Don't Think Twice
Mike Birbiglia's beautiful, sneakily profound comedy shows a world where "Yes, and ... " is the default.
* 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.
Brad Bischoff on "The Grasshopper"; Seismic shift in the film festival world; Relevance of "The Second Civil War"; Ta-Nehisi Coates on "Black Panther"; Ode to "Bad News Bears."
The movie questionnaire and 2015 reviews of RogerEbert.com film critic Peter Sobczynski.
"Inside Out" and the stranglehold of Minnesota Nice; 20th anniversary of "Kids"; Small-screen auteurism of Keith Gordon; Danny Elfman on Tim Burton; John Lasseter on the evolution of storytelling.
An obituary for the great Christopher Lee.
"The Unloved" series continues with a neglected recent gem by John Carpenter.
Donald Liebenson chats with actor/comedian/writer Patton Oswalt about his new book "Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film."
"Outlander" and TV's sexual revolution; Chatting with John Carpenter; When cinema stops making sense; "The Simpsons"/"Family Guy" crossover; Soderbergh's "The Knick."
Highlights and schedule for the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival.
Director Joe Dante talks about his sideline running the Trailers from Hell website, which showcases the much-maligned film preview.
Writer Peter Sobczynski responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
Marie writes: It's that time of year again! Behold the shortlisted nominees for The Turner Prize: 2012. Below, Turner Prize nominee Spartacus Chetwynd performs 'Odd Man Out 2011' at Tate Britain on October 1, 2012 in London, England.
(click image to enlarge.)
UPDATED (08/01/12): Scroll to the bottom of this entry to see my first impressions of the newly announced critics' and directors' poll results.
Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" (1948) topped the first Sight & Sound critics' poll in 1952, only four years after it was first released, dropped to #7 in 1962, and then disappeared from the top ten never to be seen again. (In 2002 only five of the 145 participating critics voted for it.) Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941) flopped in its initial release but was rediscovered in the 1950s after RKO licensed its films to television in 1956. From 1962 to 2002 "Kane" has remained at the top of the poll (46 critics voted for it last time). This year, a whopping 846 top-ten ballots (mentioning 2,045 different titles) were counted, solicited from international "critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles" -- including bloggers and other online-only writers. Sight & Sound has announced it will live-tweet the 2012 "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" (@SightSoundmag #sightsoundpoll) August 1, and as I write this the night before, I of course don't know the results. But, for now at least, I'm more interested in the process.
Given the much wider and younger selection of voters in 2012, ist-watchers have been speculating: Will another movie (leading candidate: Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," number 2 in 2002) supplant "Kane" at the top of the list? Will there be any silent films in the top 10? (Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" and Murnau's "Sunrise" tied for #7 on the 2002 list, but the latter was released in 1927 with a Fox Movietone sound-on-film musical score and sound effects.)
Though there's been no rule about how much time should pass between a film's initial release and its eligibility (the Library of Congress's National Film Registry requires that selections be at least ten years old), most of the selections ten to have stood the test of time for at least a decade or two. The newest film on the 2002 list was the combination of "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974) -- but they won't be allowed to count as one title for 2012.
"Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel" is available March 27 on online outlets via iTunes, Vudu, CinemaNow and Amazon. Also on DVD and Blu-ray.
For B-movie buffs, exploitation film aficionados, and midnight movie cultists, the grand finale of "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel," will be every bit as exhilarating as that montage of forbidden kisses at the end of "Cinema Paradiso." Taking its cue from the liberating, rebellious high point of the Roger Corman-produced "Rock and Roll High School," in which P. J. Soles and the Ramones rock the hallways of Vince Lombardi High, it offers up dizzying bursts of quintessential Corman: cheesy monsters, fiery car explosions, Vincent Price, blaxploitation kickass, marauding piranhas and Mary Woronov with a gun.
Alex Stapleton's "Corman's World" celebrates the singular cinematic legacy of the "King of the Bs," who has improbably and regretfully fallen into obscurity. Observes director Penelope Spheeris ("The Boys Next Door," "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years," "Wayne's World"): "If you ask a 20-25-year-old film buff, they won't know who he is."
This despite a career that spans almost 60 years and more than 400 films that Corman either directed or produced. But while his own name may be unfamiliar, many of the once-fledgling actors and filmmakers whom he nurtured/exploited are not: Martin Scorsese ("Boxcar Bertha"), Ron Howard ("Grand Theft Auto"), Peter Bogdanovich ("Targets"), Jonathan Demme ("Caged Heat"), Joe Dante ("Piranha"), Robert DeNiro ("Bloody Mama"), Pam Grier ("The Big Doll House"), screenwriter John Sayles ("The Lady in Red") -- all these and many more appear in "Corman's World" in new and archival interviews.
• "The Outer Limits" (original series) is available on Netflix (DVD), Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. • "In Cold Blood" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video. • "Cool Hand Luke" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video. • "American Beauty" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray) and Amazon Instant Video. • "Road to Perdition" is available on Netflix (DVD and Blu-ray).
by Jeff Shannon Eyes Wide Open: A Single Artist's Vision
Ask anyone who's devoted their life to the study and appreciation of movies and they can probably tell you exactly when they were "bitten by the movie bug," that moment of personal epiphany that sparked an all-consuming passion for what is arguably the greatest, most powerful medium of artistic expression.
In my case, it was Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" that literally changed my life. That's an influential milestone I share with many cinephiles who came of age in the 1950s and '60s, especially those "movie brats" (among them James Cameron, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg) who were drawn to imaginative visions of the future. Because I'd spent most of my childhood outdoors or casually enjoying Disney films and other kid-friendly fare, I didn't see Kubrick's visionary masterpiece until it played a return engagement at Seattle's glorious Cinerama Theater, in 1971, when I was nine years old.
(With its huge, curved Cinerama screen, the Cinerama is still the only theater in Seattle capable of showing "2001" as Kubrick intended. It exclusively hosted the film's original 77-week Seattle run beginning in April 1968, and the fully restored 70-millimeter print of "2001" had its world premiere there, appropriately enough, in 2001, two years after the aging cinema was purchased and beautifully renovated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It's now one of only three theaters in the world -- along with the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles and the Pictureville Cinema in Bradford England -- equipped to exhibit three-panel Cinerama, requiring three synchronized projectors for the only seven films created in the three-strip Cinerama process, including 1956's "This Is Cinerama" and 1962's "How the West Was Won." Starting this week [Sept. 30th] and running through mid-October, Seattle's Cinerama is hosting a "70mm Festival" of 15 films, including "2001," that originally premiered there.)
Like no other film before it, "2001" opened my eyes to the power of a single artist's vision and led me to understand the supremacy of a great director. I didn't know it then, but I'd discovered the basis of auteur theory, and while it would be foolish to deny that film is (to echo that award-acceptance cliché) the most collaborative of all art forms, it's no contradiction to embrace the Kubrick quote that greets all visitors to kubrickfilms.com, Warner Bros.' authorized Kubrick website: "One man writes a novel. One man writes a symphony. It is essential for one man to make a film." (Disregard "man"; Kubrick would've been the first to include female filmmakers in his statement.)
When I went to the Jeonju International Film Festival in this April, I was reminded again that the old theaters at the downtown of my hometown are gone. Most of them are now replaced by a bunch of multiplexes, and I can't say the old theaters were better than their replacements. While there were the big theaters where I could enjoy movies like "Independence Day" or "Starship Troopers," I remember too well how shabby several theaters were in early 1990s, compared to the current standard; I am happy with the comfortable seats, nice bathrooms, and agreeable viewing condition in multiplex theaters.
● Jackboots on Whitehall (DVD/VOD/Digital cable July 26) ● American Grindhouse (DVD/Hulu July 26)
by Steven Boone
The animated comedy "Jackboots on Whitehall" does its best to tweak every British stiff-upper-lip stereotype ever perpetuated in film and popular culture since World War II. This satire employs puppet animation techniques familiar from "Team America: World Police" and classic George Pal puppetoons, but with exquisite production design more akin to Wes Anderson's stop-motion "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Instead of marionettes or stop-motion, however, filmmakers Edward and Rory McHenry employ animatronic dolls enhanced with CGI.
The period detail in this account of Hitler's alt-reality occupation of London is stunning: a convincing re-creation of Whitehall, the road whose major landmarks comprise the seat of British government; the airship Hindenburg, which, in this reality, never blew up and now serves as a Nazi attack vehicle; Hadrian's Wall and the hills of Scotland; vintage fighter planes, palaces, tanks, luxury cars... Equally meticulous is the costuming, from Winston Churchill's pinstriped suit to the Raj soldiers' blue turbans.
While the McHenry brothers' puppets aren't articulated beyond some binary limb and neck movements, they are sculpted with such expressive character it's easy to suspend disbelief. Exuberant character voices help. Timothy Spall as a gruff Churchill, Alan Cumming as a fey Hitler and Tom Wilkinson as a simpering Goebbels play it lip-smackingly broad. Richard E. Grant portrays a tightly wound priest so perpetually furious that its possible he gave his entire performance through clenched teeth. Ewan McGregor lends the unlikely farm boy hero some warmth. Along the way, some downright filthy jokes fly by almost subliminally, under kids' radar (including a visual joke last seen in "Boogie Nights"). In fact, so much of the humor is adult, whether in raunchiness or complexity, that Jackboots on Whitehall is less a family film than one for liberal parents and their precocious teens. The DVD includes a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary that details just how much love went into this handcrafted epic.
The Grand Poobah is still working away on his memoirs from his quiet retreat in Harbour Country, Lake Michigan and where last week, we caught glimpse of Roger's assistant Carol Iwata, visiting the soda fountain at Schlipp's Pharmacy in Sawyer for a chocolate milkshake. Leading me to wonder "exactly where is that milkshake?" See map. Smile.
Click above to REALLY enlarge...
UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...
Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.
In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)
Director Joe Dante ("Piranha," "The Howling," "Gremlins," "Matinee," "Homecoming") talks with Dennis Cozzalio about stories and effects at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, in one of the most enjoyable filmmaker interviews I've read in a long time:
... I'm not saying all these new techniques are better. Unfortunately, you can't go home again, and it is difficult to make films using the old technology. I've seen a couple of pictures in Europe when I've gone to festivals where they have carefully tried to use the old Rob Bottin-Rick Baker school of do-it-in-the-camera, and it's often very effective, but those movies often don't get released anywhere because they're not CGI, they're not what people expect. I mean, love it or hate it, CGI is here to stay -- the trick is to find a way to work it so that it doesn't look as sterile and mechanical as by definition it is.
From Dennis Cozzalio, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, Glendale, CA:
The opening of Joe Dante’s cruelly misjudged and overlooked comedy "The ‘Burbs" begins with a vertiginous and hilarious parody of the God’s-eye view shot. Fade in on the familiar Universal logo—the planet Earth spinning, surrounded by incongruously Saturn-like circles of galaxy dust, particle and stars. But the world looks a little off, a bit more animated, more cartoony than usual.
The camera begins to move in on the planet as the words “A Universal Picture sign dissolves away. The camera moves down closer and closer and closer onto the planet’s surface, onto the recognizable shape of the United States. Even closer now, dropping down into the Midwest somewhere, perhaps Illinois-ish. Closer. Closer. Now a city is recognizable. A neighborhood. A street. The camera continues “craning down from above the rooftops (obviously a miniature set), swooping left and down across the front of a row of houses.
Suddenly, Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which has had up to now a liltingly comic grace, turns mock haunted-house creepy with a thunderous, sinister organ chord as the camera glides over to a dwelling that looks a scosh more gothic than its surrounding neighbors. Just as suddenly, flickering flashes of light are visible through the windows into lining the goth house’s basement foundation, and crackling electrical sounds are heard accompanying the flashes. Something mysterious, and very un-suburban, is happening down there…
JE: Thanks again, Dennis! You submitted this along with several others back in July -- and I had frame grabs for it and "Used Cars" ready to go before my "hard drive fatality." Gotta go back and order "Used Cars" from Netflix again. Meanwhile, a happy belated birthday to Joe Dante ! Check out Dennis's Dantean appreciation -- as part of Tim Lucas's recent Joe Dante Blog-a-Thon.
Also don't let 2006 expire before you take Professor Dave Jennings' Milton-Free, Universe-Expanding Holiday Midterm. It counts for 25 percent of your final grade this quarter.
(And, Dennis: Thanks so much for the Christmas gift!)
Attack of lamb.
The DNA of "Black Sheep," the New Zealand silly, tepid horror-comedy (accent on the second; it's not the least bit scary), traces back to "The Howling," "The Birds," "Night of the Living Dead" (and "Dawn of the Dead") and "An American Werewolf in London" -- with a spot of Lou Jacobi in "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex...." I don't know that anybody in America would want to re-make a movie about genetically altered killer sheep (suggested titles: "Mutton Mutants" or "Baaaad Blood"), but I kept imagining what Joe Dante could have done with this premise. Rather, what Joe Dante ("Piranha," "Gremlins," "Homecoming," the aforementioned "The Howling") already has done with it.
An evil factory-farm sheep rancher named Angus (see, if it was an American movie it would have to be about beef) irresponsibly experiments with genetic engineering on the sheep farm he inherited from his father -- mostly so that he can name a new breed of Frankensheep after his family bloodline: The Oldfield. His lamb-o-phobic brother returns to the farm to sell off his half of the business and quickly get as far away from those docile white fluff-pots as he can. Meanwhile, Angus's horrid -- and, as it turns out, rabidly carnivorous -- mutant sheep are spread into the general population by a pair of idiotic eco-activists who have no clue about what genetic engineering is. (One: "This isn't going to be like the salmon farm is it?" Other: "Those fish died free!")
FYI, I've still got lots and lots of Opening Shots stacked up to publish, including (off the top of my head): Truffaut's "Day for Night," Paul Schrader's "Cat People," Joe Dante's "the 'burbs," Bob Zemeckis's "Used Cars," Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev," Peter Weir's "Picnic at Haning Rock," Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch Drunk Love" and many, many others. Just haven't been able to work on this stuff as much as I should because of daily reviewing obligations. But I'm gonna try to get to another batch this week, if I possibly can...
Of the 21.25 Spielberg movies Roger Ebert has reviewed (the .25 being Spielberg's quarter of "Twilight Zone -- The Movie," which also featured segments by John Landis, Joe Dante and George Miller), his average rating has been 3.270588 stars. Count 'em:
Q. Is it me or is John Cusack the most underrated actor in American movies right now? He has never received an Academy Award nomination, nor has he starred in any blockbusters (he did have a supporting role in the Nicholas Cage vehicle "Con Air") but he seems to lend quality to everything in which he appears. Why do you suppose he fails to capture the recognition he deserves? (Tim Tremain,