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La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

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Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

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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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* 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.

#183 September 4, 2013

Sheila writes: The glamorous days of air travel were already on their way out by the time I first stepped foot on an airplane (Aer Lingus, 1980) so I have always been fascinated by glimpses of what traveling by plane used to be like: the linens, the cocktail glasses, the curtains, the elegance! I came across a piece about a man, Anthony Toth, who had such a sense of nostalgia for those bygone days that he built a partial replica of a Pan Am 747 in a warehouse in Redondo Beach, where he lives. At first, the replica was in his garage, but then he realized he needed to build an upper level, so he moved the entire thing to a warehouse, where it still sits today. The local press picked up on the story, and it created such interest that you can now visit and have dinner, Pan Am style.

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Anthony Mann's Big Black Book

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Turner Classic Movies is saluting the June 30 birthday of director Anthony Mann with day of his films -- including 1949's "The Black Book" (aka "Reign of Terror") an Austro-Hungarian Expressionist film noir take on the French Revolution, photographed by one of Mann's frequent early collaborators (and one of the noirest of black-and-white cinematographers), John Alton. At Straight Shooting (bookmark it), Richard T. Jameson surveys the career of a filmmaker who

acquired a passionate cult among connoisseurs of film style for having made some of the most lucidly and powerfully visualized films in American cinema. Few filmmakers have equaled his genius for fusing landscape and dramatic action, and his heroes--in the films noir of the late Forties and his majestic Westerns of the Fifties--are a compellingly conflicted lot. [...]

Was Anthony Mann a director of the first rank? Not when the touchstones are Lang, Ford, and Hawks.... But his best work goes a long way toward making film noir and the Western our two richest genres, and his relentless pursuit of dynamic images ensures him the esteem of anyone who believes that movies should be worth looking at, minute by minute, frame by frame.

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#69 June 29, 2011

Marie writes: Allow me to introduce you to Bill and Cheryl. I went to Art school with Bill and met his significant other Cheryl while attending the graduation party; we've been pals ever since. None of which is even remotely interesting until you see where they live and their remarkable and eclectic collection of finds. (click to enlarge images.)

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Opening Shots: They Live By Night

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Nicholas Ray's directorial debut, "They Live By Night" (1949), begins like a trailer and then slams us right into the opening titles of the feature. An attractive young couple (Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell) are nestling in close-up by the flickering light of a fireplace. They smile, they kiss, and then something off-screen (and unheard on the soundtrack, though signaled by an jarring shift in the musical score) causes them to react with fear and alarm.

"They Live By Night" is a prototypical young-couple-on-the-run movie ("You Only Live Once," "Gun Crazy," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Badlands"), and this tabloid-style opening sets it up breathlessly. The shot seems to exist out of time -- perhaps an idealized moment they once shared, or would never have. The man who would later direct "Rebel Without a Cause" establishes them as innocents and outsiders, star-crossed lovers who "were never properly introduced to the world we live in..." Dissolve to an aerial shot of a truck barreling through a dusty wasteland.

We soon discover that, at the point the title appears, the boy and the girl have yet to meet. So, the whole film could be seen as a flashback -- a noir convention that emphasizes the forces of fate, since the ending of "their story" (even if we don't know what it is) has already been determined from the opening shot. Or perhaps it's a flash-forward to a memory they'll cling to for the rest of their lives. Or an imprint of their fugitive state of mind...

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Biggest Acting, Best and Worst: Over the top, Ma!

View image Looming large.

I believe it was Gordon Gecko who proclaimed: "Ham is good!"

The "Wall Street" supervillain (superhero?) was not advocating violation of any dietary laws, of course, but simply stating a fact: Sometimes Big Acting can be quite enjoyable. Other times, of course, it can be cringe-worthy, irritating, risible, embarrassing. Only you can decide which is which. For you.

Take for example the story of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" -- she of "No wire hangers!" and "Eat your meat!" (both precursors of "I drink your milkshake!"). Pre-release publicity reports claimed that Dunaway was giving a serious dramatic performance. But from the very first screenings it was painfully (yet fasciatingly) clear that somebody was going off her rocker -- but which actress was it: Crawford or Dunaway?

Performances pitched at the balcony, or the moon, always take the risk of falling somewhere between "tour-de-force" and "trying way too hard," virtuosity and showboating. And opinions may very about where they come down. (See "A Journey to the End of Taste," below.) You may wince at the Method nakedness displayed by Marlon Brando or James Dean in some of their most intense emotional moments ("You're tearing me apart!"). Or you may rejoice at even the most outré dramatic and/or comedic efforts of Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Klaus Kinski, Will Ferrell, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Nicolas Cage, Ben Stiller, Tyler Perry, Owen Wilson, Gene Wilder... while others find them excruciating, overwrought or unintentionally campy.

The bigger the performance, the bigger the risks. Or maybe not. Just look over the history of Oscar nominations for acting.

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Stanley Kubrick hates you

View image"The Shining": A bug under a microscope.

The most superficial and shopworn cliché about Stanley Kubrick is that he was a misanthrope. This is up there with calling Alfred Hitchcock "The Master of Suspense," and leaving it at that. The cliché may contain a partial truth, but it's not particularly enlightening. It's just trite.

In the free Seattle weekly tabloid The Stranger, Charles Mudede writes about a local Kubrick series, and begins by stating: "Kubrick hated humans. This hate for his own kind is the ground upon which his cinema stands." This is a nice grabber -- particularly for readers who don't know anything about Kubrick, or who want to feel the thrill of the forbidden when reading about him. ("Imagine! He hated humans!")

Unfortunately for readers, this is Mudede's thesis, and he's sticking to it. Here's his summary judgement of "2001: A Space Odyssey": As is made apparent by "2001: A Space Odyssey," his contempt was deep.

It went from the elegant surface of our space-faring civilization down, down, down to the bottom of our natures, the muck and mud of our animal instincts, our ape bodies, our hair, guts, hunger, and grunts. No matter how far we go into the future, into space, toward the stars, we will never break with our first and violent world. Even the robots we create, our marvelous machines, are limited (and undone) by our human emotions, pressures, primitive drives. For Kubrick, we have never been modern. OK, that's one interpretation (though it gets the direction of the movement entirely wrong), but I think it's a facile misreading of the film. Is there really something un-"modern" about portraying the raw, simple fact of evolution, with a little otherworldly nudge?

And why does Mudede have such contempt for apes and "animal instincts"? Is he going to apply "Meat is Murder" morality to primates? (Besides, they're so dirty!) Or does he not feel the awesome and primal beauty in the whole "Dawn of Man" sequence? If he doesn't, I suppose it's no wonder he sees no wonder in the rest of the movie.

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Stanley Kubrick 1928-1998

Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest of film directors, and perhaps the most independent and self-contained, is dead at 71. The creator of "2001: A Space Odyssey" died early Sunday morning at his country home north of London.

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