In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”



The multiple twists, double-crosses and leaps in logic are more likely to prompt giggles than gasps, despite the impressive production values and the earnest efforts…


Oasis: Supersonic

While Oasis: Supersonic is never boring, especially for fans, it’s also not quite deep enough to justify its narrow focus, especially at its overlong running…

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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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Weaker at the broken places


They are two people accustomed to ruling their physical domains with muscle, sex and beauty. They don't ask themselves a lot of questions about what could stand some improvement in their inner lives. They will rely the powers given them. Ali is powerfully-built and roughly handsome. He dreams of becoming a champion of mixed martial arts fighting. At present he is a nightclub bouncer, firmly exercising control over the hopefuls swimming out of the night. Stéphanie is a trainer at a seaquarium, using body language and dead fish to command a tank filled with whales to rise up from the water. They live near Cannes, celebrated for launching more successful people up a red carpet.

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Gabby Giffords made me cry. America? And you?


I sense the debate over gun control is entering into a new phase and the gun lobby is losing. After Obama's second victory, the wind changed. Republicans are suffering uncertainty, and many of them grow restless. We have absorbed years of mass murders, random violence and accidental shootings. If the nation is no longer is no able to absorb those deaths, then Congress will act first against multiple-shot magazines for guns intended for in war.

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The great ecstasy of the sculptor Herzog


A man said to the universe: "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me "A sense of obligation." --Stephen Crane

That man can be found at the center of Werner Herzog's films. He is Aguirre. He is Fitzcarraldo. He is the Nosferatu. He is Timothy Treadwell, who lived among the grizzlies. He is Little Dieter Dengler, who needed to fly. She is Fini Straubinger, who lived in a land of silence and darkness since she was 12. He is Kaspar Hauser. He is Klaus Kinski. He is the man who will not leave the slopes of the Guadeloupe volcano when it is about to explode. He is those who live in the Antarctic. She is Juliana Koepcke, whose plane crashed in the rain forest and she walked out alive. He is Graham Dorrington, who flew one of the smallest airships ever built to study the life existing only in the treetops of that rain forest.

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Pacino, Walken and Arkin: Three stand up guys in a one-act play in an empty noir city at night


• As told to Roger Ebert

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin walk into a hotel room, and that sounds like the set-up for a joke. It's more like a long-delayed punchline. These guys have been stars for more than 40 years, but until "Stand Up Guys," they've all three never been in a movie together. Arkin and Pacino were in "Glengarry Glen Ross" together, and Walken and Pacino were both in "Gigli," but that's as far as it goes.

I mention they go way back.

"Yes, absolutely," Walken says. "I've known Al for decades, from New York and from, you know..."

"He didn't know I was an actor," Pacino says, "until we did this movie. He'd just see me around the street a lot."

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Jeni le Gon: The first black woman signed by Hollywood was livin' and dancin' in great big way


My good Sun-Times pal from the 1970s at the Chicago Sun-Times, Cynthia Dagnal, wrote me today:

"A friend in London sent me this, obituary from the London indpendent and I was stunned to see that Jeni Le Gon attended the same Southside dancing school in Chicago that I did. It was probably the most reputable one on that side of the "color line," and not very far from my house. So I studied with the younger "protégés" of Mary Bruce, and all those cute pics of me in little but EXPENSIVE tutus and whatnot that I sometimes use on my blogs are reminders of those days! I took tap, jazz and ballet as a wee one, and loved to walk around en pointe all day long in those danged--and also expensive--toe shoes!"

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Orson Welles young, old, drunk, sober, and plenty pissed off about frozen peas


Booked into the Auditorium Theater in Chicago in the 1930s, Orson Welles was confronted by a snowstorm of historic proportions. Most of his audience couldn't make it to the theater.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "My name is Orson Welles. I am an actor. I am a writer. I am a producer. I am a director. I am a magician. I appear onstage and on the radio. Why are there so many of me and so few of you?"

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"Speed 3"--Winner of my 1999 contest


No favorable review I've ever written has inspired more disbelief than my three stars for "Speed 2." Even its star, Sandra Bullock, started mentioning in interviews her disgust with herself for agreeing to star in it. It's frequently cited as an example of what a lousy critic I am. (Note well: Siskel also gave it thumbs up.) All the same, I'm grateful to movies that show me what I haven't seen before, and "Speed 2" had a cruise ship plowing right up the main street of a Caribbean village.

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Some of the year's best documentaries


Here is a collection of a dozen of the best documentaries I saw in 2012. It's not a "best of the year" list. Just some good memories of these films.I will not burden you again with another complaint about lists. More than ever, I despise them because they shift focus away from a film and toward a list. When I recently caught up with "Django Unchained," for example, I gave it four stars. The comments section was overrun with readers asking if that meant it was now on my Top Ten list. One reader insisted on knowing which title it replaced. Although the piece was some 2,000 words long, another reader insisted he still wanted to see "my official review."

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A pretty good set of nominees


The Oscars are the most important way the American film industry can honor what it considers the year's best work. But for millions of movie lovers all over the globes, they are something else: A show.

That's why I suspected last June that Quvenzhané Wallis might win a nomination. The pride of Hounduras Elementary School in Houma, LA, has now become, at nine, the youngest nominee in history for Best Actress. Her story is even better: She was five when she auditioned for the role, and six when she performed it.

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Faster, Quentin! Thrill! Thrill!


Rating: Four stars

Consider now the curious character of Dr. King Schultz. He is an itinerant dentist who works from his little wagon, traveling the backroads of the pre-Civil War South. As Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" opens, we see a line of shackled slaves being led through what I must describe as a deep, dark forest, because those are the kinds of forests we meet in fairy tales. Out of this deepness and darkness, Schultz (Christoph Waltz) appears, his lantern swinging from his wagon, which has a bobbling tooth on its roof.

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