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The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam's first science fiction film since "12 Monkeys" is an inventively designed but oddly inert satire on technology, God and the future of humankind.

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Tusk

It's not surprising that Smith's characterizations and dialogue lack subtlety given the type of broad comedy that Smith has practically made his brand. But somehow,…

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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.

Corn goes in one end and profit comes out the other

At home, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) has a business line and a personal line. You should know that because the FBI does, and so do his bosses at Archer Daniels Midland ("Supermarket To The World"™). Mark is pretty good at compartmentalizing his life, but the lines are about to get crossed a little bit.

Mark lives with his wife and kids in Decatur, IL, but he's been all over the world with ADM and he's proud of what they do, especially with corn. They make all kinds of stuff out of plain old corn, from high fructose corn syrup to lysine to ethanol -- all of which, you might say, are fuel additives, designed to juice up production of... whatever.

Celebrating ADM's miraculous line of alchemical products, Mark excitedly notes: "Corn goes in one end and profit comes out the other!" Vivid image, that. Kind of suggests Mark's chronic logorrhoea, the stream of partially digested thoughts that swirls around inside his head and occasionally gushes from his mouth. When he gets going his internal monologue (in voiceover) actually talks right over his lips and his tongue. He doesn't interrupt himself; his mouth and his brain just keep spilling over each other. I wouldn't be surprised if Damon's Mark Whitacre had a cousin named Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo.

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Hecklers as critics, critics as hecklers and comics as critics

Psychologists say that depression is rage turned inward. Stand-up comedy, on the other hand, is rage turned back outward again. (I believe George Carlin had a routine about the use of violent metaphors directed at the audience in comedy: "Knock 'em dead!" "I killed!") In the documentary "Heckler" (now on Showtime and DVD) comedian Jamie Kennedy, as himself, plays both roles with ferocious intensity. The movie is his revenge fantasy against anyone who has ever heckled him on stage, or written a negative review... or, perhaps, slighted him in on the playground or at a party or over the phone or online.

"Heckler" (I accidentally called it "Harangue" just now) is an 80-minute howl of fury and anguish in which Kennedy and a host of other well-known and not-well-known showbiz people tell oft-told tales of triumphant comebacks and humiliating disasters, freely venting their spleens at those who have spoken unkindly of them. At first the bile is aimed at hecklers in club audiences (with some particularly nasty invective for loudmouthed drunken women), then it shifts to "critics" -- broadly defined as anybody who says something negative about a figure whose work appears before a paying public. Some of the critics are actually interested in analysis; some are just insult comics who are using the Internet as their open mic. It gets pretty ugly, but it's fascinating -- because the comics, the critics and the hecklers are so much alike that it's no wonder each finds the others so infuriating.

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