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A moving, funny, raucous, wide-ranging look at the man who founded this site.

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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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Cast and Crew

* 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.

#175, July 10, 2013

Marie writes: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, dissatisfied in general with the poverty of imagination currently on display at local cinemas. As anyone can blow something up with CGI - it takes no skill whatsoever and imo, is the default mode of every hack working in Hollywood these days. Whereas making a funny political satire in the United States about a Russian submarine running aground on a sandbank near a small island town off the coast of New England in 1966 during the height of the Cold War - and having local townsfolk help them escape in the end via a convoy of small boats, thereby protecting them from US Navy planes until they're safely out to sea? Now that's creative and in a wonderfully subversive way....

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#160 March 20, 2013

Marie writes: It's no secret there's no love lost between myself and what I regard as London's newest blight; The Shard. That said, I also love a great view. Go here to visit a 360-degree augmented-reality panorama from the building's public observation deck while listening to the sounds of city, including wind, traffic, birds and even Big Ben.

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The great movies (almost) nobody voted for

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OK, this is where it really gets interesting. Forget the consensus Top 50 Greatest Movies of All Time; let's get personal. Sight & Sound has now published the top 250 titles in its 2012 international critics poll, the full list of more than 2,000 movies mentioned, and all the individual lists of the 845 participating critics, academics, archivists and programmers, along with any accompanying remarks they submitted. I find this to be the most captivating aspect of the survey, because it reminds us of so many terrific movies we may have forgotten about, or never even heard of. If you want to seek out surprising, rewarding movies, this is a terrific place to start looking. For the past few days I've been taking various slices at the "data" trying to find statistical patterns, and to glean from the wealth of titles some treasures I'd like to heartily recommend -- and either re-watch or catch up with myself.

I know we're supposed to consider the S&S poll a feature film "canon" -- a historically influential decennial event since 1952, but just one of many. I don't disagree with Greg Ferrara at TCM's Movie Morlocks ("Ranking the Greats: Please Make it Stop") when he says that limiting ballots to ten all-time "best" (or "favorite," "significant," "influential" titles is incredibly limiting. That's why I think perusing at the critics' personal lists, the Top 250 (cited by seven critics or more) and the full list of 2,045 films mentioned is more enjoyable pastime.

It's wise to remember that, although the top of the poll may at first glance look relatively conservative or traditional, there's a tremendous diversity in the individual lists. Even the top vote-getter, "Vertigo," was chosen by less than one quarter of the participants.

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CinematoGIFs: Living, breathing movie stills

Each of these astonishing "cinematoGIFs" (animated .GIF files) by Gusaf Mantel distills the essence of a cinematic moment into a living, breathing "movie still" -- an indelible moment preserved in time. Once you start gazing into them, you'll find it hard to stop...

Above: The apes and the monolith: "2001: A Space Odyssey" (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).

Below: The tension of Travis Bickle, keeping his television perpetually balanced on the edge of smashing to the floor: "Taxi Driver" (Martin Scorsese, 1976).

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#76 August 17, 2011

"I realize that most of the turning points in my career were brought about by others. My life has largely happened to me without any conscious plan. I was an indifferent student except at subjects that interested me, and those I followed beyond the classroom, stealing time from others I should have been studying. I was no good at math beyond algebra. I flunked French four times in college. I had no patience for memorization, but I could easily remember words I responded to. In college a chart of my grades resembled a mountain range. My first real newspaper job came when my best friend's father hired me to cover high school sports for the local daily. In college a friend told me I must join him in publishing an alternative weekly and then left it in my hands. That led to the Daily Illini, and that in turn led to the Chicago Sun-Times, where I have worked ever since 1966. I became the movie critic six months later through no premeditation, when the job was offered to me out of a clear blue sky."Visit "I was born inside the movie of my life" to read the opening pages from Roger's forthcoming memoir to be published September 13, 2011.

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Why video games are indeed Art

May Contain Spoilers

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.

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Top secret leakage from my 2010 Muriels ballot!

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It's a wrap for the 2010 Muriel Awards, but although the winners have been announced, there's still plenty of great stuff to read about the many winners and runners-up. ('Cause, as we all know, there's so much more to life than "winning.") I was pleased to be asked to write the mini-essay about "The Social Network" because, no, I'm not done with it. (Coming soon: a piece about the Winkelvii at the Henley Gregatta section -- which came in 11th among Muriel voters for the year's Best Cinematic Moment.)

You might recall that last summer I compared the editorial, directorial and storytelling challenges of a modest character-based comedy ("The Kids Are All Right") to a large-scale science-fiction spectacular based on the concept of shifting between various levels of reality/unreality -- whether in actual time and space or in consciousness and imagination. (The latter came in at No. 13 in the Muriels balloting; the former in a tie for No. 22.) My point was that, as far as narrative filmmaking is concerned, there isn't much difference. To illustrate a similar comparison this time, I've used a one-minute segment out of "The Social Network" (Multiple levels of storytelling in The Social Network). You might like one picture better than the other for any number of reasons, but I find their similarities more illuminating than their differences:

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#17 June 30, 2010

Marie writes: what do you get a man with a massive book collection who has artwork by Edward Lear and huge canvases by Gillian Ayres?  What would a man with a Pulitzer and a Webby now renowned for the verbosity of his tweeting, like for his birthday? Much pondering went into answering that. Until suddenly a light-bulb went on above my head! (Click image.)Of course!  It's so obvious - turn the Grand Poobah into a super hero!  Super Critic: battling the forces of bad movies and championing the little guy, while tweeting where no critic has gone before!  In the process, we'll get to see him wearing a red cape and blue tights. Perfect.Note: the artwork was done by Dave Fox of INTOON Productions. He makes personalized comic book covers and animation cels. Diane Kremmer, a long time friend and fellow artist, works and lives with Dave on Pender Island (one of the Gulf Islands off the coast of BC near Washington State.) I spent last weekend with them and took advantage of Dave's cartooning skills. I mention this because he did all the work. I just sat there and drank his wine. :-)

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"Black Narcissus," which electrified Scorsese

May Contain Spoilers

Post World War II British Cinema was one of the richest periods in film history. Finally free from budget and stylistic constraints saddled during wartime, some of the greatest filmmaking talent the filmdom had arisen. John and Roy Boulting, David Lean, Laurence Olivier, and Carol Reed were just a few of the notables whose directorial prowess had struck the scene. But a pair which was the period's most prolific was Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; The Archers.

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Name That Director!

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Click above to REALLY enlarge...

UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...

Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.

In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)

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The effect of effects

I've just been watching "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940), which has probably the most influential special effects of all pre-CGI films. It's going into the Great Movies Collection, not for the effects, of course, but because it is a sublime entertainment on a level with "The Wizard of Oz" or the first "Star Wars." But there are few effects in "Star Wars" (1977) that were not invented for, experimented with, or perfected in "The Thief of Bagdad." And some of them had their genesis in Raoul Walsh's magnificent 1924 silent film of the same name starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Left: Rex Ingram, as the genie, towers over Sabu, as the thief, in "The Thief of Bagdad." The shot was made by combining real footage of Ingram, close to the camera, and Sabu, several hundred feet away.

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Temple of Doom: Bang a gong, sing a song

View image The beginning of the dissolve (recall, with nostalgia, when Paramount was A Gulf + Western Company?).

View image The new/old Paramount Pictures Presents.

(... or "You're a Better Man Than I Am, Short Round")

This is a contribution to Ali Arikan's Indiana Jones Blog-a-Thon at Cerebral Mastication.

View image Lucasfilm gets gonged.

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" tells you how to watch it in the first shot. Well, actually before the first shot, since the Paramount logo dissolves (as it did in "Raiders of the Lost Ark") from one mountain into another, so that it pokes into the movie for a few seconds. This time the twin peak is revealed to be embossed on a gong -- which establishes the retro-1930s "Oriental"-exoticism theme of the adventure, and kicks off Kate Capshaw's Cantonese "Anything Goes" musical number with a bang, beginning with the extended take that immediately follows.

For movie fans of all ages, this gong instantly evokes fond, resonant memories:

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Film reveals what's wrong at Ida B. Wells

PARK CITY, Utah -- I have seen 11 films so far at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and the most affecting involves a couple of kids from a Chicago public housing complex who were given tape recorders by National Public Radio, and asked to record the story of their lives.

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Cannes all winners

The Festival International du Film, held annually in Cannes, France, has become the world's most prestigious film festival—the spot on the beach where the newest films from the world's top directors compete for both publicity and awards.

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Vertigo

(NOTE: Although the following only hints at the twists and turns of Vertigo, if you’ve never seen the movie -- well, you’re in for a hell of a treat, and you might want to put off reading this until after you’ve taken the plunge.)

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The 'Innocence' of Martin Scorsese

NEW YORK -- The greatest living film director started out as a kid named Marty who I met in 1967 when he was fresh out of New York University. Now he is Martin Scorsese, the director even other directors would place first - after themselves, perhaps. No one has made more or better movies in the past quarter century, and few people have changed less. He still talks with his hands and bounces when he talks, and he uses the street-corner comedian's tactic of giving everything a punchline.

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Introduction to Memo from David O. Selznick

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This book represents only the tip of the iceberg. When Daniel Selznick, David O. Selznick's younger son, asked Rudy Behlmer to edit a selection of his father's memos, Behlmer had little notion of the task involved. The archive was lodged at that time at Bekins Moving and Storage in Los Angeles and Behlmer wrote: "I'll never forget walking into the building in which the files are stored for the first time and being confronted by approximately two thousand file boxes!" Those were only the memos--the written record of substantially every thought Selznick had about his career from 1916 to 1965. to When the David O. Selznick Collection was acquired by the University of Texas in 1981, it included countless other boxes, containing scripts and all their revisions, bills and statements, publicity materials, fan mail, receipts, and the continuity record of every day's shooting on almost every film. On an ordinary day Selznick used two secretaries, sometimes more, to take his dictation, and executives were not surprised when a Selznick memo arrived 15 minutes before they were scheduled to meet with him in person.

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