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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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Rudderless

If this directorial outing was in any sense an audition for the talented Mr. Macy, he should be congratulated on passing it.

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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.

#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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#170 June 5, 2013

Marie writes: Behold a truly rare sight. London in 1924 in color. "The Open Road" was shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Friese-Greene and who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William (a noted cinematographer) had been experimenting with. The travelogues were taken between 1924 and 1926 on a motor journey between Land's End and John O'Groats. You can find more footage from The Open Road at The British Film Institute's YouTube channel for the film. You can also explore their Archives collection over here.

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#164 April 24, 2013

Marie writes: Now this is something you don't see every day. Behold The Paragliding Circus! Acrobatic paragliding pilot Gill Schneider teamed up with his father’s circus class (he operates a school that trains circus performers) to mix and combine circus arts with paragliding - including taking a trapezist (Roxane Giliand) up for ride and without a net. Best original film in the 2012 Icare Cup. Video by Director/Filmmaker Shams Prod. To see more, visit Shams Prod.

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#150 January 9, 2013

Marie writes: Behold the amazing Art of Greg Brotherton and the sculptures he builds from found and re-purposed objects - while clearly channeling his inner Tim Burton. (Click to enlarge.)

"With a consuming drive to build things that often escalate in complexity as they take shape, Greg's work is compulsive. Working with hammer-formed steel and re-purposed objects, his themes tend to be mythological in nature, revealed through a dystopian view of pop culture." - Official website

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#146 December 12, 2012

Marie writes:  For those unaware, it seems our intrepid leader, the Grand Poobah, has been struck by some dirty rotten luck..."This will be boring. I'll make it short. I have a slight and nearly invisible hairline fracture involving my left femur. I didn't fall. I didn't break it. It just sort of...happened to itself." - Roger

(Click to enlarge)

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#131 August 29, 2012

Marie writes: It's that time of the year again!  The Toronto International Film Festival is set to run September 6 - 16, 2012. Tickets selection began August 23rd. Single tickets on sale Sept 2, 2012. For more info visit TIFF's website.

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#125 July 25, 2012

Marie writes: Once upon a time, a long time ago and in a childhood far, far away, kids used to be able to buy a special treat called a Frosted Malt. Then, with the arrival of progress and the subsequent destruction of all that is noble and pure, the world found itself reduced to settling for a frosty at Wendy's, at least where I live. Unable to support a "second rate" frosted malt for a second longer, I decided to do something about it!

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Gods and monsters

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Q. Your Answer Man item about the availability of Pauline Kael's criticism reminded me that I hadn't brought you up to date about our looking into a reprint of Going Steady. Our paperback editor checked out the situation regarding her work, and it appears that the small British firm of Marian Boyars Publishers Ltd. now has rights to most of her titles. Just talked with our paperback editor, and she confirmed that Little, Brown (the original publisher of Going Steady) had directed her to Kael's literary agency in England, Curtis Brown Ltd, since rights had reverted to Kael in 1988.

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Pearl of the South: A tale of two reviews

John Fitzgerald Kennedy's early cameo appearance in "Nashville," at Lady Pearl's Old Time Picking Parlor.

Please consider this my initial contribution to Andy Horbal's Film Criticism Blog-a-Thon -- happening all weekend at No More Marriages!

View image Inside Pearl's Parlor: Red, white and bluegrass. Kenny Fraiser (David Hayward) enters from behind the flag at center.

How can two critics see (or remember) the same movie, and have such contradictory interpretations of how it works and what it means? And what better case-in-point than Robert Altman's 1975 "Nashville" -- now being remembered in the wake of Altman's death last week, and seen through the prism of Emilio Estevez's recent release about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, "Bobby"?

View image Lady Pearl: "The only time I ever went hog wild, 'round the bend, was for the Kennedy boys. But they were different."

From two reviews of "Bobby":

View image "... and the asshole got 556,577 votes."

Watching the movie, I kept thinking of "Nashville." And not just because Robert Altman's 1975 masterpiece remains the most politically and psychologically astute big-ensemble/where-America's-at movie ever made (it's got a presidential campaign and ends with a beloved public figure gunned down, too). There's a minor character in it, played by Barbara Baxley, who's a Kennedy-loving Yankee married to a country music star. In one boozy monologue, she expresses all that was both hopeful and delusional about what the dead Kennedys represented for progressive citizens. I've never forgotten that speech, while the more simplistic and diffuse "Bobby" is already starting to fade from memory.

-- Bob Strauss, LA Daily News

View image Alone at Mass.

Despite its reputation as an exuberant classic, "Nashville" knows zip and cares even less about country music or the city of Nashville (where it was shot) -- which doesn't prevent it from heaping scorn on both. It even ridicules a dowager who tearfully reminisces about John and Bobby Kennedy, and it shamelessly encourages viewers to share its contempt for the rubes. The relentless cynicism that Nashville brandishes as proof of its hipness ultimately gives way to glib, high-flown rhetoric in the climactic repeated shots of an American flag filling the screen while a nihilistic pseudocountry anthem, "It Don't Worry Me," builds to a crescendo, asserting the concert audience's unembarrassed cluelessness.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

First, I want to point out the obvious: Bob Strauss is right even when he's wrong (I don't think Baxley's character is minor or a Yankee) and Jonathan Rosenbaum is wrong even when he's right (Altman admitted he wasn't interested in making a movie about the real Nashville or country music; after all, he let the actors write their own songs). Rosenbaum's preoccupation with his own perception of "hipness" (which he deems extremely uncool) appears to have obscured his view (or his memory) of what's happening on the screen in Altman's movie. As I said in a comment over at The House Next Door, using "Bobby" to bash "Nashville" makes as much sense as using "Neil Simon's California Suite" to bash "Short Cuts" -- or "The Towering Inferno" to belittle "Playtime." Yes, there are superficial similarities (as Bob points out), but in terms of ambition, complexity, vitality and sheer movieness, there's no comparison.

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TIFF: 'RFK: The Disaster Movie'

Wayne Newton and Suzanne Pleshette -- er, Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore stud the all-star cast of "Bobby."

We're told that Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" takes place at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, but it feels like it was originally released back around then. It's "Earthquake" with the RFK assassination as the disaster. It's "Airport." It's "The Towering Inferno." A whole bunch of familiar actors play "colorful" characters swarming around the hotel, and their day will culminate in the death of a Kennedy. They talk about the movies -- new stuff like "The Graduate," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Planet of the Apes" -- but a retired doorman played by Anthony Hopkins explicitly invokes the model for "Bobby" and and its ilk: "Grand Hotel," the 1932 picture with Greta Garbo and an all-star cast. And "Bobby" treats the assassination as an event as strangely distant from its own present-tense as "Grand Hotel" was from 1968.

Sure, the requisite modern political parallels are present, as they are in virtually every film at the Toronto Film Festival this year. On the screen, on TVs in hotel suites, over the soundtrack, are actual speeches and sound bites from Democratic senatorial candidate Robert F. Kennedy, talking about how the country has lost its way in the quagmire of Vietnam, and championing rights for minorities and low-wage workers, etc., etc., etc. (It comes as a bit of a shock to remember that politicians were once articulate and sounded like they knew the meanings of the words they were saying.)

But why make "Bobby," which screened at the Toronto Film Festival as a "work-in-progress"? Why turn this traumatic national event into a Hollywood soap opera? The performances are fine for this kind of glitzy manufactured melodrama ("Where Were YOU When They Shot RFK?"), and on that level it's swell, trashy fun. It's just that the whole concept is inappropriate.

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Opening Shots Quiz 2: Answers

"I am your host! Und sagen..."

Here they are, eleven of the most famous opening shots in movie history, plus a bonus that I threw in just because I like it. Prepare to smack your head and say, "D'oh! I knew that!" But don't give up -- keep sending in your nominations for great opening shots, along with your explanations for why they set up the movie so well, to: jim AT scannersblog dot com.

Congrats to Daniel Dietzel, who got all ten right, but did not hazard a guess about the two bonus shots -- and to Jeremy Matthews, who got nine out of the top 10, but also correctly identified both the bonus/tiebreakers!

And come back Sunday for the answers to the original Opening Shots Pop Quiz.

Now, the answers to the Opening Shots Quiz 2: 10 Easy Pieces (+2):

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Tom Cruise, The Movie

"M:I:III": To see or not to see?

Quick: When you think "Tom Cruise," what's the first thing that pops into your mind? Tabloid celebrity? Love-struck happy dad? Couch-jumper? Noted skeptic and scholar of the history of psychology and psychopharmacology? Censor? Superspy? Scientologist? Actor? The former Mr. Kidman? The future Mr. Holmes? Movie star?

The release of "Mission: Impossible III" on Friday is being touted by some as a referendum on Cruise's career as a celebrity with marquee value. It's Cruise's third time out as superspy Ethan Hunt (no, not that guy who used to be married to Uma Thurman -- the secret agent dude!), so the franchise may have quite a bit of steam of its own. But after the Scientology-backed clampdown on the "Trapped in the Closet" episode of "South Park" in the US and the UK (and today, by the way, happens to be Day 50 of "South Park" Held Hostage) and other bizarre off-screen behavior, Cruise's box-office status is being... questioned.

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'Mystic River' shows American legend is far from done

CANNES, France--The man the French call "Cleent" came to town for the weekend, and Cannes once again vibrated like a film festival. After several official entries that felt as if they threw away the movie and showed the deleted scenes, here was Clint Eastwood with "Mystic River," a film that actually had me intently involved in what would happen next.

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Movie Answer Man (04/11/1999)

Q. Seems like the revisionism is already setting in over Roberto Benigni. He delighted everyone on Oscar night, but now Richard Roeper asks in the Sun-Times, "How can he toss around words like 'firmament' and 'tranquillity' and turn such clever phrases as 'oceans of generosity' if he has such a limited grasp of the language?" Roeper also suggests that Benigni's "Life is Beautiful" isn't exactly original. He writes, "I kept thinking, Jerry Lewis is a damn genius. For it was Lewis who explored similar turf nearly 30 years ago in the most notorious unreleased film in history: 'The Day the Clown Cried.' In 1972, Lewis directed himself in the role of Helmut Dork, an emaciated, 77-year-old clown at Aushwitz who entertained children with his wacky antics in an effort to keep them distracted from their ultimate fate." Your reaction? (Charlie Smith, Chicago)

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Perchance to dream

LOS ANGELES--Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" is one of those grand gestures that restores your faith in the flexibility and imagination of the movies. When so many films seem to march lockstep through versions of the same proven formulas, here's one that takes on perhaps the most enigmatic character in literature, and surrounds him with every single word of "Hamlet"--a play so often cut that many people have never seen it as Shakespeare wrote it.

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Movie Answer Man (04/02/1995)

Q. Help me settle something. If Writer A and Writer B both wrote their opinions on a film--both with diligence and pride in their work--what difference in the two pieces would identify Writer A as a Film Critic and Writer B as someone just offering an opinion? Take the weekly feature you see in some papers, where kids review films. At what point do they cross the line, and can be called Critics as opposed to Reviewers? Is there some sort of certification program, like taking the Sally Struthers correspondence course in gun repair? (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, Mass.)

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Oscar will finally pay its respects to Spielberg

For years, the word around Hollywood has been that Oscar voters have some kind of a grudge against Steven Spielberg. He makes good movies and he makes popular movies, and sometimes he makes both at the same time, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never awarded its best director award to the most successful director in history.

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