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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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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.

The great movies of my childhood

May Contain Spoilers

Of late, I've been thinking about how I got here. Here, in love with movie watching and movie making. Here, in a design school in India, and not an engineering college or a medical school like predetermined for most Indian students. Here, in correspondence with a huge role model of mine. Here, doing what I love.

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#86 October 26, 2011

Marie writes: remember "The Heretics Gate" by artist Doug Foster?  Well he's been at it again, this time as part of an exhibit held by The Lazarides Gallery - which returned to the subterranean depths of The Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo Station in London, to present a spectacular group show called The Minotaur. It ran October 11th - 25th, 2011 and depending upon your choice (price of admission) dining was included from top Michelin-star chefs.Each artist provided their own interpretation of the classical myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and as with The Heretics Gate before it, Cimera, Doug Foster's new and equally as memorizing piece made it possible to project whatever comes to mind onto it, as images of body forms and beast-like faces take shape and rise from the bowels of earth. (click image to enlarge.) Photo by S.Butterfly.

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#82 September 28, 2011

Marie writes: Summer is now officially over. The berries have been picked, the jam has been made, lawn-chairs put away for another year. In return, nature consoles us with the best show on Earth; the changing of the leaves!  I found these at one of my favorites sites and where you can see additional ones and more...

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Making contact: Spielberg's Close Encounters and E.T.

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[This resurrected piece is my contribution to the Steven Spielberg Blogathon co-hosted by Adam Zanzie (Icebox Movies) and Ryan Kelly (Medfly Quarantine). Originally published in the (pre-home-video) December, 1982, issue of The Informer, a monthly publication of the Seattle Film Society, when I was just a wee lad, barely a quarter-century old.]

"E.T." is a universal film -- and I'm not just talking about the MCA company that released it. Steven Spielberg's latest celluloid fable is fast on its way to becoming the most popular movie ever made. Yet, unfortunately, critical attention has been focused primarily on the phenomenon of "E.T." rather than on the cinematic merits of the movie itself. So much has been said about "E.T." as an extraordinary entertainment, a masterfully orchestrated work of childlike wish-fulfillment, that people seem to have overlooked the fact that it's also -- dare I say it? -- a rich and resonant Work of Art. Perhaps Spielberg is too unassuming, too unabashedly populist in his style and (overt) subject matter to make critics sit up and take notice of what he's doing from shot to shot.

Nevertheless, "E.T." is connecting with millions of people worldwide -- and for good reason. Like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Spielberg's other masterpiece about intergalactic harmony and understanding (and perhaps the largest-scale abstract/experimental film released by a major Hollywood studio since Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."), "E.T." is above all about contact, about the very nature of communication, and the system of signs we human beings have created to bring ourselves closer to one another: spoken language, gestures, symbolic objects, physical contact -- and any combination of the above.

The ad slogan for "Close Encounters" (hereafter referred to as "CE3K") was "We Are Not Alone," and both that film and "E.T." are about alienated individuals who try to break out of their isolation, who struggle to bridge the void between themselves and others. Perhaps the best way to get to the heart of these movies is to take a look at some of the ways Spielberg's characters communicate with (or fail to reach) each other -- and how Spielberg uses cinematic technique to bring film, characters, and audiences, into contact.

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#22 August 4, 2010

Michigan postcard from the Grand Poobah: Entrenched here in the Michigan woods, I forge ahead on my memoirs. Occasionally I lift my eyes to watch raindrops falling on leaves. Every evening I put on a DVD. Tonight's showing: Antonioni's "Eclipse."

(click to enlarge)

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High rollers and lowlifes

James Bond (Daniel Craig) in "Casino Royale." With every move he makes, another chance he takes. Odds are...

What accounts for the movies' fascination with gambling? That's a question I mull over in a survey of pictures (from "Gilda" to "Barry Lyndon" to "Casino" to "California Split" to "The Cooler") about the addictive alchemy of luck, chance, fate and skill at MSN Movies. Making a movie is itself a grand gamble. You never know how it's going to turn out, and the results have as much to do with circumstance as they do with talent or craftsmanship. An excerpt from "High Rollers": Gambling does not rank among the "seven deadly sins." It doesn't have to. Just about all the capital vices can be found in the psyche of the gambler, and not just in the usual suspects, greed and envy. There's also plenty of room for gluttony (overindulgence, addiction, substance abuse); wrath (rage, vindictiveness); sloth (indifference, jadedness, existential apathy); lust (licentiousness, dissolution); and, the deadliest of all sins: pride (hubris, arrogance, usually expressed in the form of cheating, or a misplaced belief in a dubious "system" designed to beat the odds).

The grandest "Casino Royale" -- the ultimate gamble -- is, of course, the game of life itself: a series of cosmic wagers in which the stakes vary wildly from day to day, bet to bet. Some people seem to go "all in" all the time, some ante up just enough to get them through each hand they're dealt, and others are perpetual folders who try to opt out of the game entirely in order to avoid risking too much.

But since the time of Oedipus the central question has always been: How much of the outcome is governed by free will and how much by predestination? The answer depends on the (rigged?) nature of the game you're playing, and whether the winners and losers are predetermined, either by some higher interventionist power (appeased by superstitious rites, such as blowing on dice or disingenuously proclaiming the need for new footwear for one's tot), or by a simple calculation of the odds that invariably favor "the house."

Although one can only play the hand one is dealt, a poker or blackjack player retains a small degree of influence over his fate, as some game variables are subject to decision-making based on statistical knowledge and experience. Those who gamble on a roll of the dice or a spin of the wheel, however, rely on pure chance. Or, as it is known in gaming circles, "luck."

The odds of winning are never better than 50-50 (red or black in roulette), which is why most gambling stories -- and gambling movies -- are either about chance, or about cheating. As in the 1946 classic film noir, "Gilda," with Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth, these tales are of the men and women who learn to "make their own luck."

The only way to increase your luck without trickery is with skill -- by learning to read the odds based on the cards that have already been played, or by learning to read the people who play them. In Curtis Hanson's new "Lucky You," hot-headed poker player Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) has to learn how to do both if he wants to woo songstress Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). As his father, L.C. (Robert Duvall), tells him: "You've got it backwards, kid. You play cards the way you should live life, and you live life the way you should play cards."

That's the lesson movie gamblers are always trying to learn. Everybody has a "tell" -- a little unconscious tic that reveals when they're bluffing. In David Mamet's "House of Games," renowned psychoanalyst Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) thinks she understands human behavior until she is schooled by Mike (Joe Mantegna) in the ways of gamblers and con men who avoid being understood. The big gamble comes down to a matter of pride -- and the skill and intuition to fool the other players.

In the most recent "Casino Royale" film, the hubris of James Bond (Daniel Craig) costs him a high stakes game, and nearly costs him his life. Every scene in the movie involves a bet, a bluff, or a calculated risk. Whether the game is espionage, romance, the stock market, or poker, the rules are basically the same: Outwit, outplay and outlast your opponents....

Continue reading at MSN Movies...

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The 'Confederacy' conspiracy

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Q: I recently found out that David Gordon Green's film "A Confederacy of Dunces," with Will Ferrell and Drew Barrymore, has been canceled. Green is one of my favorite directors and I have high hopes for his career. What is the story behind the cancellation and what will this do to his career? Jonathan Warner, Evanston

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Movie Answer Man (09/07/2003)

Q. In your review of "Le Divorce," I reached your account of Peter Noble's story: An English guy walks into a cafe in Cannes and asks if they have a men's room. The waiter replies: "Monsieur! I have only two hands!" This story was so inexplicable that I asked a couple of colleagues to make sense of it. They could not. Is it simply intended to outline the French and English inability to communicate? Does it mean that the French like to talk with their hands? Does the French guy think the English guy wants assistance with his zipper? Please explain. (Aaron Dunn, Honolulu HI)

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Movie Answer Man (11/05/2000)

Q. In your review of Jackie Chan's latest American release, "The Legend Of Drunken Master," you praised his athletic skills but wrote that computerized special effects have made them sort of obsolete: "When you see bodies whirling in air in 'The Matrix,' you don't think about computers, you simply accept them. But what Chan does, he is more or less, one way or another, actually doing."

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Movie Answer Man (02/21/1999)

Q. I recently saw Roberto Benigni's terrific "Life is Beautiful," and wonder about a possible oversight. What ever came of the last riddle Dr. Lessing presented to Guido at the dinner party--the one he thought represented a duck? I kept waiting for the answer and it never came. (Matt Ramm, Birmingham, AL)

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Drew finds her way `Home'

It's like, you know, I'm talking with Drew Barrymore and she is like so drowning me in words, and I'm like so getting it, and I'm thinking like, here is a girl who is like still only 23 years old and has been in like 30 movies and already grown beyond the problems that most people her age still soooo don't know how to handle.

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The evolution of Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah -- The most important little film festival in America opened here Thursday. The Sundance Film Festival, the annual trade fair for filmmakers working outside the studio system, will screen more than 100 films before industry-savvy audiences. People who got off the plane flat broke may fly out of town, clutching contracts. Maybe if we're lucky, there will even be another shoving match in a restaurant, like the one last year between guys from Fine Line and Miramax who both thought they bought the rights to the same film.

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Movie Answer Man (06/30/1996)

Q. In your review of "The Cable Guy," you wrote: "We want to like Jim Carrey. A movie that makes us dislike him is a strategic mistake." Maybe the problem with "The Cable Guy" isn't Lou Holtz Jr.'s screenplay; maybe the problem is Ben Stiller's direction. I've only seen 10 minutes of the "Ben Stiller Show", but in that 10 minutes Stiller made very unfunny, vicious fun of Amish people. Janeane Garafalo (star of "The Truth About Cats and Dogs") was in the skit and afterwards, in a taped segment showing her and Stiller walking down the street talking to each other, she notes her skepticism about just how funny a vicious attack on gentle, peace-loving people can be. Stiller's face seems to register not a single sign he's got a clue what she's saying. (Michael Brant, San Rafael, CA.)

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Movie Answer Man (01/28/1996)

Q. In your review of the movie "Dead Man Walking" you turned a neat little phrase. You said of Susan Sarandon's character that she would not behave according to "the pieties of those for whom religion, good grooming, polite manners and prosperity are all more or less the same thing." I can think of several individuals and groups that might fit that description. To whom were you referring? (Joe Dempsey, Sr., Ridley Park, Pa.)

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