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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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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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* 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.

Uncle Boonmee who recalls me to my present life

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Facing the jungle, the hills and vales, my past lives as an animal and other beings rise up before me. -- inscription at the head of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives"

I am head-over-heels in love with "Uncle Boonmee."

Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" is the kind of movie that big screens (theatrical and HD) and Blu-ray were made for. I can't think of cinematic worlds more "immersive" (in current 3D parlance) than Apichatpong's last three features, "Tropical Malady" (2004), "Syndromes and a Century" (2006) and "Uncle Boonmee" (2010) -- all of which I have only recently encountered. (They're all on DVD, and "Uncle Boonmee" is now opening in U.S. theaters and is available on Region 2 Blu-ray.)¹

Talk about blissful: Apichatpong's pictures (say that five times real fast) are awake and alive to the joy of existence like few others I've seen. Sorry if that sounds too, you know, giddily "life-affirming," but I feel like Joe's movies sharpen and expand my senses while I'm watching them -- not unlike the peak experiences/memories I've had in the garden, or walking in the woods with my dogs, when I feel I'm living more intensely, soaking up more of the life within and around me. And in the case of these movies, there's the added thrill of Joe framing it all! What can I say? Apichatpong movies make me very happy. (They're really funny, too.)

Few other films or filmmakers have stirred this kind of awe-mixed-with-happiness in me. Seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey" at age 11 was the first time I can recall. (Joe's last three films have reminded me of various sections of that movie, in which you feel you're experiencing something both primally human and alien at the same time.) Wim Wenders' "Kings of the Road" also explores what I called, upon first seeing it in the late 1970s, "the strange familiarity of unfamiliar places" -- that feeling of entering a/the world that's both new and intimately recognizable, uncanny and ordinary. I get it from the Coens sometimes -- in "No Country for Old Men" and "A Serious Man," especially -- and Terrence Malick ("Days of Heaven," "The New World") taps into it occasionally, too. It has something to do with the light, the air, the shapes, the sounds, the extraordinary mythology of the everyday seen with new eyes (yours, through Joe's).

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TIFF #4: Darwin walks out on Genesis

During the first press screening here of "Creation," during a scene when Charles Darwin walks out of church during a sermon on the first book of Genesis, an audience member stood up and walked out. Was he offended by the film? There's no way to say. There were an unusually large number of walk-outs, but who knows if they were leaving for theological reasons, or to get in line for the screenings of "Bright Star" or "Fish Tank," or because of boredom? I hope it wasn't boredom. Although it's a movie with a good deal of talk, at least no one shouted out, "You lie!"

Charles Darwin as Paul Bettany

This will adamantly not be a review of "Creation," which will await its opening. It will be a discussion of some of the thoughts it inspires. I expected the film to be focused on Darwin's theory of the origin of species and the controversy it provoked in mid-19th century, but it is primarily about his domestic life, centering on Down House, Bromley, where he and his wife Emma lived from 1842 until until his death in 1882.

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The longest thread evolves

A week or so ago I began to receive feedback that posts weren't being displayed on my entry "Win Ben Stein's Mind," from Dec. 3, 2008. That was my attack on Stein's film "Expelled," which supported Creationism against the Theory of Evolution. The comment thread, having reached 2,648 posts, many of them hundreds of words in length, was fed up, and wasn't going to take it anymore. I consulted the web gods at the Sun-Times. I was told...uh...ahem...perhaps the thread was growing a tad long, and was maxing out the software? After 2,640 posts and 239,093 words, perhaps this was the case.

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Candid Cannes

CANNES, France -- One year I arrived in Cannes a little early, two days before the festival was scheduled to begin, and watched the waiters on the famous terrace of the Carlton Hotel as they loaded the good furniture into trucks and unloaded the weather-beaten rattan that I had come to know and love.

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