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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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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.

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Troll the NSA; clashes continue in Turkey; the "familiar profile" of the Santa Monica killer; wash your hands!; actresses in Hollywood are having a worse/better time of it; Lego faces getting angrier; great tracking shots.

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The 2013 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (by way of Oklahoma)

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Seasonal anticipation: as 2013 debuted, many were feeling it. The 28th iteration of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, aka "SBIFF," was on the wind, with jazzed moviegoers soon to converge elbow-to-elbow in a familiar, even familial, and happy bustle on downtown's State Street.

I was among the excited, as this would be my third year covering the festival. And for me, extra sweetening would be provided by the tribute to Daniel Day-Lewis, the oft-reticent acting genius whose reanimation of Abraham Lincoln seemed certain to bring another Best Actor Academy Award -- his 3rd, making him the only actor to surpass Marlon Brando, who received 2.

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The Oscars: Captain Kirk was right

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(AP photo)

Listen -- a billion people are throwing up. That's a rough estimate of course, but every year somebody at the Oscars says a billion people on the planet are watching the program; however many watched this year's Oscar show, they may well have felt sickened by it. It was a stomach-churning, jaw-dropping debacle, incompetently hosted and witlessly produced.

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Lincoln: "It's true because it works"

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At the heart of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is a quiet scene between President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) and two young men, Samuel Beckwith (Adam Driver) and David Homer Bates (Drew Sease), in an otherwise empty telegraph cipher office. Lincoln has to make a crucial decision: Does he consider a peace proposal from a Confederate delegation on its way to Washington, and thus perhaps immediately end the bloody Civil War that has claimed the lives of more than half a million Americans, knowing that it would doom his attempt to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, officially banning slavery in the United States? Or does he try to legally solidify and extend his Emancipation Proclamation by getting the Thirteenth Amendment passed during a narrow window of opportunity (during the lame duck session of Congress between his re-election and second inauguration) at the cost of extending the war?

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A Lincoln who creaks with every step

Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" (2102) is exactly what we would expect it to be. It is reverent. It is of such epic scope, with such microscopic attention to detail, that it competes with any period piece in the history of cinema. Daniel Day-Lewis disappears into Abraham Lincoln. So many supporting players ornament this film that a familiar face appears on screen every few minutes, adding depth, personality, and charm. Tony Kushner's script is complex, pious, and at times mesmerizing. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography, mixed with Rick Carter's production design, provides a portrait in every frame.

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#137 October 10, 2012

Marie writes: I may have been born in Canada, but I grew-up watching Sesame Street and Big Bird, too. Together, they encouraged me to learn new things; and why now I can partly explain string theory.That being the case, I was extremely displeased to hear that were it up Romney, as President he wouldn't continue to support PBS. And because I'm not American and can't vote in their elections, I did the only thing I could: I immediately reached for Photoshop....

(Click image to enlarge.)

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#134 September 19, 2012

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn came upon the following recipe and wisely showed it to me, so that I might share it in turn with all of you. Behold the morning chocolate cookie - a healthy breakfast treat loaded with good stuff; like fiber and imported French chocolate.

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#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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# 73 July 27, 2011

"I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music."  - Alex Steinweiss

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On "The Rack" with Paul Newman and Stewart Stern

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• "The Rack" (1956) • "Until They Sail" (1957) • "The Prize" (1963) • "Tales of Tomorrow: Ice From Space" (1953)"The Rack," "Until They Sail" and "The Prize" are now available on made-to-order DVD from the Warner Archive Collection for $19.95 each. "Tales of Tomorrow" can be viewed on Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.

by Jeff Shannon You would think that every film Paul Newman ever appeared in would be readily available on home video, right? Guess again. One of the best films from Newman's early career has managed to slip through the cracks of home-video distribution for decades, and unless you're old enough to have seen it in theaters or on TV over the years, it's possible you've never even heard of it. So when I heard that "The Rack" (1956) was available on home video for the very first time, I couldn't wait to break the news to Stewart Stern.

For anyone who's wondering "Stewart who?" there's a convenient shortcut you can use when discussing the impressive life and career of Stewart Stern. All you have to say is, "He wrote 'Rebel Without a Cause.'" Uh-huh, that one. With a credit like that, any screenwriter could legitimately claim a slice of movie immortality, like James Dean did as the now-iconic star of Nicholas Ray's 1955 teen-angst classic. But to say that Stern only wrote "Rebel" is a bit like saying Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house. In the course of his distinguished, decades-spanning career, Stern wrote rich, psychologically perceptive scripts that were magnets for great actors and great acting: His script for "The Ugly American" (1963) gave Brando plenty to chew on; his Oscar-nominated script for "Rachel, Rachel" (1968) gave Joanne Woodward what is arguably the best role of her career (under the direction of her husband, Paul Newman; they also earned Oscar nods); and Stern's Emmy and Peabody-winning teleplay for "Sybil" (1976) transformed cute TV actress Sally Field into an Emmy winner with a pair of Oscars in her future. A few years later, Stern left Hollywood, weary of the rat race and struggling with writer's block, the delayed effect of post-traumatic stress from service in World War II. In the mid-'80s, Stern relocated to Seattle and never looked back. And while Stern may have been a nephew of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor, with additional family ties to MGM moguls Arthur Loew Sr. and Jr., his closest Hollywood connection was more personal and more warmly indicative of the man's soul and spirit: For 55 years, Stewart Stern was one of Paul Newman's very best friends.

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Bill Maher: Dumb jokes for the TV talk show set

"Remember during the campaign when John McCain attacked Obama for acting like a celebrity and we all laughed at the grumpy old shellshocked fool? Well, it turns out he was right. [...] It's getting to where you can't turn on your TV without seeing Obama."

What grumpy old shellshocked fool said that? It was comedian Bill Maher, whose approach to political satire is to talk about televised presidential photo ops as if they were interfering with, or substituting for, policy-making. I mean, the guy admits he thinks what he sees on TV is "news," and then he watches PR puff pieces about presidential puppies and romantic nights out on Broadway and thinks it's Obama who lacks substance? Turn off the boob tube, Bill, and read a newspaper or a web site -- or a blog. If you wanted to learn something about politics (and "topical humor") from TV, you should be watching Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, not Leno. But I warn you, it's going to make you feel as tired and ancient as your schtick. You may as well be telling jokes about airline food and Geritol. (Anybody remember Geritol? That's my point.)

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How not to blow your Oscar speech

Water Music From Big Pink: Gwyneth's Oscar meltdown.

From my handy guide on how to avoid making yourself a laughingstock during your Oscar speech, at MSN Movies:

The main thing to remember when you win your Oscar (and you know you will win your Oscar one day -- admit it, you've even practiced your acceptance speech) is that you are immediately faced with 45 seconds during which you can either display grace under pressure or make a complete ass of yourself.

Contrary to Academy legend, Sally Field did not do the latter when she gave the most parodied and ridiculed acceptance speech in Oscar history in 1985. "I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect," she said. "The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

Now, that last part, which came out a bit squeaky, wasn't as bad as many later made it out to be. It wasn't, after all, "You like me! You really like me!" My theory is that the repetitive phrase was memorized in advance (it sounds a bit canned) and that she simply oversold it in the excitement of the moment. Instead of making it sound more spontaneous, her delivery underscored (genuine though the sentiment might be) that this was, in fact, another performance, which felt kind of embarrassing to watch. And audiences can really resent it if you embarrass them, to the point where they respond defensively with scathing sarcasm and mockery.

Don't let this happen to you. Here's some advice for giving your Oscar speech, when the time comes.

1. Get a Grip Why is it that the only people who really appear to lose control when they accept their statuette are the actors? Why don't the art directors and sound editors sputter and wail as if they'd just been spared from lethal injection? If anything, you'd think the actors would be better able to control their emotions than most people.

And you'd be right. You see, actors dig emotional meltdowns, on screen and off. They do it on purpose. It's almost a form of noblesse oblige -- a generous Acting Gratuity (more than 20 percent), if you will: "I will now treat you to an extraordinary demonstration of how deeply I am moved!" And, at the same time, it's a form of grandiose self-inflation and self-abasement: "I scrape and bow to acknowledge how much YOU have honored ME!"

Of course, Gwyneth Paltrow (Best Actress, "Shakespeare in Love," 1998) just stood there and squeaked like a broken drip-irrigation node, but at least she had the decency to be horrified and humiliated about it later, claiming she'd put her Oscar at the back of a bookcase because it brought back painful memories of her big, pink weep-down.

One of the most divisive Oscar speeches of recent years (some were moved, some were appalled) was the tornado of tears Halle Berry whipped up around herself when she won Best Actress for "Monster's Ball" in 2001. Berry's Interminable Moment-of-Special-Pleading was a gale-force ego storm that threatened to suck up the entire universe. It was like the Big Bang in reverse: "Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I'm sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me," blubbered Berry, trying desperately to make the moment big enough for her.

The Halle Berry Best Actress of the Future: "And the Oscar goes to... Nonameo Whatsherface!"

"This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll," she continued, in a name-dropping paroxysm that cried out, instead, for Lloyd Bentsen. "It's for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened." Yes, because now all nameless, faceless women of color have a much better chance of becoming Best Actress Oscar winners, just like their universal idol, Halle Berry! The odds have suddenly improved from roughly 3,000,000,000:1 to maybe as close as 2,999,999,999:1. Good news for nameless, faceless women of color everywhere!

"Thank you. I'm so honored. I'm so honored," Berry further honored herself. "And I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the vessel for which His blessing might flow." Which brings us to our next piece of advice ...

Full story at MSN Movies.

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The Unwritten Rules of Oscar

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Shhhhhh. Don't tell a soul. Close Oscar-watchers (and Academy insiders) know that what you are about to read is true -- but few like to talk about these things. When it comes to picking Oscar winners, you can study the stats of Oscars past in search of patterns and clues, but there are certain influential paradigms that defy and transcend conventional statistical analysis.

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75 years of Oscar

Oscar turns 75 this year, old enough to write a second volume of its memoirs. The Academy Awards are always called Hollywood's Prom Night, and like all prom nights they inspires a lot of memories and photographs and scrapbooks, and sometimes you go rummaging through them.

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Cannes all winners

The Festival International du Film, held annually in Cannes, France, has become the world's most prestigious film festival—the spot on the beach where the newest films from the world's top directors compete for both publicity and awards.

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Star Power and Small Gems Get Equal Time at Festival

In the autumn march of film festivals, Chicago's comes after Montreal, Telluride and Venice, and is held at about the same time as New York. All of these festivals are essentially fishing in the same pond, so the remarkable thing about the 31st annual Chicago event is how many new or unfamiliar titles have been discovered.

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A Critic's 'Critic' Critique

People have been asking me if I've seen "The Critic," ABC's new animated series. Maybe they think I can identify with the hero, a critic named Jay Sherman who reviews movies on television and has certain points of similarity with Gene Siskel and me: He's bald, and he has a Pulitzer.

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'Daughter' takes liberties with anti-Muslim images

If a society does not allow its women to speak to men other than their husbands, or own property, or vote, or drive cars, or appear in public unless covered in traditional dress from head to toe, or take trips without written permission, or have any rights to their children, and if that society nods approvingly when a husband beats his wife when she disobeys these rules--is that society sexist? Or are we racist to think so?

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Martin Ritt focused on social issues

He was a large, genial, thoughtful man who was not quite your picture of a big-time Hollywood director. For one thing, he wore a jump suit everywhere he went. He had a closet full of them, in different colors and fabrics, and there was even a black-and-white "formal" jump suit that he wore with a bow tie to the Academy Awards. He said he didn't like to waste time every morning deciding what to wear for the rest of the day. He had better things to think about.

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