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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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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.

Serbian porno gang takes show on the road

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"The Life and Death of a Porno Gang" is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Synapse films.

Cinema, that traditionally aristocratic medium, has always found unlikely ways to commiserate with the working man and the poor. In America, King Vidor's "The Crowd" showed us a man trapped on the treadmill of lower middle class survival in the big city. A few years later, Frank Borzage's "Man's Castle" gave us Spencer Tracy as a street hustler who learns that Depression-era struggle is no excuse to turn his back on a chance at family life. It's the same in every country, every era: Societies that place the bulk of their economic burden upon the low man's shoulders often send that man scrambling in the opposite direction of happiness, in the name of happiness. A random spin of the world cinema wheel will turn up great directors whose finest work touches on this phenomenon: Ken Loach, Ousmane Sembene, the Dardenne brothers, Ulrich Seidl, the Italian neorealists, the blacklisted Americans, and so on.

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Start at the top and work your way down

• Introduction to The Great Movies III

You'd be surprised how many people have told me they're working their way through my books of Great Movies one film at a time. That's not to say the books are definitive; I loathe "best of" lists, which are not the best of anything except what someone came up with that day. I look at a list of the "100 greatest horror films," or musicals, or whatever, and I want to ask the maker, "but how do you know?" There are great films in my books, and films that are not so great, but there's no film here I didn't respond strongly to. That's the reassurance I can offer.

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A companion to 'Labyrinth'

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Q. Just read your Great Movie addition of Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," with its discussion of the New Mexican Cinema. Although you didn't mention it, I wanted to point out that Alfonso Cuaron's absolutely superb G-rated film "A Little Princess" from 1995 is a great companion to "Pan's Labyrinth." They are worlds apart in their execution and yet strikingly similar in many ways, as both follow a young girl escaping to fantasy worlds in the face of the harsh reality of war. Both movies stand on their own, but seeing them again recently in the context of knowing more about the collaboration and friendship of the directors has added greatly to my appreciation of each.

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Ebert Strikes Back

View image Ingmar Bergman directs "Saraband."

So much for the alleged lack of intensity in discussing the work of the late Ingmar Bergman. Roger Ebert responds to Jonathan Rosenbaum's critical take on Bergman: I have long known and admired the Chicago Reader’s film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, but his New York Times op-ed attack on Ingmar Bergman (“Scenes from an Overrated Career,” 8/4/07) is a bizarre departure from his usual sanity. It says more about Rosenbaum’s love of stylistic extremes than it does about Bergman and audiences. Who else but Rosenbaum could actually base an attack on the complaint that Bergman had what his favorites Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson lacked, “the power to entertain — which often meant a reluctance to challenge conventional film-going habits?" In what parallel universe is the power to entertain defined in that way? [...]

Rosenbaum writes, “Riddled with wounds inflicted by Mr. Bergman’s strict Lutheran upbringing and diverse spiritual doubts, these films are at times too self-absorbed to say much about the larger world, limiting the relevance that his champions often claim for them.” This statement is perfectly accurate about Dreyer if you substitute his name for Bergman’s, and perfectly accurate about Bresson, if you substitute the names and change “Lutheran” to “Catholic.” Indeed, Bresson has been called the most Catholic of filmmakers. [...]

Finally, Rosenbaum laments how Bergman’s “mainly blond, blue-eyed cast members became a brand to be adopted and emulated.” Hello? Bergman worked in Sweden! Does he forgive Ousmane Sembene’s African exteriors and mainly black-haired, brown-eyed cast members? Or the way Ozu used all those Japanese? FYI: In a series of posts in a thread ("Rosenbaum disses Bergman in the NYT") at a_film_by, Rosenbaum elaborates:

"The article is meant to stir the pot, not close the lid."

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"... I'm perfectly happy to listen to counter-arguments defending the beauty, seriousness, authenticity, and/or importance of Bergman's thoughts and emotions and what they contributed to our own thoughts and feelings. Maybe Bergman DID have something to teach us all about the Death of God. But will somebody please explain to me what this is? I'm waiting for someone to engage seriously with such issues--not assume that they're already settled and therefore unworthy of discussion."

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"Not that this excuses anything, but my article went through many drafts, and some of the things I wanted to say necessarily got squeezed out--including more material about his theater work. (A dramaturge friend of mine is scandalized that there's been nothing written in the Times about Bergman's death by any of their drama critics.) For whatever it's worth, I'm something of a fan of one of Bergman's most unpopular and even scorned films, "All These Women" (but, then again, "Rhapsody in August" also happens to be one of my favorite Kurosawa films), and next weekend I'll be introducing and discussing "Sawdust and Tinsel" at a Bergman marathon organized by afb member Gabe Klinger.

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"There are some very important Bergman films that I still haven't seen; I'm looking forward to seeing 'Fanny and Alexander' for the first time next weekend..."

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He also wrote (though I can no longer find the post) that the piece was written at the request of a NYT editor (with whom Rosenbaum happened to agree that the obits were overpraising Bergman), and that he did not choose the headline or the insert quote himself.

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Defending Ingmar Bergman

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I have long known and admired the Chicago Reader’s film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, but his New York Times op-ed attack on Ingmar Bergman (“Scenes from an Overrated Career,” 8/4/07) is a bizarre departure from his usual sanity. It says more about Rosenbaum’s love of stylistic extremes than it does about Bergman and audiences. Who else but Rosenbaum could actually base an attack on the complaint that Bergman had what his favorites Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson lacked, “the power to entertain — which often meant a reluctance to challenge conventional film-going habits?" In what parallel universe is the power to entertain defined in that way?

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The Return of the Movie Answer Man

Roger Ebert has published first Answer Man column in a year. Topics include: Ousmane Sembene, Scrooge McDuck, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," Phil Spector, Blood-Sucking Monkeys, Cormac McCarthy, "Marie Antoinette," and President Bush's stolen watch. Go ahead. He's got your answers right here.

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A Fan's Notes

I don't usually do this (and have no intention of making a habit of it), but I wanted to share a couple of appreciations of Roger Ebert, on the occasion of his first public appearance (at his Overlooked Film Festival, aka Ebertfest) since complications from surgery last July. I know Roger doesn't want me to turn this or RogerEbert.com into a big bouquet of flowers for him -- but let's just take a moment to celebrate his return to public life (and more reviewing!). Over the last ten months or so, many have written, in public and private, about what Roger and his writing have meant to them, and two recent notes struck me as especially eloquent.

The first is from Ted Pigeon, whose blog The Cinematic Art is a favorite of mine. (Check out his piece about critics and blockbusters, too.) Ted begins by observing: Like so many young film lovers, I first discovered my love of film criticism through Roger's engaging and intelligent movie reviews. His work showed me that film criticism is important, that it can be the source of great feeling and knowledge of cinema, and that criticism is essential to the advancement of cinema as an art form. It is a necesary companion to the experience of watching films for those who care deeply about films.The other piece was e-mailed to me by Peter Noble-Kuchera of Bloomington, Indiana, who recently attended Ebertfest. With Peter's permission, I'm publishing his entire article after the jump. This paragraph really resonated with me:To know Ebert by his TV show is not to know him at all. You have to read him. He was the first film critic to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and one of only three ever to have been so acknowledged. He is the only American critic to review virtually every film in major release. His essays, while without the crabby flashiness of Pauline Kael’s, are marked by the groundedness of a Midwesterner, exacting writing, deep insights, and more than that, deep compassion. More than any critic, Ebert seems to understand that the movies are made by people who, with all their flaws, were trying to make a good film. He is a tireless champion of small movies of worth, and no critic has done more to leverage his influence in order to bring those films to the attention of America.As I've said many times before, it wasn't until I started reading (hundreds, thousands) of Roger's reviews when I was the editor of the Microsoft Cinemania CD-ROM movie encyclopedia in the mid-1990s that I came to appreciate what terrific critic and writer the man really is. I feel more strongly than ever about that after three and a half years as the founding editor of RogerEbert.com. He's so very much more than the sum of this thumbs.

The rest of Peter's report (lightly edited) below...

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Moore takes top award for 'Fahrenheit 9/11'

CANNES, France -- Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a documentary denouncing the presidency of George W. Bush, won the Palme d'Or here Saturday night as the best film in the Cannes Film Festival. It was the first documentary to take the Palme since 1956, and was a popular winner; at its official screening it received what the festival director said was the longest ovation in Cannes history.

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Several of strongest offerings play outside film festival mainstream

CANNES, France -- The 57th Cannes Film Festival heads into its closing weekend with no clear favorite for the Palme d'Or, and with critics generally agreeing there have been good films but no sensation that has pulled ahead of the pack. The most rapturous reception was for Michael Moore's Bush-whacking documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," but the applause was as much for its politics as its filmmaking.

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A sense of urgency -- and edginess

CANNES, France -- There are two species of journalists at Cannes, described by the festival as critics or chroniclers. The critics review the films. The chroniclers write the gossip, review the fashions, attend the press conferences and pray for scandal. One year, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren (remember them?) got in a pushing match on the steps of the Palais, and the chroniclers dined out for a week. The critics, however, savor moments of quieter savagery, as when Dogma founder Lars von Trier didn't win the top prize from a jury headed by Roman Polanski, and accepted his lesser award ''with no thanks to the midget.''

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