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.
That a film as searing and necessary as "12 Years a Slave" is having trouble drawing large audiences is a testament to the power of denial. That so few mainstream films have been made about slavery in America is also a testament to the power of denial.
Death to the death of criticism; Pussy Riot's Nadezhda's letters to a political philosopher; was Marvel's New Universe ever all that?; Doris Lessing's legacy; a CinemaScore F-estival.
A survey of the career of James Gandolfini.
Lou Reed dead at 71; more "Blue Is the Warmest" controversies; a survey of Orson Welles biographies; is consensus ruining criticism?; the cultural crater of "12 Years a Slave."
Ridley Scott's new film, whose production was interrupted by the suicide of the director's brother Tony, is a weird melding of their styles, concerns and temperaments.
Lou Godfrey reflects on his memories of his mother and their movie-going.
Four standout performances by black actors make the Oscar Best Actor race more interesting this year.
Paramount is offering "World War Z" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" as a single-ticket double feature. The wave of the future? Or a stunt?
At their big D23 Expo event, Disney unleashed some stars and a lot of tantalizing info about live action films.
Marie writes: Ever intrepid, club member Sandy Kahn has submitted an intriguing quartet of finds involving a series of Hollywood auctions set to begin at the end of July 2013. Sandy has shared similar things in the past and as before, club members are invited to freely explore the wide variety of collectibles & memorabilia being auctioned LIVE by "Profiles in History". Note: founded in 1985 by Joseph Maddalena, Profiles in History is the nation’s leading dealer in guaranteed-authentic original historical autographs, letters, documents, vintage signed photographs and manuscripts.
Marie writes: Last week, in response to a club member comment re: whatever happened to Ebert Club merchandize (turned out to be too costly to set up) I had promised to share a free toy instead - an amusement, really, offered to MailChimp clients; the mail service used to send out notices. Allow me to introduce you to their mascot...
This piece is about director Neil Jordan's seven most overtly supernatural, fairy tale-like films—The Company of Wolves, High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire, The Butcher Boy, In Dreams, Ondine, and his latest, the mother-daughter vampire shocker Byzantium. An infographic analysis of each—please refer to the key for each symbol's meaning—reveals this pattern and confirms Byzantium is the culmination of 30+ years of Jordan exorcising his personal demons on-screen.
Marie writes: There was a time when Animation was done by slaves with a brush in one hand and a beer in the other. Gary Larson's "Tales From the Far Side" (1994) was such a project. I should know; I worked on it. Produced by Marv Newland at his Vancouver studio "International Rocketship", it first aired as a CBS Halloween special (Larson threw a party for the crew at the Pan Pacific Hotel where we watched the film on a big screen) and was later entered into the 1995 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It spawned a sequel "Tales From the Far Side II" (1997) - I worked on that too. Here it is, below.
Marie writes: The Ebert Club Newsletter is now three years old! And the occasion calls for some cake - but not just any old cake, as it's also now officially Spring! And that means flowers, butterflies and ladybugs too. Smile.
But what really matters is the Muriels. You know, that time-honored annual movie award that is not named after Bette Davis's Uncle Oscar, but after co-founder Paul Clark's guinea pig. Throughout the month of February (the 6th through the 23rd), the winners have been announced, as you know because you've been regularly clicking on the Muriels link right here on Scanners. Anyway, you know what "Argo" can do; the Muriel voters, on the other hand, chose to give the year's top prize to what, for me, was obviously the most rewarding movie experience of the year: Leos Carax's "Holy Motors."
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."
Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn came upon the following recipe and wisely showed it to me, so that I might share it in turn with all of you. Behold the morning chocolate cookie - a healthy breakfast treat loaded with good stuff; like fiber and imported French chocolate.
"A man can be an artist ... in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasey's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece." -- Rayburn (Christopher Walken), "Man on Fire" (2004)
While I've never been a fan of the late Tony Scott or Christopher Nolan, a few thoughtful articles in recent days have helped me see them in new lights, and got me to thinking about their resemblances as well as their dissimilarities. Several appreciations of Scott (especially those by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Bilge Ebiri, David Edelstein and Manohla Dargis), along with David Bordwell's incisive essay on Christopher Nolan ("Nolan vs. Nolan") got me to thinking about the common assumptions about these popular filmmakers, both of whom are known for quick, impressionistic imagery, intercut scenes, slam-bang action and a CGI-averse insistence on photographing the real world.¹ Regardless of what you ultimately make of their work, there's no question they've done it their way.
This is an attempt to look at both filmmakers through the prism of others' points of view, refracted in critical appraisals like the above.
Of course, Scott and Nolan have passionate admirers and detractors. Until Scott's shocking suicide last week (from a bridge, a landmark that figures hauntingly in the climaxes of several of his movies), I wasn't aware of many critics who championed his movies, but with a few exceptions the obits seem to have been more admiring than the reviews over the years -- understandably, under the sad circumstances.
Those who applaud Scott and Nolan's films see them as genre boundary-pushers (thrillers, action pictures, science-fiction, superhero movies); those who denigrate them see them as symptomatic of the debasement of resonant imagery in modern Hollywood movies. Both have been subjected to that worst of all critical insults, comparisons to Michael Bay:
"'Inception' may have been directed by Christopher Nolan, but Nolan's dreams are apparently directed by Michael Bay." -- Andrew O'Hehir, "Inception: A clunky, overblown disappointment"
"If it sounds like I'm describing Michael Bay, that's because I sort of am. What we like to think of today as the Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer aesthetic was, in fact, originally the Tony Scott aesthetic (often deployed in films made for Bruckheimer and his late partner Don Simpson). Only back then there was a lot more art to it." -- Bilge Ebiri, "To Control Something That's Out of Control: On Tony Scott"
One of Scott's notable defenders has been The New York Times' Manohla Dargis. She identifies him as a "maximalist" who used "a lot of everything in his movies: smoke, cuts, camera moves, color. This kind of stylistic, self-conscious excess could be glorious, as in his underappreciated film 'Domino' (2005)," which Roger Ebert also somewhat grudgingly admired, quoting a character to describe the movie itself as having "the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth." Dargis writes:
Marie writes: This week's Newsletter arrives a day early and lighter than usual, as come Tuesday morning, I'll be on a Ferry heading to Pender Island off the West Coast, where I've arranged to visit old friends for a few days and enjoy my first vacation in two years; albeit a brief one. No rest for the wicked. :-)
Marie writes: Next door, across a long narrow drive and beyond the row of cedar hedges which run parallel to it, there resides an elementary school dating back to 1965, along with an assortment of newer playground equipment rendered in bright, solid primary colors...I'm sure you know the sort I mean...
Today looks to be a day of renegades and gangsters from the start, with "Killing Them Softly" by Andrew Dominik, the second American film to premier in competition, first thing in the morning. The all-male cast is headlined by Brad Pitt, who also starred in the director's Oscar-nominated "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. " This is a talky tough-guy movie that is heavy on long interchanges among thugs with odd accents and/or speech impediments. Talking like a tough guy means modifying every noun with the f-word (and I wonder what the grand total would be for this film).
"Killing Them Softly" is set in New Orleans, although pains are taken to avoid any distinctly identifying landmarks. The grey, wet, boarded-up desolation of the landscape could only be the post-Katrina lower 9th Ward, and I found the film's fleeting glimpses of that more electrifying than the introduction of Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), a pair of lowlifes setting up a robbery with Squirrel (Vincent Curatola).
The two bumblers manage, just barely, to pull off the robbery of a high-stakes poker game, which makes it only a matter of time before they're marked men. It also makes Markie (Ray Liotta), the pudgy mid-level gangster who was running the game a suspect. Whatever higher authority these thugs answer to calls in its enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to sort it out.
The first and only woman, who is also the first and only black person in the story, makes her appearance one hour into the film. She's a prostitute who's treated like garbage in her approximately two minutes on the screen. This is not only a man's world, it's a white man's world.
• Chaz Ebert at Cannes
Dear Roger: "We were once indivisible from every atom in the cosmos," and that is how I feel when I am sitting in the Palais watching movies at Cannes with a screen spread out as wide as the galaxy, the audience circling around like protons and neutrons breathing as one in empathy.
Marie writes: I recently heard from an ex-coworker named Athena aka the production manager on an animated series I'd painted digital backgrounds for. She sent me some great photos she'd found on various sites. More than few made me smile and thus inspired, I thought I'd share them with club members. I've added captions for fun but if you can come up with something better, feel free to submit your wit by way of posted comment. Note: I don't know who the photographers are; doesn't say. (Click pics to enlarge.)
"I want a peanut for every photo you took of me..."
I remember my father's face, but not his voice. If I close my eyes I can perfectly see his expression of disapproval this one time when I was five years old, and another one of deep affection, at more or less the same time, but I cannot remember what he said - or even if said something - in each of those moments. What I do know beyond any doubt is that The Tree of Life, a masterpiece of filmmaker Terrence Malick, kindly led me to these reminiscences through his own philosophical reflection on human nature and our history on this planet. In this sense, the film represents a deeply religious experience for atheists, humanists, and especially film lovers.
Why don't the critics, the Oscars and the box-office audience ever seem to agree on the best movies of the year? This question really bugs some people, but I've never understood it, because criticism, intra-industry acclaim and ticket-sales revenue represent such separate and distinct ways of looking at movies. If they all redundantly reinforced the same choices, what would be the point? (Only the money is necessary to the movie business, which regards reviews and awards as simply part of the promotional campaign.) The way I see it, asking why critics, Academy voters and audiences don't agree is like asking why Democrats and Republicans don't choose the same candidates for president (although I once knew a woman who seriously proposed that Ronald Reagan and Geraldine Ferraro would make a great ticket). The obvious reason is: different constituencies want different things.
Audiences want to be entertained, maybe a little inspired. Critics want to be entertained too, of course, but some also seek the greater pleasures of art. For some of us, the hackneyed phrase "mindless entertainment" is a contradiction in terms: how can something be entertaining unless it engages your attention on more than an autonomic level? Oscar voters... well, who the hell knows what they want? But we all want to feel better about ourselves, don't we? Movies, good and bad, can help with that.
Andrew O'Hehir at Salon ("And the Oscar goes to... 'Twilight'!") makes a modest proposal: "What if the Oscars -- an imaginary Oscars, a thought-experiment Oscars, the Oscars of an alternate universe -- honored movies that people actually liked?" His alt.hollywood version would be "an unholy blend of the MTV Movie Awards and the Indiewire critics' poll" in which "Melancholia," "A Separation" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" would go up against "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "Mission: Impossible."