Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…
* 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.
Picks for the best of the 2013-14 television season, in the form of a Dream Emmy ballot.
Actors with "A-list" name recognition continue to migrate to television. "True Detective" uses Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson to make great television.
An exhaustive list of Top 10s by RogerEbert.com contributors.
With incredibly strong central performances and thematically dense subject matter, "Masters of Sex," a drama about sex researchers Masters and Johnson, serves as a nice partner to Showtime's returning "Homeland."
Marie writes: When I first learned of "Royal de Luxe" I let out a squeal of pure delight and immediately began building giant puppets inside my head, trying to imagine how it would look to see a whale or dragon moving down the street..."Based in Nantes, France, the street theatre company Royal de Luxe performs around the world, primarily using gigantic, elaborate marionettes to tell stories that take place over several days and wind through entire cities. Puppeteers maneuver the huge marionettes - some as tall as 12 meters (40 ft) - through streets, parks, and waterways, performing their story along the way." - the Atlantic
(Click images to enlarge.)
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..."
Marie writes: I love photography, especially B/W and for often finding color a distraction. Take away the color and suddenly, there's so much more to see; the subtext able to rise now and sit closer to the surface - or so it seems to me. The following photograph is included in a gallery of nine images (color and B/W) under Photography: Celebrity Portraits at the Guardian."This is one of the last photographs of Orson before he died. He loved my camera - a gigantic Deardorff - and decided he had to direct me and tell me where to put the light. So even in his last days, he was performing his directorial role perfectly, and bossing me around. Which was precious." - Michael O'Neill
Orson Welles, by Michael O'Neill, 1985
Marie writes: There's a glorified duck pond at the center of the complex where I live. And since moving in, my apartment has been an object of enduring fascination for Canadian geese - who arrive each Spring like a squadron of jet fighters returning from a mission in France, to run a sweeping aerial recon my little garden aka: playhouse for birds... (click to enlarge)
For tax day, the editors at MSN Movies came up with an idea for contributors to write short essays about the most, ahem, "taxing" people in modern movies. Each of us picked a person whose presence, behind or in front of the camera, we find wearisome and debilitating -- as in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of taxing: "onerous, wearing."
You've probably already guessed my choice. I've written quite a bit about why I find Christopher Nolan's post-"Memento" work lackluster, but this exercise gave me an opportunity to condense my reservations about his writing and directing into one relatively concise piece:
Let me say up front that I don't think Nolan is a bad or thoroughly incompetent director, just a successfully pedestrian one. His Comic-Con fan base makes extravagant claims for each new film -- particularly since Nolan began producing his graphic-novel blockbusters with "Batman Begins" in 2005 -- but the movies are hobbled by thesis-statement screenplays that strain for significance and an ungainly directing style that seems incapable of, and uninterested in, illustrating more than one thing at a time: "Look at this. Now look at this. Now look at this. Now here's some dialogue to explain the movie's fictional rules. Now a character will tell you what he represents and what his goals are." And so on ... You won't experience the thrill of discovery while looking around in a Nolan frame. You'll see the one thing he wants you to see, but everything around it is dead space. [...]
Marie writes: ever stumble upon a photo taken from a movie you've never seen? Maybe it's an official production still; part of the Studio's publicity for it at the time. Or maybe it's a recent screen capture, one countless fan-made images to be found online. Either way, I collect them like pennies in jar. I've got a folder stuffed with images, all reflecting a deep love of Cinematography and I thought I'd share some - as you never know; sometimes, the road to discovering a cinematic treasure starts with a single intriguing shot....
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Cinematography: Harry Stradling(click images to enlarge)
I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endowit with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. - Eleanor Roosevelt John Singer Sargent: 'Carnation Lily, Lily Rose' (1885-86) Tate Gallery, London
"The King's Speech," a story of Britain's King George VI, won the coveted Cadillac People's Choice Audience Award Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival -- and an audience member won a new Cadillac. The film -- which stars Colin Firth as the King and Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth, his wife and mother of Elizabeth II -- is considered a sure thing for Academy nominations.
Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are swell as David Frost and Richard Nixon in the adapted-from-the-stage-adaptation movie, but I feel -- and I believe the above clips demonstrate -- that these five minutes provide more compelling drama and suspense (and adrenaline) than the entire feature film. Frost presents himself as a much stronger, more flamboyant "prosecutor" than he is in the movie. And watch the incredible range and focus of Nixon's performance: the deliberate rhetorical emphases and repetitions; the flashes of steely anger and startling shifts into unctuousness/condescension when he seems like he could burst into inappropriate laugher or tears or flames; the (strategic?) digressions and circumlocutions; the hand-gestures, head-shakes, eye-blinks; the splintered syntax and mispronunciations-under-pressure when he gets flustered... At least you can tell (unlike certain modern politicians one could name) that he's actually thinking as he talks, sifting through evidence and debate tactics and talking points in his head, not just going blank and letting his lips flap. THIS is an endlessly fascinating character in peak performance mode...
* * * *
"Frost/Nixon" and "Milk" are glossy products of the Hollywood awards season, prestige pictures in the grand red-carpet tradition of fashioning uplifting, larger-than-life entertainments out of semi-fictionalized semi-recent historical events. The thing is, both have been treated far more thrillingly on documentaries that are available on DVD. Think "Frost/Nioxon" provided compelling drama, suspense and astoundingly rich performances? It can't approach the actual interviews , which have just been released as "Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews." Think "Milk" was a moving look at a charismatic public figure and a key period in American civil rights? You have not begun to be moved until you see Rob Epstein's Oscar-winning "The Times of Harvey Milk" (clips after the jump), which is also a more complex, less hagiographic portrait of the man and his heady times.
Roger Ebert's best movie lists from 1967-present
View image John Candy as Steve Roman as Juan Cortez -- now that spells good acting.
Ever since December, when Kristin Thompson posted this ("Good Actors Spell Good Acting") on the blog she shares with her husband and co-author David Bordwell, I've been meaning to link to it. This is my favorite kind of article, leading you fluidly from one intriguing idea to another -- and you never quite know where it's going to take you. Not only does it begin with an account of how bits of movie dialogue (from "Rio Bravo," "His Girl Friday") have entered her life, and the lives of her friends and colleagues, but it then segues into a great quotation from Steve Roman on SCTV (playing Juan Cortez, the first Puerto Rican Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in the dramatic television series, "There's Justice for Everybody") : “It’s got good actors, and that spells good acting.” And, from there, to this: Almost invariably we use this line when we come across one of those films that receive highly positive reviews largely because of one great performance. You know the kind: Charlize Theron in "Monster," Halle Berry in "Monster’s Ball," Hillary Swank in "Boys Don’t Cry," and more recently Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland" and Helen Mirren in "The Queen."
Usually I avoid such films, because the reviews tend to plant the idea that they are primarily actors’ vehicles. I enjoy good acting as much as the next person, but I want the rest of the film to be interesting as well.
Are there any film classics that are truly great solely for the acting? It’s hard to think of any. Maybe "The Gold Rush," which is stylistically fairly pedestrian but which is redeemed by Chaplin’s inspired performance. Maybe "Duck Soup," also quite undistinguished for much of anything other than the Marx Brothers cutting loose without being saddled with the sort of plots involving young, singing lovers that MGM would soon foist upon them. Maybe a few others. Usually, though, we tend not to think of a performance, however dazzling, as adding up to a great film. That's a good point to keep in mind during Oscar season, when "best acting" is often confused with "most acting." The performances that win awards tend to have as much to do with the roles as they do the actors. Sure, the player has to deliver, but give a decent actor a juicy character (and a sympathetic director) and you're talking Oscar bait. If just about anyone had played Jennifer Hudson's mistreated chunky diva in "Dreamgirls," an emotive-showpiece part if there ever was one, and had not gotten an Oscar nomination, that alone would have made the film a miserable failure. Fortunately for the investors, Hudson was able to do what she was hired to do. (Twenty years ago on Broadway, it was another Jennifer H. -- Holliday -- who became a star playing the same role and singing the same showstopper song.) Robert Altman liked to say that casting was the most important part of making a movie, but nobody would say that his movies are interesting just for the performances. It's how he captures and presents them that matters just as much.
Latest Contrarian Week News:
In his New York Observer year-end wrap-up (and ten-best list), Andrew Sarris attempts to steal the thunder of one of his New York "alternative weekly" rivals.
Sarris writes: Fortunately, modern technology makes it almost impossible for a good movie to get “lost” because of end-of-the-year mental exhaustion. So, with the proviso that I still have a great deal of catching up to do, here are my considered choices for the various 10-best categories, and one of my patented 10-worst lists under the provocative heading of “Movies Other People Liked and I Didn’t.” I am not at all deterred in dishing out my annual supply of negativity by the correspondent who informed me last year that he preferred all the films on my 10-worst list to all the films on my 10-best list. I have long ago become resigned to my fate as a reviled revisionist ever since my first column in The Village Voice in 1960 hailed Alfred Hitchcock as a major artist for "Psycho," and inspired more hate mail than any Voice column had received up to that time. That clinched my job at the ever-contrarian Voice, and I have simply gone on from there.So, how contrarian is the "reviled revisionist" 46 years later? Let's see:
"The Departed" as best film of the year. (Only in New York!)
"Blood Diamond" as #5.
Best Supporting Actresses: 1) Jennifer Connelly, "Blood Diamond" 2) Gong Li, "Miami Vice" 3) Maggie Gyllenhaal, "World Trade Center"
And then there's this: Other striking male performances were provided by: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin and Anthony Anderson in The Departed; Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and Toby Jones in The Painted Veil; Wim Willaert in When the Sea Rises; Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths in Venus; Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Inside Man; Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase and Shido Nakamura in Letters from Iwo Jima; Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine; Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell in The Illusionist; Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Gregg Edelman and Ty Simpkins in Little Children; Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer and Dylan Walsh in The Lake House; Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena and Stephen Dorff in World Trade Center; Tim Blake Nelson, Pat Corley, Jeffrey Donovan, Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson in Come Early Morning; Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson; Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, and Danny Huston in Marie Antoinette; Matt Damon, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Robert De Niro, Keir Dullea, Timothy Hutton, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Ivanir and Joe Pesci in The Good Shepherd; Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones and Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand; Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Sebastien Foucan, Jesper Christensen and Tobias Menzies in Casino Royale; Ebru Ceylan and Mehmet Eryilmaz in Climates; Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland; Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Keith Robinson and Hinton Battle in Dreamgirls; Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Trevor Fehrman, Kevin Smith and Jason Lee in Clerks II; Justin Kirk and Jamie Harrold in Flannel Pajamas; Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker and Adrian Grenier in The Devil Wears Prada; Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hulce in Stranger Than Fiction; Samuel L. Jackson, Curtis Jackson, Chad Michael Murray, Sam Jones III and Brian Presley in Home of the Brave; Harris Yulin, Ty Burrell and Boris McGiver in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Max Minghella, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel David Moore and Nick Swardson in Art School Confidential; Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes and Alec Baldwin in Running with Scissors; Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Ciarán Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, Luis Tosar and John Ortiz in Miami Vice; Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Tim McMullan in The Queen; Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Anthony Mackie, Marlon Sherman and Clarke Peters in Freedomland; Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Linus Roache, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Raul Esparza in Find Me Guilty; Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley in Lucky Number Slevin; Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein, Shohreh Aghdashloo, John Cho, Tony Yalda, Sam Golzari and Willem Dafoe in American Dreamz; Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane in A Scanner Darkly; Adam Beach, Ryan A. Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, Jon Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker and Robert Patrick in Flags of Our Fathers; Chow Yun-Fat in Curse of the Golden Flower; Sergi López, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo and Federico Luppi in Pan’s Labyrinth; Bill Nighy in Notes on a Scandal.Take that, A----- W----!