Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
* 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.
"12 Years a Slave" and "The Butler" are part of a valuable subgenre of American film that dramatizes the fallacy of "Black respectability"—the notion that if African-Americans will only speak, dress and behave in a certain way, discrimination won't affect them, and they'll reap the American dream.
Four standout performances by black actors make the Oscar Best Actor race more interesting this year.
Lee Daniels, the director of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," discusses his personal stakes in the story and working with Forest Whitaker on the way the character grows and changes.
Marie writes: Last week, in response to a club member comment re: whatever happened to Ebert Club merchandize (turned out to be too costly to set up) I had promised to share a free toy instead - an amusement, really, offered to MailChimp clients; the mail service used to send out notices. Allow me to introduce you to their mascot...
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.
Barbara Scharres reports on the winners at the Cannes Film Festival.
Marie writes: Remember Brian Dettmer and his amazing book sculptures? Behold a similar approach courtesy of my pal Siri who told me about Alexander Korzer-Robinson and his sculptural collages made from Antiquarian Books. Artist's statement:"By using pre-existing media as a starting point, certain boundaries are set by the material, which I aim to transform through my process. Thus, an encyclopedia can become a window into an alternate world, much like lived reality becomes its alternate in remembered experience. These books, having been stripped of their utilitarian value by the passage of time, regain new purpose. They are no longer tools to learn about the world, but rather a means to gain insight about oneself."
"Dear Mr. Spider;I am profoundly sorry to have taken you from your home in the woods, when I was picking Himalayan Blackberries on Monday afternoon. I didn't see you fall into my bucket and which was entirely my fault; I must have bumped into your web while reaching for a berry. Needless to say, I was surprised upon returning home with my bucket full, to suddenly see you there standing on a blackberry and looking up at me." - Marie
(photo recreation of incident)
Sometimes an actor's face tells so much about his character that the movie doesn't have to waste its time describing the character's past to us. Roger Michell's "Venus" (2006) doesn't tell us in details how famous its hero was as an actor, but that's not a problem because he is played by Peter O'Toole, a living legend who gave us a bunch of memorable larger-than-life characters including Henry II of England, Eli Cross, the 14th Earl of Gurney, Alan Swann, and, above all, Lawrence of Arabia. When we look at him in the movie, we instantly remember how magnificent he was, and that aspect is naturally incorporated into his character.
Marie writes: As I'm sure readers are aware, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are now underway! Meanwhile, the opening ceremony by Danny Boyle continues to solicit comments; both for against. (Click image to enlarge.)
The Academy Award winners for the past thirty years have followed consistent molds, primarily in the categories of Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Picture. It is a very simple set of templates that I will explain with excessive evidence. This is not to say that the Academy Awards are a conspiracy run by some secret society, although that idea would be quite fun. Rather, at the very least, there is a subtext to American culture that plays out in the ideas and ideals in American cinema, and it plays out consistently. At the very least, I'm illustrating some unwritten ideals in American culture. Whether or not they are healthy or corrupt, they are there in us. So, "Best Picture" is not a great movie; rather, it is a great movie that fulfills the mold.
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
Chicago's biggest annual cinema event boasts 150 films from 50 countries this year. The Chicago International Film Festival opens its 46th season Thursday night as the city's longest-running showcase of dramas, documentaries and shorts.
Marie writes: Club member and noted blog contributor Tom Dark took this astonishing photograph near his home in Abiqui, New Mexico. The "unknown entity" appeared without warning and after a failed attempt to communicate, fled the scene. Tom stopped short of saying "alien" to describe the encounter, but I think it's safe to say that whatever he saw, it was pretty damned freaky. It sure can't be mistaken for anything terrestrial; like a horse pressing its nose up to the camera and the lens causing foreshortening. As it totally does not look like that at all. (click to enlarge.)
Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" (aka, "The Decline and Fall of the Wild Thing Empire") is not Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." It's only fair you should know that in advance. The book's illustrations and nine sentences have been turned into a surprisingly (some might even say shockingly) literal-minded 90-minute motion picture about the misery of being a kid. Jonze and co-scenarist Dave Eggers are clearly in touch with their inner-miserable child; they seem to vividly remember all the daily turmoil that childhood is heir to -- the tantrums, fights, scrapes, bruises, fears, anxieties, insults, hurt feelings, bossiness, cruelty, rejection, confusion, heckling, bullying, bragging, pouting, moping, testing, haggling, crying, rage...
Those aspects of childhood trauma are acutely and accurately portrayed in the movie. Every time the fun starts, somebody goes too far (like a puppy who hasn't learned his soft mouth yet), and someone gets hurt or scared or angry or sad or all of those things. The movie's adulterated sensibility is that of an alienated grown-up looking back at the (somewhat romanticized, over-intellectualized) misery of childhood and denying or downplaying the equally real fun stuff -- the in-the-moment joy, the exhilaration of being and imagining and doing and playing. So, in some sense it's a corrective to all those stupid "Isn't it wonderful being a kid?" movies that remember childhood through equally distorted rose-tinted lenses.
by Roger Ebert
Q: If Cate Blanchett were to win the Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth I at next year's Oscars, would Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II give her the Oscar? And do you think the actual Queen Elizabeth will be watching the Oscars just to see such an event?
Martin Scorsese has an Oscar in his hand. It's his Oscar.
For the first time in 30+ years, Roger Ebert watched the Oscars from home instead of from backstage. He writes about the experience here.
Meanwhile, I spent my Oscar night writing a deadline piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, which had to be filed about 45 minutes before the show was over. Here's the (unedited) final version for the web: The cops-and-mobsters thriller "The Departed," which director Martin Scorsese described as the first movie he's ever done with a plot, took the jackpot prize at the Academy Awards last night. For Scorsese, this was supposed to be a genre picture, not Oscar-bait like "The Aviator" and "Gangs of New York," but it turns out that, even at the Oscars, sometimes you can come out ahead when you don't look like you're trying so hard.
Even though there were several "surprises" during the ceremonies, it still felt kind of like the Acada-"meh" Awards. Since none of the Best Picture nominees inspired much passion (don't expect a "Crash"-lash" this year), and none stood out as a Timeless Achievement in Cinema, one winner was pretty much as good as another. And so, the Academy decided to spread the statuettes around.
Of course, the evening's big disappointment was that Martin Scorsese did not join his fellow great directors -- Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang -- who never won an Oscar in competition. Instead, he joins Norman Taurog, John G. Avildson and Sam Mendes as one of the immortals whose name will always, from this moment on, be preceded by the term "Academy Award-winning" as if it were a prefix. (I kid.)
Now, future generations can look back at Oscar history and say... "What!?!? The director of "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "King of Comedy" and "GoodFellas" won an Oscar for "The Departed"?!? Wasn't that the inferior American remake of "Infernal Affairs"?" Well, look at it this way: John Ford, famous for great American Westerns like "Stagecoach," "My Darling Clementine," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "The Searchers" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," won four Oscars for direction, and not one of them was for a Western. Rest of story at RogerEbert.com
The cops-and-mobsters thriller "The Departed," which director Martin Scorsese described as the first movie he's ever done with a plot, took the jackpot prize at the Academy Awards last night. For Scorsese, this was supposed to be a genre picture, not Oscar-bait like "The Aviator" and "Gangs of New York," but it turns out that, even at the Oscars, sometimes you can come out ahead when you don't look like you're trying so hard.
Complete list of winners at the 79th annual Academy Awards, presented Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
View image John Candy as Steve Roman as Juan Cortez -- now that spells good acting.
Ever since December, when Kristin Thompson posted this ("Good Actors Spell Good Acting") on the blog she shares with her husband and co-author David Bordwell, I've been meaning to link to it. This is my favorite kind of article, leading you fluidly from one intriguing idea to another -- and you never quite know where it's going to take you. Not only does it begin with an account of how bits of movie dialogue (from "Rio Bravo," "His Girl Friday") have entered her life, and the lives of her friends and colleagues, but it then segues into a great quotation from Steve Roman on SCTV (playing Juan Cortez, the first Puerto Rican Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in the dramatic television series, "There's Justice for Everybody") : “It’s got good actors, and that spells good acting.” And, from there, to this: Almost invariably we use this line when we come across one of those films that receive highly positive reviews largely because of one great performance. You know the kind: Charlize Theron in "Monster," Halle Berry in "Monster’s Ball," Hillary Swank in "Boys Don’t Cry," and more recently Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland" and Helen Mirren in "The Queen."
Usually I avoid such films, because the reviews tend to plant the idea that they are primarily actors’ vehicles. I enjoy good acting as much as the next person, but I want the rest of the film to be interesting as well.
Are there any film classics that are truly great solely for the acting? It’s hard to think of any. Maybe "The Gold Rush," which is stylistically fairly pedestrian but which is redeemed by Chaplin’s inspired performance. Maybe "Duck Soup," also quite undistinguished for much of anything other than the Marx Brothers cutting loose without being saddled with the sort of plots involving young, singing lovers that MGM would soon foist upon them. Maybe a few others. Usually, though, we tend not to think of a performance, however dazzling, as adding up to a great film. That's a good point to keep in mind during Oscar season, when "best acting" is often confused with "most acting." The performances that win awards tend to have as much to do with the roles as they do the actors. Sure, the player has to deliver, but give a decent actor a juicy character (and a sympathetic director) and you're talking Oscar bait. If just about anyone had played Jennifer Hudson's mistreated chunky diva in "Dreamgirls," an emotive-showpiece part if there ever was one, and had not gotten an Oscar nomination, that alone would have made the film a miserable failure. Fortunately for the investors, Hudson was able to do what she was hired to do. (Twenty years ago on Broadway, it was another Jennifer H. -- Holliday -- who became a star playing the same role and singing the same showstopper song.) Robert Altman liked to say that casting was the most important part of making a movie, but nobody would say that his movies are interesting just for the performances. It's how he captures and presents them that matters just as much.
In a year when the Academy Award nominations are more diverse and international than ever before, it's anyone's guess who will win best picture. "Dreamgirls" garnered more nominations than any other movie, but was passed over for both picture and director.
View image Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." The New York Times asks: Which Best Actor Oscar nominee is the bestest articulater: Whitaker or Peter O'Toole? (Answer: Neither.)
Senator Joseph Biden praised (or faintly damned) Senator Barack Obama last week by calling him "the first sort of mainstream African-American [presidential candidate], who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." OK, we know Jesse Jackson's record isn't exactly squeaky clean, what with the "Hymietown" and infidelity/paternity scandals and all. (I'm assuming that Biden was talking about the cleanliness of candidates' public images, not their personal hygiene.) Shirley Chisolm, Elizabeth Dole, Hillary Clinton and Carol Moseley Braun are not guys. Al Sharpton is not all that mainstream (how many people outside New York know who he is?) and -- at least when wearing a track suit -- not particularly nice-looking.
View image Peter O'Toole in "Venus."
So, that leaves Obama, who is male and partly African-American. (He was born in Hawaii to a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas). He may also be all those other things Biden said, but it was the "African-American" part and the "articulate" part that got Biden in the most trouble. Obama said he didn't think Biden was making a subconscious racial slur. But as Lynette Clemetson wrote in a piece called "The Racial Politics of Speaking Well" in Sunday's New York Times: "Being articulate must surely be a baseline requirement for a former president of The Harvard Law Review.... It would be more incredible, more of a phenomenon, to borrow two more of the senator’s puzzling words, if Mr. Obama were inarticulate."
Good point. But if the former president of the Harvard Law Review cannot properly be described as "articulate," then who can? Just because somebody has achieved a certain position in life does not necessarily mean that person is articulate ("Expressing oneself easily in clear and effective language: an articulate speaker."). Clemetson notes that President Bush has also called Obama "articulate" -- which reminds me of when Bush called the late Gerald Ford "decent" and "competent." Mr. Bush went to Yale University (and is President of the United States of America) and yet he is about as articulate as Lindsay "Be Adequite" Lohan. Listen to him talk sometime. He appears to be painfully unaware of the meanings of the words he attempts to pronounce -- especially, perhaps, "decent," "competent" and "articulate." (Some Disassembly Required.) From his mouth, those words sound like insults. Given his record and the way he speaks, what indication do we have that he understands them?
Oscar is growing more diverse and international by the year. This year's Academy Award nominations, announced Tuesday, contain a few titles that most moviegoers haven't seen and some they haven't heard of. That's perhaps an indication that the Academy voters, who once went mostly for big names, are doing their homework and seeing the pictures.