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Toronto International FIlm Festival 2013: Day Five


When Harvey Weinstein is in the house, you know it's a big deal. After all, one of his possible Academy-bait babies was taking its first steps in public at the bustling Scotiabank theaters before the press and industry on Monday. He is not going to leave that special occasion to chance.Day 5 at Toronto brought the unveiling one of the most anticipated pieces of the Oscar-prediction puzzle—"August: Osage County" a.k.a. When Meryl Met Julia—and, judging from the "I like it but…" comments exchanged by audience members as the film came to a close, the reaction was one of tempered admiration.The comically caustic domestic situation, based on the 2008 Tony-winning play, concerns a contentious Oklahoma clan called the Westons who reunite following a family crisis. With a cast jammed with recognizable faces ranging from Sam Shepard's hard-drinking poet of a patriarch to Abigail Breslin's precocious pot-smoking teen, it sometimes comes off like one of those "We Are the World" all-star songs where everyone involved gets a for-your-consideration solo in order to shine.Of course, there are soloists and then there are divas. Nothing can be that bad when there's Meryl Streep as a pill-popping, cancer-ravaged matriarch who puts the diss in dysfunctional as she engages in a verbal dinner-table death match with movie daughter Julia Roberts. Imagine "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" filtered through "Terms of Endearment." The explosive results left some in the theater gasping.A couple of the casting choices seem wonky (Ewan McGregor is out of place as Roberts' roaming husband while Dermot Mulroney is basically playing the Dermot Mulroney role as a sexy self-serving jerk).But some of the most enjoyable portions are when the Weston sisters—joining Roberts' Barbara are Juliette Lewis' flighty Karen and Julianne Nicholson as dark horse Ivy—kick back with glasses of wine and trade stories about their challenging mother and personal secrets.All could be up for Oscars, including Margo Martindale as Streep's big-mama of a sister. The real question is whether it can be justified to place either Streep or Roberts in a supporting category to avoid competing with one another since they are both clearly co-leads. And that is where the mighty Harvey comes in. It has been finally decided: Meryl is lead and Julia is supporting, The negotiations over Syria probably have nothing on the intense discussions that went into that move.As for best picture chances, that is up to Harvey and his magical marketing machine. "August: Osage County" is more certain to fill several acting nomination slots, but just the fact that Roberts and Streep—who have only previously collaborated in the animated "The Ant Bully"—are together at last is a powerful reason to applaud this movie as much as possible.

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#178 July 31, 2013

Marie writes: As the dog days of summer slowly creep towards September and Toronto starts getting ready for TIFF 2013, bringing with it the promise of unique and interesting foreign films, it brought to mind an old favorite, namely The Red Balloon; a thirty-four minute short which follows the adventures of a young boy who one day finds a sentient red balloon. Filmed in the Menilmontant neighborhood of Paris and directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse, The Red Balloon went on to win numerous awards and has since become a much-beloved Children's Classic.

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#171 June 12, 2013

Marie writes: Welcome to "Good Books", an online bookseller based in New Zealand. Every time you buy a book through them, 100% of the retail profit goes directly to fund projects in partnership with Oxfam; projects which provide clean water, sanitation, develop sustainable agriculture and create access to education for communities in need. To increase awareness of Good Books' efforts to raise money for Oxfam, String Theory (New Zeland based agency) teamed up with collaborative design production comany "Buck" to create the first of three videos in a digital campaign called Good Books Great Writers. Behold the award winning animated Good Books Metamorphosis.

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#156 February 20, 2013

Marie writes: As some of you may have heard, a fireball lit up the skies over Russia on February 15, 2013 when a meteoroid entered Earth's atmosphere. Around the same time, I was outside with my spiffy new digital camera - the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. And albeit small, it's got a built-in 20x zoom lens. I was actually able to photograph the surface of the moon!

(click to enlarge)

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#147 December 19, 2012

Marie writes: Christmas is almost upon us, and with its impending arrival comes the sound of children running free-range through the snow, while grown-ups do battle indoors in the seasonal quest to find the perfect gift...

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#144 November 28, 2012

Marie writes: Behold a living jewel; a dragonfly covered in dew as seen through the macro-lens of French photographer David Chambon. And who has shot a stunning series of photos featuring insects covered in tiny water droplets. To view others in addition to these, visit here.

(click images to enlarge)

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Toronto #4: And the winner is...


The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture will be Ben Affleck's tense new thriller "Argo." How do I know this? Because it is the audience favorite coming out of the top-loaded opening weekend of the Toronto Film Festival. Success at Toronto has an uncanny way of predicting Academy winners; I point you to the Best Pictures of the last five years in a row: "No Country for Old Men," "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Hurt Locker," "The King's Speech" and "The Artist."

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#131 August 29, 2012

Marie writes: It's that time of the year again!  The Toronto International Film Festival is set to run September 6 - 16, 2012. Tickets selection began August 23rd. Single tickets on sale Sept 2, 2012. For more info visit TIFF's website.

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The Cannes winners, as sort of expected


Beasts of the Southern Wild

• Chaz Ebert in Cannes

The Cannes 2012 Palme D'Or was indeed won Sunday by Michael Haneke for "Amour," the best film in the festival. And what an emotional moment to see its two stars, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuel Riva walk up on stage with Haneke to accept the award. A juror, Jean-Paul Gaultier said they gave the most emotionally real performances of any film in the festival. He said he bawled his eyes out. This was the second time in three years that Hakeke won the Palme, after "The White Ribbon" in 2009.

And surprisingly, three out of four of my award speculations also won prizes. However, if you listened carefully to the reasoning of the Jury you can conclude that actually all four of the lineup would have won.

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The first slice of Cannes 2012


Above: Bill Murray, madras paparazzo. (AP photo)

The pizza they make in Cannes is unique: a less-is-more creation that is flat and crispy, thoroughly Mediterranean and packed with Riviera flavor. Alleged "European-style" pizzas peddled in the U. S. never seem to achieve that micron-thin crust covered by the faintest wash of tomato sauce, a mere garnish of cheese, and earthy ingredients that can include artichokes or thinly sliced eggplant, generous oregano, and tiny Cannes-grown olives (complete with pits). It's seared in an oven at an impossibly high temperature so that that everything melds into a glorious crackly flatbread that has nothing in common with the doughy excess of American pizza.

The opening day of the 65th Cannes Film Festival is a little like that local pizza, tasty and unique, providing a full range of experiences with just a few carefully chosen ingredients. The various competition events will be in full swing starting tomorrow morning, so today functions as a bit of an appetizer.

Even as festival workers were putting the final touches on the red carpet covering the famed steps up to the Grand Theater Lumiere for tonight's gala festival opening, the opening film, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," was previewing for the international press at the Debussy Theater next door. Although Anderson is the darling of many critics, the only film of his that I've previously warmed up to was his droll animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox." "Moonrise Kingdom" had me enthralled from the first frame, and made me think that I need to take another look at his earlier work.

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Stop making senses: An epidemic love story


"Perfect Sense" (89 minutes) is now available via IFC On Demand and can be rented or downloaded via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, SundanceNOW, XBOX and PlayStation 3. The film will also begin a limited release in theaters on February 3rd.

by Jeff Shannon

The cause of the disease is unknown, and there is no cure. It could be a cluster of diseases, nobody knows for sure. The experts say it's not contagious, but that's just a futile ploy to prevent panic. It's spreading throughout the world as a full-blown epidemic. The symptoms are brutal and unrelenting: Slowly but surely, your senses fall away -- first you lose the sense of smell. Then taste, and eventually hearing...panic strikes you anyway, and the world around you ceases to make any kind of sense. How can you possibly survive the onslaught of sensory deprivation? What can you do when you're overwhelmed by an escalating sense of infantile helplessness?

Welcome to the apocalypse of "Perfect Sense," an imperfect yet deeply affecting film from David McKenzie, a British director who's been quietly building a list of respectable credits (his latest is the rock 'n roll comedy "You Instead") since 1994. (He also regularly casts his actor brother Alastair, perhaps best known for his role in the popular BBC series "Monarch of the Glen.") "Perfect Sense" was well-received at Sundance last year, but it's not the kind of film that makes distributors see dollar signs in their eyes. It's an actor's showcase for Ewan McGregor and Eva Green, who meet the challenge head-on. Technically impressive and beautifully filmed (by Giles Nuttgens), quite frankly it's too distinctive -- choke on that, distributors! -- to be easily pigeon-holed and marketed to the masses.

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#98 January 18, 2012

Marie writes: Okay, this is just plain cool. This is clearly someone using their brain, in combination with "what the hell, let's just go ahead and try it..."

Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon CameraIn 1903, Dr Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera activated by a timing mechanism. The invention brought him international notability after he presented it at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909-1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, whereupon the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased. (click images to enlarge.) - from The Public Domain Review. Visit the site to see even more photos.

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#93 December 14, 2012

Marie writes: If you're like me, you enjoy the convenience of email while lamenting the lost romance of ink and pen on paper. For while it's possible to attach a drawing, it's not the same thing as receiving hand-drawn artwork in the mail. Especially when it's from Edward Gorey..."Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer met in the summer of 1968. Gorey had been contracted by Addison-Wesley to illustrate "Donald and the...", a children's story written by Neumeyer. On their first encounter, Neumeyer managed to dislocate Gorey's shoulder when he grabbed his arm to keep him from falling into the ocean. In a hospital waiting room, they pored over Gorey's drawings for the first time together, and Gorey infused the situation with much hilarity. This was the beginning of an invigorating friendship, fueled by a wealth of letters and postcards that sped between the two men through the fall of 1969."

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#89 November 16, 2011

Marie writes: I was browsing the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest Galleries and came upon this amazing shot - click to enlarge!

The Birth Of Earth: Photo by Terje Sorgjerd"Getting close or getting too close? Photo taken of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption that would grind most of europe air traffic. This is the scariest moment in my life, and also the most beautiful and frightening display of raw force I have ever seen." - Terje Sorgjerd

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#84 October 12, 2011

Marie writes: Behold an extraordinary collection of Steampunk characters, engines and vehicles created by Belgian artist Stephane Halleux. Of all the artists currently working in the genre, I think none surpass the sheer quality and detail to be found in his wonderful, whimsical pieces...

Left to right: Little Flying Civil, Beauty Machine, Le Rouleur de Patin(click images to enlarge)

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#81 September 21, 2011

Marie writes: Roger recently did an email Q&A with the National Post's Mark Medley, which you can read here: "Roger Ebert's voice has never been louder".  And in a nice touch, they didn't use a traditional head-shot photo with the article. Instead they went old school and actually hired an illustrator. Yup. They drew the Grand Poobah instead!  And here it is...pretty good, eh?

Illustration By Kagan Mcleod for the National Post(click to enlarge)

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#80 September 14, 2011

Marie writes: my brother Paul recently sent me an email sharing news of something really cool at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. For those who don't remember - as I'm sure I've mentioned it in the Newsletter before, the Capilano Suspension Bridge was original built 1889 and constructed of hemp rope and cedar planks. 450 feet (137m) long and 230 feet (70m) high, today's bridge is made of reinforced steel safely anchored in 13 tons of concrete on either side of the canyon (click images to enlarge.)

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Puppet Nazis vs. the Grindhouse Gang!


● Jackboots on Whitehall (DVD/VOD/Digital cable July 26) ● American Grindhouse (DVD/Hulu July 26)

by Steven Boone

The animated comedy "Jackboots on Whitehall" does its best to tweak every British stiff-upper-lip stereotype ever perpetuated in film and popular culture since World War II. This satire employs puppet animation techniques familiar from "Team America: World Police" and classic George Pal puppetoons, but with exquisite production design more akin to Wes Anderson's stop-motion "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Instead of marionettes or stop-motion, however, filmmakers Edward and Rory McHenry employ animatronic dolls enhanced with CGI.

The period detail in this account of Hitler's alt-reality occupation of London is stunning: a convincing re-creation of Whitehall, the road whose major landmarks comprise the seat of British government; the airship Hindenburg, which, in this reality, never blew up and now serves as a Nazi attack vehicle; Hadrian's Wall and the hills of Scotland; vintage fighter planes, palaces, tanks, luxury cars... Equally meticulous is the costuming, from Winston Churchill's pinstriped suit to the Raj soldiers' blue turbans.

While the McHenry brothers' puppets aren't articulated beyond some binary limb and neck movements, they are sculpted with such expressive character it's easy to suspend disbelief. Exuberant character voices help. Timothy Spall as a gruff Churchill, Alan Cumming as a fey Hitler and Tom Wilkinson as a simpering Goebbels play it lip-smackingly broad. Richard E. Grant portrays a tightly wound priest so perpetually furious that its possible he gave his entire performance through clenched teeth. Ewan McGregor lends the unlikely farm boy hero some warmth. Along the way, some downright filthy jokes fly by almost subliminally, under kids' radar (including a visual joke last seen in "Boogie Nights"). In fact, so much of the humor is adult, whether in raunchiness or complexity, that Jackboots on Whitehall is less a family film than one for liberal parents and their precocious teens. The DVD includes a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary that details just how much love went into this handcrafted epic.

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# 73 July 27, 2011

"I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music."  - Alex Steinweiss

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#62 May 11, 2011

Marie writes: allow me to introduce you to Travel Photographer, founded by Chris and Karen Coe in 2003 and their annual contest "Travel Photographer of the Year".After years spent working in the travel industry as a professional photographer and finding it was mostly conventional images making it into print, Chris decided to create a way to showcase great travel photography and broaden people's perception of what it can encompass - namely, that it can be much, much more than a pretty postcard image.The contest is open to one and all; amateur and professional photographers compete alongside each other. Entrants are judged solely on the quality of their photographs. There's a special competition to encourage young photographers aged 18 and under; Young Travel Photographer of the Year. The youngest entrant to date was aged just five, the oldest 88. The competition is judged by a panel of photographic experts, including renowned photographers, picture buyers, editor and technical experts.And the 2010 winners have now been announced. Here's a few random photos to wet your appetite - then you can scroll through the amazing winners gallery!

Enal is around 6 years old and knows this shark well - it lives in a penned off area of ocean beneath his stilted house in Wangi, Indonesia. Photo: James Morgan, UK (Portfolio Encounters: Winner 2010)  [note: click images to enlarge]

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