The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
* 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.
A look at John Sayles' brilliant "The Brother From Another Planet."
Roger's Favorites: director John Sayles.
An article about Cinefamily's upcoming John Sayles retrospective.
Members of the RogerEbert.com film community remember the late Haskell Wexler.
An article about the new John Sayles film, "To Save the Man."
An appreciation of Elizabeth Pena.
Sam Fragoso chats with Kim Robeson, an Ebertfest lover who has been coming since the very first year.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports on the 2014 Ebertfest, including appearances by Oliver Stone & Spike Lee.
Director Joe Dante talks about his sideline running the Trailers from Hell website, which showcases the much-maligned film preview.
Streaming on Netflix Instant
When I watched "The Intouchables" (2011) at the local movie theater several months ago, I got a nagging dissatisfaction with that crowd-pleaser, which was about the warm friendship between a disabled man and a caregiver hired by him. The movie was surely a pleasant drama with two amiable lead performances, but I found it too mild and superficial; it merely loitered around thin stereotypes and worn-out clichés and it went no further than that.
"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.
"Amigo" is playing in selected theaters, including the Siskel Film Center in Chicago.
by Odie Henderson
There is something to be said for the economy in John Sayles' movie titles. He gets his point across in five words or less. The theatrical films he has written and directed bear the names of locations ("Matewan," "Sunshine State," "Silver City," "Limbo") or are deceptively simple descriptive statements ("The Secret of Roan Inish," "The Brother From Another Planet," "Return of the Secaucus Seven," "Amigo"). All 17 titles average out to just under 3 words per movie moniker (actually, 2.5), which means Sayles' 18th movie must star the king of the three word movie title, Steven Seagal. Laugh if you must, but IMDb will tell you Sayles once wrote a film for Dolph Lundgren. Seagal is only a "Marked for Death" sequel away, should Mr. Sayles take my advice.
In the meantime, his 17th film opens September 16th On Demand. "Amigo" follows the path running through much of Sayles' work: It is politically aware, occasionally melodramatic and maintains a certain intimacy despite sprawling across multiple characters and stories. Bitter irony and blatant humanism peacefully co-exist as Sayles' heroes, heroines and villains struggle to maintain the dignity he inherently believes they have. The director's masterpiece, "Lone Star," is the quintessential example of Sayles expressing his themes and ideas in epic format. Anchored by Chris Cooper, "Lone Star" spins a tale of power, race and class across generations, juggling numerous characters with whom the story invests such weight and interest that I could follow any of them out of the film and into their own adventures.
"Amigo" is not as tightly crafted as "Lone Star." It's a messier work whose dialogue is at times a tad too purple, its political allusions a little too obvious, and it has a one-note character that is uncharacteristic of its creator. Much of its plot is predictable in an old-fashioned, yet comforting studio-system way. Reminiscent of a sloppier E. L. Doctorow novel, "Amigo" merges real-life characters with fictional ones while plumbing a bygone era for parallels of today. Like Doctorow, Sayles provides numerous details of the period he depicts, culled from the research he did for his book "A Moment in the Sun." Its U.S. occupation plotline could represent Iraq or Vietnam or Afghanistan, and its soldier characters are good ol' boys found in many an old war movie (and many an actual platoon, as well). What makes "Amigo" engrossing despite its predictability is the object of its gaze: This is an occupation story, but for a change, "the Other" is us. The occupied people are observing the outsiders who have interrupted their life narrative by invading their country. In "Amigo," we are entrenched in the Philippine-American War (1899-1902).
Marie writes: Allow me to introduce you to Bill and Cheryl. I went to Art school with Bill and met his significant other Cheryl while attending the graduation party; we've been pals ever since. None of which is even remotely interesting until you see where they live and their remarkable and eclectic collection of finds. (click to enlarge images.)
Marie writes: Club member and noted blog contributor Tom Dark took this astonishing photograph near his home in Abiqui, New Mexico. The "unknown entity" appeared without warning and after a failed attempt to communicate, fled the scene. Tom stopped short of saying "alien" to describe the encounter, but I think it's safe to say that whatever he saw, it was pretty damned freaky. It sure can't be mistaken for anything terrestrial; like a horse pressing its nose up to the camera and the lens causing foreshortening. As it totally does not look like that at all. (click to enlarge.)
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.
By Roger Ebert
UPDATED 10/16: Here are brief reviews of all the Chicago Film Festival movies we have seen, in alphabetical order, written by Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert. More will be added as we view them. For a full CIFF schedule, go to www.chicagofilmfestival.com or call (312) 332-FILM.
by Roger Ebert
I have before me a schedule of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs 10 days. I have been looking at it for some time. I am paralyzed. There are so many films by important directors (not to mention important films by unknown directors), that it cannot be reduced to its highlights. The highlights alone, if run in alphabetical order, would take up all my space.
Raping Dakota and Feeling Minnesota: Despite all the publicity, "Hounddog" ain't nothin' but a dog, say critics. It's not dangerous, after all.
"As its poster and advertising remind us, "Quinceañera" won both the jury and audience prizes at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and those honors are strangely indicative of its dramatic and stylistic limitations. If there was ever a movie that seemed precision-tailored for a Park City reception, this is it -- the quintessential example of the festival's favored brand of hand-crafted, slice-of-life, youth-oriented filmmaking that expresses affection for a nicely captured American subculture. In other words, it's a Sundance specialty, right from the box.
"This is a shopping-list movie: A double coming-of-age story spiced with local color; a bittersweet portrait of a Los Angeles neighborhood in transition; a warm and soapy celebration of a Mexican-American community. "Quinceañera" is also a thoroughly predictable melodrama that's both kitchen-sink and 'After-School Special.'"
-- from my review of "Quinceañera" last summer
One of the debilitating side effects of the pop-culture "mainstreaming" (if I may use an ugly marketing term) of the Sundance Film Festival brand over the last 20 years or so has been the over-glorification of what I call resumé movies. These are films, cobbled together from familiar elements designed to appeal not only to a Sundance jury (or audience), but with an eye toward getting the filmmakers some "Hollywood" money for their next picture. And that, in itself, is fine. Nothing wrong with trying to climb the ladder of success. But I don't particularly want to watch somebody's resumé on a movie screen, particularly when it's sold to me as a "personal story" (or a "subversive thriller") and plays like pure Hollywood formula schlock.
John Sayles admits that "Return of the Secaucus 7" was just such a resumé picture. After years of writing horror and exploitation scripts for Roger Corman ("Piranha," "The Lady in Red," "Alligator"), he wanted to start directing his own, more personal stuff. The reason there's a basketball game in the movie was simply to show that he knew how to handle an action sequence. But Sayles was expanding his craft and moving from formulaic commercial genre filmmaking toward more personal projects, not the other way around.
Remember "Project Greenlight," the HBO (then Bravo) series, produced with good intentions by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, with the Weinstein Miramax? The deal was that they would choose an unproduced first-time script and give a novice director a chance to make the movie, which Miramax would finance and distribute. By the third (and final) season, they joined forces with Wes Craven and were making a horror exploitation film for Miramax's Dimension division.
He always wanted to work with Bill Murray, Jim Jarmusch said. "He's got a big-brush style where he's a comic genius. But he can also paint with a one-haired brush." That was the Murray that Jarmusch wanted, the one he had seen in "The Razor's Edge," "Mad Dog and Glory," "Ed Wood," "Rushmore" and "Lost in Translation." So it should have been simple. Jarmusch worked on a screenplay for four or five months, went to Cannes in 2002 to raise the money for it, and came home with most of the financing in place.
CHAMPAIGN -- Roger Ebert's seventh annual Overlooked Film Festival unreeled here last week with appearances by auteurs and actors such as John Sayles, Guy Maddin, Mario Van Peebles, Jason Patric and Jason Scott Lee, among others.
CHAMPAIGN - URBANA -- Roger Ebert likes to remind filmgoers that this year's field of best picture Oscar nominees could have been called "the movies that no one wanted to make."
April 20 - 24, 2005