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Penguins of Madagascar

The pacing is so zany, the jokes are so rapid-fire and the sight gags are so inspired that it’s impossible not to get caught up…

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Horrible Bosses 2

The law of diminishing returns, which has afflicted so many comedy sequels over the years, strikes again in “Horrible Bosses 2,” further proving that just…

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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.

#191 October 30, 2013

Sheila writes: Today, October 30, is the 75th anniversary of the historic 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast, presented by Orson Welles and his merry band of Mercury Theater friends. In Peter Bogdanovich's book "This is Orson Welles", Welles tells Bogdanovich: "Six minutes after we’d gone on the air, the switchboards in radio stations right across the country were lighting up like Christmas trees. Houses were emptying, churches were filling up; from Nashville to Minneapolis there was wailing in the street and the rending of garments. Twenty minutes in, and we had a control room full of very bewildered cops. They didn’t know who to arrest or for what, but they did lend a certain tone to the remainder of the broadcast. We began to realize, as we plowed on with the destruction of New Jersey, that the extent of our American lunatic fringe had been underestimated." Bogdanovich later says to Welles, "The Martian broadcast didn’t really hurt you at all. Would you say it was lucky?" Welles replied, "Well, it put me in the movies. Was that lucky? I don’t know." Here is the original radio broadcast in all its mockumentary glory.

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#180 August 14, 2013

Marie writes: Much beloved and a never ending source of amusement, Simon's Cat is a popular animated cartoon series by the British animator Simon Tofield featuring a hungry house cat who uses increasingly heavy-handed tactics to get its owner to feed it. Hand-drawn using an A4-size Wacom Intuos 3 pen and tablet, Simon has revealed that his four cats - called Teddy, Hugh, Jess and Maisie - provide inspiration for the series, with Hugh being the primary inspiration. And there's now a new short titled "Suitcase". To view the complete collection to date, visit Simon's Cat at YouTube.

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The fix was in

Robert Redford's "Quiz Show" (1994) depicts the early days of television during the 1950s, a world that evoked fantasy but was run by real human beings. Unlike today's TV programming, the shows from those days were innocent and naïve (much as portrayed in "Pleasantville") but the people behind the scenes were like their colleagues in Sidney Lumet's "Network" (1976). "Quiz Show" shares some basic themes with the latter: the wrongdoings that network executives repeatedly commit, those that good people can occasionally perpetrate as well through greed, and the common denominator between them.

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"The buffet of the universe."

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Every day at the Cannes festival opens up the possibility of surprises, upsets, or major revelations. As Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia" said, "Nothing is written." Film history is made here all the time, and I think some history was made today with the international debut of the American independent film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," by Benh Zeitlin, screening in the "A Certain Regard" section of the festival.. A first feature, it competes for the Camera d'Or. The world premiere was at Sundance back in January (where it won the Grand Jury Prize), but the high profile Cannes exposure will surely bring the film and its young star the worldwide attention it deserves.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is set in a wild coastal swamp on the Gulf coast, in a watery area referred to as "the Bathtub," where the towers and smokestacks of chemical plants and refineries spread across the distant horizon. It's a post-Katrina allegory that adopts many of the real-life images and circumstances of that disaster to create a purely mythic fable full of visceral visions, primal emotions, and haunting reminders of the inescapable cycle of birth, life, death, and decay.

At the center of the film is Hushpuppy, a feisty, unafraid six-year-old who lives with her sickly and often unstable dad in an isolated wilderness squatters' community where they live off the land by trapping and fishing. Their home, such as it is, is the wreck of a small ramshackle trailer; their boat is the bed of an old pickup truck floating over 55-gallon drums. That mankind lives within nature's unforgiving food chain is a daily reality for these two. As Hushpuppy's teacher Miss Bathsheba reminds her handful of students, "Everything that lives is meat. I'm meat; y'all's asses is meat; all part of the buffet of the universe."

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Life beyond Rationality and Compassion

May Contain Spoilers

Have you ever been hit so hard that you've been left in a permanent daze? I'm speaking of a defining event that, in a matter of moments, changes everything for you, permanently. Maybe it's a collision. Maybe a life event like a tragedy or a divorce. You're at the epicenter of the calamity. The destruction hits you right between the eyes. And while you make sense of what hit you, if you ever do, your loved ones bear the brunt of the hurricane that you become. Like a set of ripples, it realigns everything you do. Peter Weir's "Fearless" 1993 shows us the effect of a plane crash, and tells us that when we get hit with such cataclysms, no single way resolves the trauma.

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Desert island DVDs (Matt's & mine & yours)

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Matt Zoller Seitz devotes his final Friday Night Seitz slideshow at Salon (he's starting as New York Magazine's TV critic Monday -- most deserved congrats!) to a list of his "Movies for a desert island." His rules: ten movies only, plus one short and one single season of a TV series, for a total of 12 titles. "Part of the fun of this exercise," he writes, "is figuring out what you think you can watch over and over, and what you can live without."

Matt's titles include "What's Opera, Doc?," Season One of "Deadwood," Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz," Terrence Malick's "The New World" (surprise!), Terrence Davies' "The Long Day Closes" (my #1 film of 1992), Joel & Ethan Coen's "Raising Arizona" (a movie I like, but consider among their lesser efforts) and Albert and David Maysles' "Salesman." Click here to see the complete list and Matt's comments.

OK, I'm game. So, the challenge, as MZS sets it up, is not just to pick "favorites," but to choose pictures that will stand up to repeated viewing since nobody is going to get you (or vote you) off the island and "It is assumed that you'll have an indestructible DVD player with a solar-recharging power source, so let's not get bogged down in refrigerator logic, mm'kay?"

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#64 May 25, 2011

Marie writes: There's a glorified duck pond at the center of the complex where I live. And since moving in, my apartment has been an object of enduring fascination for Canadian geese - who arrive each Spring like a squadron of jet fighters returning from a mission in France, to run a sweeping aerial recon my little garden aka: playhouse for birds... (click to enlarge)

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#62 May 11, 2011

Marie writes: allow me to introduce you to Travel Photographer, founded by Chris and Karen Coe in 2003 and their annual contest "Travel Photographer of the Year".After years spent working in the travel industry as a professional photographer and finding it was mostly conventional images making it into print, Chris decided to create a way to showcase great travel photography and broaden people's perception of what it can encompass - namely, that it can be much, much more than a pretty postcard image.The contest is open to one and all; amateur and professional photographers compete alongside each other. Entrants are judged solely on the quality of their photographs. There's a special competition to encourage young photographers aged 18 and under; Young Travel Photographer of the Year. The youngest entrant to date was aged just five, the oldest 88. The competition is judged by a panel of photographic experts, including renowned photographers, picture buyers, editor and technical experts.And the 2010 winners have now been announced. Here's a few random photos to wet your appetite - then you can scroll through the amazing winners gallery!

Enal is around 6 years old and knows this shark well - it lives in a penned off area of ocean beneath his stilted house in Wangi, Indonesia. Photo: James Morgan, UK (Portfolio Encounters: Winner 2010)  [note: click images to enlarge]

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#61 May 4, 2011

Marie writes: Doug Foster is a filmmaker and artist who produces large scale digital film installations that often play with ideas of symmetry and optical illusion. His piece The Heretics' Gate is currently on view at "Daydreaming with... St. Michael's" - an exhibition taking place at St. Michael's church in Camden, London. Note: Foster's piece first appeared at the Hell's Half Acre exhibition at the Old Vic Tunnels in London in 2010."The Heretics' Gate" draws inspiration from Dante's Inferno, the first part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. A twenty foot high, arched screen and a thirty foot long reflecting pool, are cleverly combined to deliver a mesmerizing and strangely ethereal vision of hell at the central focus point of the church's imposing gothic architecture. To learn more, visit: Liquid Hell: A Q&A With Doug Foster.NOTE: The exhibition is the latest installment in renowned British music producer James Lavelle's curatorial and collaborative art venture, "DAYDREAMING WITH..." - a unique and visceral new exhibition experience, inspired by the desire to marry music and visual art. The goal is to bring together some of the most acclaimed creative names working in music, art, film, fashion and design.

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#58 April 13, 2011

Marie writes: Yarn Bombing. Yarn Storming. Guerilla Knitting. It has many names and all describe a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk. And while yarn installations may last for years, they are considered non-permanent, and unlike graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary. Yarn storming began in the U.S., but it has since spread worldwide. Note: special thanks go to Siri Arnet for telling me about this cool urban movement.

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Ebertfest 2008: Party de Champaign

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The Prince of Denmark, Yukio Mishima and the Incredible Hulk are planning to convene in Champaign-Urbana, IL, for Roger Ebert's Film Festival (April 23-27, 2008). Joining them (off-screen) for the Ebertfest No. 10 will be directors Paul Schrader, Bill Forsyth, Sally Potter and actors Christine Lahti, Aida Turturro, Joe Pantoliano, among others. The emphasis is still on the (re-)discovery of "overlooked" films (with that term defined however Ebert wants to define it), but the festival is now known simply as Ebertfest. The full schedule is here:

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The evolution of a hat

View image Figure #1.

View image Figure #2.

(My final contribution to the Close-Up Blog-a-thon at the House Next Door, which just wrapped.)

Warning: This post (and the short film montage/hommage I put together to accompany it, above) may contain spoilers.

Jesus, Tom, it's the hat.

Take a look at the four shots from Joel and Ethan Coen's "Miller's Crossing" on this page: three close-ups of the same hat and a long shot of another one with a body under. The hat in all three close-ups, hat belongs to Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne). The other one is on the head of his boss and friend, Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney). But let's re-wind a little bit.

The movie is set into motion with a close-up of three ice cubes plopped into a glass tumbler. We don't see Tom, our main character until the next shot, where he appears behind the bald head of a man (Johnny Casper, played by Jon Polito) who's delivering a lecture into the camera -- or just past it -- about friendship, character, ethics. Tom is the one who put the cubes into the glass and poured himself some whiskey. He crosses the room out of focus, moves past the camera, and when we see a reverse angle, he's standing behind and to the side of Leo. His tumbler of whiskey is in the frame, but his head isn't. When we finally do get a look at his mug, he's not wearing a hat. Meanwhile, Casper's henchman, the cadaverous Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) stands behind his boss, holding his hat. And wearing one. It's a sign of respect.

View image Figure #3.

View image Figure #4.

When Tom leaves the room at the end of the scene, he puts on his hat. Then there's this strange credits sequence, like a dream in a forest, with a canopy of autumnal branches overhead. On the forest floor, a hat falls into the foreground of the frame, the title of the film appears (Figure #1), and the hat blows away into the distance. In the next close-up, Tom is roused from a stuporous slumber. He sits up and feels his head, for his hangover and for his hat.

"Where's my hat?" Tom asks.

"You bet it, ya moron," says the friend who woke him up. "Good thing the game broke up before you bet your shorts."

Turns out, the hat left with Mink and Verna. Together, they are the link between Tom's hat and his shorts. We've already heard, in the opening scene, that Mink (Steve Buscemi) is "the Dane's boy." Mink appears only in one brief scene at the Shenandoah Club, explains the whole movie ("as plain as the nose on your -- Turns out he's also involved with "the Schmatte," bookie Bernie Birnbaum (John Turturro), who also happens to be the brother of Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), Leo's twist and Tom's secret squeeze and the subject of Johnny Casper's opening rant.

Got that, or do I have to spell it out for ya?

OK, here's the deal:

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CIFF: All our capsule reviews

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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.

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'Crash'-ing a joyous Oscar party

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LOS ANGELES - "Crash," a film about the complexities of racism in the American melting pot, was named the year's best picture here Sunday at the 78th Academy Awards. It tells interlocking stories about many of America's ethnic groups, and cops and criminals, the rich and the poor, the powerful and powerless, all involved in racism. The film's circular structure shows how a victim on one day could be a victimizer on another, and doesn't let anyone off the hook.

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Toronto #7: Festival to remember

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TORONTO – I have another few movies to see, and the awards are still to be announced, but Toronto 2005 is basically history, and now what remains is for its many wonderful films to find their audiences. There’s general agreement that this will be an autumn to remember among those who care about good films.

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The Best 10 Movies of 2002

It was a year when more movies opened than during any other year in memory. A year when the big Hollywood studios cast their lot with franchises, formulas, sequels, and movies marketed for narrow demographic groups--focusing so much on "product" instead of original work that they seemed likely to be shut out of the Oscars, as they were essentially shut out of the Golden Globes. A year when independent and foreign films showed extraordinary vitality. A wonderful year, that is, for moviegoers who chose carefully, and a mediocre year for those took their chances at the multiplex.

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Reel tired

CANNES, France -- Since my last dispatch I have seen nine films, four of them more than three hours long, bringing my Cannes total to 16 movies in six days. I feel like the hero of "A Clockwork Orange," who had his eyelids propped open with toothpicks while cinema was force-fed into his brain.

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Cannes dough

CANNES, France -- The big stars don't like to stay in town. It's more prestigious for them, and no doubt more comfortable, to stay 45 minutes away at the Hotel du Cap d'Antibes, which is the kind of hotel where it is not an affectation but a necessity to pull out a big roll of bills of high denominations, because the Hotel du Cap accepts no checks or credit cards only cash. Cash for everything. Cash for rooms, cash for drinks, cash for a towel in the beach cabana.

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The evolution of Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah -- The most important little film festival in America opened here Thursday. The Sundance Film Festival, the annual trade fair for filmmakers working outside the studio system, will screen more than 100 films before industry-savvy audiences. People who got off the plane flat broke may fly out of town, clutching contracts. Maybe if we're lucky, there will even be another shoving match in a restaurant, like the one last year between guys from Fine Line and Miramax who both thought they bought the rights to the same film.

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Cannes all winners

The Festival International du Film, held annually in Cannes, France, has become the world's most prestigious film festival—the spot on the beach where the newest films from the world's top directors compete for both publicity and awards.

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