This Is Where I Leave You
The family gathering comedy is one of the more difficult genres to pull off. Good for Levy for trying something different. But next time he…
* 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.
Sheila writes: Some long takes in cinema are gratuitous and flashy, some connect themselves to the theme of the movie, but all of them are fun to pick apart and deconstruct. The technological challenges are daunting and it's fun to see film-makers rise to those challenges. I came across a video analyzing 12 long takes in cinema, and it should be a fun jumping-off point for discussion. What are your favorite long takes?
RogerEbert.com contributor Godfrey Cheshire's landmark two-part series "Death of Film/Decay of Cinema" anticipated many of the changes that would later shake the medium to its core.
Jana Monji responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
Nell Minow responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
Sheila writes: Those of you attending Ebertfest, a note from Chaz:We will have our annual Ebert Club Meet and Greet at the Roger Ebert Film Festival, Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 8 am - 10 am in the Illini Union, General Lounge. Also invited are the Far Flung Correspondents and writers from Rogerebert.com. I look forward to seeing you there!
Writer Dan Callahan responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
Sam Fragoso talks to Lynn Shelton about improvisation, her first time directing a script written by someone else
The completion of our countdown of twelve great Chirstmas-set scenes from the movies. Check out #4–#1.
Critic Carrie Rickey traces the evolution of women on film and behind the camera over the course of her career writing about film.
Writer Sheila O'Malley responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
This week, Ebert Club bids farewell to Marie Haws! Chaz shares her thoughts and plans for the Ebert Club, and introduces the new Chief Correspondent of the newsletter, Sheila O'Malley. Additionally, we have included a brief survey for Ebert Club subscribers. We want to hear from you!
At their big D23 Expo event, Disney unleashed some stars and a lot of tantalizing info about live action films.
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.
Craig D. Lindsey is on the warpath against jerk cinema, in which arrogant heroes trample all over everybody and the film celebrates them as righteously awesome. Whatever happened to charm?
Marie writes: Welcome to "Good Books", an online bookseller based in New Zealand. Every time you buy a book through them, 100% of the retail profit goes directly to fund projects in partnership with Oxfam; projects which provide clean water, sanitation, develop sustainable agriculture and create access to education for communities in need. To increase awareness of Good Books' efforts to raise money for Oxfam, String Theory (New Zeland based agency) teamed up with collaborative design production comany "Buck" to create the first of three videos in a digital campaign called Good Books Great Writers. Behold the award winning animated Good Books Metamorphosis.
As a companion piece to our reassessment of "At Long Last Love," Peter Bogdanovich recalls the film's orgins, its forgotten pleasures, and the studio-mandated tinkering that turned it into a box office bomb. He also recalls turning down an offer of help from Gene Kelly, casting Burt Reynolds, and a remarkable encounter with Roger Ebert.
Peter Bogdanovich's movie musical "At Long Last Love" developed one of those reputations as a career-killing stinker, but in hindsight, it's a pretty darn good mix of 1930s tunes with the slightly more realist sensibility of later musicals. And it's a project with a crazy history. Now that it is out on Blu-Ray, it deserves another look.
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.
Marie writes: They call it "The Shard" and it's currently rising over London akin to Superman's Fortress of Solitude and dwarfing everything around it, especially St. Paul's in front. I assume those are pigeons flying over-head and not buzzards. Ie: not impressed, but that's me and why I'm glad I saw London before they started to totally ruin it.Known as the "London Bridge Tower" before they changed the name, when completed in 2012, it will be the tallest building in Europe and 45th highest in the world. It's already the second highest free-standing structure in the UK after the Emley Moor transmitting station. The Shard will stand 1,017 ft high and have 72 floors, plus another 15 radiator floors in the roof. It's been designed with an irregular triangular shape from base to top and will be covered entirely in glass. The tower was designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect best know for creating Paris's Pompidou Centre of modern art with Richard Rogers, and more recently the New York Times Tower. You can read an article about it at the Guardian. Here's the official website for The Shard. Photograph: Dan Kitwood.
Roger and Chaz outside the CBC Studios. They were recently featured on CBS News Sunday Morning to discuss the launch of their new show "Ebert Presents At The Movies".
"You're certainly a funny girl for anybody to meet who's just been up the Amazon for a year."
If you are in Chicago the next few weeks, and you feel like taking in a weekend matinee, then you are fortunate indeed because the Music Box Theatre is presenting a centennial celebration of the toughest, sexiest, smartest, snappiest dame ever to sashay across a cinema screen. By that, of course, I mean none other than Sugarpuss O'Shea, Phyllis Dietrichson, Lily Powers, Lora Hart, Stella Dallas, Jean Harrington, Jessica Drummond, Leona Stevenson, Sierra Nevada Jones, Martha Ivers, Thelma Jordan, Norma Miller Vale, Mae Doyle D'Amato... in other words, Barbara Stanwyck.
View image Sugarpuss presents the ball of her foot in "Ball of Fire."
Stanwyck is my favorite movie actress. Ever. I built a virtual shrine to her in 1998 (complete with a gallery of rare images and Babs' Foot Fetish Page), in which I wrote: Stanwyck could make you believe she was part of the everyday world we all live in, not just a fantasy on the silver screen. She could easily be the woman down the aisle in the supermarket, driving that car in the next lane, or working in the office down the hall. While other stars went for the "larger than life" roles, Stanwyck -- as an all-American working girl or a cunning seductress -- generally kept her feet planted firmly on the ground. In fact, she enters "Double Indemnity" feet-first, sauntering down the staircase wearing an anklet that snags Walter Neff (MacMurray) by the libido. (The anklet may be the hook, but she's the bait.) Stanwyck used that foot to lure Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda, among others. It's a peculiar erotic pattern in her work (see Babs' Foot Fetish Page for more details and images), but men who stooped to take her foot in hand found themselves on their knees before a passionate woman, not an unapproachable goddess -- and they fell, instantly and irrevocably, under her spell. (Fonda almost faints when she gets him to slip a pump over her tootsies!)
View image Will this plan provide full coverage?
In both "The Lady Eve" and "Ball of Fire" -- two of her most dazzling and endearing comic performances, from the same year! -- Stanwyck acts as a leveling life-force, puncturing all pretensions and knocking her co-stars' bumbling intellectual noggins out of the hazy cerebral clouds. What she achieves is not unlike what a much ditzier, flakier, upper-crust screwball heroine, Katharine Hepburn, does for/to bespectacled paleontologist Cary Grant in "Bringing Up Baby." But Stanwyck brings salvation from the streets rather than the penthouse. Jean Arthur in "Easy Living" (1937) -- written by Sturges -- is a delightful working gal, but Stanwyck is far more streetwise. Tough, strong, and smart, but no less feminine than some of her screwball sisters, she has learned to survive in a cut-throat world, living by her wits. She's at her best when she's in control, and she usually is. In many of her most famous movies the unspoken truth of any given scene is that she knows exactly what she's doing -- until, perhaps, her emotions sneak up on her and overthrow her instincts, by unexpectedly allowing her to fall head-over-heels for her (relatively) naive and helpless male prey.
Stanwyck slices right through class conventions and social formalities, immediately addressing Gary Cooper's Professor Bertram Potts by the more casual nickname of "Potsy." Likewise, Fonda's Charles Pike, heir to the Pike's Ale fortune, becomes "Hopsie" (after a key ingredient in the family brew). The very notion of someone with such a direct, spontaneous, and unrefined disposition masquerading as a blueblood is, as Preston Sturges realized, a terrific premise for comedy.
David Thomson, or "David Thomson"? Critic or stalker?
David Thomson is often described as a "film critic," but film criticism is not quite what he does. Nor is he a journalist or a biographer or a historian by any traditional definition of those terms. Thomson is a cinephile, a fantasist and an autobiographer, who writes about movies -- and the characters in them, and the people who make them -- as his possessions, imagined aspects of himself.
In the introduction to his best-known book, the idiosyncratic and provocative "A Biographical Dictionary of Film," he admits that, in writing about movies, he is unavoidably writing about himself -- and, indeed, the book might be better titled "An Autobiographical Dictionary of Film." All film criticism (and all writing, fiction or "non-fiction") is to some degree autobiographical, and Thomson has been more aggressive and up-front about his obsessions with his fantasy-objects, from Warren Beatty to Nicole Kidman, than most. But I'm not sure his treatment, or imaginative possession (sexual and otherwise), of his not-at-all-obscure objects of desire is any less tabloid-creepy because it is presented as critical nonfiction rather than as gossip or on some fanatical fan blog, except that Thomson's writing is better.
Last week, Kidman's reps said Thomson had misrepresented himself in the one telephone interview he did with Kidman for his ostensible biography, being sold under the title "Nicole Kidman." From The Daily Mail: According to the star's publicist Wendy Day: "Nicole has never met David Thomson. She has only spoken to him briefly on the phone about her acting processes and various films.
"He's a well-respected film writer and she accepted the interview only because she was under the impression he was writing a series of film essays." So, if Thomson is going to write about movie-fed fantasies, and he's decided to focus his on Nicole Kidman, what are his ethical responsibilities when it comes to soliticiting her unknowing cooperation in his enterprise? A review in the New York Times, which calls the ostensible biography "a weird and unseemly mash note," offers several quotes from the book, including:“I should own up straightaway that, yes, I like Nicole Kidman very much. I suspect she is as fragrant as spring, as ripe as summer, as sad as autumn and as coldly possessed as winter.... That’s why I’m writing this book, I think, to honor desire."
“Just as I take the breakup with Cruise as the liberating and altering experience in Kidman’s life, so we have to see that Tom was changed, too."
“I dare say she wakes up some nights screaming because she felt it [aging, losing her looks] was about to happen. (Not that I can be there to witness it — or stop imagining it.)��? Thomson also speculates about what might have happened on the set of "Eyes Wide Shut," in this excerpt from the book published in the Sunday Times of London:
Above: That gritty Hollywood literalism and/or naturalism: "Off-putting to the contemporary sensibility."
I was wrong. Last night, just before going to bed, I read Stephen Metcalf's "Dilettante" column, "The Worst Best Movie: Why on earth did 'The Searchers' get canonized?". This did not make it easy for me to get to sleep, so I dashed off a preliminary response in which I harshly characterized Metcalf's piece as an "inexcusably stupid essay... about a classic John Ford Western." But now, re-reading the column in the light of day, I realize that Metcalf was hardly writing about "The Searchers" at all. And nearly every observation he does make about the film itself is cribbed from something Pauline Kael wrote (see more below). He'll just fling out an irresponsible, non sequitur comment like, "Even its adherents regard 'The Searchers' as something of an excruciating necessity," and let it lie there, flat on the screen, unexplained and unsupported. So, while I stand by my claim that what Metcalf has written is stupid and inexcusable (for the reasons I will delineate below), I don't think it has much to do with "The Searchers."
Instead, Metcalf is reacting to his own perception of the film's reputation (and in part to A.O. Scott's recent New York Times piece admiring "The Searchers"), using the movie to snidely deride people Mecalf labels "film geeks," "nerd cultists" and: ... critics whose careers emerged out of the rise of "film studies" as a discrete and self-respecting academic discipline, and the first generation of filmmakers -- Scorsese and Schrader, but also Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius, and George Lucas -- whose careers began in film school. (The latter are later characterized as "well-credentialed nerds.") The fault, then, in Metcalf's mind, is not so much in the film as in those who brazenly take film seriously as an art form. Using "The Searchers" as an anecdotal, ideological bludgeon, Metcalf attempts to attack the impudent and insidious notion that movies are worthy of serious study and artistic interpretation. Holy flashback to Clive James!
As part of its ongoing national effort to lead the nation to discover and rediscover the classics, the American Film Institute (AFI) today announced the 50 greatest American screen legends - the top 25 women and top 25 men naming Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart the number one legends among the women and men.