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Goodbye to Language

Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.

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Before I Go to Sleep

It’s a screenwriting exercise more than a film. It’s hollow, the kind of quick beach read that could satisfy on a summer vacation (and was…

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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.

Video essay: Was this Japanese film an inspiration for "The Hunger Games?"

May Contain Spoilers
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Fantastical novels aimed at the young are making a killing these days. And due to the immense success of the "Harry Potter" and "Lord Of The Rings" movies, studios are looking for that next big series to cash in on. But among such film adaptations, rare is the one that finds a figurative truth worth sharing. Most of them are merely content to display the depths of their imaginations, being (perhaps justifiably) almost completely distant from the concerns of real life.

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#98 January 18, 2012

Marie writes: Okay, this is just plain cool. This is clearly someone using their brain, in combination with "what the hell, let's just go ahead and try it..."

Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon CameraIn 1903, Dr Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera activated by a timing mechanism. The invention brought him international notability after he presented it at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909-1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, whereupon the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased. (click images to enlarge.) - from The Public Domain Review. Visit the site to see even more photos.

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Overturning expectations: The ups and downs

May 16 -- Sunday was a day of highs and lows, of new discoveries and dashed hopes. Bertrand Tavernier and Takeshi Kitano, two directors whose films I had most anticipated here, did not live up to my expectations with "The Princess of Montpensier" and "Outrage," respectively. Hungarian Agnes Kocsis, a director who had only made one previous feature in 2006, blew me away with her insightful "Adrienn Pal."

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Cannes #4: A good film, a bad film, and a friend

Mike Leigh has long been a great director, but now he is surely at the top of his form. "Another Year" has premiered here and is the film everyone I talk with loves the most. It is so beautifully sure and perceptive in its record of one year in the life of a couple happily married, and their relatives and friends, not so happy. After "Vera Drake" (2004) and "Happy-Go-Lucky" (2008), Leigh cannot seem to step wrong.

A women at the press conference asked Leigh (left) "did you have to make Mary so sad?" She might as well have asked, "did you have to make Tom and Gerri so happy? "

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Cannes #1: On a darkling plain

Fifty years ago, the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes was Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." More every year I realize that it was the film of my lifetime. But indulge me while I list some more titles.

The other entries in the official competition included "Ballad of a Soldier," by Grigori Chukhrai; "Lady with a Dog," by Iosif Kheifits; "Home from the Hill," by Vincente Minnelli; "The Virgin Spring," by Ingmar Bergman;" "Kagi," by Kon Ichikawa; "L'Avventura," by Michelangelo Antonioni; "Le Trou," by Jacques Becker; "Never on Sunday," by Jules Dassin; "Sons and Lovers," by Jack Cardiff; "The Savage Innocents," by Nicholas Ray, and "The Young One," by Luis Bunuel.

And many more. But I am not here at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to mourn the present and praise the past.

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A taste of lemon, a whiff of ash...

With departure for Cannes only days away, the specter of drifting volcano ash inspires its own shivery anticipation of the festival, and not in a good way.  Cannes is a convention city year around, and a new festival or international congress moves in pretty much as soon as the previous one moves out.  It's not like you could extend your hotel stay on the spur of the moment, and at Riviera prices, who would want to?

I'm hoping the only eruptions are of the cinematic kind.  For two weeks every May, the Cannes Film Festival is like a volcano blowing its top, spewing new movies day and night.  In view of this massive flow, it's a rather silly insiders' game to speculate on good years vs. bad years.   With hundreds of films to choose from, taking into account the official selections and the film market, this huge festival is what you make it.  Every year is a good year.  Looking for great art?  There's always some to be found.  Looking for low-down-sleaze?  There's more of that than you even want to know about.  Looking for new films from Latvia, for instance?  Take your pick, and get the scoop on the state of the Latvian film industry from an eager sales agent while you're at it.

Every year as Cannes looms, I'm reminded of the puckish advice of British director Mike Leigh ("Happy-Go-Lucky," "Vera Drake"), pronounced many years ago when he was on the festival jury. At the jury press conference, Leigh was asked about his expectations. "The festival is like a lemon," he said, "you just have to suck it and see how it tastes." As luck would have it, Leigh will be premiering his new film "Another Year" in the competition. I'm looking forward to seeing what flavor this one adds to the festival.

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Name That Director!

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UPDATED 01/28/10: 2:25 p.m. PST -- COMPLETED!: Thanks for all the detective work -- and special thanks to Christopher Stangl and Srikanth Srinivasan himself for their comprehensive efforts at filling the last few holes! Now I have to go read about who some of these experimental filmmakers are. I did find some Craig Baldwin movies on Netflix, actually...

Srikanth Srinivasan of Bangalore writes one of the most impressive movie blogs on the web: The Seventh Art. I don't remember how I happened upon it last week, but wow am I glad I did. Dig into his exploration of connections between Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema." Or check out his piece on James Benning's 1986 "Landscape Suicide." There's a lot to look through, divided into sections for Hollywood and World Cinema.

In the section called "The Cinemaniac... I found the above collage (mosaic?) of mostly-famous faces belonging to film directors, which Srikanth says he assembled from thumbnails at Senses of Cinema. Many of them looked quite familiar to me, and if I'm not mistaken they were among the biographical portraits we used in the multimedia CD-ROM movie encyclopedia Microsoft Cinemania, which I edited from 1994 to 1998, first on disc, then also on the web. (Anybody with a copy of Cinemania able to confirm that? My Mac copy of Cinemania97 won't run on Snow Leopard.)

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Metropolis, lost and found

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Q. I guess I saw a different movie from you, but "The Informant!" movie offended in the worst way -- it was boring! Matt Damon was boring, the dialogue was boring, the direction was boring. You need to curb your crushes on movie stars and start critiquing movies again based on their merits, not on how much your heart throbs. After giving this piece of crap four stars, you have lost all credibility. I wrote my newspaper, suggesting they drop you and rehire the local movie reviewer who recently lost his job. You aren't worth the money they pay.

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Cannes #5: Even now already is it in the world

There's electricity in the air. Every seat is filled, even the little fold-down seats at the end of every row. It is the first screening of Lars von Trier's "Antichrist," and we are ready for anything. We'd better be. Von Trier's film goes beyond malevolence into the monstrous. Never before have a man and woman inflicted more pain upon each other in a movie. We looked in disbelief. There were piteous groans. Sometimes a voice would cry out, "No!" At certain moments there was nervous laughter. When it was all over, we staggered up the aisles. Manohla Dargis, the merry film critic of The New York Times, confided that she left softly singing "That's Entertainment!"

Whether this is a bad, good or great film is entirely beside the point. It is an audacious spit in the eye of society. It says we harbor an undreamed-of capacity for evil. It transforms a psychological treatment into torture undreamed of in the dungeons of history. Torturers might have been capable of such actions, but they would have lacked the imagination. Von Trier is not so much making a film about violence as making a film to inflict violence upon us, perhaps as a salutary experience. It's been reported that he suffered from depression during and after the film. You can tell. This is the most despairing film I've ever have seen.

If, as they say, you are not prepared for "disturbing images," I advise you to just just stop reading now.

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So many films, so little time

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I have before me a schedule of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs 10 days. I have been looking at it for some time. I am paralyzed. There are so many films by important directors (not to mention important films by unknown directors), that it cannot be reduced to its highlights. The highlights alone, if run in alphabetical order, would take up all my space.

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Toronto fest signals the opening of Good Movie Season

After Cannes, the Toronto Film Festival is the most important in the world. Last year's festival was ripped in two on Sept. 11. I walked out of a screening, heard the news, and the world had changed. Now comes the 27th annual festival, opening today. Are movies important in the new world we occupy? Yes, I think they are, because they are the most powerful artistic device for creating empathy--for helping us understand the lives of others.

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Even great films can leave you infuriated

CANNES, France -- Films are booed at Cannes for two reasons: Because they are bad, or because they are infuriating. Those in the second category are likely to be quite good, although they make you so mad, you have to step back and cool off to appreciate their qualities.

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Toronto festival fit for film fans

The 1999 Toronto Film Festival, 11 days and 319 films long, opens today with a quarter of a million moviegoers looking for next year's top Oscar winners - or maybe trying to avoid them. The films come from 52 countries, and 171 of them will be world or North American premieres. People plan their vacations around this festival; at a screening last year of a Vietnamese musical, I sat next to Barbara Strange, who planned to see 45 movies and "exist on bottled water, dried apricots and mixed nuts."

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Gold on hold

CANNES, France -- The Cannes Film Festival heads into its second weekend, still without a likely Palme d'Or winner, unless we have already seen it, and it is Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother." We have been here a week, and that entry, first screened Saturday, is the film most people mention when you ask them what they liked the most.

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Candid Cannes

CANNES, France -- One year I arrived in Cannes a little early, two days before the festival was scheduled to begin, and watched the waiters on the famous terrace of the Carlton Hotel as they loaded the good furniture into trucks and unloaded the weather-beaten rattan that I had come to know and love.

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