As Above, So Below
It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…
* 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.
An excerpt from "Film Firsts" about the production and influence of "The Blair Witch Project."
Does "The Wolf of Wall Street" celebrate the bankers it portrays? Omer Mozaffar ponders whether the film endorses their bad behavior.
The evolution of Superman's cape; the de-evolution of women's roles in film and TV; joke plagiarist sort-of apologizes for stealing from Patton Oswalt & other pros; David Cronenberg does race cars; Vince Vaughn, salesman; fans bring their Game of Thrones grief into therapy; astounding animated short made entirely from 3-D paper models.
The saying in boxing is that "styles make fights". It means that two elegant matadors like Muhammad Ali, or two rampaging bulls like Joe Frazier, wouldn't have contested the classics fought by one Muhammad Ali and one Joe Frazier. The saying is true, and its truth extends beyond boxing to all sporting rivalries.
And, just as "fights" is not limited to boxing matches, "style" is not limited to physical methods of competition. "Style" includes styles of speaking, styles of thinking, styles of living. And, of course, "style" also includes skin color.
A few years ago, I set up an internet alert to inform me whenever Muhammad Ali was mentioned in the news. At the time, he wasn't doing anything newsworthy. It was years after the Michael Mann movie. A decade since his appearance in the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games. Nearly three decades since his last fight. But, for whatever reason, he was on my mind. The strange thing I discovered is that he was in the news, somewhere in the world, every single day. Every single day. That's his astonishing mystique. For whatever reason, he was and is on everyone's mind. The most popular of all basketball players, Michael Jordan, is in the news for shoe sales. The most popular of soccer players, Pele, is in the news for soccer. The most popular of all cricket players, Imran Khan, is in the news for politics. Muhammad Ali, however, is in the news for being Muhammad Ali. Rather, he is in the news for who Muhammad Ali was and is to us. And, in Pete McCormack's wonderful "Facing Ali," we learn who he is and was for the fighters he faced.
A few days ago, I was one of many critics who panned the film SUCKER PUNCH. Though I hadn't written my own, I advocated several reviews that I felt reflected my sentiments.
Though I agreed in their disapproval, two words kept on reappearing with each negative review I read: "video game." To say that the film draws greatly upon video game aspects is accurate. But with each citation, my fellow critics continue to beat the dead horse of an argument that video games are a meaningless form of mindless entertainment.
I grew up on movies and on video games, and love and respect what they bring to the table. Though I enjoy them on different levels, they both have given me moments of wonder and serious reflection. As an avid gamer and film lover, I find it a shame to see how one medium has gained artistic acceptance while the other continues to be derided by the mainstream. There are many reasons why they are looked down upon, but if you give them a shot, you just might conclude that video games should be considered art.
From its incendiary opening to its somber but exultant conclusion, Spike Lee's grand and important film "Malcolm X" captures the life of a complex, charismatic and gravely misunderstood man who fought for human rights and justice for Africans and African-Americans. The film, based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, is arguably Mr. Lee's best and most universal film, and one of the great American film biographies.
For context, "Malcolm X" had extraordinary publicity leading up to its 1991 production. Numerous black activists in New York City and elsewhere had forecasted that Mr. Lee's film would not accurately depict the essence of Malcolm. "Don't mess Malcolm up," was a refrain the director heard over and over again.
Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to enlarge upon it or defend it. That seemed to be a fool's errand, especially given the volume of messages I receive urging me to play this game or that and recant the error of my ways. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say "never," because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.
Gene Siskel and I were like tuning forks. Strike one, and the other would pick up the same frequency. When we were in a group together, we were always intensely aware of one another. Sometimes this took the form of camaraderie, sometimes shared opinions, sometimes hostility. But we were aware. If something happened that we both thought was funny but weren't supposed to, God help us if one caught the other's eye. We almost always thought the same things were funny. That may be the best sign of intellectual communion.
Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford's husband, and he said, "You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you're the older brother."
Once Gene and I were involved in a joint appearance with another Chicago media couple, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. It was a tribute to us or a tribute to them, I can't remember. They were pioneers of free-form radio. Gene and I were known for our rages against each other, and Steve and Garry were remarkable for their accord. They gave us advice about how to work together as a successful team. The reason I remember that is because soon afterward Steve and Garry had an angry public falling-out that has lasted until this day.
I've been saying for years that I never cry during sad moments in the movies, only during moments about goodness. At the end of "Terms of Endearment," I didn't cry because of Debra Winger's death, but because of how she said goodbye to her sons. Now I've have discovered a scientific explanation for why I feel the way that I do, and there is even a name for my specific emotion.
I wasn't seeking an explanation, and I'm not sure I really wanted one. And, for that matter, I don't really cry, at least not in the wiping-my-eyes and blowing-my-nose fashion. What I experience is the welling up of a few tears in my eyes, a certain tightness in my throat, and a feeling of uplift: Yes, there is a good person, doing a good thing. And when the movie is over, I don't want to talk with anyone. After such movies I notice that many audience members remain in a kind of reverie. Those who break the spell by feeling compelled to say something don't have an emotional clue.
Spike Lee is a spellbinder. I got wrapped up in my conversation with him at the Toronto festival, after the premiere of “Miracle at St. Anna," which opens Sept. 26. This is a very lightly edited transcript, with my questions removed to capture Spike's voice.
Mike Tyson in James Toback's documentary.
CANNES, France -- Roger, when we talked about sending you messages from the film festival I never expected that my first would be about a heavyweight boxer. Mike Tyson's grip was surprisingly gentle when he shook my hand, and his voice soft and polite on stage, but there was nothing gentle, soft or polite about the images onscreen here in "Tyson," James Toback's documentary about his life. It is a compelling character study. His life is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
What's this? Federated Department Stores wants to buy May Department Stores, which bought Marshall Field's last summer? And Federated has a history of changing the names of all of their stores to "Macy's"? Which would mean the end of "Marshall Field's"?
Q. I just saw "Better Luck Tomorrow" and enjoyed it tremendously. However, most of my friends were disappointed by the ending. I myself would have liked to see more of the characters' reactions to the killing (especially Ben's after Stephanie chooses him). Then I read in a review that Ben's concluding voice-over narrative was modified from the version shown at Sundance in 2002, ostensibly to soften the ending and make the film more palatable for a wider audience. What was different in the original version? (Brian Wong, New York NY)
I have seen the future of the cinema, and it is not digital. No matter what you've read, the movie theater of the future will not use digital video projectors, and it will not beam the signal down from satellites. It will use film, and the film will be right there in the theater with you.
Dennis Rodman, star of basketball, movies, books and pro wrestling, is still a little stunned by the spotlight. Before the premiere of "Double Team," the new Jean-Claude Van Damme action thriller where he gets second billing, he mused about his function as a publicity-generating machine: "I never ever expected that my career would turn into such a media hype: In San Antonia, I was doing the same thing, but I guess the media are stronger in Chicago, and being linked with Michael Jordan and a championship team didn't hurt."
The routine at movie premieres is by now well-established. Hotel suites are turned into sets for the stars, who sit on chairs in front of movie posters and vases of flowers while platoons of interviewers are cycled through the room. Actors steel themselves for the ordeal; Tom Hanks told me that doing a press junket is more exhausting than doing a movie.
Dennis Rodman is Daffy Duck. Dickey Simpkins is Elmer Fudd. Jud Buechler is the sexy Lola Bunny ("sound . . . fundamentally sound . . . although he lacks some of her features"). Ron Harper ("he'll kill me if I say this") is Porky Pig. Phil Jackson is Foghorn Leghorn ("I say, I say . . .").
One day last summer, David Letterman, Gene Siskel and I spent an afternoon wandering up and down a street in East Orange, N.J., knocking on people's doors.
Some of the best reviews of the year are going to a three-hour documentary about a couple of inner-city Chicago kids who dream of becoming basketball stars in the NBA. "Hoop Dreams" (opening Friday), has come out of the Sundance, Toronto, New York and Chicago film festivals trailing clouds of glory, and critical praise that few fiction films are ever granted. Why are the critics so enthusiastic?
The saddest thing, Spike Lee thinks, is that in some neighborhoods the children no longer know how to play street games. The streets are so unsafe the kids hide inside, and decades of childhood culture have disappeared in a generation.
TORONTO -- There is no entry in the Random House Encyclopedia for "The Little Flower," but a Catholic hearing the name will immediately recognize it. Therese de Lisieux lived from 1873 to 1897, practiced great humility in her life, and became a saint almost by acclamation. She would probably be astonished that generations of Catholic girls venerate her as fervently as young Catholic boys these days venerate Michael Jordan.
A dozen things I learned while talking with Spike Lee:1. The Bulls will win it: "Michael Jordan said to me, there's no guarantee they're ever gonna make it back. So he guarantees this is gonna be the year."