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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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Finding Fela

Alex Gibney's "Finding Fela," about the legendary African pop star and political activist, feels like the rough draft of a very good movie.

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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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Skyfall: Hey kids, let's put on a show!

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"Skyfall" is a theatrical film in the same way that its director, Sam Mendes, is a theatrical filmmaker. That is, its approach to organizing space for an audience (the camera lens) is noticeably stagey. I mean that in a "value-neutral" way. I just mean the frame is frequently used as a proscenium and the images are action-tableaux deployed for a crowd -- whether it's the designated audience surrogates in the movie (bystanders or designated dramatis personae), or the viewers in the seats with the cup-holders. That's not to say it's uncinematic (it's photographed by the great Roger Deakins!), but many of the set-pieces in "Skyfall" are conceived and presented as staged performance pieces.

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Robert Zemeckis returns to reality

May Contain Spoilers
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I packed my bags last night, pre-flight Zero hour, 9 a.m. And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then. -- Elton John & Bernie Taupin, "Rocket Man" (1972)

Cinema, for me, has always been something like music composed with photographic images. Others see it more like "action painting," and we've seen a lot of discussion in recent years about what J. Hoberman and others have called "post-photographic cinema," in which computers have replaced cameras, and animation has replaced photography, as the primary means of creating images on a screen. (Hoberman: "With the advent of CGI, the history of motion pictures was now, in effect, the history of animation.") "Flight" is Robert Zemeckis's return to live-action photography for the first time since "Cast Away" (2000), after a series of IMAX 3D animated adventures: "The Polar Express" (2004), "Beowulf" (2001) and "A Christmas Carol" (2007). It's also a return to making movies aimed at an adult audience -- and one that proved to be a different, and more interesting, than the movie I'd seen advertised in the trailer.

(spoilers)

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Technical Difficulties

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Hi folks:

Our software just deleted a handful of recent comments when I approved them. I'm trying to find out if there's a way to retrieve them (they're not in the spam filter), but if you've made a comment in the last 24 hours or so that still isn't showing up, please re-submit. Thanks!

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David Lynch: "Sammy. I never talk about themes."

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I sure do miss David Lynch movies. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, when he appeared as Jack Dall, the CBS late-night talk show producer and relative of his FBI man Gordon Cole, on a couple episodes of "Louie," and again when I read this piece by Roger Ebert about movies and meanings, featuring the fantastic interview clip (from the Japanese DVD of "Mulholland Dr."), below. Lynch hasn't made a movie since his deeply disturbing internal epic "INLAND EMPIRE" in 2006. Lynch works in multiple media, and in 2011 released his "debut solo album" with the delightful title of "Crazy Clown Time," the title song for which accompanied by a hellish video that would not have been out of place in "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (the Road House after-party, perhaps), "Lost Highway" or any number of other Lynchian nightmares.

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Movie culture: The Dead, the Deader and the Deadest

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Oh my. Here we go again with all the deathiness. Movie criticism keeps dying deader and deader. Film itself has keeled over and given up the ghost. Cinema ist kaput, and at the end of last month "movie culture" was pronounced almost as deceased as John Cleese's parrot. Ex-parrot, I mean. Then the movie "Looper" came out, posing questions like: "What if you could go back in time? Would you kill cinema?" Or something like that.

People, this dying has gotta stop.

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Viewer's guide: The keycard to Room 237?!

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Is "Room 237" some kind of crazy joke? Rick Ascher's much-discussed "subjective documentary" features five people who present their theories/interpretations of the "hidden meanings" they say they've found in the rooms and corridors of Stanley Kubrick's Overlook Hotel, the setting of his chilly 1980 horror film, "The Shining." I'm asking a question; I don't know the answer. I haven't yet had the opportunity to see the picture, which has played a number of festivals (Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, NY, London, Karlovy Vary) and has been picked up by IFC Films and is slated for release in 2013. I have seen Ascher's 2010 short, "The S from Hell," however, which the "Room 237" web site says "in many ways laid the groundwork" for the new film. That one is satire.

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Argo: A Hollywood ending

May Contain Spoilers
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The story of Ben Affleck's "Argo" concerns the real-life rescue of six fugitive American embassy employees from Ayatollah "Salman Rushdie Fatwa" Khomeini's Iran in 1980. The Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor, hid them in his home until they were smuggled out of the country 79 days after the takeover of the embassy by Iranian militants. But the movie is more substantially interested in the nature of movies themselves, and how stories get turned into them. Since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, "Argo" has been praised as "a crackerjack thriller" (the kind of argot movie reviewers use) and criticized for downplaying the Canadians' considerable efforts and not being, you know, "historically accurate. I'm sore-y, we know it's Based On A True Story and all, but that's not really what this movie is aboot.

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Wally Pfister, The Avengers & the ethics of composition

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Maybe it's a DC vs. Marvel thing. But it's all over the Internet: Wally Pfister, ASC, BSC, the Oscar-winning cinematographer best-known for his work with director Christopher Nolan (the "Dark Knight" movies, "The Prestige," "Inception") took a swipe at rival superhero blockbuster "The Avengers," while admitting that he doesn't much care for the genre anyway. In an interview with the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Pfister was asked "What's most important in shooting a film?" He responded with... something that has since been removed from the newspaper's website but still shows up in the Google Cached version (screenshot below):

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"How it feels is how it works."

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Everything reminds me of movies. And movies remind me of everything. My life has been divided into roughly three states of consciousness: the time I've spent awake; the time I've spent asleep (and dreaming); the time I've spent in-between, in the dark, inhabiting movie-worlds. They're all essential, holistic components of what you might call my Total Life Experience. And I find that in some respects they all run together, aspects of one seeping into another: images, patterns, metaphors... So, when I read this re-evaluation of the new Apple iPhone 5 -- the feel of the thing -- it struck me as also being about a quality of certain movies that we don't discuss very often.

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Crimes of Bush: Bugliosi's case for murder

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Everybody knows that murder has no statute of limitations. So although it may seem a little late to bring criminal charges against George W. Bush for his conduct in office, the evidence against him is is overwhelming and undisputed. The facts aren't in question, but now that he's no longer president the matter of what to do about them remain: How should he and his administration be held accountable for their deceit? Should Bush be prosecuted? Who has the jurisdiction to do so? And what are the proper charges? Vincent Bugliosi, the celebrated prosecutor who convicted Charles Manson, believes Bush should be tried for murder. And from the sound of it, he'd rather have a beer with Manson.

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