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Smile When You Say That: Joker's Last Laugh

As of this writing, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” has earned nearly $1 billion globally, making it one of the most successful comic book movies ever released. But the discourse surrounding it will outlive this moment. No comic book-derived film since “Black Panther” has sparked more commentary, although the discussion surrounding this one has been more oppositional than anything else, and clouded by bad faith on every side. 

Ebert Club

#147 December 19, 2012

Marie writes: Christmas is almost upon us, and with its impending arrival comes the sound of children running free-range through the snow, while grown-ups do battle indoors in the seasonal quest to find the perfect gift...

Ebert Club

#121 June 27, 2012

Marie writes: It was my birthday June 25th. Unlike Roger however, I'm a Crab not a Gemini. So to celebrate and with my brother's help (he has a car), I took my inner sea crustacean to Barnet Marine Park on the other side of Burnaby Mountain... and where our adventure begins....

Ebert Club

#111 April 18, 2012

Marie writes: Recently, we enjoyed some nice weather and inspired by the sunshine, I headed out with a borrowed video camera to shoot some of the nature trails up on Burnaby Mountain, not far from where I live. I invariably tell people "I live near Vancouver" as most know where that is - whereas Burnaby needs explaining. As luck would have it though, I found a great shot taken from the top of Burnaby Mountain, where you can not only see where I live now but even Washington State across the Canadian/US border...

(click image to enlarge)

Ebert Club

#92 December 7, 2011

Marie writes: Belgium club member Koen Van Loocke has submitted the following and it's so awesome, I have no words. But first, background..The Cinematic Orchestra is led by composer/programmer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Swinscoe, who formed his first group "Crabladder" in 1990 while a Fine Arts student at Cardiff College. The group's fusion of jazz and hardcore punk elements with experimental rhythms, inspired Swinscoe to further explore the musical possibilites and by the time the group disbanded in the mid-'90s, he was playing DJ at various clubs and pirate radio stations in and around London.

Ebert Club

#91 November 30, 2011

Marie writes: Did you know that the world's steepest roller-coaster is the Takabisha, which opened earlier this year at the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Yamanash, Japan? The ride lasts just 112 seconds but is packed with exciting features including seven twists, blackened tunnels and a 43m-high peak. But the most impressive thing about Takabisha is the 121 degree free-fall, so steep that it's been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the steepest roller-coaster made from steel!

Movie Answer Man

Dr. Manhattan's you-know-what: an exercise in quantum mechanics

Q. I read your Great Movie review of "Magnolia" and asked myself why the film was titled like that and thought of all the different characters, all beautiful blossoms, alone, but connected at the root of one great magnolia. I see "Magnolia" as a story about redemption. The film so closely observes its sinners, and we suffer as we watch them trapped in their self-made cages of misery. But all along, a change is coming; from the very outset, something is in the air. The religious allegory here is about receiving a second chance.


Nite Owl versus the Bat Man

"After the revelation of "The Dark Knight," here is "Watchmen," another bold exercise in the liberation of the superhero movie. It's a compelling visceral film -- sound, images and characters combined into a decidedly odd visual experience that evokes the feel of a graphic novel. It seems charged from within by its power as a fable; we sense it's not interested in a plot so much as with the dilemma of functioning in a world losing hope." -- Roger Ebert,

"This movie delivers as a splashy, bloody comic-book adventure that stays true to its roots without being slavish about it (despite numerous images taken directly from the comic's pages). It's both headlong and thought-provoking, attacking the notion of heroism and the role of the hero in society in ways that 'The Dark Knight' only talked about." -- Marshall Fine, Hollywood and Fine

Let's get the unavoidable DC Comics-based superhero movie comparisons over with: Despite superficial affinities (masked marvels, super-hype), "The Dark Knight" and "Watchmen" could not be further apart in style, ambition, or their approach to storytelling. One is set in a photorealistic Gotham City, shot on location in Chicago; the other in a sprawling fantasy universe that encompasses places called "New York," "Antarctica" and "Mars," but that exists only in the imagination. One takes place in a specific window of time; the other in a distorted, alternative 1985 (Richard Nixon is serving his fifth term as President of the United States) that re-invents the past and the future so as to turn the very concept of "time" inside-out. One is a mechanical, plot-driven action movie, edited in a woodchipper; the other is a dystopian science-fiction satire that doesn't so much spin an intricately tangled web of interwoven stories as create an environment in which its various elements are set bouncing off one another in perpetuity. ("Nothing ends...")

(Below: One of many period influences on "Watchmen" -- Ridley Scott's famous 1979 Chanel No. 5 commercial. It's still the director's finest work.)

Yes, I believe "Watchmen" is cleverly designed especially for people who have read the graphic novel -- and I'm very glad I re-read it the week before seeing the movie. Instead of feeling like I already knew was "going to happen," I felt a quickening sense of anticipation over how (or if) what I thought was going to happen was going to happen. I found myself mostly delighted by the multifarious choices the film was continually making, many of them playing on those very expectations with a subtle wink or a nod.

Roger Ebert

We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings

Inside many superhero stories is a Greek tragedy in hiding. There is the godlike hero, and he is flawed. In early days his weaknesses were simplistic, like Superman's vulnerability to Kryptonite. Then Spider-Man was created as an insecure teenager, and comic books began to peer deeper. Now comes the "Watchmen," with their origins as 1940s goofballs, their development into modern costumed vigilantes, and the laws against them as public nuisances. They are human. Although they have extraordinary physical powers, they aren't superheroes in the usual sense. Then everything changes for Jon Osterman, remade after a nuclear accident as Dr. Manhattan. He isn't as human as Batman, but that can be excused because he isn't human at all.

He is the most metaphysically intriguing character in modern superhero movies. He not only lives in a quantum universe, but is aware that he does, and reflects about it. He says, "This world's smartest man means no more to me than does its smartest termite." He lives outside time and space. He explains that he doesn't see the past and the future, but he does see his


Alan Moore on American comic books & graphic novels: Why so serious?

"Watchmen" creator Alan Moore would probably disagree with my argument for taking superhero movies seriously. He vehemently distances himself from any movies based on his own work. In an interview with Wired, the 55-year-old comic-book veteran suggests that fans have been taking superhero pulp fiction too seriously for too long:

I have to say that I haven't seen a comic, much less a superhero comic, for a very, very long time now--years, probably almost a decade since I've really looked at one closely. But it seems to be that things that were meant satirically or critically in "Watchmen" now seem to be simply accepted as kind of what they appear to be on the surface. So yeah, I'm pretty jaundiced about the entire "caped crusader" concept at the moment. [...]


The Watchmen dilemma

But I just had to look, Having read the book... -- John Lennon

Really, I just wanted to point out that a glowing blue naked guy is the hero of one of the most anticipated mainstream movies in years. Did you know that? Seriously, though, I do have a dilemma: "Watchmen" opens March 6. I read the compiled comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons back in the early 1990s, I think -- just around the time Terry Gilliam was attached to make the movie version. Here's the poser: Having read the book so long ago I've forgotten it, should I read it again before seeing the movie?

"Watchmen" is something many fans know practically by heart. I know one who attended an early screening of the movie and said it was one of the best adaptations he'd ever seen. An already notorious Nerd World post by "Simpsons" executive producer Matt Selman ("My Own Private Watchmen") broke the review embargo by proclaiming that he didn't consider himself "press" and wasn't actually reviewing the movie, but couldn't control the 14-year-old still living inside him: "Someone took the most special personal thing of my adolescence and put it on a movie screen."