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Goodbye to Language

Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.

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The Great Invisible

Winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, the film is strongest when it focuses on the micro rather than the macro. How the…

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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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Mamet's Spector of reasonable doubt

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"I believe he's not guilty."

"Are you sure?"

"No, but I have a reasonable doubt."

The last words spoken in David Mamet's HBO feature film "Phil Spector" are "reasonable doubt." The first words appear in white letters on a black screen:

This is a work of fiction. It's not "based on a true story." ... It is a drama inspired by actual persons on a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.

I'm not quite sure what that means (beyond "Don't sue us") -- but it sounds a little like one of Mamet's nonsensical latter-day post-right-wing conversion rants. (Read Mamet's 2008 Village Voice essay, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'" and see if you can figure out how he went from an unthinking, ignorant knee-jerk lefty to an unthinking, ignorant knee-jerk conservative. It has something to do with NPR, but what was he listening to? "Car Talk"? He doesn't say -- only that he believes in choosing one's political positions and convictions the way you would choose a sports team to root for, based on your affection for a place and whatever colors you feel are the most flattering this season.)

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Holy Oscar! A long day's journey into Muriel

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But what really matters is the Muriels. You know, that time-honored annual movie award that is not named after Bette Davis's Uncle Oscar, but after co-founder Paul Clark's guinea pig. Throughout the month of February (the 6th through the 23rd), the winners have been announced, as you know because you've been regularly clicking on the Muriels link right here on Scanners. Anyway, you know what "Argo" can do; the Muriel voters, on the other hand, chose to give the year's top prize to what, for me, was obviously the most rewarding movie experience of the year: Leos Carax's "Holy Motors."

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Moi, misérable: Fermer le trou à tarte

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Another brawl in the square Another stink in the air! Was there a witness to this? Well, let him speak to Javert! -- Javert, a character in the musical "Les Misérables"

I was an eyewitness to "Les Misérables."

After repeated exposure to that dreadful theatrical trailer-cum-featurette about how the singing is all done live on camera! -- It's live! It's Live! IT'S LIVE! -- I had no intention of seeing Tom "The King's Speech" Hooper's film version of the 1980s stage musical. But when it finally came out, some of the reviews were so bad that part of me wanted to see what the stink was all about. Still, I'm not a masochist; I don't enjoy going to movies I know I'm probably predisposed to dislike just so I can dump on them. On the other hand, there's nothing better than having your low expectations upended. I did enjoy that Susan Boyle YouTube video back in 2009, but that was all I knew about the musical. I remained curious but skeptical. And then ...

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The private lives of Jodie Foster

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(AP photo)

Near the end of her remarkable Golden Globes speech, a monologue overflowing with teasing language and sly pop-culture references, actor-director Jodie Foster mentioned a dog whistle. Although she sometimes seemed to be speaking extemporaneously, while also incorporating pre-crafted phrases designed to say exactly what she intended to say (and, equally important, what she had no intention of saying), I thought the message, addressed primarily to those who have pressured her to publicly acknowledge her lesbianism for so many years, was clear and unambiguous -- except for the parts she deliberately wanted to leave ambiguous. And it's pretty much the same message she's been repeating since she was in college:

I value my privacy. Everything about being a performer makes it difficult to protect and maintain that privacy. I've been pressured to talk about my private life as a woman, formerly in a same-sex relationship with Cydney Bernard, who is raising two sons. And this is as much of a public "coming out" statement as you're going to get from me.

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Django Unchain my heart (and set me free)

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Quentin Tarantino has found his actor in Christoph Waltz -- someone who can speak Tarantinian fluently and still make it his own. When Waltz uses a self-consciously ostentatious word like "ascertain" (as in, "I was simply trying to ascertain..." -- the kind of verbiage QT is as likely to put in the mouth of a lowlife crook as a German dentist, or a Francophile plantation slavemaster, for that matter), it sounds right. As someone to whom Tarantino's dialog often sounds cliche-ridden and cutesy, it's a pleasure to hear Waltz saying the words in character rather than simply as a mouthpiece for the writer-director.

Oh, stop. This isn't sounding the way I want it to.

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Let's have a real discussion about gun violence

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"As a country, we have been through this too many times..." -- President Obama, December 14, 2012

It was a busy week of business-as-usual in the USA:

Tuesday, December 11: A man killed three people (including himself) and wounded another in shootings at the Clackamas Mall in Portland, OR.

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Lincoln: "It's true because it works"

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At the heart of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is a quiet scene between President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) and two young men, Samuel Beckwith (Adam Driver) and David Homer Bates (Drew Sease), in an otherwise empty telegraph cipher office. Lincoln has to make a crucial decision: Does he consider a peace proposal from a Confederate delegation on its way to Washington, and thus perhaps immediately end the bloody Civil War that has claimed the lives of more than half a million Americans, knowing that it would doom his attempt to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, officially banning slavery in the United States? Or does he try to legally solidify and extend his Emancipation Proclamation by getting the Thirteenth Amendment passed during a narrow window of opportunity (during the lame duck session of Congress between his re-election and second inauguration) at the cost of extending the war?

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Listening to language: Our dumb media

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First off, I agree with Angus T. Jones -- well, about one thing, at least. The child actor of whose existence I hadn't been aware until a few days ago said on digital video that he was employed on a lousy sitcom that was basically "filth." Who's going to argue? Really, is he wrong? Have you ever seen Two and a Half Men? (I admit I've only witnessed bits and pieces, but that was enough to get the tenor of the show. And I knew there was a "half" involved -- the title tells me so -- but I didn't know Jones was it.) So, the young man says this:

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Petraeus/Broadwell: It's the technology, stupid

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Writer-director-producer David Simon (creator of "The Wire," "Generation Kill," "Treme") has a piece at Salon headlined: "Media's sex obsession is dangerous, destructive," in which he eviscerates Roger Simon (no relation) for his Politico column, "Gen. David Petraeus is dumb, she's dumber." And The Week offers a round-up of trashy "journalistic" misbehavior, " The David Petraeus affair: Why the media's coverage is sexist." I don't know. "Sexist" seems like an understatement. Puerile, snotty, crass, raunchy, snide, scary, onanistic, stupid, instructive, pointless -- it's all those things, too. At the very least.

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