In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_large_2j2jeurpvhqksybohmpsq01jil5

Listen Up Philip

The terrific cast all delves into the material full-bore, which contributes to its peculiar resonance. Perry may hate everyone and everything, but in making a…

Thumb_10687421_10152289281917007_4858446204490388004_o

Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

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…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

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…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Cast and Crew

* 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.

The Girl: Putty in Hitch's hands

Primary_girltippiblood-thumb-510x286-53562

"The Girl" premieres on HBO at 9:00pm (8:00pm Central) on Saturday, Oct. 20. It will also be available on HBO GO.

by Jeff Shannon

October, 1961: A New York fashion model on the verge of Hollywood stardom, 31-year-old Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) is invited to a celebratory lunch with legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones) and his wife Alma (Imelda Staunton), who's also his long-time collaborator. A divorced single mother (of future actress Melanie Griffith, then four years old), Hedren is plucked from obscurity to star in "The Birds," Hitchcock's highly anticipated follow-up to his phenomenally successful 1960 thriller, "Psycho." After Alma sees her in a TV commercial ("I like her smile," she says to "Hitch"), she arranges a meeting. Secretly smitten, Hitchcock directs Hedren's screen test in his own Bel Air home and, shortly thereafter, offers a toast.

Continue reading →

#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)

Continue reading →

#34 October 27, 2010

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...

ENTER Père-Lachaise

Continue reading →

#31 October 6, 2010

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh at a Charity party in 1957 with Frank Sinatra and his then-wife, Ava Gardner. (click to enlarge) Marie writes: the best celebrity photos are invariably candid shots. :-)

Continue reading →

In memory: Tony Curtis, 1925 - 2010

Primary_eb20100930people100939999ar

When his handsome face and a stroke of luck brought Curtis to Hollywood in 1948, he was 23 years old and felt as if he was in heaven. That wasn't because of the acting opportunities. It was because of the women, and Tony was one of the town's best-known lotharios for decades. He loved acting, too, and made great films and bad ones with the same sense of fun. He was also a lifelong artist, whose paintings commanded decent fees, and a party animal until he got clean and sober in 1982. One thing you will not notice in the obituaries is anyone with a bad word to say about him. He was fun, and few had more fun than he did himself.

Continue reading →

A boy's best friend is his mother

May Contain Spoilers

It's quite easy for someone to enjoy film. Loving film is completely different. For those who see films enjoy them, yet only those who can read film truly love it and understand it as an art form.

Hitchcock is probably the most well known director of all time. There is no absolute answer to what his crowning achievement is. A lot of critics prefer "Vertigo." Taste varies from one film lover to the other. "North by Northwest", "Notorious", "Vertigo", "Rear Window", "The Birds", "Shadow of a Doubt", "Strangers on a Train", "Rebecca", "Suspicion", "The 39 Steps" and "Psycho" are among his most loved.

The truth is there is no such thing as one ultimate Hitchcock masterpiece, there are only favorites.

Continue reading →

Stars under the stars, for free

Primary_eb20090407commentary904089997ar

Great movies under the stars for free. The lineup has been released for this summer's 10th annual Chicago Outdoor Film Festival, presented by the Mayor's Office of Special Events and programmed by the Chicago Film Office. In honor of two recently passed movie giants, Paul Newman in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and director Sydney Pollack's "Tootsie" are included. And a John Ford classic will screen in honor of the Abraham Lincoln centenary.

Continue reading →

Psycho: Murder in close-up (without bodies)

View image Flushing away evidence of guilt in the toilet. A big drain.

View image Shower. Head.

Imagine the "Psycho" shower scene without Marion Crane or Mrs. Bates. Alfred Hitchcock's (and Saul Bass's) rapid-cut sequence is renowned for its use of close-ups to suggest the slicing of flesh when, in fact, there is none on the screen. You create that illusion in the cuts.

View image The plumbing continues to function as it is designed to, without regard to Marion's trauma.

View image The ripping of a membrane, like flesh (keeps the wet inside), as Marion (below frame) reaches out, clutches at life while it slips from her grasp.

But what really makes the sequence work, I'd argue, is the way Hitchcock uses plumbing. Back in 1998, I published an extensive web article on Plumbing in the Cinema, in which I quoted from Stephen Rebello's book, "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho": "The script is shot through with obvious delight in skewering America's sacred cows -- virginity, cleanliness, privacy, masculinity, sex, mother love, marriage, the reliance on pills, the sanctity of the family... and the bathroom.'' Rubello quotes screenwriter Joseph Stephano on the subject of primal-screen plumbing: "I told Hitch 'I would like Marion to tear up a piece of paper and flush it down the toilet and SEE that toilet. Can we do that?' A toilet had never been seen on-screen before, let alone flushing it. Hitch said, 'I'm going to have to fight them on it.' I thought if I could begin to unhinge audiences by showing a toilet flushing -- we all suffer from peccadillos from toilet procedures -- they'd be so out of it by the time of the shower murder, it would be an absolute killer. I thought [about the audience], 'This is where you're going to begin to know what the human race is all about. We're going to start by showing you the toilet and it's only going to get worse.' We were getting into Freudian stuff and Hitchcock dug that kind of thing, so I knew we would get to see that toilet on-screen.'' Just the sight of the flushing toilet was considered shocking enough to mildly unsettle and disorient audiences of the day.And the same is true today, though perhaps less noticeably so. In the same plumbing piece, here's the way I described what happens next:Hitchcock's guilty fugitive protagonist, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), having totaled the sum of her indebtedness, monetary and karmic, on a slip of paper, rips up the evidence of her culpability, flushes it down the water chute (although a telltale piece of it misses the bowl, as Detective Arbogast [Martin Balsalm] will later discover) and steps into the shower. Just as she's figuratively washing her the sins of her recent past down the drain, Mrs. Bates pays her a visit with a butcher knife. Marion pays for her sins in blood. And the image of her blood swirling into the blackness of the drain dissolves into an image of her now-lifeless eye. Her head lies on the bathroom floor next to the toilet. For what is a human body itself -- its arteries and intestines and organs and other viscera -- but an elaborate piece of organic plumbing?

View image Following the blood and the water down the drain.

That cold, hard biological reality underscores the whole scene, from the time Marion, looking for someplace to dispose of her accounting besides the wastebasket (where that nosy Norman would undoubtedly discover it), first glances toward the bathroom, hesitates, and then decides to take a shower. The hollow sound of the tiled room echoes through the scene -- and, of course, Marion's physical vulnerability is emphasized by her nakedness and the noise of the shower drowning out the rest of the world. She's even made a point of closing the door firmly before stepping into the shower.

View image Into the drain, and out of a lifeless eye...

You can make all the Freudian jokes you like about the phallic showerhead, but it works. Yeah, it's sexual, and Marion seems almost orgasmic when she slides under its spray. It's also cleansing, even cathartic after all Marion's been through since her furtive afternoon quickie (in bra and panties) with her boyfriend in the hotel room at the start of the picture: Since leaving work the previous day, she's made a rash and fateful decision to steal cash from her employer and skip town. She exchanged cars, had a close encounter with a cop beside the highway in the desert, drove in the dark and pouring rain, and then had that strange little talk with the young man in the back room full of stuffed and mounted birds -- the boy with the mean old invalid-ed mother locked up in that spooky house looming behind the motel. Who wouldn't like to take a nice hot shower after a day-and-a-half like that?

[images missing: insert your memory of Marion's murder here]

What you see on this page are just the close-ups of insentient bathroom fixtures in the sequence. All images containing organic matter have been stripped out. Marion is about to become one of these inanimate objects. The image of her blood swirling in the tub, and her dead face mashed against the white tile floor, shocks us even as it prepares us for the clean-up scene, where we will shift our identification from Marion onto Norman. To Hitchcock's perverse delight, we will soon be rooting for Norman to scrub away and dispose of the evidence of our (ex-) main character's murder. The drain is metaphorical, but it's also the abyss. Marion has been our surrogate; and now her pupil is as void and lifeless as that hole. We peer into it, unable to fathom where it leads, and the blackness beckons...

This is another contribution to the Close-Up Blog-a-thon at the House Next Door.

Continue reading →

Ebert: The Night Watcher

Primary_eb20060720commentary60720003ar

Of M. Night Shyamalan's handful of movies, the one Roger Ebert reviewed most favorably was "Signs," and the one he hated, hated, hated was "The Village." Here's Ebert's career overview of the director of "Lady in the Water" and "The Sixth Sense."

Continue reading →

Opening Shots Quiz 2: Answers

"I am your host! Und sagen..."

Here they are, eleven of the most famous opening shots in movie history, plus a bonus that I threw in just because I like it. Prepare to smack your head and say, "D'oh! I knew that!" But don't give up -- keep sending in your nominations for great opening shots, along with your explanations for why they set up the movie so well, to: jim AT scannersblog dot com.

Congrats to Daniel Dietzel, who got all ten right, but did not hazard a guess about the two bonus shots -- and to Jeremy Matthews, who got nine out of the top 10, but also correctly identified both the bonus/tiebreakers!

And come back Sunday for the answers to the original Opening Shots Pop Quiz.

Now, the answers to the Opening Shots Quiz 2: 10 Easy Pieces (+2):

Continue reading →

Movies 101: Opening Shots Project

"Barry Lyndon" opens with a bang.

Any good movie -- heck, even the occasional bad one -- teaches you how to watch it. And that lesson usually starts with the very first image. I'm not talking necessarily about titles or opening sequences (they're worth discussing, too -- but that's another article); I'm talking about opening shots. As those who have been reading Scanners (and my Editor's Notes on RogerEbert.com) know, two of my cardinal rules for movie-watching are:

1) The movie is about what happens to you while you watch it. So, pay attention -- to both the movie and your response. If you have reactions to, or questions about, what you're seeing, chances are they'll tell you something about what the movie is doing. Be aware of your questions, emotions, apprehensions, expectations.

2) The opening shot (or opening sequence) is the most important part of the movie... at least until you get to the final shot. (And in good movies, the two are often related.)

The opening shot can tell us a lot about how to interpret what follows. It can even be the whole movie in miniature. I'm going to talk about some of my favorites, and how they work, and then request that you contribute your own favorites for possible publication in future Scanners columns.

Continue reading →

We're not in Texas anymore... are we?

Primary_eb20041017answerman410170301ar

Q: I had to laugh at elements of your review of "Friday Night Lights." You wrote: "Certainly there are countless citizens in that Texas town who lead happy and productive lives and are fulfilled without depending on high school football." Obviously you've never lived in Texas. I've lived here for five years now and I can attest that in a small town like Odessa, high school football IS everything. You mention that the Odessa stadium is "larger than those at many colleges." True. Our high school north of Austin recently completed a $20 million, 11,000-seat capacity stadium complete with AstroPlay synthetic turf and a Daktronics Prostar scoreboard. In Texas, the school funding debate rages on like it does everywhere, but they can't let the kids play on a shabby field, can they? Doug Matheson, Austin, Texas

Continue reading →

Janet Leigh dies at age 77

Primary_eb20041005people41004009ar

Among Janet Leigh's last interviews was one she gave in July to the Sun-Times' Miriam Di Nunzio about the DVD release of "The Manchurian Candidate." Some excerpts: On working with directors John Frankenheimer, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles: "They were all geniuses. Hitchcock ['Psycho'] did not like ad-libbing at all because everything was timed to perfection in his scenes. Orson loved ad-libbing. The whole ['Touch of Evil'] script was skeletal. Frankenheimer liked spontaneity, but 'Manchurian Candidate' was too closely honed a story to really ad-lib much. There wasn't a whole lot of that going on during filming."

Continue reading →

Hitchcock is still on top of film world

Nineteen years after his death, he remains as famous as any director in movie history - even Steven Spielberg. Other directors have had their films remade, but only Alfred Hitchcock made one so monumental that another director, a good one, actually tried to duplicate it, shot by shot. Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" (1998) was a bad idea, but it's the thought that counts.

Continue reading →

Movie Answer Man (07/26/1998)

Q. Today, I read that a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is shooting this summer with Gus Van Sant as the director and Anne Heche taking the Janet Leigh role and Vince Vaughn the Tony Perkins role. My first reaction is--"why?" There are great novels and screenplays floating around that don't get made, and here comes yet another remake of a film that was plenty good the first time around. If a film was popular and successful, a remake automatically has things going against it from audiences who liked the first one. So, why? (Vicki Halliday, New York City)

Continue reading →

Movie Answer Man (12/15/1996)

Q. When it comes to titles for sequels, Hollywood loses count. The first "Rambo" film was "First Blood." Then followed "Rambo: First Blood II." But next came "Rambo III." What happened to "Rambo II?" Then there was "Mad Max," followed by "The Road Warrior," followed by "Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdrome." What happened to "Mad Max II?" Or why wasn't the third film "Road Warrior II: Beyond Thunderdrome?" Then came "Alien," "Aliens," and "Alien 3." "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was followed by "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan," which was followed by "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock." The "Godfather" series is also not without its problems. The second film tells of the events leading up to the first film, as well as the events that happened after the first film. So should "The Godfather" have been "Godfather, Part II," and should "Godfather, Part II" have been "The Godfather, Parts I & III?" And then of course "The Godfather, Part III" would have been "Part IV." (Bruce Totten, Chardon, Ohio)

Continue reading →

Jamie Lee Curtis: "Blue Steel"

Primary_eb19900315people101129996ar

The movie is called "Blue Steel," and Jamie Lee Curtis stars in it as a female cop who can't convince her superiors that a psychopath is trying to kill her. But first he wants to scare her. So he materializes out of shadows and from behind parked cars and from darkened stairways, and he toys with her emotions until she's a basket case. Meanwhile, he's murdering other people all over town--and when the cops dig the bullets out of the dead bodies, they all have her name etched on them.

Continue reading →