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Heaven Is for Real

Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.

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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.

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Jenji Kohan on why she can write women of color; a campaign to save drive-in theaters; Danny Boyle's 15 rules of moviemaking; Lee Daniels on how racism impacted funding for "The Butler"; memoirist Laura Bogart on writing and anger.

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#173 June 26, 2013

Marie writes: There was a time when Animation was done by slaves with a brush in one hand and a beer in the other. Gary Larson's "Tales From the Far Side" (1994) was such a project. I should know; I worked on it. Produced by Marv Newland at his Vancouver studio "International Rocketship", it first aired as a CBS Halloween special (Larson threw a party for the crew at the Pan Pacific Hotel where we watched the film on a big screen) and was later entered into the 1995 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It spawned a sequel "Tales From the Far Side II" (1997) - I worked on that too. Here it is, below.

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#136 October 3, 2012

Marie writes: It's that time of year again!  Behold the shortlisted nominees for The Turner Prize: 2012.  Below, Turner Prize nominee Spartacus Chetwynd performs 'Odd Man Out 2011' at Tate Britain on October 1, 2012 in London, England.

(click image to enlarge.)

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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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Raunchy comedy, brutal sex, bloody violence

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Big stars were out to shine this morning in Cannes, when "The Paperboy" by Lee Daniels premiered in competition, with a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, John Cusack, and Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Macy Gray. Daniels had a massive hit with his previous film "Precious," which premiered here in 2009 and went on to earn six Oscar nominations with two wins, and countless other awards worldwide.

A director with that kind of success in his recent past has got to have a lot of hopes and fears riding on his next film. Daniels certainly had star power in his corner on "The Paperboy," but the film got a mixed reaction this morning in the Palais, and I'm not sure it's headed for a repeat of the acclaim that "Precious" experienced.

"The Paperboy" is adapted by Pete Dexter and Daniels from Dexter's novel of the same title. The film reportedly takes a few deviations from the source novel (which I haven't read) to result in pretty much a whole new story. There are many shifts of tone, making the film simultaneously a comedy, a mystery/thriller, and a Southern gothic potboiler. It's amusing and frustrating; hilarious and tense; awkward in its construction yet featuring bursts of gripping acting.

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A letter from Chaz

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• Chaz Ebert at Cannes

Dear Roger: "We were once indivisible from every atom in the cosmos," and that is how I feel when I am sitting in the Palais watching movies at Cannes with a screen spread out as wide as the galaxy, the audience circling around like protons and neutrons breathing as one in empathy.

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'Precious' wins as many Indie Spirits as it possibly can

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LOS ANGELES -- I wonder what this might mean. "Precious" did about as well as it possibly could have Friday might at the Independent Spirit Awards. It won for best picture, best actress (Gabourey Sidibe), best supporting actress (Mo'Nique), best director (Lee Daniels) and best first screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher). Supporting actor Lenny Kravitz was in the house, but couldn't win because he wasn't nominated.

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"Avatar" wins Golden Globes

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AP -- BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The science-fiction blockbuster "Avatar" won best drama at the Golden Globes and picked up the directing honor for James Cameron on Sunday, raising the "Titanic" filmmaker's prospects for another Academy Awards triumph.

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Jason Reitman's newest movie: Lost in the Air (press tour simulator)

"Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman (known for his pie charts documented the whirlwind experience of his latest press tour in a movie (above) posted on Vimeo and /Film.

UPDATE: Reitman was nominated for a DGA award this morning, along with fellow directors Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Lee Daniels and Quentin Tarantino.

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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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Precious Based on the Movie Female Trouble by John Waters

May Contain Spoilers
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My previous post, Impressions Based on the Hype for the Movie Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, was an account of exactly that -- how even limited exposure to advance word for the movie over 11 months, from Sundance in January to theatrical release in November, created expectations that made me not want to see it. What follows are my impressions when I finally did.

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UPDATE (12/24/09): "I didn't have the sensibilities of your ordinary filmmaker, let alone your ordinary African-American filmmaker. My heroes were John Waters, Pedro Almodóvar, and actors that were part of that world. Different." -- Lee Daniels, June 2009

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None of us is immune to movie publicity, unless we're lucky enough to see the picture well in advance of its theatrical release (perhaps at an early film festival screening) -- or stay away from publications, television, radio, the Internet and any form of communication with other people until we can see it. In the case of "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," I reluctantly came to feel that I knew all-too-well what to expect: a grueling torture-fest of a movie that would culminate in an equally manipulative upbeat ending.

Turns out, it is all that, but it's also something else I hadn't anticipated: funny. Yes, it's a rags-to-redemption "social problem" movie, but at the same time it's a consciously camped-up fairy tale, complete with Evil StepMother. It's a showcase for two heartfelt bravura performances (by Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe) and an often laughably overwrought melodrama -- not just because of the horrors it depicts but because it's fully aware of how shockingly high it stacks the decks against its heroine. "Precious" is a virtual remake of John Waters' 1974 "Female Trouble," which makes for a crazy, volatile clash of tones and textures.

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The best films of 2009

Since Moses brought the tablets down from the mountain, lists have come in tens, not that we couldn't have done with several more commandments. Who says a year has Ten Best Films, anyway? Nobody but readers, editors, and most other movie critics. There was hell to pay last year when I published my list of Twenty Best. You'd have thought I belched at a funeral. So this year I have devoutly limited myself to exactly ten films.

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Impressions Based on the Hype for the Movie Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

This is the first of two posts about the movie "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire." In this one, I talk about the impressions I got from the movie's press coverage, advertising, reviews and word-of-mouth, and why they put me off the film. In the second part I'll write about my response to the movie when I finally, reluctantly, went to see it... (Part II: "Precious Based on the Movie Female Trouble by John Waters")

I put it off as long as I could. For months I tried not to read about it, but I knew it had won a bunch of awards at Sundance back in January, 2009, when it was called "Push." That, in itself, is enough to make me want to avoid it. The Sundance Film Festival is notorious for hailing a certain type of dilettantish formula movie -- the feel-bad/feel-good story of degradation and redemption, set in a colorful, semi-exotic subculture -- and the picture eventually known as "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" sure seemed to fit the profile. There's nothing I hate more than a voyeuristic lesson-movie that goes slumming and then presents itself as an inspirational triumph of the spirit. By the time Oprah (Winfrey, that is -- promoter of bogus New Age twaddle like "The Secret") and Tyler Perry (maker of amateurish chitlin' circuit teleplays) signed on, with great fanfare, as "presenters" I was beginning to think (as I used to tell my newspaper editors about movies I was fairly or unfairly predisposed to despise) that nobody had enough money to pay me to see this thing.

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