Like Ficarra and Requa’s 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love, Focus begins promisingly and bops along enjoyably for a while, only to run out of steam…
* 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.
What do "Sharknado 2," "The Honorable Woman," and "The Killing" say about the increasingly diverse TV landscape?
Robert Cameron Fowler, a Roger Ebert Scholarship recipient, reports on ten memorable characters in films form the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Brian Tallerico offers a look at the television we'll be talking about in 2014.
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.
Marie writes: The Ebert Club Newsletter is now three years old! And the occasion calls for some cake - but not just any old cake, as it's also now officially Spring! And that means flowers, butterflies and ladybugs too. Smile.
Marie writes: the great Ray Harryhausen, the monster innovator and Visual Effects legend, passed away Tuesday May 7, 2013 in London at the age of 92. As accolades come pouring in from fans young and old, and obituaries honor his achievements, I thought club members would enjoy remembering what Harry did best.
Marie writes: I've never seen this done before - and what an original idea! Gwen Murphy is an artist who breathes new life into old shoes, transforming them from fashion accessories into intriguing works of art. Thanks go to club member Cheryl Knott for telling me about this. (Click to enlarge.)
Marie writes: Recently, we enjoyed some nice weather and inspired by the sunshine, I headed out with a borrowed video camera to shoot some of the nature trails up on Burnaby Mountain, not far from where I live. I invariably tell people "I live near Vancouver" as most know where that is - whereas Burnaby needs explaining. As luck would have it though, I found a great shot taken from the top of Burnaby Mountain, where you can not only see where I live now but even Washington State across the Canadian/US border...
(click image to enlarge)
Marie writes: kudos to club member Sandy Kahn for finding this - as I'd never heard of the Bregenz Festival before, despite the spectacular staging of Puccini's opera Tosca and which appeared briefly in the Bond film Quantum of Solace; but then I slept through most of it. I'm not surprised I've no memory of an Opera floating on a lake. Lake Constance to be exact, which borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps...
Tosca by Puccini | 2007-2008 - Photograph by BENNO HAGLEITNER(click to enlarge)
"I realize that most of the turning points in my career were brought about by others. My life has largely happened to me without any conscious plan. I was an indifferent student except at subjects that interested me, and those I followed beyond the classroom, stealing time from others I should have been studying. I was no good at math beyond algebra. I flunked French four times in college. I had no patience for memorization, but I could easily remember words I responded to. In college a chart of my grades resembled a mountain range. My first real newspaper job came when my best friend's father hired me to cover high school sports for the local daily. In college a friend told me I must join him in publishing an alternative weekly and then left it in my hands. That led to the Daily Illini, and that in turn led to the Chicago Sun-Times, where I have worked ever since 1966. I became the movie critic six months later through no premeditation, when the job was offered to me out of a clear blue sky."Visit "I was born inside the movie of my life" to read the opening pages from Roger's forthcoming memoir to be published September 13, 2011.
Sun-Times Gallery of Top Oscar Categories
Sun-Times Gallery of Top Oscar Categories
I made a mistake this week. I followed a link from a discussion among reputable movie critics to a showbiz gossip blog that I usually find too sleazy to visit. There I once again found all manner of bilious items that creeped me out and reminded me why I shouldn't go there. One of them insulted a late, internationally renowned film critic for choosing, on his deathbed, a Howard Hawks western as his favorite movie over another title the gossip prefers. (No doubt the latter feels entitled to express an opinion about what your last meal should be, too.) Another post included the observation that Vince Vaughn "needs to lose 30 pounds. He appeared to be at the tipping point during the 'Couples Retreat' press junket."
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.
Latest Contrarian Week News:
In his New York Observer year-end wrap-up (and ten-best list), Andrew Sarris attempts to steal the thunder of one of his New York "alternative weekly" rivals.
Sarris writes: Fortunately, modern technology makes it almost impossible for a good movie to get “lost” because of end-of-the-year mental exhaustion. So, with the proviso that I still have a great deal of catching up to do, here are my considered choices for the various 10-best categories, and one of my patented 10-worst lists under the provocative heading of “Movies Other People Liked and I Didn’t.” I am not at all deterred in dishing out my annual supply of negativity by the correspondent who informed me last year that he preferred all the films on my 10-worst list to all the films on my 10-best list. I have long ago become resigned to my fate as a reviled revisionist ever since my first column in The Village Voice in 1960 hailed Alfred Hitchcock as a major artist for "Psycho," and inspired more hate mail than any Voice column had received up to that time. That clinched my job at the ever-contrarian Voice, and I have simply gone on from there.So, how contrarian is the "reviled revisionist" 46 years later? Let's see:
"The Departed" as best film of the year. (Only in New York!)
"Blood Diamond" as #5.
Best Supporting Actresses: 1) Jennifer Connelly, "Blood Diamond" 2) Gong Li, "Miami Vice" 3) Maggie Gyllenhaal, "World Trade Center"
And then there's this: Other striking male performances were provided by: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin and Anthony Anderson in The Departed; Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and Toby Jones in The Painted Veil; Wim Willaert in When the Sea Rises; Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths in Venus; Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Inside Man; Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase and Shido Nakamura in Letters from Iwo Jima; Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine; Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell in The Illusionist; Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Gregg Edelman and Ty Simpkins in Little Children; Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer and Dylan Walsh in The Lake House; Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena and Stephen Dorff in World Trade Center; Tim Blake Nelson, Pat Corley, Jeffrey Donovan, Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson in Come Early Morning; Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson; Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, and Danny Huston in Marie Antoinette; Matt Damon, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Robert De Niro, Keir Dullea, Timothy Hutton, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Ivanir and Joe Pesci in The Good Shepherd; Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones and Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand; Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Sebastien Foucan, Jesper Christensen and Tobias Menzies in Casino Royale; Ebru Ceylan and Mehmet Eryilmaz in Climates; Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland; Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Keith Robinson and Hinton Battle in Dreamgirls; Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Trevor Fehrman, Kevin Smith and Jason Lee in Clerks II; Justin Kirk and Jamie Harrold in Flannel Pajamas; Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker and Adrian Grenier in The Devil Wears Prada; Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hulce in Stranger Than Fiction; Samuel L. Jackson, Curtis Jackson, Chad Michael Murray, Sam Jones III and Brian Presley in Home of the Brave; Harris Yulin, Ty Burrell and Boris McGiver in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Max Minghella, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel David Moore and Nick Swardson in Art School Confidential; Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes and Alec Baldwin in Running with Scissors; Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Ciarán Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, Luis Tosar and John Ortiz in Miami Vice; Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Tim McMullan in The Queen; Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Anthony Mackie, Marlon Sherman and Clarke Peters in Freedomland; Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Linus Roache, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Raul Esparza in Find Me Guilty; Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley in Lucky Number Slevin; Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein, Shohreh Aghdashloo, John Cho, Tony Yalda, Sam Golzari and Willem Dafoe in American Dreamz; Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane in A Scanner Darkly; Adam Beach, Ryan A. Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, Jon Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker and Robert Patrick in Flags of Our Fathers; Chow Yun-Fat in Curse of the Golden Flower; Sergi López, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo and Federico Luppi in Pan’s Labyrinth; Bill Nighy in Notes on a Scandal.Take that, A----- W----!
Stephen Dorff plays a rescuer in Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center."
Reading today's critical responses to Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center," I find it fascinating that the positive reviews and the negative reviews are saying essentially the same things. People have interpreted the movie in different ways, as a disaster picture and as a political picture, but if you look at the specific observations about the film, it's not as easy as you'd think to distinguish the favorable notices from the unfavorable ones.
I saw "WTC" with three other people: two of us thought it was an honorable memorial, two of us thought it was phony and formulaic, but we all thought it was more or less emotionally inert. (I thought Stephanie Zacharek at Salon hit the nail on the head: "Even when Stone is clumsy, he at least seems to recognize that he can't possibly re-create the experience of these policemen: The best he can do is put it onstage, reminding us that this happened to someone else and not to us." That perfectly describes the sense of distance I felt in, and from, the film.)
One of my friends (also a film critic) who was favorably impressed said she thought the portrayal of the heroic Marine at the end was sad, because he was deluded into thinking the war in Iraq was about avenging 9/11. I don't know if that's what Stone intended. I didn't see it that way. But it's a legitimate interpretation of what's up there on the screen. And make no mistake, this is a political movie. It makes choices about what to show and what not to show (including worldwide reactions on television), and in 2006 those choices in a film about 9/11 can't help but be political as well as dramatic or cinematic.
Now, here's a test (the movie itself is a test). What follows are excerpts of "WTC" reviews. See if you can guess which ones are considered "fresh" (by Rottentomatoes.com) and which are "rotten." Answers, and the identities of the reviewers, after the jump. Ready? Begin...
1) ['WTC'] wields a simple, blunt emotional instrument. It is a film about an American tragedy done up in the trappings of honorable, well-meaning melodrama.... 'World Trade Center' is the second major studio picture to weigh in on the events of Sept. 11, 2001. It is a more limited achievement: a comfortably unsettling drama."
2) "In this screen version of the Sept. 11 story, however, we see only two people die, the same number that the movie shows being rescued. By creating a kind of equivalency between the living and the dead, the picture always feels as if it's laboring to arrive at a Hollywood ending. 'World Trade Center' delivers to its audience a calculated dose of uplift and gooses us along to feel suspense here, compassion there and hope at the end."
3) "The filmmaker and his colleagues have brought the sensibility of an old-fashioned Hollywood disaster movie..."
4) "Stone's film bears some thematic resemblance to 'Alive,' Frank Marshall's 1993 chronicle of a plane crash in the Andes. Both offer a tribute to human endurance under unimaginable conditions, but watching young guys huddle together trying not to freeze to death or two cops pinned under tons of debris isn't exactly a cinematic thrill ride."
5) "Attempting to convey a macro vision of Sept. 11 through a micro lens, Oliver Stone is to be credited for presenting this challenging, fact-based story with admirable restraint, a quality that has not always characterized his past directorial efforts...."
6) "'WTC' is not a definitive statement about 9/11, or one that is likely to make you see that day any differently than you do now. And there's nothing wrong with that."
7) "The surprising thing about this commission job, directed from Andrea Berloff's script, is not its factuality but its restraint.... As befits a new-style disaster film, spectacle is subsumed in subjective experience—in this case, being buried alive."
8) "Stone has dutifully repeated his studio-given mantra that 'World Trade Center' is "not a political movie." (As if that were possible: Even the musical cues suggest the mawkish piano doodling that's been a campaign ad staple since Reagan ran for re-election.)"
9) "In some ways, it's a typically unsubtle Stone movie. Stone can't show New Yorkers (civilians as well as firefighters, policemen and Marines) helping one another through the disaster without later adding a voiceover about how everyone helped each other that day.... Over and over in "World Trade Center," Stone acknowledges the importance of showing, as opposed to telling, and then goes ahead and tells anyway."
10) "It's impossible to watch Oliver Stone's 'World Trade Center' without being moved.... Although 'World Trade Center' doesn't fuel anyone's political agenda, it lends itself to the kind of romanticized view of ordinary men that found its way into 'Platoon.' Stone can't conceal his admiration for these salt-of-the-earth cops."
11) "For the reality of what took place on the streets of Lower Manhattan is such an overwhelmingly sad and troubling story that simply re-creating those horrific events, as this film does, guarantees that your work will have moments of power and emotion. A person's heart would have to be made of stone if he or she weren't at least a little affected by the against-all-odds rescue of two Port Authority policemen, played by Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña, from beneath crushing piles of rubble, as their despairing wives, played by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal, cry literal tears of joy."
12) "The unthinkable has happened. Oliver Stone has made a film that is unrecognizable as an Oliver Stone film.... Most of all, it exhibits no political slant whatsoever, injecting only heartfelt empathy for the day's many victims and heroes."
13) "The films of Oliver Stone are the ongoing cry of a distressed romantic. Romantic, because the best of them are animated, and the worst marred, by the same simple dialectic of good versus evil.... Here, evil is a 'yeah, sure' given, unnecessary to cast and too obvious to show as anything more than a plane's fleeting shadow, hovering above a valley of death where goodness and mercy abound. Such is the heroic myth that now permeates the hours of that fateful day."
14) "As a tribute to those who died, and survived, on Sept. 11, World Trade Center is a scrupulous and honorable film. Yet it never comes close to being a revelatory one; it sentimentalizes more than it haunts."
"Junebug" director (and still photographer!) Phil Morrison at the Overlooked. (Photo by Jim Emerson)
At several moments during the Eighth Overlooked Film Festival, I thought I had been transported to a time in which the greatest artists of the movies were not only familiar to all, but properly and enthusiastically appreciated and revered. That such a time would be in the spring of 2006 kind of threw me for a loop, but this was a festival in which (I swear) the two most commonly (and reverently) invoked cinematic influences were not Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino but Robert Bresson ("Pickpocket," "Au Hasard Balthazar," "Lancelot du Lac," "L'Argent") and Yasujiro Ozu ("Tokyo Story," "Late Spring," "Early Spring," "Floating Weeds"). Not that any of the young filmmakers at the Overlooked were trying to claim their work was on par with these cinematic masters, but you could tell from their films that Ozu and Bresson really mean something to these guys, their influences genuinely and thoroughly absorbed into the cinematic sensibilities of another generation. It gave me hope for the future of movies as something more than a commodity.
TORONTO – It was like I had moved to a city where only movie people live. I wandered Toronto on Saturday, from screening to party, and on the busiest day of the 30th annual Toronto Film Festival there were more stars, as MGM liked to say, than in the heavens. Amazing: I ran into Deborah Kara Unger, Ed Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Martin, Anthony Hopkins, Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal without even trying to, just because they were right there on the sidewalk or in the hotel lobby.
PARK CITY, Utah -- "The Matador" sounds on paper like a formula film, the kind of generic dreariness you expect Sundance to avoid.
PARK CITY, Utah -- For 10 days, Robert Redford was observing, the population here swells from 7,500 to 45,000. That's a gain -- I'm guesstimating here -- of 37,499 cell phones, 15,000 SUVs, 400,000 cups of designer coffee, 100,000 postcards advertising a movie that 47 people will see, and 170 restaurant hosts and hostesses fed up with people asking them, "Don't you know who I am?"
"It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons, now in his fifteenth year crystallized with the pain of puberty." -- from Graham Greene's story "The Destructors," as read by Donnie Darko's English teacher, Miss Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore)
TORONTO--If the 27th Toronto Film Festival closes after two days, it will have shown six wonderful films and one magnificently bloody-minded one--and I do not exclude the possible greatness of entries I have not yet seen.
PARK CITY, Utah--From despair to victory, the South African documentary "Amandla!" has the widest range of emotion of any film at this year's Sundance. It follows the history of the struggle for freedom in terms of the movement's music--which was, as one singer observes, a weapon the apartheid government could not disarm.