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Jimi: All Is by My Side

What’s fascinating about “Jimi: All Is By My Side” is not only its decision to show us this particular chapter in Hendrix’s life, but also…

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The Boxtrolls

"The Boxtrolls" is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's…

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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.

Faster, Quentin! Thrill! Thrill!

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Rating: Four stars

Consider now the curious character of Dr. King Schultz. He is an itinerant dentist who works from his little wagon, traveling the backroads of the pre-Civil War South. As Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" opens, we see a line of shackled slaves being led through what I must describe as a deep, dark forest, because those are the kinds of forests we meet in fairy tales. Out of this deepness and darkness, Schultz (Christoph Waltz) appears, his lantern swinging from his wagon, which has a bobbling tooth on its roof.

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#96 January 4, 2012

Marie Haws: Remember the Old Vic Tunnels?  I did some more sniffing around and you'll never guess where it led me. That's right - into the sewer system!  But not just any old sewer, oh no... it's the home of a famous forgotten river flowing beneath Fleet Street; the former home of English journalism.So grab a flashlight and some rubber boots as we go underground to explore "mile after mile of ornate brickwork" and a labyrinthine of tunnels which reveal the beauty of London's hidden River Fleet. (click images to enlarge.)

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"Kill Bill" and the love of cinema

May Contain Spoilers

It's hard to come up with many directors willing to take the leaps of faith that Quentin Tarantino does in every scene of his every movie. It's even harder to come up with any who have the talent to back-up even trying. The biggest reason Tarantino has such a huge following may be how he goes all-out with seemingly little or no concern for crashing -- which, amazingly, he never seems to do.

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How much of Pulp is Fiction?

May Contain Spoilers

When I reviewed Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" a few months ago, several readers brought up the point that when a filmmaker constantly uses extreme violence in his films, there surely must be something wrong about the director himself.

I don't buy into that theory, but while watching Quentin Tarantino's films, which I mostly enjoy a lot, I have to admit I have a hard time disassociating my diagnosis of the filmmaker with his own work, especially "Pulp Fiction" which is clearly a film with an amazing understanding of violent criminals, the drug culture and the fine art of original cursing.

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CIFF 2009: The winners! And our reviews

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Tina Mabry's "Mississippi Damned," an independent American production, won the Gold Hugo as the best film in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival, and added Gold Plaques for best supporting actress (Jossie Thacker) and best screenplay (Mabry). It tells the harrowing story of three black children growing up in rural Mississippi in circumstances of violence and addiction. The film's trailer and an interview with Mabry are linked at the bottom.

Kylee Russell in "Mississippi Damned"

The winner of the Audience Award, announced Friday, was "Precious" (see below). The wins came over a crowed field of competitors from all over the world, many of them with much larger budgets. The other big winner at the Pump Room of the Ambassador East awards ceremony Saturday evening was by veteran master Marco Bellocchio of Italy, who won the Silver Hugo as best director for "Vincere," the story of Mussolini's younger brother. Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi won Silver Hugos as best actress and actor, and Daniele Cipri won a Gold Plaque for best cinematography.

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What we think we think we know (about movies)

"Have you seen her? Tell me have you seen her?" (Chi-Lites, 1971)

Some movies evoke strong opinions and some leave barely a trace behind in your memory. When I glance back at the deadline reviews I've been filing for the Chicago Sun-Times and RogerEbert.com the past few weeks, I notice that most of the movies haven't made much of an impression on me. Ask me right now and I couldn't tell you what I reviewed two weeks ago, much less what's coming up two weeks from now, without calling up iCal. I'm always amazed at how Roger does what he does -- which is way more than I feel capable of doing.

If you want to judge by the obligatory "star ratings" (and I don't, but in this case I think they reflect something), just about everything in the last month (I know: February) feels like a 2.5 to me -- just short of "recommended" (which would be 3.0), but not unwatchable if you wanted to pay the money and kill the time it takes to watch it. Passable (B-/C+) for what it is, but not memorable -- especially when you consider that the scale tops out at 4.0, with no "A+" possible. So, "Chinatown": 4 stars. "Sansho the Bailiff": 4 stars. "The Bank Job": 2.5. "Cocktail": 0.0.

We all have a pretty good what kind of experience we had watching a movie (though it may take a while, maybe even another viewing, to process it), and what we saw and heard. But to paraphrase something a filmmaker recently said (or that I recently read, even though I can't recall who or where): If you put 300 people in a room and show them a movie, you'll get 300 different accounts of it. Even when I take notes (as I do when I know I'm going to write about a movie), I invariably misremember a word here, a shot there.

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Deeper into movies

View image "Reservoir Dogs": Opening credits.

The death of Sherman Torgan, owner and proprietor of the New Beverly Cinema, reminded me of an evening in 1993 when my friend Julia Sweeney and I met up with Quentin Tarantino, Tim Roth, Laurence Tierney, Chris Penn, and Michael Madsen (I think that was the whole crew) at Insomnia (Beverly and Poinsettia, near El Coyote) and did "The Walk" down Beverly Blvd. to the theater, where those guys were going to do a Q&A with the audience after a showing of "Reservoir Dogs." We were a block down the street before I consciously realized we were re-enacting the opening credits of the movie -- in streetclothes. I wondered if anybody on the street had a flash of recognition as they drove by, one of those little "Did I just see that?" moments that happens so often in a moving vehicle, and especially in Los Angeles.

I just had another one of those experiences this evening. Hadn't eaten all day and suddenly I knew I just had to have a club sandwich: crispy bacon, turkey, ham, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese -- maybe a slice of red onion -- on rye or wheat toast. It became my holy grail, the focal point of my existence. I went to a nearby sports bar-type restaurant near the University of Washington, a place I remembered from college, where I knew I could get just such a sandwich, quickly and painlessly. I was sitting in the bar and just before the waiter appeared, a song started playing and -- again, before I was even aware of it -- I was lifted out of the book I was reading and transported somewhere else.

View imageLast scene of the last episode of "The Sopranos": Best movie of 2007, so far.

It was Journey: "Don't Stop Believin'." And I got goosebumps. How the hell did that happen? Two months ago I wouldn't even have recognized the song. I still don't remember it existing before the last scene of "The Sopranos." But now, it was invested with a power that transformed my awareness completely. I felt a tension, an excitement, a wistfulness that had nothing to do with the song as it had previously existed and everything to do with the context in which I'll now hear it forever. I sat, a little bit dazed, and soaked up the atmosphere, pretending it was a diner in Jersey. When the guy arrived to take my order, I got a club. And onion rings.

Got any stories of moments when you suddenly felt you were in a particular movie? If so, I'd love to hear 'em....

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Class of '94 gets their due at Cannes

CANNES, France -- Every year they come here to the Riviera, the new class of young American filmmakers, hoping for lightning to strike. Ever since Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider" arrived at Cannes in 1967 as a motorcycle film and returned to the United States as an art film, Cannes has provided a sort of festival within a festival, of first and early films by young Yankee hopefuls.

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Who'll Be Up for Oscars?

The ballots have all been returned and counted, and at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow this year's Academy Awards nominations will be announced at a press conference to be telecast, so they say, around the world. It will no doubt be an Oscar year like all years, filled with surprises and injustices, nominations deserved and undeserved.

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