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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.

I Miss Roger's Reviews

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Saturday, May 4, was one month to the day that Roger left this earthly plane. In honor of Kentucky Derby weekend I am posting this photo of Roger and I proudly sporting our hats at Churchill Downs. There have been several photos of us wearing hats over the years. For some reason hats delighted us to no end. And Roger was particularly fond of some of the more outrageous hats we wore. That day while we were watching the races we were so pleased that we could wear our hats both in doors and out. You can’t wear a hat in a movie theater.

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Moi, misérable: Fermer le trou à tarte

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Another brawl in the square Another stink in the air! Was there a witness to this? Well, let him speak to Javert! -- Javert, a character in the musical "Les Misérables"

I was an eyewitness to "Les Misérables."

After repeated exposure to that dreadful theatrical trailer-cum-featurette about how the singing is all done live on camera! -- It's live! It's Live! IT'S LIVE! -- I had no intention of seeing Tom "The King's Speech" Hooper's film version of the 1980s stage musical. But when it finally came out, some of the reviews were so bad that part of me wanted to see what the stink was all about. Still, I'm not a masochist; I don't enjoy going to movies I know I'm probably predisposed to dislike just so I can dump on them. On the other hand, there's nothing better than having your low expectations upended. I did enjoy that Susan Boyle YouTube video back in 2009, but that was all I knew about the musical. I remained curious but skeptical. And then ...

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A letter from Chaz

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• Chaz Ebert at Cannes

Dear Roger: "We were once indivisible from every atom in the cosmos," and that is how I feel when I am sitting in the Palais watching movies at Cannes with a screen spread out as wide as the galaxy, the audience circling around like protons and neutrons breathing as one in empathy.

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Some year-end thoughts from Chaz Ebert

Roger and I thank you for joining us as we talked about the movies each week this past year. We have enjoyed producing Ebert Presents At The Movies and hope to continue sometime in 2012. This week we produced our last show.

It is the Best and Worst Movies of 2011 and begins airing Friday night, December 30, at 8:30 pm on WTTW, Channel 11 in Chicago, and all during the weekend and next week on public television stations across the nation. (Check local listings to find out what time it comes on in your town.)

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Now you see 'em, now you don't

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Q. You said at the end of your Great Movies article about Kurosawa's "Red Beard": "I believe this film should be seen by every medical student." It might please you to know that my old judo teacher Dr. Paul Harper, who was also a surgeon and researcher at the University of Chicago, required all his surgery residents to watch "Red Beard." Just reading your description of some of those astonishingly beautiful scenes stirred deep emotional memories of the film. (Dave Fultz)

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Zoom, zoom

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Few movie mannerisms annoy me as much as the gratuitous zoom, which modish hack directors have been using since the 1960s to underline and over-punctuate their shots. For a number of years (particularly in the late '60s to mid-'70s), the ubiquitous zoom, having no correlative to any function of the human eye, was most often deployed as a cheap substitute for actual camera movement. And yet, in the hands of, say, certain French New Wave filmmakers, the zoom could feel refreshingly free and spontaneous, like guerilla documentary footage. Or it could signify varying degrees of counter-cultural psychedelic grooviness, from "Laugh-In" to "Easy Rider" to... "Austin Powers." (Meanwhile, directors such as Altman and Kubrick have been known to use the zoom's telephoto properties with purpose and intelligence -- though the former used it to open up the frame and the latter to lock it down.)

Any device can be used or misused, but not even such egregious clichés as the now-ubiquitous snatch-and-grab and shaky-cam techniques, or the endlessly circling twirly cam, irritate me as much as the wanton zoom. Which is why I found this passage from Glen Kenny's piece on the Duplass's movie "Cyrus" to be both amusing and gratifying. (It doesn't matter if you or I have seen "Cyrus," or how zooms are used in that film; it's the precision of Kenny's bullshit-detector argument that I appreciate.) He observes:

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Coming down from those 6-hour dinners...

May 22 -- The past three days have been a whirlwind of films, panel discussions and French-style dining (meaning 6-hour dinners that start at 8 pm at the earliest). All of this has resulted in minimal sleep or in some extreme cases, no sleep at all. On Wednesday, after a solid week into the festival and with less than a week to go, the atmosphere becomes more restless than usual. People can feel the end approaching and a repressed feeling of panic can emerge.

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"Cannes, içi, Cannes"

May 12th -- I have arrived. Perhaps it is just because I am writing about my experiences in Cannes this year or perhaps it is just bad luck, but there were many points during these past four days where I thought would not make it here before the festival began. On Saturday afternoon, my sister was running around the house doing some last minute packing and I was reading a fellow Cannes blogger's post about Eyjafjallajokull -- the not-so-friendly, Icelandic volcano. When I realized the volcano was causing travel problems again, I quickly looked up our flight and the status was a big, red "canceled." It was at this point that my emotions erupted right along with the volcano.

Left: My sister, Lily, holds up her sign and makes friendly eye contact with passersby in the hopes of receiving a ticket to the premiere of "Robin Hood."

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Robbers and strippers, battles and burlesque

The volcano gods were in a snit on Monday, and I arrived in Cannes on Tuesday six hours later than planned, following some frustrating encounters with ticket agents in Frankfurt Airport. Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips was on my flight from Chicago, having had his entire original reservation canceled due to drifting volcano ash. I heard delay stories everywhere, and figured I got off easy.

After fast dash to the Palais des Festivals five minutes before the office that issues accreditation badges closed, I picked up my press badge and film market badge. The Cannes skies were dark and threatening, with fog hanging over the distant mountains. I hoped that this wasn't a sign of weather gloom to come.

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See you at the movies

Yes, Chaz and I are still going ahead with our plans for a new movie review program on television. No, Wednesday's cancellation of "At the Movies" hasn't discouraged us. We believe a market still exists for a weekly show where a couple of critics review new movies.

I can't prove it, but I have the feeling that more different people are seeing more different movies than ever before. With the explosion of DVD, Netflix, Red Box, and many forms of Video on Demand,

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Oh dear, who's killed film criticism this week?

"Movie criticism of the elevated sort, as practiced over the past half-century by James Agee and Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael, J. Hoberman and Dave Kehr... is an endangered species..." -- Richard Corliss, Film Comment, 1990

Good gracious, film criticism is still dying all over the Internet again this week. Who's killing it this time? The usual suspects, depending on who you ask, ranging from "Siskel & Ebert" to "the bloggers." The quotation above was written 20 years ago, and that wasn't the first time its dire predictions were made. Now they've just become conventional wisdom, so people feel the need to repeat them every few hours. IFC.com reports that, at a UCLA panel discussion of filmmakers and critics following a screening of Gerald Peary's affectionate documentary overview of American film criticism, "For the Love of Movies," TIME magazine curmudgeon Richard Schickel announced, to no one's surprise, that he never loved them. That's right: No love from Mr. Schickel. None. (This is confirmed by his attitude toward Robert Altman.)

"Watching all these kind of earnest people discussing the art or whatever the hell it is of criticism, all that, it just made me so sad. You mean they have nothing else to do?" asked Schickel before adding, "I don't know honestly the function of reviewing anything."

Yes he certainly doesn't, which has been clear in print for some years, but I don't know the function of what Schickel was doing on this panel. You could make the same complaint about any kind of writing, or any enthusiasm that people feel like writing and talking about, from sports to politics. Oh, you tech columnists and food writers -- stop communicating with others about things you're interested in! What is the point? If you have to ask, you're not likely to feel ardent about engaging in the practice -- except, perhaps, for the paycheck. Now that is sad.

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Shhhhhhhhutter up, critics!

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I enjoyed Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" as a kind of retro-Universal Pictures "old dark house" horror movie re-imagined by Hitchcock in the 1950s Technicolor textures of "Dial M for Murder," "Rear Window" and "Vertigo." As Scorsese himself described a similar project in 2007's "The Key to Reserva," it's...

"like my own Hitchcock film. But it has to be the way he would have made the picture then, only making it now. But the way he would have made it then. If he was alive now, making this now, he would make it now as if he made it back then."

When you see the back-projection [or chroma key] on the boat going to Shutter Island in the first scene of the movie, you'll probably get the idea (even if you don't consciously notice that it's back-projection). The effect isn't as obvious -- shaky or grainy -- as in '50s Hitchcock, but it has that same air of hyper-unreality that suits the material just fine. If, however, you don't pick up on what Scorsese's doing by the end of the first scene, the pounding, churning, blaring über-Herrmann-esque score as the main characters approach the creepy insane asylum/prison/fortress (actually the "Passacaglia" Krzysztof Penderecki's Third Symphony) ought to darn well clue you in.

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Time keeps on slip, slip, slippin' away

I sense it's about time to share some of my thoughts about television and movie critics, myself, and the past, present and future of my corner of the critics-on-TV adventure. My friends A .O. Scott and Michael Phillips are well into their first season as the new co-hosts of "At the Movies." Richard Roeper just announced he will be streaming reviews on his web site, and they will re-run a week later on the Starz cable channel. I wish them all good fortune. And good health.

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A fake paparazzi, lots of films, funny stories, and I walk the red carpet

The daily total of times I've been body slammed by someone or almost run over by a car are slowly decreasing as my days at Cannes increase. Being at Cannes takes some adjusting, but I now feel like I can flaunt my knowledge of all things Cannes. I've learned a lot about this festival since I've arrived. I've finally learned the complicated class system at Cannes that is exhibited through badges. It begins with a Cinephile pass, then Festival, then Marché and on to the highly coveted Press badges. Of those the best is the white press badge that allows access to private screenings and tickets to every premiere. I would like to retract my statement about Cannes being all about having a good time. The business that happens at this festival is what keeps it around. The market in the lower level of the Palais where companies buy and sell films is always busy, and over the years several films have been famously sold over dinner or lunch in one of the fabulous hotel restaurants.

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Movies that are made for forever

I have feelings more than ideas. I am tired, but very happy. My 11th annual film festival has just wrapped at the Virginia Theater in my home town, and what I can say is, it worked. There is no such thing as the best year or the worst year. But there is such a thing as a festival where every single film seemed to connect strongly with the audience. Sitting in the back row, seeing these films another time, sensing the audience response, I thought: Yes, these films are more than good, and this audience is a gathering of people who feel that.

Let me tell you about the last afternoon, the screening of a newly restored 70mm print of "Baraka." The 1,600 seats of the main floor and balcony were very nearly filled. The movie exists of about 96 minutes of images, music and sound. Nothing else. No narration. No subtitles. No plot, no characters. Just the awesome beauty of this planet and the people who live on it. The opening scene of a monkey, standing chest-deep in a warm pool in the snow, looking. Looking in a very long and patient shot, which invites us to see through his eyes. Then the stars in the sky above. "Baraka" is a meditation on what it means to be awake to the world.

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The balcony is closed

Gene and me in the 1980s. Looking at this photograph by Chicago's Victor Skrebneski, Gene said, "Even our mothers don't think we look that good." (Photo by Victor Skrebneski)

I was surprised how depressed I felt all day on July 21, when Richard and I announced we were leaving the "Ebert and Roeper" program. To be sure, our departures were voluntary. We hadn't been fired. And because of my health troubles, I hadn't appeared on the show for two years. But I advised on co-hosts, suggested movies, stayed in close communication with Don DuPree, our beloved producer-director. The show remained in my life. Now, after 33 years, it was gone--taken in a "new direction." And I was fully realizing what a large empty space it left behind.

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Ebertfest 2008: My heart is in Urbana

The 10th Anniversary Ebertfest begins tonight in Urbana-Champaign. It is with some melancholy that I write these words on a legal pad in a hospital bed in Chicago. After consulting with my doctors, I have decided it may not be prudent to try to make the journey today with a fractured hip.

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