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Transcendence

"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.

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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.

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson's miniatures

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Tilt-shift photography was made for Wes Anderson, even if he doesn't actually use it. His pictures often look like they were filmed that way, because they are exquisite miniatures. Keith Uhlich and any number of others have referred to his "shoebox-diorama" aesthetic. There's a hand-crafted feeling to his movies (too bad George Harrison already used the name "Handmade Films"), from the props and set design to the images themselves, a sense "Moonrise Kingdom" underscores with the use of Super 16mm film stock and a softly aged, yellowed visual texture.

The picture begins in what appears to be a toy house with tiny people living inside -- reminiscent of the cutaway ship set in "The Live Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (or Jerry Lewis's famous construction for "Ladies' Man"). The site is New Penzance Island, 1965 -- somewhere, I would imagine, on a fantasy border between New England and France,* probably across the water from Tativille on the mainland. The postal address (clearly marked on the mailbox) is "Summer's End." The movie is obsessed with charts and maps and measurements and procedures and codes -- all those things that (supposedly, at least) help you figure out where you've been, where you are, where you need to go, and what you need to do to get there.

And, the narrator (Bob Balaban, looking like a grey-bearded bespectacled elf in a bright red coat, black and white mittens and a green stocking cap) tells us, looking us right in the eye, it is indeed early September, just three days before a famously ferocious and well-documented tempest, according to the U.S. Department of Inclement Weather, which keeps track of those sorts of things. I would estimate that 98 percent of the time (I wish I had a graph), Anderson's camera is situated on a tripod or a dolly, moves only at right angles, and always with clockwork smoothness. (There's a Keatonesque boat that sets sail with a similar comically pure, precise and idealized motion that I can only describe as deadpan. It's miraculously urgent and serene at the same time.) The dolly-mounted camera can move left or right, up or down, forward or back, except when it pivots (from 180 degrees to 360 degrees) from a fixed point. The compositions, as you know from "Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums" and so on, are generally balanced, stable and symmetrical, as if viewed through a proscenium. Lots of straight lines and 90-degree angles; few diagonals, except as parallel lines that appear to converge in perspective.

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A letter from Chaz

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• Chaz Ebert at Cannes

Dear Roger: "We were once indivisible from every atom in the cosmos," and that is how I feel when I am sitting in the Palais watching movies at Cannes with a screen spread out as wide as the galaxy, the audience circling around like protons and neutrons breathing as one in empathy.

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#116 May 23, 2012

Marie writes: I've never seen this done before - and what an original idea! Gwen Murphy is an artist who breathes new life into old shoes, transforming them from fashion accessories into intriguing works of art. Thanks go to club member Cheryl Knott for telling me about this. (Click to enlarge.)

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The first slice of Cannes 2012

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Above: Bill Murray, madras paparazzo. (AP photo)

The pizza they make in Cannes is unique: a less-is-more creation that is flat and crispy, thoroughly Mediterranean and packed with Riviera flavor. Alleged "European-style" pizzas peddled in the U. S. never seem to achieve that micron-thin crust covered by the faintest wash of tomato sauce, a mere garnish of cheese, and earthy ingredients that can include artichokes or thinly sliced eggplant, generous oregano, and tiny Cannes-grown olives (complete with pits). It's seared in an oven at an impossibly high temperature so that that everything melds into a glorious crackly flatbread that has nothing in common with the doughy excess of American pizza.

The opening day of the 65th Cannes Film Festival is a little like that local pizza, tasty and unique, providing a full range of experiences with just a few carefully chosen ingredients. The various competition events will be in full swing starting tomorrow morning, so today functions as a bit of an appetizer.

Even as festival workers were putting the final touches on the red carpet covering the famed steps up to the Grand Theater Lumiere for tonight's gala festival opening, the opening film, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," was previewing for the international press at the Debussy Theater next door. Although Anderson is the darling of many critics, the only film of his that I've previously warmed up to was his droll animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox." "Moonrise Kingdom" had me enthralled from the first frame, and made me think that I need to take another look at his earlier work.

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#114 May 9, 2012

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn discovered the following Danish designers "Monstrum" who make extraordinary playgrounds for children. I think they're the stuff of dreams, whatever your age. Indeed; behold the Rahbek kindergarten in Frederiksberg, Denmark, and Monstrum's first playground...

The Rocket and The Princess Tower! "Just like a set design, a playground must have an inspiring front that attracts children, and a functional backside with climbing, sliding and relaxing options. The idea of the playground is to combine a girl's mind with a boy's approach into one big common playground. The princess tower consists of three floors, and the rocket has two floors. From the top floor of the Rocket, you can slide down the 6 m long double slide together with an astronaut friend." (click to enlarge.)

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#106 March 14, 2012

Marie writes: It's official. I have died and gone to heaven. For here below, as part of an ongoing series exploring Britain's architectural wonders, the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore, introduces a spectacular interactive 360-degree panoramic photograph of "The grand staircase in the St Pancras Renaissance hotel" - which I regard as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen. I adore this building and always will; it's the stuff of dreams. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Go here to explore a 360 panoramic view of the grand staircase!

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#98 January 18, 2012

Marie writes: Okay, this is just plain cool. This is clearly someone using their brain, in combination with "what the hell, let's just go ahead and try it..."

Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon CameraIn 1903, Dr Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera activated by a timing mechanism. The invention brought him international notability after he presented it at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909-1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, whereupon the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased. (click images to enlarge.) - from The Public Domain Review. Visit the site to see even more photos.

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