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A Letter to Momo

Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…

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Cannibal

Visually striking and confident but frustratingly hollow in terms of character and narrative.

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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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Santa Barbara 2: Of hippos and red carpets

May Contain Spoilers

A foggy morning on the last day of the festival. One more week of movie-going, as Egypt totters and my native Midwest suffers another snowstorm, has caused both guilt and gratitude. But before I describe what I've been experiencing in balmy Santa Barbara, an upfront mea culpa, as earlier I mangled the name of a delightful film and want to correct it here. "Good for Nothing" comes from New Zealand, a spaghetti western with a bit of "Unforgiven" tossed in. Well acted and very scenic, the story centers on an Eastwood-like lone cowboy, who says little, thinks guns are meant for killing and women for --- When he kidnaps a young English traveler, rather than dominating her as he evidently intends, she gains control, ultimately humanizing the guy and helping him unfold his hidden heart. A man at the festival suggested that, "as a woman," I wouldn't like this film at all - but he was wrong.

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Uncle Boonmee as a video installation

May Contain Spoilers

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's latest movie "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" scored some points from me at the beginning. After the enigmatic opening sequence featuring a cow and the jungle shrouded in strange atmosphere, the following sequence with a car going along some country road drew my attention. The land was different, the trees and plants surrounding the road were also different, and the climate was also different, but the mood was somehow familiar to me.

It was not different from what I remember from our family's occasional short journey to my grandmother's country village. We also went there by a car, we also went along a paved country road, and I used to pensively look at the landscape outside car while a little bored in backseat.

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A letter from the barricades in Cairo

May Contain Spoilers

Wael is a gifted young film critic who joined his fellow Far-Flung Correspondents at Ebertfest 2010. Today the group received this word from him after a week of silence.

We took a specific safe route to my grandfather's house on Thursday night. After a good night sleep, I met up with fellow friends and protestors of Zamalek and walked to Tahrir Square where the majority of the protestors chanted and waved their hands in unity. The Friday protest was exhausting for we were struggling to stand our ground. The police fired tear-gas and it was the first time for me to inhale this toxic material.

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Services at Santa Barbara

May Contain Spoilers

"The church of baseball." That's a term from Annie Savoy, Susan Sarandon's vivid character in "Bull Durham," that film of men, women and baseball, written and directed by Santa Barbara native Ron Shelton. I'm lifting the phrase here, adapting it for films and film festivals.Call it the church of cinema. That's been my experience and my "church" since age 18, a kid in college. I'd escape the campus upheaval, both political (this was the anti-war era) and personal (the sexual revolution hitting big time), and my search for identity, with a respite every Wednesday afternoon; with a couple dozen others, I became a weekly acolyte at screenings of the International Film Series at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There I discovered Belmondo, Bertolucci, "The Battle of Algiers." My world blew open and I never looked back.

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These men could have been friends

May Contain Spoilers

A few film directors end up becoming masters of specific subjects. Scorsese grew up in an environment that allowed him to understand organized crime from the inside. Tarantino has a grasp on the language that some street people, their drugs of choice and their methods of use, and so on. Michael Mann is the Hollywood Epic Techno-Crime expert. Did he grow up with it? Did he research it? A few years ago, I came across an old 70s Starsky & Hutch episode which happened to be written by him; in it, a serial killer claimed to receive his murdering orders from outer space and wore a tin-foil pointy-shaped hat for just that purpose. This means I'm basically leaning towards research, but your guess is as good as mine.

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Crime in the emptiness of Los Angeles

May Contain Spoilers

Michael Mann's "Heat" ranks right up there with the best of the crime genre from "Rififi" to "The Godfather". In fact, it is in my opinion the single greatest Los Angeles crime epic of all time, for it encompasses themes and visuals rarely achieved by productions. "Heat" is very ambitious and the end result is nothing short of a larger-than-life epic grandeur of a film.

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And life goes on as planned

May Contain Spoilers

Whenever I saw a plastic bag, a mixed feeling of benevolence and mild annoyance used to bubble up within me. When not neatly stacked by the cashier in a store or filled with stuff, they were usually flapping in the wind making unnecessary noises or worse, trailing in the gutter or sidewalk, being useless. Their life as intended was over, but they seemed oblivious.

These feeling changed after I first read the novel "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro, which in its almost-casual prose and easy pace, threaded me through the legendary grounds of Hailsham and the damp English countryside with Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy. Along the way I sat beside the girls while they bonded, and stood beside the boys while they yelled. Throughout their lives, I got to know these three people, and they became real to me. By the time the book completed, so had they, but I was not.

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A man living at the edge

May Contain Spoilers

Hi, this is Gerardo Valero and today I'd like to talk to you about "Changing Lanes" in which Ben Affleck plays the typical bright but self-absorbed, school-smart Yuppie who gets to marry the boss' daughter but his knowledge of the ways of the world are rather limited, specially since he's mastered the art of lying to himself all his life. His best friend and ex-lover played by the always excellent Toni Colette is much more self-aware than him but she doesn't have his ambitions, or simply put, she knows the ways of the world too well to want anything to do with what it would require from her, to take the next step in life. It is only because of her love for Banek that she tries to help him by providing ill-advised solutions to his problems, which despite her good intentions only make things worse.

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Run Silent, Run Deep

May Contain Spoilers

The other day I was discussing the physicality of objects with a fellow Far-Flung Correspondent), Grace Wang. We were mourning the death of physical objects. Like me, she shares this preference of actual physical books over e-books, letters over emails, photo albums on a shelf over digitalized photo albums on Facebook. There is something unique about the physicality of them all, something that will always be absent from their digital replacements. Of course recycling these objects goes without saying.

The smell of a book as you turn a soft page, or the excitement of checking the mailbox for snail mail is something many of us will always prefer over clicking a 'Next Page' icon in an e-book or checking an inbox full of emails. It's why the Jimmy Stewart film "Shop Around the Corner" worked better as a romantic comedy than the Tom Hanks remake "You've Got Mail". Yes, both may contain the same content but content has nothing to do with it. I would rather slam a book with anger or crumble a letter than double click a delete button. This need for physical objects is more than just an act of nostalgia; it's a predilection.

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The death of a talk host

May Contain Spoilers

Roger Ebert writes: Alan Berg was a Denver talk-radio host who was murdered on June 18, 1984. He was a goofy-looking bird, with a thin face and a bristly white beard that hid the ravages of teenage acne. He wore reading glasses perched far down on his nose, and he dressed in unlikely combinations of checks and stripes and garments that looked left over from the 1950s. When the members of a lunatic right-wing group gunned him down in the driveway of his home, they could not have mistaken him for anybody else.

I was on Berg's radio show three or four times. I listened to him as I drove down from Boulder to Denver. He was chewing out some hapless housewife whose brain was a reservoir of prejudices against anyone who was the slightest bit different from her. Berg was telling her that no one in his right mind would want to be anything like her at all.

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