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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" doesn't have the electricity of the original, mainly because we've already seen it. Nothing more is really revealed…

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To Be Takei

“To Be Takei” is a conventional documentary that has a surprising emotional heft. A fun, informative exploration of the life of actor, activist and Trekkie…

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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.

#187 October 2, 2013

Sheila writes: BAFTA-award winning "Pitch Black Heist" is a 13-minute film directed and written by John Maclean, starring Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham (reunited after their 28-minute one-take scene in Steve McQueen's 2008 film "Hunger"). Here, they play two criminals hired to crack a safe. The only catch is that they must do their work in the dark: any light at all will trigger the alarm. Elegantly filmed in black-and-white, it's a taut fun little thriller with a twist ending. In case the video doesn't work here, you can also view it at Cinephilia and Beyond.

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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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Book Excerpt: Guillermo Del Toro talks about the Best FIlm You've Never Seen

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Robert K. Elder made a splash a few years ago with his book "The Film That Changed My Life," a collection of interviews with directors about a single film that influenced their career. Now he's back with "The Best Film You've Never Seen," (published by the Independent Publishers Group) in which directors advocate for under-appreciated and critically maligned movies. Roger said of the book, "How necessary this book is! And how well judged and written! Some of the best films ever made, as Robert K. Elder proves, are lamentably all but unknown." Here's Elder's interview with Guillermo Del Toro, who sings the praises of "Arcane Sorceror," which Edgar Wright memorably described as "the 'Barry Lyndon' of horror films."

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#167 May 15, 2013

Marie writes: The unseen forces have spoken! The universe has filled a void obviously needing to be filled: there is now a font made entirely of cats. Called Neko Font (Japanese for "cat font") it's a web app that transforms text into a font comprised of cat pictures. All you need to do is write something in the text box, press "enter" on your keyboard and Neko Font instantly transforms the letters into kitties! Thanks go to intrepid club member Sandy Kahn for alerting the Ebert Club to this important advancement in typography. To learn more, read the article "There is now a font made entirely of cats" and to test it out yourself, go here: Neko Font. Meanwhile, behold what mankind can achieve when it has nothing better to do....

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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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The best greatest movies ever list

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UPDATED (08/01/12): Scroll to the bottom of this entry to see my first impressions of the newly announced critics' and directors' poll results.

Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" (1948) topped the first Sight & Sound critics' poll in 1952, only four years after it was first released, dropped to #7 in 1962, and then disappeared from the top ten never to be seen again. (In 2002 only five of the 145 participating critics voted for it.) Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941) flopped in its initial release but was rediscovered in the 1950s after RKO licensed its films to television in 1956. From 1962 to 2002 "Kane" has remained at the top of the poll (46 critics voted for it last time). This year, a whopping 846 top-ten ballots (mentioning 2,045 different titles) were counted, solicited from international "critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles" -- including bloggers and other online-only writers. Sight & Sound has announced it will live-tweet the 2012 "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" (@SightSoundmag #sightsoundpoll) August 1, and as I write this the night before, I of course don't know the results. But, for now at least, I'm more interested in the process.

Given the much wider and younger selection of voters in 2012, ist-watchers have been speculating: Will another movie (leading candidate: Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," number 2 in 2002) supplant "Kane" at the top of the list? Will there be any silent films in the top 10? (Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" and Murnau's "Sunrise" tied for #7 on the 2002 list, but the latter was released in 1927 with a Fox Movietone sound-on-film musical score and sound effects.)

Though there's been no rule about how much time should pass between a film's initial release and its eligibility (the Library of Congress's National Film Registry requires that selections be at least ten years old), most of the selections ten to have stood the test of time for at least a decade or two. The newest film on the 2002 list was the combination of "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974) -- but they won't be allowed to count as one title for 2012.

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Are these America's most prominent filmmakers?

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My friend Richard T. Jameson sent an e-mail with the subject line: "Why am I depressed?" In it he quoted the first two sentences of an April L.A. Weekly story headlined "Movie Studios Are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital Are Vast, and Troubling":

Shortly before Christmas, director Edgar Wright received an email inviting him to a private screening of the first six minutes of Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Walking into Universal CityWalk's IMAX theater, Wright recognized many of the most prominent filmmakers in America -- Michael Bay, Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, Eli Roth, Duncan Jones, Stephen Daldry.

It was that second sentence, RTJ said, that tripped him up. (Later, in a Facebook post, he recommended the article itself, but followed that second sentence with the comment: "The parade's gone by, all right."

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Getting Medieval On Your...

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● "Ironclad" (2011) ● "Black Death" (2010)

"Ironclad " is now available on DirecTV and other on-demand providers (check your service listings) and from Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) starting on July 26th. "Black Death" is available on Netflix (streaming, DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video.

When I was a kid growing up in the Seattle suburb of Edmonds, WA (aka "The Gem of Puget Sound"), my parents did everything that good, sensible parents should do to shield their kids from violence, both real and reel. I remember being innocently intrigued by the furor over "Bonnie & Clyde" in 1967, but they would never have taken me to see it with them (to their credit, since I was only six). The same held true for "The Wild Bunch" in 1969, by which time the debate over movie violence had reached a fever pitch in our national conversation. Over the ensuing decades, that conversation has become a moot point as movie violence proceeded apace, from Sonny Corleone's death in a hail of Tommy-gun fire in "The Godfather" (1972), to the slasher cycle of the late '70s and '80s (when makeup artists Tom Savini and Rick Baker reigned supreme as a master of gory effects) and into the present, when virtually anything - from total evisceration to realistic decapitation -- is possible through the use of CGI and state-of-the-art makeup effects. That's where movies like "Ironclad" and "Black Death" come in, but more on those later.

If you're looking for a rant against milestone achievements in the depiction of graphic violence, you've come to the wrong place. To me, it's a natural progression. Movies and violence have always been inextricably linked, and once opened, that Pandora's Box could never be closed. A more relevant discussion now is how the new, seemingly unlimited gore FX should be used and justified. Horror films will always be the testing ground for the art of gore, and it would be a crime against cinema to cut the "chest-burster" from "Alien" (or, for that matter, Samuel L. Jackson's spectacular death in "Deep Blue Sea"). But it's the depiction of authentic, real-life violence -- in everything from the "CSI" TV franchise to prestige projects like HBO's "Band of Brothers" and "The Pacific" -- that pushes previously unrated levels of gore into the mainstream.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not praising this progression so much as acknowledging its inevitability. If you really love movies -- and especially if you've been lucky enough to make a career out of watching them -- you have undoubtedly seen a violent film that was unquestionably vile, unjustified and miles beyond the boundaries of all human decency. I've seen violent movies that earned my disgust because (1) the context of the violence was as abhorrent as the violence itself and (2) the intentions of the filmmakers were clearly indefensible. (Context and intention: More on that later.) Tolerances and sensibilities may vary, but every critic has seen a film that appeared to have been written and directed by sociopaths. Check out Roger Ebert's review of "I Spit on Your Grave" (the 1978 version) and you'll see what I mean.

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#8: April 28, 2010

Photos from Ebertfest! In a stunning display of legerdemain, I materialized a glass globe out of thin air as Chaz and I were greeting the guests at the President's House...

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Zombies: Time of the Season of the Witch

Zombies and vampires, zombies and vampires -- sure, we're entering Dias de los Muertos, but the undead are crawling all over popular culture these nights. "Twilight" to "Tru-Blood," "Zombieland" to "Fox News," the undead are back with a vengeance. But, of course, they've been around for a long, long time. Matt Zoller Seitz takes a bite out of the cinematic zombie corpus with his latest video essay, "Zombies 101." He begins, (un-)naturally, with George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), flashes back to Jacques Tourneur's voodoo-themed "I Walked With a Zombie," and moves forward through the Romero "Living Dead" pictures to 21st century remakes and variations -- "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), "28 Days Later..." (2002), "28 Weeks Later..." (2007)...

Matt writes:

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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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