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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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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.

Cut to Black: "The Sopranos" and the Future of TV Drama, Part 4

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Part 4 of "Cut to Black," a videotaped roundtable discussion about the end of The Sopranos and the future of television drama. Participants include RogerEbert.com editor and New York Magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan, A.V. Club TV critic Ryan McGee, and previously.tv contributor Sarah D. Bunting. Shot and edited by Dave Bunting, Jr.

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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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Misinterpreting the Tomatometer

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Last week Slate ran a story about the "Hollywood Career-o-Matic," which claimed to use data from Rotten Tomatoes to chart the trajectories of Hollywood careers. Interactive feature: Just enter the name of an actor or director and it will instantly generate a graph showing that person's critical ups and downs.

For example, here's one for M. Night Shyamalan, with each dot representing the Tomatometer score for the features he has directed:

Slate concludes that, according to Rotten Tomatoes data, the Best Actor in movies is Daniel Auteuil, with John Ratzenberger the best American actor, since he's voiced a character in every Pixar movie. Best Actress: Arsinée Khanjian. Worst Actress: Jennifer Love Hewitt. Best Director: Mike Leigh. Worst Director: Dennis Dugan (veteran of Adam Sandler movies such as "Happy Gilmore," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" and "Grown Ups").

Yes, this is all so silly that the mind boggles, but let's start with the premise itself: What is the correlation between reviews and careers in Hollywood? Adam Sandler and Michael Bay wouldn't look much more impressive than Shyamalan if you looked only at reviews. And the Slate piece is riddled with misconceptions about the Tomatometer:

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#56 March 30, 2011

"Of few deaths can it be said that they end an era, but hers does. No other actress commanded more attention for longer, for her work, her beauty, her private life, and a series of health problems that brought her near death more than once." - Roger, from Elizabeth Taylor, a star in her own category

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Another day. Another year

May Contain Spoilers

Mike Leigh's Another Year (2010) is like a tender, swollen, beating heart that you hold within your palms: the soft flesh expands and contracts with every breath, and through the tiny crevices in between your fingers, life juices flow.

"Life is not always kind, is it?"

Gerri looks at Mary and quietly let those words slip. Mary catches her gaze, briefly. The letters settle over them like a mild fog, unmistakably present and non-disruptive, and the day proceeds on as it does.

Another day. Another year.

Through uncanny realism and probing characters, Leigh's latest film speaks of the pervasive dilemma of our kind: how do we live in this world in the presence of those so different and similar to ourselves at once? How do we make sense of each of our own way of life?

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#50 February 16, 2011

Behold a most wondrous find...."The Shop that time Forgot" Elizabeth and Hugh. Every inch of space is crammed with shelving. Some of the items still in their original wrappers from the 1920s. Many goods are still marked with pre-decimal prices."There's a shop in a small village in rural Scotland which still sells boxes of goods marked with pre-decimal prices which may well have been placed there 80 years ago. This treasure trove of a hardware store sells new products too. But its shelves, exterior haven't changed for years; its contents forgotten, dust-covered and unusual, branded with the names of companies long since out of business. Photographer Chris Frears has immortalized this shop further on film..." - Matilda Battersby. To read the full story, visit the Guardian.  And visit here to see more photos of the shop and a stunning shot of Morton Castle on the homepage for Photographer Chris Fears.

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Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster

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The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.

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Who'll be nominated?

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Although the 2011 Oscar nominations are announced at the crack of dawn Tuesday, many of the names on the list have been foreordained for weeks. Ever since its opening in September, “The Social Network” has been the front-runner for Best Picture — although when the Producers' Guild gave its prize to “The King's Speech” on Saturday night, all the predictions were somewhat shaken.

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The best feature films of 2010

David Fincher's "The Social Network"is emerging as the consensus choice as best film of 2010. Most of the critics' groups have sanctified it, and after its initial impact it has only grown it stature. I think it is an early observer of a trend in our society, where we have learned new ways of thinking of ourselves: As members of a demographic group, as part of a database, as figures in...a social network.

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♬ It was a very good year ♬

• Toronto Report # 7

"There must be directors at Toronto other than Werner Herzog and Errol Morris," one reader wrote impatiently. "Try reviewing someone else's films for a change." Point taken. I intend to do that below, and say in my defense that I have already written about eight films not by my heroes. Actually, that's not so many, is it? I saw 26 of the films but feel no need to write about all of them; in a few cases, I don't want to say negative things about those still searching for buyers.

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Cannes postmortem. Is that the wrong word?

Everyone seems to believe that Tim Burton and his festival jury did the best they could with slim pickings. The 2010 winners at Cannes were for the most part fair, well-distributed, uncontroversial and safe. You could say the same about the films in the festival.

Last year I left Cannes having seen "Up," "Precious," "Antichrist," "Inglourious Basterds," "Broken Embraces," "A Prophet," "The White Ribbon," "Police, Adjective," "Thirst," and many other good films. Of the first "Antichrist" screening, I wrote: "There's electricity in the air. Every seat is filled, even the little fold-down seats at the end of every row."

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And the Palme d'Whiskers goes to...

Entry to the Grande Theatre Lumiere for the press premiere of Rachid Bouchareb's "Outside of the Law" was considerably delayed on Friday morning by heightened security. Heavily-armed members of the French National Guard were stationed in the street and on the red carpet. Water bottles were confiscated by guards; men got full-body pat-downs from head to toe; and women had bags exhaustively inspected at two different points. This was in addition to the usual electronic wanding that we are all subject to upon entering any part of the Palais.

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Cannes #4: A good film, a bad film, and a friend

Mike Leigh has long been a great director, but now he is surely at the top of his form. "Another Year" has premiered here and is the film everyone I talk with loves the most. It is so beautifully sure and perceptive in its record of one year in the life of a couple happily married, and their relatives and friends, not so happy. After "Vera Drake" (2004) and "Happy-Go-Lucky" (2008), Leigh cannot seem to step wrong.

A women at the press conference asked Leigh (left) "did you have to make Mary so sad?" She might as well have asked, "did you have to make Tom and Gerri so happy? "

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#11 May 19, 2010

The Grand Poobah writes: Twitter makes the world smaller...At Cannes I met Anupama Chopra, also known as @anupamachopra, a leading Indian film critic. She had just come from interviewing the great Mike Leigh. To my surprise I learned she had taken the famed course in magazine journalism at Northwestern, taught by my friend Abe Peck, who had become her guru. Is that two degrees of separation? Two years ago she was on the jury of Un Certain Regard at Cannes, and told us something startling: The festival doesn't pay the jurors' expenses. Times are hard all over. (click image)

The Grand Poobah writes: Derek Malcom is back at Cannes this year. The longtime Guardian film critic, now at the Evening Standard, is the local bookie for the festival, quoting odds and taking cash bets. No, really. He must pay off, because he's not afraid to come back every year. He's a former jockey. I was just about to ask him this year's odds when the guards opened the doors and we were all off to the races, scrambling for our favorite seats. (click image)

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Cannes #1: On a darkling plain

Fifty years ago, the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes was Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." More every year I realize that it was the film of my lifetime. But indulge me while I list some more titles.

The other entries in the official competition included "Ballad of a Soldier," by Grigori Chukhrai; "Lady with a Dog," by Iosif Kheifits; "Home from the Hill," by Vincente Minnelli; "The Virgin Spring," by Ingmar Bergman;" "Kagi," by Kon Ichikawa; "L'Avventura," by Michelangelo Antonioni; "Le Trou," by Jacques Becker; "Never on Sunday," by Jules Dassin; "Sons and Lovers," by Jack Cardiff; "The Savage Innocents," by Nicholas Ray, and "The Young One," by Luis Bunuel.

And many more. But I am not here at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to mourn the present and praise the past.

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A hopeful Bollywood actress at Cannes

Red carpets, glitz, glamour, and path-breaking works in global cinema are what I expect out of the 2010 Cannes Film festival. With this being my very first time at the event my expectations are based on years of reading articles about the festival in magazines and newspapers.

It is surreal that I am a part of this event and am able to gather my own impressions of it. Two films that I am really interested in this year are "Another Year" by Mike Leigh and "Udaan" by Vikramaditya Motwane.

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A taste of lemon, a whiff of ash...

With departure for Cannes only days away, the specter of drifting volcano ash inspires its own shivery anticipation of the festival, and not in a good way.  Cannes is a convention city year around, and a new festival or international congress moves in pretty much as soon as the previous one moves out.  It's not like you could extend your hotel stay on the spur of the moment, and at Riviera prices, who would want to?

I'm hoping the only eruptions are of the cinematic kind.  For two weeks every May, the Cannes Film Festival is like a volcano blowing its top, spewing new movies day and night.  In view of this massive flow, it's a rather silly insiders' game to speculate on good years vs. bad years.   With hundreds of films to choose from, taking into account the official selections and the film market, this huge festival is what you make it.  Every year is a good year.  Looking for great art?  There's always some to be found.  Looking for low-down-sleaze?  There's more of that than you even want to know about.  Looking for new films from Latvia, for instance?  Take your pick, and get the scoop on the state of the Latvian film industry from an eager sales agent while you're at it.

Every year as Cannes looms, I'm reminded of the puckish advice of British director Mike Leigh ("Happy-Go-Lucky," "Vera Drake"), pronounced many years ago when he was on the festival jury. At the jury press conference, Leigh was asked about his expectations. "The festival is like a lemon," he said, "you just have to suck it and see how it tastes." As luck would have it, Leigh will be premiering his new film "Another Year" in the competition. I'm looking forward to seeing what flavor this one adds to the festival.

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