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Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is two days of Baptist church condensed to 90 minutes and injected directly into your soul.

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Shoah: Four Sisters

In four short features, the late Claude Lanzmann links the stories of four women that he interviewed for his landmark documentary Shoah.

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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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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#87 November 2, 2011

Marie writes: It occurred to me that I've never actually told members about the Old Vic Tunnels.  Instead, I've shared news of various exhibits held inside them, like the recent Minotaur. So I'm going to fix that and take you on a tour!  (click image to enlarge.)

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#76 August 17, 2011

"I realize that most of the turning points in my career were brought about by others. My life has largely happened to me without any conscious plan. I was an indifferent student except at subjects that interested me, and those I followed beyond the classroom, stealing time from others I should have been studying. I was no good at math beyond algebra. I flunked French four times in college. I had no patience for memorization, but I could easily remember words I responded to. In college a chart of my grades resembled a mountain range. My first real newspaper job came when my best friend's father hired me to cover high school sports for the local daily. In college a friend told me I must join him in publishing an alternative weekly and then left it in my hands. That led to the Daily Illini, and that in turn led to the Chicago Sun-Times, where I have worked ever since 1966. I became the movie critic six months later through no premeditation, when the job was offered to me out of a clear blue sky."Visit "I was born inside the movie of my life" to read the opening pages from Roger's forthcoming memoir to be published September 13, 2011.

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#70 July 6, 2011

Marie writes: Gone fishing...aka: in the past 48 hrs, Movable Type was down so I couldn't work, my friend Siri came over with belated birthday presents, and I built a custom mesh screen for my kitchen window in advance of expected hot weather. So this week's Newsletter is a bit lighter than usual.

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The Fall of the Revengers

The day will come when "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" will be studied in film classes and shown at cult film festivals. It will be seen, in retrospect, as marking the end of an era. Of course there will be many more CGI-based action epics, but never again one this bloated, excessive, incomprehensible, long (149 minutes) or expensive (more than $200 million). Like the dinosaurs, the species has grown too big to survive, and will be wiped out in a cataclysmic event, replaced by more compact, durable forms.

Oh, I expect the movie will make a lot of money. It took in $16 million just in its Wednesday midnight opening. Todd Gilchrist, a most reasonable critic at Cinematical, wrote that it feels "destined to be the biggest movie of all time." I don't believe "Titanic" and "The Dark Knight" have much to fear, however, because (1) it has little to no appeal for non-fanboy or female audiences, and (2) many of those who do see it will find they simply cannot endure it. God help anyone viewing it from the front row of a traditional IMAX theater--even from the back row. It may benefit from being seen via DVD, with your "picture" setting dialed down from Vivid to Standard.

The term Assault on the Senses has become a cliché. It would be more accurate to describe the film simply as "painful." The volume is cranked way up, probably on studio instructions, and the sound track consists largely of steel crashing discordantly against steel. Occasionally a Bot voice will roar thunderingly out of the left-side speakers, (1) reminding us of Surround Sound, or (2) reminding the theater to have the guy take another look at those right-side speakers. Beneath that is boilerplate hard-pounding action music, alternating with deep bass voices intoning what sounds like Gregorian chant without the Latin, or maybe even without the words: Just apprehensive sounds, translating as Oh, no! No! These Decepticons® are going to steal the energy of the sun and destroy the Earth! The hard-pounding action music, on the other hand, is what Hollywood calls Mickey Mouse Music, so named because, like the music in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, it faithfully mirrors the movements on screen. In this case, it is impatient and urgent. I recommend listening to it on your iPod the next time you have difficulty at the doctor's office filling the little plastic cup.

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"Critic" is a four-letter word

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A critic at a performance is like a eunuch at a harem. He sees it done nightly, but is unable to perform it himself. --Brendan Behan

A lot of people don't know what "critic" means. They think it means, "a person who criticizes." They don't like people who do that. It seems an impotent profession. Critics are nasty, jealous, jaded and bitter. They think it's all about them. They're know-it-alls. They want to appear superior to everyone else. They're impossible to please. They don't understand the tastes of ordinary people. They love to tear down other people's hard work. Those who can do it, do it. Those who can't do it, criticize. What gives them the right to have an opinion? We'd be better off without them.

Criticism is a destructive activity. If I like something and the critics didn't, they can't see what's right there before their eyes because they're in love with some theory. They don't have feelings; they have systems. They think they know better than creators. They praise what they would have done, instead of what an artist has done. They use foreign words to show off. They're terrified of being exposed as the empty poseurs they are. They are leeches on the skin of art.

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