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John Wick

The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.

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Low Down

Preiss' movie does a consistently excellent job of explaining the lure of jazz, and the psychology of addicts, their enablers and their children, without explaining…

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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.

#106 March 14, 2012

Marie writes: It's official. I have died and gone to heaven. For here below, as part of an ongoing series exploring Britain's architectural wonders, the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore, introduces a spectacular interactive 360-degree panoramic photograph of "The grand staircase in the St Pancras Renaissance hotel" - which I regard as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen. I adore this building and always will; it's the stuff of dreams. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Go here to explore a 360 panoramic view of the grand staircase!

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Who forgives the Gonzo?

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Opening theatrically in New York. Available now through Comcast On Demand, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu. See TribecaFilm.com for details.

by Odie Henderson

"Beware the Gonzo" begins with one of those flash-forwarded scenes where something from later in the film is presented to us as a means of foreshadowing. Being out of context, the scene has the tricky role of piquing the viewer's interest while not being a spoiler. It rarely works, and "Beware the Gonzo"'s opening scene is a big spoiler: a beaten up Eddie "Gonzo" Gilman (Ezra Miller) stares into a video camera and tells us that his actions have cost him his best friends, made him lose his girl, gotten him kicked out of school, and almost caused the divorce of his parents (played nicely by Campbell Scott and Amy Sedaris).

This is supposed to be an apology to all those he has wronged, but instead, it's one of those politician mea culpas, a whiny "my bad if you were upset" speech that never forgets to be more about its subject than atoning for his wrongdoings. Out of context, it seemed pathetic, but I was willing to grant that I didn't have the entire speech at my disposal. However, it hung over the movie, and as I met the interesting and trusting characters, dread crept in; I kept waiting for the moment when Gonzo would stop being the likeable character he is for much of the film and turns into this destructive monster.

This is not a bad thing, mind you, but the film's dark turn treats some rather unsavory matters in eye-rollingly shallow fashion to produce a happy ending. It never makes its case for why we, or anybody in "Beware the Gonzo" should Forgive the Gonzo. If the film were honest, this tale of how power corrupts would have had a bittersweet, life-learning lesson of an ending: The hero learns from his mistakes and carries that lament with him as he moves on. Lacking that courage, director-screenwriter Brian Goluboff should have at least removed the most serious of "Beware the Gonzo"'s sins from the screenplay. The ending would then be easier to swallow. More on that shortly.

Gonzo works for a prep school newspaper run by principal's darling Gavin Reilly (Jesse McCartney). Reilly is a jock who not only edits the newspaper but comes from a long line of school attendees and patrons. Reilly's family has won a prestigious history award for the school two years running, and he is in line to win it its third. Reilly is also a bully (and worse, as we'll discover) who trashes all of Gonzo's article ideas. He and his jocks beat up Gonzo's friend, the wonderfully named Scott Marshall Schneeman (Edward Gelbinovich), giving him an gate-enhanced atomic wedgie. Scott's predicament leads Gonzo to turn his "first day of school" article into an expose on the bullied kids. Reilly edits out all but two paragraphs of Gonzo's article, forcing him to start his own underground newspaper. The first article is all about Scott and his run-ins with the jocks.

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Gary Winick: A valediction forbidding mourning

May Contain Spoilers

He had these smiling eyes. And a self-deprecating manner which seemed to belie his very good looks ("He's so cute," my 19-year-old assistant exclaimed), about which he was fairly oblivious. Most of all, he was simply a very good guy.

Gary Winick, a many-hats-wearing filmmaker and digital pioneer, died of complications following a 2 year battle with brain cancer on February 27th, the day of the Academy Awards --- an especially sad irony for a vital man, weeks shy of 50, whose passion for film and storytelling had filled the decades of his adult life.

The private memorial service was held at the Time-Warner Center in Winick's beloved New York. Overlooking Central Park as the sun set, an invited group of 400 (some going back to childhood, some famous, many with whom he'd worked, even some he'd made sure got a decent meal when they were struggling) assembled to watch film clips, to hear and tell stories - to cry, yes, but also to laugh at so many experiences they certainly cherish now.

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Of the feel of theaters and audiences, and eight films from Sundance

I saw my final film of Sundance 2010 here in Chicago. It was my best Sundance experience, and I want to tell you why. The film was "Jack Goes Boating," the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman. It played here in the Music Box, as part of the "Sundance USA" outreach program, which has enlisted eight art theaters around the country to play Sundance entries while the festival is still underway.

The Music Box is the largest surviving first run movie palace in Chicago. It is deeper than it is wide, and has an arching ceiling where illusory clouds float and stars twinkle. Many shows are preceded by music on the organ.

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Cherry Bomb! The Sundance Swag Fest

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In today's New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes:

For almost as long as it's been in existence, the Sundance Film Festival has fended off criticism that it has gone Hollywood. [...]

But let us not be (entirely) cynical. For all its problems, the festival remains one of the most important in the world and the foremost launching pad for American independents.

Both parts of that last sentence are arguable, but if Sundance is (or has ever been) one of the most important film festivals in the world, I hope it's because it retains some power to launch American films, "independent" or otherwise, into the media and consumer marketplace -- and not just because it's a big party in an upscale ski resort town.

Ironically (intentionally?) embedded in the above article, however, was this (un-embeddable) Carpetbagger video about the exclusive swagfest -- the "gifting suites" to which persons of predetermined celebrity are invited and... "gifted" by corporations and boutique merchants. You may want to throw up (I did), but the shameless decadence is something to see. (Does the festival officially cooperate with these ventures? How do they determine who's attending and who's on their lists?)

Meanwhile, Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe says he's never heard more griping about the actual movies being shown:

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Smilin' through with Mike Leigh

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TORONTO -- Mike Leigh is 65 years old and universally acclaimed as one of the leading British directors, although "Happy-Go-Lucky" is only his tenth theatrical feature sine 1971. There's a reason for that. He went another 17 years before making "High Hopes" in 1998, although he kept busy with BBC films and stage work. His problem was, he couldn't get financing to make a film without a screenplay, and he famously has two conditions to make a film: (1) No outside interference, and (2) the screenplay is devised in collaboration with the actors, after the project has started.

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Who wants to be a slumdog?

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TORONTO, Ont.--Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" hits the ground and never stops running. After its first press screening early Saturday morning, it became a leading contender for the all-important Audience Award, which is the closest thing the Toronto Film Festival has to a top prize. And an Oscar best picture nomination is a definite possibility.

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Raping Dakota: From the Sundance resumé movie to "Indie Guignol"

Raping Dakota and Feeling Minnesota: Despite all the publicity, "Hounddog" ain't nothin' but a dog, say critics. It's not dangerous, after all.

"As its poster and advertising remind us, "Quinceañera" won both the jury and audience prizes at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and those honors are strangely indicative of its dramatic and stylistic limitations. If there was ever a movie that seemed precision-tailored for a Park City reception, this is it -- the quintessential example of the festival's favored brand of hand-crafted, slice-of-life, youth-oriented filmmaking that expresses affection for a nicely captured American subculture. In other words, it's a Sundance specialty, right from the box.

"This is a shopping-list movie: A double coming-of-age story spiced with local color; a bittersweet portrait of a Los Angeles neighborhood in transition; a warm and soapy celebration of a Mexican-American community. "Quinceañera" is also a thoroughly predictable melodrama that's both kitchen-sink and 'After-School Special.'"

-- from my review of "Quinceañera" last summer

One of the debilitating side effects of the pop-culture "mainstreaming" (if I may use an ugly marketing term) of the Sundance Film Festival brand over the last 20 years or so has been the over-glorification of what I call resumé movies. These are films, cobbled together from familiar elements designed to appeal not only to a Sundance jury (or audience), but with an eye toward getting the filmmakers some "Hollywood" money for their next picture. And that, in itself, is fine. Nothing wrong with trying to climb the ladder of success. But I don't particularly want to watch somebody's resumé on a movie screen, particularly when it's sold to me as a "personal story" (or a "subversive thriller") and plays like pure Hollywood formula schlock.

John Sayles admits that "Return of the Secaucus 7" was just such a resumé picture. After years of writing horror and exploitation scripts for Roger Corman ("Piranha," "The Lady in Red," "Alligator"), he wanted to start directing his own, more personal stuff. The reason there's a basketball game in the movie was simply to show that he knew how to handle an action sequence. But Sayles was expanding his craft and moving from formulaic commercial genre filmmaking toward more personal projects, not the other way around.

Remember "Project Greenlight," the HBO (then Bravo) series, produced with good intentions by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, with the Weinstein Miramax? The deal was that they would choose an unproduced first-time script and give a novice director a chance to make the movie, which Miramax would finance and distribute. By the third (and final) season, they joined forces with Wes Craven and were making a horror exploitation film for Miramax's Dimension division.

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'Bee' girl carries film

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TORONTO -- Flora Cross is a beautiful young girl and a wise old soul. She has a gravity about her. By that I do not mean that she is sad, but that she weighs matters, considers what they are, and says what she thinks. That is a rare quality in anyone. Flora Cross is 12.

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Toronto #5: A memorable film season

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TORONTO – At the halfway point of the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, one thing is clear: This is the best autumn movie season in memory. One film after another has been astonishingly good. Critics gathered in the hallways after the Varsity press screenings, talking in hushed tones as if witnesses to a miracle.

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