A Letter to Momo
Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…
* 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.
On June 21, 2014, “Life Itself” opened the Hamptons Film Festival at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York. RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert and editor-in-chief Matt Zoller Seitz were guests at the event and participated in a post-screening Q&A with Alec Baldwin and Hamptons Film Festival artistic director David Nugent afterward.
PRESS RELEASE: CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Terrence Malick's 1978 film "Days of Heaven" won an Oscar for best cinematography, and Roger Ebert likely found that no surprise. It is "above all one of the most beautiful films ever made," Ebert said in a 1997 review. So it's only appropriate that the film will open the 15th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival on April 17 in the big-screen, newly renovated Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign.
My website is unique for the variety of critical voices it features. At Ebertfest this year, seven Far-Flung Correspondents and five Demanders joined directors, actors and other critics in the panel discussions.
In a back row of the Virginia Theater in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, you will see a raised platform just the right size to hold a reclining chair. This is my throne at Ebertfest. Because of havoc wrought by surgery to my back and right shoulder, I cannot sit comfortably in an ordinary chair. Here I recline at the side of my bride, looking upon the packed houses.
Something nice happened to us while we were preparing the schedule for Ebertfest 2012, which plays April 25-29 at the Virginia Theater (above) in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. We'd invited Patton Oswalt to attend with his "Big Fan. He agreed and went one additional step: "I'd like to personally choose a film to show to the students, and discuss it."
Marie writes: I received the following from intrepid club member Sandy Kahn and my eyes widened at the sight of it. It's not every day you discover a treasure trove of lost Hollywood jewelry!
Grace Kelly is wearing "Joseff of Hollywood"chandelier earrings in the film "High Society" (1965)(click image to enlarge.)
• 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.
May 22 -- The past three days have been a whirlwind of films, panel discussions and French-style dining (meaning 6-hour dinners that start at 8 pm at the earliest). All of this has resulted in minimal sleep or in some extreme cases, no sleep at all. On Wednesday, after a solid week into the festival and with less than a week to go, the atmosphere becomes more restless than usual. People can feel the end approaching and a repressed feeling of panic can emerge.
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? "
My first movie at Cannes will hopefully end up being my worst movie at Cannes. I chose to see "William Vincent," directed by Jay Anaia. James Franco starred and produced, as it was his production company Rabbit Bandini Productions that made the film.
I love James Franco and think he is a great actor. I was interested in finding out the types of films he would make if given more control. Unfortunately, the result was disappointing.
The Australian film director Paul Cox, spoke to a group of students earlier this afternoon. While I 've met Cox a few times before at the annual Ebertfest in Champaign-Urbana, IL, I'd never heard him speak freely to a crowd and was interested in what would be said. Paul enters in casual clothes and walks to the seat in front of the class, unfolds a few pages of yellow papers full of scribbly handwriting and begins speaking in a soft, slow, accented voice.
The title of the speech is "Invent not Imitate," encouraging our generation to break the rules and push the limits. So at first, of course, I'm into it. Slowly, the speech turns from an encouraging nudge towards originality and prioritizing values, to a pretty full blown revolutionary anarchist speech. There is a pessimistic rant about the lack of genuineness and how many artists are "rubbish," specifically at this film festival. Cox rags on any one who even considers the nearby Monaco Grand Prix and car racing relevant or acceptable, and then stomps on organized religion, ex-president Bush, fashion and films like "Pulp Fiction." A student in the crowd asks Paul if there was anything he thought was worth doing, seeing or knowing about and beyond Cox's personal hero, Vincent Van Gogh and some rural Aboriginal tribes with which he'd spent time. It seemed he was not.
Friday, May 15--Today it rains, which changes everything. Yesterday the air was so European with cigarette smoke and hints of ocean musk. Today the air is damp, humid and rainy. A little sad. My first full day at Cannes! This afternoon the American Pavillion named their Conference Center in honor of grandfather. He has done a lot of Q and As and interviews there. There was tons of press, and Martin Scorsese was there to do the dedication. Everyone was excited and full of this nervous anxiety to do their jobs right at all costs. Afterwards in the Green Room, I had the honor of meeting the director of the festival, Thierry Frémaux. I also met some great friends of my grandfather's, the very French Pierre Rissient, who he just wrote about; the Australian director Paul Cox, Uma and Gerson da Cunha from India. These were only a few of the people touched by grandfather's genuine personality and devotion to the art of cinema.
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
It's a good thing Ebertfest is no longer called the Overlooked Film Festival. One of my choices this year, "Frozen River," was in danger of being overlooked when I first invited it, but then it realized the dream of every indie film, found an audience and won two Oscar nominations. Yet even after the Oscar nods, it has grossed only about $2.5 million and has been unseen in theaters by most of the nation.
Those numbers underline the crisis in independent, foreign or documentary films--art films. More than ever, the monolithic U.S. distribution system freezes out films lacking big stars, big ad budgets, ready-made teenage audiences, or exploitable hooks. When an unconventional film like "Slumdog Millionaire" breaks out, it's the exception that proves the rule. While it was splendid, it was not as original or really as moving as the American indie "Chop Shop," made a year earlier. The difference is, the hero of "Chop Shop" wasn't trying to win a million rupees--just to survive.
Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie in Cannes.
Postcard #1 Her new movie struck close to home for Angelina Jolie, visiting Cannes in an advanced stage of pregnancy. "Changeling" is based on the true story of a Los Angeles mother whose son disappears in 1928. Months later a young boy found in DeKalb, Illinois is returned as her son by the LAPD, which needs good press at a time of corruption. Problem is, she insists it's not her son, but the cops pressure her to raise the boy as her own. When she refuses, they have her held against her will. She and Brad Pitt were toasted by her director, Clint Eastwood, at a late-night dinner Tuesday at the beachfront Hotel Martinez, where Jolie said that being a mother "makes the film more personal, because I cannot imagine a mother not being trusted to know her own child."
Nobody ever seemed to know what Dusty Cohl did for a living. He was a lawyer, and it was said he was "in real estate," but in over 30 years I never heard him say one word about business. His full-time occupation was being a friend, and he was one of the best I've ever made.
Some of the best things I've read about Ingmar Bergman's place in cinema, written since his death (UPDATED 8/01/07):
E-mails to Roger Ebert from filmmakers and writers including David Mamet, Paul Schrader, Sally Potter, Haskell Wexler, Paul Theroux, Richard Linklater, Gregory Nava, Studs Terkel, David Bordwell, David Gordon Green, Paul Cox...
Gregory Nava: This was not the escapist fare of Hollywood, or the pat spirituality of Biblical epic films where God spoke in hallowed tones from a burning bush. With Bergman, God was a spider that lived in the upstairs closet! A shocking and necessary jolt to my Catholic sensibilities. Yes, these films changed me forever -- they cemented my dream to become a filmmaker because if film could do this -- then surely it was the greatest art form of our time. I will never forget the first time I saw the horses standing in the surf against a setting sun, and death with his black cape raised approaching the world-weary knight. "I hope I never get so old I get religious." -- Ingmar Bergman
Peter Rainer, Los Angeles Times: He worked out of his deepest passions and, for many of us, this made the experience of watching his films seem almost surgically invasive. He pulled us into his secret torments. Looking at "The Seventh Seal" or "Persona" or "Cries and Whispers," it's easy to imagine that Bergman, who died Monday, was the most private of film artists, and yet, no matter how far removed the circumstances of his life may have been from ours, he made his anguish our own.
Another way to put this is that Bergman -- despite the high-toned metaphysics that overlays many, though not all, of his greatest films -- was a showman first and a Deep Thinker second. His philosophical odysseys might have been epoxied to matters of Life and Death, of God and Man, but this most sophisticated of filmmakers had an inherently childlike core. He wanted to startle us as he himself had been startled. He wanted us to feel his terrors in our bones. A case could be made that Bergman was, in the most voluminous sense, the greatest of all horror movie directors.
"If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up!" -- Bergman actor Max von Sydow, in Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters"
View image Woody Allen's "Love and Death": A Bergman (and Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy...) parody from someone who loved Bergman.
Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com: What he saw as God’s refusal to intervene in the suffering on earth was the subject of his 1961-63 Silence of God Trilogy, “Through a Glass Darkly,” “Winter Light” (a pitiless film in which a clergyman torments himself about the possibility of nuclear annihilation) and “The Silence.” In his masterpiece “Persona,” (1967), an actress (Liv Ullmann) sees a television image of a monk burning himself in Vietnam, and she stops speaking. Sent to a country retreat with a nurse (Bibi Andersson), she works a speechless alchemy on her, leading to a striking image when their two faces seem to blend.
So great was the tension in that film that Bergman made it appear to catch in the projector and burn. Then, from a black screen, the film slowly rebuilt itself, beginning with crude images from the first days of the cinema. These images were suggested by a child’s cinematograph which his brother received as a present; so envious was Ingmar that he traded his brother for it, giving up his precious horde of 100 tin soldiers.
WEB EXCLUSIVE -- UPDATED 8/2/07: Roger Ebert has received these e-mail observations about the death of Ingmar Bergman:
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...
View image David Bordwell (who needs no introduction to readers of Scanners), Michael Barker of Sony Pictures Classics, and Werner Herzog discuss Herzog's "Stroszek."
"Stupidity is the devil. Look in the eye of a chicken and you'll know. It's the most horrifying, cannibalistic, and nightmarish creature in this world." -- Werner Herzog
I could listen to Werner Herzog talk all night. And I have. (See this transcript from Ebertfest 2005, for example.) Watching the marvelous "Stroszek" (I think of it as Herzog's Fassbinder movie), with Werner, as everyone calls him, seated in the audience two rows behind me, the famous dancing chicken at the end reminded of the quote above. ("Stroszek" has one of the great final lines in movies: "We have a 10-80 out here, a truck on fire, we have a man on the lift. We are unable to find the switch to turn the lift off and we can't stop the dancing chicken. Send an electrician. We're standing by..." Those of us who are not waiting for Godot are indeed waiting for the electrician, or someone like him...)
View image The vibe you get from this picture perfectly captures what Ebertfest feels like. Here, David Bordwell shows off his midnight-hour chocolate-banana shake at the Steak 'n Shake (yes, there's only one apostrophe in that). Somehow, when he began drinking it, he got the banana and the chocolate to stay separate on either side of the plastic straw, too. These are the things that make life worth living. (You see, the chocolate represents the movies and the banana represents the people and Roger is the glass and Chaz is the whipped cream and cherry on top and...)
Later I asked Herzog if he had changed his mind about chickens, dancing or otherwise. "I only like eating them," he said. In response, I naturally quoted a great exchange from "Chinatown":
Noah Cross (John Huston), peering at a fish on J.J. Gittes's plate: I hope you don't mind. I believe they should be served with the head.
J..J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson): As long as you don't serve the chicken that way.
View image Writer Anna Thomas ("El Norte") interviews Prof. Samba Gadjigo (director of "The Making of Moolade"), actress Fatoumata Coulibaly, and actress/activist Marcia McBroom-Small ("Beyond the Valley of the Dolls") for "Moolade."
I also asked Herzog if he'd seen Michael Winterbottom's fantastic bio-comedy about the Manchester music scene, "24 Hour Party People" (perhaps second only to "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" among my favorite films of the new millennium -- and the one I've enjoyed re-watching the most), in which the lead singer of Joy Division commits suicide with the last scene of "Stroszek" playing on television in the background. Herzog said he'd heard about it, but hadn't seen the movie. Well, he has something to look forward to.
View image Filmmaker Eric Byler ("charlotte sometimes") and actor Scott Wilson ("Come Early Morning") -- both Eberfest vets.
If you'd like to listen to part of the discussion between Herzog, David Bordwell and Michael Barker (a low-fi MP3 recording made on my Treo 680 -- have I mentioned how much I love my Treo 680, the life-changing "TiVo" of handheld gadgets?), click here.
It was remarkable to see how the Angry Young Herzog I remember from the '70s and '80s (in Seattle and especially Telluride) has evolved into such a congenial elder statesman. As his friend Paul Cox (who cast Herzog to play the father in "Man of Flowers," a film he described as being about "male loneliness") lamented technology (Cox is irrationally terrified of computers and cell phones), and proclaimed the imminent end of mankind's time on Earth, Herzog was more genial and philosophical. Yes, he said, it may be our turn to become extinct, like many species before us, but that's no reason to be "gloomy" in the time we have left: "Let's keep making films and treasuring friendships and drinking beers."
(When Cox, who spoke of women almost as if they were another species -- claiming they were "closer to the soil" in a way that made them sound almost bovine -- said that he couldn't think of any films about "female loneliness," Kristin Thompson came up with three masterpieces off the top of her head: Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors: Blue," Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman," and Carl Theodor Dreyer's "Gertrud.")
OK, now a few more pictures from Ebertfest 2007, after the jump...
Director and longtime Ebert favorite Werner Herzog ("Stroszek") visits with Roger before the noon Sunday screening of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
An experience like Ebertfest 2007 is beyond my capacity to convey in words -- and I'm not just talking about the movies. At one point I asked Roger if he was having as much fun as I was. He wrote on his pad: "The time of my life!" Sitting in his recliner in the back row of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL, (his customary spot -- but this time with cushier accommodations and more legroom) he sure looked like he was having a blast. The rest of us had a fine time, too, as I hope you will see from these photos I took...
View image Roger Ebert listens to Chaz's introduction at the opening night reception.
View image Chaz Ebert introduces her husband to the opening night crowd from the stage of the Virginia Theatre.
View image Roger with "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" star Marcia McBroom-Small (Petronella, aka "Pet").
View image The crowd is in the house and all is quiet outside, just before "La Dolce Vita" hit the screen Friday night.
View image Werner und Ich. (photo by Eric Byler -- with my camera)
Roger and Chaz Ebert on opening night. Roger gets his own La-Z-Boy recliner in the back of the Virginia for the duration of the fest! (Thompson-McLellan photo)
Three cheers for Roger Ebert, for the 9th Overlooked Film Festival (aka Ebertfest, now in progress) and for technology! I wrote and filed the following story for Thursday's Sun-Times, sitting on the stairs to the balcony in the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL, Wednesday night -- between 7:30 and 8:30. Had my PowerBook G4, which I typed on. Then transferred the story (via synch) to my Treo 680, and wirelessly e-mailed it to the paper in Chicago. More about Ebertfest soon -- I'm kind of in the middle of things, and I'm waiting to borrow a cable or card reader to retrieve my own photos; for some reason mine can't read the XD card....
"It's my happening and it freaks me out!" said Chaz Ebert on behalf of her husband, Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, on stage at opening night of the ninth Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign-Urbana. The line (memorably quoted by Mike Myers in the first "Austin Powers" movie) is from the Ebert-penned screenplay for Russ Meyer's 1970 cult classic "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," which is among the titles in this year's festival.
It was Ebert's first public appearance since he suffered complications from surgery last June, and it brought down the full house at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. As he announced in a message featured in the Sun-Times and on his web site (rogerebert.com) Tuesday, Ebert is not able to speak now, pending further surgery, so Chaz had to do the talking for him. As Ebert wrote on a pad before the screening, "After we go onstage, Chaz will read one line from me that will say it ALL."
View image Jim Emerson, Boy Reporter, at Roger's first public appearance -- a reception at the house of U of Illinois President Joseph White (and his wife Mary and dog Webster) Wednesday night. Roger's head is in the lower left; Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribute is also comfortably seated on the floor at the right. (Thompson-McLellan photo)
Chaz recounted how the festival was nearly cancelled late last year, when Ebert was in the hospital and the pace of his recovery was uncertain. But Festival Director Nate Kohn visited Ebert in his Chicago hospital room with a message from Mary Susan Britt, the festival's Associate Director: "The festival passes sold out in a little over a week in November. You have to get out of that hospital bed and come down to Champaign-Urbana."
"At that moment," Chaz said, "Roger made a commitment. If it was at all possible, he would be here tonight.... This is where he wanted to be, this is where he is, this is where he's staying," she said, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Through his wife, Ebert reminded the audience of the personal importance of Champaign's Virginia Theatre, the restored movie palace in which the Ebertfest films are screened. "I saw 'Gone With the Wind' here, and my father saw the Marx Brothers on this very stage."
Scanners blog coverage
Supergroup: The Carrie Nations jam with the Strawberry Alarm Clock in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." The latter band will also perform at Ebertfest '07, after a screening of the film.
Set your Strawberry Alarm Clocks: The annual spring ritual of Roger Ebert's Film Festival in Urbana-Champaign (now in its ninth year) runs April 24 -29, 2007, at the gorgeous old Virginia Theatre. The name of the fest has always been rather flexible: "Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival," "The Overlooked" (sounding like something from "The Shining"), "Ebertfest"... Next year, the event will been officially re-named: Ebertfest -- the Roger Ebert Film Festival.
The tradition of appreciating "overlooked" films (by any criteria Ebert chooses to apply) continues, however. The festival will climax with a closing-day screening of Russ Meyer's "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" (screenplay by Ebert himself) and a live performance by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the psychedelic rock band featured in the film (and in Jack Nicholson's 1968 "Psych-Out," as well).
Roger Ebert will be there, introducing the festival and watching the films with the audience, but because he's still recuperating from surgery, will rely on an "expert group of colleagues" to conduct the on-stage interviews this year.
Other guests of the fest will include Werner Herzog (appearing with "Stroszek," Paul Cox (director of "Man of Flowers"), actress Fatoumata Coulibaly ("Moolaade"), writer-director Joey Lauren Adams and festival favorite, actor Scott Wilson ("Come Early Morning"), director Andrew Davis ("Holes"), film scholars David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson and Samba Gadjido, musician Jim White, producer/distributor Michael Barker (Sony Classics), and plenty more.
The 13 films featured in this year's Ebertfest are listed below, with titles linking to Ebert's original reviews of the films, where applicable. Other blurbs come from the festival's official web site, where the complete schedule and details can be found: www.ebertfest.com.
Continue reading at RogerEbert.com
April 25 - 29