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Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.

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Magic in the Moonlight

While Allen’s new picture, "Magic In The Moonlight," isn’t even close to being a disaster (for that, see, well, "Scoop"), I don’t think it’s unreasonable…

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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.

"The Artist" and "Hugo": A very French Oscars

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It was like an episode from "The Twilight Zone." The Academy Award for best picture went to a silent film in black and white. The unstoppable "The Artist," which had nothing going for it but boundless joy, defeated big-budgeted competitors loaded with expensive stars because … well, because it was so darned much fun. Its victory will send Hollywood back to its think-tanks.

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Scorsese and music as storytelling: Shine a Light

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Watching Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert movie "Shine a Light" (2008) for the first time the other night, it struck me that Scorsese has always been extremely good at shooting and cutting musical sequences not only as if they were action set-pieces, but as narratives. Whether it's the big-band saxes and brass blowing the camera across the ballroom like a balloon in "New York, New York," or Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire" feeding the coke-fueled paranoia of Henry Hill in "Goodfellas," or the opening beats of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" (cut, cut-cut) launching us into Charlie's troubled psyche at the start of "Mean Streets," Scorsese uses the instruments of cinema the way a musician would.

Music videos are typically cut to the rhythm (which quickly becomes tedious) and are designed to tease the viewer/listener with frustratingly brief glimpses of tantalizing images. Space and time are deliberately fractured. This has the effect of keeping the viewer hooked, always looking for that next feel-good visual fillip. In contrast, watch (and listen to) what Scorsese does in "Shine a Light." He'll pick a moment -- the strum of a guitar or a glance from one of the players -- as punctuation, to get from one shot to the next. (Also, the sound is mixed like a movie: Whoever's on the screen is usually brought forward in the mix for the duration of the shot.)

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#59 April 20, 2011

Marie writes: Ever since he was a boy, photographer John Hallmén has been fascinated by insects. And he's become well-known for photographing the creatures he finds in the Nackareservatet nature reserve not far from his home in Stockholm, Sweden. Hallmén uses various methods to capture his subjects and the results are remarkable. Bugs can be creepy, to be sure, but they can also be astonishingly beautiful...

Blue Damsel Fly [click to enlarge photos]

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The AFI Class of '92

May Contain Spoilers

Call it a bloodbath. Not literally, of course, but it sure felt like one.

It was a Friday afternoon in late spring 1993 at The American Film Institute. The Class of 1992, which had pretty much killed itself making short films ("cycle projects") since starting the program in September, was waiting for a list. Dreading it, too. Because everybody'd known all year that of 168 "Fellows," as AFI calls them --- only 40 (or just 8 across 5 disciplines - directing, producing, cinematography, editing, production design) would be invited back, making that coveted Second Year cut for the opportunity to produce a second year film.

A top secret selection committee debated late into the day. Even I, then Special Projects Coordinator and right hand to the Dean of Studies, didn't know who was meeting. There was tension everywhere, clinging like the humidity of a Midwestern summer, as the committee decided, and the Fellows waited.

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Shhhhhhhhutter up, critics!

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I enjoyed Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" as a kind of retro-Universal Pictures "old dark house" horror movie re-imagined by Hitchcock in the 1950s Technicolor textures of "Dial M for Murder," "Rear Window" and "Vertigo." As Scorsese himself described a similar project in 2007's "The Key to Reserva," it's...

"like my own Hitchcock film. But it has to be the way he would have made the picture then, only making it now. But the way he would have made it then. If he was alive now, making this now, he would make it now as if he made it back then."

When you see the back-projection [or chroma key] on the boat going to Shutter Island in the first scene of the movie, you'll probably get the idea (even if you don't consciously notice that it's back-projection). The effect isn't as obvious -- shaky or grainy -- as in '50s Hitchcock, but it has that same air of hyper-unreality that suits the material just fine. If, however, you don't pick up on what Scorsese's doing by the end of the first scene, the pounding, churning, blaring über-Herrmann-esque score as the main characters approach the creepy insane asylum/prison/fortress (actually the "Passacaglia" Krzysztof Penderecki's Third Symphony) ought to darn well clue you in.

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Kill Bill -- not Jim

I'll be in the hospital most of Friday for my AV node ablation (see my latest film -- a little thing I like to call "Biventricular Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator" -- at right), but should be out this evening, when I will make an effort to approve comments. So, please, keep 'em coming in.

Meanwhile, although it might not have been the natural choice on the eve of a surgical heart procedure, I watched "Kill Bill Volume 1" last night, an experience I found thrilling (Tarantino and Robert Richardson know how to create images), though not at all involving. But that's the kind of movies Tarantino makes. They are abstract art, not strong stories, not emotional experiences. I thought of Hitchcock, who said his films are not slices of life but slices of cake. Tarantino makes candy necklaces, tasty chunks strung together -- little climaxes without much overall dramatic shape. Sometimes it's a little like ADD De Palma (love that split-screen sequence in the hospital), but Tarantino does not waste a single shot. Every single image has a place, a reason to exist in that particular context (see Dogme 09.8 #1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10), and it's so satisfying in contrast to the random mish-mash action editing of... well, you know the movies I'm talking about. Tarantino's eye makes me delirious with movie love.

Best of all, in Volume 1 there's not much stilted, wordy dialog to distract from the excellence and exuberance of the filmmaking. I'd like to see Tarantino do a silent film someday -- only music on the soundtrack. His music selections, as always, are dynamite, though sometimes too short and inconsequential (see Dogme 09.8 #6 about "segues using snippets of pop tunes that fade out just as they're getting started"). I'd like to see him really stretch out and develop more whole sequences around a piece of music instead of just a tiny piece of a piece of music. (Only reservation: the music during the first part of the fight in the snow between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu was too slight and slick to fit the gravity of what should have been the climactic confrontation of Volume 1.)

More on Volume 1, Volume 2, "Inglourious Basterds" and other topics of interest after my ablation. (Sing along with the Ramones: "I wanna be ablated!")

JE: Back from hospital, in recuperation mode. I'm feeling much better... Not dead yet!

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Who will take home Oscar?

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Last year was the Year of the Hobbit at the Academy Awards. This year the academy will move away from the land of blockbusters and honor a film whose budget was less than the cost of the opening week's ads for just one-third of the "Rings" trilogy. Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," which seemed to appear out of nowhere in mid-December, which had no pre-release publicity, which played no festivals and was screened for no focus groups, will win the Oscar as best picture.

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'Aviator' leads Oscar nominations

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"The Aviator" leads with 11 nominations. Jamie Foxx was nominated in two categories. A little film named "Sideways" won five nominations, but one of them was not for its star, Paul Giamatti. "Finding Neverland" was the dark horse, in a tie with "Million Dollar Baby" with seven nominations apiece.

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Brand new film heavies

TORONTO You hurry between theaters, barely enough time between curtains, and one gift after another comes from the screen. Your only regret is that for every good film you see, the people next to you are describing three you missed. This is the payoff after a slow summer at the movies, when it sometimes seemed directors were no longer swinging for the fences, but just happy to get on base.

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Sundance reflects unique world view

PARK CITY, Utah--Europeans tend to view Americans as perpetual teenagers, and maybe they have a point. If you were to judge the world on the basis of the movies at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the typical American is a troubled teenager and the typical European or Japanese is an adult confronting basic questions of life.

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Oscar and "Roger & Me"

Angered by the omission of "Roger & Me" from the list of nominees for this year's Academy Awards, leading documentary filmmakers are circulating a letter of protest to the Motion Picture Academy, calling for revision of the selection process, and a write-in vote for the film. At the same time, a controversy is developing over the role of one of the members of the Academy's documentary selection committee - whose own company holds the distribution rights to three of this year's five nominees.

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Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone said he was standing in a post office in Bali, talking on the pay phone. He'd gotten up early so he didn't have to stand in a long line for the phone.

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