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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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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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* 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.

Ebert's Top Movies of 2012

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Oscars. Not to the Oscars. To me. I sustained a hairline fracture of my left hip. I didn't fall. I didn't break it. It just sort of... happened to itself. Most of the time, it causes me no pain at all. But my left leg won't bear any weight, nor can I walk on it. This pain is off the charts. It has nothing to do with cancer. It's plain bad luck.

The good news is that I've seen the films of one of the best recent years in cinema. I wrote more than 300 reviews in 2012 -- a record -- and it was unusually difficult to leave out many of the quote-unquote "best" films in 11th place.

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And the nominees are...

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With the 2013 Oscarcast moved up to Feb. 24, movie fans are already in a lather over the possible nominees, especially since again this year there can be "up to" ten finalists in the Best Picture category. I claim no inside knowledge (I'm still waiting to hear from my friend Deep Oscar), but it's never too early to speculate.

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Toronto #3: "Cloud Atlas" and a new silent film

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I know I've seen something atonishing, and I know I'm not ready to review it. "Cloud Atlas," by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, is a film of limitless imagination, breathtaking visuals and fearless scope. I have no idea what it's about. It interweaves six principal stories spanning centuries--three for sure, maybe four. It uses the same actors in most of those stories. Assigning multiple roles to actors is described as an inspiration by the filmmakers to help us follow threads through the different stories. But the makeup is so painstaking and effective that much of the time we may not realize we're seeing the same actors. Nor did I sense the threads.

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#133 September 12, 2012

Marie writes: As TIFF 2012 enters its last week and the Grand Poobah nurses his shoulder in Chicago (having returned home early for that reason) the Newsletter presents the final installment of Festival trailers. There was a lot to chose from, so many in fact there was no room for theatrical releases; they'll return next week. Meanwhile, enjoy!

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#122 July 4, 2012

Marie writes: If you're anything like me, you enjoy a good book cover as much as a good story; the best often speaking to inspired graphic design. Indeed, I know I'm not alone in my admiration...Welcome to "The Book Cover Archive" for the appreciation and categorization of excellence in book cover design; edited and maintained by Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen. On their site, you can gaze lovingly at hundreds of covers complete with thumbnails and links and even the name of the type fonts used. Drool....

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The Pursuit of Powerlessness

May Contain Spoilers

One man. Three acts. Three stories. First, he is an aggressive corporate manager, racing against seconds and minutes to do his work and live his life. Second, he is a quiet man in a peaceful land, where time moves in seasons and years. Third, he is a bewildered man at home, where time has slipped passed him, making him miss the most important events of his life, including his own death. This is Robert Zemeckis' great "Cast Away" (2000). If this were a foreign language film or an independent film with a no-name cast, I am sure it would have received tremendous acclaim. As an American film by a major American director featuring two powerhouse actors (Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt), however, it has been left underrated.

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#57 April 6, 2011

Marie writes: ever stumble upon a photo taken from a movie you've never seen?  Maybe it's an official production still; part of the Studio's publicity for it at the time. Or maybe it's a recent screen capture, one countless fan-made images to be found online. Either way, I collect them like pennies in jar. I've got a folder stuffed with images, all reflecting a deep love of Cinematography and I thought I'd share some - as you never know; sometimes, the road to discovering a cinematic treasure starts with a single intriguing shot....

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Cinematography: Harry Stradling(click images to enlarge)

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#45 January 12, 2011

Marie writes: I love cinematography and worship at its altar; a great shot akin to a picture worth a thousand words. The best filmmakers know how to marry words and images. And as the industry gears up for the Golden Globes and then the Oscars, and the publicity machine starts to roll in earnest, covering the Earth with a daily blanket of freshly pressed hype, I find myself reaching past it and backwards to those who set the bar, and showed us what can be accomplished and achieved with light and a camera...

Cinematography by Robert Krasker - The Third Man (1949) (click to enlarge images)

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TIFF: 'RFK: The Disaster Movie'

Wayne Newton and Suzanne Pleshette -- er, Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore stud the all-star cast of "Bobby."

We're told that Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" takes place at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, but it feels like it was originally released back around then. It's "Earthquake" with the RFK assassination as the disaster. It's "Airport." It's "The Towering Inferno." A whole bunch of familiar actors play "colorful" characters swarming around the hotel, and their day will culminate in the death of a Kennedy. They talk about the movies -- new stuff like "The Graduate," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Planet of the Apes" -- but a retired doorman played by Anthony Hopkins explicitly invokes the model for "Bobby" and and its ilk: "Grand Hotel," the 1932 picture with Greta Garbo and an all-star cast. And "Bobby" treats the assassination as an event as strangely distant from its own present-tense as "Grand Hotel" was from 1968.

Sure, the requisite modern political parallels are present, as they are in virtually every film at the Toronto Film Festival this year. On the screen, on TVs in hotel suites, over the soundtrack, are actual speeches and sound bites from Democratic senatorial candidate Robert F. Kennedy, talking about how the country has lost its way in the quagmire of Vietnam, and championing rights for minorities and low-wage workers, etc., etc., etc. (It comes as a bit of a shock to remember that politicians were once articulate and sounded like they knew the meanings of the words they were saying.)

But why make "Bobby," which screened at the Toronto Film Festival as a "work-in-progress"? Why turn this traumatic national event into a Hollywood soap opera? The performances are fine for this kind of glitzy manufactured melodrama ("Where Were YOU When They Shot RFK?"), and on that level it's swell, trashy fun. It's just that the whole concept is inappropriate.

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The Unwritten Rules of Oscar

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Shhhhhh. Don't tell a soul. Close Oscar-watchers (and Academy insiders) know that what you are about to read is true -- but few like to talk about these things. When it comes to picking Oscar winners, you can study the stats of Oscars past in search of patterns and clues, but there are certain influential paradigms that defy and transcend conventional statistical analysis.

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Politics, celebs and movie critics

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"You should learn to keep your opinions OUT of your reviews!" Every critic I know has received at least one letter like that from an indignant reader. Of course, it's an absurd proposition; critics are paid to express their opinions, and the good ones (who exercise what is known across all disciplines as "critical thinking") are also able to cite examples and employ sound reasoning to build an argument, showing you how and why they reached their verdict.

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Movie Answer Man (02/11/2001)

Q. In the movie "Cast Away," Tom Hanks leaves on his assignment overseas before the plane crashes. When he says goodbye to Helen Hunt on the tarmac, they trade Christmas presents in his Jeep. He walks away and returns with a gold wrapped box, which they are supposed to open together on New Year's Eve. The plane crashes, four years later he returns from the island, and she gives him his Jeep back. There was no mention of the little gold box or a possible engagement ring that might have been in the box. Was that scene filmed or edited out, and if it was filmed, might we see it on a future CD? (Dom Najolia, Chicago)

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