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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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Magic in the Moonlight

While Allen’s new picture, "Magic In The Moonlight," isn’t even close to being a disaster (for that, see, well, "Scoop"), I don’t think it’s unreasonable…

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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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The AFI Class of '92

May Contain Spoilers

Call it a bloodbath. Not literally, of course, but it sure felt like one.

It was a Friday afternoon in late spring 1993 at The American Film Institute. The Class of 1992, which had pretty much killed itself making short films ("cycle projects") since starting the program in September, was waiting for a list. Dreading it, too. Because everybody'd known all year that of 168 "Fellows," as AFI calls them --- only 40 (or just 8 across 5 disciplines - directing, producing, cinematography, editing, production design) would be invited back, making that coveted Second Year cut for the opportunity to produce a second year film.

A top secret selection committee debated late into the day. Even I, then Special Projects Coordinator and right hand to the Dean of Studies, didn't know who was meeting. There was tension everywhere, clinging like the humidity of a Midwestern summer, as the committee decided, and the Fellows waited.

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Dear M. Night Shyamalan

May Contain Spoilers

I hope this letter reaches you with the best of health and spirits. I am reaching out to you not only because I loved your movies, but also because we are of the same generation of Desis. We migrated here with our parents during that first huge wave some forty years ago and now we are both (perhaps in self-perception) regular middle-aged guys from big cities experiencing the next phases of our lives. I am sure that many of your childhood experiences paralleled mine, both in school playgrounds and in our private imaginations. In some ways, we are peers; in some ways I admire your work. The fact that I am writing this letter implies that I am concerned about a progression that seems to be taking place in your films.

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The do-it-yourself auteurs

• Video by Kevin B. Lee • Text by Steven Boone

German Expressionism, Soviet Montage, Italian Neo-Realism, the French New Wave , the Japanese New Wave, the Australian New Wave, Cinema Novo, the New American Cinema, Cinema du Look, the Black Pack, Dogme 95, mumblecore...

In the cinema world, film "waves"--movements of like minded filmmakers bound by generation, nationality, stylistic tendencies or social/political position--rise, crest and fall away every decade. But the latest wave is something different.

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Which is the monster? The creature, or the creator?

May Contain Spoilers

Raging Bull, Henry V and Heat are primary examples of films acclaimed on their releases and steadily more since then. But this is far from being the case with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: slaughtered by the majority of critics in 1994, when it was released, the movie by British director Kenneth Branagh didn't please the audience either, becoming an embarrassing box office flop in the career of its director, which had so far been in ascension.

Even the surprising casting of Robert De Niro in the role of the "monster" wasn't enough to attract the attention of the audience, which therefore lost the opportunity to witness yet another immensely sensitive performance by the actor - and I use the word "monster" in quotes because DeNiro may have played many in his brilliant career (Louis Cyphre, Al Capone, Max Cady and even Jake La Motta come to mind), but the creature conceived by British writer Mary Shelley certainly isn't one of them. At least, not in Branagh's beautiful version.

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You see me here, you gods, a poor old man

May Contain Spoilers

It's always difficult to put a play on the stage. Actors and crews work hard amid many setbacks that can happen on and behind the stage. If they are lucky, they will survive today's performance with descending curtain and some fulfillment. Then they will have to struggle for another performance tomorrow with today's performance faded into yesterday.

It sounds gloomy, but people in "The Dresser"(1983) stick together and try to go on while believing they are accomplishing something in spite of their mundane reality in and out of theater. At one moment, one character confides to the other about her life spent on theater business: "No, I haven't been happy. Yes, it's been worth it." Norman, played by Tom Courtenay, can say the same thing if asked.

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A letter from Cairo on February 11, 2011

Today I walked the streets of Egypt proud--proud of my people and my country. It took us 18 days of protests to force Mubarak and his corrupt regime to resign. Their accounts will be frozen and the billions of dollars that should've gone into building a better and cleaner country will finally be restored for the good of our nation.

Mubarak left and we're all proud of getting rid of a corrupt dictator but it's the incidents I've witnessed with my own eyes throughout this revolution that has me swollen with pride. When Muslims prayed on a bridge, the police sprayed them with water and even though some slipped and fell, they stood back up and resumed. Egyptians of all religions were moved by this and when the water was pointed back at them, they created another front line of prayers. People kept coming in to reduce the impact of the water.

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Another day. Another year

May Contain Spoilers

Mike Leigh's Another Year (2010) is like a tender, swollen, beating heart that you hold within your palms: the soft flesh expands and contracts with every breath, and through the tiny crevices in between your fingers, life juices flow.

"Life is not always kind, is it?"

Gerri looks at Mary and quietly let those words slip. Mary catches her gaze, briefly. The letters settle over them like a mild fog, unmistakably present and non-disruptive, and the day proceeds on as it does.

Another day. Another year.

Through uncanny realism and probing characters, Leigh's latest film speaks of the pervasive dilemma of our kind: how do we live in this world in the presence of those so different and similar to ourselves at once? How do we make sense of each of our own way of life?

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"Moozlums" have been here for a long time

May Contain Spoilers

Qasim Basir presents his first feature film, "Mooz-lum," featuring Danny Glover, Nia Long, and Roger Guenveur Smith. Based on true events, it follows the story of Tariq (Evan Ross, son of Diana Ross) as he begins college, hoping to escape his childhood struggles. Estranged from his mother and sister, he spent his youth living at times with a strict, religious father and at times in a local madrassa (Islamic seminary). He is a Muslim college student, enrolling in the Fall of 2001. Simply, it is a story of a man trying to hide from the boy within him, just as all hell is about to break loose.

The movie opens nationally on Friday, 2/11. The title is a play on a common mispronunciation of "Muslim." I shrug when President Obama, despite his childhood in Indonesia, pronounces the term as "Muz-lem," though that is still better than the archaic "Moslem." The point here is not that anyone is intentionally mispronouncing the name. Rather, those of us with Muslim names

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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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