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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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Things to Come

Things to Come is the detailed tapestry of one woman’s life, as she moves through an important transition.

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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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Cast and Crew

* 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.

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Lost Marx Brothers film; Remembering "The Warriors"; "Diary of a Teenage Girl" director Marielle Heller; David M. Rosenthal on "The Perfect Guy"; Home for Hollywood dreamers and dropouts.

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Allenville: A nice place to visit

Judging from the overwhelmingly tepid critical reaction that "To Rome with Love" has been getting since it opened in Poland, European film critics seem to take offense at what they describe as glossy, superficial way of presenting their continent in Woody Allen's recent movies. I know a Spanish film buff who hated (hated, hated) "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," as well as a Parisian who despised "Midnight in Paris." Clearly, there's something about the way Allen shoots European cities that many of their natives object to. They hate how prettified and inane their stomping grounds look on the screen (mere sightseeing folders, they say). And yet they never minded when New York was getting the same kind of Allen treatment back in the day. It seems we're much more comfortable with mythologizing someone else's home than we are with other people sprinkling glitter on ours.

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#130 August 22, 2012

"Dear Mr. Spider;I am profoundly sorry to have taken you from your home in the woods, when I was picking Himalayan Blackberries on Monday afternoon. I didn't see you fall into my bucket and which was entirely my fault; I must have bumped into your web while reaching for a berry. Needless to say, I was surprised upon returning home with my bucket full, to suddenly see you there standing on a blackberry and looking up at me." - Marie

(photo recreation of incident)

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Drive: Yellow light, red light, blue light, pink light

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I was going to say, up front, that I had some mixed feelings about Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive," but I'm not sure that "feelings" is the appropriate word. This 1980s pastiche (isn't that the "Risky Business" typeface lit up in neon pink?) is emotionally and narratively stripped down to resemble the sleek, polished surfaces of... well, muscle cars, but also movies by the likes of Walter Hill ("The Driver"), Michael Mann ("Thief"), William Friedkin ("To Live and Die in L.A."), Paul Schrader ("American Gigolo") and others. It even sports an aggressively ersatz-Tangerine Dream synth score of the kind so popular in the early 1980s, though this one also features some Euro-vocals with unfortunate English day-glo-highlighter lyrics ("a real human being and a real hero..."). Emotion, character, story -- they're not so much what "Drive" is interested in. The movie makes fetishistic use of signifiers for those things, but its most tangible concerns have (paradoxically?) to do with dreamy abstractions of color and shape and movement.

I like the red a lot. Not just the blood (which is the heart of the film, and I'll get to that in a minute), but there's so much blue (teal?) and orange and pink that when the red starts gushing in, it pumps some real excitement into what has, by that point, settled into a fairly static picture. (In some respects, I think "Drive" perversely hints at an art-house action movie -- and an erotic movie -- it never quite delivers, after a pretty [and] terrific archetypal getaway chase at the beginning, in which the Driver shows off his skills at using Los Angeles infrastructure to play hide-and-seek with cop cars and helicopters. Thank goodness, though, that it never turns into the racetrack movie it briefly threatens to become.)

So, the red: It excites the eyeballs (and signals imminent danger) in the red-and-white checkered windows at Nino's Pizza. But as I recall, it really gets going at Denny's. The nameless Driver (Ryan Gosling), a movie stuntman who also works as a mechanic and moonlights as a getaway car wheelman-for-hire, sits down with his generic romantic-interest neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), who wears a red uniform vest as a Denny's waitress, in a booth with red light fixtures above it and a BIG plastic bottle of ketchup on the table. I don't remember what the conversation is about -- it doesn't matter, but it's probably something about her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), who's just got out of jail and owes money to some brutal sleazebags who are threatening to physically harm him and Irene and their son Benicio (Kaden Leos), to whom Driver has also taken a shine. What I remember is the red. The film becomes pregnant with red.

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#81 September 21, 2011

Marie writes: Roger recently did an email Q&A with the National Post's Mark Medley, which you can read here: "Roger Ebert's voice has never been louder".  And in a nice touch, they didn't use a traditional head-shot photo with the article. Instead they went old school and actually hired an illustrator. Yup. They drew the Grand Poobah instead!  And here it is...pretty good, eh?

Illustration By Kagan Mcleod for the National Post(click to enlarge)

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#34 October 27, 2010

Welcome to a special Halloween edition of the Newsletter! Marie writes: the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, in addition to being the final resting place of many a famous name. From Édith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt and Chopin to Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Georges Méliès, the well-known sleep on the tree-lined avenues of the dead and which you can now explore in a virtual 360 degree tour...

ENTER Père-Lachaise

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That's Jeremy Renner in the bomb suit

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Ray Pride reports on the filming of Oscar favorite "The Hurt Locker" (just out on DVD) at Movie City Indie:

There are scenes inside the blast suit and simply crossing the frame where the character feels fully fleshed out, I tell [director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal] during an abbreviated interview in Chicago last July. As a past collaborator of Bigelow's, the writer-director Walter Hill liked to insist, character is revealed through action. [Lead actor Jeremy] Renner reveals character with every bit of his body. "I know! And he's in a bomb suit, no less," she laughs. "It was so hot," Boal adds, "it was hard for Jeremy to be in that bomb suit all of the time. The thing weighs like 85 pounds, it's a real bomb suit. Naturally, you're like, well maybe we can get a stunt guy to do some of this walking stuff and save Jeremy so he doesn't die. The sets are really long and he's walking up and down, we thought, shit, what if he gets heatstroke? He'd had heatstroke before. It's what 100 degrees outside? We tried, I probably grabbed every white guy in Jordan to audition for [Bigelow]: actor, non-actor, soldier, worked at the U. N., whatever."

"They studied his gait," she says, "they'd watch his walk. Couldn't do it." "We couldn't get a double," Boal continues. "Just put on the suit, walk down the street, that was the job." "Every single time, it was Jeremy," she says. "I tried it, everybody tried it!" "There's that kind of almost jauntiness to his gait, and cadence, that was unreplicatable. It was also part of that character."

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Ten Movies That Shook The World

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"Ten Movies That Shook The World" (1977 - 1999), the semi-sequel to my piece on "How "Star Wars" Changed Everything," is now at MSN Movies.

Excerpt:

"Beverly Hills Cop" (1984)

It's a comedy. It's an action movie. It's a fish-out-of-water story. It has Eddie Murphy. It's the '80s in a nutshell! Here we have the quintessential example of the "high concept" movie that has lit the light which is green at studios from Burbank to Culver City. I saw it with Eszter Balint, the then-18-year-old Hungarian-American actress who played cousin Eva in "Stranger Than Paradise." She told me afterward that she felt bad for the families of all the expendable characters who were killed in the gunfight and car chase scenes. With its (some would say rather callous) synthesis of comedy and violence, "BHC" (and Walter Hill's "48 HRS") brought a slicked-up exploitation-movie sensibility into the mainstream, paving the way in the 1990s for "Pulp Fiction" and its imitators.

"Top Gun" (1986)

A breakthrough in the portrayal of homoeroticism in Hollywood movies (we've all seen Quentin Tarantino's monologue about how it's the gayest movie ever, right?), as well as the apotheosis of the slick, MTV-style action picture produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (now just Bruckheimer, since Don Simpson OD'd on Tinseltown decadence). The deliberate, disorienting music-video cutting, the contemporary pop soundtrack, the shameless celebration of testosterone-injected buddy love -- it's all here, from Tony Scott ("The Last Boy Scout," "Beverly Hills Cop II," "Domino") to Michael Bay ("Armageddon," "Pearl Harbor") and beyond. One could argue that Adrian Lyne's 1983 celluloid video about the lady welder who was "a maniac, maniac" for dancing under buckets of water at gentlemen's clubs (aka "Flashdance") deserves this spot, but it lacks the militaristic gay element that became so prevalent in popular movies. "Brokeback Mountain" may have been sired out of "Red River," but "Top Gun" also blazed a trail for it.

Go here for the complete list and overview...

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The Game of Art 3

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Who knew how this would play out? Roger Ebert's comments about the artistic shortcomings of video games ignited quite a fascinating and, well, interactive discussion among readers, not only about the nature of the game but about the definition of art itself. Now, however, we are exerting authorial control and we provide these excerpts from reader e-mails as our Final Chapter in this particular saga.

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Movie Answer Man (03/09/1998)

Q. I saw "Titanic" a second time to be sure I heard correctly. During the scene where the crew is trying to avoid the iceberg, they shout, "Hard to starboard!" Since they were frantically trying to turn the ship to port, I didn't understand the command. The scene clearly shows the ship veering left, and all of the damage was subsequently done to the starboard side. If someone told me "hard to starboard," I would turn the ship to the right. Maybe we have just discovered the real reason the ship hit the iceberg that night ("Oops! I meant 'port!'"). (Denise Leder, Las Vegas).

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