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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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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.

#186 September 25, 2013

Sheila writes: Todd Sanders is a self-taught neon sign artist. Roadhouse Relics, the gallery of his work in Austin, Texas, is filled with his beautiful vintage-inspired signs. His designs are all hand-drawn. He collects old magazines from the 1920s, 1930s, etc., to get inspiration for his neon signs. He does custom signs as well. You can check out Sanders' work, bio, and press kit at Roadhouse Relics. Neon brings up all kinds of automatic images and associations: seedy hotels, burlesque joints, cocktail bars. His signs evoke those images, but much more. For instance, look at his beautiful "Fireflies In a Mason Jar".

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Mamet's screenwriting career, the hours after John F. Kennedy's assassination in detail, why creatives are good for the economy, how Facebook keeps you from quitting, the political economy of zombies.

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#108 March 28, 2012

Marie writes: As you know, I tend to avoid filling the Newsletter with cute animal photos - but that's only because a little goes a long way and it's easy to overdose. Indeed; many an otherwise healthy mind has been wiped clean of any trace of dark humor after staring too long at puppies and kittens. That said, every now and again I think it's safe to look at adorable images like this...

(click to enlarge)

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#99 January 25, 2012

Marie writes: many simply know her as the girl with the black helmet. Mary Louise Brooks (1906 - 1985), aka Louise Brooks, an American dancer, model, showgirl and silent film actress famous for her bobbed haircut and sex appeal. To cinefiles, she's best remembered for her three starring roles in Pandora's Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) directed by G. W. Pabst, and Prix de Beauté (1930) by Augusto Genina. She starred in 17 silent films (many lost) and later authored a memoir, Lulu in Hollywood."She regards us from the screen as if the screen were not there; she casts away the artifice of film and invites us to play with her." - Roger, from his review of the silent classic Pandor's Box.

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The best documentaries of 2011

Why not fold documentaries into my list of the "Best Films of 2011?" After all, a movie is a movie, right? Yes, and some years I've thrown them all into the same mixture. But all of these year-end Best lists serve one useful purpose: They tell you about good movies you may not have seen or heard about. The more films on my list that aren't on yours, the better job I've done.

That's particularly true were you to depend on the "short list" released by the Academy's Documentary Branch of 15 films they deem eligible for nomination. The branch has been through turmoil in the past and its procedures were "reformed" at one point. But this year it has made a particularly scandalous sin of

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The Boulevard of Broken Manhood

May Contain Spoilers

I have long had trouble enjoying live sporting events, concerts, and stage shows for three reasons. First, I would tire from watching the show from one single angle. Conditioned by movies, I need the variety of angles, the intimacy of close-ups and the sweep of tracking shots. Second, live events will never have the polish of a polished movie. And, third, (more applicable to large stage shows) the dialogue is always too enunciated and thus distant, even when it is "realistic."

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#14 June 9, 2010

From the Grand Poobah: Our Far-Flung Correspondent Gerardo Valero writes: During Ebertfest, Monica and I were able to shoot a few videos which I downloaded in you tube and which I think you all may enjoy. Since she was the one to shoot most of the panel videos; they mostly consist of my own participation but there's plenty of stuff for everybody (our multiple presentations, dinner at the Green Room and what have you) I apologize in advance for the quality of the material. I tell Monica she would be fired from filming a Bourne movie because her cinematography is too shaky. Go HERE to see all the videos.Marie writes: this one is my favorite!  Roger and Chaz at Stake n' Shake!

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How did Ricky Jay DO that?

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I went to see Ricky Jay's new show, "Rogue's Gallery," at the Royal George. I've seen him more than once before, so I was prepared for an astonishing show. He's one of the great card manipulators of all time, and he outdid himself.

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Parrot asks, "What'd the frozen turkey want?"

A joke should have the perfection of a haiku. Not one extra word. No wrong words. It should seem to have been discovered in its absolute form rather than created. The weight of the meaning should be at the end. The earlier words should prepare for the shift of the meaning. The ending must have absolute finality. It should present a world view only revealed at the last moment. Like knife-throwing, joke-telling should never be practiced except by experts.

For many laymen, a joke is a heavenly gift allowing them to monopolize your attention although they lack all ability as an entertainer. You can tell this because they start off grinning and grin the whole way through. They're so pleased with themselves. Their grins are telling you they're funny and their joke is funny. The expert knows not to betray the slightest emotion. The expert is reciting a fact. There is nothing to be done about it. The fact insists on a world that is different than you thought. The fact is surprising and ironic. It is also surprising--you mustn't see it coming. That's why the teller should not grin. His face shouldn't tell you it's coming. If the joke is also vulgar, so much the better, but it must never exist for the sake of vulgarity. That's why "The Aristocrats" is not only the most offensive joke in the world, but also, in the wrong hands, the most boring.

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Roger's little rule book

We critics can't be too careful. Employers are eager to replace us with Celeb Info-Nuggets that will pimp to the mouth-breathers, who underline the words with their index fingers whilst they watch television. Any editor who thinks drugged insta-stars and the tragic Amy Winehouse are headline news ought to be editing the graffiti on playground walls. As the senior newspaper guy still hanging onto a job, I think the task of outlining enduring ethical ground rules falls upon me.

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Hillary and Bill: The movie

I woke up at about 3:30 a.m. and went online to see if Obama had pulled a victory out of Indiana. He had narrowed Clinton's head to two points by midnight and later added a few more votes, but the story was basically about the same: Clinton's winning margin was so small that it didn't much count, and Obama would be the likely Presidential nominee. Then I started wondering, in the vaporous midnight hours, about how you could make a movie of this primary campaign.

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Glengarry Bear Stearns

View image The politics of "Glengarry Glen Ross" in a nutshell.

Although I'm still reeling from the shocking revelation that David Mamet once considered himself a liberal ("David Mamet says he is not a brain-dead liberal anymore"), I find myself looking forward to his next (screen-)play more than ever, if only to see if I can detect an interest in ideological politics that I never noticed in his work before.

The week of his much-publicized announcement, history presented him with a perfect subject for a future writing project: the collapse of the investment banking film Bear Stearns and the last-minute bailout by the Federal Reserve, allowing it to merge with JP Morgan Chase. What a dilemma for free-marketeers! This could make for great drama in Mamet's hands. Imagine a "Glengarry Glen Ross" in which Mitch and Murray are rescued from bankruptcy by the intervention of the federal government.

Mamet writes: "...a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism."

And: "[William Allen] White knew that people need both to get ahead and to get along, and that they're always working at one or the other, and that government should most probably stay out of the way and let them get on with it."

And: "... I began to question my hatred for 'the Corporations'—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live."

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David Mamet says he's not a brain-dead liberal anymore

View image David Mamet. What is "liberal," what is conservative? What is "brain-dead" and what is "knee-jerk"?

The writer of " Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Wag the Dog," the writer-director of "House of Games," "Homicide" and "Oleanna," reveals in the Village Voice that he doesn't think people are "basically good at heart" -- a belief he ascribes to liberalism. See "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'." As Austin Powers said of Liberace's homosexuality: Wow, I didn't see that one coming.

OK, Mamet wrote the piece to be provocative, and I suppose it is, if only because... well, I would wager that far more people fit Mamet's definition of "brain-dead" than might fit his definitions of "liberal," "conservative," "moderate," "independent," "libertarian," etc., put together. His work had not previously led me to think of him as a "bleeding heart" or "brain-dead," but there you go: Trust the art, not the artist. (Who knew? "Oleanna" was liberal!) Mamet writes: ... I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

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'Juno' is bad because the people who made it are too old? Ellen Page too?!

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Q I have been following the debate about the clever dialogue in "Juno" and there are two things I don't understand: (1) Why do people continue to expect every film they see to be a flawless reflection of reality when no film, not even a documentary, could ever accomplish such a feat? Isn't one of the pleasures of going to the movies is seeing things we don't usually see in the real world? (2) Why aren't more people refreshed that a film has gone against the grain by creating characters more intelligent than real people, as opposed to the Hollywood norm of creating characters who are considerably dumber and more shallow than real people? Adam Breckenridge, Edmond, Okla.

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Scorsese does Hitchcock

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Q. My wife and I saw "Awake" with some friends the other night. I knew nothing about the movie, and wasn't thrilled when I heard it was a thriller with Jessica Alba. I figured it would be a typical superficial piece of garbage aimed at teenagers. I went anyway to be with my wife. I was very pleasantly surprised. I liked that the twists were delivered with subtlety, and I wasn't able to predict one of them.

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Directed by David Mamet

View image Me. And some other people.

One of the best educations in filmmaking that you can ever get is to spend a day on a set -- even (or maybe especially) as an extra, because that puts you right in the middle of the action, as it were. (When I was doing a Seattle Times story on the shooting of Alan Rudolph's "Trouble in Mind," Alan decided to stick me and my pal Eden, who was also working on the film, into the tiki bar scene, where I could observe everything that was going on all around. We appear as blurs behind the heads of Kris Kristofferson and Lori Singer.)

Anyway, back in 1986 (or early 1987?) my friend Nancy Locke, a longtime Seattle movie publicist, and I were invited to be extras on David Mamet's directorial debut feature, "House of Games." We showed up at Bagley Hall at the University of Washington (my alma mater) and I was put in a classroom, where Lilia Skala was our psych professor. In explaining the scene to us, Mamet mentioned we could now say that we had been directed by David Mamet. So, I'm sayin'.

I don't remember where they used Nancy, or if she made the final cut. (I'll have to ask her.) I do remember we did another semi-surreal scene in the hallway between classes, where we students brushed passed Lindsay Crouse while her character walked in a dazed, almost trance-like state. It was an experiment. They didn't use it.

I was reminded of this experience while looking at the new Criterion Collection edition of "House of Games." Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars, and in 1999 selected it as one of his Great Movies. It's pure Mamet -- hypnotic, suspenseful, surprising -- a noirish con game that reminds me of a Fritz Lang thriller, with stylized performances that hint of Bresson, Fassbinder, or Herzog's "Heart of Glass" (in which the director actually hypnotized the cast), but I've never seen anything quite like it. Three of my favorite actors -- Joe Mantegna, J.T. Walsh and Ricky Jay -- also star. Are you in?

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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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Overlooked Film Festival, Take 8

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Some films are born overlooked. Others have it thrust upon them. Among this year's festival entries, "Ripley's Game" has never had a theatrical release in the United States, and "Duane Hopwood" had a release so spotty it seemed designed to hide the film. Yet these are the kinds of films a movie critic views with joy: Films that are a meeting of craft and art. Being able to share them is an incalculable pleasure; everybody should have their own Overlooked Film Festival in the glorious Virginia Theater, all the year around. You have no idea how much fun it is.

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