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Goodbye to Language

Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.

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The Great Invisible

Winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, the film is strongest when it focuses on the micro rather than the macro. How the…

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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.

Pearl Jam at 20: American Masters? Yes.

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"Pearl Jam Twenty" is available On Demand (check your satellite or cable listings) and premieres on the PBS series "American Masters" at 9 p. m. (ET/PT), Oct. 21. It will be released on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 25. For additional viewing, the grunge documentary "Hype!" is available on Netflix (DVD only).

by Jeff Shannon

Here in Seattle, we think of Cameron Crowe as an honorary native. When he married Nancy Wilson in 1986, he married into local rock royalty: Nancy and her sister, Ann, are the pioneering queens of rock in Heart, the phenomenally successful and still-touring Seattle-based band that is presently nominated for induction into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. It wasn't long before Crowe became a kind of de facto ambassador of Seattle-based rock.

At the time, the rest of the world still knew Crowe as the rock-journalist wunderkind who started writing for Rolling Stone at age 15 (an experience Crowe would later dramatize in "Almost Famous") and the author-turned-screenwriter of Amy Heckerling's 1982 high-school classic "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." You could reasonably speculate that the seeds of the Crowe/Wilson romance were planted in "Fast Times": Nancy Wilson makes a cameo appearance in the film as "Beautiful Girl in Car," catching Judge Reinhold's character in yet another moment of humiliating embarrassment. One can imagine Crowe thinking "I'm gonna marry that girl." When he actually did, countless male Heart fans turned green with envy.

(By sheer happenstance, I made a friendly connection with Crowe three years before we actually met. Shortly after the newlywed Crowe moved to the Eastside Seattle suburb of Woodinville, he and Nancy placed a mobile home on their rural property to accommodate visits from Wilson's mother. At the time, my father was running a mortgage business specializing in mobile/land sales in Snohomish County, and he closed their deal. When my dad informed Crowe that I was a Seattle film critic and an admirer of his, Crowe sent me a signed copy of Fast Times at Ridgemont High to my dad's office. It was a completely unsolicited gesture of kindness, and a pleasant precursor to later encounters.)

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#81 September 21, 2011

Marie writes: Roger recently did an email Q&A with the National Post's Mark Medley, which you can read here: "Roger Ebert's voice has never been louder".  And in a nice touch, they didn't use a traditional head-shot photo with the article. Instead they went old school and actually hired an illustrator. Yup. They drew the Grand Poobah instead!  And here it is...pretty good, eh?

Illustration By Kagan Mcleod for the National Post(click to enlarge)

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Top secret leakage from my 2010 Muriels ballot!

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It's a wrap for the 2010 Muriel Awards, but although the winners have been announced, there's still plenty of great stuff to read about the many winners and runners-up. ('Cause, as we all know, there's so much more to life than "winning.") I was pleased to be asked to write the mini-essay about "The Social Network" because, no, I'm not done with it. (Coming soon: a piece about the Winkelvii at the Henley Gregatta section -- which came in 11th among Muriel voters for the year's Best Cinematic Moment.)

You might recall that last summer I compared the editorial, directorial and storytelling challenges of a modest character-based comedy ("The Kids Are All Right") to a large-scale science-fiction spectacular based on the concept of shifting between various levels of reality/unreality -- whether in actual time and space or in consciousness and imagination. (The latter came in at No. 13 in the Muriels balloting; the former in a tie for No. 22.) My point was that, as far as narrative filmmaking is concerned, there isn't much difference. To illustrate a similar comparison this time, I've used a one-minute segment out of "The Social Network" (Multiple levels of storytelling in The Social Network). You might like one picture better than the other for any number of reasons, but I find their similarities more illuminating than their differences:

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The best films of the decade

"Synecdoche, New York" is the best film of the decade. It intends no less than to evoke the strategies we use to live our lives. After beginning my first viewing in confusion, I began to glimpse its purpose and by the end was eager to see it again, then once again, and I am not finished. Charlie Kaufman understands how I live my life, and I suppose his own, and I suspect most of us. Faced with the bewildering demands of time, space, emotion, morality, lust, greed, hope, dreams, dreads and faiths, we build compartments in our minds. It is a way of seeming sane.

The mind is a concern in all his screenplays, but in "Synecdoche" (2008), his first film as a director, he makes it his subject, and what huge ambition that demonstrates. He's like a

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László Kovács: In Memory

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László Kovács (May 14, 1933 – July 22, 2007)

Kovács emigrated to the United States with his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond, who became another great Hungarian-American cinematographer.

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For me, perhaps the most indelible image in Kovács' work is the last shot of "Five Easy Pieces" (Bob Rafelson, 1970), a long stationary take of a gray, rainy stretch of Pacific Northwest highway, stuck in the muddy pavement outside an isolated gas station. The only camera movement is a slight pan. All the loneliness, frustration and alienation of the whole movie culminates (in a diminuendo, if that's possible) in this damp, atmospheric image.

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Other notable Kovács films include:

"Psych-Out" (Richard Rush, 1968) "Targets" (Peter Bogdanovich, 1968) "Easy Rider" (Dennis Hopper, 1969) "That Cold Day in the Park" (Robert Altman, 1969) "Getting Straight" (Rush, 1970) "Alex in Wonderland" (Paul Mazursky, 1970) "The Last Movie" (Hopper, 1971) "What's Up, Doc?" (Bogdanovich, 1972) "The King of Marvin Gardens" (Bob Rafelson, 1972) "Paper Moon" (Bogdanovich, 1973) "Shampoo" (Hal Ashby, 1975) "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (Steven Spielberg, 1977 -- additional photography) "New York, New York" (Martin Scorsese, 1977) "The Last Waltz" (Scorsese, 1978 -- additional photography) "Ghostbusters" (Ivan Reitman, 1984) "Mask" (Bogdanovich, 1985) "Say Anything..." (Cameron Crowe, 1989) "Radio Flyer" (Richard Donner, 1992) "My Best Friend's Wedding" (P.J. Hogan, 1997)

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Udderly bull

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Q. Please help before it's too late! There is still time for the producers of the animated movie "Barnyard" to redub the soundtrack. No wonder Americans are becoming known as the world's stupidest people: apparently we don't even know that milk comes from mommies, not daddies. The brain trust behind this movie spent a fortune to animate "cows" with very prominent udders -- all of which are dubbed with MALE VOICES. Oh, the horror. Eva Sandor, Chicago

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Tom Cruise, The Movie

"M:I:III": To see or not to see?

Quick: When you think "Tom Cruise," what's the first thing that pops into your mind? Tabloid celebrity? Love-struck happy dad? Couch-jumper? Noted skeptic and scholar of the history of psychology and psychopharmacology? Censor? Superspy? Scientologist? Actor? The former Mr. Kidman? The future Mr. Holmes? Movie star?

The release of "Mission: Impossible III" on Friday is being touted by some as a referendum on Cruise's career as a celebrity with marquee value. It's Cruise's third time out as superspy Ethan Hunt (no, not that guy who used to be married to Uma Thurman -- the secret agent dude!), so the franchise may have quite a bit of steam of its own. But after the Scientology-backed clampdown on the "Trapped in the Closet" episode of "South Park" in the US and the UK (and today, by the way, happens to be Day 50 of "South Park" Held Hostage) and other bizarre off-screen behavior, Cruise's box-office status is being... questioned.

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Hoffman shines in Truman show

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"I don't think Capote knew exactly what he was setting himself up for," Philip Seymour Hoffman said. "He said later if he'd known what was going to happen, he would have driven right through the town like a bat out of hell."

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Toronto #1: Top o' the world!

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TORONTO – Is the Toronto Film Festival the most important in the world, or does it only seem that way? In recent years I’ve described it as second only to Cannes. Now the Toronto critic Liam Lacey says flatly: “Toronto now has the most important film festival in the world -- the largest, the most influential, the most inclusive.” Yes, you say, but he is a Canadian, so of course he thinks that. Lacey is ready for you: “One reason the Toronto festival has probably not received its full recognition is, frankly, because it takes place in Canada.”

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Movie Answer Man (07/28/2002)

Q. I haven't seen "Never Again" and I probably won't, but I have one comment about your review, where you said that a woman wouldn't tell her stylist about her sexual exploits in a voice loud enough to be heard by all. You are definitely wrong about that. I have been a monthly visitor to hair salons for many years, and you wouldn't believe the things some women (and men, I might add) say in front of everyone. I have never understood it, but some women seem to use the salon like a confessional. (Kay Robart, Austin TX)

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Movie Answer Man (12/16/2001)

Q. I looked at the mysterious face in the funeral scene of "The Godfather" last night (Answer Man, Dec. 2), and I think I can explain it. Before Michael stands up, you can see a glare on the lens, but it is not discernible as a face because it is on a white background. When Michael shifts, so that his suit provides a dark contrast, the glare depicts the face of his mother, who in the scene immediately preceding is seated next to him. Presumably, the actors remained in place for the closeup shot of Michael (Coppola mentioned the shots were done in a hurry), and what we are seeing is a fluke of light, distortion, shadow, and lens peculiarity; the flared edge of the lens picks up the light from just out of the frame. (Mike Spearns, St. John's Newfoundland)

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3 festival films reveal life's secrets

TORONTO -- It was the opening weekend of the 25th anniversary Toronto Film Festival, the summer was over, and it was safe for the good movies to open again. Summer is the season devoted to the mindless feeding of our base desires for low entertainment. Autumn is when we get new three-ring binders and iron our chinos and go back to school. Something ineffable in the first cool day of September makes us think deeper thoughts and nurture our better natures. This passes, but for a time we feel virtuous and want to go to movies that will reveal the secrets of life.

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