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If You Don't, I Will

What happens to a marriage once the early ardor cools? That's the central question in this likable drama starring Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos as…

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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.

Thumbnails 11/22/2013

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The 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination; critical reviews of a critical review of Sarah Silverman's career; Guillermo Del Toro's biggests firsts; an official video for "Like a Rolling Stone"; is Harvey "Scissorhanding" his company's awards site?

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The Melancholy Hero: On the Acting of Owen Wilson

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What are we to make of Owen Wilson, he with the tow-colored mop of hair, the crooked nose, and the smile that seems to need so much in return? In certain contexts, Owen Wilson's smile is heartbreaking. Not just in more serious roles, but in everything. One does not often think of grown men as being "wistful" or full of "pathos"; only little plucky orphans in pig-tails and pinafores should be "wistful."

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Larry Sanders: Changing television and changing lives

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August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the third and final part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here and Part 2 (The show behind the show) is here.

A related article about Bob Odenkirk and his characters, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman (on "Breaking Bad"), is here.

by Edward Copeland

"It was an amazing experience," said Jeffrey Tambor. "I come from the theater and it was very, very much approached like theater. It was rehearsed and Garry took a long, long time in casting and putting that particular unit together." In a phone interview, Tambor talked about how Garry Shandling and his behind-the-scenes team selected the performers to play the characters, regulars and guest stars, on "The Larry Sanders Show" when it debuted 20 years ago. Shandling chose well throughout the series' run and -- from the veteran to the novice, the theater-trained acting teacher and character actor to the comedy troupe star in his most subtle role -- they all tend to feel the way Tambor does: "It changed my career. It changed my life."

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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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What is a "rape joke," anyway?

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What's worse than finding a hair in your soup? Being raped.* -- @AntiJokeApple, June 2, 2012

"I was raped by a doctor... which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl..." -- Sarah Silverman, "Jesus Is Magic" (2005)

Seriously, what is a rape joke, why do you tell one, and how do you apologize for one? I empathize with comedians who get up on stage, alone, and develop new material, often without knowing where their minds and mouths are going to take them (or their audience). It's a semi-disciplined, stream-of-consciousness high-wire act without a net, and as any comic will tell you, they frequently fall. (See Patton Oswalt's remembrance of a bad performance in the early 1990s and the "Magical Black Man" who haunted and helped him.) But no matter what they say or do, they're still accountable for saying or doing it -- and, more than ever before (thanks to blogs and social media and video smartphones), they are held publicly accountable. So, when I heard that Daniel Tosh of Comedy Central's top-rated "Tosh .0," was in hot water for telling a "rape joke," the first thing I wanted to know was: What was the joke? That has to be where it all starts, don't you think? What did he actually say?

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Waltzing with the in-between

May Contain Spoilers

"Take This Waltz" materialized out of a humid summer day in Toronto and made me tremble and fall in love... with who or what I'm not sure; the city yes, and maybe the idea of the in-between.

There is something incredibly delicate and beautiful about the thought of in-between: of that space of the possible, of movement, of choices being sought and yet to be made, of freedom and abandon and all the stuff that dreams are made of, but yet to solidify. It is a place of alchemy. Some call it a moment - a fleeting moment.

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#102 February 15, 2012

Marie writes: my art pal Siri Arnet sent me following - and holy cow! "Japanese artist Takanori Aiba has taken bonsai trees, food packaging, and even a tiny statue of the Michelin Man and constructed miniature metropolises around these objects, thus creating real-life Bottled Cities of Kandor. Explains Aiba of his artwork:"My source of creations are my early experience of bonsai making and maze illustration. These works make use of an aerial perspective, which like the diagram for a maze shows the whole from above (the macro view) while including minute details (the micro view). If you explore any small part of my works, you find amazing stories and some unique characters." ( click to enlarge.)

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#48 February 2, 2011

Take a breath and be brave. Very, very brave.... smile....Behold the "Willis Tower" in Chicago (formerly the Sears Tower) - the tallest building in North America and its famous attraction, The Skydeck.  In January 2009, the Willis Tower owners began a major renovation of the Skydeck, to include the installation of glass balconies, extending approximately four feet over Wacker Drive from the 103rd floor. The all-glass boxes allow visitors to look directly through the floor to the street 1,353 feet (412 m) below. The boxes, which can bear five short tons of weight (about 4.5 metric tons), opened to the public on July 2, 2009.

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Sarah Silverman: Sell the Vatican, feed the world

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matthew, 19:21)

WWJD? (What would a Jewess do?)

Sarah Silverman has some good points here. In my travels two sights have made me feel physically ill: 1) an exhibition of Spanish Inquisition torture instruments in Cordoba, Spain; 2) the ostentatiously decadent collection of treasures in the Vatican. (Couldn't help but think of Max von Sydow in "Hannah and Her Sisters": "If Jesus could come back and see what is being done in his name he would never stop throwing up.") It may be a coincidence, but it's disturbing to me that both these revolting sights were connected to the historical institution of the Catholic Church. The first made me ill at the thought of human beings even imagining, much less actually building, such horrendous contraptions to exploit the human body for torture and death (I felt similar despair at Dachau); the second made me sick because of the gaudy wastefulness of it all. Too rich in more ways than one. Why hasn't this gold-encrusted stuff been sold off to do some good? How does a church, of all earthly institutions, get away with hoarding booty like this? Of course, that's a question that's been debated by Christians within and without the Catholic church for centuries:

"Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?" -- Martin Luther, Thesis 86, "The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences," 1517

(tip: Tony Dayoub)

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Parrot asks, "What'd the frozen turkey want?"

A joke should have the perfection of a haiku. Not one extra word. No wrong words. It should seem to have been discovered in its absolute form rather than created. The weight of the meaning should be at the end. The earlier words should prepare for the shift of the meaning. The ending must have absolute finality. It should present a world view only revealed at the last moment. Like knife-throwing, joke-telling should never be practiced except by experts.

For many laymen, a joke is a heavenly gift allowing them to monopolize your attention although they lack all ability as an entertainer. You can tell this because they start off grinning and grin the whole way through. They're so pleased with themselves. Their grins are telling you they're funny and their joke is funny. The expert knows not to betray the slightest emotion. The expert is reciting a fact. There is nothing to be done about it. The fact insists on a world that is different than you thought. The fact is surprising and ironic. It is also surprising--you mustn't see it coming. That's why the teller should not grin. His face shouldn't tell you it's coming. If the joke is also vulgar, so much the better, but it must never exist for the sake of vulgarity. That's why "The Aristocrats" is not only the most offensive joke in the world, but also, in the wrong hands, the most boring.

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Sarah Silverman is a genius (still)

I'm posting this not just because I'm (still) in love with Sarah Silverman (though I am), and not just because she's a genius (though, of course, she is), and not just because of the overt political humor in this short film (though The Great Schlep is an inspired idea), but because of how it relates to recent Scanners posts about comedy and understanding what the joke is. (See posts and discussions regarding "Tropic Thunder," "Juneau," and David Foster Wallace.)

So, please watch the above movie and then provide your interpretation of it, by considering my questions after the jump...

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Give me irony or give me offense!

The award winner for best short film at the 2007 US Comedy Arts Festival (now known simply as The Comedy Festival) was "My Wife Is Retarded," starring Gary Cole, Sean Astin, Leslie Bibb, Phyllis George and George Segal. It was written and directed by Etan Cohen, co-writer of "Tropic Thunder." Other than that, all I know about it is the IMDb plot description: "A man learns the secret behind his perfect marriage."

Are you offended yet? I can't say if I am, because I haven't seen the movie. If the premise is that an intellectually disabled woman is the ideal spouse, or that all women are intellectually disabled, well... I might find that deplorable, depending on how it's presented. Is the movie advocating that point of view? Is it "joking" the way R--- L------- used to about "feminazis," implying that a woman's place is in a coma? Is it the husband who wishes his wife was intellectually impaired? Does she feel like that's what her husband expects from her? There are so many conceptual approaches you could imagine for a movie of that title, some of which seem to offer comedic possibilities, and others that are maybe not-so-promising. But you never know until you actually see it. And, for some people, not even then.

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"I'm F***ing Matt Damon": A critical analysis

Sarah Silverman stands against an overexposed white background, addressing the camera (and her boyfriend of five years, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel). "Hey Jimmy," she says, "It's me." It's the quintessential Silverman line delivery: faux-awkward, sweet and self-consciously cute, but so sharp and precisely targeted that it almost hurts a little. Of course it's her. But where is she?

Well, she's in some netherworld hotel, neither here nor there -- been on the road so long, you know, she's not even sure what city she's in, to be honest -- and she has something on her mind, something she's been meaning to tell Jimmy, that she's been carrying around with her like excess baggage. Dressed in a snug, lipstick-magenta/pink shirt, she stands out, flush and ripe, from the soft pale light that envelops her. She strolls to the right, from one lush, clean-green tropical split-leaf philodendron to another, a sexy and innocent Eve in the unspoiled Garden of Eden (or a hotel lobby facsimile thereof). Her delicate fingers stroke a wistful figure on her guitar, again and again, as she works up the backbone to expose her true feelings. (Insert what we imagine to be a typical candid photo of the happy couple: Silverman draped adoringly over the shoulders of a drunken, blurry-eyed Kimmel.)

View image In the primeval Garden: The moment of first release, the revelation of Knowledge in the Biblical sense.

The segue, if you call it that, is abrupt, jarring. Cut to a close-up of her guitar ("Here it goes...") and a crunching electric riff begins. Medium shot of Silverman as she sings the first line (and the title), with an expression of "Omygod!" on her face, like a teenage girl at a slumber party confessing a crush on the cutest boy in school: "I'm f***ing Matt Damon!" This is inappropriate. Not only is she singing this to her boyfriend, she's doing it on his fifth anniversary show on network TV. She has not only swallowed the forbidden fruit, she has swallowed the serpent: Matt Damon!

Cut to... Damon himself, in tight black t-shirt (like snakeskin!), arms stretched cockily over the back of a white couch as if in post-coital repose. He's been seated just outside the frame, all the time, and he gives the camera a knowing, testosterone-fueled smirk: "She's f***ing Matt Damon!" He's got the cat-with-the-canary grin. The knowledge that he's avenging Kimmel's repeated, disrespectful scheduling slights is written all over his face. He is no longer the butt of the joke, he gets to deliver the punchline. Repeat. Silverman shoots him a naughty-girl look, then shifts her expression to one of rue and sorrow for: "I'm not imagining it's you." Next, in an instant, she grits her teeth and turns into Joan Jett. On cue, Damon launches into a Henry Rollins punk growl and threatens to lunge at the camera, seizing it the way we imagine him grabbing Silverman's waist before they do the nasty title phrase. It begins in a two-shot, with Silverman cheerily bending down into the frame: On the bed, on the floor On a towel by the door In the tub, in the car Up against the mini-barOne can't help but recall Theodor Geisel's seminal "Green Eggs and Ham," in which Sam I Am pesters an increasingly exasperated, unnamed character who does not like the titular dish. In this case, however, Damon and Silverman are turning the tables: The song is an expression of rapacious appetite, and the way Damon delivers it -- with a mad glint in his eyes and a leer on his lips -- is a volatile mixture of lust and vengeful glee. He likes them apples....

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Watching the Oscars with Ebert

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Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who's still recovering from surgery, is watching the Oscars from home this year — for the first time in decades. But of course, he's still there in spirit on the red carpet. In the meantime, some observations:

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Sarah Silverman, critics & the new PC

View image Sarah Silverman in "Jesus Is Magic." Her Comedy Central sitcom, "The Sarah Silverman Program," begins Thursday at 10:30 p.m. (9:30 Central).

I love Sarah Silverman and A.O. Scott all the more for this, from today's New York Times: While most actors are reluctant to discuss critics’ opinions of them, Ms. Silverman addresses them head on, particularly a 2005 review of “Jesus Is Magic” by A. O. Scott, a film critic for The New York Times.

“It totally hurt my feelings and was like a kick in the stomach,” but, she said, she found it fascinating.

In the review Mr. Scott said her act was “the latest evidence that mocking political correctness has become a form of political correctness in its own right.”

“She depends on the assumption that only someone secure in his or her own lack of racism would dare to make, or to laugh at, a racist joke, the telling of which thus becomes a way of making fun simultaneously of racism and of racial hypersensitivity,” he wrote. In short, he added, “naughty as she may seem, she’s playing it safe.”

Ms. Silverman said the review articulated a point that she had felt, but had been struggling to express. “That was something that always festered in the back of my mind that I never talked about,” she said. Her crowds are usually liberal ones, “and we know we’re not racist,” she said. “But the whiter the crowd, the more that kind of voice in the back of my head comes toward the front, and I feel grosser doing that kind of stuff.”

“At the very least, it’s made me assess the choir,” she continued. “Context is everything, and I don’t think he would be pondering all that stuff if I was doing the material in front of an all-black crowd or a very mixed crowd,” which, she said, she regularly does.

Still, she added, she is reassessing at least part of her work.

“It was rebellious to be politically incorrect now and in the past couple of years,” she said. “But I don’t know how rebellious it will be when everybody has that point of view. It becomes hackneyed and it becomes irrelevant and it turns into something else.” I've been arguing for several years now that, especially since 9/11, "political correctness" has evolved into a mostly reactionary phenomenon. The lefty PC that began as a way of showing sensitivity to minorities and those who had been discriminated against for years (women, the disabled, etc.) eventually turned into a form of monolithic, euphemistic denial of reality, where questioning was verboten and anything that could be interpreted as doubt or dissent was denounced as "fascist." Now we see the same thing coming from the right. The terminology has changed but the brainwashed thinking hasn't.

The inevitable backlash to liberal PC came in the form of the right-wing, talk-radio rebellion, in which uppity women were "feminazis" and liberals were "terrorist sympathizers" (even when they were too timid and spineless to oppose the administration's foreign policy blunders, which, ironically, flagrantly violated traditional conservative principles). Fox News took the talk-radio attitude mainstream, appealing to its viewers' PC biases so that it appeared, at least to the network's partisans, "fair and balanced." (If somebody already sees the world in black and white, and you show them a black and white image, they won't notice it's not in color.)

Anyway, even though I was a fan of Silverman's "Jesus Is Magic," I appreciate Scott's warning about where this is all going in the era of so-called "'South Park' Republicans." And I admire Silverman for questioning her own (and her audiences') underlying assumptions, as well.

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Indie Spirit Awards pitch a big tent

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SANTA MONICA, Ca. - On the eve of the Academy Awards, the Independent Spirits Awards sometimes provide advance clues to Oscar winners. But Saturday's indiefest under the big tent on the beach at Santa Monica spread the awards so evenly that omens were hard to spot. "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crash," thought to be the Oscar front-runners, both won -- "Brokeback" for best picture, "Crash" for best first film by a director.

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Can Sarah Silverman say that?

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For quite some time I've wanted to do a dissertation on what I consider to be the genius of Sarah Silverman. Make that the funny, thin, pretty, edgy genius of Sarah Silverman, who incidentally has marvelous thighs. (If you're wondering why I phrased it that way, you wouldn't if you were familiar with Silverman's material: "I don't care if you think I'm racist. I just want you to think I'm thin.")

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