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Magic in the Moonlight

While Allen’s new picture, "Magic In The Moonlight," isn’t even close to being a disaster (for that, see, well, "Scoop"), I don’t think it’s unreasonable…

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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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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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#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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#60 April 27, 2011

The Grand Poobah shared the following recently and which struck me as just the thing to put in here - for it amounts to someone inventing a moving still akin to those seen on the front page of Harry Potter's famous newspaper."You know how people sometimes say that jazz is the only truly American art form? Animated GIFs are like the jazz of the internet: they could only exist, and be created and appreciated, online. That said, PopTart Cat is not exactly on par with Thelonious Monk. But photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg may have finally found a way to elevate the animated GIF to a level approaching fine art, with their "cinemagraphs" -- elegant, subtly animated creations that are "something more than a photo but less than a video." - fastcodesignAnd sadly, they won't work in here; Movable Type doesn't like animated gifs. It's easily solved however, just visit Far Better Than 3-D: Animated GIFs That Savor A Passing Moment to see an assortment in play!

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Glen Hansard slags the Once DVD cover

View image "I put together the DVD cover and the poster originally. And then they took it and f--king bastardized it."

Academy Award-winning Irish songwriter Glen Hansard (the Academy urges us to identify Oscar-nabbers that way for the rest of their lives) speaks out about the lousy/cutesy DVD image manipulation on the cover of the US edition of "Once." (Previous Scanners discussion here.) He's waiting for the Criterion edition. From an interview at Pitchfork:

GH: Oh, man. They f--kin' killed it. You're right. They have us holding hands, which we never do in the film! Those legs aren't mine. Those legs are like three times longer than my legs. It's a completely new body. They literally just used my face. I'm wearing a hat in the original picture, so they Photoshopped my head. If you look at my head, my head looks totally weird, because whoever did the Photoshop job was sh-t. My head looks really weird, they took my hat off, and they gave me an entirely new body. It's completely bizarre.

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Once is in!

View image We're in.

After an investigation on the eve (literally) of the official Oscar ballot mailing, the executive committee of the Academy's music branch "has met and endorsed the validity of 'Falling Slowly' [from 'Once'] as a nominated achievement. The committee relied on written assurances and detailed chronologies provided by the songwriter of 'Falling Slowly,' the writer-director of 'Once' and Fox Searchlight" [the film's US distributor]. For details, see "Is Once ineligible for Best Original Song Oscar?" below.

The issue centered on whether the song was actually written for "Once" (as Academy rules require), or for the 2006 Czech film "Kráska v nesnázích" ("Beauty In Trouble"), or in some other context. In addition to its performance by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in "Once," "Falling Slowly" appeared in various versions on three 2006 albums: Hansard and Irglova's "The Swell Season," the "Beauty in Trouble" soundtrack album (also sung by Hansard and Irglova), and "The Cost" by Hansard's band The Frames.

According to David "The Carpetbagger" Carr at the New York Times, music branch chairman Charles Bernstein released a statement about the evolution of "Once" and "Falling Slowly":

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Is Once ineligible for Best Original Song Oscar?

The Oscar-nominated song "Falling Slowly" (the only one not from "Enchanted" or "August Rush") may have been recorded for a Czech film -- and appeared on two albums in 2006, before "Once" was finished.

Not sure why this has become an issue now (does nobody at Fox Searchlight or the music branch of the Academy do any research until the last minute -- or beyond?), but Dublin film critic Paul Lynch passes along this report from his Sunday Tribune critical colleague Una Mullally:

The Sunday Tribune understands that the Academy query relates to whether the song, from the John Carney-directed movie "Once," was written specifically for the film, as the eligibility rules for the Best Original Song category demand.

"Falling Slowly" was originally recorded by the film’s co-stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova when Czech director Jan Hrebejk asked the two musicians to contribute songs to his 2006 film "Kráska v nesnázích" ("Beauty In Trouble"). Hansard and Irglova ended up recording the album "The Swell Season," of which "Falling Slowly" was a key track. That album was released in April 2006. Hansard’s band, The Frames, then rerecorded the song for their September 2006 album "The Cost. "Beauty in Trouble" was released in October 2006, with "Falling Slowly" played almost in full over the film’s trailer [above].

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Once (revised and sexed-up)

This is not a "chick flick." The DVD cover (right) misrepresents the movie.

I resisted seeing John Carney's "Once" at first. Sounded to me a little too much like what, in the 1970s, somebody might have called a "folk opera" -- an Irish acoustic-balladeer musical. You know: moosh. Guy (Glen Hansard) meets Girl (Markéta Irglová) -- yes, that's as much as the movie tells us about the main characters' names -- and, before you know it, they're bursting into song. Which they do, but it's not like "West Side Story" on the streets of Dublin. He sings because he's a busker, but he's also a non-musical vacuum repair guy. The important thing is that "Once" is by no means a conventional romantic musical. It's just that the performances, and the dialog, and the story, are primarily expressed through the songs composed and sung (for plausible reasons) by the Guy and the Girl. The music is what passes between the two of them, particularly in a marvelous scene in which he teaches her one of his songs, and she accompanies him on piano, in the back of a music store.

The original movie still. OK, maybe the stocking cap had to go for the poster...

"Once" is the kind of movie everybody calls "charming," but I think that does it a disservice. Not that it isn't charming, just not in quite the ways you'd necessarily expect. For instance, I don't think I've ever pulled so strongly for the two lead characters to not "get together" as I did in this movie. If, even for a moment, it had tipped over into a conventional romance it would have failed.

Which is why the DVD cover for "Once" bugs me. Look at the original poster, above left. The Guy and the Girl are walking side by side, having a conversation. They're looking at each other, but no PDA. Now look at the DVD image: Same photo (with colors brightened), same cobblestone-street-as-guitar... but are they holding hands? That is wrong, wrong, wrong! She's received a colorized accessory makeover, while he's been de-scruffed and dressed in a more svelte and stylish jacket and sweater, with a newly color-coordinated scarf, and what looks like tighter-fitting jeans. And a gym membership. Is somebody is trying to sell this movie as a "chick flick"? I hate that term, but I think it accurately reflects what's going on here... The movie got terrific reviews and became a sleeper hit with audiences -- a $150,000 movie that grossed about $9.5 million in the US (approximately 65 percent of its worldwide take). Was this really necessary?

(Tip: Dave McCoy, who has "Once" as the #2 movie on his ten best list.)

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Scanners' 2007 Exploding Head Awards (Part 1)

View image And the Exploding Head goes to... Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in "Knocked Up"?

I'll publish my annotated "best of" list next week, but while thinking back over the year's movies I recalled some things that seemed to me "beyond category." Or the usual categories, anyway. One way or another, they made my head feel that it might explode. So, while everybody's preoccupied with all those other awards, here are the 2007 Exploding Heads for Achievement in Movies:

Best endings: • "The Sopranos" (final episode): blackout • "No Country for Old Men": "Then I woke up." • "I'm Not There": Dylan's harmonica on "Mr. Tambourine Man" • "Superbad": Baby-steps toward adulthood, separating at the mall escalator • "Zodiac": Stare-down

Most electrifying moment: A dog. A river. "No Country for Old Men."

Best grandma: "Persepolis"

Best surrogate grandpa: Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"

"Arrested Development" Award for Best Throwaway Lines: • "Keep it in the oven..." -- Jason Bateman, "Juno" • "... Terrorism..." -- Michael Cera, "Superbad" (actually, Cera has so many astonishingly brilliant under-his-breath moments in "Superbad" and "Juno" it's uncanny)

Best performance by an inanimate object: (tie) The cloud (and its shadow), the candy wrapper, the blown lock housing in the motel room door, "No Country for Old Men"

Most cringe-worthy lines: • "My cooperation with the Nazis is only symbolic." -- "Youth Without Youth" • "That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet." -- "Juno" (the cutesy moment at the beginning when I nearly ran screaming for an exit; cutting this entire unnecessary scene would improve "Juno" immensely)

Funniest double-edged observation: "He's playing fetch... with my kids... he's treating my kids like they're dogs." -- Debbie (Leslie Mann) in "Knocked Up," watching Ben (Seth Rogen) play with her daughter, who is loving it. That's her point of view, and she's right, but she says it like it's a bad thing.

View image Ain't nothin' but the real thing, baby: Brian Dierker and Catherine Keener in "Into the Wild."

The Real Thing: "Non-actor" Brian Dierker, rubber tramp, "Into the Wild" (and, of course, his "old lady" Catherine Keener, actor extraordinaire)

Best film about the way The Industry really works since "The Big Picture": Jake Kasdan's "The TV Set." The moment I knew it was going to be exceptional (sharp, precise and, therefore, extraordinarily funny) was when the writer's choice for the lead role gives an audition that's just... underwhelming. He isn't good. He isn't terrible. He just isn't enough. Which then allows the network execs to push for the "broader" alternative ("To me, the broad is the funny"). And even he proves himself capable of being not-awful -- in rehearsal, at least...

Best political film: (tie) "12:08 East of Bucharest" and "Persepolis" -- a pair of smart, funny movies about the effects of political revolutions on individuals in (respectively) Romania and Iran.

Deadliest stare: (tie) Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), "No Country for Old Men"; Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), "Atonement"

Young comedy whippersnapper stars of the year: Michael Cera (19), Ellen Page (20), Seth Rogen (25), Jonah Hill (24), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (18)

Game savers: J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, who come to the rescue of "Juno" not a moment too soon

Best torture porn: The excruciatingly funny baptism scene with Paul Dano and Daniel Day Lewis (both of 'em overactin' up a storm -- but in a fun way), "There Will Be Blood"

Most worthless critical label: "Independent." A movie should not be viewed through its budget, financing or distribution. And in these days of studio "dependents" (Miramax, Focus Features, Paramount Vantage, Fox Searchlight, etc.), the term "indie" is frequently misleading at the very least.

Best bureaucrat: Dr. Fischer (Alberta Watson), "Away From Her"

Best negotiations: • Chigurh and the gas station owner, "No Country for Old Men" • Chigurh and the trailer park lady, "No Country for Old Men" • Chigurh and Carla Jean, "No Country for Old Men" • "4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days": The painfully protracted, ever-shifting moral balance (and exhausting power-struggle) in the hotel room, between the friend and the abortionist -- while the pregnant woman herself passive-aggressively bows out of any responsibilities for what has happened, or will happen.

"Perfume" Award for Best Portrayal of Synesthesia: "Ratatouille"

Best Supporting Crotch: Sacha Baron Cohen, "Sweeney Todd." An squirm-inducing scene-stealer that makes you long for a change of angle: Please give us an above-the-waist shot! (Did they have spandex in mid-19th century London?)

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LAFCA: There Will Be... more 2007 critics awards

Dillon Freasier (great!) and Daniel Day Lewis (... BIG!) in "There Will Be Blood."

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (my former homies) have announced their collective choices for best achievements of 2007 and... well, for now, I'll just say that I doubt most of them would even be on my short list of runners-up for this year. (I haven't seen "Sweeney Todd" or "Diving Bell and the Butterfly" yet, though.) I'm glad that some honorees are getting recognition: Milestone Films, Sarah Polley, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (from "Once": music as dialog/acting), Jack Fisk (to whom I will always be grateful for, among other things, the prom in "Carrie," the house in "Days of Heaven," and pulling the lever in "Eraserhead" -- yes, that was him), "Persepolis" and "Ratatouille" (tied for best animated feature), Vlad Ivanov (for negotiating the trickiest of roles) and a few others. But I know how misleading these group-ballot things can be. LAFCA's list does leave the impression that they felt "Blood" (and, perhaps, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") tower the rest of the year's releases. I wonder if that's really the overwhelming majority opinion, or if it's another case of second- or third-choice consensus carrying the day. Too many of these seem like Academy-style picks to me (Most Noticeable Acting, Most Obvious/Intrusive Score, etc.). More about that later on in the month...

UPDATE (12/10/07): LAFCA member Robert Koelher writes to Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere: "I've cited to both Anne Thompson and David Poland the various fictions they've written about re. LAFCA's awards, namely that our pick for 'TWBB' had to do with going against National Board of Review (Anne) or the Academy (David). And now you say we were generally flying the contrarian flag. [...]

"By a wide margin, LAFCA felt... that 'There Will Be Blood' was the best American film of the year. That's all. No chess work, no calculations, no triangulation -- nothing but a matter of taste based on seeing more movies over the year than anybody else.

"And Jeff, the group judgement was based -- with perhaps no exceptions, since there was simply no time for most or all of us to view it more than once -- on a single viewing of 'TWBB.' It's a great movie on the first viewing."

[NOTE: In my post I did not surmise that LAFCA was intentionally striking any groupthink contrarian pose. I know from experience that it doesn't really work that way -- and, besides, LAFCA is the first crix group to vote, so what's to react against? But I wondered about the margin of victory, a legitimate question regarding the results of any balloting or committee decision-making procedure -- including the Oscars. Koehler's letter helps clarify that. I'm glad to know I disagree with some genuine majority sentiments rather than some statistical flukes. I disagreed with some choices when I was a member of the group, too -- and I don't know anyone who didn't, from time to time. It's a group of critics, you know....]

The LAFCA 2007 awards:

PICTURE: "There Will Be Blood" RUNNER-UP: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood" RUNNER-UP: Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood" RUNNER-UP: Frank Langella, "Starting Out in the Evening"

ACTRESS: Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en rose" RUNNER-UP: Anamaria Marinca, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Vlad Ivanov, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" RUNNER-UP: Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone" and "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead" RUNNER-UP: Cate Blanchett, "I’m Not There"

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