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Morris From America

Morris from America is not the kind of film that stays with you, but its central performances do.

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War Dogs

War Dogs is a film about horrible people that refuses to own their horribleness.

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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.

Toronto International FIlm Festival 2013: Day Five

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When Harvey Weinstein is in the house, you know it's a big deal. After all, one of his possible Academy-bait babies was taking its first steps in public at the bustling Scotiabank theaters before the press and industry on Monday. He is not going to leave that special occasion to chance.Day 5 at Toronto brought the unveiling one of the most anticipated pieces of the Oscar-prediction puzzle—"August: Osage County" a.k.a. When Meryl Met Julia—and, judging from the "I like it but…" comments exchanged by audience members as the film came to a close, the reaction was one of tempered admiration.The comically caustic domestic situation, based on the 2008 Tony-winning play, concerns a contentious Oklahoma clan called the Westons who reunite following a family crisis. With a cast jammed with recognizable faces ranging from Sam Shepard's hard-drinking poet of a patriarch to Abigail Breslin's precocious pot-smoking teen, it sometimes comes off like one of those "We Are the World" all-star songs where everyone involved gets a for-your-consideration solo in order to shine.Of course, there are soloists and then there are divas. Nothing can be that bad when there's Meryl Streep as a pill-popping, cancer-ravaged matriarch who puts the diss in dysfunctional as she engages in a verbal dinner-table death match with movie daughter Julia Roberts. Imagine "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" filtered through "Terms of Endearment." The explosive results left some in the theater gasping.A couple of the casting choices seem wonky (Ewan McGregor is out of place as Roberts' roaming husband while Dermot Mulroney is basically playing the Dermot Mulroney role as a sexy self-serving jerk).But some of the most enjoyable portions are when the Weston sisters—joining Roberts' Barbara are Juliette Lewis' flighty Karen and Julianne Nicholson as dark horse Ivy—kick back with glasses of wine and trade stories about their challenging mother and personal secrets.All could be up for Oscars, including Margo Martindale as Streep's big-mama of a sister. The real question is whether it can be justified to place either Streep or Roberts in a supporting category to avoid competing with one another since they are both clearly co-leads. And that is where the mighty Harvey comes in. It has been finally decided: Meryl is lead and Julia is supporting, The negotiations over Syria probably have nothing on the intense discussions that went into that move.As for best picture chances, that is up to Harvey and his magical marketing machine. "August: Osage County" is more certain to fill several acting nomination slots, but just the fact that Roberts and Streep—who have only previously collaborated in the animated "The Ant Bully"—are together at last is a powerful reason to applaud this movie as much as possible.

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Roger Ebert Homily

In our many wonderful conversations over the years, Chaz, Roger and I – often along with a step-star step-producer or step-child or two – pushed our inquiries and experiences into the corners of ambiguity to find those images, colors, and sounds where the understanding and commonalities would blend and come together in a Monet Vanilla Sky.

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A little black dress makes the world go round

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With the passing of Andy Williams, I keep imagining his golden tenor singing Henry Mancini's "Moon River." The song talks about crossing life in style. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is all about fashionable cafe society and love; in an adult fairy tale, you can have both even if you are two drifters.

The director Gregory Nava once commented, "Whenever any question of style or taste in dress comes up, I simply ask myself, 'What would Fred Astaire have done?'" Audrey Hepburn is Astaire's female equivalent: sophistication mixed with fizzy fun.

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Are women better than men?

Sometimes I think so. Sometimes, not so much. If the blog I wrote a few weeks ago had started that way, I would have been spared a lot of grief. It better expresses what I was unsuccessfully trying to say.

The actual headline was "Women are better than men." And that called down upon my head 408 comments, at least 80 percent hostile, and many surprisingly angry and insulting. This blog has traditionally been known for the civil tone of its comments, and now I was informed, for example, that I was a "feminist bitch."

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David Simon: Damn right Omar is cool. Get over it.

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"The number of people blogging television online -- it's ridiculous. They don't know what we're building. And by the way, that's true for the people who say we're great. They don't know. It doesn't matter whether they love it or they hate it. It doesn't mean anything until there's a beginning, middle and an end. [...]

I do have a certain amused contempt for the number of people who walk sideways into the thing and act like they were there all along. It's selling more DVDs now than when it was on the air. But I'm indifferent to who thinks Omar is really cool now, or that this is the best scene or this is the best season. It was conceived of as a whole, and we did it as a whole. For people to be picking it apart now like it's a deck of cards or like they were there the whole time or they understood it the whole time -- it's wearying. Because no one was there in the beginning, or the middle, or even at the end. Our numbers continued to decline from Season 2 on.* -- David Simon, creator of "The Wire," "Generation Kill," "Treme"

I've heard some very good film critics make this argument before, too. Of course, a movie has a beginning, a middle and an end (although, as Jean-Luc Godard reminded us, not necessarily in that order). That's the fabled "three-act structure" all the screenplay manuals talk about. Wim Wenders and other great directors have observed that they always make at least two movies: the one they set out to make and the one they discover while they're trying to make the first one. Same goes for watching a movie or TV series: there's always the show you watch when its destination is unknown, and the one you reconsider after you know how it ended up.

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#97 January 11, 2012

Marie writes: I have no words. Beyond the obvious, that is. And while I'm okay looking at photos, the video.... that was another story. I actually found myself turning away at times, the suspense too much to bear - despite knowing in advance that he's alive and well and there was nothing to worry about. The bottom of my stomach still fell out...

(click images to enlarge)

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"Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." ~ Dr. Johnson

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My blog entry I met a character from Dickens stirred up nostalgia for London even among some who have never been there.

The great city lives in our imaginations like no other, perhaps because of the writers who have so memorably populated it for us:

Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, William Makepeace Thackery, George Gissing, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, Compton Mackinzie, Virginia Woolf, Anthony Powell, Iris Murdoch. And then Shakespeare and the incomparable Johnson and his Boswell.

If the physical city is burned, bombed, bulldozed and stripped of the past through urban renewal, the London of our imaginations endures rich and full. RE

Blackfriar's Bridge in 1896

Petticoat Lane in 1903

A rather amazing and nearly crystal-clear color motion picture of London in 1927.

A magic camera's futuristic visions on London in 1924

The Blitz, 1941

The victory celebrations of 1945

"Of all the seats in all theaters in the world, the best seat is at the front of the top of a London omnibus." -- Henry James

Driving the A13

A cruise on the Thames, 1983

The haunted London Underground

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Does anyone want to be "well-read?"

"Death disports with writers more cruelly than with the rest of humankind," Cynthia Ozick wrote in a recent issue of The New Republic.

"The grave can hardly make more mute those who were voiceless when alive--dust to dust, muteness to muteness. But the silence that dogs the established writer's noisy obituary, with its boisterous shock and busy regret, is more profound than any other.

"Oblivion comes more cuttingly to the writer whose presence has been felt, argued over, championed, disparaged--the writer who is seen to be what Lionel Trilling calls a Figure. Lionel Trilling?

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Elizabeth Taylor, pagan goddess

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Camille Paglia is known for being both brilliant and wacky (possibly wacko) -- often at the same time, which is probably when she's at her most inspired. A founding contributor at Salon.com (and co-star of "It's Pat: The Movie"), Paglia spoke on the phone to Salon editor Kerry Lauerman yesterday after the news of Elizabeth Taylor's death, and offered up an extraordinary tribute. I just wanted to share some of it with you. Lauerman begins by quoting something Paglia wrote about Taylor in Penthouse in 1992:

"She wields the sexual power that feminism cannot explain and has tried to destroy. Through stars like Taylor, we sense the world-disordering impact of legendary women like Delilah, Salome, and Helen of Troy. Feminism has tried to dismiss the femme fatale as a misogynist libel, a hoary cliche. But the femme fatale expresses women's ancient and eternal control of the sexual realm." Paglia takes it from there:

Exactly. At that time, you have to realize, Elizabeth Taylor was still being underestimated as an actress. No one took her seriously -- she would even make jokes about it in public. And when I wrote that piece, Meryl Streep was constantly being touted as the greatest actress who ever lived. I was in total revolt against that and launched this protest because I think that Elizabeth Taylor is actually a greater actress than Meryl Streep, despite Streep's command of a certain kind of technical skill. [...]

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Certified Copy: How can you be in two spaces at once...?

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"It's enigmatic and obvious, exasperating and beguiling, heavy-handed and understated, witty and poignant, all at once." -- Alex Ramon, Boycotting Trends

What I like most about Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" is its slipperiness. The Tuscan textures are ravishing (it takes place over the course of an afternoon in and around the village of Lucignano -- or does it?), Juliette Binoche and William Shimell are easy on they eyes and ears (good thing, too, since the movie is practically one long conversation -- or is it?), but for me the most enjoyable thing about it is the way the story and characters keep subtly (and not-so-subtly) shifting, refusing to be pinned down. I was fearing one of those overly literalized Kiarostami "button" endings, but this time (as Michael Sicinski observes in his impressive, ambitious essay at MUBI), the thesis statement is placed at the front of the film and it gets slipperier from there:

"Certified Copy" operates almost in reverse of most thematically inclined works of art, which plunge us into a falsely desultory universe and gradually reveal their master interpretive passkey. Kiarostami's film presents a concept, fully formed and cogent, and allows the rest of the film to set to work on that concept, breaking it into Heisenbergian particles, then bringing it back into solid shape, and on and on.

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