Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
A remarkable tale of immigrant success, wrapped around a crime story.
* 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.
A preview of the 5th Chicago Critics Film Festival, which runs from May 12-18 at the Music Box Theater.
A celebration of director David Lynch's filmography in anticipation of an upcoming retrospective at the IFC Center in New York.
A review of three premieres from the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival.
A celebration of the great actress Charlotte Rampling, currently seen in "45 Years" and soon a retrospective at New York City's IFC Center.
Sheila writes: Quentin Tarantino's films are often tributes to other films, to other genres, to actors who have made their marks in the past. He loves it all, he has enthusiasm for all. Here, in this really fun Press Play video, Tarantino's visual references to other films are made explicit, shot for shot.
Brando's A-list acting school; Sex, death and Kubrick; Five Wallace essays you must read; Gendering of martyrdom; Hackers can disable a sniper rifle.
Sheila writes: John Lennon kept a sketchbook throughout his life, filled with little drawings and doodles, and in 1986 Yoko Ono commissioned Oscar-winning animator John Canemaker to make them into a short film. The short film, "The John Lennon Sketchbook" hit Youtube officially on May 15 of this year. The images are accompanied by audio recordings of John and Yoko talking about their relationship, bantering and joking. It's lovely. You can watch the film below.
A guide to the latest Blu-ray, VOD, and streaming options, including "Fifty Shades of Grey," "American Sniper," and "Blackhat".
An appreciation of Nastassja Kinski, on the occasion of a tribute to her at the Film Society at Lincoln Center from November 27-December 3, 2014.
An appreciation of filmmaker, writer and actor L.M. "Kit" Carson, a singular talent.
Gerardo Valero sees the potential for a good remake in "Escape from New York."
The New York Times' David Carr admits that Glenn Greenwald is a journalist; Criterion Collection appreciates Alex Cox's Repo Man; poets go to the movies; James Franco's never-ending navel-gaze; David Edelstein dismantles The Way, Way Back; Kerry Washington on the cover of Vanity Fair; Dennis Hopper documentary.
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)
The visceral impact that Ridley Scott's "Alien" had in 1979 can never quite be recaptured, partly because so many movies have adapted elements of its premise, design and effects over the last three decades -- from John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing" (1982) to David Cronenberg's remake of "The Fly" (1986) to "Species" (1998) and "Splice" (2009). No movie had ever looked like this. And it still works tremendously -- but let me tell you, in 1979 a major studio science-fiction/horror film that hinted darkly of interspecies rape and impregnation was unspeakably disturbing. (It got under my skin and has stayed there. We have a symbiotic relationship, this burrowing movie parasite and I. We nourish each other. I don't think Ridley Scott has even come close to birthing as subversive and compelling a creation since.)
The thing is, the filmmakers actually took out the grisly details involving just what that H.R. Giger " xenomorph" did to and with human bodies (the sequels got more graphic), but in some ways that made the horror all the more unsettling. You knew, but you didn't know. It wasn't explicitly articulated. Dallas (Tom Skerrit) just disappears from the movie. The deleted "cocoon" scene (with the haunting moan, "Kill me...") appeared later on a LaserDisc version of the film, and then was incorporated into the 2003 theatrical re-release for the first time. The deleted footage:
"No good movie is long enough and no bad movie is short enough". As much truth as this phrase carries it is also a fact that editing choices greatly influence a film's outcome. One of the best examples to illustrate this point is Guisseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso" which was released in 1990 as a 124 minute gem that won Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards and the unconditional love of everyone I've ever discussed it with. Further, it made no sense to learn that a much longer version of the film had been released in Italy a couple of years before to mediocre reviews and box-office results. How could material this good ever be ignored? The answer came years later in a single viewing of one of those DVD editions that includes the complete 173 minute version. As strange as this sounds, I believe that the butchering of Director Tornatore's original 1988 vision saved his film from utter mediocrity, and took it to an all together higher level.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Gene Siskel and I fought like cats and dogs, and we made some good television.
During those early years for "Sneak Previews" our favorite occupation was dreaming up "special editions" which were sort of like the "think pieces" we wrote for our papers.
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]
From the Grand Poobah and Mrs. Poobah:Seasons Greetings Everyone! (click to enlarge)
Welcome to a special Halloween edition of the Newsletter! Marie writes: the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, in addition to being the final resting place of many a famous name. From Édith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt and Chopin to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Georges Méliès, the well-known sleep on the tree-lined avenues of the dead and which you can now explore in a virtual 360 degree tour...
Gene and me in the 1980s. Looking at this photograph by Chicago's Victor Skrebneski, Gene said, "Even our mothers don't think we look that good." (Photo by Victor Skrebneski)
I was surprised how depressed I felt all day on July 21, when Richard and I announced we were leaving the "Ebert and Roeper" program. To be sure, our departures were voluntary. We hadn't been fired. And because of my health troubles, I hadn't appeared on the show for two years. But I advised on co-hosts, suggested movies, stayed in close communication with Don DuPree, our beloved producer-director. The show remained in my life. Now, after 33 years, it was gone--taken in a "new direction." And I was fully realizing what a large empty space it left behind.
Laura Dern in "Inland Empire": A Woman in Trouble is a Temporal Thing.
My review of David Lynch's "Inland Empire" in the Chicago Sun-Times and on RogerEbert.com today:
Put on the watch. Light the cigarette, fold back the silk, and use the cigarette to burn a hole in the silk. Then put your eye up to the hole and look through, all the way through, until you find yourself falling through the hole and into the shifting patterns you see on the other side.
That's a metaphor for watching and making movies, and it's one way to watch "Inland Empire" -- a way that is, in fact, specifically recommended in the movie itself. This is David Lynch's film -- the one he's been making since "Eraserhead" -- and it offers you multiple ways to view it as it uncoils over nearly three hours, encouraging you to see it from all of them at once. It is, after all, overtly about the relationship between the movie and the observer, the actor and the performance, the watcher and the watched (and the watch).
In this sense, you might say, "Inland Empire" is a digital film, through and through. Not because Lynch shot it with the relatively small Sony PD-150 digicam and fell in love with the smeary, malleable and unstable texture of digital video (where the brightest Los Angeles sunlight can be as void and terrifying as the darkest shadow), or because the first pieces of the movie were digital shorts he made for his Web site before they grew and crystallized into a narrative idea. "Inland Empire" unfolds in a digital world (a replication of consciousness itself -- hence the title), where events really do transpire in multiple locations at the same time (or multiple times at the same place), observers are anywhere and everywhere at once, and realities are endlessly duplicable, repeatable and tweakable. This is a digital dimension where, to paraphrase Jean-Luc Godard, there's no difference between ketchup and paint and light and blood: On the screen, it's red.
"Inland Empire" presents itself as a Hollywood movie (and a movie about Hollywood) in the guise of an avant-garde mega-meta art movie. When people say "Inland Empire" is Lynch's "Sunset Boulevard," Lynch's "Persona," or Lynch's "8½," they're quite right, but it also explicitly invokes connections to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," Jean-Luc Godard's "Pierrot le Fou," Bunuel and Dali's "Un Chien Andalou," Maya Deren's LA-experimental "Meshes of the Afternoon" (a Lynch favorite), and others.
Of course, it's also a tour-de-Lynch, in which we virtually revisit spaces and images and faces (Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Grace Zabriskie, Harry Dean Stanton ... ) that resonate with memories of "Eraserhead," "Blue Velvet," "Twin Peaks," "Wild at Heart," "Lost Highway," "Mulholland Drive," "Inland Empire" itself -- and some perpetually unfinished Lynch movie of the future. Because, in the Inland Empire, nobody can quite remember if it's today or two days from now, because yesterday and the day after tomorrow are all transpiring in the present tense. Or, as one character puts it so memorably, "I suppose if it was 9:45, I would think it is after midnight."
Rest of review at RogerEbert.com
Godard is a contemptuous artist, too. Forget "Le Mepris." Ever see "Weekend"?
We heard a lot in 2006, as we do every year, about nasty filmmakers who were said to have viewed their characters (and, hence, their audiences) with contempt, or who "made fun of" them, or treated them with condescension, or who just don't seem to like them very much. Across time, such charges have been leveled at Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, Christopher Guest, the Coen Bros., Todd Solondz, Sacha Baron Cohen, and many other artists -- especially those whose work has tended toward the comic or caricaturish. And then there's all of film noir to consider, a whole kind of moviemaking that does not view the human animal with kindness or affection.
In answer to specific allegations of of alleged contempt (such as Jonathan Rosenbaum's characterization of Altman's attitude toward Lady Pearl in "Nashville"), I have tried to explain why I think such charges are false, or at least misguided. It seems to me, in these cases, that the contempt being expressed is more likely to be that of the critic for the director or film (or reader) than that of the director for the character or the audience (unless we're talking about a movie by, say, Alan Parker). But it's impossible (and futile) to argue with a blanket statement like: "The Coens mock everybody. They're laughing at the audience!" -- meaning, of course: "They're laughing at me!" (please read in the voice of Piper Laurie in "Carrie"). My response is: 1) that's a rather vague aspersion; 2) if you got the joke you wouldn't feel like you were being laughed at; and, 3) yeah, it's true. Many forms of comedy -- satire, parody, etc. -- contain an element of mockery. Even contempt.
So, I'm here to speak up for contempt! (How very contrarian of me!)
The rich, powerful and pretentious are obvious (and ripe) targets for humor and derision. Their problem is that they're just people, with flaws like everybody else, only magnified (and made more irritating and dangerous) by their position in society. They deserve to be knocked down a few notches. But you don't have to be rich, powerful or pretentious to be a hypocrite, or a boor, or a twit, or an oaf, or a cretin. You don't have to possess great wealth or celebrity or influence to be smug, stupid, petty, ignorant, pathetic, tasteless, crass, callous, crude, or just downright annoying -- and, thus, worthy of comic derision. Such people really exist! I've seen them with my own eyes! What's more, I've been them!
"Hey, look at those assholes over there. Ordinary f----in' people. I hate 'em." -- Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), "Repo Man" (1984)
"Hell is other people." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, "No Exit" (1944)
I sometimes wonder if those who worry about expressions of contempt for characters (particularly "ordinary people") in movies have ever had jobs in which they had to deal with the general public. Or have ever attended some kind of party or social function at which they have met some people they would rather not have met. Is this not part of the human experience? Don't most people have some pretty awful qualities? Why should an artist be expected concentrate on their benign or "sympathetic" traits -- or to come up with some kind of artificially "fair and balanced" view of them? Some people's most interesting characteristic is that they are idiots. Or worse. Did you like "Seinfeld"? Those characters were despicable in every way. Some people thought that was why they were funny.
Is misanthropy not the most universal and understandable of all sins? For all our achievements and evolutionary refinements, we are a pretty damnable species. And, as the only one capable of (and perhaps unwittingly committed to) destroying all life on our own planet, we are also the richest, most powerful and pretentious. Don't we deserve to have a laugh at ourselves -- or, at least, at those idiots right over there?
P.S. I am reminded of the words of Luther Ingram and Mack Rice, as sung by the incomparable Mavis Staples (and, yes, I'm going through one of my periodic obsessive Stax phases, so get used to it):
Keep talkin' 'bout the president won't stop air pollution Put your hand over your mouth when you cough, that'll help the solution
Mavis means you. And she's singing in the context of a Christian family gospel/soul group. Good gosh a'mighty, now -- even the Staple Singers aren't afraid to make the average person the butt of an occasional, rather contemptuous, joke. Amen to that.
The Pale Man sez: "Use your eyes -- both of 'em!"
The forthcoming "Grindhouse" notwithstanding, the motion picture double bill is a nearly dead art. Marquees have always been plugged with twosomes that just happened to be from the same distributor (it's the same kind of logic that gives us a "The Robert Altman Collection" on DVD, consisting of "M*A*S*H," "A Perfect Couple," "Quintet" and "A Wedding" -- simply because they were all released by 20th Century Fox). On a slightly more creative level (sometimes), today's few remaining revival houses might connect two films by language, genre, director or star.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with a fairly straightforward double bill of, say, Scorsese/De Niro pictures ("Mean Streets" and "Taxi Driver") -- or David Lynch LA nightmares ("Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive") or Michael Haneke puzzles ("Code Unknown" and "Cache" ) -- all of which are illuminating pairings. As I like to remind myself, you invariably view movies through the prism of the movies you've already seen -- particularly those you've seen recently, and never more so than when you see two of 'em back to back. You can't help but make associations, and a well-considered double bill can help you see both movies from new angles -- emphasizing some aspects over others, and creating a kind of conversation between the two films.
When I was in college, at the University of Washington, I got to program hundreds of movies in the student film series -- a different double bill every Friday and Saturday night (and sometimes Wednesdays and Sundays, too!) over a couple of years -- and I had a blast doing it. My favorite strategy was to put an older or less well-known (and cheaper to rent!) film with a more recent or recognizable title in hopes of pulling in an audience (and maybe blowing people's minds!).
Put "Citizen Kane" with "All the President's Men" and all kinds of things start happening: They're both detective stories, journalistic stories, overshadowed by famously flawed and powerful public/private men who remain essentially unknowable to the end... Or put Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" with Michel Deville's "Dossier 51," and you have two accounts of psychological meltdowns under the glare of intense surveillance -- one by the watcher and one by the watched -- but both from the perspective of the voyeur. Or how about Peckinpah's "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" with Huston's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"? Eric Rohmer's "Preceval" with Robert Bresson's "Lancelot du Lac"? I would love to have paired Brian De Palma's "Hi Mom!" with Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" -- for perverse structural and audience-freaking reasons. On the other hand, I don't recall exactly what I was going for when I put Bunuel's "L'Age d'Or" with Godard's "Weekend," except that I knew they were both shocking and transgressive... and, most of all, I really wanted to see them. Anyway, you can set up all kinds of thematic, historical and stylistic clashes and consonances reverberating between films....
So, that's what I've decided to do with some of my favorite movies of 2006. Rather than a traditional "ten best list" (which I've already contributed to MSN Movies), here are my suggestions for fruitful ways of viewing some of the year's best movies, alongside some of the best of past years. Make an evening of it -- in theaters and/or on DVD!
Can it possibly be that time again? Can 12 months have passed since the last ceremony? Are the crowds gathering, ready to boo and hiss and sit on their hands? Then let’s bring out the 15th annual Movie Disaster Awards! May I have the envelope, please? (The one marked “Postage Due.”)