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Bears

"Bears" could have used a lot more science; more substantive information in the place of wacky one-liners. Still, the images trump everything.

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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.

#112 April 25, 2012

Marie writes: I recently heard from an ex-coworker named Athena aka the production manager on an animated series I'd painted digital backgrounds for. She sent me some great photos she'd found on various sites. More than few made me smile and thus inspired, I thought I'd share them with club members. I've added captions for fun but if you can come up with something better, feel free to submit your wit by way of posted comment. Note: I don't know who the photographers are; doesn't say. (Click pics to enlarge.)

"I want a peanut for every photo you took of me..."

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Is Bill Maher a performer, a preacher, or a pimp?

May Contain Spoilers

On Netflix and Amazon Instant.

Considering that we normally think of documentaries as some sort of academic discourse at the fringes of popular cinema, this relatively new genre of Celebrity-driven docs is something peculiar. That we now watch documentaries starring Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock, and Bill Maher is something inevitable, I suppose. We already have that tradition of following on-screen directors as characters in their features, including Kevin Smith, Spike Lee, and Woody Allen. But, the point here is that we watch some documentaries because of their host celebrities, more than the topic, even though the topics seem to be extensions of those same celebrities.

I suspect few people outside of his fan base will watch this movie: in Larry Charles' documentary "Religulous," (2008) popular Television talk show host Bill Maher is a playful microphone-toting cynic, roaming the landscapes of Christianity, with a few references to Judaism, Islam, and Scientology. The film is very strong and vastly entertaining in finding absurdities in absurd places, but fizzles when it attempts any serious commentary.

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People who live in Glass houses...

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My uneasiness about the relationship between Mike Daisey's theatrical piece "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" and its presentation as journalism on This American Life centers on three things. The first has to do with the art of storytelling. Daisey is a performer and storyteller who combines personal anecdotes, fiction and fact, into stage monologues. Nothing wrong with that; it's what monologists do. The second has to do with journalism. This American Life, the Chicago Public Radio/PRI show, also focuses on storytelling -- often personal stories -- but expects them to meet the factual standards of journalism, unless otherwise noted. As host Ira Glass said in the show's most recent episode, retracting the earlier one called "Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory": "Although [Daisey is] not a journalist, we made clear to him that anything that he was going to say on our program would have to live up to journalistic standards. He had to be truthful. And he lied to us."

And the third, and probably the most troublesome aspect for me, has to do with the media's definition of "the story" itself, which has focused on details about Apple (because it makes a better story to connect the shiny new iPad or iPhone to cheap Chinese labor), even though Apple is just one of many major corporate customers of Foxconn, the company that runs the factories. Some very good reporting has been done on the subject (by Charles Duhigg and David Barboza in the New York Times and various reporters at CNN and NPR, just to name a few). But the hook is always Apple. And while I have no reason to believe the reporting is untrue, the framing of the story can be misleading.

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Extinguishing the Ecstasy of Anger

May Contain Spoilers

Describing Steve James' "The Interrupters," I might sound like I'm talking about some dry public heath study. The centerpiece of the film is a profound theory on human nature. Science and philosophy aside, "The Interrupters" is the closest thing to a real-life superhero origins story that any of us might ever experience. This film is exactly that: a superhero origins documentary. It might be the most powerful movie I have ever seen.

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#75 August 10, 2011

Marie writes: I attended three different elementary schools; St. Peter's, Our Lady of Mercy (which was anything but) and finally St. Micheal's; where I met my Canadian-Italian chum, Marta Chiavacci (key-a-vah-chee) who was born here to Italian immigrants. We lost touch after high school, moving in different directions til in the wake of a trip to Venice and eager to practice my bad Italian and bore friends with tales of my travels abroad, I sought her out again.We've kept in touch ever since, meeting whenever schedules permit; Marta traveling more than most (she's a wine Sommelier) living partly in Lucca, Italy, and happily in sin with her significant other, the great Francesco. I saw her recently and took photos so that I might show and tell, in here. For of all the friends I have, she's the most different from myself; the contrast between us, a never-ending source of delight. Besides, it was a nice afternoon in Vancouver and her condo has a view of False Creek...smile...

(click images to enlarge)

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#66 June 8, 2011

Marie writes: the ability to explore an image in 360 degrees is nothing new, but that doesn't make these pictures any less cool. In the first of a series, the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore introduces spectacular interactive 360-degree panoramic photographs of Britain's architectural wonders. "You are put in the middle of a space, and using your computer mouse or dragging your iPad screen - you can look in any direction you choose: up, down, sideways, diagonally, in any direction in full 360 degree turn, in three dimensions."

Go here to explore St Paul's Cathedral, London, built 1675-1711.

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TIFF #1: Darwin, Herzog, the Coens and the Antichrist

I've just finished combing through the list of films in this year's Toronto Film Festival, and I have it narrowed down to 49. I look at the list and sigh. How can I see six films a day, write a blog, see people and sleep? Nor do I believe the list includes all the films I should see, and it's certainly missing films I will see. How it happens is, you're standing in line and hear buzz about something. Or a trusted friend provides a title you must see. Or you go to a movie you haven't heard much about, just on a hunch, and it turns out to be "Juno."

Nicolas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant"

I can't wait to dive in. Knowing something of my enthusiasms, faithful reader, let me tell you that TIFF 2009's opening night is a film about the life of Charles Darwin. The festival includes the film of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." And new films by the Coen brothers, Todd Solondz, Michael Moore, Atom Egoyan, Pedro Almodovar, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Alain Resnais and Guy Maddin--and not one but two new films by Werner Herzog. Plus separate new films by the three key talents involved in Juno: The actress Ellen Page, the director Jason Reitman, and the writer Diablo Cody.

Okay, I've already seen two of those. They were screened here in Chicago (Page as a teenage Roller Derby in "Whip It," Cody's script for "Jennifer's Body," starring Megan Fox as a high school man-eater, and that's not a metaphor). I already saw more than ten of this year's entries at Cannes, including Lars on Trier's controversial "Antichrist," Jane Campion's "Bright Star," Gasper Noe's "Enter the Void," Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," Bong Joon-Ho's "Mother," Lee Daniels' "Precious," Mia Hansen-Løve's "The Father of My Children," and Resnais's "Wild Grass." A lot of good films there. Not all of them, but a lot.

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Wardrobe malfunction in Paris: Emma Thompson to the rescue

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PARIS--The Cesars were telecast Friday night and, as you know, there is no censorship to speak of on French TV. Emma Thompson, who speaks brilliant French (of course she does) was seated in the front row next to Sean Penn when a French comedienne I was unfamiliar with came out to give an award, with one breast exposed from the nipple up.

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Dude, where's my breakfast?

Breathless reports have swooped around the web about John Anderson, film critic for Variety, pounding the legendary publicist Jeff Dowd (aka The Dude) at Sundance. There was a jab to the chest! One to the shoulder! Dowd kept his guard down! A punch to the head! Anderson turned and walked away, then came back and threw his best right to the jaw!

I have this blow-by-blow account from The Dude himself. Park City Police Officer Bob deBotelho responded after a call from the Yarrow restaurant, collected eyewitness testimony, and offered

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Why "rent it" is terrible advice

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Q. I was surprised by your review of "Blindness." I've not seen the film yet; I am currently reading the novel, with 50 pages left to go. It is a stunningly good work. I've not read any of Jose Saramago's work before, but I will be reading more in the near future. I plan to see the film. John Zulovitz, Columbus, OhioA. One of the commenters on my blog asked how a film could be so true to a great novel and yet be an unsuccessful film. I think it involves the POV. In the novel, we are imagining being blind, but in the movie, we are seeing blind people.Q. What do you think of the idea of recommending someone "wait for video" to see a movie? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Chris Rowland, Browns Mills, N.J.A. Must be something in the air. A. Braunsdorf of Lafayette, Ind., asked the same question. If you're told to "wait for the video," interpret that as "don't see it." Any movie worth your time is worth seeing in a theater, if you can. But certainly use and appreciate video as a way to view good movies you want to catch up on. It's two hours of your life, no matter where you park your butt. "Wait for the video" should always mean "see it."Q. Do top-rank directors like Scorsese and Demme consider their films successful if they receive widespread critical acclaim, yet fail at the box office? Or is a profitable film a necessary earmark of success? By the same token, does it really matter to them if their films are critically lambasted, yet are huge box-office hits? Conrad Gurtatowski, Crown Point, Ind.A. Great directors believe their films are a success if they are satisfied with them. So they should. You can never be a great artist if you think critics or the box office know better than you do.Q. I had an odd movie-going experience today. The Clearview Chelsea, in one of NYC's gay neighborhoods, was showing "The Exorcist" as a camp classic mainly for its gay audience. A drag queen comedian "hosted" it, which means she sat with a microphone and made loud, obnoxious jokes throughout the movie (OK, some of which were kinda funny), and the audience was encouraged to scream out favorite lines and clap and cheer throughout.

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Definitely read me second

On Oct. 16 I published a review of "Tru Loved" in which, at the end, I noted that I stopped watching after eight minutes. I also published a blog entry, "Don't read me first!" discussing that decision and reporting that it horrified my editor, who wondered if my action was immoral. The entry has so far drawn almost 500 comments. I have read them all. I have arrived at some conclusions.

How it happened in the first place. I began viewing the movie on a DVD and taking notes. At what turned out to be the eight-minute mark, I paused the disc, looked at my notes so far, and thought, "There's my review right there." The movie had left me not wanting to see more.

Why I waited until the end of the review to reveal I had stopped after eight minutes. The review reproduced my thought process while arriving at my decision. My editor, Laura Emerick, thought I should have come clean at the beginning. I thought that would have made the review anticlimactic. There is a top-down structure to a lot of shorter prose that correctly places the payoff at the end. I always try to close my reviews with some kind of punchline, sometimes very serious, instead of letting them dribble off into the ether.

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CIFF: All our capsule reviews

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UPDATED 10/16: Here are brief reviews of all the Chicago Film Festival movies we have seen, in alphabetical order, written by Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert. More will be added as we view them. For a full CIFF schedule, go to www.chicagofilmfestival.com or call (312) 332-FILM.

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So many films, so little time

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I have before me a schedule of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs 10 days. I have been looking at it for some time. I am paralyzed. There are so many films by important directors (not to mention important films by unknown directors), that it cannot be reduced to its highlights. The highlights alone, if run in alphabetical order, would take up all my space.

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A companion to 'Labyrinth'

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Q. Just read your Great Movie addition of Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," with its discussion of the New Mexican Cinema. Although you didn't mention it, I wanted to point out that Alfonso Cuaron's absolutely superb G-rated film "A Little Princess" from 1995 is a great companion to "Pan's Labyrinth." They are worlds apart in their execution and yet strikingly similar in many ways, as both follow a young girl escaping to fantasy worlds in the face of the harsh reality of war. Both movies stand on their own, but seeing them again recently in the context of knowing more about the collaboration and friendship of the directors has added greatly to my appreciation of each.

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Another critical voice severed

Voice Media slashes another film critic.

Adding further grist to the discussion of "critical sameness" ("The Stepford Critics?)," Village Voice Media has cut another (film-)critical voice from its payroll. This time it's National Society of Film Critics member Rob Nelson, of the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages. GreenCine Daily quotes critic Dave Kehr: This is not good. Soon, we will have a choice between the re-animated Paulettes who dominate the print media and the Knowles-nothing fan boys who dominate the internet. Which in my book isn't much of a choice at all.(See Kehr's clarification in comments below.)

As far as I can tell from the CP web site, Nelson's final piece for them was on the critically acclaimed documentary "No End in Sight" ("Surge This," August 22, 2007): As the movie's more begrudging admirers will likely acknowledge, Ferguson is no Michael Moore. His background is as a scholar and a Brookings wonk, and "No End in Sight" — his first film, amazingly — is less a work of investigation (or activism) than history. There's no psychology in the movie (e.g., Dubya has daddy issues), and neither are there conspiracy theories (e.g., the war is about redrawing the Middle East map and further fueling Halliburton's tank). On some level, it even endeavors to be a film without politics—and might be that if such a thing were possible. [...]

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