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Nightcrawler

A perfect engine of corrosive satire, this drama follows the adventures of an amoral cameraman to its logical and unsettling end.

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Horns

There are some clever ideas in the script from Keith Bunin, based on the novel by Joe Hill, but they get mixed up in some…

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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.

#143 November 21, 2012

Marie writes: When I first learned of "Royal de Luxe" I let out a squeal of pure delight and immediately began building giant puppets inside my head, trying to imagine how it would look to see a whale or dragon moving down the street..."Based in Nantes, France, the street theatre company Royal de Luxe performs around the world, primarily using gigantic, elaborate marionettes to tell stories that take place over several days and wind through entire cities. Puppeteers maneuver the huge marionettes - some as tall as 12 meters (40 ft) - through streets, parks, and waterways, performing their story along the way." - the Atlantic

(Click images to enlarge.)

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#124 July 18, 2012

Marie writes: Intrepid club member Sandy Kahn has found another auction, and this time it's all about Hollywood! Note: the spaceship on the cover is a screen used miniature from "Aliens" (1986). Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000

Go here to download a free copy of the catalog in .PDF

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The rise and decline of the superhero

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Published with Press Play on Indiewire

With the unparalleled box office success of The Avengers, superheroes are back in the spotlight. Most comic book aficionados are delighted with the recognition. But believe it or not, there are those such as myself who are dismayed at how superhero films, though more popular than ever, seem to be losing their luster.

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A Simple Plan

May Contain Spoilers

Sometimes ordinary people becoming evil are more frightening than Dr. Hannibal Lector or Frank Booth. Villains like them are downright scary, but they are basically outsiders with a monstrous nature beyond our common sense. In contrast, the characters in Sam Raimi's crime thriller "A Simple Plan" (1998) are nice, ordinary people we can identify with, at least in the beginning. We can recognize their human wishes, desires, and motives. We can understand why they are driven into the plot while it's getting bloodier and more complicated. As a result, it is frightening to observe them doing horrible things, and one question immediately pops up in our minds - what would I do if I were in their circumstance?

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The most taxing people in movies

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For tax day, the editors at MSN Movies came up with an idea for contributors to write short essays about the most, ahem, "taxing" people in modern movies. Each of us picked a person whose presence, behind or in front of the camera, we find wearisome and debilitating -- as in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of taxing: "onerous, wearing."

You've probably already guessed my choice. I've written quite a bit about why I find Christopher Nolan's post-"Memento" work lackluster, but this exercise gave me an opportunity to condense my reservations about his writing and directing into one relatively concise piece:

Let me say up front that I don't think Nolan is a bad or thoroughly incompetent director, just a successfully pedestrian one. His Comic-Con fan base makes extravagant claims for each new film -- particularly since Nolan began producing his graphic-novel blockbusters with "Batman Begins" in 2005 -- but the movies are hobbled by thesis-statement screenplays that strain for significance and an ungainly directing style that seems incapable of, and uninterested in, illustrating more than one thing at a time: "Look at this. Now look at this. Now look at this. Now here's some dialogue to explain the movie's fictional rules. Now a character will tell you what he represents and what his goals are." And so on ... You won't experience the thrill of discovery while looking around in a Nolan frame. You'll see the one thing he wants you to see, but everything around it is dead space. [...]

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There will be blood

May Contain Spoilers

Revenge is served raw and simple in "Bedevilled"(2010). The movie delivers exactly what it promises to us, but that is not for free. There are barbarous scenes that make you wince, and then there are bloody scenes that make you cringe, but this South Korean revenge thriller has gallons of emotions to spurt on the screen in its sad, wretched character. It carefully prepares its ground while seemingly following the typical formula of revenge movies featuring abused heroines. It continuously accumulates explosives beneath its surface as the plot progresses. And then, when the time comes, it explodes its anger magnificently like a harrowing bloody aria.

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Dafoe admires Lars, but "his impulses are often perverse."

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Has there been a more harrowing and courageous performance this year? Willem Dafoe plays a wholly evil man occupying a wholly evil world in Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist," a new film that challenges its viewers so boldly that some have fled from the theater. Von Trier's films often stir up heated discussion, but never has he made a film quite this formidable.

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Opening Shots: Spider-Man 2

From Kris Pigna:

"Spider-Man 2" begins with an extreme close-up of a woman's face, a dissolve from the last image of the opening credits. Against a stark white backdrop, she stares right into the camera, deeply, with the kind of eyes that are easy to fall in love with. "She looks at me every day," Peter Parker says in voiceover. "Mary Jane Watson. Oh boy. If she only knew how I felt about her." The camera slowly pulls out on this ideal, dreamlike image.

"But she can never know. I made a choice once to live a life of responsibility, a life she can never be a part of." The camera pulls out far enough to reveal we're actually looking at a billboard, a perfume advertisement Mary Jane posed for. "Who am I? I'm Spider-Man, given a job to do. And I'm Peter Parker, and I too have a job." The camera pulls out farther, and we see Peter come into frame on his pizza-delivery moped, gazing at the billboard over his shoulder with full attention. Suddenly we hear a man calling his name, and Peter's attention is snapped. So is the dream.

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The 100 Greatest Directors of... what?

View image Number 74.

I was not familiar with TotalFilm.com, until I spotted a link over at Movie City News.

Thanks a lot, guys.

The link was to a pair of articles listing Total Film's choices for "The Greatest Directors Ever" Part 1 (100 - 49) and Part 2 (50 - 1).

Will I return to this site? I think probably not. Why am I linking to it now? Because it's my shameless attempt to stimulate discussion, which I hope will be on a more informed level than this list. Or maybe it's just to have a laugh. Or a moment of sadness. What do I think of the list itself? Well, let's see:

Baz Luhrmann is #97.

Tony Scott is #74, just edging out Milos Forman, Kenji Mizoguchi, Satyajit Ray, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Buster Keaton, who comes in at #88.

Bryan Singer is #65, two slots below Robert Bresson, who immediately follows Sam Raimi.

Rob Reiner is #35.

Michael Mann (#28) is on the list, but Anthony Mann is not.

Bernardo Bertolucci is... not on the list.

Otto Preminger is... not on the list.

Richard Lester is... not on the list.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder is... not on the list.

Max Ophuls is... not on the list.

George Cukor is... not on the list, but George Lucas (#95) is.

Andrei Tarkovsky is... not on the list.

Eric Rohmer is... not on the list.

Claude Chabrol is... not on the list.

Luchino Visconti is... not on the list.

Vittorio De Sica is... not on the list.

Michelangelo Antonioni is... not on the list. Not even the top 100.

What's worse are the little names they have for each director. Sophia Coppola (#99) is "The dreamer" ("Dreamy, brave and cool, this Coppola is doing it for herself"). Singer is "The new Spielberg." Robert Altman (#26) is "The outsider" -- oops, but so is Hal Ashby (#58). Somebody ran out of labels. Well, at least they are not outside all alone; they are outside together. Sam Fuller (#50) is "The hack." Mike Leigh (#49) is "The grouch." Quentin Tarantino (#12) is "The motormouth."

OK, that's enough. Have at it if you feel like it. If you don't feel like it, you'll probably live.

ADDENDUM: A reader, spleendonkey, describes TotalFilm as a British magazine aimed at teens and pre-teens, designed to broaden their film horizons. For the record, here's the mag's description of itself on its subscription page:In 2007, Total Film celebrates its tenth year of being the only film magazine that nails a monthly widescreen shot of the whole movie landscape. It’s the essential guide for anyone who’s passionate about movies - whether they’re into Cruise or Cusack, Hollywood or Bollywood, multiplex or arthouse, popcorn or - er - sweetcorn. Each issue is pumped full of reviews, news, features and celebrity interviews on all the latest cinema releases. The all-new home entertainment section, Lounge, is the ultimate one-stop-shop for everything you should care about in the churning world of DVDs, books, videogames and, occasionally, film-related novelty furniture. The mag regularly features highly desirable, Ebay-friendly FREE stuff - exclusive film cells, posters, postcards, DVDs… We’re currently in discussions with Health & Safety operatives about sticking a magical compass to the cover when "His Dark Materials" comes out. Subscribe to Total Film now, or forever be belittled by precocious children in discussions about what’s best and worst in movieland.Doesn't sound all that different from Entertainment Weekly to me, but there you go...

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Fasten your seatbelts, it's gonna be a bumpy Bourne!

Hippy-hippy shake: Camera and actor on the move in "The Bourne Ultimatum."

The invention in the early 1970s of the camera stabilizer popularly known as the Steadicam (actually a brand name, like Kleenex or TiVo) was a milestone in the technology and aesthetics of film. The freedom and fluidity with which the camera could "float" through a scene was astounding. It was first used in films such as "Bound for Glory" and "Rocky" -- but try to imagine "Halloween" or "The Shining" without it. (On the other hand, the "Shaky-cam" created by Sam Raimi and crew for "The Evil Dead" -- which involved bolting a 16 mm camera to a two-by-four carried by two grips running through the woods -- had a lesser historical impact, but was comparably effective for its purposes.)

Woody Allen and cinematographer Carlo Di Palma used old-fashioned hand-held camerawork for "Husbands and Wives" (1992) -- most noticeably in the opening scene, which became notorious because it made some moviegoers dizzy or nauseous. Theaters posted signs at their box office windows warning people that the movie could induce motion sickness.

Roger Ebert has received a lot of Answer Man mail about all the jittery camerawork in Paul Greengrass's "The Bourne Ultimatum" (see "Shake, rattle, and Bourne!"). And now David Bordwell, in a characteristically well-researched and fun-to-read post on his and Kristin Thompson's blog ("Unsteadicam chronicles"), says: "A spectre is haunting contemporary cinema: the shaky shot." ... Some viewers and critics think the jarring quality of ["The Bourne Ultimatum"] proceeds from rapid editing. The cutting in "Bourne Ultimatum" is indeed very fast; there are about 3200 shots in 105 minutes, yielding an average of about 2 seconds per shot. But there are other fast-cut films that don’t yield the same dizzy effects, such as "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (1.6 seconds average), "Batman Begins" (1.9 seconds), "Idiocracy" (1.9 seconds), and the "Transporter" movies (less than 2 seconds). [...]To put this in perspective, check out the Cinemetrics database (to which, of course, Bordwell is a contributor), and you'll find the average shot length of the late Michelangelo Antonioni's "L'Avventura" is 18 seconds, while that whiz-bang "L'Eclisse" has a zippy 11.9-second average. (See Bordwell's article at Cinemetrics here.)

But as Bordwell explains, when it comes to the disorienting effect of some shots, it ain't the meter, it's the motion:

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Spielberg & Cruise & the movies

After seeing Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," my mind was churning with amazement and curiosity. Talking to Spielberg and his star, Tom Cruise, I found myself not an interviewer but simply a moviegoer, talking the way you do when you walk out of a movie that blindsides you with its brilliance.

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Bill Paxton doesn't monkey around

LOS ANGELES Bill Paxton has an Oscar contender and a giant gorilla movie coming out within a couple of weeks of each other, and that's the story of his career. He makes little movies ("One False Move," "Traveller," "Trespass") and big ones ("True Lies," "Apollo 13," "Twister"). In the big ones, he is a stalwart leading man - like his hero, the fellow Texan Ben Johnson, whose every word sounded like the simple truth. In the little ones, Paxton plays regular guys who get twisted into strange traps of crime and guilt.

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