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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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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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Cast and Crew

* 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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Nelson Mandela 1918-2013; the war on smarm; Bilge Ebiri on "Inside Llewyn Davis"; Christmas with X-Men; the fan-led revival of "The Assassination of Jesse James."

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Slut shaming in geek culture; Rock Hudson's wife tape-recorded herself confronting her husband about his sexual orientation; how Michael Douglas used his own experience to flesh out Liberace; Carey Mulligan might play Hillary Clinton in a biopic; New Yorker cartoonists talk about the delicate art of collaboration; Upstream Color comes to Netflix instant.

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Opening Night: Cannes Report, May 15, 2013

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Power is rarely discussed at Cannes, and it’s ostensibly all about art, although careers can hang on critics’ approval, and whether films are sold here, and to how many regions of the world. The annual jury press conference on the opening day is the first and foremost love-fest in which the concept of competition is downplayed and jurors find novel ways to sidestep the question of comparing one film to another in order to award the Palme d’Or in ten days.

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#166 May 8, 2013

Marie writes: the great Ray Harryhausen, the monster innovator and Visual Effects legend, passed away Tuesday May 7, 2013 in London at the age of 92. As accolades come pouring in from fans young and old, and obituaries honor his achievements, I thought club members would enjoy remembering what Harry did best.

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#163 Special Edition

Marie writes: I was looking for something to make Roger laugh, when the phone rang. It was a bad connection, but this much I did hear: "Roger has died." That's how I learned he was gone, and my first thought was of the cruel and unfair timing of it. He'd been on the verge of realizing a life long dream: to be the captain of his own ship.

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Free sample of Ebert Club Newsletter

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This is a free sample of the Newsletter members receive each week. It contains content gathered from recent past issues and reflects the growing diversity of what's inside the club. To join and become a member, visit Roger's Invitation From the Ebert Club.

Marie writes: Not too long ago, Monaco's Oceanographic Museum held an exhibition combining contemporary art and science, in the shape of a huge installation by renowned Franco-Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, in addition to a selection of films, interviews and a ballet of Aurelia jellyfish.The sculpture was inspired by the sea, and reflects upon maritime catastrophes caused by Man. Huang Yong Ping chose the name "Wu Zei"because it represents far more than just a giant octopus. By naming his installation "Wu Zei," Huang added ambiguity to the work. 'Wu Zei' is Chinese for cuttlefish, but the ideogram 'Wu' is also the color black - while 'Zei' conveys the idea of spoiling, corrupting or betraying. Huang Yong Ping was playing with the double meaning of marine ink and black tide, and also on corruption and renewal. By drawing attention to the dangers facing the Mediterranean, the exhibition aimed to amaze the public, while raising their awareness and encouraging them to take action to protect the sea.

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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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#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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#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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Playing the Blinking Game with The Driver

May Contain Spoilers

The Driver is the best at what he does. "You put this kid behind the wheel, there's nothing he can't do." He doesn't rely on luck and spontaneous driving; he knows what he's doing. He studies his environment, analyzes human behavior and acts accordingly.

As he drives you can tell that every move was planned ahead of time, every turn calculated with absolute precision. His plan is unpredictable; that's why watching it unfold in real time is so damn electrifying. He comes out of nowhere surprising his foes and disappears in plain sight just as easily. The driver is always in total control of the situation.

All this is projected in one of the most intense opening scenes in recent memory. The driver is a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. "Drive" begins at night minutes before a getaway. Most chase scenes lack this kind of intensity, for the driver doesn't rely on sheer speed to grab our attention.

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Shame, Tree of Life: Ambiguity or bust?

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Did somebody say "ambiguity"? I'm a big fan. Generally speaking, I much prefer movies with a little uncertainty, or a little emotional ambivalence, to those that spell everything out and tell me exactly how I should feel about it. Most of my favorite movies of 2011 thrive on ambiguity, open-endedness, a sense of the fluidity (or "slipperiness" as I like to call it) of time and space: "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," "Certified Copy," "Margaret," "Meek's Cutoff"... But sometimes resonant inconclusiveness slips into deliberate laziness, substituting opacity for meaning. And when that happens, it's a shame.

Or, as Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes, sometimes it's "Shame," the movie by Steve McQueen starring Michael Fassbender and Carrie Mulligan:

... McQueen... opts to shroud the movie in vagueness. This goes beyond the characters--Fassbender as the barely-sketched lead, Mulligan as the generic broken woman (tellingly, her sex life is played as comedy while Fassbender's is played as grand tragedy), Beharie as the foil whose attraction to Fassbender is never explained--and their relationships; Shame is a Choose Your Own Meaning movie, full of blank spaces that a sympathetic viewer can fill with their own interpretations (this culminates in a lengthy sex scene between Fassbender and two women, with Fassbender's facial expression serving as a sort of Rorschach blot).

It's smart filmmaking--and also totally duplicitous and self-serving, the arthouse craftsmanship nearly hiding the film's middle-brow triteness (see also: I Am Love), every scene ladled with big dollops of cinema's most respectable cop-out: ambiguity. When McQueen isn't marking time with exercises in post-slow-cinema aesthetics (as in the long tracking shot of Fassbender sternly jogging to his bitchin' Glenn Gould playlist), he elides and defers. Shame wears its emptiness like a badge of honor; McQueen is trying for banal blankness, and though he succeeds in that respect, you kind of wish that a filmmaker (and one with a background as an artist at that) would aspire to do more than just say nothing.

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The Best Films of 2011

Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.

My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won't be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.

One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.

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The Artist, Shame and hype-season backlash

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Over the last ten days or so I have been serially obsessed with "A Dangerous Method," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Margaret," "Moneyball," "A Separation" -- and I haven't had time to really devote myself to following these obsessions because I must get to the next movie on my end-of-year "must-see" list, which grows and mutates by the day. Of course, I never do make it to all of them by my deadlines, but between Thanksgiving and mid-December, those of us who whip up those inevitable year-end ten-best lists of movies and who participate in film critics' polls and/or awards balloting feel a little like those wretched souls at Wal-Mart on Black Friday (or is it Black Thursday now?), busting down doors to get to screenings and screeners so we can see and evaluate everything in the rush before voting day.

It's a joy to have these opportunities to see new stuff that might not be released in many cities until late December or sometime in 2012, and to catch up with things that slipped by earlier in the year. But ithe pressure to evaluate everything in "ten best" terms, rather than just watching the movies and thinking about them and writing about them and considering "listworthyness" later on, can also be frustrating. Especially while award-bestowers -- I'm talking about you, New York Film Critics Circle -- have moved their year's-best announcements earlier and earlier (right after Thanksgiving weekend!). So, even as I'm watching things, they're being honored or ignored in various quarters.

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#91 November 30, 2011

Marie writes: Did you know that the world's steepest roller-coaster is the Takabisha, which opened earlier this year at the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Yamanash, Japan? The ride lasts just 112 seconds but is packed with exciting features including seven twists, blackened tunnels and a 43m-high peak. But the most impressive thing about Takabisha is the 121 degree free-fall, so steep that it's been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the steepest roller-coaster made from steel!

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#87 November 2, 2011

Marie writes: It occurred to me that I've never actually told members about the Old Vic Tunnels.  Instead, I've shared news of various exhibits held inside them, like the recent Minotaur. So I'm going to fix that and take you on a tour!  (click image to enlarge.)

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#85 October 19, 2011

Lesson for the day: How to have fun while wasting time... Marie writes: welcome to DRAW A STICK MAN, a delightful Flash-based site prompting viewers to draw a simple stick figure which then comes to life!  Ie: the program animates it. You're given instructions about what to draw and when, which your dude uses to interact with objects onscreen. Thanks go to club member Sandy Kahn who heard about it from her pal Lauren, in Portland Oregon.Note: here's a screen-cap of what I drew; I've named him Pumpkin Head.

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Drive: An under-the-hood manual

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When I saw, and immediately wrote about, Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive," I knew almost nothing about it except the title and that Ryan Gosling was in it. I remembered that it had received acclaim at Cannes back in May (I did not recall that Refn had won the best director prize) and, as it turns out, I hadn't seen any of Refn's previous films -- although "Bronson" and "Valhalla Rising" had been recommended to me by friends. Since then, I've been reading up on "Drive" and have discovered so many fascinating little tidbits (many of which confirm my first impressions) that I decided to put together this little primer.

I recommend that you refrain from reading this until you've seen the movie, though.

Cited influences include: Grimm's Fairy Tales, John Hughes ("Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink"), Sergio Leone, Alejandro Jodorowsky...

On the title font:

Refn: Me and Mat Newman, who edits all my movies, we stole that in the editing table from "Risky Business."

-- from an interview with Scott Tobias at The A.V. Club

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Drive: Yellow light, red light, blue light, pink light

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I was going to say, up front, that I had some mixed feelings about Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive," but I'm not sure that "feelings" is the appropriate word. This 1980s pastiche (isn't that the "Risky Business" typeface lit up in neon pink?) is emotionally and narratively stripped down to resemble the sleek, polished surfaces of... well, muscle cars, but also movies by the likes of Walter Hill ("The Driver"), Michael Mann ("Thief"), William Friedkin ("To Live and Die in L.A."), Paul Schrader ("American Gigolo") and others. It even sports an aggressively ersatz-Tangerine Dream synth score of the kind so popular in the early 1980s, though this one also features some Euro-vocals with unfortunate English day-glo-highlighter lyrics ("a real human being and a real hero..."). Emotion, character, story -- they're not so much what "Drive" is interested in. The movie makes fetishistic use of signifiers for those things, but its most tangible concerns have (paradoxically?) to do with dreamy abstractions of color and shape and movement.

I like the red a lot. Not just the blood (which is the heart of the film, and I'll get to that in a minute), but there's so much blue (teal?) and orange and pink that when the red starts gushing in, it pumps some real excitement into what has, by that point, settled into a fairly static picture. (In some respects, I think "Drive" perversely hints at an art-house action movie -- and an erotic movie -- it never quite delivers, after a pretty [and] terrific archetypal getaway chase at the beginning, in which the Driver shows off his skills at using Los Angeles infrastructure to play hide-and-seek with cop cars and helicopters. Thank goodness, though, that it never turns into the racetrack movie it briefly threatens to become.)

So, the red: It excites the eyeballs (and signals imminent danger) in the red-and-white checkered windows at Nino's Pizza. But as I recall, it really gets going at Denny's. The nameless Driver (Ryan Gosling), a movie stuntman who also works as a mechanic and moonlights as a getaway car wheelman-for-hire, sits down with his generic romantic-interest neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), who wears a red uniform vest as a Denny's waitress, in a booth with red light fixtures above it and a BIG plastic bottle of ketchup on the table. I don't remember what the conversation is about -- it doesn't matter, but it's probably something about her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), who's just got out of jail and owes money to some brutal sleazebags who are threatening to physically harm him and Irene and their son Benicio (Kaden Leos), to whom Driver has also taken a shine. What I remember is the red. The film becomes pregnant with red.

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