"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.
Harold Ramis dies at 69; A look at the state of film criticism; Method acting destroying the profession; Meryl Streep and the Oscars; Sex and the City ten years later.
Nell Minow makes the case for Best Original Screenplay for Spike Jonze's "Her."
Remembrances of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
An exhaustive list of Top 10s by RogerEbert.com contributors.
Missing Roger's Oscars prognostications and his top ten lists. And making a list of my own.
The Oscars race has hit a holiday lull. It's a good time to pause and take stock of nominations.
Critics groups from around the country are giving awards. What impact do these awards have on the Oscar race, and how useful are they as predictors?
Spike Jonze's "Her" is a warm and intelligent consideration of our continually evolving relationship with technology.
Michał Oleszczyk talks with director James Gray about "The Immigrant."
James Gray's "The Immigrant" maintains a tight focus on the Ellis Island experience, and Mohammad Rasoulof's "Manuscripts Don’t Burn" dramatizes the inside of the cruel Iranian secret service.
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.
Marie writes: The countdown to Christmas officially begins the day after Halloween, which this year lands on a Wednesday. Come Thursday morning, the shelves will be bare of witches, goblins and ghosts; with snowmen, scented candles and dollar store angel figurines taking their place. That being the case, I thought it better to start celebrating early so we can milk the joy of Halloween for a whole week as opposed to biding adieu to the Great Pumpkin so soon after meeting up again...
Movies usually present the life and religion of conservative masses as that of simple-minded, bigoted country bumpkins. Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" (2012) explores the life and religion of the liberal elite, presenting them as sophisticated frauds eagerly exploiting eagerly exploitable colleagues. If we spoke of "There Will Be Blood" (2007) as "madness," we might accurately speak of this film as "intoxication." And, as is the case with the previous film, "The Master" is amazing in its characterizations, sails us through its cinematography and faded colors, but its narrative confuses us. It is said to be a story about the development of Scientology, but it also recalls Byrne's "The Secret," as well as most every television healer on either side of the Atlantic or Pacific. I don't know that the story is about the religion or the cult leader, as much as it is about the rabid pit-bull he keeps on his leash.
I apologize for the lack of postings the last few weeks. A recent flare-up of heart problems left me with little energy to write. But as the emaciated old man in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" says: "I'm feeling much better!"
At one point well into Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" I thought that the movie was going to reveal itself as a story about the meaninglessness of human existence. But that notion was based on a single piece of aphoristic, potential-thesis-statement dialog that, like much else, wasn't developed in the rest of the movie. Which is not to say that "The Master" isn't about the meaninglessness of human life. The line, spoken by Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the cult guru known to his acolytes as Master, is addressed to the younger man he considers his "protégé," a dissolute mentally ill drifter named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), and the gist of it is that the itinerant Freddie has as much to show for his life as somebody who has worked a regular 9-to-5 job for many years. The point being, I suppose, that for all Freddie's adventures, peculiarities and failures, he isn't all that much different from anybody else. Except, maybe, he's more effed-up.
"Dear Mr. Spider;I am profoundly sorry to have taken you from your home in the woods, when I was picking Himalayan Blackberries on Monday afternoon. I didn't see you fall into my bucket and which was entirely my fault; I must have bumped into your web while reaching for a berry. Needless to say, I was surprised upon returning home with my bucket full, to suddenly see you there standing on a blackberry and looking up at me." - Marie
(photo recreation of incident)
Marie writes: Once upon a time, a long time ago and in a childhood far, far away, kids used to be able to buy a special treat called a Frosted Malt. Then, with the arrival of progress and the subsequent destruction of all that is noble and pure, the world found itself reduced to settling for a frosty at Wendy's, at least where I live. Unable to support a "second rate" frosted malt for a second longer, I decided to do something about it!
Marie writes: As some of you may know, it was Roger's 70th birthday on June 18 and while I wasn't able to give the Grand Poobah what I suspect he'd enjoy most...
Siskel & Ebert fight over a toy train (1988)
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.)
Marie writes: my art pal Siri Arnet sent me following - and holy cow! "Japanese artist Takanori Aiba has taken bonsai trees, food packaging, and even a tiny statue of the Michelin Man and constructed miniature metropolises around these objects, thus creating real-life Bottled Cities of Kandor. Explains Aiba of his artwork:"My source of creations are my early experience of bonsai making and maze illustration. These works make use of an aerial perspective, which like the diagram for a maze shows the whole from above (the macro view) while including minute details (the micro view). If you explore any small part of my works, you find amazing stories and some unique characters." ( click to enlarge.)
The bottom line: Casey Affleck thinks of it as a performance and not as an act, and he thinks of "I'm Still Here" as a film, and not a hoax. In an interview where he revealed details behind the making of his controversial film with and about Joaquin Phoenix, he also said:
• David Letterman was not in on the performance, and what you saw on his show was really happening.
• Phoenix dropped out of character when he was not being filmed or in public.
• The drugs and the hookers were staged. The vomiting was real.
• Toronto Report #6
We now have it on Casey Affleck's word that "I'm Still Here," the film about Joaquin Phoenix's apparent descent into self-destruction, was a hoax. We cannot doubt this. Well, perhaps we can; the possibility exists that Affleck caught so much shit after the release that he decided to back off from his devastating portrait of his brother-in-law. But let's agree it is a hoax.
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.
Snarking is cultural vandalism. I have arrived at this conclusion belatedly. I have been guilty of snarking, and of enjoying snarks. In the matter of snarking, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But it has grown entirely out of hand. It is time to put away childish things. I must restore my balance, view the world in a fair way, hope to inspire more appreciation than ridicule. No doubt there will always be a role for snarking, given the proper target and an appropriate venue, and I reserve the right to snark when it is deserved, as in certain movie reviews. But in general I must become more well-behaved. A snarker is one who snarks. The word is said to be a combination of snide and remark. There are slithering undertones of shark, bark, and stark. There is also, for me, an association with snipe. The practice involves holding someone up to ridicule not so much for anything they actually did, as for having the presumption to be who they are.
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.