"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.
* 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.
Chaz recalls how much Roger loved the Oscars.
Pablo Villaça offers another perspective on "Prisoners."
Jana Monji reports on the party for Wong Kar Wai's "The Grandmaster" at Comic-Con 2013 in San Diego.
Chaz considers Roger's influence on James Mangold's "The Wolverine."
Marie writes: The Ebert Club Newsletter is now three years old! And the occasion calls for some cake - but not just any old cake, as it's also now officially Spring! And that means flowers, butterflies and ladybugs too. Smile.
Marie writes: Behold a truly rare sight. London in 1924 in color. "The Open Road" was shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Friese-Greene and who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William (a noted cinematographer) had been experimenting with. The travelogues were taken between 1924 and 1926 on a motor journey between Land's End and John O'Groats. You can find more footage from The Open Road at The British Film Institute's YouTube channel for the film. You can also explore their Archives collection over here.
Marie writes: Every once in while, I'll see something on the internet that makes me happy I wasn't there in person. Behold the foolish and the brave: standing on one of the islands that appear during the dry season, kayacker's Steve Fisher, Dale Jardine and Sam Drevo, were able to peer over the edge after paddling up to the lip of Victoria Falls; the largest waterfall in the world and which flows between Zambia and Zimbabwe, in Africa. It's 350 feet down and behind them, crocodiles and hippos can reportedly be found in the calmer waters near where they were stood - but then, no guts, no glory, eh? To read more and see additional photos, visit "Daredevil Kayakers paddle up to the precipice of the Victoria Falls" at the DailyMail.
Marie writes: the great Ray Harryhausen, the monster innovator and Visual Effects legend, passed away Tuesday May 7, 2013 in London at the age of 92. As accolades come pouring in from fans young and old, and obituaries honor his achievements, I thought club members would enjoy remembering what Harry did best.
This year's Outguess Ebert contest seems a little like shooting fish in a barrel. For the first time in many a year, maybe ever, I think I've guessed every one correctly.A few years ago, I came across an article about the newly identified psychological concept of Elevation. Scientists claim it is as real as love or fear. It describes a state in which we feel unreasonable joy; you know, like when you sit quiet and still and tingles run up and down your back, and you think things can never get any better.
I tried applying it to that year's Oscar nominees. Did it work any better than any other approach? You need Elevating nominees. An example of Elevation would be when the bone morphs into a space station in "2001." Did I feel Elevation in making any of my Guesses this year. That doesn't mean it was a bad year at the movies. Harvey Weinstein, accepting his achievement award from the Producers' Guild, said he thought 2012 was the best in 90 years. Maybe he felt Elevation when he gazed upon the Weinstein Company's box office figures.
Another brawl in the square Another stink in the air! Was there a witness to this? Well, let him speak to Javert! -- Javert, a character in the musical "Les Misérables"
I was an eyewitness to "Les Misérables."
After repeated exposure to that dreadful theatrical trailer-cum-featurette about how the singing is all done live on camera! -- It's live! It's Live! IT'S LIVE! -- I had no intention of seeing Tom "The King's Speech" Hooper's film version of the 1980s stage musical. But when it finally came out, some of the reviews were so bad that part of me wanted to see what the stink was all about. Still, I'm not a masochist; I don't enjoy going to movies I know I'm probably predisposed to dislike just so I can dump on them. On the other hand, there's nothing better than having your low expectations upended. I did enjoy that Susan Boyle YouTube video back in 2009, but that was all I knew about the musical. I remained curious but skeptical. And then ...
The Grand Poobah writes: "No man has a better wife than Chaz."
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."
Marie writes: the ever intrepid Sandy Khan recently sent me a link to ArtDaily where I discovered "Hollywood Unseen" - a new book of photographs featuring some of Hollywood's biggest stars, to published November 16, 2012."Gathered together for the first time, Hollywood Unseen presents photographs that seemingly show the 'ordinary lives' of tinseltown's biggest stars, including Rita Hayworth, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe. In reality, these "candid' images were as carefully constructed and prepared as any classic portrait or scene-still. The actors and actresses were portrayed exactly as the studios wanted them to be seen, whether in swim suits or on the golf course, as golden youth or magic stars of Hollywood."You can freely view a large selection of images from the book by visiting Getty Images Gallery: Hollywood Unseen which is exhibiting them online.
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Marie writes: I may have been born in Canada, but I grew-up watching Sesame Street and Big Bird, too. Together, they encouraged me to learn new things; and why now I can partly explain string theory.That being the case, I was extremely displeased to hear that were it up Romney, as President he wouldn't continue to support PBS. And because I'm not American and can't vote in their elections, I did the only thing I could: I immediately reached for Photoshop....
(Click image to enlarge.)
Marie writes: It was my birthday June 25th. Unlike Roger however, I'm a Crab not a Gemini. So to celebrate and with my brother's help (he has a car), I took my inner sea crustacean to Barnet Marine Park on the other side of Burnaby Mountain... and where our adventure begins....
Marie writes: Not everything is what is seems...(Click images to enlarge.)
Marie writes: Some of you may have noticed that I have a soft spot for surfing videos. It's not the sport itself - though I do admire it - so much as the camerawork it inspires, and because I have a translucency fetish; I take great pleasure in seeing light pass through something else. There's an ethereal and other-worldly quality to it which elevates my soul; sunlight pouring through a humble jar of orange marmalade enough to make me think I'm looking at God; smile.And so needless to say, when Club member Lynn McKenzie submitted a link to Paul McCartney's stunning new music video called "Blue Sway" - I was utterly captivated. (click image to enlarge.)
Marie writes: you've all heard of Banksy. But do you know about JR...?(click to enlarge image)
From the Grand Poobah: Netflix is great, but they don't have everything and seem to be weak on silent films. Here's a pay site streaming a large and useful selection of high-quality films, world-wide....
Marie writes: when Roger told me about this place, I signed-up to see if I could watch one their free movies? Yup! I can stream MUBI in Canada; though content will vary depending on where you live (that's also case with Netflix Canada) and so nothing new there. And after looking through their current catalog, I can report that they do indeed have some rare movies - stuff I've never found anywhere else. I even read that Martin Scorcese is a member.
Knowing that the summer would bring new releases by two of today's most "controversial" (as Entertainment Weekly might put it) auteurs -- M. Night Shyamalan and Christopher Nolan (one with a critical reputation on a downward slide, the other on the upswing) -- it seemed like a good time to plug some notable gaps in my experience of their filmographies. I still haven't seen Shyamalan's pre-"Sixth Sense" features, "Praying with Anger" (1992) or "Wide Awake" (1998), or Nolan's pre-"Memento" chronology-shifter, "Following" (1998) -- which, the credits reveal, features a thief named Cobb, like "Inception." More significantly, I suppose, I hadn't seen (all of) Shyamalan's hit "Signs" (2002), or any of Nolan's "The Prestige" (2006) -- the former because it just hadn't held my interest the first time I tried to watch it and the latter because my critic-friends who'd seen it were unanimous in finding it dull and uninspired.
The full-screen In Memoriam montage is linked below.
It was the best Oscar show I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty. The Academy didn't bring it in under three and a half hours, but maybe they simply couldn't, given the number of categories. What they did do was make the time seem to pass more quickly, and more entertainingly. And they finally cleared the logjam involved in merely reading the names of the nominees. By bringing out former winners to single out each of the acting nominees and praise their work, they replaced the reading of lists with a surprisingly heart-warming new approach.
I had a feeling Hugh Jackman would be a charmer as host, and he was. He didn't have a lot of gag lines, depending instead on humor in context, as when he recruited Anne Hathawy onstage for their duet. His opening "low budget" song-and-dance was amusing, and we could immediately see how the show would benefit from the reconfigured theater.
The slumdog didn’t stop at winning a million, but zoomed straight on up to Oscar gold Sunday night: “Slumdog Millionaire,” perhaps the most literal rags-to-riches story ever told, swept the night, winning the Academy Award as the best picture of 2008, and seven more Oscars.
The only additional Oscar prediction I'm prepared to make this year is that Hugh Jackman will be a delightful host for the evening. Famous for playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies, he may not strike you as the life of the party, but I base my prediction on two factors: He's Australian, and he's the youngest of five. Therefore, he's funny, born and bred.
View image So, like, what is reality, man?
When I reviewed Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" last year, after having first seen it at TIFF 2006, I wrote: "The Fountain" is a science-fiction historical adventure-fantasy about a man's (or Man's) struggle to face the incontrovertible fact of death.
It begins with Tomas (Hugh Jackman, a boy a long way from Oz) as a 16th century Spanish conquistador exploring the land of the Mayans in search of the biblical Tree of Life at the behest of Queen Isabella (Rachel Weisz). The movie slips into the 21st century, where Tommy (Jackman) is a surgeon and research scientist desperate to discover a cure for the tumor in the brain of his wife, Izzi (Weisz), who is writing a fairy-tale book called The Fountain that includes the 16th century story.
Surging forward another few millennia into the 26th century, the film finds Tom (Jackman) as a kind of zen astronaut hurtling through space in a big bubble with a dying tree and the ghost of 21st century Iz (Weisz) on their way into a mysterious nebula. The three stories flow into and out of one another. I got that bit about the "26th century" from the press kit, not from the movie itself, but I was attempting to be careful in how I described the relationship between the three intertwined "stories" in the film. Yes, they are set in three different time periods, but are they really meant to be chronological stories of the same (or different) characters? Not only do I, as a viewer of the film, not know -- I don't care. Nor should I.
Roger reviewed "The Fountain" last week (he gave it half a star less than I did), and observed -- here be spoilers: Did I have it figured out? It didn’t take me long, and here was my thinking: Since there is not a single element in the film claiming that the same man is alive in all three time periods, he obviously is not. There is a critical belief that you should not bring story elements to fiction that cannot be found there. The fictional identity of the first man is explained by Izzy’s novel, in which she would obviously visualize her own lover as the hero. The fictional nature of the third man is explained because, hey, people don’t go floating through the cosmos inside a bubble while levitating and eating bark, even in “the future.” There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy, but not that. Stephen Hawking will back me up. The film’s central section is unalloyed realism, and generates the fantasy of the first and third. Since Izzy dies in it, magic isn’t allowed. Fiction sets its rules.RogerEbert.com reader Matt Withers to write in with his own theory about "The Fountain," which we printed as a guest commentary here:... I was struck by what an amazing tale it told. A quick Google search later led me to believe that so far no one has given it credit as a story that makes much sense; I found simply a mass of possible interpretations. I actually believe there is a very clear and linear story being told (albeit in a "Pulp Fiction"-y kind of timeline). Since I have not come across any explanation similar to my own, I thought I would share it -- film fan to film fan.
To begin our exploration of just what the hell is going on in "The Fountain," our first task is to determine which, if any, of the three story lines presented is real. You'll have to read the piece for Withers' interpretation of what's "real" (and not) in the movie -- but Marc Caddell isn't buying it. He writes in with his own interpretation (which you can read at the above link).
Me, I think either of these readings are fine (whatever floats your bubble), but I think they are utterly beside the point. In a movie of this sort, the movie is the experience, and it's reductive to try to say one story is more "real" than another. I wrote an article about this subject on RogerEbert.com a few years ago (about "Fight Club" and "Taxi Driver" and "The Wizard of Oz" and "American Psycho" and "Eyes Wide Shut" and "Citizen Kane" and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"...) called "Head Trips: Movies Inside the Skull": It’s silly how many moviegoers and critics insist upon making an artificial distinction between what is “real” and what is “unreal” in a movie – often at the expense of what the film itself is actually about. It’s as if, to them, the predominant idea behind any given picture boils down to nothing more than: Did It Really Happen Or Was It All In His/Her Head? Well, look at it this way: If it’s on the screen, it’s there for a reason – to convey something about character, story, theme. And that is all that matters.
A movie consists of nothing more or less than the images in front of you, and what you go through while you watch them. Consider: Does it honestly matter if Dorothy really goes to the Merry Old Land of Oz, or if it was “all a dream” – or, for that matter, if her “trip” was the result of a concussion, or magic Munchkin mushrooms? Of course not. As any child can (and will) tell you, the important thing about Dorothy’s journey to Oz and back is what she experiences along the way, and what she gets out of it, not whether she physically travels anywhere....
Of course, in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), the distinction between “reality” and “fantasy” is made pretty explicit because, as we all know, Kansas is a monochromatic state (of mind) and Oz is a horse of a different Technicolor. (I’m not so sure I picked up on that, though, the first time I saw the movie as a small child – watching it on black-and-white broadcast TV.) It's always the theme, and the imagery, that matters to me in a movie, not so much the Point A to Point B trajectory of the plot. I guess if I were to describe "The Fountain" in story terms, I'd use not just the image of the tree, but maybe the one of the bubble: The movie is the bubble. Whatever you experience is inside the bubble, and that's all that matters. Whatever's outside the bubble is, as Roger writes, only speculative because it's not actually in the film.
Want to dip your toe in this argument? Or float your own theory about the structure of "The Fountain"? Dive in....