Roger and I thank you for joining us as we talked about the movies each week this past year. We have enjoyed producing Ebert Presents At The Movies and hope to continue sometime in 2012. This week we produced our last show.
It is the Best and Worst Movies of 2011 and begins airing Friday night, December 30, at 8:30 pm on WTTW, Channel 11 in Chicago, and all during the weekend and next week on public television stations across the nation. (Check local listings to find out what time it comes on in your town.)
I watched Robert Zemeckis's "Contact" again a couple of weeks ago, so I could add it to the Great Movies Collection. In 1997 I had some questions, but this time it was even more clear that the movie ends in enigma and paradox. Like many movies, that has little bearing on its effect.
Questions introduced from near the beginning seem to find answers at the end, and most viewers are satisfied--even exhilarated. For me, too, there was uplift. No matter that the scientific establishment scoffs; Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) knows what she saw, and we saw the same things.
Box office revenue at movie theaters "lagged far behind 2010," an article by the AP's David Germain reports. Partly that was because the year lacked an "Avatar." Partly because a solid summer slate fell off in the autumn. Germain talks to several Hollywood insiders who tried to account for the general decline of ticket sales; 2011 had "smallest movie audience since 1995." I have some theories of my own, fueled by what people tell me.
Why not fold documentaries into my list of the "Best Films of 2011?" After all, a movie is a movie, right? Yes, and some years I've thrown them all into the same mixture. But all of these year-end Best lists serve one useful purpose: They tell you about good movies you may not have seen or heard about. The more films on my list that aren't on yours, the better job I've done.
That's particularly true were you to depend on the "short list" released by the Academy's Documentary Branch of 15 films they deem eligible for nomination. The branch has been through turmoil in the past and its procedures were "reformed" at one point. But this year it has made a particularly scandalous sin of
You better watch out You better not cry You better have clout We're telling you why Two Thumbs Down are comin' to town We're making a list, Checking it twice; Gonna find out whose movie was scheiss. Sandy Claws is comin' to town. We see you when you're (bleeping), We know when you're a fake We know if you've been bad or good So be good for cinema's sake!
After years of speculation and delays, "The Tree of Life," Terrence Malick's long-awaited film that took viewers from the beginning of time to 1950s Texas, proved to be worth the wait, according to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The CFCA gave "Tree of Life" four awards including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress for newcomer Jessica Chastain and Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki.
Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.
My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won't be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.
One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.
A 2009 story about a 12-year-old musical prodigy caught my eye today. His name is Jay Greenberg. He composes in his mind. It comes to him naturally. When we think of musical prodigies we imagine a child on a piano bench, or playing a violin. Not many compose. Greenburg has written five symphonies.
Sam Zyman, a composer who is Jay's teacher at Julliard, told Rebecca Leung of CBS News: "We are talking about a prodigy of the level of the greatest prodigies in history when it comes to composition. I am talking about the likes of Mozart, and Mendelssohn, and Saint-Sans.
I commissioned this chart to make my position clear. I've avoided the subject until now because, while I instinctively felt I must be in favor of the Occupiers, I wasn't sure what the movement stood for. I support most populist uprisings on matter of principle, and would perhaps even support the Tea Party were it not demonstrating in favor of the very things that are wrong.
At the end of December, our public television program "Ebert Presents At The Movies" will go on hiatus while we find necessary funding. This move is necessary to allow the public television stations that carry our show to plan their programs for the beginning of the new year. We held off as long as possible but we had to give notice today.