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La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

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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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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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Video essay: Was this Japanese film an inspiration for "The Hunger Games?"

May Contain Spoilers
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Fantastical novels aimed at the young are making a killing these days. And due to the immense success of the "Harry Potter" and "Lord Of The Rings" movies, studios are looking for that next big series to cash in on. But among such film adaptations, rare is the one that finds a figurative truth worth sharing. Most of them are merely content to display the depths of their imaginations, being (perhaps justifiably) almost completely distant from the concerns of real life.

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A taxi driver goes South

May Contain Spoilers

Looking back at the Hollywood blockbuster action films of 2011 when the year was about to end, I found none of them could top the raw realism of the ambitious South Korean thriller "The Yellow Sea" (2010). When I endured "Transformers 3" last summer, I had no excitement at all with its pointless loud action scenes decorated with weightless CGI. In the case of "The Yellow Sea," real people and real vehicles are put into the action on the screen, and they are far more visceral than those big, humongous CGI robots fighting on the streets of Chicago.

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A psychopath and the Female Gaze

May Contain Spoilers

I love a black comedy. Always have. You know, all those tragic mishaps that seem to befall Alec Guinness in the English countryside when no one is looking? But then who doesn't love an Ealing comedy. I also like "Dexter" and for similar reasons; it too, has an air of subversive glee about it, albeit darker and more graphic in nature. The appeal is never about seeing people die, though (where's the fun in that?). Nor in watching mindless torture porn like Hostel; a genre increasingly viewed as the favorite pastime of failed experiments in parenting, moreover, and thus to be avoided at all costs. I loathe the entire genre aka "Women in Danger" films as Gene and Roger once termed them. American Psycho however, is anything but a slasher film.

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Clint Eastwood and the Hereafter

May Contain Spoilers

During the 1970s and 80s the typical Clint Eastwood vehicle was heavier in plot than characters. In most cases, he simply played another variation of his usual loner, with a different name and leading lady. The female role was barely relevant, came well in second place to Clint's and was nothing more than a plot resource. It didn't really matter who ended up playing her but for a while Sondra Locke got the part repeatedly.

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A love letter to Iran

May Contain Spoilers
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These days when you mention Iran, we think of a nation on the brink of war. Extremist images come to mind, full of concealed women and bearded militants. Such stereotypes are useful in the drum up to war. But rarely do we step back to remember when Iran was as European as Europe, or that an autocracy does not necessarily reflect its people. We've forgotten how hundreds of thousands of Iranians risked their lives for the Green Revolution, long before the Arab Spring. There's more to Iran than Ayatollahs and Nuclear Weapons.

Iranian Cinema has always been one of the world's best, reflecting the country's incredible artistic heritage. This year saw Asghar Farhadi's A Separation take the much deserved Best Foreign Picture Oscar. Farhadi himself reminded us not to forget his people's shared humanity.

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A prisoner of pleasure

May Contain Spoilers

On the subway, the beautiful woman returns his gaze with a smile. Noticing the desire of the man before her, she crosses her legs suggestively, indicating an awareness of what's happening while waiting for a more direct approach. Gradually, however, something occurs to her: the man is not smiling nor showing any sign that he's enjoying the pleasure of mutual seduction, seeming only interested in establishing the possibility of sex before making any move. Suddenly, the situation becomes unbearably uncomfortable and the girl, not understanding exactly what goes on his mind, runs out of the car, fearing the cool evaluation of that look.

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Remembering my father's face

May Contain Spoilers

I remember my father's face, but not his voice. If I close my eyes I can perfectly see his expression of disapproval this one time when I was five years old, and another one of deep affection, at more or less the same time, but I cannot remember what he said - or even if said something - in each of those moments. What I do know beyond any doubt is that The Tree of Life, a masterpiece of filmmaker Terrence Malick, kindly led me to these reminiscences through his own philosophical reflection on human nature and our history on this planet. In this sense, the film represents a deeply religious experience for atheists, humanists, and especially film lovers.

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Life beyond Rationality and Compassion

May Contain Spoilers

Have you ever been hit so hard that you've been left in a permanent daze? I'm speaking of a defining event that, in a matter of moments, changes everything for you, permanently. Maybe it's a collision. Maybe a life event like a tragedy or a divorce. You're at the epicenter of the calamity. The destruction hits you right between the eyes. And while you make sense of what hit you, if you ever do, your loved ones bear the brunt of the hurricane that you become. Like a set of ripples, it realigns everything you do. Peter Weir's "Fearless" 1993 shows us the effect of a plane crash, and tells us that when we get hit with such cataclysms, no single way resolves the trauma.

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A lifetime in five minutes

May Contain Spoilers

Streaming free on Amazon Prime.

When I watch Roger Donaldson's "The World's Fastest Indian," (2005) it makes my day. Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) is a contented New Zealand eccentric tinkering with a motorcycle that he dreams of racing in the Bonneville Salt Flats. It's the story of a man trying to be the fastest motorcyclist in history. He has had the fortitude to fiddle with his bike for over 40 years until it is finally ready. Forty years. More than that, it's a true story about a square peg poking his way through a world of circles and triangles, discovering all the different Americas. It's a romantic comedy, for monks. Like me.

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The Pursuit of Powerlessness

May Contain Spoilers

One man. Three acts. Three stories. First, he is an aggressive corporate manager, racing against seconds and minutes to do his work and live his life. Second, he is a quiet man in a peaceful land, where time moves in seasons and years. Third, he is a bewildered man at home, where time has slipped passed him, making him miss the most important events of his life, including his own death. This is Robert Zemeckis' great "Cast Away" (2000). If this were a foreign language film or an independent film with a no-name cast, I am sure it would have received tremendous acclaim. As an American film by a major American director featuring two powerhouse actors (Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt), however, it has been left underrated.

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