There, on a corner near the Lower Regent Street end, I found a time capsule within which the eccentricity and charm of an earlier time was still preserved. It was called the Eyrie Mansion. When I stayed there I considered myself to be living there. I always wanted to live in London, and this was the closest I ever got.

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Hecklers as critics, critics as hecklers and comics as critics

Psychologists say that depression is rage turned inward. Stand-up comedy, on the other hand, is rage turned back outward again. (I believe George Carlin had a routine about the use of violent metaphors directed at the audience in comedy: "Knock 'em dead!" "I killed!") In the documentary "Heckler" (now on Showtime and DVD) comedian Jamie Kennedy, as himself, plays both roles with ferocious intensity. The movie is his revenge fantasy against anyone who has ever heckled him on stage, or written a negative review... or, perhaps, slighted him in on the playground or at a party or over the phone or online.

"Heckler" (I accidentally called it "Harangue" just now) is an 80-minute howl of fury and anguish in which Kennedy and a host of other well-known and not-well-known showbiz people tell oft-told tales of triumphant comebacks and humiliating disasters, freely venting their spleens at those who have spoken unkindly of them. At first the bile is aimed at hecklers in club audiences (with some particularly nasty invective for loudmouthed drunken women), then it shifts to "critics" -- broadly defined as anybody who says something negative about a figure whose work appears before a paying public. Some of the critics are actually interested in analysis; some are just insult comics who are using the Internet as their open mic. It gets pretty ugly, but it's fascinating -- because the comics, the critics and the hecklers are so much alike that it's no wonder each finds the others so infuriating.

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Biggest Acting, Best and Worst: Over the top, Ma!

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I believe it was Gordon Gecko who proclaimed: "Ham is good!"

The "Wall Street" supervillain (superhero?) was not advocating violation of any dietary laws, of course, but simply stating a fact: Sometimes Big Acting can be quite enjoyable. Other times, of course, it can be cringe-worthy, irritating, risible, embarrassing. Only you can decide which is which. For you.

Take for example the story of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" -- she of "No wire hangers!" and "Eat your meat!" (both precursors of "I drink your milkshake!"). Pre-release publicity reports claimed that Dunaway was giving a serious dramatic performance. But from the very first screenings it was painfully (yet fasciatingly) clear that somebody was going off her rocker -- but which actress was it: Crawford or Dunaway?

Performances pitched at the balcony, or the moon, always take the risk of falling somewhere between "tour-de-force" and "trying way too hard," virtuosity and showboating. And opinions may very about where they come down. (See "A Journey to the End of Taste," below.) You may wince at the Method nakedness displayed by Marlon Brando or James Dean in some of their most intense emotional moments ("You're tearing me apart!"). Or you may rejoice at even the most outré dramatic and/or comedic efforts of Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Klaus Kinski, Will Ferrell, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Nicolas Cage, Ben Stiller, Tyler Perry, Owen Wilson, Gene Wilder... while others find them excruciating, overwrought or unintentionally campy.

The bigger the performance, the bigger the risks. Or maybe not. Just look over the history of Oscar nominations for acting.

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FahrenHYPE 9/11: Morris vs. Moore

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Interviewees: Dick Morris, Ron Silver, Ann Coulter, David Frum, Ed Koch, Frank Gaffney, Steve Emerson, Peter King, Zell Miller, Dave Kopel, David Hardy, Jason Clarke, Bill Sammon.

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Peter Bogdanovich on storytelling

It was the kind of story that made you willing to linger over the after-dinner coffee. "What do you know about the death of Thomas Ince?" Peter Bogdanovich asked me. I knew a little. Like everyone with a fascination for Hollywood gossip, I'd read Kenneth Anger's legendary book Hollywood Babylon, in which he speculates that Ince, "The Wizard of Westerns," died after drinking bootleg booze on William Randolph Hearst's yacht.

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Walter Matthau: A laugh-filled life

Walter Matthau, who claimed that "Foghorn" was his middle name, is dead at 79. The beloved actor, whose face was mapped with laugh lines, died of a heart attack early Saturday morning. He was brought into a Santa Monica hospital in cardiac arrest, and pronounced dead at 1:41 a.m. PDT.

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Kelly Made a Lasting Splash

The images in movies are countless, but only a handful have become part of our collective memory. Gene Kelly created one of them by singing in the rain. Delirious with love, he splashed through puddles and twirled his umbrella, he hung from a lamppost and flung open his arms, and sang: "What a glorious feelin'! I'm happy again!"

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Movie Answer Man (05/01/1993)

Q. The premise of "Indecent Proposal" might not actually be as outlandish as it sounds. The next time you see Elizabeth Taylor, give her a jolt by suddenly and unexpectedly asking her about the time FRANK SINATRA offered to pay her a MILLION DOLLARS for a single night's roll in the hay. -- Hank Cleary, White Plains, N.Y.

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Oh, What a Beautiful Movie!

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DALLAS -- "Oklahoma!" opens with one of the most familiar moments in all of musical comedy, as a cowboy comes singing out of the dawn, declaring "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!" I've seen that moment many times, and it never fails to thrill me, but I've never seen it quite as I saw it here last Monday night, when the movie played during the USA Film Festival.

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