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The multiple twists, double-crosses and leaps in logic are more likely to prompt giggles than gasps, despite the impressive production values and the earnest efforts…


Oasis: Supersonic

While Oasis: Supersonic is never boring, especially for fans, it’s also not quite deep enough to justify its narrow focus, especially at its overlong running…

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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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* 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.

#114 May 9, 2012

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn discovered the following Danish designers "Monstrum" who make extraordinary playgrounds for children. I think they're the stuff of dreams, whatever your age. Indeed; behold the Rahbek kindergarten in Frederiksberg, Denmark, and Monstrum's first playground...

The Rocket and The Princess Tower! "Just like a set design, a playground must have an inspiring front that attracts children, and a functional backside with climbing, sliding and relaxing options. The idea of the playground is to combine a girl's mind with a boy's approach into one big common playground. The princess tower consists of three floors, and the rocket has two floors. From the top floor of the Rocket, you can slide down the 6 m long double slide together with an astronaut friend." (click to enlarge.)

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#111 April 18, 2012

Marie writes: Recently, we enjoyed some nice weather and inspired by the sunshine, I headed out with a borrowed video camera to shoot some of the nature trails up on Burnaby Mountain, not far from where I live. I invariably tell people "I live near Vancouver" as most know where that is - whereas Burnaby needs explaining. As luck would have it though, I found a great shot taken from the top of Burnaby Mountain, where you can not only see where I live now but even Washington State across the Canadian/US border...

(click image to enlarge)

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Through a swan, darkly

May Contain Spoilers

Mirrors and reflections have always been an obsession for filmmakers from all over the world - something that came as a result of the wealth of symbolism that they inspire, of course, but also of the psychological development all of us go through in order to recognize ourselves as individuals. (That led, for instance, to Jean-Louis Baudry's brilliant analogy of the film spectator as someone regressing to the "Mirror Stage" described by Lacan). From Buñuel to Hitchcock and from Fritz Lang to Tarkovsky, directors from different eras and different styles have used doubles as a thematic basis of one or more of their works -- but perhaps it has seldom been used so intensely and organically as in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan."

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The Artist: Everybody loves/hates a frontrunner!


There, that wasn't so painful, was it? After all the hype coming out of Cannes (and especially since Harvey Weinstein got his mitts on it for U.S. distribution/Oscar promotion), I'd been kind of dreading "The Artist." Like "Hugo," it just sounded too "charming and delightful" -- and, to paraphrase Lou Grant, I hate "charming and delightful." (Usually because, for me, that ends up translating into "strained and unctuous.") But "The Artist" turns out to be a fairly benign, occasionally clever little musical/romantic comedy/melodrama. (I would not consider it, strictly speaking, a "silent," since it relies on synchronized Foley effects in some scenes -- to pointedly dramatize the Invasion of the Talkies -- and even a few words of recorded dialog.)*

I can understand why it appeals so much to Academy voters: It displays great affection for actors and a nostalgic love for the lost grandeur of the movies in general; it addresses anxieties about how new technologies are once again changing the movie business; it's the only Best Picture nominee shot entirely in Los Angeles (something TWC's Oscar campaign is playing up, big-time).

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How to Win an Academy Award

The Academy Award winners for the past thirty years have followed consistent molds, primarily in the categories of Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Picture. It is a very simple set of templates that I will explain with excessive evidence. This is not to say that the Academy Awards are a conspiracy run by some secret society, although that idea would be quite fun. Rather, at the very least, there is a subtext to American culture that plays out in the ideas and ideals in American cinema, and it plays out consistently. At the very least, I'm illustrating some unwritten ideals in American culture. Whether or not they are healthy or corrupt, they are there in us. So, "Best Picture" is not a great movie; rather, it is a great movie that fulfills the mold.

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The right hand of great directors

May Contain Spoilers

Awards season again. Last year, as you may recall, a many months pregnant Natalie Portman received the Oscar for Best Actress for "Black Swan." Her lithesome acceptance speech, without notes, thanked many colleagues she knew had helped her stand there. As both a lifelong moviegoer and a worker on films, my spirit lifted at these words: "There are people on films that no one ever talks about, that are your heart and soul every day, including Joe Reidy, our incredible A.D..." Along with so many others, I was thrilled by her sentiment -- and especially pleased for Joe Reidy.

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#82 September 28, 2011

Marie writes: Summer is now officially over. The berries have been picked, the jam has been made, lawn-chairs put away for another year. In return, nature consoles us with the best show on Earth; the changing of the leaves!  I found these at one of my favorites sites and where you can see additional ones and more...

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Detour: There's an arty road ahead

You may have seen this Art Warning from the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT. It's been flying around on Twitter and Facebook the past few days (I RTed it from Christopher Misch at Next Projection) and people have had all sorts of reactions, from "How sad that this is necessary," to "How hilarious that this is necessary," to "Is this necessary?"

Austin Dale of indieWIRE interviewed the Avon's programmer, Adam Birnbaum, who said:

There was a small but vocal minority of patrons who walked out of the film, but there were a few individuals who were fairly nasty and belligerent towards the management staff, demanding their money back. There have been a significant number of people who were fascinated by the film and there were plenty of individuals who have written to us to tell us that they thought the film was a masterpiece.

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V for Vendetta: Guy Fawkes in Egypt

May Contain Spoilers

During the revolution Egyptians referenced "V for Vendetta" more frequently than any other work of art. Protestors held up signs that read "Remember, remember the 25 of January." On the internet, Photoshop was used to alter Pharaoh Tout Ankh Amoun's face into a Fawkes smile.

Sarah Abdel Rahman, an activist who ended up on TIME magazine's cover page during the revolution referred to scenes from the film when I discussed the revolution with her. Guy Fawkes' bumper stickers are stuck on the back windows of dozens of cars driving through Cairo traffic; his mask painted red, white and black resembling the Egyptian flag. The list goes on and on, there's no doubt about it, in 2011 "V for Vendetta" stirred up as much conversations in Egypt as when it first spread controversy the day it was released here.

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"Thor" is not a Meet Cute for the gods.

I didn't attend the April 30 critics' screening for "Thor" because it was at the same time Ebertfest was showing "A Small Act," about an 88-year-old woman named Hilde Back. She'd flown from Sweden, and I wanted be onstage to present her with the Golden Thumb. Missing "Thor 3D" was not an inconsolable loss, because Richard Roeper covered it for the paper and I was able to see it in Chicago in nice, bright 2D. The house was surprisingly well-populated for a 8:50 p.m. screening on a Monday, suggesting that some people, at least, will make an effort to avoid 3D.

"Thor" is failure as a movie, but a success as marketing, an illustration of the ancient carnival tactic of telling the rubes anything to get them into the tent.

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#58 April 13, 2011

Marie writes: Yarn Bombing. Yarn Storming. Guerilla Knitting. It has many names and all describe a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk. And while yarn installations may last for years, they are considered non-permanent, and unlike graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary. Yarn storming began in the U.S., but it has since spread worldwide. Note: special thanks go to Siri Arnet for telling me about this cool urban movement.

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Three minor notions: 2. Perfection in "Black Swan"


I enjoyed Darren Aronovsky's "Black Swan" as a kind of lurid 1970s drive-in exploitation horror movie (more "Carrie" than "The Red Shoes" or "Repulsion") that wears its multifarious influences on its head like a tinfoil rhinestone tiara. (In fact, as I've said before, I found the Oscar-winning performance by Natalie Portman to be its weakest feature, though I ambivalently concede that, in the long run, it probably works in the film's favor: she's so exasperatingly one-note that when, at last, she becomes the Black Swan it's not only a catharsis but a relief.)

But what, do you think, is the key to Nina's late-blooming transformation? After all those missed opportunities to let loose, to grow up, what finally tips her over the edge? The drugs, the sex, the mom, the ballet director, the rivalry, the Dying Swan (Winona Ryder)? I haven't seen much discussion of that. Maybe it's obvious, but the answer, I think, is when her partner (and off-screen baby daddy, Benjamin Millepied) drops her on her patoot. And not just because it gives her a much-needed bump on the noggin at the same time -- though that, psychologically speaking, no doubt helps, too. What she finds, perhaps, is something like what the Japanese call "wabi-sabi," the understanding that "nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

All through the picture, Nina is obsessed with achieving "perfection." In the end, she believes she's found it, albeit with a shard of mirror glass puncturing the illusion of seamlessness. But, of course, the flaw -- the risk, even the failure -- is what finally lifts her performance beyond the calculated sterility of "perfection" and makes it... perfect.

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