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Goodbye to Language

Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.

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The Great Invisible

Winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, the film is strongest when it focuses on the micro rather than the macro. How the…

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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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Wild Things, Take 2

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In his groovy new iPhone app movie guide, my friend Leonard Maltin writes that "Where the Wild Things Are" "puts me in an awkward situation as someone who is supposed to deliver a clear-cut opinion of a film: I didn't love it, yet there are passages in it that are so magical I don't think I'll ever forget them." I'm with you there, Leonard. And because the lively discussion from my previous post about the movie, "Where the Mopey Things Are," has been so stimulating, I thought I'd offer excerpts from two impressive reviews -- one positive and one negative -- with which I (almost) completely agree. That is to say, I can absolutely see how people might come down on one side or the other, but I remain ambivalently in-between.

First, from Ty Burr at the Boston Globe:

Let's dispense with the preliminaries: What do the experts think of "Where the Wild Things Are''? As the end credits rolled, my 12-year-old daughter and her bestest friend turned to me with faces like the twin masks of comedy and tragedy on a Broadway playbill. One girl's eyes were wet with tears of sadness and profound joy; "I loved it,'' she sighed. The other looked as if someone had stuck an egg-beater in her ear and scrambled her brains. "That is not a children's movie,'' she growled.

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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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Wild Things of Oz

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If there's a (horror) movie that seems to exist outside of film history it's the strange case of "The Wizard of Oz," newly released in a 70th anniversary package on DVD and Blu-ray. It's credited to director Victor Fleming, whose directorial stamp (if not his signature) was also emblazoned on another 1939 release, "Gone With the Wind." "Oz" is one of the first "scary movies" many boomer and post-boomer kids ever saw (even before exposure to the truly terrifying Disney versions of "Bambi" or "Dumbo" -- or, for today's kiddies, "Saw" and "Hostel" and "Irreversible"), and remains a formative childhood experience for millions. (Forget the flying monkeys; I was terrified by the tornado, then shocked and traumatized by the sadistic use of sarcasm, which I'd never encountered in a movie before, when the Wicked Witch mocks Dorothy's desperate cries for her surrogate mother: "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!") In a Newsweek interview, Dave Eggers (co-writer of Spike Jonze's film of Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are") says that "Oz" is his daughter's favorite movie and that her favorite part is the bleak, sepia-toned beginning set in Kansas. Sendak responds:

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Can a movie ruin a good review?

Here's a question for you: Can a movie ruin a good review? Conversely, can a review actually improve upon a movie? Sure, good criticism (whether positive or negative) should encourage you to see a film in new ways you may not have recognized before. Just as cinema itself is a way of looking at the world through someone else's eyes, criticism is a way of looking at movies through someone else's eyes. Yet, the movies themselves don't change -- only our perceptions of them (we'll put aside William Friedkin's "French Connection" Blu-ray for the moment). On the one hand, a piece of film criticism is kind of like an adaptation. It offers an interpretation of the original, but does not replace it. Other "versions" still exist, just as they always did.

I can think of several examples of criticism that I think is superior to the work being criticized, in the sense that the critic is writing about an idealized version of what's on the screen -- the movie we might wish was on the screen, rather than (or in addition to) the one that's actually there. A clarification: This has nothing to do with whether the critic is divining the filmmaker's intentions or not. It has everything to do with what the critic is seeing in, and getting out of, the film.

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410 East Washington Street

I was born at the center of the universe, and have had good fortune for all of my days. The center was located at the corner of Washington and Maple streets in Urbana, Illinois, a two-bedroom white stucco house with green canvas awnings, evergreens and geraniums in front and a white picket fence enclosing the back yard. Hollyhocks clustered thickly by the fence. There was a barbeque grill back there made by my father with stone and mortar, a dime embedded in its smokestack to mark the year of its completion.

There was a mountain ash tree in the front yard, and three more down the parking on the side of the house. These remarkable trees had white bark that could be peeled loose, and their branches were weighed down by clusters of red-orange berries. "People are always driving up and asking me about those trees," my father said. He had planted them himself, and they were the only ones in town--perhaps in the world. They needed watering in the summertime, which he did by placing five-gallon cans under them with small holes drilled in their bottoms. These I carefully filled with the garden hose from the back yard, while making rainbow sprays over the grass around.

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Ebertfest in Exile

April 24, 2008 -- On Wednesday morning I became seduced by the idea that I would, after all, somehow turn up at the festival. I would get there by ambulance, limo, MediVan, who knows what? But at the present I can't take a step with my fractured hip, so it would have taken two physical therapists to essentially haul me around. Thinking about it overnight, I decided it would be a great gesture to turn up and wave to my friends, but at what cost of pain and medical risk? The logistics just didn't add up. So while the festival unwinds in Urbana-Champaign, I will continue therapy at this end.

Chaz told me lots of people with experience of hip injuries advised her a six-hour round trip by whatever means would likely be very painful. (Flashback to old Trevor Howard story: "Right you are, old chap! Bloody difficult! Damned painful! No sense in my going!")

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Movie Answer Man (08/10/2003)

Q. In your "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" review, you mentioned that I was opening a pirate store. We actually opened the store 14 months ago. It's doing well, too. Pays the rent on our nonprofit space, oddly enough. Only in San Francisco. We sell about 100 eyepatches a week. We sell hooks, striped socks, treasure chests in all sizes, lard, planks (by the foot), peglegs (sized to fit)--anything you could want, though we don't sell cannonballs anymore. Our supplier was good, but they kill you on the shipping. (Dave Eggers, San Francisco)

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