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Planes: Fire & Rescue

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" won’t ever be mistaken for a classic, especially not with its happy ending that exists primarily for the benefit of future…

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Mood Indigo

Even if you have a high tolerance for whimsy, "Mood Indigo" may still be too much.

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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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Postcards from Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah -- Mugging by postcard is the white-collar crime of choice at the Sundance Film Festival. Filmmakers fly to Utah with suitcases filled with postcards advertising their films, which they hand out to anybody who looks vaguely promising. I have 19 in my pocket right now.

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Indies in the spotlight

PARK CITY, Utah -- Sundance has become the nation's most important film festival through an unbeatable combination: inconvenient location, lousy weather, overcrowded screening facilities, municipal hostility, and a 10-day lineup of films that in some cases will never be heard of again.

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Toronto picks best of bunch

TORONTO -- Films set in imperial China, the American South and Iceland won the most important awards here Sunday, as the 25th Toronto Film Festival came to a close. The festival has no jury and is officially non-competitive, yet it managed to honor a dozen films at its closing brunch. There were lots of ties.

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Little screen captures big stars' imaginations

My digital camera slips into my pocket and goes with me to every screening at the Toronto Film Festival. You never know who you'll meet: Helen Shaver bounding out of an elevator, LeVar Burton on his way to a movie, Denzel Washington in the lobby of the Four Seasons at midnight. At the end of the day I download my catch, slipping the photo card out of the camera and into my Mac G3 Powerbook. Software allows me to crop the photos and fiddle with the exposure, and then I load them into e-mail and zap them off to the paper.

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Video, 16mm liberate filmmakers

TORONTO -- Spike Lee's new film was shot on digital video. Joel Schumacher's new film was shot on 16mm. The formats probably made the films possible. Video is not film and 16mm is not 35mm, but the artistic imagination is the same, and the lower-priced formats allow spontaneity and speed that you can't get when you're dragging a 35mm camera and all of its lights and acolytes everywhere you go.

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Fitting the film festival bill

TORONTO -- I walk out of the Uptown and there's a TV crew on the sidewalk, and although they are no doubt hoping for Parker Posey, they ask me a question, anyway: "What do you look for in a festival film?" I say I'm not really looking for anything in particular, blah, blah, but for some reason the question reverberates all day.

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3 festival films reveal life's secrets

TORONTO -- It was the opening weekend of the 25th anniversary Toronto Film Festival, the summer was over, and it was safe for the good movies to open again. Summer is the season devoted to the mindless feeding of our base desires for low entertainment. Autumn is when we get new three-ring binders and iron our chinos and go back to school. Something ineffable in the first cool day of September makes us think deeper thoughts and nurture our better natures. This passes, but for a time we feel virtuous and want to go to movies that will reveal the secrets of life.

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Film lovers' treat

TORONTO -- I missed the first Toronto Film Festival. So did a lot of other people. I've attended every one since. The second was like a gathering of conspirators who raced from theater to theater on the rumors of screenings. But the festival has grown so steadily that its 25th anniversary event, which begins today, can safely be called the most important film festival in North America, and one of the top handful in the world.

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