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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.

Insanity Set to Pop Culture Deconstruction

* "Detention" is available on Blu-ray and Amazon Instant, and "Girl Walk//All Day" is available for free on Vimeo.

In its drift from one receptive viewer to the next, a cinematic motif or choice soundtrack selection bristles at the prospect of first exposure. Luis Bacalov's titular, Elvis-aping ballad for "Django Unchained" washed recently for the first time over many filmgoers' ears, and thus became their primary recollection. The same can and should not be said, however, about the western's mid-climax "duet" from 2Pac and James Brown later on, which aimed for adrenaline but landed on awkward bafflement instead. Call that disappointing instance decoupage or mash-up, but a post-modern cut-and-paste can also work wonders under the right framework: Two remarkable films from 2012 - Joseph Kahn's madcap teen genre "Detention" and Jacob Krupnick's feature-length music video "Girl Walk//All Day" - operate on the opposite assumption; that their usage of pop culture sources finds audiences second-hand, and in doing so ensure their unique re-appropriation attains an euphoric fusion overall.

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Larry Sanders: Changing television and changing lives

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August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the third and final part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here and Part 2 (The show behind the show) is here.

A related article about Bob Odenkirk and his characters, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman (on "Breaking Bad"), is here.

by Edward Copeland

"It was an amazing experience," said Jeffrey Tambor. "I come from the theater and it was very, very much approached like theater. It was rehearsed and Garry took a long, long time in casting and putting that particular unit together." In a phone interview, Tambor talked about how Garry Shandling and his behind-the-scenes team selected the performers to play the characters, regulars and guest stars, on "The Larry Sanders Show" when it debuted 20 years ago. Shandling chose well throughout the series' run and -- from the veteran to the novice, the theater-trained acting teacher and character actor to the comedy troupe star in his most subtle role -- they all tend to feel the way Tambor does: "It changed my career. It changed my life."

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Good, bad or mediocre, there's still lots to talk about

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"If you think this movie is mediocre, why have you written so much about it?" That's a comment I sometimes get -- and although I understand where it's coming from, I don't think it makes sense if you stop to think about it for two seconds. I usually respond by saying that I don't see any contradiction there at all. Who hasn't encountered a movie that, afterwards, is more interesting to talk about than it was to actually sit through? Who would argue that the only movies worth analyzing and arguing about are those you think are successful? When I was 18, one of my college film professors told us something I've never forgotten -- that you can often learn as much (or more) about film from a bad movie as you can from a good one.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky raises this same issue in a round-table conversation on "The Dark Knight Rises" at MUBI.com that takes a course similar to the ones we've been having here at Scanners:

... I'd be lying if I said that I don't derive pleasure from trying to crack it and figure out what exactly makes it frustrating or dull. You gotta give credit where credit is due: even when Nolan makes a mediocre film... it's at least fun to talk about. You can't say that about many filmmakers -- but, then again, it would be even better if the movie was as fun to watch as it is to discuss.

My feelings precisely. One more thing, though, before I get back to this MUBI confab, and that's the matter of tone and attribution of motive -- not to the movie or the characters in it, but to those who take part in the discussion. First, as I said previously, I have nothing worth adding to what's already been written about the shootings in Aurora, CO -- and I've avoided reading most of it because, as Dave Cullen wrote in last Sunday's New York Times, almost everything we think we know about the killer and even the circumstances of the incident itself, is wrong.

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What is a "rape joke," anyway?

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What's worse than finding a hair in your soup? Being raped.* -- @AntiJokeApple, June 2, 2012

"I was raped by a doctor... which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl..." -- Sarah Silverman, "Jesus Is Magic" (2005)

Seriously, what is a rape joke, why do you tell one, and how do you apologize for one? I empathize with comedians who get up on stage, alone, and develop new material, often without knowing where their minds and mouths are going to take them (or their audience). It's a semi-disciplined, stream-of-consciousness high-wire act without a net, and as any comic will tell you, they frequently fall. (See Patton Oswalt's remembrance of a bad performance in the early 1990s and the "Magical Black Man" who haunted and helped him.) But no matter what they say or do, they're still accountable for saying or doing it -- and, more than ever before (thanks to blogs and social media and video smartphones), they are held publicly accountable. So, when I heard that Daniel Tosh of Comedy Central's top-rated "Tosh .0," was in hot water for telling a "rape joke," the first thing I wanted to know was: What was the joke? That has to be where it all starts, don't you think? What did he actually say?

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#84 October 12, 2011

Marie writes: Behold an extraordinary collection of Steampunk characters, engines and vehicles created by Belgian artist Stephane Halleux. Of all the artists currently working in the genre, I think none surpass the sheer quality and detail to be found in his wonderful, whimsical pieces...

Left to right: Little Flying Civil, Beauty Machine, Le Rouleur de Patin(click images to enlarge)

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#53 March 9, 2011

Marie writes: every once in a while, you'll stumble upon something truly extraordinary. And when you don't, if you're lucky, you have pals like Siri Arnet who do - and share what they find; smile."Using knives, tweezers and surgical tools, Brian Dettmer carves one page at a time. Nothing inside the out-of-date encyclopedias, medical journals, illustration books, or dictionaries is relocated or implanted, only removed. Dettmer manipulates the pages and spines to form the shape of his sculptures. He also folds, bends, rolls, and stacks multiple books to create completely original sculptural forms.""My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book's internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception," he says. - mymodernmet

[click images to enlarge]

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Space-age brain freeze

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Q. I've just read your review for "Sunshine" (2007), and I'm confused. You say that according to Isaac Asimov, the human body can survive in the cold vacuum of space for longer than I might think. I was under the impression that, in space, a naked human would initially freeze to death, and then summarily explode.

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Chris Rock: Blacks more electable than retarded

My problem with Chris Rock (who belongs with Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia in the category of Comics I Don't Think are Funny) is that he too often fails to base his shtick on accurate or meaningful observations. It's just dumb shtick, and he'll say anything (no matter how pointless) to get a laugh. It's all about his hacky delivery rhythms -- Catskills via Brooklyn. What he says hardly matters as long as he sounds like he's being funny. He could be speaking Ancient Greek and he hits you so hard you'd still know exactly where you're supposed to laugh, whether it's funny or not.

Take the following, from his "SNL" appearance to promote his already-vanished movie, "I Think I Love My Wife." Most of his jokes are older than John McCain (and in the '80s these same jokes were told about Reagan and in the '90s about Bob Dole). His stuff about Giuliani being good in a crisis is fine, but the pit bull analogy is stretched to the point of desperation.

Then Rock sets up the race for the Democratic nomination: "Everybody's saying the same thing: Hillary or Obama? A black man or a white woman? It's so hard to make up my mind! Like it's a suffering contest. And even if it was, how can you compare the suffering of a white woman to the suffering of a black man?" I don't know, Chris. How can you? And who's making the comparison? Well, Rock is: "I mean, white women burned their bras. Black men were burned alive!" Lame set-up, phony-outrageous non-sequitur punchline. That's Rock in a nutshell. (This might have been funny, in a Colbert-esque way, if Rock had been in character as Nat X. Does Rock know the difference? If not, what's the point? Is anybody saying Hillary is more oppressed than Obama? It might have worked if Rock had cited an example that he could riff on.)

The line about nobody hating white women as much as white women do is pretty good. Women are certainly Hillary's main problem. And the crack about how blacks would elect Halle Berry for half a term was kind of clever, but the audience was still laughing at the idea that black voters would elect OJ.

I'd love to know what would happen if someone else -- say, Joseph Biden or Hillary or Obama -- were to toss off this line: "Is America ready for a black president? I say: Why not? We just had a retarded one!" Hey, folks: What the hell -- even black politicians are better than retarded ones, right? I wish I could say that Rock is an articulate comedian. Or an insightful one. Or a funny one. But I don't think he is. Does anyone want to explain if/why they think this monologue is funny?

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