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Listen Up Philip

The terrific cast all delves into the material full-bore, which contributes to its peculiar resonance. Perry may hate everyone and everything, but in making a…

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Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

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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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Hoberman on the Coen Brothers' portrayal of Jews; horror-woman's films; the "Goodbye New York" essay; Sheila O'Malley on anniversaries; Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing.

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The 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination; critical reviews of a critical review of Sarah Silverman's career; Guillermo Del Toro's biggests firsts; an official video for "Like a Rolling Stone"; is Harvey "Scissorhanding" his company's awards site?

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The trailer for the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" about the 1960s folk era in Greenwich Village

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Anne Thompson writes on Indiewire: "While any Joel and Ethan Coen movie is worth waiting for, many of us are champing at the bit to see "Inside Llewyn Davis," their portrait of the 60s Greenwich Village folk scene that spawned Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi and Richard Farina and the inspiration for this film, Dave Van Ronk. Some of us hoped to see the film loosely based on Van Ronk's memoir "The Mayor of MacDougal Street" in time for the 2012 holiday season, but it's more likely to turn up in Coen-friendly Cannes."

Click here and to read her scoop with much more about the film.

The star is Oscar Issac (from "Drive"). The cast includes Coen favorite John Goodman, Carey Mulligan and F. Murray Abraham.

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Movie culture: The Dead, the Deader and the Deadest

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Oh my. Here we go again with all the deathiness. Movie criticism keeps dying deader and deader. Film itself has keeled over and given up the ghost. Cinema ist kaput, and at the end of last month "movie culture" was pronounced almost as deceased as John Cleese's parrot. Ex-parrot, I mean. Then the movie "Looper" came out, posing questions like: "What if you could go back in time? Would you kill cinema?" Or something like that.

People, this dying has gotta stop.

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#130 August 22, 2012

"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)

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#125 July 25, 2012

Marie writes: Once upon a time, a long time ago and in a childhood far, far away, kids used to be able to buy a special treat called a Frosted Malt. Then, with the arrival of progress and the subsequent destruction of all that is noble and pure, the world found itself reduced to settling for a frosty at Wendy's, at least where I live. Unable to support a "second rate" frosted malt for a second longer, I decided to do something about it!

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Phil Ochs: All the news that's fit to sing

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"Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune" plays Monday, January 23, at 10 pm EST/PST on PBS American Masters. It will thereafter be available via PBS On Demand, and is currently on Netflix Instant and DVD.

"Mistakes are lodged like harpoons and fish hooks in an intelligent person's soul," says one friend of political folk singer Phil Ochsof the deep depression that eventually led him to suicide in 1976. Och's friends are like that, eloquent and insightful. His mentor Pete Seeger, in particular, speaks like he sings, modulating his voice to give anecdotes a mythic luster and heartbreaking resonance. But after watching "Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune" take a measure of the man's adult life, it seems that some friends put too much emphasis on generic therapist's reasons for his downward spiral -- schizophrenia, alcoholism, declining popularity. It seems that Phil Ochs' fall was inevitable, given the fact that his singing career began when he was barely out of his teens, when JFK's assassination was a couple years off, and crashed after every progressive movement for which his protest songs provided spiritual fuel was crushed.

This is not a standard pop star rise-and-fall story. Ochs was physically involved in the antiwar and social justice movements he sang along with. He headlined, organized and even spontaneously showed up at a staggering number of rallies for various causes. His investment was evident in his performances, presented here with shocking audiovisual fidelity. Even though it's captured on a black-and-white kinescope, a performance of his song "When I'm Gone" feels as clear and urgent as a live event. So, too, is his strumming and crooning at the 1964 Newport Music Festival. (Simply amazing sound and image restoration here.) The sonorous voice and wide, earnest eyes could just as easily belong to a Wall Street occupier serenading Zuccoti Park.

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#79 September 7, 2011

Marie writes: I've always found the ocean more interesting than space and for invariably containing more delights and surprises. Case in point, discovering the existence of an extraordinary underwater museum...

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#61 May 4, 2011

Marie writes: Doug Foster is a filmmaker and artist who produces large scale digital film installations that often play with ideas of symmetry and optical illusion. His piece The Heretics' Gate is currently on view at "Daydreaming with... St. Michael's" - an exhibition taking place at St. Michael's church in Camden, London. Note: Foster's piece first appeared at the Hell's Half Acre exhibition at the Old Vic Tunnels in London in 2010."The Heretics' Gate" draws inspiration from Dante's Inferno, the first part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. A twenty foot high, arched screen and a thirty foot long reflecting pool, are cleverly combined to deliver a mesmerizing and strangely ethereal vision of hell at the central focus point of the church's imposing gothic architecture. To learn more, visit: Liquid Hell: A Q&A With Doug Foster.NOTE: The exhibition is the latest installment in renowned British music producer James Lavelle's curatorial and collaborative art venture, "DAYDREAMING WITH..." - a unique and visceral new exhibition experience, inspired by the desire to marry music and visual art. The goal is to bring together some of the most acclaimed creative names working in music, art, film, fashion and design.

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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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#3: March 24, 2010

I AM SO PROUD that eight of the Far-Flung Correspondents will be attending Ebertfest 2010, and so sincerely moved that they're providing their own tickets! A shout-out to Ali Arikan, Seoungyong Cho, Weal Khairy, Michael Mirasol, Omar Moore, Omer Mozzafar, Gerardo Valero, and Grace Wang. Only Robert Tan, who has been under the weather, will be missing. They're all bloggers, and will be on a panel Friday morning about the Global Web of Filmlovers.

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Art that reaches backward and points forward

Bruce Eaton, in his 331/3 book on Big Star's "Radio City" (2009):

Beyond talent, there's the often dismissed importance of experience -- in music and life. Does an artist have something interesting to say and the ability to say it in a unique and interesting way? The answer is usually "not really." One of the chief reasons that rock and roll from the 1960s and early 1970s still looms large is that its creators had deep reserves of experience to draw upon when the time finally came to go to the well in the recording studio. Take The Beatles or The Stones, Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. Each knew hundreds upon hundreds of cover tunes -- a disparaged concept today but vital to learning how music works -- and had played endless gigs trying to sell them to indifferent, if not downright hostile, audience. That experience takes patience but it eventually can get you to a point where you can write songs of your own that become a meaningful and permanent part of other peoples' lives.

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Dude, where's my breakfast?

Breathless reports have swooped around the web about John Anderson, film critic for Variety, pounding the legendary publicist Jeff Dowd (aka The Dude) at Sundance. There was a jab to the chest! One to the shoulder! Dowd kept his guard down! A punch to the head! Anderson turned and walked away, then came back and threw his best right to the jaw!

I have this blow-by-blow account from The Dude himself. Park City Police Officer Bob deBotelho responded after a call from the Yarrow restaurant, collected eyewitness testimony, and offered

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TIFF 08: Con artistry in Bloom

It seems appropriate that the first screening I attended for the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival should be a movie about stories and con games: "The Brothers Bloom," written and directed by Rian Johnson, maker of "Brick," one of my favorite movies of 2005.

Now look back at that sentence and you'll notice it's a setup for another story. (And con?)

I mean, of course it's going to make sense to me that the first movie I see in Toronto is going to be about storytelling as con artistry, in which stories themselves are the biggest cons of all -- because, then, seeing the movie becomes part of my story, and the lead (or "lede," if you prefer) for the story you're reading now, about my first TIFF 2008 screening. That's the way stories work, and the way we work stories.

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Scorsese shines light on stones

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Q: How would you compare Scorsese's "Shine a Light" to "No Direction Home," the brilliant documentary Scorsese made about Bob Dylan a couple years ago? I am a huge Dylan fan, never been a big Stones fan. Can I appreciate "Shine a Light" without being a Stones fan?

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Ebert's predix, Oscar's results

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In theory, if I correctly predicted every single Oscar race, nobody could outguess me, and by default, I would win the prize. Alas, that has never, ever happened, and it's unlikely again this year, because as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall. In any event, for what they're worth, here are my Academy Award predictions in a year rich with wonderful films.

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Three kinds of violence: Zodiac, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood

View image A figure in the shadows.

1. I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.

2. I hate most people.... I see the worst in people. I don't need to look past seeing them to get all I need.

3. I want to rule and never, ever explain myself. I've built my hatreds up over the years, little by little.

Match the above comments to the character who speaks or writes them:

a) Anton Chigurh, "No Country for Old Men" b) The Zodiac, "Zodiac" c) Daniel Plainview, "There Will Be Blood"

(Answers at end of post.)

* * * *

NOTE: Spoilers lurk sinisterly below.

View image Daniel Plainview, "There Will Be Blood."

Three of the most admired and fervently debated American films of the year move inexorably toward a climactic confrontation with a killer -- or someone's conception of a killer. Only Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" actually culminates in a eruption of savagery, while David Fincher's "Zodiac" and Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men" gradually steer their attention away from the assaults and into the psyches of the characters who are haunted by the brutality penetrating their lives.

View image Anton Chigurh, "No Country for Old Men."

View image The Zodiac, "Zodiac" -- or as close as we ever get to seeing him.

Much has been written about the violence in these movies, the darkness they find in the American landscape, and what some see as their bleak, fatalistic and/or nihilistic attitude. Does this somehow reflect the country's moral ambivalence about being mired in two bloody, confusing guerrilla wars on the other side of the world? A sense of No Exit hopelessness that the Vietnam nightmare is recurring? Mainstream (or art house) torture porn that allows us to vicariously groove on -- as we are simultaneously appalled by -- the crimes at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo? Dissatisfaction with the materialistic emphasis on the American Dream? A cynical exploitation of artfully staged killings for our (cathartic?) entertainment?

The popular press likes to talk about violence in movies with a superficiality that assumes all violence and all movies are the same, that blood is blood (and that gore and gunplay are automatically more sensational than depictions of beatings or other forms of physical and psychological abuse). But that Sunday feature-section approach ignores what it's like to watch the movies themselves, and the diverse contexts in which they present acts of cruelty and lethality. To say that "Zodiac," "NCFOM" and "TWBB" are all "violent films" tells you as much about them as saying they all use the color red.¹ I'd like to consider how the violence in these films conveys its own meaning, apart from any op-ed political parallels that can be drawn, however legitimately.

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Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

View image Ennis Del Mar, "Brokeback Mountain."

Rare is the performance that can honestly be called a "revelation," but that's what it felt like to watch Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain." Not only did he bring iconic life and nuance to the existential loneliness of Ennis Del Mar, a taciturn but complex (and conflicted) character, but for such mature work to spring from the teen-idol star of "10 Things I Hate About You" and "A Knight's Tale" was... well, revelatory itself -- the astonishing revelation of a suddenly, fully developed actor whose juvenile efforts scarcely hinted he'd be capable of such moving depth and clarity. Ledger emerged as if from a cocoon, gleaming with promise and flexing his wings.

Only two years after he received his first Oscar nomination for this iconic, star-making performance, it seems unthinkable that we should be mourning his death, at the age of 28....

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Heath Ledger: In Memory

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Rare is the performance that can honestly be called a "revelation," but that's what it felt like to watch Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain." Not only did he bring iconic life and nuance to the existential loneliness of Ennis Del Mar, a taciturn but complex (and conflicted) character, but for such mature work to spring from the teen-idol star of "10 Things I Hate About You" and "A Knight's Tale" was... well, revelatory itself -- the astonishing revelation of a suddenly, fully developed actor whose juvenile efforts scarcely hinted he'd be capable of such moving depth and clarity. Ledger emerged as if from a cocoon, gleaming with promise and flexing his wings.

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