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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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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.

#178 July 31, 2013

Marie writes: As the dog days of summer slowly creep towards September and Toronto starts getting ready for TIFF 2013, bringing with it the promise of unique and interesting foreign films, it brought to mind an old favorite, namely The Red Balloon; a thirty-four minute short which follows the adventures of a young boy who one day finds a sentient red balloon. Filmed in the Menilmontant neighborhood of Paris and directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse, The Red Balloon went on to win numerous awards and has since become a much-beloved Children's Classic.

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#156 February 20, 2013

Marie writes: As some of you may have heard, a fireball lit up the skies over Russia on February 15, 2013 when a meteoroid entered Earth's atmosphere. Around the same time, I was outside with my spiffy new digital camera - the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. And albeit small, it's got a built-in 20x zoom lens. I was actually able to photograph the surface of the moon!

(click to enlarge)

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#132 September 5, 2012

Marie writes: According to the calendar, summer is now officially over (GASP!) and with its demise comes the first day of school. Not all embrace the occasion, however. Some wrap themselves proudly in capes of defiance and make a break for it - rightly believing that summer isn't over until the last Himalayan Blackberry has been picked and turned into freezer jam!

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#83 October 5, 2011

Marie writes: I love photography, especially B/W and for often finding color a distraction. Take away the color and suddenly, there's so much more to see; the subtext able to rise now and sit closer to the surface - or so it seems to me. The following photograph is included in a gallery of nine images (color and B/W) under Photography: Celebrity Portraits at the Guardian."This is one of the last photographs of Orson before he died. He loved my ­camera - a gigantic Deardorff - and decided he had to direct me and tell me where to put the light. So even in his last days, he was performing his directorial role perfectly, and ­bossing me around. Which was precious." - Michael O'Neill

Orson Welles, by Michael O'Neill, 1985

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The enemy of my enemy es mi amigo

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"Amigo" is playing in selected theaters, including the Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

by Odie Henderson

There is something to be said for the economy in John Sayles' movie titles. He gets his point across in five words or less. The theatrical films he has written and directed bear the names of locations ("Matewan," "Sunshine State," "Silver City," "Limbo") or are deceptively simple descriptive statements ("The Secret of Roan Inish," "The Brother From Another Planet," "Return of the Secaucus Seven," "Amigo"). All 17 titles average out to just under 3 words per movie moniker (actually, 2.5), which means Sayles' 18th movie must star the king of the three word movie title, Steven Seagal. Laugh if you must, but IMDb will tell you Sayles once wrote a film for Dolph Lundgren. Seagal is only a "Marked for Death" sequel away, should Mr. Sayles take my advice.

In the meantime, his 17th film opens September 16th On Demand. "Amigo" follows the path running through much of Sayles' work: It is politically aware, occasionally melodramatic and maintains a certain intimacy despite sprawling across multiple characters and stories. Bitter irony and blatant humanism peacefully co-exist as Sayles' heroes, heroines and villains struggle to maintain the dignity he inherently believes they have. The director's masterpiece, "Lone Star," is the quintessential example of Sayles expressing his themes and ideas in epic format. Anchored by Chris Cooper, "Lone Star" spins a tale of power, race and class across generations, juggling numerous characters with whom the story invests such weight and interest that I could follow any of them out of the film and into their own adventures.

"Amigo" is not as tightly crafted as "Lone Star." It's a messier work whose dialogue is at times a tad too purple, its political allusions a little too obvious, and it has a one-note character that is uncharacteristic of its creator. Much of its plot is predictable in an old-fashioned, yet comforting studio-system way. Reminiscent of a sloppier E. L. Doctorow novel, "Amigo" merges real-life characters with fictional ones while plumbing a bygone era for parallels of today. Like Doctorow, Sayles provides numerous details of the period he depicts, culled from the research he did for his book "A Moment in the Sun." Its U.S. occupation plotline could represent Iraq or Vietnam or Afghanistan, and its soldier characters are good ol' boys found in many an old war movie (and many an actual platoon, as well). What makes "Amigo" engrossing despite its predictability is the object of its gaze: This is an occupation story, but for a change, "the Other" is us. The occupied people are observing the outsiders who have interrupted their life narrative by invading their country. In "Amigo," we are entrenched in the Philippine-American War (1899-1902).

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#69 June 29, 2011

Marie writes: Allow me to introduce you to Bill and Cheryl. I went to Art school with Bill and met his significant other Cheryl while attending the graduation party; we've been pals ever since. None of which is even remotely interesting until you see where they live and their remarkable and eclectic collection of finds. (click to enlarge images.)

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#68 June 22, 2011

Marie writes: this past Monday, the Chicago Sun Times updated "Movable Type" - a program used to create blogs. Roger's journal for example. Other newspapers might use "Word Press" instead; same idea though. Any-hoo, it's hosted on the "new" server at the Sun-Times and as is customary, you have to login to use it. It's online software. Meaning you're totally at the mercy of any freakiness that might be going on.I mention this because there was indeed some weirdness earlier (server choked) and that, plus the fact Movable Type does things differently now, put me behind schedule. So I don't really have anything for the front page. I can go look, though!  Meanwhile, just continue reading and if I find anything interesting, I'll let you know....Ooo, clams...

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#64 May 25, 2011

Marie writes: There's a glorified duck pond at the center of the complex where I live. And since moving in, my apartment has been an object of enduring fascination for Canadian geese - who arrive each Spring like a squadron of jet fighters returning from a mission in France, to run a sweeping aerial recon my little garden aka: playhouse for birds... (click to enlarge)

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CIFF 2010: Our capsule reviews

• Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert

The 46th Chicago International Film Festival will play this year at one central location, on the many screens of the AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois. A festivalgoers and filmmakers' lounge will be open during festival hours at the Lucky Strike on the second level. Tickets can be ordered online at CIFF's website, which also organizes the films by title, director and country. Tickets also at AMC; sold out films have Rush Lines. More capsules will be added here.

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#31 October 6, 2010

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh at a Charity party in 1957 with Frank Sinatra and his then-wife, Ava Gardner. (click to enlarge) Marie writes: the best celebrity photos are invariably candid shots. :-)

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#26 September 1, 2010

From the Grand Poobah: Here in Michigan Oink's ice cream parlor exerts a magnetic pull on helpless citizens for miles around. I can no longer sample their countless flavors, but not log ago I took Kim Severson there. She is a New York Times writer doing a piece on The Pot. Oink's is run by my friend Roger Vink, who says, "May the Oink be with you."

(click photos to enlarge)

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#23 August 11, 2010

From the Grand Poobah: Time passes twice now, first as real time, then as remembrance of things past, as I search my memory for my memoir. As my eyes lift up from my keyboard, they stare sightlessly straight ahead and old faces and places pass in review. So I take a photo of where I'm looking, in order to record what I see. When the picture was taken, Gene and I were in the Brown Derby at Disney World while taping an Oscar special; I'd like to say I have no idea of who came up with the idea for that composition, but I do, and it was yours faithfully, the Poobah.

(click to enlarge and read book spines; smile.)

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#20 July 21, 2010

"Twists of fate, love and humour, perseverance and, finally, a philosophical outlook- his story has it all." - Sarah Hampson.(click photo to enlarge) From the Globe and Mail article "You couldn't write this script" published July 19, 2010.From the Grand Poobah: "A young lady with excellent taste". (click to enlarge) "Ever since I was a child messing around with a terrible paint set from K-mart, I have been obsessed with controlling pigment suspended in water. Now I paint with divine, hand-made watercolors from Holland along with brushes ranging from high-end to dirt cheap, but the obsession remains..." - from Kelly Eddington's artist statement. To read more and see her truly wonderful watercolors, visit Kelly Eddington's Website and Gallery.

Ah, watercolors.... so easy to master; only takes decades....

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Where the Mopey Things Are

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Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" (aka, "The Decline and Fall of the Wild Thing Empire") is not Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." It's only fair you should know that in advance. The book's illustrations and nine sentences have been turned into a surprisingly (some might even say shockingly) literal-minded 90-minute motion picture about the misery of being a kid. Jonze and co-scenarist Dave Eggers are clearly in touch with their inner-miserable child; they seem to vividly remember all the daily turmoil that childhood is heir to -- the tantrums, fights, scrapes, bruises, fears, anxieties, insults, hurt feelings, bossiness, cruelty, rejection, confusion, heckling, bullying, bragging, pouting, moping, testing, haggling, crying, rage...

Those aspects of childhood trauma are acutely and accurately portrayed in the movie. Every time the fun starts, somebody goes too far (like a puppy who hasn't learned his soft mouth yet), and someone gets hurt or scared or angry or sad or all of those things. The movie's adulterated sensibility is that of an alienated grown-up looking back at the (somewhat romanticized, over-intellectualized) misery of childhood and denying or downplaying the equally real fun stuff -- the in-the-moment joy, the exhilaration of being and imagining and doing and playing. So, in some sense it's a corrective to all those stupid "Isn't it wonderful being a kid?" movies that remember childhood through equally distorted rose-tinted lenses.

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Blurb-a-thon 2007

View image The funniest scene in the funniest movie of the year. I think.

Instead of a "ten best list," Armond White makes an annual "Better Than List" which, in principle, I'm all against -- simply because of the formula: He uses a few adjectives and a "greater than" symbol to bash selected movie titles with selected other ones, like Daniel Plainview bludgeoning someone with a heavy object.

Then again, any "ten best list" (or "top ten list" or "favorites list") represents a preference for some movies over some other movies, seen by somebody under certain circumstances during a period of time. And, to not-quite-paraphrase Jean Renoir, "Everybody makes his own rules."

So, perhaps White is really just doing what (I hope) any list-maker does: Making a claim for his/her own critical taste and values, while recommending some movies. That he assumes the attitude of a bully over the approach of a critic or movie lover is, perhaps, not so important. (Quote: "'No Country for Old Men' > better than 'There Will Be Blood,' 'Zodiac.' The Coen brothers hauntingly mythologize Americana, while P.T. Anderson and David Fincher make it morbid, sadistic and self-congratulatory." Is there an inverse relationship between "morbid, sadistic and self-congratulatory" and "hauntingly mythological" -- Americana-wise, I mean?)

But look: Now I'm using other top ten lists to bash White's. Is there no getting around this? I fell ill (think of the scene with the old lady on the street in "The Orphanage") just as I was about to annotate my own 2007 list, after submitting various rankings to critics' polls at MSN Movies, indieWIRE and the Village Voice/LA Weekly poll, each of which had slightly different rules, categories and deadlines. (Then I posted a list in video form in late December). Consequently, I missed reading a lot of other peoples' lists (though The House Next Door and David Hudson at GreenCine, and the folks at Movie City News have put together invaluable lists of lists -- and/or lists of links -- that have helped me in my efforts to catch up, because, as I am fond of repeating, I actually learn from browsing these things).

Oh, yes, and I also posted the 2007 Exploding Head Awards as a kind of top-ten alternative. (Let me add that I have enjoyed no 2007 overview more than Dennis Cozzalio's at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.)

Now, just to wrap up this whole 2007 wrap-up thing, I'm going to recommend some movies and (in munchable blurbs of 150 words or less -- I hope) give you some idea of what I liked about them, without the intention of over-selling them. If I've written more extensively about them, I'll link their titles to a more detailed review or posting.

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Scanners' 2007 Exploding Head Awards (Part 1)

View image And the Exploding Head goes to... Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in "Knocked Up"?

I'll publish my annotated "best of" list next week, but while thinking back over the year's movies I recalled some things that seemed to me "beyond category." Or the usual categories, anyway. One way or another, they made my head feel that it might explode. So, while everybody's preoccupied with all those other awards, here are the 2007 Exploding Heads for Achievement in Movies:

Best endings: • "The Sopranos" (final episode): blackout • "No Country for Old Men": "Then I woke up." • "I'm Not There": Dylan's harmonica on "Mr. Tambourine Man" • "Superbad": Baby-steps toward adulthood, separating at the mall escalator • "Zodiac": Stare-down

Most electrifying moment: A dog. A river. "No Country for Old Men."

Best grandma: "Persepolis"

Best surrogate grandpa: Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"

"Arrested Development" Award for Best Throwaway Lines: • "Keep it in the oven..." -- Jason Bateman, "Juno" • "... Terrorism..." -- Michael Cera, "Superbad" (actually, Cera has so many astonishingly brilliant under-his-breath moments in "Superbad" and "Juno" it's uncanny)

Best performance by an inanimate object: (tie) The cloud (and its shadow), the candy wrapper, the blown lock housing in the motel room door, "No Country for Old Men"

Most cringe-worthy lines: • "My cooperation with the Nazis is only symbolic." -- "Youth Without Youth" • "That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet." -- "Juno" (the cutesy moment at the beginning when I nearly ran screaming for an exit; cutting this entire unnecessary scene would improve "Juno" immensely)

Funniest double-edged observation: "He's playing fetch... with my kids... he's treating my kids like they're dogs." -- Debbie (Leslie Mann) in "Knocked Up," watching Ben (Seth Rogen) play with her daughter, who is loving it. That's her point of view, and she's right, but she says it like it's a bad thing.

View image Ain't nothin' but the real thing, baby: Brian Dierker and Catherine Keener in "Into the Wild."

The Real Thing: "Non-actor" Brian Dierker, rubber tramp, "Into the Wild" (and, of course, his "old lady" Catherine Keener, actor extraordinaire)

Best film about the way The Industry really works since "The Big Picture": Jake Kasdan's "The TV Set." The moment I knew it was going to be exceptional (sharp, precise and, therefore, extraordinarily funny) was when the writer's choice for the lead role gives an audition that's just... underwhelming. He isn't good. He isn't terrible. He just isn't enough. Which then allows the network execs to push for the "broader" alternative ("To me, the broad is the funny"). And even he proves himself capable of being not-awful -- in rehearsal, at least...

Best political film: (tie) "12:08 East of Bucharest" and "Persepolis" -- a pair of smart, funny movies about the effects of political revolutions on individuals in (respectively) Romania and Iran.

Deadliest stare: (tie) Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), "No Country for Old Men"; Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), "Atonement"

Young comedy whippersnapper stars of the year: Michael Cera (19), Ellen Page (20), Seth Rogen (25), Jonah Hill (24), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (18)

Game savers: J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, who come to the rescue of "Juno" not a moment too soon

Best torture porn: The excruciatingly funny baptism scene with Paul Dano and Daniel Day Lewis (both of 'em overactin' up a storm -- but in a fun way), "There Will Be Blood"

Most worthless critical label: "Independent." A movie should not be viewed through its budget, financing or distribution. And in these days of studio "dependents" (Miramax, Focus Features, Paramount Vantage, Fox Searchlight, etc.), the term "indie" is frequently misleading at the very least.

Best bureaucrat: Dr. Fischer (Alberta Watson), "Away From Her"

Best negotiations: • Chigurh and the gas station owner, "No Country for Old Men" • Chigurh and the trailer park lady, "No Country for Old Men" • Chigurh and Carla Jean, "No Country for Old Men" • "4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days": The painfully protracted, ever-shifting moral balance (and exhausting power-struggle) in the hotel room, between the friend and the abortionist -- while the pregnant woman herself passive-aggressively bows out of any responsibilities for what has happened, or will happen.

"Perfume" Award for Best Portrayal of Synesthesia: "Ratatouille"

Best Supporting Crotch: Sacha Baron Cohen, "Sweeney Todd." An squirm-inducing scene-stealer that makes you long for a change of angle: Please give us an above-the-waist shot! (Did they have spandex in mid-19th century London?)

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Roger Ebert's 2003 Oscar Predictions

Nothing that has happened since the Academy Awards nominations were announced has swayed me from my immediate conviction that "Chicago" will be the big winner on Oscar night. I know that "The Pianist" was named best film by the British Academy. I know "The Hours" was honored for its screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards. But, hey, I also know the Directors Guild honored Rob Marshall for "Chicago" over Martin Scorsese--and when a rookie can outpoll a living national treasure in a vote of directors, there's a bandwagon on the way."Chicago" is not the best of the nominated films. That would be "Gangs of New York." But you have to understand that the academy doesn't vote for the best film. It votes for the best headline. This year, it sees big type that shouts "The Musical Comes Back!" Having failed to honor "Moulin Rouge!" last year, the academy will vote this year the way it thinks it should have voted the year before. (Example: The 2001 Oscar for best actor went to Russell Crowe, who more reasonably should have won a year earlier for "The Insider.") Here are the major categories and my predictions:

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The Best 10 Movies of 2002

It was a year when more movies opened than during any other year in memory. A year when the big Hollywood studios cast their lot with franchises, formulas, sequels, and movies marketed for narrow demographic groups--focusing so much on "product" instead of original work that they seemed likely to be shut out of the Oscars, as they were essentially shut out of the Golden Globes. A year when independent and foreign films showed extraordinary vitality. A wonderful year, that is, for moviegoers who chose carefully, and a mediocre year for those took their chances at the multiplex.

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Charlie Kaufman & Spike Jonze: Twin pleasures

I am engaged in a fierce inner struggle as I begin this article about the brilliant new movie "Adaptation." Part of me wants to write showbiz gossip. The other part wants to get serious and deal with the cinema of Spike Jonze, the inside-out screenplays of Charlie Kaufman, and the way Nicolas Cage plays twins you can tell apart even though they look the same.

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Brand new film heavies

TORONTO You hurry between theaters, barely enough time between curtains, and one gift after another comes from the screen. Your only regret is that for every good film you see, the people next to you are describing three you missed. This is the payoff after a slow summer at the movies, when it sometimes seemed directors were no longer swinging for the fences, but just happy to get on base.

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Movie Answer Man (07/28/1996)

Q. The latest movie spin-off industry is the production of TV shows explaining how movie special effects are done. Magicians don't let the audience know how their tricks are accomplished, and I think Hollywood should keep their procedures a secret. It would make the effects seem more special! (Paul "Funn" Dunn, Bloomington, IL.)

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