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Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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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.

#161 March 27, 2013

"As film exhibition in North America crowds itself ever more narrowly into predictable commercial fodder for an undemanding audience, we applaud those brave, free spirits who still hold faith with the unlimited potential of the cinema." - Roger

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#127 August 8, 2012

Marie writes: This week's Newsletter arrives a day early and lighter than usual, as come Tuesday morning, I'll be on a Ferry heading to Pender Island off the West Coast, where I've arranged to visit old friends for a few days and enjoy my first vacation in two years; albeit a brief one. No rest for the wicked. :-)

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#93 December 14, 2012

Marie writes: If you're like me, you enjoy the convenience of email while lamenting the lost romance of ink and pen on paper. For while it's possible to attach a drawing, it's not the same thing as receiving hand-drawn artwork in the mail. Especially when it's from Edward Gorey..."Edward Gorey and Peter Neumeyer met in the summer of 1968. Gorey had been contracted by Addison-Wesley to illustrate "Donald and the...", a children's story written by Neumeyer. On their first encounter, Neumeyer managed to dislocate Gorey's shoulder when he grabbed his arm to keep him from falling into the ocean. In a hospital waiting room, they pored over Gorey's drawings for the first time together, and Gorey infused the situation with much hilarity. This was the beginning of an invigorating friendship, fueled by a wealth of letters and postcards that sped between the two men through the fall of 1969."

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#83 October 5, 2011

Marie writes: I love photography, especially B/W and for often finding color a distraction. Take away the color and suddenly, there's so much more to see; the subtext able to rise now and sit closer to the surface - or so it seems to me. The following photograph is included in a gallery of nine images (color and B/W) under Photography: Celebrity Portraits at the Guardian."This is one of the last photographs of Orson before he died. He loved my ­camera - a gigantic Deardorff - and decided he had to direct me and tell me where to put the light. So even in his last days, he was performing his directorial role perfectly, and ­bossing me around. Which was precious." - Michael O'Neill

Orson Welles, by Michael O'Neill, 1985

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#82 September 28, 2011

Marie writes: Summer is now officially over. The berries have been picked, the jam has been made, lawn-chairs put away for another year. In return, nature consoles us with the best show on Earth; the changing of the leaves!  I found these at one of my favorites sites and where you can see additional ones and more...

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Aid rushed to movie overdose victims

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the Your Movie Sucks™ files

Gathered here in one convenient place are my recent reviews that awarded films Two Stars or less. These are, generally speaking to be avoided. Sometimes I hear from readers who confess they are in the mood to watch a really bad movie. If you're sincere, be sure to know what you're getting: A really bad movie. Movies that are "so bad they're good" should generally get two and a half stars. Two stars can be borderline. And Pauline Kael once wrote, "The movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we shouldn't go at all."

"Just Go With It" (PG-13, 116 minutes). This film's story began as a French farce, became the Broadway hit "Cactus Flower," was made into a 1969 film and now arrives gasping for breath in a witless retread with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker. The characters are so stupid it doesn't seem nice to laugh at them. One star.

"Sanctum" (R, 109 minutes). A terrifying adventure shown in an incompetent way. Scuba-diving cave explorers enter a vast system in New Guinea and are stranded. But this rich story opportunity is lost because of incoherent editing, poor 3D technique, and the effect of 3D dimming in the already dark an murky caves. A "James Cameron Production," yes, but certainly not a "James Cameron Film." One and a half stars

"I Am Number Four" (PG-13, 110 minutes). Nine aliens from the planet Mogador travel across the galaxy to take refuge on earth and rip off elements of the Twilight and Harry Potter movies, and combine them with senseless scenes of lethal Quidditch-like combat. Alex Pettyfer stars as Number Four, who feels hormonal about the pretty Sarah (Dianna Agron), although whether he is the brooding teenage Edward Cullen he seems to be or a weird alien life form I am not sure. Inane setup followed by endless and perplexing action. One and a half stars

"Certifiably Jonathan" (Unrated, 80 minutes). Jonathan Winters deserves better than this. Jim Pasternak's mockumentary is not merely a bad film, but a waste of an opportunity. Nearing 80, Winters is still active and funny, and deserves a real doc, not this messy failed attempt at satirizing--what? Documentaries themselves? Lame scenes involving an art show, a theft and the "Museum of Modern Art" fit awkwardly with cameos of too many other comics, who except for the funny Robin Williams seem to be attending a testimonial. One star.

"The Green Hornet" (PG-13, 108 minutes) An almost unendurable demonstration of a movie with nothing to be about. Although it follows the rough storyline of previous versions of the title, it neglects the construction of a plot engine to pull us through. There are pointless dialogue scenes going nowhere much too slowly, and then pointless action scenes going everywhere much too quickly. One star.

"The Nutcracker in 3D" (PG, 107 minutes) A train wreck of a movie, beginning with the idiotic idea of combining the Tchaikovsky classic with a fantasy conflict that seems inspired by the Holocaust. After little Mary (Elle Fanning) discovers her toy nutcracker can talk, he reveals himself as a captive prince and spirits her off to a land where fascist storm troopers are snatching toys from the hands of children and burning them to blot out the sun. I'm not making this up. Appalling. And forget about the 3D, which is the dingiest and dimmest I've seen. One star

"I Spit on Your Grave" (Unrated; for adults only. Running time: 108 minutes) Despicable remake of the despicable 1978 film "I Spit On Your Grave." This one is more offensive, because it lingers lovingly and at greater length on realistic verbal, psychological and physical violence against the woman, and then reduces her "revenge" to cartoonish horror-flick impossibilities. Oh, and a mentally disabled boy is forced against his will to perform a rape. Zero stars.

"Life As We Know It" (PG-13, 113 minutes). When their best friends are killed in a crash, Holly and Messer (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) are appointed as joint custodians of their one-year-old, Sophie. Also, they have to move into Sophie's mansion. But Holly and Messer can't stand one another. So what happens when they start trying to raise Sophie. You'll never guess in a million years. Or maybe you will. One and a half stars

"Hatchet II" (Unrated, 85 minutes). A gory homage to slasher films, which means it has its tongue in its cheek until the tongue is ripped out and the victims of a swamp man are sliced, diced, slashed, disemboweled, chainsawed and otherwise inconvenienced. One and a half stars

"The Last Airbender" (PG, 103 minutes). An agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. Originally in 2D, retrofitted in fake 3D that makes this picture the dimmest I've seen in years. Bad casting, wooden dialogue, lousy special effects, incomprehensible plot, and boring, boring, boring. One-half of one star.

"The A-Team" (PG-13, 121 minutes). an incomprehensible mess with the 1980s TV show embedded within. at over two hours of Queasy-Cam anarchy it's punishment. Same team, same types, same traits, new actors: Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, "Rampage" Jackson, Patrick Wilson. One and a half stars

"Sex & the City 2" (R, 146 minutes). Comedy about flyweight bubbleheads living in a world where their defining quality is consuming things. They gobble food, fashion, houses, husbands, children, and vitamins. Plot centers on marital discord between Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth), a purring, narcissistic, velvety idiot? Later, the girls are menaced for immodest dress during a luxurious freebie in Abu Dhabi. Appalling. Sure to be enjoyed by SATC fans. One star

"The Good Heart" (R, 98 minutes). Oh. My. God. A story sopping wet with cornball sentimentalism, wrapped up in absurd melodrama, and telling a Rags to Riches story with an ending that is truly shameless. That fine actor Brian Cox and that good actor Paul Dano and that angelic actress Isild Le Besco cast themselves on the sinking vessel of this story and go down with the ship. One and a half stars.

"Kick-Ass" (R, 117 minutes). An 11-year-old girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), her father (Nicolas Cage) and a high school kid (Aaron Johnson) try to become superheroes to fight an evil ganglord. There's deadly carnage dished out by the child, after which an adult man brutally hammers her to within an inch of her life. Blood everywhere. A comic book satire, they say. Sad, I say. One star

"Nightmare on Elm Street" (R, 95 minutes). Teenagers are introduced, enjoy brief moments of happiness, are haunted by nightmares, and then slashed to death by Freddy. So what? One star

"The Bounty Hunter" (PG-13, 110 minutes). An inconsequential formula comedy and a waste of the talents of Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. He's a bounty hunter, she's skipped bail on a traffic charge, they were once married, and that's the end of the movie's original ideas. We've seen earlier versions of every single scene to the point of catatonia. Rating: One and a half stars.

"Cop Out" (R, 110 minutes). An outstandingly bad cop movie, starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as partners who get suspended (of course) and then try to redeem themselves by overthrowing a drug operation while searching for the valuable baseball card Willis wants to sell to pay for his daughter's wedding. Morgan plays an unreasonable amount of time dressed as a cell phone, considering there is nothing to prevent him from taking it off. Kevin Smith, who directed, has had many, many better days. One and a half stars.

"The Lovely Bones" (PG-13). A deplorable film with this message: If you're a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to. You can get together in heaven with the other teenage victims of the same killer, and gaze down in benevolence upon your family members as they realize what a wonderful person you were. Peter Jackson ("Lord of the Rings") believes special effects can replace genuine emotion, and tricks up Alive Sebold's well-regarded novel with gimcrack New Age fantasies. With, however, affective performances by Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan as the victim. One star.

"The Spy Next Door" (PG, 92 minutes). Jackie Chan is a Chinese-CIA double agent babysitting girl friend's three kids as Russian mobsters attack. Uh, huh. Precisely what you'd expect from a PG-rated Jackie Chan comedy. If that's what you're looking for, you won't be disappointed. It's not what I was looking for. One and a half stars.

"Old Dogs" (PG, 88 minutes). Stupefying dimwitted. John Travolta's and Robin Williams' agents weren't perceptive enough to smell the screenplay in its advanced state of decomposition. Seems to have lingered in post-production while editors struggled desperately to inject laugh cues.Careens uneasily between fantasy and idiocy, the impenetrable and the crashingly ham-handed. Example: Rita Wilson gets her hand slammed by a car trunk, and the sound track breaks into "Big Girls Don't Cry." When hey get their hands slammed in car trunks, they do. One star. View the trailer.

"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" (PG-13, 103 minutes). Feuding couple from Manhattan (Hugh Grant and Jessica Sarah Parker) are forced to flee town under Witness Protection Program, find themselves Fish Out of Water in Strange New World, meet Colorful Characters, survive Slapstick Adventures, end up Together at the End. The only part of that formula that still works is The End. With supporting roles for Sam Elliott and Wilford Brimley, sporting the two most famous mustaches in the movies. One and a half stars.

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (PG-13, 130 minutes). The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. The sequel to "Twilight" (2008) is preoccupied with remember that film and setting up the third one. Sitting through this experience is like driving a tractor in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson return in their original roles, she dewy and masochistic, he sullen and menacing. Ah, teenage romance! One star

"The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day" . (R, 21 minutes) Idiotic ode to macho horseshite (to employ an ancient Irish word). Distinguished by superb cinematography. The first film in 10 years from Troy Duffy, whose "Boondock Saints" (1999) has become a cult fetish. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus are Irish brothers who return to Boston for revenge and murder countless enemies in an incomprehensible story involving heavy metal cranked up to 12 and lots of boozing, smoking, swearing and looking fierce and sweaty. One star. View the trailer.

"Gentlemen Broncos". (PG-13, 107 minutes) Michael Angarano plays Benjamin Purvis, a wannabe sci-fi Doctor Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement). Alas. the great man rips off the kid's book, just when get kid has sold the miniscule filming rights. All sorts of promising material from Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite"), but it's a clutter of jumbled continuity that doesn't add up, despite the presence of Jennifer Coolidge. Two stars. View the trailer.

"The Fourth Kind". (PG-13, 98 minutes). Nome, Alaska (pop. 3,750) has so many disappearances and/or alien abductions that the FBI has investigated there 20 times more than in Anchorage. So it's claimed by this pseudo-doc that goes to inane lengths to appear factual. Milla Jovovich is good as a psychologist whose clients complain that owls stare at them in the middle of the night. One and a half stars. View the trailer.

21 and a Wakeup . (R, 123 minutes). A disjointed, overlong and unconvincing string of anecdotes centering around the personnel of an Army combat hospital in Vietnam. Amy Acker plays an idealistic nurse who is constantly reprimanded by absurdly hostile officer (Faye Dunaway). Plays like a series of unlikely anecdotes trundled onstage without much relationship to one another. One episode involves an unauthorized trip into Cambodia by a nurse and a civilian journalist; it underwhelms. One and a half stars. Visit the website.

"Cirque de Freak: The Vampire's Assistant". (PG-13, 108 minutes) This movie includes good Vampires, evil Vampanese, a Wolf-Man, a Bearded Lady, a Monkey Girl with a long tail, a Snake Boy, a dwarf with a four-foot forehead and a spider the size of your shoe, and they're all boring as hell. They're in a traveling side show that comes to town and lures two insipid high school kids (Josh Hutcherson and Chris Massoglia) into a war between enemy vampire factions. Unbearable. With Joh C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe, Patrick Fugit, and other wasted talents. One star. View the trailer.

"Couples Retreat" (PG-13, 107 minutes). Four troubled couples make a week's retreat to an island paradise where they hope to be healed, which indeed happens, according to ages-old sitcom formulas. This material was old when it was new. The jolly ending is agonizing in its step-by-step obligatory plotting. I didn't care for any of the characters, and that's about how much they seemed to care for one another. Starring Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Faizon Love, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis and Kali Hawk. Two stars. View the trailer.

"Fame.". (PG, 90 minutes). A pale retread of the 1980 classic, lacking the power and emotion of the original. A group of hopeful kids enroll in the New York City School of the Performing Arts and struggle through four years to find themselves. Their back stories are shallow, many seem too old and confident, the plot doesn't engage them, and although individual performers like Naturi Naughton sparkle as a classical pianist who wants to sing hip hop, the film is too superficial to make them convincing. Two stars. View the trailer.

"All About Steve". (PG-13, 87 minutes ) Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle constructor who on a blind date falls insanely in love with Steve, a TV news cameraman (Bradley Cooper, from "The Hangover"). The operative word is "insanely." The movie is billed as a comedy but more resembles a perplexing public display of irrational behavior. Seeing her run around as a basket case makes you appreciate Lucille Ball, who could play a dizzy dame and make you like her. One and a half stars. View the trailer.

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#41 December 15, 2010

From the Grand Poobah: Netflix is great, but they don't have everything and seem to be weak on silent films. Here's a pay site streaming a large and useful selection of high-quality films, world-wide....

Marie writes: when Roger told me about this place, I signed-up to see if I could watch one their free movies? Yup! I can stream MUBI in Canada; though content will vary depending on where you live (that's also case with Netflix Canada) and so nothing new there. And after looking through their current catalog, I can report that they do indeed have some rare movies - stuff I've never found anywhere else. I even read that Martin Scorcese is a member.

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Succeeds beyond all expectations, sort of

Q. After seeing "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," on the car ride home, we couldn't help but discuss how different an American version of the film would be. Besides the obvious sexual situations and probably the villains' background, we came upon an obvious difference. An American film would have to explain to the audience the titular tattoo. It was great to see a movie leave so many plot threads unanswered. (Mark Coale, Editor/Publisher, www.odessasteps.com)

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Is Judd Apatow John Hughes? (Answer: No)

View image Those plucky, sympathetic teens of yesteryear.

You know what? "Sex and the City" was for girls! Yes, it's true. First it was for (and about) gay boys, but eventually it revolved around a certain brand of perfume-insert, fashion-magazine womankind: rich, white, co-dependent, status-obsessed, desperate for a man to complete her.

Know what else? Judd Apatow makes movies about guys -- and heterosexual relationships with women, but mainly about what used to be known as "male bonding." (The fashionable term now is "bro-mance," which is cuter and invoked largely by what used to be called "metrosexuals.") The Apatow guy tends to be underemployed, white, Jewish (or Canadian), slobby, geeky, smelly, childish (not just "childlike") and more or less happy, unaware that he's desperate for a woman to complete him. Then, once he becomes aware, he's not entirely sure that's possible, or desirable.

This, I submit, is a minor breakthrough in romantic comedy. OK, perhaps I am single and bitter, but I'm also right.

In the New York Sun (also known as "the conservative New York Sun"), Steve Dollar mentions that Catherine Keener's character in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" "pretty much takes the blame for making the poor guy sell all his collectible model toys (but whose side is Apatow on?), and spends much of her screen time mothering her infantile boyfriend."

Is that what happens? Even if so, whose side is Mr. Dollar on? (And who said it was necessary to divine and choose "sides"?)

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Judd Apatow: When Penis Met Vagina...and the re-invention of romantic comedy

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall": Kristen Bell and Russell Brand. P to the V.

Excerpt from an Apatowian appreciation I wrote for MSN Movies, covering "Freaks & Geeks" to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" to "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (with the inconspicuous omission of "Drillbit Taylor"): Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow, the man Entertainment Weekly recently crowned the 'Smartest Person in Hollywood,' has made a solemn promise to put a penis -- at least one penis -- into every movie he makes from now on. He's slipped penises into his pictures before, of course: all those obsessive-compulsive drawings in "Superbad," his own on comically disconcerting display in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," and Jason Segel's for a humiliating breakup in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Sometimes, too, his films include breasts and vaginas. And there are perfectly good reasons for that. Not the least of which is that all genitalia and externally visible glands are funny.

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The Apatow schlub: Too ugly for the girl?

View image Mila Kunis and Jason Segel in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," starring and written by Jason Segel ("Freaks and Geeks," "Undelcared," "Knocked Up") opens April 18. Last month, after an early screening, Jeffrey Wells at Hollwyood Elsewhere revealed that the idea of "marginally unattractive guys -- witty stoners, clever fatties, doughy-bodied dorks, thoughtful-sensitive dweebs and bearish oversize guys in their 20s and 30s" playing "romantic leads" just doesn't wash with him ("Eclipse of the Hunk?").

"Question is, what if this starts to manifest in realms outside Apatow World?" he frets. God forbid. Upon seeing Segel's upper torso at the beginning of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (this is before all the rest of him is bared to the world in a painfully funny break-up scene), Wells says: I immediately went, "Oh, sh-t...I'm stuck with this dude for the whole film." Segel is an obviously bright guy with moderately appealing features, but he also has a chunky, blemished ass and little white man-boobs, and he could definitely use a little treadmill and stairmaster time and a serious cutback program regarding pasta, Frito scoop chips, Ben & Jerry's and Fatburger takeout. I don't relate to this sh-t at all, I was muttering to myself.

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Shmashmortion in the age of Bush

View image Is the "a-word" still mentionable?

In A.O. Scott's review of "Knocked Up" in the New York Times, he expressed admiration for "a funny, knowing riff on the reluctance of movies and television shows even to use the word 'abortion.'" I thought that was one of the most brilliant bits in the movie, and not just because it emphasized the entertainment industry's squeamishness about the "a-word," but because it also captured men's unwillingness to interfere with (or face up to) "a woman's right to choose," and the way abortion has been swept under the carpet by the new right-wing Political Correctness. No longer is abortion considered a difficult and regrettable personal choice; the new PC has restored the shame and guilt from the old Scarlet Letter days of back alleys and coat hangers. That's one of the things I think "Knocked Up" was satirizing: Don't mention abortion! (The Bush administration cuts funding to any family planning counseling facility, in Africa and elsewhere, that acknowledges abortion as an option for women.)

In the Genuine Canadian Magazine (says so right on the cover) cinema scope, Associate Editor Jessica Winter offers this take: As funny and endearing as Judd Apatow’s proudly vulgar new comedy can be, it may give the viewer nostalgia for the sequence in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) when Jennifer Jason Leigh falls pregnant by a guy she shouldn’t be with, promptly gets an abortion, and rides back from the clinic with her brother, who takes her out for a cheeseburger. And that’s it: no apparent self-torment, no post-facto breakdown, no further discussion. Twenty-five years later—plus a nationwide swing to the right, the founding of Operation Rescue, and that deathless Ben Folds Five song—"Knocked Up" presents us with a similarly unpromising scenario: smart twentysomething who just got a big career break has inadvertently fruitful one-night stand with unemployed shlub. Yet in this case, abortion is only briefly suggested by third parties and dismissed out of hand. That’s not to say that the outcome is unrealistic: When Allison (Katherine Heigl) bursts into tears at the sight of the heartbeat on the sonogram, it’s obvious that ending the pregnancy simply isn’t an option for her—just as bearing a child simply isn’t an option for Leigh’s teenage character in "Fast Times." Still, when the closest a movie like Knocked Up comes to even saying the word is “rhymes with shmashmortion,” it’s clear that we’re considering less a depiction of life as actual people live it but rather a pop-culture product that embodies the squeamish contradictions of the mainstream moment a little too accurately. This is a movie, after all, in which Allison always has sex with her bra on but we get an extreme close-up of the baby’s head inching through Mom’s conspicuously bald vagina. Who knew the miracle of childbirth could be liberated from the dark shame of pubic hair?Winter says that we can "blame the MPAA" for the missing pubic hair.

How will the movies handle -- or avoid mentioning -- abortion once the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, I wonder?

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Getting "Knocked Up"

At whom is this ad campaign aimed?

Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up" ought to be the most-discussed (and argument-generating) movie of the year so far -- which means it's uncommonly smart and subversive and disturbing (and funny), especially for a summer sex comedy. I happen to think Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, as Pete and Debbie, the bitter and resentful married couple with kids (Mann is Apatow's wife, and the kids in the movie are theirs) are the funniest characters/actors in the picture (and Kristen Wiig: amazing), mainly because their material, and their performances, are so painfully true that it's not funny. Which is what makes it so funny. It helps that all three are top-flight actors with a gift for uncanny understatement. Sometimes you don't even know if the scene is funny or not (like Debbie's suburban ambush of Pete) -- and those are inevitably the most revealing and rewarding kinds of laughs, when you surprise yourself by laughing at how awful and truthful the characters are behaving.

Anyway, I've found that some women don't like the movie, for sex-specific reasons I hope to discuss at length in the near future. Let me offer a few examples now from reviews that I think "get" "Knocked Up" -- and not from my usual suspects, either.

Anthony Lane, The New Yorker:
One night, Ben [Seth Rogen] goes to a bar, picks up a girl, and goes to bed with her. Both are drunk at the time, and both, in consequence, throw up: Ben the next morning (“I just yakked,” he says winningly over breakfast), and the girl—who is no girl but a young woman named Alison (Katherine Heigl), with a growing career on television—some weeks later, into a trash can at work. Here comes the bit that will divide Apatow’s audience and (he hopes) get them arguing over the movie: Alison decides to inform the father and, little by little, to enfold him and his oafish, froggy grin in the gentle business of parenting. Call it the taming of the Shrek. Most women, I imagine, will scoff with incredulity: this is neither a last hurrah (Alison is still in her twenties) nor the ideal time (she has a good job), and Ben is the last slob on earth she would have chosen. Most men, meanwhile, will be too busy watching through their fingers. To them, this is “The Omen.” What's interesting about this paragraph is that it's slightly wrong. We go to the bar with the women, not the men. The gals are swept inside (even though Mann's character is really too old to be there), while we catch a glimpse of Ben and his geek buddies near the front of the line. They've probably been standing out there for hours. (This doorman scene will pay off later -- though I think it's the weakest in the movie.)

My first reaction to the Ben-Alison match was that she would never want to see him again after their one-night stand. But, like so many women, Alison is someone who falls in love with a guy for who she wants him to be, not for who he really is. (She doesn't even know who he is -- and vice-versa.) At the point where she (improbably) lets him back into her life, it's because she now views him as "the father of her child" (which, in her view though not our society's, gives him some marginal rights) and as Pete and Debbie indicate cynically at the breakfast table in front of the kids, men and women who are in love get married and have babies. Or men and women who have babies get married and fall in love. Or something like that. Alison wants to be in love with the father of her child (their child, she insists), so she is determined to make herself believe that's the case, even when it isn't, because that's the way it should be. And maybe she can even make him believe it.

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