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Penguins of Madagascar

The pacing is so zany, the jokes are so rapid-fire and the sight gags are so inspired that it’s impossible not to get caught up…

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Horrible Bosses 2

The law of diminishing returns, which has afflicted so many comedy sequels over the years, strikes again in “Horrible Bosses 2,” further proving that just…

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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.

A comedy that keeps swimming

No cinematic genre lends itself less for repeated viewings than comedy. Finding a truly funny picture is hard enough (not that you could tell from the typical reactions at a "Fockers" screening) and besides, how many times can people laugh at the same joke? Comedies also tend to age the worst. Among those that I recall once driving audiences wild here in México were "The Party" (1967), starring Peter Sellers, with all the guests falling into a pool full of bubbles, and Peter Bogdanovich's zany screwball feature "What's up Doc?" (1972), but watching them today mostly leaves me cold.

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#132 September 5, 2012

Marie writes: According to the calendar, summer is now officially over (GASP!) and with its demise comes the first day of school. Not all embrace the occasion, however. Some wrap themselves proudly in capes of defiance and make a break for it - rightly believing that summer isn't over until the last Himalayan Blackberry has been picked and turned into freezer jam!

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#126 August 1, 2012

Marie writes: As I'm sure readers are aware, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are now underway!  Meanwhile, the opening ceremony by Danny Boyle continues to solicit comments; both for against. (Click image to enlarge.)

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Monty Python season

Rarely has an American political candidate triggered so many associations with a famed British comedy troupe of stage, screen, television and phonograph recordings:

"I used to think that Michael Palin was the funniest Palin on earth.... [Sarah Palin] is like a nice-looking parrot, because the parrot speaks beautifully and kinda says 'Aw, shucks,' every now and again, but doesn't really have any understanding of the meaning of the words that it is producing, even though it's producing them very accurately.... I mean, Monty Python could have written this." -- John Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python's Flying Circus (Clip here.)

(See above. Monty Python did.)

"But Palin is as ridiculous as the competitors from Monty Python's Upperclass Twit of the Year competition, jumping over hurdles that are nothing more than a stack of matchbooks." -- Anne Lamott, Salon.com

"Cue marching band music and a big cartoon foot. US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, hackers have revealed, has used a Yahoo! free webmail account to talk government business with aides." -- David Winder, ITwire

"As Monty Python used to say, 'No one expects the Spanish Inquisition' -- which is another way of saying that no one expects the unexpected." -- Mark J. Penn, Politico

So many times over the last nine years (especially the last nine years) I have watched politicians on television and thought of John Cleese. No so much of the parrot sketch (to which he also alludes in the quotation above) but of another beloved Python bit he did...

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Do the Contrarian (Part I)

The Pale Man knows how to do The Contrarian. He sits motionless until an external stimulus prompts him into motion.

There's a brand new dance That's easy to do It's called the Contrarian And it's all about you!

Strike a hipster pose And admire your reflection Just be sure you're facing In an opposite direction!

(apologies to Rufus Thomas)

Is Armond White too easy a target? Does any other movie critic have a blog devoted to "parsing the confounding film criticism" he produces? (See the hilariously titled Armond Dangerous.)

At the risk of sounding contrarian, I want to suggest that White (published on the web via the weekly New York Press) is by no means the worst movie reviewer in the United States. He just pretends to be the baddest.

The all-too-common White review is a reactionary tirade that owes a lot to the angry shtick of aging hipster comedians like Dennis Leary and Dennis Miller back in the 1990s ("hipster" being White's favorite term of disapprobation). White can also be funny, but I wish he thought so, too -- and that his humor arose from his observations about movies rather than his hysterical indignation.

In this sense, White doesn't necessarily practice film criticism, although what he writes is almost always based on his real or imagined characterization of what other critics have already written. The movie itself sometimes gets lost in White's internal monologue as he rages against some chimerical critical consensus.

In the Bizarro World, Armond White is Jeffrey Lyons. He's the negative campaigner's blurbmeister. Just substitute disses for superlatives and you'll find a similar (anti-)promotional blurb mentality at work. This is the most elementary form of so-called "criticism" -- purely heirarchical rather than analytical or exploratory. It's not even "This is why I prefer this to that"; it's just "This is better than that because I choose to say so."

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