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Dear White People

You could make a (film geek) party game out of guessing director Justin Simien's influences, but his vision seems to spring directly from what's up…

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Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

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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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* 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.

#225 July 2, 2014

Sheila writes: Welcome to the "Life Itself" Special Edition of the Ebert Club newsletter! The film, directed by Steve James, opens on July 4 in select cities (and on demand), with more dates and cities to follow. You will find more information about that below, as well as an exclusive for the newsletter: an interview with Ebert Club member Greg Salvatore, who won tickets to the L.A. premiere of "Life Itself" at the Google+ Hangout held on Roger's birthday. He was generous enough to share his thoughts with us and let us experience the L.A. premiere vicariously. There's lots more below. Here is the official trailer for "Life Itself."

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#223 June 18, 2014

A message from Chaz:

Dear Ebert Club Members: Please join us today at the Google+ Hangout for Roger's birthday: Wednesday, June 18 at 11 am Pacific Time, Noon Mountain Time; 1 pm Central; 2 pm Eastern.

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Roger loves Chaz

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Wednesday, July 18, is the 20th anniversary of our marriage. How can I begin to tell you about Chaz? She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading. If my cancer had come, and it would have, and Chaz had not been there with me, I can imagine a descent into lonely decrepitude. I was very sick. I might have vegetated in hopelessness. This woman never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live. She was always there believing I could do it, and her love was like a wind forcing me back from the grave.

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Wesley Morris's Pulitzer Prize-winning hits

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(AP photo)

Earlier this week Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe became only the fourth film critic to receive a Pulitzer Prize, after Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 1975), Stephen Hunter (Washington Post, 2003) and Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal, 2005).

A few other movie critics have been named as Pulitzer finalists -- Stephen Schiff (Boston Phoenix, 1983), Andrew Sarris (Village Voice, 1987), Matt Zoller Seitz (Dallas Observer, 1994), Stephen Hunter (Baltimore Sun, 1995), Peter Rainer (New Times Los Angeles, 1998), Ann Hornaday (Washington Post, 2008), A.O. Scott (New York Times, 2010) -- and I've read and admired many of them over the years.

I was first impressed by Morris's writing when he was in San Francisco, where he wrote for both the Chronicle and the Examiner, in the late 1990s. With him and Ty Burr on the movie beat, the Boston Globe now has one of the best critical teams around. And that's saying something: The New York Times team of A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis is far and away the finest in that paper's history.

The Pulitzer submissions from Morris (who's only 36) covered films and subjects such as "The Help," "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," "The Tree of Life," "Drive," the "Fast and Furious" series, "Scream 4," "Weekend," "Water for Elephants," Sidney Lumet and Steve Jobs. A few excerpts to give you an idea of what earned him the prize:

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#59 April 20, 2011

Marie writes: Ever since he was a boy, photographer John Hallmén has been fascinated by insects. And he's become well-known for photographing the creatures he finds in the Nackareservatet nature reserve not far from his home in Stockholm, Sweden. Hallmén uses various methods to capture his subjects and the results are remarkable. Bugs can be creepy, to be sure, but they can also be astonishingly beautiful...

Blue Damsel Fly [click to enlarge photos]

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DGA honors Bigelow, Cameron, Daniels, Reitman, Tarantino

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AP -- The science-fiction blockbuster "Avatar" has earned James Cameron his latest nomination for the top honor from the Directors Guild of America. Cameron won the guild prize 12 years ago for "Titanic." Also nominated are Kathryn Bigelow for the Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker," Lee Daniels for the Harlem teen tale "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," Jason Reitman for the recession-era story "Up in the Air" and Quentin Tarantino for the World War II hit "Inglourious Basterds."

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Black humor: Stepin Fetchit to Richard Pryorto Tyler Perry (Part II)

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, 1902 -1985

"We need to examine the history of blacks in film to appreciate their deep roots.... Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, the top comedy stars of the 80s, have a strange, subversive ancestor in Stepin Fetchit, America's first black millionaire actor." -- Richard Corliss, Time, "The 25 Most Important Films on Race"

See: "Stepin Fetchit to Denzel Washington (Part I )"

"Stepin Fetchit, then and now" by Jim Emerson (2005)

* * *

The day Clarence Thomas was nominated by George H.W. Bush for the Supreme Court, I was interviewing 23-year-old writer-director John Singleton about his upcoming movie "Boyz N the Hood" (1991). Singleton was sitting in front of a hotel-room TV tuned to CNN and the first words out of his mouth were: "He's the biggest Uncle Tom."

That memory came back again recently as I was reading Harvard Law Professor and Supreme Court bar member Randall Kennedy's book, "Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal." [1] Kennedy writes: Sometimes "Uncle Tom" is used interchangeably with "sellout." In a Washington Post profile of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, two journalists write that "Uncle Tom is among the most searing insults a black American can hurl at a member of his own race." They describe "Uncle Tom" as a "synonym for sellout, someone subservient to whites at the expense of his own people."

How to Act Black: "Black Acting School" from "Hollywood Shuffle" (see clip below).

This usage is ironic. The original Uncle Tom -- Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom -- was a character who chose death at the hand of his notorious owner, Simon Legree, rather than reveal the whereabouts of runaway slaves. Still there are those who use "Uncle Tom" to refer to any black whose actions, in their view, retard African-American advancement. Others are more discriminating. For many of them, the label "sellout" is more damning than "Uncle Tom" or kindred epithets -- "Aunt Thomasina," "Oreo," "snowflake," "handkerchief head," "white man's Negro," "Stepin Fetchit"....

View image The late Richard Pryor, All-African-American. Negative criticism of Pryor is usually limited to his acceptance of inferior material.

Of course, all those terms aren't synonymous, either. The name of Stepin Fetchit is nearly as well-known, and almost synonymous with "Uncle Tom" -- and that, too, may be somewhat ironic. Fetchit (born Lincoln Perry, 1902-1985) was a tremendously popular movie star with black and white audiences. But his act, on stage and screen, was also vilified for perpetuating a stereotype of African-American men as lazy, shuffling, bowing and scraping buffoon. (Other stereotypes of black men as pimps, gangstas, rapists, con artists, drug pushers/addicts, violent criminals, woman-abusers would come from elsewhere, and long outlive him.) He was admired and in many ways emulated by Muhammad Ali, with whom he converted to the Nation of Islam, and he was honored with an NAACP Image Award in 1976.

But how many people today have actually seen him in a movie?

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Terrence Howard's very good year

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Terrence Howard is having a good year. He's given two performances that are, by general agreement, of Oscar caliber. In "Crash," which opened in May, he played a TV producer who finds himself in an impossible situation when his wife is assaulted by a white cop; he knows that if he protests, he'll be charged with resisting arrest, or worse. Currently, in "Hustle & Flow," he plays a Memphis pimp named Djay who dreams of becoming a rap artist; as he works with new friends to make a demo record, the joy of creation changes the nature of his life. And in the new film "Four Brothers,," he plays a cop, so this year he's been on both sides of the law and in the middle.

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Class of '94 gets their due at Cannes

CANNES, France -- Every year they come here to the Riviera, the new class of young American filmmakers, hoping for lightning to strike. Ever since Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider" arrived at Cannes in 1967 as a motorcycle film and returned to the United States as an art film, Cannes has provided a sort of festival within a festival, of first and early films by young Yankee hopefuls.

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John Singleton Recites The Poetry of Cinema

John Singleton is one of those rare directors who would just as soon talk about other people's movies as about his own. He was in Chicago to promote his new film, "Poetic Justice," which is a good film and in some ways, a brave one, and he talked about it, all right - and why there are so few films about black women, and why Janet Jackson surprised him in the leading role.

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A 'Silence' sweep?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Motion Picture Academy likes to honor Feel Good films with its Oscars. Gritty and violent movies may be nominated for the best picture award, but the winner will be a movie that embraces traditional values and leaves us with a warm glow. That theory has certainly held true over the past 10 years, during which the only really Feel Bad movie that won as best picture was "Platoon." I do not count such Feel Good About Feeling Bad movies as "Terms of Endearment."

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It's high tide for black new wave

CANNES, France -- The French New Wave was a rebirth of French films in the early 1960s, and the German new wave represented the same process in Germany in the 1970s. Now black American filmmakers are developing a new stylistic and personal vision that reached critical mass at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In May of 1991, here in the incongruous setting of the French Riviera, far from the urban settings of most of their films, the black new wave came of age.

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