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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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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.

#167 May 15, 2013

Marie writes: The unseen forces have spoken! The universe has filled a void obviously needing to be filled: there is now a font made entirely of cats. Called Neko Font (Japanese for "cat font") it's a web app that transforms text into a font comprised of cat pictures. All you need to do is write something in the text box, press "enter" on your keyboard and Neko Font instantly transforms the letters into kitties! Thanks go to intrepid club member Sandy Kahn for alerting the Ebert Club to this important advancement in typography. To learn more, read the article "There is now a font made entirely of cats" and to test it out yourself, go here: Neko Font. Meanwhile, behold what mankind can achieve when it has nothing better to do....

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#135 September 26, 2012

Marie writes: It's no secret that most Corporations are evil - or at the very least, suck big time. And while I have no actual proof, I'm fairly certain there is a special level of Dante's Hell reserved just for them. (Map of Dante's Hell.)That being the case, when my younger brother Paul wrote me about a cool project sponsored by Volkswagen, I was understandably wary and ready to denounce it sight-unseen as self-serving Corporate shyte. As luck would have it however, I was blessed at birth with curiosity and which got the better of me and why I took a look. For what I found was nothing less than extraordinary....

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Shall we gather at the river?

The first time I saw him, he was striding toward me out of the burning Georgia sun, as helicopters landed behind him. His face was tanned a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, carrying a rifle, had a canteen on his hip, stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary.

Wayne died on June 11, 1979. Stomach cancer. "The Big C," he called it. He had lived for quite a while on one lung, and then the Big C came back. He was near death and he knew it when he walked out on stage at the 1979 Academy Awards to present Best Picture to "The Deer Hunter," a film he wouldn't have made. He looked frail, but he planted himself there and sounded like John Wayne.

John Wayne. When I was a kid, we said it as one word: Johnwayne. Like Marilynmonroe. His name was shorthand for heroism. All of his movies could have been titled "Walking Tall." Yet he wasn't a cruel and violent action hero. He was almost always a man doing his duty. Sometimes he was other than that, and he could be gentle, as in "The Quiet Man," or vulnerable, as in "The Shootist," or lonely and obsessed, as in "The Searchers," or tender with a baby, as in "3 Godfathers."

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My new job. In his own words.

My new voice belongs to Edward Herrmann. He has allowed me to use it for 448 pages. The actor has recorded the audiobook version of my memoir, Life Itself, and my author's copies arrived a few days ago.

Listening to it, I discovered for the first time a benefit from losing my own speaking voice: If I could still speak, I suppose I would probably have recorded it myself, and I wouldn't have been able to do that anywhere as near as well as Herrmann does.

My editor, Mitch Hoffman, suggested a few readers he was confident would do a good job. Herrmann's name leaped up from his email.

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On "The Rack" with Paul Newman and Stewart Stern

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• "The Rack" (1956) • "Until They Sail" (1957) • "The Prize" (1963) • "Tales of Tomorrow: Ice From Space" (1953)"The Rack," "Until They Sail" and "The Prize" are now available on made-to-order DVD from the Warner Archive Collection for $19.95 each. "Tales of Tomorrow" can be viewed on Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.

by Jeff Shannon You would think that every film Paul Newman ever appeared in would be readily available on home video, right? Guess again. One of the best films from Newman's early career has managed to slip through the cracks of home-video distribution for decades, and unless you're old enough to have seen it in theaters or on TV over the years, it's possible you've never even heard of it. So when I heard that "The Rack" (1956) was available on home video for the very first time, I couldn't wait to break the news to Stewart Stern.

For anyone who's wondering "Stewart who?" there's a convenient shortcut you can use when discussing the impressive life and career of Stewart Stern. All you have to say is, "He wrote 'Rebel Without a Cause.'" Uh-huh, that one. With a credit like that, any screenwriter could legitimately claim a slice of movie immortality, like James Dean did as the now-iconic star of Nicholas Ray's 1955 teen-angst classic. But to say that Stern only wrote "Rebel" is a bit like saying Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house. In the course of his distinguished, decades-spanning career, Stern wrote rich, psychologically perceptive scripts that were magnets for great actors and great acting: His script for "The Ugly American" (1963) gave Brando plenty to chew on; his Oscar-nominated script for "Rachel, Rachel" (1968) gave Joanne Woodward what is arguably the best role of her career (under the direction of her husband, Paul Newman; they also earned Oscar nods); and Stern's Emmy and Peabody-winning teleplay for "Sybil" (1976) transformed cute TV actress Sally Field into an Emmy winner with a pair of Oscars in her future. A few years later, Stern left Hollywood, weary of the rat race and struggling with writer's block, the delayed effect of post-traumatic stress from service in World War II. In the mid-'80s, Stern relocated to Seattle and never looked back. And while Stern may have been a nephew of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor, with additional family ties to MGM moguls Arthur Loew Sr. and Jr., his closest Hollywood connection was more personal and more warmly indicative of the man's soul and spirit: For 55 years, Stewart Stern was one of Paul Newman's very best friends.

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The Duke on Rooster: "My first good part in 20 years"

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By Roger EbertDecember 8th, 1968

Hollywood, California -- Over in a comer of the big sound stage, John Wayne was playing chess. He was leaning against a packing crate and studying the board in complete oblivion to the commotion Henry Hathaway was raising 10 yards away.

Hathaway got into the movie business as a juvenile in 1908 and has been directing action and Western pictures since 1918. His directing style remains unchanged; he gets excited about three times a day and starts shouting at people. But he has white hair and looks gentle, as opposed to Otto Preminger, who has no hair and looks dangerous, and so Hathaway is known as a terror but regarded with affection.

Just now he was haranguing a group of extras who were supposed to be a courtroom crowd. "You're all waiting for the other fellow to sit down," he was saying. "Now it's clear as day that some of you have got to sit down before the rest of you do. So when the judge comes in, don't everybody stand around with his hands in his pockets." His tone was that of an eminently reasonable ship's captain addressing a cargo of madmen in the hold. "Now let's try it."

"Here we go," Wayne said. He plays the part of Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit," a Western comedy, adventure, satire or what-have-you based on the best-seller by Charles Portis. The press releases describe Rooster as a mean, ornery, one-eyed, no-good, low-down rapscallion, and Wayne obviously enjoys the part. He took another look at the chess board, decided not to move until the scene had been shot, got up and moseyed over to the set.

It turned out that the light men hadn't arranged the lights to their satisfaction, so Hathaway decreed a 10-minute break and Wayne walked back off the set, pushing his eye-patch up on his forehead.

"This is, oh, maybe the fifth or sixth picture I've made with. Hathaway," Wayne recalled. "Every director has his own way of handling actors. John Ford, now, had a rapier wit and if he wanted to zing somebody he'd hit 'em quick and pull back. Henry, on the other hand, uses a club."

What was the last picture by Wayne and Hathaway?

"Let's see. That would be 'Sons of Katie Elder.' I don't care for it much, myself. I had just got over that cancer operation and I thought I could hear myself breathing all the time. Everybody said it was my imagination. Well, old Henry was very thoughtful of me, of course, since I was recuperating and all. He took me up to 8,500 feet to shoot the damned thing and the fourth day of shooting he had me jumping into ice water. Very considerate."

Wayne chuckled. "All the same, give Hathaway a good story, and that's what 'True Grit' is, and he's great. He's not so good on his own stories; I found that out. He can't quite get objective about them. But I love this story. I tried to buy the rights and then I found out Hal Wallis was bidding on it. Between us we pushed the price clear to the sky, and then Wallis got it and cast me anyway."

The story involves a spunky little frontier girl (played by Kim Darby) who sets off to avenge her father's murder and hires Rooster as her paid gunman. Glen Campbell, the hot young country singer and TV host, makes his screen debut in the film as a Texas Ranger.

"The picture's got to make a bundle," Wayne said. "And for a change I have a good part. I'd say this is my first good part in 20 years."

There were protests from Wayne's listeners. "Well," he said, "what the hell has there been? I'm always the straight guy who heaves the pack up on his back shouts, 'Follow me!' Everybody else in picture gets to have funny little scenes, clever lines, but I'm the hero so I stand there.

"Howard Hawks worked out a whole system based on that. He'd just stand me up as a target and run everybody at me. 'EI Dorado,' that was just a remake of an earlier picture by Hawks, 'Rio Bravo.' And in both pictures you had Robert Mitchum or Dean Martin as the drunken sheriff, and you had the old deputy and the young kid, and where did that leave me?

"And in that picture, Who Killed What's-His-Name? Yeah, the John Ford picture: 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.' They had Lee Marvin as the colorful heavy, and that young Irish fellow playing the intellectual, and Andy Devine playing the best friend, and Jimmy Stewart to get a laugh kicking the horse crap out of his way, and what was left? Try to wind your way through that one..."

Wayne said he was talking in professional terms. "What I mean is, I haven't been short of good roles in terms of starring roles, but I've gotten damn few roles you could get your teeth into and develop a character. Until Rooster in 'True Grit,' I haven't had a role like that since 'The Searchers' (1956). And before that, maybe 'Sgt. Stryker' or 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,' another great Ford picture.

"But look at 'The Quiet Man.' Everybody was a character but me. For three fourths of the movie, I had to keep alive just walking through it. Those are the tough ones to do. At least in 'Rio Bravo,' I had a couple of gags in addition to furnishing the father image."

He unwrapped some peanut brittle and took a bite. "And old Rooster is going to be a lovely role. When this picture's over I got to go to work and get some of this weight off." He grinned. "But it's pretty nice playing a fat old man."

Hathaway walked over, slapped Wayne on the shoulder, and said, "All right then, Duke, let's get to work. Always assuming, of course, that I can get those damn fools to sit down when the judge comes in."

"Heah come de judge," said Wayne.

Some 200 of my TwitterPages are linked at the right. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = "http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/"; a2a_config.num_services = 8;

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Noir at its nastiest: The Killer Inside Me

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Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Jim Thompson's "The Killer Inside Me" is one of the deepest, darkest films noir ever made -- an unflinchingly nasty, nihilistic piece of work that pulls no punches, literally or figuratively. This is what noir is all about: facing the worst possibilities of human nature, a bottomless sense of dread that makes you feel like you're drowning in fetid bog of blood (see "Macbeth"). And it's all your fault, the undeniable consequences of following your own overpowering desires, of making your own messy mistakes. And maybe some rotten luck -- the kind you invariably bring on yourself.

Not that we totally identify with our deadpan sociopathic narrator and main character, but that's precisely what happens to Lou Ford, the clean-cut young deputy sheriff of Central City, Texas, (Casey Affleck, in another masterful performance to rank with his work in "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford"), a small-town psycho with a taste for compulsive, 1950s pulp sadism (really dirty, dangerous stuff -- let's say S&M without the safe word). One murder becomes necessary to cover the previous one until Lou is stepp'd in blood so far that, should he wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er.

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Roger Ebert's Last Words, con't.

Christy Lemire wrote me: "So, everyone seems pretty moved by the Esquire piece on you, but I'm wondering what you thought about it. It's so intimate, personal."

Yeah, it was, wasn't it? It was also well written, I thought. When I turned to it in the magazine, I got a jolt from the full-page photograph of my jaw drooping. Not a lovely sight. But then I am not a lovely sight, and in a moment I thought, well, what the hell. It's just as well it's out there. That's how I look, after all.

It was an inexplicable instinct that led me to agree when Chris Jones contacted me requesting an interview. The idea of Esquire appealed to me. I did a bunch of interviews for them in the 1970s, when it was the crucible of the New Journalism.

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Jeff Bridges: "I know myself pretty well."

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After a career as a leading actor that began with "The Last Picture Show" in 1971 and has included four Academy Award nominations, Jeff Bridges seems poised to be nominated again for his pitch-perfect performance as Bad Blake, a broken-down country singer in "Crazy Heart." His performance has been singled out in the best actor category of many film critics' year-end awards. In my review elsewhere in this section, I note: "It's like Bad has lived so long and been through so much that he's too worn out to add any spin to exactly the way he feels."

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Metropolis, lost and found

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Q. I guess I saw a different movie from you, but "The Informant!" movie offended in the worst way -- it was boring! Matt Damon was boring, the dialogue was boring, the direction was boring. You need to curb your crushes on movie stars and start critiquing movies again based on their merits, not on how much your heart throbs. After giving this piece of crap four stars, you have lost all credibility. I wrote my newspaper, suggesting they drop you and rehire the local movie reviewer who recently lost his job. You aren't worth the money they pay.

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The gathering Dark Age

Apparently unconnected items appeared within two days of each other in the Los Angeles Times, and together confirmed my fear that American movie-going is entering into a Dark Age. The first was in a blog by Patrick Goldstein, who said: "Film critics are in the same boat as evening news anchors -- their core audience is people 50 and over, and getting older by the day. You could hire Jessica Alba to read the evening news -- or review 'G.I. Joe' for that matter -- and younger audiences still wouldn't care." The other was in a report by John Horn that despite "The Hurt Locker's" impressive box office success, "younger moviegoers are not flocking to the film, which could limit its ticket sales."

The obvious implication is, younger moviegoers don't care about reviews and have missed the news that "The Hurt Locker" is the best American film of the summer. There is a more disturbing implication: word of mouth is not helping the film in that younger demographic. It has been Hollywood gospel for decades that advertising and marketing can help a film to open strongly, but moviegoers talking with each other are crucial to its continuing success. That has been Summit Entertainment's game plan for "The Hurt Locker," which opened in a few theaters and has steadily increased its cities, becoming a real success without ever "winning" a weekend or benefiting from an overkill marketing campaign.

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Shall we gather at the river?

The first time I saw him, he was striding toward me out of the burning Georgia sun, as helicopters landed behind him. His face was tanned a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, carrying a rifle, had a canteen on his hip, stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary.

John Wayne died 30 years ago on June 11. Stomach cancer. "The Big C," he called it. He had lived for quite a while on one lung, and then the Big C came back. He was near death and he knew it when he walked out on stage at the 1979 Academy Awards to present Best Picture to "The Deer Hunter," a film he wouldn't have made. He looked frail, but he planted himself there and sounded like John Wayne.

John Wayne. When I was a kid, we said it as one word: Johnwayne. Like Marilynmonroe. His name was shorthand for heroism. All of his movies could have been titled "Walking Tall." Yet he wasn't a cruel and violent action hero. He was almost always a man doing his duty. Sometimes he was other than that, and he could be gentle, as in "The Quiet Man," or vulnerable, as in "The Shootist," or lonely and obsessed, as in "The Searchers," or tender with a baby, as in "3 Godfathers."

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You wild, beautiful thing. You crazy handful of nothin'

That's the hard-boiled Dragline, speaking of Cool Hand Luke.

After she read my obituary of Paul Newman, my wife Chaz asked me, "Why didn't you write more about his acting?" She was right. Why didn't I? I've been asking myself that. Maybe I was trying to tell myself something. I think it was this: I never really thought of him as an actor. I regarded him more as an embodiment, an evocation, of something. And I think that something was himself. He seemed above all a deeply good man, who freed himself to live life fully and joyfully, and used his success as a way to follow his own path, and to help others.

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Paul Newman: In memory

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Paul Newman, a sublime actor and a good man, is dead at 83. The movie legend died Friday at his home in Connecticut, a family spokeswoman said. The cause of death was lung cancer. Newman reportedly told his family he chose to die at home.

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Termite booster: Manny Farber 1917-2008

"I get a great laugh from artists who ridicule the critics as parasites and artists manqués -- such a horrible joke. I can't imagine a more perfect art form, a more perfect career than criticism. I can't imagine anything more valuable to do." -- Manny Farber, quoted in Roger Ebert's appreciation of the late, great critic

Painter and critic Manny Farber, whose book "Negative Space" is one of the essential collections of visual-arts criticism, has died at the age of 91. Farber's writing was scrappy, unpretentious and iconoclastic, not unlike the films and filmmakers he favored, from the genre pictures of Sam Fuller, Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah and John Wayne, to the visionary and experimental work of Werner Herzog, R.W. Fassbinder, Andy Warhol and Chantal Akerman. (See pages from the expanded 1998 edition here.)

Unquestionably his most famous and reverently-quoted essay was 1962's "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art." Modern art, he wrote, had become "a yawning production of overripe technique shrieking with preciosity, fame, ambition: far inside are tiny pillows holding up the artist's signature, now turned into mannerisms by the padding, lechery, faking required to combine today's esthetics with the components of traditional Great Art."

Farber is as much fun to read as he is to agree -- and argue-- with. I can think of no better tribute than to cite a few excerpts from his "termite art" treatise:

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Lost parts of "Metropolis" found!

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It is the most sensational find in recent film history. A nearly-complete print of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927) has been discovered in Buenos Aires, 80 years after it was thought a quarter of the film was lost forever. Called by many the most important of German films, one of the landmarks of silent Expressionism, its plot had several loose ends that will now be repaired.

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Awake in the Dark: Best of Ebert

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"Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert," just published by the University of Chicago Press, achieves a first. Though the Sun-Times film critic remains the dean of American cineastes, his essential writings have never been collected in a single volume until now. "Awake in the Dark" surveys his 40-year catalog, including reviews, essays and interviews. The following is an excerpt from the book's introduction, and for the next five weeks we'll publish excerpts here from the collection's highlights in each decade, from the '60s to the '00s.

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Movie Answer Man (07/01/2001)

Q. I have noticed a shift in the marketing of the movie "A.I." What started out as a media blitz promoting the movie as almost "E.T. II"--another loving, touching, sci-fi Spielberg masterpiece--now seems to play up the film as dark and portentious, with Spielberg now quick to point out that this was a Stanley Kubrick project that he picked up and finished off. What's your take on this? (Don Money, Andover MA)

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Movie Answer Man (03/26/2000)

Q. I checked out the "Eyes Wide Shut" DVD to see if the flub I noticed in the movie had been fixed. It had! I'm referring to the appearance of a crew member (or maybe Kubrick himself) reflected in one of the stainless steel shower stall posts in Ziegler's bathroom. This occurs at the end of Dr. Harford's examination of the overdosed woman... just as Ziegler says something about "this being between just you and me." On the DVD, where once there was a reflection there is now a blank white space. It makes me wonder if on the next DVD of Kubrick's "Spartacus," those soldiers with wrist watches will no longer know the time of day. (David Kodeski, Chicago)

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Telluride clears perspective

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- In the blazing noon sun of Labor Day, on a panel discussion in Elks Park, the veteran critic Stanley Kauffmann put his finger on the kinds of films that the Telluride Film Festival does not exist to support: movies made of special effects and technology.

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Movie Answer Man (03/22/1998)

Q. In predicting the Oscar winners, you should take into account Hollywood's bias against blond leading men. Jon Voight is the only blond winner I'm sure of. The debate goes on around here about Lee Marvin (gray), Jimmy Cagney (red) and Paul Newman (auburn), but even if I concede all four of those and throw in Lionel Barrymore (gray) for good measure, that's only 5 out of, what, 69? Not a high percentage (Y/N?). So I, for one, ain't surprised that "Leo" wasn't nominated. And he, or at least his agent shouldn't be surprised either. That's show biz. (Don Howard, San Jose, CA)

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