Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
All lists of the "greatest" movies are propaganda. They have no deeper significance. It is useless to debate them. Even more useless to quarrel with their ordering of titles: Why is this film #11 and that one only #31? The most interesting lists are those by one person: What are Scorsese's favorites, or Herzog's? The least interesting are those by large-scale voting, for example by IMDb or movie magazines. The most respected poll, the only one I participate in, is the vote taken every 10 years by Sight & Sound, the British film magazine, which asks a large number of filmmakers, writers, critics, scholars, archivists and film festival directors.
1. The Night of the Hunter, 1955
That one at least has taken on a canonical aspect. The list evolves slowly. Keaton rises, Chaplin falls. It is eventually decided that "Vertigo" is Hitchcock's finest film. Ozu cracks the top ten. Every ten years the net is thrown out again. The Sight & Sound list at least reflects widespread thinking in what could be called the film establishment, and reflects awareness of the full span of more than a century of cinema.
The IMDb list of "250 Top Movies of All Time" is the best-known and most-quoted of all "best movie" lists. It looks to be weighted toward more recent films, although Keith Simonton, who is in charge over there, tells me they have a mathematical model that somewhat corrects for that. Specifically, it guards against this week's overnight sensation shooting to the top of the list on a wave of fanboy enthusiasm. Still, the IMDb voters are probably much younger on average than the Sight & Sound crowd. To the degree the list merely reflects their own tastes back at them, it tells them what they already know.
If you want to see fear in the eyes of a quantum physicist, mention the word "measurement." -- Folk saying
Is reincarnation possible from a scientific, rationalist point of view? For my purposes today I'm going to argue that it is. We will never, however, be aware of it, and indeed "we," as we like to think of ourselves, will be completely out of the picture. I'm going to approach the problem from the point of view of quantum mechanics--a field about which I understand almost nothing, although discussing it permits others to assume I have gone mad.
Let's begin, for the sake of argument, by saying that when you get right down to the bottom--under the turtles--everything, and I mean Everything, consists of quantum particles. These particles can as well be in one place as another, even at the same time. As Wikipedia informs us: The Everett many-worlds interpretation, formulated in 1956, holds that all the possibilities described by quantum theory simultaneously occur in a "multiverse" composed of mostly independent parallel universes.
The crucial word here is "simultaneously." I take it to mean that Everything can be thought of as being in no particular place at any particular time. If you choose to think of it that way, be my guest. Whatever you think will be sublimely irrelevant, because places and times are concepts we bring with us to the quantum level. They do not seem to exist there. Or if they do, they are created only in the act of our applying them, and our measurements have meaning to us but not to them.
by Roger Ebert
This is the best of times and the worst of times for the kinds of films we here in this blog find ourselves seeking. I'm talking about good independent films--which usually means films financed, released and marketed outside the big distribution channels. That's a vague category which might also include foreign films, documentaries and classic revivals. These are the films where the future of film as an art form resides.
I have nothing to say against mainstream movies, the kinds that open on thousands of screens and are the only movies most people ever hear about. I like a lot of them--too many some of my readers say. They fend nicely for themselves. Sometimes they can be genuine art. Good for them.
I speak instead of films that make their own way in the world, inhabiting those few theaters that are booked with taste and independence. Or films available only on DVD. Or films finding their largest audiences at festivals. Or playing in video in demand. Or rediscovered after some years. Or lost.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is in certain ways one of the best of the Harry Potter series, and in other ways a comedown. I received mail from readers noticing that my positive review seemed less enthusiastic that many other critics--and so it was, contrasted to eight important writers who rated it 90 or above on Metacritic. I suppose my three stars seemed a little reluctant.
The most perfect cartoon caption I've ever seen was created by James Thurber, and ran in the New Yorker in 1932. It showed two fencers. One had just sliced off the other's head. The caption was: Touche! You may know some that are funnier. What bothers me is that I will have written none of them. I have entered the New Yorker's cartoon caption contest almost weekly virtually since it began, and have never even been a finalist. Mark Twain advised: "Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for." I have done more writing for free for the New Yorker in the last five years than for anybody in the previous 40 years.
It's not that I think my cartoon captions are better than anyone else's, although some weeks, understandably, I do. It's that just once I want to see one of my damn captions in the magazine that publishes the best cartoons in the world. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I'm too oblique for them. The New Yorker's judges seem to live inside the box, and too many of their finalists are obvious--even no-brainers, you could say.
Example. An executive is seated at a desk, interviewing a giant lobster. Winning aption: "And why did you leave your job at Red Lobster?" I mean, come on! That's level one. It's obvious. It's not even funny. Let's work together on this. Let's try lateral thinking. A perfect caption should redefine the cartoon, and yet seem consistent with it.
I have no way of knowing Robert McNamara's thoughts in his final days. He might have reflected on his agreement to speak openly to Errol Morris in the extraordinary documentary "The Fog of War." His reflections are almost without precedent among modern statesmen and those involved in waging war. Remembered as the architect of the war in Vietnam, he doesn't quite apologize for not having done more to end that war--although he clearly wishes he had. His purpose in the film is to speak of his philosophy of life, to add depth to history's one-dimensional portrait. Don't we all want to do that?
"I have no regrets," Edith Piaf sang. It is clear that she does regret. She is singing of love, not war. I think she is saying that she and her lover did the best they could. If she can say that, she need have no regrets. McNamara is saying the same thing about his years in power. He is honest in reporting a discussion at the time about leaving as Johnson's secretary of defense. He told Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, "I don't know if I resigned or was fired." "Oh, Bob," she told him, "of course you were fired." One of the things he tells Morris is: "In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil." That argument is denied by theologians, but much heard in realms of realpolitik.
He agreed to submit himself to Morris's questions for an hour. He ended by speaking for ten. He went to subjects Morris might not have thought to take him, discussed things that were, at 85, much on his mind. He was a key aide to Gen. Curtis LeMay, who directed the fire-bombing of Tokyo when more than 100,000, mostly civilians, were burned alive. After the war, he says, in one of the film's most astonishing moments, LeMay observed to him that if America had lost, they would have been tried as war criminals. What does he, McNamara, think about the bombing? By quoting LeMay's statement that might have forever gone unrecorded, I think he lets us know.
"The Hurt Locker" represents a return to strong, exciting narrative. Here is a film about a bomb disposal expert that depends on character, dialogue and situation to develop almost unbearable suspense. It contains explosions, but only a few, and it is not about explosions, but about hoping that none will happen. That sense of hope is crucial. When we merely want to see stuff blowed up real good in a movie, that means the movie contains no one we give a damn about.
Will any child's toy escape being blockbustered?
Roger Ebert is a moron! Transformers 2 is the best action movie ever. Don't listem to that moron! He is only into slow boring romantic movies. That is his type of movies. Michael Bay did a great good. Roger... your an old fart! John C
Having now absorbed all or parts of 750 responses to my complaints about "Transformers," I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that most of those writing agree with me that it is a horrible movie. After all, look where they've chosen to comment. There have, however been some disagreements that I thought were reasonable. These writers mostly said they had a thing about the Transformers toys of their childhoods, or liked the animation on TV, or like to see stuff blowed up real good. In that case. Michael Bay is your man. If you enjoyed the movie, there is no way I can say you're wrong. About yourself, anyway.
Another common line of attack was disturbing. It came from people who said I was out of touch with the tastes of the audience. That the movie's detractors (lumped together as "the critics") like only obscure movies that nobody else does--art films, documentaries, foreign films, indies, movies made 50 years ago--even, God forbid, "classics." One poster argued that "Transformers" was better than that boring old movie "Casablanca."
I was informed I didn't "get" Michael Bay. I was too old, "of the wrong generation," or an elitist or a liberal--although not, I was relieved to find, a "liberal elitist." It seems to me "Transformers" also qualifies for conservative scorn. It is obliviously nonpartisan. Yet one commented said I hated the movie because it was an attack on President Obama. I was afraid to say I hadn't noticed that, because then I would be told I hadn't even seen the movie. It is possible to miss many of the plot points, strange in a movie with so few of them. Veiled in-jokes about politicians and famous people, popular in animation and mass market movies, come with the territory. I enjoy them. The apparent reference to Obama was no big deal, although a reader from Germany told me the actual name "Obama" was used in the German dub. That possibly didn't happen without Bay hearing about it.