Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
* 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.
Marie writes: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, dissatisfied in general with the poverty of imagination currently on display at local cinemas. As anyone can blow something up with CGI - it takes no skill whatsoever and imo, is the default mode of every hack working in Hollywood these days. Whereas making a funny political satire in the United States about a Russian submarine running aground on a sandbank near a small island town off the coast of New England in 1966 during the height of the Cold War - and having local townsfolk help them escape in the end via a convoy of small boats, thereby protecting them from US Navy planes until they're safely out to sea? Now that's creative and in a wonderfully subversive way....
Marie writes: Holy crap! THE KRAKEN IS REAL!" Humankind has been looking for the giant squid (Architeuthis) since we first started taking pictures underwater. But the elusive deep-sea predator could never be caught on film. Oceanographer and inventor Edith Widder shares the key insight - and the teamwork - that helped to capture the squid on camera for the first time, in the following clip taken from her recent TED talk." And to read more about the story, visit Researchers have captured the first-ever video footage of a live giant squid at i09.com
This is a free sample of the Newsletter members receive each week. It contains content gathered from recent past issues and reflects the growing diversity of what's inside the club. To join and become a member, visit Roger's Invitation From the Ebert Club.
Marie writes: Not too long ago, Monaco's Oceanographic Museum held an exhibition combining contemporary art and science, in the shape of a huge installation by renowned Franco-Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, in addition to a selection of films, interviews and a ballet of Aurelia jellyfish.The sculpture was inspired by the sea, and reflects upon maritime catastrophes caused by Man. Huang Yong Ping chose the name "Wu Zei"because it represents far more than just a giant octopus. By naming his installation "Wu Zei," Huang added ambiguity to the work. 'Wu Zei' is Chinese for cuttlefish, but the ideogram 'Wu' is also the color black - while 'Zei' conveys the idea of spoiling, corrupting or betraying. Huang Yong Ping was playing with the double meaning of marine ink and black tide, and also on corruption and renewal. By drawing attention to the dangers facing the Mediterranean, the exhibition aimed to amaze the public, while raising their awareness and encouraging them to take action to protect the sea.
Marie writes: Kudos to fellow art buddy Siri Arnet for sharing the following; a truly unique hotel just outside Nairobi, Kenya: welcome to Giraffe Manor.
Marie writes: club member Sandy Kahn has found some more auctions! Go here to download a free PDF copy of the catalog.
Something nice happened to us while we were preparing the schedule for Ebertfest 2012, which plays April 25-29 at the Virginia Theater (above) in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. We'd invited Patton Oswalt to attend with his "Big Fan. He agreed and went one additional step: "I'd like to personally choose a film to show to the students, and discuss it."
Marie writes: behold the power of words, the pen mightier than the sword.
Of course, no one is really robbed of an Academy Award nomination. It's a gift; not a right. The balloting procedure is conducted honestly and reflects a collective opinion, which was demonstrated this year when the Academy voters had the curiosity to seek out Demian Bichir for best actor for his deeply convincing performance as a Mexican gardener in Los Angeles in "A Better Life." He wasn't on my mental list of possible candidates, but when I heard the name, I thought, "Of course! Good thinking!"
Marie writes: Once upon a time when I was little, I spent an afternoon playing "Winne the Pooh" outside. I took my toys into the backyard and aided by a extraordinary one-of-a-kind custom-built device requiring no batteries (aka: artistic imagination) pretended that I was playing with my pals - Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too - and that there was honey nearby; the bumble bees buzzing in the flowerbeds, only too happy to participate in the illusion. And although it didn't have a door, we too had a tree - very much like the one you see and from which hung a tire. A happy memory that, and which came flooding back upon catching sight of these - the animation backgrounds from the new Winnie the Pooh; thank God I was born when I was. :-)
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Marie writes: ever stumble upon a photo taken from a movie you've never seen? Maybe it's an official production still; part of the Studio's publicity for it at the time. Or maybe it's a recent screen capture, one countless fan-made images to be found online. Either way, I collect them like pennies in jar. I've got a folder stuffed with images, all reflecting a deep love of Cinematography and I thought I'd share some - as you never know; sometimes, the road to discovering a cinematic treasure starts with a single intriguing shot....
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Cinematography: Harry Stradling(click images to enlarge)
Marie writes: In a move which didn't fail to put a subversive smile on my face, works by the mysterious graffiti artist Banksy began to appear recently in Hollywood as Academy Awards voters prepared to judge Exit Through the Gift Shop, which is up for best Documentary. (Click to enlarge.)
The most controversial thus far was painted on a billboard directly opposite the Directors Guild of America HQ on Sunset Boulevard. A poster advertising The Light Group (a property, nightclub and restaurant developer) was stenciled over with images of a cocktail-guzzling Mickey Mouse grasping a woman's breast. As it was being removed, a scuffle broke out between workmen and a man claiming the poster was his "property" - presumably triggered by the fact that an authentic piece by Banksy is worth thousands. To read more visit Banksy targets LA ahead of Oscars at the Guardian. And to see more pictures go HERE.
Marie writes: I love cinematography and worship at its altar; a great shot akin to a picture worth a thousand words. The best filmmakers know how to marry words and images. And as the industry gears up for the Golden Globes and then the Oscars, and the publicity machine starts to roll in earnest, covering the Earth with a daily blanket of freshly pressed hype, I find myself reaching past it and backwards to those who set the bar, and showed us what can be accomplished and achieved with light and a camera...
Cinematography by Robert Krasker - The Third Man (1949) (click to enlarge images)
Marie writes: The local Circle Craft Co-operative features the work of hundreds of craftspeople from across British Columbia and each year, a Christmas Market is held downtown at the Vancouver Convention Centre to help sell and promote the work they produce. My friend and I recently attended the 37th Christmas Market and where I spotted these utterly delightful handmade fabric monsters by Diane Perry of "Monster Lab" - one of the artist studios located on Salt Spring Island near Washington State...it's the eyes... they follow you. :-)
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Sun-Times Gallery of Top Oscar Categories
Sun-Times Gallery of Top Oscar Categories
The Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early on Tuesday, and in some categories they’ll be almost a formality. Four of the inevitable nominees in the acting categories seem to be shoo-ins for Oscars.
I always look forward to George Clooney's movies. I have to admit, however, that in most movies, he seems to be playing "the George Clooney version of X" or some sort of anti-George-Clooney, who is still that astonishingly handsome man, though weak, withered, and flawed. Perhaps the exception is Syriana, where he is hidden behind whiskers and adipose.
So, even though I greatly appreciated Jason Reitman's previous films, this film - Up in the Air - was going to be another George Clooney celebration. Then, I saw the movie. Jason Reitman stole the show.
Up in the Air is a richly textured movie that invokes a spectrum of our prime emotions. It is a sharp, biting, mirror on society, observing the role that our professions take in defining our lives. When we speak romantically of the American Dream, we speak often of the ability to choose your profession, to choose your destiny. We are taught that you are
Since Moses brought the tablets down from the mountain, lists have come in tens, not that we couldn't have done with several more commandments. Who says a year has Ten Best Films, anyway? Nobody but readers, editors, and most other movie critics. There was hell to pay last year when I published my list of Twenty Best. You'd have thought I belched at a funeral. So this year I have devoutly limited myself to exactly ten films.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.(AP) — The recession-era tale "Up in the Air" led Golden Globe film contenders Tuesday with six nominations, among them best drama and acting honors for George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.
Jason Reitman spent much of November hopping around the continent on a promotional tour for his wonderful new film, "Up in the Air." Wicked devil that he is, he spent part of each day making notes on the questions he was being asked, and noticing that everyone seemed to ask the same questions. Thank God I didn't know this when I interviewed him. I might have seized up.
It was two years ago on Saturday night that Jason Reitman's "Juno" had its world premiere here at Toronto. The standing ovation that night was the most spontaneous and joyous I can remember. Still vibrating, Reitman stood on the stage of the Ryerson Theater and vowed, "I'm gonna open all of my films right here in this theater at Toronto." True to his word, his new film "Up in the Air" played the Ryerson at 6 p.m., Saturday--same time, same place.
It stars George Clooney in one of his best performances, as a frequent flyer. His ambition is to pass the 10 million-mile mark in the American Airlines Aadvantage Program, something very few ever do. Asked on an airplane where he lives, he replies, "Here." He's a Termination Facilitator. He fires people for a living. When corporations need to downsize quickly, he flies in and breaks the news to the new former employees. In a lousy economy, his business is great.
It's a good thing Ebertfest is no longer called the Overlooked Film Festival. One of my choices this year, "Frozen River," was in danger of being overlooked when I first invited it, but then it realized the dream of every indie film, found an audience and won two Oscar nominations. Yet even after the Oscar nods, it has grossed only about $2.5 million and has been unseen in theaters by most of the nation.
Those numbers underline the crisis in independent, foreign or documentary films--art films. More than ever, the monolithic U.S. distribution system freezes out films lacking big stars, big ad budgets, ready-made teenage audiences, or exploitable hooks. When an unconventional film like "Slumdog Millionaire" breaks out, it's the exception that proves the rule. While it was splendid, it was not as original or really as moving as the American indie "Chop Shop," made a year earlier. The difference is, the hero of "Chop Shop" wasn't trying to win a million rupees--just to survive.
Jumpy: a scene from "The Departed."
A few notes (and I took lots!) on seeing Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" for a second time:
I actually enjoyed the film more the next time around, and I think the usual forces are at work here: 1) since I already knew where it was going and how it was going to get there, I wasn't bothered so much by my memories of "Infernal Affairs" and how many sequences, performances and techniques I thought were more effective in the earlier movie; and 2) some of the rough spots often seem to smooth out a little once you've been over them before. I've always found this to be true with movies, and maybe even more so with music: the irritating things that stick out the first time don't seem quite as glaring with repeated exposure, if only because you already know they're there, and that makes them easier to accept, get past (and, perhaps, downplay).
Even Jack Nicholson's meretricious Jack-off performance seemed slightly less awkward, a little more nuanced (in spots) the second time. But I still think it's the movie's most conspicuously damaging flaw.
I took note of a couple scenes I thought were cut together in discontinuous ways that were particularly distracting and harmful to the performances. The first is in the seafood restaurant (with the nun and the priests sitting by the window). It's mostly a conversation between Frank (Nicholson) and Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio), intercutting two shots from different angles, one favoring Frank on the left and the other favoring Billy on the right. With both actors' faces fully visible in both angles (they're seated side by side), the challenges of matching shots is doubly difficult. DiCaprio changes expression or shifts the direction of his gaze -- sometimes dramatically -- from cut to cut.
Something similar happens in the scene in the bar between Frank and Billy, where Frank makes his rat face and lights the drawing on fire. Here, most of the discontinuity is in Nicholson's performance -- possibly because he reportedly improvised a lot of business for this scene. I suppose you could make an argument that the jumps and shifts space and demeanor indicate that Frank is coming apart at the seams (or splices).
But, again, it's a trade-off. Scorsese may have chosen these takes because he liked what the actors were doing in each of them and wanted those moments in his film. On the other hand, because the footage doesn't cut together so smoothly, some of us were thrown out of the picture by these jarring cuts.
The two scenes I found the most thoroughly enjoyable, aside from every minute Mark Wahlberg or Alec Baldwin were on screen, were (like those characters) newly created for "The Departed" and not in "Internal Affairs." The first is the charming encounter in the elevator between Colin (Matt Damon) and Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), where they spar and she gives him her card. The second is the one in Madolyn's office between her and Billy, as they try to out-psych each other.
Anybody else see things a bit differently upon watching "The Departed" for a second time? Got specific examples of what you thought worked or didn't work? This "Departed" topic (see below) and its follow-up have received the most comments of any postings in the brief life of Scanners!
Bad, bad Jack, feasting on food and scenery.
UPDATE: Revisiting "The Departed."
Everybody's saying "The Departed" is Martin Scorsese's best picture since "Casino" -- or even "GoodFellas." And some of the (over-)praise has struck me as pretty condescending to Scorsese: "Good boy. You stick to your mobsters now, won't you?" I'll go out on a limb and say I think it's his best picture since "The Aviator."
Adding almost an hour to the running time of "Infernal Affairs," the film on which it's based, "The Departed" does indeed fill in some of what one critic called the "ellipses" in the plot of the original film (and opens up at least as many other holes in the process). And yet, as others have also observed, Scorsese's movies have never been driven by plot but character -- and, in "The Departed," the characters, performances, moral ambiguities, and even the filmmaking prowess itself (all the things we treasure in A Martin Scorsese Picture) are not as rich or developed as those of its 2000 Hong Kong predecessor, much less Scorsese's own best and most personal work. (And let me add that this is not a knee-jerk response; I'm no big fan of Hong Kong action films. What I liked about "Infernal Affairs" was that there was more going on than in most of the HK crime movies or policiers I've seen, which I thought were bursting with empty action and little else.)
I'm going to write more about "The Departed" next week (to continue what I began in my MSN Movies essay, "GoodFellas and BadFellas", but in the meantime, I've patched together some of the critical observations from others that made me go "Yes! That's it!" -- either because I felt the same way, or because they expressed something I hadn't been able to formulate for myself in my initial thinking about the movie.
Meanwhile, after taking a look at these critical observations, please weigh in with comments of your own. (Just remember, it may take a while for comments to actually show up on the site.)
The National Society of Film Critics has chosen "Capote" as the best film of 2005, and Philip Seymour Hoffman best actor for his work in the title role.