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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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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.

#214 April 16, 2014

Sheila writes: It was announced last week that the statue of Roger Ebert (created by artist Rick Harney) will be unveiled in a ceremony during the second day of Ebertfest, Thursday, April 24, at 12 p.m. The statue will live outside the famed Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois. You can read more about the statue here, as well as further details about the ceremony. There is also information there about how you can help fund the sculpture.

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Dario Argento on "Dracula" and Horror

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If you were to ask any horror film fanatic worth his or her salt to name some of their all-time genre favorites, it is almost certain that the ensuing lists would contain a couple of titles from legendary Italian director Dario Argento. Combining bizarre narratives that aren't so much conventional stories as they are waking nightmares in which practically anything can happen and elaborately conceived and executed set-pieces that marry together a lush visual style and unheard-of levels of on-screen brutality, Argento has created some of the most gruesomely gorgeous tales of terror ever filmed—the most notable being "Deep Red," "Tenebrae," "Opera," "The Stendhal Syndrome" and his landmark supernatural "Three Mothers" trilogy of "Suspiria," "Inferno" and "Mother of Tears"—and he has proven to be a strong influence on subsequent generations of horror filmmakers as well. In addition, he should also be noted for being the father of Asia Argento, one of the most striking actresses working today and with whom he has collaborated with several times over the years. His latest film is "Dracula 3D," his take on the Bram Stoker warhorse, and to be perfectly honest, it is not one of his better efforts. Although stronger than such recent misfires as "The Card Player" and "Giallo," it is a disappointingly bland reworking of familiar material that adds plenty of nudity and violence to the mix but which never quite makes the case for its existence. And yet, there are some worthwhile elements on it here and there for those willing to make the effort.To promote "Dracula 3D," which has slowly begun opening in theaters throughout the country and which is currently also playing as a VOD title on many cable systems, Argento has come to America—only a couple of days after completing a staging of Verdi's opera "Macbeth"—to promote the film. During a stop in Chicago, where the film was shown as a special presentation of the Chicago International Film Festival, I was privileged to get to sit down and talk with a man that I consider to be one of my favorite directors. Surprisingly soft-spoken, he talked in slightly broken English (which was nevertheless better than my Italian) about the film, working with 3D and his daughter and his thoughts on the much-rumored remake of "Suspiria" that has been hinted at for the last several years.Do you remember the first film that you ever saw or, barring that, the first one to have a real impact on you? The first movie I ever saw, I do not remember. I was very young and I was on vacation with my family and there was a retrospective of old films and one of them was "The Phantom of the Opera" with Claude Rains that was in color. It was something very important for my career because I began to follow these stories that were morbid. How did the idea of doing a screen version of "Dracula" come about? I had wanted to do "Dracula" many years ago but I could not find the way into it. Now we have the new technology of 3D and that changed my mind about doing this. It is possible to represent "Dracula" in a new way that looked more natural. With the depth, something changes and the audience feels as though they have been pushed inside the screen. In the past, you have dealt with supernatural forms of horror in the "Three Mothers" trilogy—"Suspiria," "Inferno" and "Mother of Tears"—and "Phenonema" but in those films, you were the sole creator of their mythos and could do anything that you wanted. What was it like to do a supernatural-themed story like "Dracula" in which the basic rules have already been well-established in the minds of the audience? Everything involving vampires now comes from something that Bram Stoker wrote in his book—everything about vampires comes from this novel. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. I think the Hammer films were very good and very scary. I remembered them very well and I used them as an inspiration. In adapting the story, the basic plot is the same but, like most people who have tackled it in the past, you have thrown some new ideas into the mix as well, such as the townspeople being in overt collusion with Dracula in exchange for his financial aid and Dracula's transformations into a wide variety of animals and insects, including the already infamous moment where he transforms into a giant praying mantis. For Dracula, it is possible to change into a bat or a wolf, so why not a spider or a mantis or any creature? Can you talk about the visual strategy for the film that you devised with cinematographer and longtime collaborator Luciano Tovoli? You mentioned the Hammer films earlier and the look of your film definitely falls in line with their distinct stylings. Before shooting, I had an idea about the color because 3D requires it to be brighter than usual and I asked Tovoli, who I had worked with on "Suspiria," to work with me on this project. We used the new technology of the Arriflex, which is what they used on "Hugo Cabret," and it really allows you to see the distance and it creates something that is magic. I did not want the stupid effects like object coming off of the screen into the audience—those are easy and they are stupid. By being able to see the distance inside, the audience feels like they are in the screen with the actors and that makes it more interesting. Did working in 3D  for the first time require any significant shift in your directorial approach or did you look at it as just another tool? No, the work is the same. Of course, I needed to plan on the distances because in 2D, those things do not exist. I remembered watching the film from Alfred Hitchcock, "Dial M for Murder," and he shot almost all of that movie in one room. There was a genius in what Hitchcock did by manipulating things in that room so that you could see the distances between things like the tables and the vases because of how he used perspective. This is, I believe, the fifth film that you have directed that has featured your daughter, Asia, in the cast, following "Trauma," "The Stendhal Syndrome," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Mother of Tears." How has the working relationship between the two of you developed over the years, especially since she has become a director of note herself with "Scarlet Diva" and "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things"? Nowadays, she is more cautious about her work that she was before because she now understands the work of the director. We speak a lot during the shooting about the work but when we are shooting, we are not talking as father and daughter—it is all professional. We speak about the work—she works into the night about the next day's work—and it is a marvelous experience to work with her. I am so happy about it. How did the casting of some of the other roles comes about, such as Thomas Kretschmann, whom you used in the past as the psycho in "The Stendhal Syndrome," as Dracula and cult icon Rutger Hauer as vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing? Rutger Hauer is marvelous—he is a monument of the cinema and he has the right characteristics. In the Bram Stoker book, the character of Van Helsing is Dutch and he, of course, is really Dutch. With Kretschmann, he has a real European face that is right for Dracula. We worked together before and when I asked him, he said that it was his dream to play Dracula. As an undisputed legend in the annals of horror filmmaking, what are your thoughts on the state of the genre today? Are there any films or filmmakers that particularly interest you or do you simply avoid it altogether? I don't see too many of them. Some films are good—I have liked some of the ones from France and Spain and South Korea. Do you have any particular favorites amongst your own body of work? All of them are important to me, you know? Maybe something like "Suspiria" or "Deep Red" or "Opera" or even "Phenomena." You are, of course, justly famous for creating cinematic set-pieces that combine incredible visual technique and extreme gore into tableaus that are both beautiful and brutal in equal measure. Looking back, do you think there has ever been a case in which you feel that you may have gone too far in terms of bloodshed in your efforts to shock and scare viewers? It is always for the story. The stories need those scenes and that is why I do that. You just completed a staging of Verdi's "Macbeth"—the very same opera at the heart of your film "Opera"—which I believe was your first full-blown stage creation. What was that experience like? It was just two days before I came here that I finished the opera. It was very good work, working with the singers and the staging. "Macbeth" is one of the best operas ever and doing it was a great experience. I added some things to the opera based from my experience on the movie—such as some of the special effects and bits of film—to make it new and interesting. It was a very good work and a very good experience. Are you working on any new film projects right now? No. I spent a lot of time doing the opera and for the moment, I do not have any ideas. Lastly, there has been talk in the last few years of a possible remake of "Suspiria"—David Gordon Green, of all people, was connected to it for a while. What are your thoughts on this project and the possibility of seeing your own work being remade by others?I hope it does not get made. Nobody called me. Nobody sent me a script. Nobody asked me my opinion about. I hope they do not do it.

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Thumbnails 8/9/2013

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Woody Allen speaks; confessions of a white Southern Christian racist; YouTube cofounders launch new video service; Pixar discovers animal rights; David Gordon Green a go-go; druglord Rafael Caro Quntero released from prison; trailer for Spike Jonze's new movie.

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#173 June 26, 2013

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.

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#165 May 1, 2013

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Khan has sent us the following awesome find, courtesy of a pal in Belgium who'd first shared it with her. "Got Muck?" was filmed by diver Khaled Sultani (Emirates Diving Association's (EDA) in the Lembeh Strait, off the island coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Camera: Sony Cx550 using Light & Motion housing and sola lights. Song: "man with the movie camera" by cinematic orchestra.

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The Loving Story: A romantic interracial landmark

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"The Loving Story" premieres on Valentine's Day, February 14, at 9 p.m. on HBO (check local listings), and is available via HBO On Demand and HBO Go thereafter.

"The Loving Story" is as modest and taciturn as its subject, an interracial couple who, in 1958 rural Central Point, Virginia, just wanted to be left alone. For the most part, they were, and that was the problem as much as it was their fervent wish. When the local sheriff busted into their bedroom at 4 am and hauled them off to jail for violating the Racial Integrity Act, there was no national audience, in contrast to the fire hosings, bombings and other acts of racist terror that couldn't help but make the evening news at the time. The whole world was not watching. It's hard to fathom why after seeing the luminous 16mm footage uncovered in "The Loving Story." Documenting many pivotal moments in the case, it adds a dash of something rarely seen in the grand narrative of the American Civil Rights struggle: romance.

In the footage and iconic photographs, the Lovings appear to be deeply in love. Richard is a silent, barrel-chested Ed Harris lookalike; Mildred is shy and beautiful, the essence of poised intelligence. How could a story this simple and universal, with two photogenic romantic leads captured in a Life magazine feature, get lost in the Civil Rights shuffle?

The Loving case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, and all along the way, the couple insisted upon discretion and privacy. Only a small documentary crew -- filmmaker Hope Ryden and cinematographer Abbot Mills -- gained access to their home, but they made the most of it. The photography is as discreet but watchful as Mildred herself. When she, well, lovingly buckles her little daughter's suede shoe as they prepare for an outing, the camera isolates the mother's slender brown arm steadying her child's pale leg. In the film's context, as assembled by producer-director Nancy Buirski, moments like this one simply cry out, "Why on earth would a decent person want to disrupt this beautiful life?"

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#92 December 7, 2011

Marie writes: Belgium club member Koen Van Loocke has submitted the following and it's so awesome, I have no words. But first, background..The Cinematic Orchestra is led by composer/programmer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Swinscoe, who formed his first group "Crabladder" in 1990 while a Fine Arts student at Cardiff College. The group's fusion of jazz and hardcore punk elements with experimental rhythms, inspired Swinscoe to further explore the musical possibilites and by the time the group disbanded in the mid-'90s, he was playing DJ at various clubs and pirate radio stations in and around London.

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#75 August 10, 2011

Marie writes: I attended three different elementary schools; St. Peter's, Our Lady of Mercy (which was anything but) and finally St. Micheal's; where I met my Canadian-Italian chum, Marta Chiavacci (key-a-vah-chee) who was born here to Italian immigrants. We lost touch after high school, moving in different directions til in the wake of a trip to Venice and eager to practice my bad Italian and bore friends with tales of my travels abroad, I sought her out again.We've kept in touch ever since, meeting whenever schedules permit; Marta traveling more than most (she's a wine Sommelier) living partly in Lucca, Italy, and happily in sin with her significant other, the great Francesco. I saw her recently and took photos so that I might show and tell, in here. For of all the friends I have, she's the most different from myself; the contrast between us, a never-ending source of delight. Besides, it was a nice afternoon in Vancouver and her condo has a view of False Creek...smile...

(click images to enlarge)

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#38 November 24, 2010

Marie writes: The local Circle Craft Co-operative features the work of hundreds of craftspeople from across British Columbia and each year, a Christmas Market is held downtown at the Vancouver Convention Centre to help sell and promote the work they produce. My friend and I recently attended the 37th Christmas Market and where I spotted these utterly delightful handmade fabric monsters by Diane Perry of "Monster Lab" - one of the artist studios located on Salt Spring Island near Washington State...it's the eyes... they follow you. :-)

(click to enlarge)

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Wes Anderson scavenger hunt: Truffaut, Welles, Peanuts...

Those who doubt how thoroughly the sensibilities of the French New Wave have been absorbed into the work of today's filmmakers (see discussion of the recently posted Opening Shot for Truffaut's "The 400 Blows") should check out Matt Zoller Seitz's series of video exploring the "scavenger-hunt" sensibility of Wes Anderson, "The Substance of Style," at Moving Image Source. Part 1 (of five) has been posted, with the rest to follow over the first week in April.

Matt -- as writer, editor and narrator -- not only compares images that Anderson has lovingly quoted and reinterpreted from the works of Francois Truffaut, Orson Welles and Charles Schultz (and Bill Melendez, director of the Peanuts television specials), but teases out subtler influences at play in Anderson's work -- his features ("Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums," "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," "The Darjeeling Limited), shorts and commercials, including his famous American Express ad based on the Opening Shot of Truffaut's "Day for Night." (Coming in Part 2: Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester and Mike Nichols.) Says Matt:

Anderson draws much inspiration from French New Wave filmmakers, including Jean-Luc Godard, a clear influence on his cutting, and Louis Malle, whose "Murmur of the Heart" heavily influenced the tone of all his films. But towering over the rest is François Truffaut, an impresario in the Welles tradition, but a warmer and more earthbound auteur.

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The new great American director

Ramin Bahrani is the new great American director. After three films, each a master work, he has established himself as a gifted, confident filmmaker with ideas that involve who and where we are at this time. His films pay great attention to ordinary lives that are not so ordinary at all. His subjects so far have been immigrants working hard to make a living in America. His fourth film, now in preparation, will be a Western. His hero will be named Tom. Well, he couldn't very well be named Huckleberry.

The Old West, too, was a land of immigrants, many of them speaking no English. But Bahrani never refers to his characters as immigrants. They are new Americans, climbing the lower rungs of the economic ladder. There is the Pakistani in "Man Push Cart," who operates a coffee-and-bagel wagon in Manhattan. The Latino kid in "Chop Shop," surviving in a vast auto parts bazaar in the shadow of Shea Stadium. The taxi driver from Senegal in "Goodbye Solo," who works long hours in Winston-Salem, N.C. ["Solo" opens March 27 in Chicago and New York.] These people are not grim and depressed, but hopeful when they have little to be hopeful about. They aren't walking around angry. Wounded, sometimes. They plan to prevail.

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Fanboys movie is idiotic, but real fanboys not so much

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Q. Why has no acclaim gone to David Kross, who brilliantly played the young Michael Berg in "The Reader"? The courtroom scene when he realizes what Hanna has done, tears streaming down his face, is heartbreaking. Yet he's received virtually no mention. It's as if Kate Winslet did the movie by herself. She was great, [yet] there is no doubt this young man was so moving and went through so many emotions onscreen but he has not once been mentioned.

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Pineapple Extension: "You guys were in a car chase?!"

If there's any doubt in your mind (and I can't imagine why there would be) that "Pineapple Express" is a head trip movie about stoners imagining themselves the heroes of a movie they'd like to see, the final morning-after breakfast-and-bonding scene (not to mention the Robert Palmer "Woke up laughing" snippet followed by the Huey Lewis song over the end credits) drives it home like Bubby. The "Extended Version" now on DVD and Blu-ray goes even further. The guys re-live their movie, summing up what they've shared, and what they've learned.

Check out the clip above (WARNING -- spoilers and R-rated language), and then continue below for the Huey Lewis plot-synopsis lyrics. Director David Gordon Green reportedly asked just three things: 1) that it sound like his '80s stuff; 2) that it contain repeated mentions of the movie title; and 3) that it contain something like a plot synopsis. I smell Oscar! (In a good way...)

P.S. Hey, man, have you ever played "Dark Side of the Moon" at the same time as "The Wizard of Oz"... ?

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'Death' be not so good. Still.

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Q. As you said yourself, "The Clone Wars" is "basically just a 98-minute trailer for the autumn launch of a new series on the Cartoon Network." From a review standpoint, does it not matter in the least that this "movie" is in all truth three Saturday morning cartoon episodes shown back to back? Is there no regard for whether the movie achieves what it desires for its target audience, children?

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CIFF: All our capsule reviews

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UPDATED 10/16: Here are brief reviews of all the Chicago Film Festival movies we have seen, in alphabetical order, written by Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert. More will be added as we view them. For a full CIFF schedule, go to www.chicagofilmfestival.com or call (312) 332-FILM.

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Hollywood lip smackdown!

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Q. A blogger named Brian at takes issue with your remarks about Paul Greengrass' long takes in "The Bourne Ultimatum," writing: "I don't recall a single take in this movie that was more than about three seconds long. Either Greengrass really does a spectacular job of not 'calling attention' to those long takes, or Ebert saw a different movie. But it's very strange, no matter what." (From goneelsewhere.wordpress.com:) Who's right?

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Mourning (and assessing) Bergman

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Some of the best things I've read about Ingmar Bergman's place in cinema, written since his death (UPDATED 8/01/07):

E-mails to Roger Ebert from filmmakers and writers including David Mamet, Paul Schrader, Sally Potter, Haskell Wexler, Paul Theroux, Richard Linklater, Gregory Nava, Studs Terkel, David Bordwell, David Gordon Green, Paul Cox...

Gregory Nava: This was not the escapist fare of Hollywood, or the pat spirituality of Biblical epic films where God spoke in hallowed tones from a burning bush. With Bergman, God was a spider that lived in the upstairs closet! A shocking and necessary jolt to my Catholic sensibilities. Yes, these films changed me forever -- they cemented my dream to become a filmmaker because if film could do this -- then surely it was the greatest art form of our time. I will never forget the first time I saw the horses standing in the surf against a setting sun, and death with his black cape raised approaching the world-weary knight. "I hope I never get so old I get religious." -- Ingmar Bergman

Peter Rainer, Los Angeles Times: He worked out of his deepest passions and, for many of us, this made the experience of watching his films seem almost surgically invasive. He pulled us into his secret torments. Looking at "The Seventh Seal" or "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers," it's easy to imagine that Bergman, who died Monday, was the most private of film artists, and yet, no matter how far removed the circumstances of his life may have been from ours, he made his anguish our own.

Another way to put this is that Bergman -- despite the high-toned metaphysics that overlays many, though not all, of his greatest films -- was a showman first and a Deep Thinker second. His philosophical odysseys might have been epoxied to matters of Life and Death, of God and Man, but this most sophisticated of filmmakers had an inherently childlike core. He wanted to startle us as he himself had been startled. He wanted us to feel his terrors in our bones. A case could be made that Bergman was, in the most voluminous sense, the greatest of all horror movie directors.

"If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up!" -- Bergman actor Max von Sydow, in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters"

View image Woody Allen's "Love and Death": A Bergman (and Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy...) parody from someone who loved Bergman.

Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com: What he saw as God’s refusal to intervene in the suffering on earth was the subject of his 1961-63 Silence of God Trilogy, “Through a Glass Darkly,” “Winter Light” (a pitiless film in which a clergyman torments himself about the possibility of nuclear annihilation) and “The Silence.” In his masterpiece “Persona,” (1967), an actress (Liv Ullmann) sees a television image of a monk burning himself in Vietnam, and she stops speaking. Sent to a country retreat with a nurse (Bibi Andersson), she works a speechless alchemy on her, leading to a striking image when their two faces seem to blend.

So great was the tension in that film that Bergman made it appear to catch in the projector and burn. Then, from a black screen, the film slowly rebuilt itself, beginning with crude images from the first days of the cinema. These images were suggested by a child’s cinematograph which his brother received as a present; so envious was Ingmar that he traded his brother for it, giving up his precious horde of 100 tin soldiers.

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