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Make Your Move

With camerawork and editing that allows us to truly enjoy the footwork of its stars, "Make Your Move" is a vibrant, fun dance movie.

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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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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.

#166 May 8, 2013

Marie writes: the great Ray Harryhausen, the monster innovator and Visual Effects legend, passed away Tuesday May 7, 2013 in London at the age of 92. As accolades come pouring in from fans young and old, and obituaries honor his achievements, I thought club members would enjoy remembering what Harry did best.

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Free sample of Ebert Club Newsletter

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This is a free sample of the Newsletter members receive each week. It contains content gathered from recent past issues and reflects the growing diversity of what's inside the club. To join and become a member, visit Roger's Invitation From the Ebert Club.

Marie writes: Not too long ago, Monaco's Oceanographic Museum held an exhibition combining contemporary art and science, in the shape of a huge installation by renowned Franco-Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, in addition to a selection of films, interviews and a ballet of Aurelia jellyfish.The sculpture was inspired by the sea, and reflects upon maritime catastrophes caused by Man. Huang Yong Ping chose the name "Wu Zei"because it represents far more than just a giant octopus. By naming his installation "Wu Zei," Huang added ambiguity to the work. 'Wu Zei' is Chinese for cuttlefish, but the ideogram 'Wu' is also the color black - while 'Zei' conveys the idea of spoiling, corrupting or betraying. Huang Yong Ping was playing with the double meaning of marine ink and black tide, and also on corruption and renewal. By drawing attention to the dangers facing the Mediterranean, the exhibition aimed to amaze the public, while raising their awareness and encouraging them to take action to protect the sea.

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#153 January 30, 2013

Marie writes: Kudos to fellow art buddy Siri Arnet for sharing the following; a truly unique hotel just outside Nairobi, Kenya: welcome to Giraffe Manor.

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Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster

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The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.

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Can you Outguess Ebert for $100,000?

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Like all film critics, I wait until the last possible moment to make my annual Academy Awards predictions. I ask around, I read, I ponder. I'll do that again this year. But today I'm making my Early Guesses, so you can get a head start at outguessing me in our $100,000 Outguess Ebert Contest.

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#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)

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#30 September 29, 2010

"Beware of artists - they mix with all classes of societyand are therefore most dangerous." ~ Queen Victoriastencil by Banksy, British graffiti artistAnd who inspired a recent film about art...

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Inception theories: Two key shots and others' thoughts

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"If the career of Christopher Nolan is any indication, we've entered an era in which movies can no longer be great. They can only be awesome, which isn't nearly the same thing." -- Stephanie Zacharek on "Inception"

Well, people certainly want to talk about "Inception" on the Internet. The opening lines to Stephanie Zacharek's review above may sound flip, but she's zeroing in on something crucial about the kinds of spectacle movies to which we have, perhaps, become accustomed. I remember having an argument with some younger friends back in 1994 over Roland Emmerich's "Stargate," which I found inert and lugubrious, but my friends enjoyed for what they called "visual splendor." (I don't remember how baked we were at the time.) As I believe I said back then, I'm all for visual splendor, but I don't go to narrative movies for (just) a light show, no matter how splendiferous. (I'd rather watch Stan Brakhage for that kind of thing.)

In my hastily keyboarded notes after seeing "Inception" last weekend, I began by saying the biggest disappointment for me was that it was so contrived and remote -- like a clever mechanical puzzle, but not at all dreamlike. Even more disappointing for me, I didn't feel I had much of interest to say about it. Now, more than 200 reader comments later, I find it more fun to theorize about than it was to watch. (Seems awfully anal and pedantic for a "summer movie.") In that post and the previous one about "Signs" and "The Prestige," I wound up writing more in response to comments than I did in the original post, and I really enjoyed the back-and-forth. (But if you want to spare yourself my expanded thoughts -- and others' -- here about what doesn't work in the movie and read more about the implications of two of the most important shots, spoilers and all, feel free to skip to the numbered boldfaced headings below...)

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Ebert's predix, Oscar's results

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In theory, if I correctly predicted every single Oscar race, nobody could outguess me, and by default, I would win the prize. Alas, that has never, ever happened, and it's unlikely again this year, because as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall. In any event, for what they're worth, here are my Academy Award predictions in a year rich with wonderful films.

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No Country For Old Men: Out in all that dark

View image The light and the landscape.

View image Signs of man.

I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five. Hard to believe. Grandfather was a lawman. Father too. Me and him was sheriff at the same time, him in Plano and me here. I think he was pretty proud of that. I know I was.

Some of the old-time sheriffs never even wore a gun. A lot of folks find that hard to believe.... You can't help but compare yourself against the old timers. Can't help but wonder how they would've operated these times.... -- Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) The land is black, swallowed in the shadows. The sky is beginning to glow orange and blue. This is Genesis, the primordial landscape of "No Country for Old Men." We may think we're looking at a sunset at first, but the next few shots show a progression: The sky lightens, the sun rises above the horizon to illuminate a vast Western expanse. No signs of humanity are evident. And then, a distant windmill -- a mythic "Once Upon a Time in the West" kind of windmill. So, mankind figures into the geography after all. A barbed-wire fence cuts through a field. The camera, previously stationary, stirs to life, and pans (ostensibly down the length of the fence) to find a police car pulled over on the shoulder of a highway. There's law out here, too.

View image Boundaries.

View image The law. (Do these images look sterile or "technical" to you?)

Light, land, man, boundaries, law. Each image builds subtly on the one(s) before it, adding incrementally to our picture of the territory we're entering. The establishment of this location -- a passing-through stretch of time and space, between where you've been and where you're going, wherever that may be -- seeps into your awareness. Not a moment is wasted, but the compositions have room to breathe, along with the modulations of Tommy Lee Jones' voice, the noises in the air, and Carter Burwell's music-as-sound-design. The movie intensifies and heightens your senses. Light is tangible, whether it's sunlight or fluorescent. Blades of grass sing in the wind. Ceiling fans whir (not so literally or Symbolically as in "Apocalypse Now"). Milk bottles sweat in the heat. Ventilation ducts, air conditioners and deadbolt housings rumble, hiss and roar.

"To me, style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body—both go together, they can’t be separated." -- Jean-Luc Godard"No Country for Old Men" has been called a "perfect" film by those who love it and those who were left cold by it. Joel and Ethan Coen have been praised and condemned for their expert "craftsmanship" and their "technical" skills -- as if those skills had nothing to do with filmmaking style, or artistry; as if they existed apart from the movie itself. Oh, but the film is an example of "impeccable technique" -- you know, for "formalists." And the cinematography is "beautiful." Heck, it's even "gorgeous." ...

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Tony Soprano, Barton Fink & Charles Foster Kane: Whaddaya want?

"It goes on and on and on and on..."

It was 1991 and we were talking about "Barton Fink":

Joel Coen: ... I also don't think it's as difficult as some people think it is. I mean, some people come out going, 'I don't get it.' And I don't quite know what they're trying to 'get,' what they're struggling for.

Ethan Coen: It's a weird story, but it's a fairly straightforward story that I think can be enjoyed on its own terms... 'Barton Fink' does end up telling you what's going on to the extent that it's important to know -- you know what I mean? What isn't crystal clear isn't intended to become crystal clear, and it's fine to leave it at that.

Joel Coen: But we have had the reaction where people leave the movie sort of uncomfortable and befuddled because of that. Although that wasn't our intention to do that. I was going to say that maybe our telling of the story wasn't as clear as it should have been, but I don't think that's true. In terms of understanding the story, it comes across.

The question is: Where would it get you if something that's a little bit ambiguous in the movie is made clear? It doesn't get you anywhere. Where would it get you? That's what I was thinking about after the "Sopranos" finale last night, and I remembered this conversation. What if Barton had opened the box? What then? I've mentioned the ways "The Sopranos" has paid tribute to the Coens' "Miller's Crossing" (particularly in "Pine Barrens," the whacking of Adriana, the lawyer named Mink), right down to the ambiguous (and perfect) ending. Which is also in the spirit of "Barton Fink." I can't imagine anything more true to the show, or more dramatically satisfying, than what happened Sunday night. (I'm also reminded of those who were desperate to know, once and for all, if Julia Sweeney's Pat character on "SNL" was a man or a woman -- when it was perfectly obvious that the whole conception of the character was that there was no answer to that question. The question is the character. That's not only the joke, it's the punchline.)

What if you could open this? Then what?

So, for those who wanted to "know what happened" in Episode 86 of "The Sopranos" (and apparently there are lots of them -- evidently casual "fans" of the show who haven't been paying any attention to what it's about for eight years), I have to ask: What did you want? If any or all of the things you expected happened, then where would that get you?

Series creator David Chase obviously knew that if he provided one or more of the usual denouements, it would color everything that came before. So, Tony gets his comeuppance, by getting whacked, or losing family members, or going to jail, or going into the Witness Protection Program like that schmuck Henry Hill in "GoodFellas." Aha! That's what this has all been leading up to! What could be more anti-climactic than any of those trite outcomes? You've seen them all before in other movies, anyway. To me, they would have spoiled "The Sopranos" by arbitrarily assigning it a hackneyed and finite "moral lesson" end-point.

"The Sopranos" has always been founded on the proposition that human nature, character arcs (Christopher: "Where is my arc?!?!") and narrative structures are roughly the shape of... I don't know, onion rings. People have breakthroughs, illuminations (Tony: "I get it!"), vow to change their ways, think they have changed... and then fall back into their old ways. Because that, fundamentally, is who they are.

AJ winds up being the same spoiled brat he was in Season One. Meadow continues to be the mildly rebellious princess (and she's the only one in the house who seems to unambiguously acknowledge and even accept what Tony does for a living -- hence her not-so-subtle dig at her father about why she wants to become a lawyer), but within bounds that will still win parental approval. Christopher straightens out, and then relapses. Carmella leaves Tony on principle, and then succumbs to the same old pattern of denial and expensive kickbacks that formed the basis of her marriage from the beginning. Dr. Melfi convinces herself that she's helping Tony, and then dumps him in an unprofessional huff when publicly exposed, simply because she got "caught," as if she were one of his mistresses. Tony the sympathetic sociopath learns to blame everything on his mother as his latest way to avoid reforming or taking any responsibility for his own behavior... Will the circle be unbroken? No way.

Remember Charles Foster Kane. Thompson, the reporter (William Alland), gives his eloquent speech: "Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything... I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a... piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece." And then, in the final seconds, we discover what "Rosebud" is, even if nobody in the movie ever does. And where does that get you? The real ending of "Citizen Kane" is Thompson's speech. The revelation of "Rosebud" is great showmanship, the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle, all right, but it doesn't really explain anything we didn't already know.

So, I ask you again: Whaddaya want?

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And they called it bunny love...

Q. Regarding your recent Answer Man item on interspecies dating in Disney cartoons: I'm sure I won't be the first to point out that while Disney tends to keep things pretty strict, over at Warner Bros., it's "Toons Gone Wild."

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Cannes 2001: Awards full of surprises

The jury stunned but did not displease a black-tie audience here Sunday night, with the awards for the 54th Cannes Film Festival. It's not that the winners were unpopular, but that they were unexpected. Everyone predicted Nanni Moretti's "The Son's Room," the story of an Italian family devastated by the death of a son, would win something but not the Palme d'Or, or top prize. Everyone expected French legend Isabelle Huppert to win as best actress for her searing performance in "The Piano Teacher," and she did -- but not that the film also would win for best actor and take home the special jury prize.

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Opening film hardly a night to remember

CANNES, France -- I am sure that the opening of this year's Cannes Film Festival will be a night to remember, but I will not remember it, because I will be elsewhere. I will not attend the inaugural screening of Roland Joffe's "Vatel," even though it does star Gerard Depardieu and Uma Thurman, and even though I am invited to the party afterward.

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