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Penguins of Madagascar

The pacing is so zany, the jokes are so rapid-fire and the sight gags are so inspired that it’s impossible not to get caught up…

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Horrible Bosses 2

The law of diminishing returns, which has afflicted so many comedy sequels over the years, strikes again in “Horrible Bosses 2,” further proving that just…

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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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CIFF 2009: The winners! And our reviews

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Tina Mabry's "Mississippi Damned," an independent American production, won the Gold Hugo as the best film in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival, and added Gold Plaques for best supporting actress (Jossie Thacker) and best screenplay (Mabry). It tells the harrowing story of three black children growing up in rural Mississippi in circumstances of violence and addiction. The film's trailer and an interview with Mabry are linked at the bottom.

Kylee Russell in "Mississippi Damned"

The winner of the Audience Award, announced Friday, was "Precious" (see below). The wins came over a crowed field of competitors from all over the world, many of them with much larger budgets. The other big winner at the Pump Room of the Ambassador East awards ceremony Saturday evening was by veteran master Marco Bellocchio of Italy, who won the Silver Hugo as best director for "Vincere," the story of Mussolini's younger brother. Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi won Silver Hugos as best actress and actor, and Daniele Cipri won a Gold Plaque for best cinematography.

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TIFF #7: It was a very good day

I saw three new movies on Monday. Each one could have been the best film of the day. I can't choose among them, so alphabetically: Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," Atom Egoyan's "Chloe" and Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child." A story involving a cop uncontrollably strung out on drugs. A story involving a wife who meets a hooker. A story about three woman whose lives are shaped by the realities of adoption. Three considerable filmmakers. Three different tones. Three stories that improvise on genres instead of following them. Three titles that made me wonder, why can't every day be like this?

Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog were surely destined to work together. Radical talents are drawn to one another. Cage tends to exceed the limitations of a role, Herzog tends to exceed the limitations of film itself. Knowing nothing about conditions during the shoot, my guess is they found artistic harmony. If not, they ended up hardly on speaking terms. Either way would have worked.

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Happy 300 million!

View image Sonja Sohn (left, with Dominic West as Detective McNulty, in "The Wire"): The future of America, I hope!

The wee bundle of joy who raises the US population to an even 300 million (for a fraction of second before we zoom past the milestone) may be a beautiful brown baby boy! We're a nation of ethnic mutts (and I'm of English-Irish-Italian-Cuban heritage -- proudly "mixed race"), but I wish I could live long enough to see the day (and it won't be that long) when most Americans will resemble Tiger Woods or Sonja Sohn or Bejamin Bratt or Halle Berry or Cameron Diaz or Jimmy Smits or Salma Hayek or... Well, OK, the beautiful ones, anyway. From Reuters: A baby boy of Latino heritage, born in Los Angeles on Tuesday, might well be the 300 millionth American. The 200 millionth, a Chinese-American lawyer in Atlanta, says he'll be very relieved.

U.S. population will top 300 million at about 7:46 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 39 years after the 200 million mark was reached on November 20, 1967. [...]

It is possible to make an educated guess at who the 300 millionth American will be, said demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution.

"I predict it's going to be a Latino baby boy, born in Los Angeles to a Mexican immigrant mother," Frey said by telephone.

This prediction makes sense, Frey said, because about half of U.S. population growth is due to Hispanics, the biggest gains in the Hispanic population are in Los Angeles, more boys are born than girls and the U.S. population is growing more due to natural increase than through immigration.

"In theory, it could be anybody who crosses a border, who comes off a plane as a new immigrant or is born anywhere in the United States but if you have to put the odds on high probability, I would say my guess is pretty good," Frey said. What a country!!!

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Gregory Nava: Living in el Norte

Why don't we ever see Latino families in the movies? All the other American ethnic groups have given us movies about their march through the generations, but Latinos, until now, have been represented mostly by crime movies and comedies, neither presenting their culture in an especially positive light. A Chicano I know went to see "American Me," a film by Edward James Olmos that is brave and powerful but unremitting in its portrait of a man destroyed by prison, and came out saying, "If I wasn't Chicano, this movie wouldn't have made me want to know any."

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